Wednesday December 11, 2013
December 12, 1941 - American aircraft sink four Japanese ships during the Battle of Wake Island. Strategically located in the central Pacific, Wake Island's defenses were incomplete when Japanese aircraft hit the island on December 8, 1941. Three days later, Wake's Marine defenders turned back the initial Japanese landing attempts, inflicting heavy losses in the process. Protected above by four F4F Wildcats (right) from VMF-211, the defenders held out until December 23. Unable to defeat a second, larger landing attempt, the island's defenders fought through the day until they were overwhelmed and forced to surrender. Though defeated, the Marines' heroic defense exacted a heavy price on the Japanese.
World War II - Early Japanese Victories:
Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration
Monday December 9, 2013
December 9, 1775 - American forces win the Battle of Great Bridge. As tensions in Virginia increased in early 1775, both Patriot and British leaders began mustering forces. After raiding the colony through the summer and fall, the royal governor, Lord Dunmore (right), announced that he would free any slaves that fought for the British and began fortifying Norfolk. In an effort to defend the city and cut off Patriot support from North Carolina, he directed that Fort Murray be constructed at Great Bridge to the south of Norfolk. This position commanded the crossing over the south branch of the Elizabeth River. Responding, American forces under Colonel William Woodford arrived on December 2. Building his own line of earthworks, Woodford and his men were reinforced over the next week. Concerned about growing American strength, Dunmore ordered his troops to attack south on December 9. Moving out, they were bloodily repulsed by Woodford's men. Beaten, the British elected to retreat north and later abandoned Norfolk.
American Revolution in the South:
Photograph Source: Public Domain
Saturday December 7, 2013
December 8, 1914 - The squadron of Admiral Graf von Spee is destroyed at the Battle of the Falklands. Rounding Cape Horn after inflicting a rare defeat on the Royal Navy at the Battle of Coronel, Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee steered his squadron of two armored cruisers and three light cruisers for the Falklands. Badly embarrassed by the debacle at Coronel, the British dispatched a strong force of two battlecruisers (right), three armored cruisers, and two light cruisers, under Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee, to destroy von Spee's force. Approaching Port Stanley, von Spee encountered Sturdee's squadron. In the engagement that followed, Sturdee's ships sank both of von Spee's armored cruiser as well as two of the light cruisers. The battle effectively ended commerce raiding by German warships during World War I.
World War I at Sea:
Photograph Source: Public Domain
Thursday December 5, 2013
Entering service in 1903, USS Missouri (BB-11) (right) was the second vessel of the Maine-class of battleship. Surviving a fire in its aft turret in 1904, Missouri largely operated along the East Coast and Caribbean between 1905 and 1907. Selected to take part in the cruise of the Great White Fleet, it departed Hampton Roads in December 1907 for a circumnavigation of the globe. This cruise saw it make port calls in South America and the West Coast before crossing the Pacific for visits to New Zealand, Australia, China, and Japan. Returning via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal, it made port calls in the eastern Mediterranean before steaming home. Though modernized in 1910-1911, Missouri was obsolete relative to newer battleships and was largely relegated to serving as a training ship. It remained in this role through World War I before being sold for scrap in 1922.
US Navy - Early Battleships:
Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress