As we pause this Memorial Day to honor those who fought and died for our country,let’s remember some of the key moments in U.S. military history—battles awashin patriots’ blood to secure liberty and freedom for America. Here, among manydeserving, are the Top 10 U.S. Military Actions:
1. D-Day invasion: The turning point of World War II was this massive amphibious invasion on June 6, 1944, of German-occupied Normandy. Over 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches at Utah, Omaha and other points along a 50-mile stretch of coastline, resulting in some 10,000 Allied casualties. The assault secured a beachhead on the continent and, with Russia pushing from the East, Hitler’s forces began to be squeezed on two fronts. Within a year, the Fuhrer made his final descent into a Berlin bunker.
2. Battle of Gettysburg: Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to bring the Civil War to the North was halted on the fields of Gettysburg, Pa., in July 1863. After the third day of battle, when 12,500 Confederate infantry troops were repulsed during Pickett’s Charge, the casualties on both sides totaled some 50,000. Lee would continue his fight for another two years until the surrender at Appomattox, but, after Gettysburg, he fought mostly on the run.
3. Battle of Trenton: Gen. George Washington led his band of 2,400 ragtag Continental Army troops across the icy Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 and routed mercenary German Hessians encamped at Trenton, N.J. The victory gave a morale boost to the colonies after a string of British advances and brought innew recruits for Washington’s army, buying much-needed time for the Patriot forces.
4. Battle of Inchon: After invading the South in June 1950, North Korean Peoples’ Army forces had seized the capital of Seoul and steadily pushed the opposition nearly off the peninsula before Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s dramatic sea-invasion at Inchon in September. The lengthy amphibious maneuvering through rough waters allowed a surprise attack on a little-guarded area. The operation involved some 75,000 troops who went on to recapture Seoul two weeks later and was the key to keeping the South from a Communist takeover.
5. Meuse-Argonne offensive: The “Great War” had been waged in Europe for nearly three years before President Wilson sent millions of U.S. troops to the continent. The war was a stalemate until the Allies decided to breach the Central Powers’ Hindenburg Line. The United States teamed with French forces to win at Meuse-Argonne as part of the Allies’ Hundred Day Offensive, which broke the back of the German forces. The victory came at a high price: The U.S. suffered over 300,000 casualties in World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, setting conditions for Germany’s surrender, laid a path to World War II.
6: Operation Desert Storm: After a month of aerial high-tech bombing of Iraqi military targets in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the ground-war began Feb. 23, 1991. In a classic military flanking maneuver, U.S. forces surprised Saddam’ s vaunted Republican Guards by crossing into the undefended desert before turning East and dislodging the enemy, turning a fleeing convoy of Iraqi forces into the “Highway of Death.” After 100 hours of the ground assault, President George H.W. Bush declared the liberation of Kuwait but, in many eyes, unfortunately ended the conflict with coalition forces 150 miles from Baghdad.
7. Battle of San Juan Hill: The decisive battle of the Spanish-American War saw the Rough Riders, commanded by Theodore Roosevelt, charge up Cuba’s San Juan Hill to secure a key ridge on the island. Americans suffered high casualties in the bloody battle, but the U.S. victory in 1898 effectively ended the Spanish Empire, allowed the independence of Cuba and ceded control of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States.
8. Battle of Iwo Jima: The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island of Iwo Jima were heavily fortified and with over 11 miles of underground tunnels. The American forces faced a formidable task when they attempted to take control of the strategic Pacific outpost in February 1945. For a month, the American forces, with cover from extensive naval and air support, bombarded the island, which would prove to be a very strategic outpost to launch attacks later in the War of the Pacific. By March 11, the Japanese were trapped in an area around Kitano Point, the island’s most northerly site. By March 16, the island was declared secure and all resistance had ceased by March 26. Of the more than 18,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, only 216 remained as prisoners at the end. Iwo Jima was the only U.S. Marine battle in which the overall American casualties exceeded those of the Japanese.
9. Fall of Baghdad: While George W. Bush will forever be haunted by uttering the words “Mission Accomplished” while years of nation-building and terror fighting still were ahead in Iraq, the military action that toppled Saddam was a stunning display of shock and awe. The aerial blitz and invasion by 250,000 U.S. troops along with 50,000 coalition forces began on March 20, 2003. While they initially encountered fierce resistance, by April 9 the march to Baghdad was complete and Saddam Hussein’s 24-year rule ended.
10. Osama bin Laden slain: The tracking and slaying of Osama bin Laden was the culmination of years of work by U.S. intelligence agencies and training of U.S.Special Forces. The daring helicopter raid and efficient 40-minute incursion into the Abbottabad compound by Navy SEAL Team Six not only rid the world of its most hideous person, but also provided a treasure trove of intel that will help make possible many future anti-terrorist actions.