First Amphibious Landing in US history
On March 9, 1847, General Winfield Scott performed the first major amphibious landing in U.S. history in preparation for the Siege of Veracruz. A group of 12,000 volunteer and regular soldiers successfully offloaded supplies, weapons, and horses near the walled city using specially designed landing craft. Included in the invading force were Robert E. Lee, George Meade, Ulysses S. Grant (below), James Longstreet, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Mortars and naval guns under Commodore Matthew C. Perry were used to reduce the city walls and harass defenders. After a bombardment on March 24, 1847, the walls of Veracruz had a thirty-foot gap. The city replied the best it could with its own artillery. The effect of the extended barrage destroyed the will of the Mexican side to fight against a numerically superior force, and they surrendered the city after 12 days under siege. The Mexican–American War, also known as the Mexican War, the U.S.–Mexican War, was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory in spite of its de facto secession in the 1836 Texas Revolution. In 1845, James K. Polk, the newly-elected U.S. president, made a proposition to the Mexican government to purchase the disputed lands between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. When that offer was rejected, American forces commanded by Major General Zachary Taylor were moved into the disputed territory of Coahuila. They were then attacked by Mexican forces, who killed 12 U.S. soldiers and took 52 as prisoners. These same Mexican troops later laid siege to an American fort along the Rio Grande. This led to the war and the eventual loss of much of Mexico’s northern territory. The red area shows the land seeded to the US as the Mexican Cession. The tan area is the Gadsden Purchase. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war and specified its major consequence: the Mexican Cession of the territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México to the United States. The U.S. agreed to pay $15 million compensation for the physical damage of the war. In addition, the United States assumed $3.25 million of debt owed by the Mexican government to U.S. citizens. Mexico acknowledged the loss of Texas and thereafter cited the Rio Grande as its national border with the United States. The territorial expansion of the United States toward the Pacific coast had been the goal of US President James K. Polk, the leader of the Democratic Party. At first, the war was highly controversial in the United States, with the Whig Party, anti-imperialists, and anti-slavery elements strongly opposed. A young Abraham Lincoln, a member of the House of Representatives opposed the war. Critics in the United States pointed to the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces and the conflict’s high monetary cost. The war intensified the debate over slavery in the United States, contributing to bitter debates that culminated in the American Civil War.
Another Veracruz Battle
A few years later, The United States again occupied Veracruz beginning with the Battle of Veracruz and lasted for seven months, as a response to the Tampico Affair of April 9, 1914. The incident came in the midst of poor diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States, and was related to the ongoing Mexican Revolution. Among those present for the Ensign Edward Orrick McDonnell. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1912. He received the Medal of Honor for actions at the United States occupation of Veracruz, 1914. Later, after this affair, on 10 March 1919 Lt Cdr McDonnell flew a British-built Sopwith Camel off an overhauled gun turret on the USS Texas (BB-35) (below) and thus became the first man to fly an airplane off a battleship. Vice Admiral McDonnell died in the 1960 bombing of National Airlines Flight 2511 in Bolivia, North Carolina. The National Airlines Douglas DC-6 was carrying five crew members and 29 passengers, all of whom perished, when the aircraft exploded in midair on January 6, 1960. The Civil Aeronautics Board investigation concluded that the plane was brought down by a dynamite bomb. No criminal charges were ever filed, nor was the blame for the bombing ever determined, though a suicide bombing is suspected. The investigation remains open today.
Monitor and Virginia meet in Battle of the Ironclads
Recently, in FOD from January 29 – 30th 2017, I mentioned the Navy’s first ironclad ship, the USS Monitor was launched. And just a few weeks later, she sails in harm’s way. The Battle of Hampton Roads, often referred to as either the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack (or Virginia) or the Battle of Ironclads, was the most noted and arguably most important naval battle of the American Civil War from the standpoint of the development of navies. It was fought over two days, March 8–9, 1862, in Hampton Roads, a roadstead in Virginia where the Elizabeth and Nansemond rivers meet the James River just before it enters Chesapeake Bay adjacent to the city of Norfolk. The major significance of the battle is that it was the first meeting in combat of ironclad warships, i.e., the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The Confederate fleet consisted of the ironclad ram Virginia (built from the remnants of the USS Merrimack) and several supporting vessels. On the first day of battle, they were opposed by several conventional, wooden-hulled ships of the Union Navy. On that day, Virginia was able to destroy two ships of the Federal flotilla, USS Congress and USS Cumberland, and was about to attack a third, USS Minnesota, which had run aground. However, the action was halted by darkness and falling tide, so Virginia retired to take care of her few wounded—which included her captain, Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan—and repair her minimal battle damage. Both sides used the respite to prepare for the next day. Virginia put her wounded ashore and underwent temporary repairs. Captain Buchanan was among the wounded, so command on the second day fell to his executive officer, Lieutenant Catesby Roger Jones. Jones proved to be no less aggressive than the man he replaced. While Virginia was being prepared for renewal of the battle, and while Congress was still ablaze, Monitor, commanded by Lieutenant John L. Worden, arrived in Hampton Roads. The Union ironclad had been rushed to Hampton Roads in hopes of protecting the Union fleet and preventing Virginia from threatening Union cities. Captain Worden was informed that his primary task was to protect Minnesota, so Monitor took up a position near the grounded Minnesota and waited. “All on board felt we had a friend that would stand by us in our hour of trial,” wrote Captain Gershom Jacques Van Brunt, the vessel’s commander, in his official report the day after the engagement. The next morning, at dawn on March 9, 1862, Virginia left her anchorage at Sewell’s Point and moved to attack Minnesota, still aground. She was followed by the three ships of the James River Squadron. They found their course blocked, however, by the newly arrived Monitor. At first, Jones believed the strange craft—which one Confederate sailor mocked as “a cheese on a raft”—to be a boiler being towed from the Minnesota, not realizing the nature of his opponent.
Soon, however, it was apparent that he had no choice but to fight her. The first shot of the engagement was fired at Monitor by Virginia. The shot flew past Monitor and struck Minnesota, which answered with a broadside; this began what would be a lengthy engagement. “Again, all hands were called to quarters, and when she approached within a mile of us I opened upon her with my stern guns and made a signal to the Monitor to attack the enemy,” Van Brunt added. After fighting for hours, mostly at close range, neither could overcome the other. The armor of both ships proved adequate. In part, this was because each was handicapped in her offensive capabilities, but note the large dents in Monitor’s photo below. Buchanan, in Virginia, had not expected to fight another armored vessel, so his guns were supplied only with shell rather than armor-piercing shot. Monitor‘s guns were used with the standard service charge of only 15 lb (6.8 kg) of powder, which did not give the projectile sufficient momentum to penetrate her opponent’s armor. Tests conducted after the battle showed that the Dahlgren guns could be operated safely and efficiently with charges of as much as 30 lb (14 kg). The battle finally ceased when a shell from Virginia struck the pilot house of Monitor and exploded, driving fragments of paint and iron through the viewing slits into Worden’s eyes and temporarily blinding him. As no one else could see to command the ship, Monitor was forced to draw off. The executive officer, Lieutenant Samuel Dana Greene, took over, and Monitor returned to the fight. In the period of command confusion, however, the crew of Virginia believed that their opponent had withdrawn. Although Minnesota was still aground, the falling tide meant that she was out of reach. Furthermore, Virginia had suffered enough damage to require extensive repair. Convinced that his ship had won the day, Jones ordered her back to Norfolk. At about this time, Monitor returned, only to discover her opponent apparently giving up the fight. Convinced that Virginia was quitting, with orders only to protect Minnesota and not to risk his ship unnecessarily, Greene did not pursue. Thus, each side misinterpreted the moves of the other, and as a result each claimed victory. Monitor foundered while under tow in December 1862 during a storm off Cape Hatteras. Monitor‘s wreck was discovered in 1973 and has been partially salvaged (below). Her guns, gun turret, engine and other relics are on display at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia. I’m putting this on my list of places to go and things to see on my next east coast trip.
International Women’s Day
The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women textile workers began, covering the whole city. This was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. March 8 was declared a national holiday in Soviet Russia in 1917. The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations. The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Support the women in your life today and every day.
FJ-1 Fury becomes first jet to land on a carrier
And while it wasn’t a very successful carrier capable aircraft, the FJ-1 made the USN’s first operational aircraft carrier landing with a jet fighter at sea on 10 March 1948 aboard USS Boxer, pioneering US jet-powered carrier operations and underscoring the need for catapult-equipped carriers. The Fury was capable of launching without catapult assistance, but on a crowded flight deck the capability was of limited use. Taking off without a catapult launch limited the FJ-1 to a perilous, slow climb that was considered too risky for normal operations. The North American FJ-1 Fury was the first operational jet aircraft in United States Navy service, and was developed by North American Aviation as the NA-135. The FJ-1 was an early transitional jet and as I mentioned had limited success but which carried over similar tail surfaces, wing and canopy derived from the piston-engined P-51D Mustang. The evolution of the design to incorporate swept wings would become the basis for the land-based XP-86 prototype – itself originally designed with a very similar straight-wing platform to the FJ-1 airframe – of the United States Air Force‘s enormously influential F-86 Sabre, which itself formed the basis for the Navy’s carrier-based North American FJ-2/-3 Fury. Only 30 aircraft were actually built. The photo above is of the FJ-1 in the lead with the FJ-2.