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Battle of Berlin Begins

Beginning April 16, 1945, Soviet forces commenced moving against Berlin.  Meeting intense resistance, they captured the city after two and a half weeks of fighting.  The victory effectively ended World War II on the Eastern Front.

World War II on the Eastern Front
Military History Spotlight10

American Civil War: Third Battle of Winchester

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Fought September 19, 1864, the Third Battle of Winchester saw Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan advance south and attack Confederate forces led by Lt. Gen. Jubal Early.  Striking with VI and XIX Corps, his early efforts to penetrate Early's line east of Winchester failed to obtain a breakthrough despite heavy fighting.  Bringing up VIII Corps, Sheridan was able to drive back the Confederate left forcing Early to withdraw to a new position closer to the town.  Coming under coordinated assaults by Union infantry, he was nearly surrounded when Maj. Gen. Alfred Torbert appeared north of Winchester with two cavalry divisions.  This threat and the imminent danger of Sheridan shattering his line led Early to order a retreat south to Fisher's Hill.  Forming a new defensive line, he was beaten again by Sheridan two days later.

Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley:

Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration

Vietnam War: First B-52 Flies

Monday April 14, 2014

April 15, 1952 - The B-52 Stratofortress (right) flies for the first time. Introduced in 1955 , the B-52 Stratofortress became the backbone of the US Strategic Air Command. Designed for delivering nuclear weapons in the event of war with the Soviet Union, the B-52 saw service dropping and firing conventional munitions during the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. In addition, the aircraft has been used in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. At this time, the B-52H squadrons are stationed at Minot Air Force Base (North Dakota) and Barksdale Air Force Base (Louisiana). An economical aircraft, the US Air Force intends to retain the B-52 until at least 2040, bringing the service life of the design to a remarkable 85 years.

US Air Force Bombers:

Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force

US Navy: USS Mississippi (BB-23)

Saturday April 12, 2014

Commissioned in 1908, USS Mississippi (BB-23) (right) was the lead ship of its class of battleship.  Designed as a smaller version of the earlier Connecticut-class, the Mississippi-class ultimately consisted of two ships.  Entering service, Mississippi operated in the Atlantic and in early 1909 met the Great White Fleet as it returned from its around-the-world cruise.  Continuing to sail with the Atlantic Fleet, the battleship visited Europe in 1910 before delivering Marines to Cuba two years later.  In early 1914, Mississippi assisted in building Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Embarking seaplanes, it carried them south to support the American occupation of Veracruz that spring.  This marked the first combat deployment of US naval aviators.  Remaining in the vicinity for a month, Mississippi returned to Hampton Roads in the summer of 1914.  Shortly thereafter, it, and its sister ship USS Idaho (BB-24), were sold to Greece.  Renamed Kilkis, the former Mississippi remained in the Royal Hellenic Navy until being sunk during World War II.

US Navy - Connecticut-class Battleships:

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

Napoleonic Wars: Fireships in Basque Roads

Thursday April 10, 2014

April 11, 1809 - Captain Thomas Cochrane opens the Battle of the Basque Roads (right).  Having blockaded a French fleet of eleven ships of the line in Basque Roads, Adm. Lord Gambier became reluctant to attack.  Annoyed by this inaction, the Admiralty dispatched the daring Cochrane to lead a fire ship attack against the French.  Delayed by Gambier on April 10, Cochrane led an assault in on the night of April 11 using two explosion ships and twenty fire ships.  While the latter were largely ineffective, the former caused great confusion and fear among the French.  As a result, many of the French ships slipped their cables and ran aground in the shallow waters of Basque Roads.  Seeing all but two of the French ships aground at dawn, Cochrane repeatedly signaled Gambier to enter the roads to complete the victory.  When it became clear that Gambier would not attack, Cochrane entered the French anchorage aboard HMS Imperieuse (38 guns) and intentionally became heavily engaged with three French ships of the line.  Signaling Gambier for aid, two British ships of the line and seven frigates finally joined the action.  Before nightfall, Cochrane had captured or destroyed four ships of the line and a frigate.  Though eager to renew the action the next morning, Cochrane was incensed when Gambier recalled the entire fleet.  Returning to Britain, Cochrane was knighted but committed career suicide through constant criticism of Gambier.  Though it became obvious to all that Gambier had failed badly, he was acquitted in a sham court-martial which cleared his name.

Photograph Source: Public Domain

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