military history

Military Monday: National Interstate & Defense Highways Act 1956

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Interstate Highway Project Image One
Photo Credit: Timetoast

Sixty-four years ago, today…

Also known as the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-627), [it] was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law. With an original authorization of $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of the Interstate Highway System, supposedly over a 10-year period, it was the largest public works project in American history [at] that time.

The addition of the term defense in the act’s title was for two reasons. First, some of the original cost was diverted from defense funds. Secondly, most U.S. Air Force bases have a direct link to the system. One of the stated purposes was to provide access in order to defend the United States during a conventional or nuclear war with the Soviet Union and its communist allies. All of these links were in the original plans, [though] some, such as Wright Patterson AFB, were not connected […] in the 1950s but, [were] later.

Interstate Highway Project Image Two
Photo Credit: Timetoast

The money for the Interstate […] and Defense Highways was [drawn from] a Highway Trust Fund that paid for 90% of highway construction costs, with the states required to pay the remaining [10%]. It was expected that the money would be generated through new taxes on fuel, automobiles, trucks and tires. As a matter of practice, the federal portion of the cost of the Interstate Highway System has been paid for by taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel.

Eisenhower‘s support of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 can be directly attributed to his experiences in 1919 as a participant in the U.S. Army’s first Transcontinental Motor Convoy across the United States on the historic Lincoln Highway, which was the first road across America. The convoy was memorable enough for a young Army officer, 28-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Dwight David Eisenhower, to include a chapter about the trip, titled Through Darkest America With Truck and Tank in his book At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1967).

Following completion of the highways, the cross-country journey that took the convoy two months in 1919 was cut down to five days.

Additional Reading & Sources:
Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956: Creating The Interstate System (Federal Highway Administration)
Federal Highway Act of 1956 (Web Archive of the Class Brain Site)
Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (Wikipedia)

Wayback Wednesday: Night Attack at Târgoviște 1462

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The Night Attack Targoviste Image One
Artist: Theodor Aman
The Battle With Torches
Image Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Five hundred, fifty-eight years ago, today…

The Night Attack at Târgoviște (Romanian: Atacul de noapte de la Târgoviște, Turkish: Tirgovişte Baskını) was a battle fought between forces of Vlad III Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula), Prince of Wallachia and Sultan Mehmed II (Mehmed the Conqueror) of the Ottoman Empire on […] June 17, 1462.

Vlad the Impaler Image Two
Anonymous Artist
Vlad III
Image Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The conflict initially started with Vlad‘s refusal to pay the jizya (tax on non-Muslims subjects charged at 2.5%) to the sultan and [it] intensified when Vlad invaded Bulgaria. In response, Mehmed raised a great army with the objective to conquer Wallachia and annex it to his empire. The two leaders fought a series of skirmishes, the most notable one being the Night Attack where Vlad attacked the Turkish camp in the night in an attempt to kill Mehmed. The assassination attempt failed and Mehmed marched to the Wallachian capital of Târgoviște, where he found a few men with cannons. After leaving the capital, Mehmed discovered 23,844 impaled Turks whom Vlad had killed during his invasion of Bulgaria. The number is mentioned by Vlad himself in a letter to Matthias Corvinus (Matthias I). The sultan, and his troops, then sailed to Brăila and burned it to the ground before retreating to Adrianople. Both sides claimed victory in the campaign and Mehmed’s forces returned home with many captured slaves, horses and cattle.

Additional Reading & Sources:
The Night Attack on Targoviste (Burn Pit Website)
The Night Attack on Targoviste (Weapons and Warfare Website)
Night Attack at Târgoviște (Wikipedia)
Ottoman War (Wikipedia)
Submission of Wallachia (Wikipedia)

Battle of Targoviste Part I

Battle of Targoviste Part II

Shutterbug Saturday: Person County History Museum

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I intended to start posting these pictures yesterday but, I was just too busy. And, I’m nearly out of time for today but, more will be posted tomorrow.

We did not tour the museum as everything seems to be closed and everyone is virus-risk averse. The grounds were open, so we just enjoyed the outdoors. I hope we can return and tour the old home.

All photos are my personal collection. © ~Vic

Person County Museum Image One
This lovely old home in downtown Roxboro
was converted into a history museum.
03-19-2020
Person Museum Sign Image Two
Hours of Operation
Blue Star Image Three
Roxboro Garden Club Plaque
Military Dedication Image Four
Military Dedication
Surrounded by military veteran bricks.
Gazebo Image Five
The lovely gazebo for lunch.
Clock Tower Image Six
Adorable clock tower with the wrong time.

Flashback Friday: USS Princeton Peacemaker Accident 1844

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USS Princeton Image One
USS Princeton 1843-1849
Image Credits: Lithograph by N. Currier, New York, 1844
U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command
history.navy.mil
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Launched on September 5, 1843, the very first USS Princeton was a steam-driven propeller warship of the U.S. Navy, commanded by Captain Robert Stockton. It was the first screw-sloop in the fleet. During a cruise down the Potomac River with President John Tyler, federal officials, politicians, attorneys, a former First Lady and several hundred guests, there was a terrible long gun explosion, due, possibly to old forging technology.

The Accident

President Tyler hosted a public reception for Stockton in the White House on February 27, 1844. On February 28, [the] USS Princeton departed Alexandria, Virginia, on a demonstration cruise down the Potomac with Tyler, members of his cabinet, former First Lady Dolley Madison, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and about 400 guests. Captain Stockton decided to fire the larger of her two long guns, Peacemaker, to impress his guests. Peacemaker was fired three times on the trip downriver and was loaded to fire a salute to George Washington as the ship passed Mount Vernon on the return trip. The guests aboard viewed the first set of firings, [then] retired below decks for lunch and refreshments.

Peacemaker Explodes Image Two
Awful Explosion of the Peacemaker on board the
U.S. steam frigate Princeton on Wednesday, 28 Feb. 1844
Image Credits: Lithograph by N. Currier/Currier & Ives
Gale Research
Library of Congress
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Secretary [of the Navy] [Thomas Walker] Gilmer urged those aboard to view a final shot with the Peacemaker. When Captain Stockton pulled the firing lanyard, the gun burst. Its left side had failed, spraying hot metal across the deck and shrapnel into the crowd. Instantly killed were Gilmer, Secretary of State [Abel P.] Upshur, Captain Beverley Kennon, who was Chief of the Bureau of Construction [Equipment] and Repairs, Virgil Maxcy (a Maryland attorney with decades of experience as a state and federal officeholder), David Gardiner (a New York lawyer and politician) and the President’s valet, a black slave named Armistead. Another 16 to 20 people were injured, including several members of the ship’s crew, Senator Benton and Captain Stockton. The president was below decks and not injured.

The disaster on board the Princeton killed more top U.S. government officials in a single day than any other tragedy in American history.

Additional Reading & Sources
The Aftermath
The Legacy
Fatal Cruise of the Princeton (Naval History/military.com/Wayback Machine)
USS Princeton (ibiblio.org)
Princeton I (Naval History and Heritage Command site)
Accident on a Steam Ship (Google Books)
Tyler Narrowly Escapes Death (The History Channel site)

How the USS Princeton explosion changed U.S. history.

Military Monday: The Battle of Antietam 1862

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Battle of Antietam Image
Photo Credit: emergingcivilwar.com

[From: Wikipedia & The History Channel]
One hundred and sixty-five years ago, today, The Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the Southern U.S., occurred September 17, 1862, at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. It pitted Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and was the culmination of Lee’s attempt to invade the north. The battle’s outcome would be vital to shaping America’s future and it remains the deadliest one-day battle in all American military history, with a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded or missing.

McClellan had halted Lee’s invasion of Maryland but, Lee was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia without interference from the cautious McClellan. McClellan’s refusal to pursue Lee’s army led to his removal from command by President Abraham Lincoln in November. Although the battle was tactically inconclusive, the Confederate troops had withdrawn first from the battlefield and abandoned their invasion, making it a Union strategic victory. It was a sufficiently significant victory to give Lincoln the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which discouraged the British and French governments from pursuing any potential plans to recognize the Confederacy.

Antietam Bloody Lane Image
Photo Credit: loc.gov

[From: Emerging Civil War…another take…]
Fortunately, for the sake of debate, the outcome of Civil War battles is not as clear-cut as that of a football game, where one can look at the scoreboard at the end of the game and easily determine who won, who lost, or, in some cases, if the outcome was a draw. Historians endlessly debate whether certain battles were overwhelming victories, marginal victories, or draws. Perhaps no other battle’s tactical outcome is more misunderstood than the bloodiest single day battle of the war: Antietam.

No one would doubt Antietam’s significance in the larger picture of the war. However, the common conception of Antietam is that the battle was tactically a draw, with neither side having gained a significant enough of an advantage to have claimed the victory. This article will challenge that commonly held belief, using particular instances from the battle and the Maryland Campaign to demonstrate the Army of the Potomac’s victory at Antietam.

[Had this battle been a Confederate victory, this country might look very, very different. ~Victoria]

Military Monday: First Woman Marine

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Opha May Johnson Photo
Photo Credit: worldwar1centennial.org

One hundred years ago, today, August 13, 1918, Opha May (Jacob) Johnson, born May 4, 1879, enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve during World War I. She just happened to be the first one in line with 300+ other women behind her.

From the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission:

At the onset and throughout the First World War, women in the United States were still denied the same basic rights and privileges as male citizens, including the right to vote. Suffragists would continue to battle on through this time, but their efforts would not culminate into a constitutional revision until 1920. Not only was the political arena considered off-limits for women, but military service was also denied to them. Though legends of women dressing as males to fight for the United States had been spoken of since the Revolution, women were not allowed to legally enlist in the armed services, the Marine Corps being no exception. By the summer of 1918 however, the Corps was in need of more soldiers, many of whom occupied vital administrative and clerical positions throughout the war department at the time. The idea was circulated and eventually approved to allow women into the marines to fill these non-combat positions, relieving this men to head for the front. From Kokomo, Indiana, Opha May Johnson was first in line when the recruiting station in Washington D.C. opened its doors to women and would become a legend as the first woman Marine.

She passed away August 11, 1955 but, her funeral services were held on August 13, 1955…37 years to the day that she first stood in line.

Semper Fi, Opha!

Military Monday: Korean War Begins 1950

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Korean War Memorial
Photo Credit: familytree.com

The United States, acting under the auspices of the United Nations, quickly sprang to the defense of South Korea and fought a bloody and frustrating war for the next three years. Korea, a former Japanese possession, had been divided into zones of occupation following World War II. U.S. forces accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in southern Korea, while Soviet forces did the same in northern Korea. Like in Germany, however, the “temporary” division soon became permanent. The Soviets assisted in the establishment of a communist regime in North Korea, while the United States became the main source of financial and military support for South Korea. On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces surprised the South Korean army (and the small U.S. force stationed in the country), and quickly headed toward the capital city of Seoul. The United States responded by pushing a resolution through the U.N.’s Security Council calling for military assistance to South Korea. (Russia was not present to veto the action as it was boycotting the Security Council at the time.) With this resolution in hand, President Harry S. Truman rapidly dispatched U.S. land, air, and sea forces to Korea to engage in what he termed a “police action.” The American intervention turned the tide, and U.S. and South Korean forces marched into North Korea. This action, however, prompted the massive intervention of communist Chinese forces in late 1950. The war in Korea subsequently bogged down into a bloody stalemate. In 1953, the United States and North Korea signed a cease-fire that ended the conflict. The cease-fire agreement also resulted in the continued division of North and South Korea at just about the same geographical point as before the conflict. The Korean War was the first “hot” war of the Cold War. Over 55,000 American troops were killed in the conflict. Korea was the first “limited war,” one in which the U.S. aim was not the complete and total defeat of the enemy, but rather the “limited” goal of protecting South Korea. For the U.S. government, such an approach was the only rational option in order to avoid a third world war and to keep from stretching finite American resources too thinly around the globe. It proved to be a frustrating experience for the American people, who were used to the kind of total victory that had been achieved in World War II. The public found the concept of limited war difficult to understand or support and the Korean War never really gained popular support.

From: This Day In U.S. Military History