This Week in American Military History:
Oct. 7, 1777: Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates decisively defeat British forces under Gen. John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne in the Second Battle of Saratoga (also known as the Battle of Bemis Heights).
According to the National Parks Service, “This crucial American victory renewed patriots’ hopes for independence, secured essential foreign recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world.”
But the war is far from over.
Oct. 7, 1780: Three years to the day after Second Saratoga, patriot militia forces armed with rifles, knives, and tomahawks decisively defeat musket-armed Loyalist militia under the command of British Army Maj. Patrick Ferguson (who will be killed in the fighting) in the bloody Battle of King’s Mountain on the N.C.-S.C. border.
Among the patriots is John Crockett, father of Davy Crockett.
Oct. 7, 1918: Nearly two weeks into the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I, the U.S. Army’s 82nd Division (destined to become the famed 82nd Airborne Division) battles its way toward — and successfully relieves — the now famous “Lost Battalion” (combined elements of three battalions of the 77th Infantry Division, which had been surrounded during a German counterattack).
For days without blankets and overcoats, always running short of ammunition and medical supplies (the wounded often patched up with bloody bandages removed from the dead), and with little food and nearly no water; the “Lost Battalion” — under the command of Maj. (future lieutenant colonel) Charles S. Whittlesey — had refused to surrender. Responding to a German surrender-demand, Whittlesey allegedly replied, “Go to hell!” Some reports suggest he said, “Come and get us.”
Whittlesey and two of his officers — Captains George McMurtry and Nelson Holderman — will receive the Medal of Honor.
Oct. 7, 2001: Post 9/11 America goes on the offensive against terrorists when U.S. and allied forces launch a massive retaliatory air and naval strike against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan.
Oct. 8, 1918: The day following the relief of the “Lost Battalion,” Private First Class (future U.S. Army sergeant and future colonel in the Tennessee State Guard) Alvin C. York captures “the whole damned German Army.”
In the action for which he will receive both the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre, York leads a seven-man team of doughboys against a strong enemy position. The team kills at least 25 Germans and captures four officers, 128 soldiers, and over 30 machineguns.
York, an expert rifleman from the Tennessee backcountry (yes, the home of John and son, Davy, Crockett), will later describe the action as something akin to a Tennessee turkey shoot: “Every time one of them raised his head, I just teched him off,” he said.
French Marshall Ferdinand Foch will tell York, “What you did was the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe.”
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).