Today in History, October 18, 1942:
Vice Admiral William “Bull” Halsey is named commander of the South Pacific forces.
Things had not been going well after the invasion of Guadalcanal; a series of losses due to indecision by the previous commander, Admiral Ghormley, had left the troops demoralized.
CINCPAC (Commander in Chief, Pacific) Chester Nimitz knew the man for the job and appointed Halsey. Halsey was a no nonsense, get er done leader.
He had issued orders to his task force to shoot first and ask questions later if they spotted Japanese ships or aircraft…on November 28, 1941, ten days before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
He was famously quoted as saying, “Before we’re done with ’em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.” His operational order for his command was simple: “Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs!” In retrospect, this attitude made be considered harsh or even racist. But during the largest conflict in human history, it was all about winning.
The demoralized Sailors and Marines serving on and around Guadalcanal had a sudden burst of confidence when they heard Halsey was their new boss. Things turned around almost immediately. The people under Halsey’s command knew he was willing to take chances for them, and they returned the sentiment.
Today in History, October 16, 1859:
Abolitionist John Brown leads a small group of followers on a raid of the US Army Armory in Harper’s Valley, Virginia. Brown planned to seize the weapons in the armory and start an insurrection. He believed he would be sparking a firestorm of slaves and abolitionists around the country to end slavery.
However local militia grabbed their weapons and responded quickly, surrounding the armory. A contingent of US Marines led by US Army Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lt. JEB Stuart arrived and attacked the armory, killing several of the raiders and arresting a wounded Brown. Brown was hanged on Dec. 2nd of the same year.
It may not have happened as he envisioned, but within months of the raid at Harper’s Ferry, the nation would be in the midst of a Civil War that would result in his goals being achieved.
The men that led the contingent that arrested him would be Confederate leaders. John Brown’s legacy would include an inspirational marching song that would be come immensely popular in the North, entitled “John Brown’s Body”. The ballad would have many versions, but the final song matched to the tune would become “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Today in History, October 15, 1951:
“I Love Lucy” premieres on CBS. The series, at the beginnings of network television, starred Lucille Ball and her husband Dezi Arnaz among others.
Lucille Ball had been a Hollywood starlet, but quickly displayed her remarkable talent for comedy. The show was a hit and can still be found in syndication.
Today in History, October 14, 1943:
During it’s Second Raid on Schweinfurt, Germany’s ball bearing plants, the Mighty US Eighth Air Force loses SIXTY B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
That number becomes more ominous when you know that each aircraft had at least a 10 man crew, meaning that 600 airmen either lost their lives or were captured that day. Many don’t realize that the casualties of the Eighth Air Force over Europe accounted for more than half of the losses for the entire US Army Air Corps, and at over 26,000 dead, surpassed the horrific losses of the US Marine Corps during the war by far…the USMC having lost almost 18,000 dead in the bitter battles in Pacific Islands.
Today in History, October 11, 1986:
President Reagan meets for the second time with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss limitations on nuclear missiles. The Russian attempted to add “SDI” or the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” to the discussion. SDI was a planned space based missile shield that would make America impervious to nuclear missile attack.
Reagan, knowing the supposed defense system gave the US an incredible strength in the negotiations, refused. While they came away from Iceland empty handed, Reagan’s poker face worked. The next year in DC the two leaders came to an agreement on missile reduction. The USSR was on it’s way out.
Today in History, October 10, 1967:
The Outer Space Treaty between the US, Great Britain, the USSR and others goes into effect. The treaty committed the signatories to not placing weapons of mass destruction in space or on the moon and other celestial bodies, for use or storage. Also that nations would not lay claim to celestial bodies, as they were the property of al mankind. Dr. No or Moonraker, Mr. Bond?
Today in History, September 20, 1519:
Just shy of 500 years ago, five ships set sail from Spain, led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, seeking a western passage to the “Spice Islands” of Indonesia.
Magellan persevered through lengthy explorations of rivers that did not lead to his destination, a mutiny by the captains of his ships, and finally…the discovery of the passage at the southern tip of South American which bears his name.
After transiting a straight that suffers some of the worst weather on Earth, his small fleet sailed across thousands of miles across an unknown Ocean which he named “Pacific” for its calm waters until they reached the Phillipines. There, Magellan was killed in combat with a native tribe. Two ships remained.
They made it to the Spice Islands and took on cargo. One made a failed attempt to sail back across the Pacific; the other completed the first circumnavigation of the globe to return to Spain.