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Military Milestones from Bunker Hill to the Marianas Turkey Shoot

posted at 11:11 am on June 26, 2009 by

By W. Thomas Smith, Jr. Originally published at Human Events This week in American military history:

Lt. Gen. Holland M. Howlin Mad Smith

Lt. Gen. Holland M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith, U.S.M.C. (painting by Commander Albert K. Murray, U.S.N.R.)

June 14, 1775: The American Continental Army is formed in Boston: thus June 14 becomes the official birthday of the U.S. Army. George Washington will be appointed commander in chief of the new army the following day. June 14, 1777: Two years to the day after the birth of the American Army, Betsy Ross’s “Stars and Stripes” (adopted by the Continental Congress) replaces the Grand Union flag as the official national standard. In time, the anniversary of this day will become known as “Flag Day.” June 15, 1944: U.S. Marines under the command of Lt. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith (a recipient of France’s Croix de Guerre for his actions during the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I), begin hitting the beaches on Saipan, a Japanese territorial island in the Marianas chain. In a battle that will continue into August — far longer if counting the tiny pockets of post-battle Japanese resistance — Smith’s Marines and soldiers will destroy enemy forces under Lt. Gen. Yoshitsugu Saito. A German naval attache in Tokyo, will purportedly write: “Saipan was really understood to be a matter of life and death. About that time they began telling the people the truth about the war. They began preparing them for whatever must happen. Before that they had been doing nothing but fooling the people.” Within days of the landings, the Japanese fleet will be decisively defeated in the great carrier battle of the Philippine Sea, also known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.” June 17, 1775: The battle of Bunker Hill (often referred to as the battle of Breed’s Hill) opens when British Army forces and Royal Marines under the command of Gen. William Howe attack American forces under Gen. Israel Putnam and Col. William Prescott who have taken up position on the hills above Boston. The British will ultimately take Bunker and Breed’s Hills, but British losses make it a pyrrhic victory. According to the Library of Congress: “American troops displayed their mettle in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston, inflicting casualties on nearly half of the British troops dispatched to secure Breed’s Hill (where most of the fighting occurred).” June 20, 1941: The U.S. Army Air Corps is reorganized as the U.S. Army Air Forces (the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force). AUTHOR’S NOTE: “This Week in American Military History,” appears every week as a feature of HUMAN EVENTS. Let’s increase awareness of American military tradition and honor America’s greatest heroes by supporting the Medal of Honor Society’s 2010 Convention to be held in Charleston, S.C., Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, 2010 (for more information, click here).

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