AUTHOR’S NOTE: This begins our weekly series, “On This Day in American Military History” or “This Week in Military History,” which will appear every Wednesday as a feature of HUMAN EVENTS.
This Week In American Military History
Dec. 21, 1861: The congressionally conceived “Medal of Honor” is signed into law authorizing such medals be awarded to enlisted sailors and Marines who “distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities.” The Army version of the medal is signed into law the following summer.
Dec. 22, 1864: Following his “March to the Sea” and just before his “March through the Carolinas,” Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman presents the captured city of Savannah (Ga.) to Pres. Lincoln as a “Christmas gift.”
Dec. 24, 1814: The Treaty of Ghent is signed ending the War of 1812.
Dec. 25-26, 1776: Continental Army Gen. George Washington conducts his famous crossing of the Delaware River from the icy Pennsylvania shoreline to the equally frozen banks of New Jersey, followed by an eight-mile march to the town of Trenton where he meets and defeats the Hessians (German soldiers allied to the British).
Washington’s crossing and subsequent raid has been dubbed “America’s first special operation” in some military circles: Though there were many small-unit actions, raids, and Ranger operations during the Colonial Wars, and there was a special Marine landing in Nassau in the early months of the American Revolution. Still no special operation in American military history has been more heralded than that which took place on Christmas night exactly 232 years ago, this week.
Dec. 26, 1944: Elements of the U.S. 4th Armored Division — the spearhead of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army — break the German Army’s siege of Bastogne relieving the 101st Airborne Division’s bloodied, freezing, half-starved, outnumbered but refusing-to-surrender paratroopers. The grateful but proud paratroopers insist they are only being “relieved,” not “rescued.”
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).