This Week in American Military History

Battle of Chosin
                                                                                                                 Photo courtesy
Marine from the Battle of Chosin Reservoir who fought ten Chinese Communist divisions in bitter winter

This Week in American Military History:

Nov. 27, 1950:  The Battle of Chosin Reservoir opens when the Chinese 9th Army Group – four armies under the command of Gen. Song Shilun – surge across the Yalu River into Korea and attack numerically inferior U.S. Marine and Army forces.

Song has special instructions to destroy the 1st Marine Division. “The American Marine First Division has the highest combat effectiveness in the American armed forces,” writes Premier Mao Tse-Tung in orders to Gen. Song. “It seems not enough for our four divisions [sic] to surround and annihilate its two regiments. You should have one or two more divisions as a reserve force.”

Moreover, orders specify that all other American and allied forces are to be eliminated to the last man.

But the Chinese will fail (see upcoming weeks).

Nov. 29, 1760:  Rogers’ Rangers under the command of Massachusetts-born Maj. (future Lt. Col.) Robert Rogers capture Fort Detroit from the French.  U.S. Army Rangers in the 20th and 21st centuries will trace their lineage to Rogers and his British Colonial irregulars.

Nov. 29, 1890:  Navy beats Army, 24-zip, in the first-ever Army (West Point) – Navy (Annapolis) football game.

Nov. 29, 1929:  U.S. Navy Commander Richard E. Byrd Jr. makes the first-ever flight over the South Pole.

Byrd – a future rear admiral and recipient of the Medal of Honor for his 1926 flight over the North Pole – is the navigator of the South Pole flight. His companions include pilot Bernt Balchen, radio operator Harold June, and photographer Ashley McKinley.


The team crosses the Pole in a modified Ford tri-motor airplane.

Nov. 30, 1864:  Confederate Army forces under the command of Gen. John Bell Hood (yes, Fort Hood, Texas is named in his honor) clash with Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield (yes, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii is named in his honor) near Franklin, Tennessee in what is about to become a Union victory and one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

By early evening, thousands on both sides will have been killed, and six Confederate generals will be dead or mortally wounded.

Confederate Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment will describe the battle as: “the blackest page in the history of the War of the Lost Cause. It was the bloodiest battle of modern times in any war. It was the finishing stroke to the Independence of the Southern Confederacy. I was there. I saw it.”

Schofield, who will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during the 1861 Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Missouri), is destined for a third star, a posting as U.S. Secretary of War, and the title, commanding general of the U.S. Army.

Dec. 3, 1775:  The Grand Union Flag (not to be confused with S.C. militia Col. Christopher Gadsden’s rattlesnake flag or the Betsy Ross flag) is raised above the 20-gun Continental ship, Alfred.  The ship, originally named Black Prince, has been renamed in honor of Alfred the Great.
The hoisting of the “Grand Union” colors is the first time an American flag is raised above an American warship.


On an interesting aside, Alfred will be part of the small flotilla that participates in America’s first amphibious operation – Continental Marines and sailors seizing gunpowder and a few cannon from British-held Fort Montague in the Bahamas – the following March.

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