This Week in American Military History:
July 20, 1969: Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong — an Eagle Scout and U.S. Naval aviator who flew multiple combat missions over Korea (and was once shot down) — becomes the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.
Upon stepping off the ladder of the lunar module, Armstrong says, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong, who serves as Apollo 11 mission commander, is accompanied on the historic voyage by command module pilot Michael Collins (a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who will become a major general in 1978) and lunar module pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (also an Air Force fighter pilot, who shot down two MiG-15 fighters over Korea).
Aldrin will follow Armstrong down the ladder, and the two will raise the stars and stripes.
“That was a proud moment, to be a military person and to salute that flag on the surface of the moon,” Aldrin will say in an interview on FOX News Sunday, July 19, 2009.
July 21, 1823: U.S. Navy Midshipman and acting-lieutenant (future admiral) David Glasgow Farragut leads a raiding party of cutlass-armed sailors and Marines against a pirate base on Cape Cruz, Cuba. Farragut’s men attack and destroy the pirate stronghold.
Farragut is best known for purportedly uttering the command, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!,” or the more likely command, “Damn the torpedoes! "Four bells. Captain [Percival] Drayton, go ahead! [Lt. Commander James] Jouett, full speed!” during the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama.
July 21, 1861: In what the Union hoped and generally believed would be an overwhelming Union victory that would end the rebellion before it got started, Confederate Army forces under the command of Brig. Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard and reinforced by Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston (and Johnston’s soon-to-be famous Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, who on-this-day will earn the nom d’ guerre, “Stonewall”) defeat and rout Union Army forces under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell during the First Battle of Bull Run (known to many Southerners as First Manassas).
According to legend, at a critical point in the battle, Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee of South Carolina, rides up to Jackson and says, “The enemy is driving us.”
Jackson responds, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”
Bee then purportedly shouts to his men, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer! Follow me!” or “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians, boys!”
Bee will be mortally wounded on this day.
Jackson — who will be mortally wounded during the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville (also a Confederate victory) — will go down in history as one the greatest generals ever produced by America.
July 22, 1943: Elements of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s 7th Army seize Palermo (Sicily).
July 24, 1944: U.S. Marines begin landing on Tinian.
July 25, 1866: Farragut — the aforementioned pirate-fighting midshipman of 1823 — is appointed to the rank of admiral (the first such rank in U.S. Naval history). This same day, future American Pres. Ulysses S. Grant becomes the first “full [four star] general” in the history of the U.S. Army.
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).