A number of very significant things happened in the last half of November. Here are some of the more interesting events:
President Kennedy decided to increase our military aid to South Vietnam. B-29 Superfortresses raided Tokyo for the first time during WWII. Our national leadership and military were alerted for an attack by the Japanese, but we never guessed it would be at Hawaii. And, during the Korean War, Chinese troops joined the North Vietnamese and drove our troops out of North Vietnam.
On 16 Nov 1961, President John Kennedy decided to increase military aid to South Vietnam without committing US combat troops. Kennedy was concerned at the advances being made by the communist Viet Cong but did not want to become involved in a land war in Vietnam. He hoped that the military aid would be sufficient to strengthen the Saigon government and its armed forces against the Viet Cong. Ultimately it was not, and Kennedy ended up sending additional support in the form of US military advisors and American helicopter units. By the time of his assassination in 1963, there were 16,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam.
On 17 Nov 1969, Soviet and US negotiators met in Helsinki to begin the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). The meeting was the climax of years of discussions between the two nations concerning the means to curb the Cold War arms race. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger began negotiations with the Soviet ambassador in America. The negotiations continued for nearly three years, until the signing of the SALT I agreement in May 1972.Talks centered around two main weapon systems: anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) and multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs- missiles with multiple warheads, each capable of striking different targets). Whether this made the world much safer was hard to say. The US and Soviet Union essentially said they would limit efforts to both defend themselves and destroy the other. Their nuclear arsenals, however, were still sufficient to destroy the world many times over. The concept was called MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction.
On 18 Nov 1863, President Lincoln boarded a train for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to deliver a short speech at the dedication for the cemetery of soldiers killed during the battle there on July 1 to 3, 1863. The address he gave became perhaps the most famous speech in American history, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Legend holds that on 21 Nov 1864, President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to Lydia Bixby, a widow and mother of five men who had been killed in the Civil War. A copy of the letter was then published in the Boston Evening Transcript on 25 Nov and signed “Abraham Lincoln.” The original letter has never been found. The letter expressed condolences to Mrs. Bixby on the death of her five sons, who had fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. The author regretted how “weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” He continued with a prayer that “our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement [and leave you] the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.”
On 22 Nov 1988, in the presence of members of Congress and the media, the Northrop B-2 “stealth” bomber was shown publicly for the first time at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. The aircraft, which was developed in great secrecy for nearly a decade, was designed with stealth characteristics that would allow it to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses unnoticed. At the time of its public unveiling, the B-2 had not even been flown on a test flight. It rapidly came under fire for its massive cost–more than $40 billion for development and a $1 billion price tag for each unit.
On 24 Nov 1944, 111 US B-29 Superfortress bombers raided Tokyo for the first time since Capt. Jimmy Doolittle’s raid in 1942. Their target: the Nakajima aircraft engine works. Fall 1944 saw the sustained strategic bombing of Japan. It began with a reconnaissance flight over Tokyo by Tokyo Rose, a Superfortress B-29 bomber piloted by Capt. Ralph Steakley, who grabbed over 700 photographs of the bomb sites in 35 minutes. Next, starting the first week of November, came a string of B-29 raids, dropping hundreds of tons of high explosives on Iwo Jima, in orderto keep the Japanese fighters stationed there on the ground and useless for a counteroffensive. Then came Tokyo. The awesome raid, composed of 111 Superfortress four-engine bombers, was led by Gen. Emmett “Rosie” O’Donnell, piloting Dauntless Dotty. Press cameramen on site captured the takeoffs of the first mass raid on the Japanese capital ever for posterity. Unfortunately, even with the use of radar, overcast skies and bad weather proved an insurmountable obstacle at 30,000 feet: Despite the barrage of bombs that were dropped, fewer than 50 hit the main target, the Nakajima Aircraft Works, doing little damage. The upside was that at such a great height, the B-29s were protected from counter-attack; only one was shot down.
On 25 Nov 1941, Adm. Harold R. Stark, US chief of naval operations, told Adm. Husband Kimmel, commander of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, that President Roosevelt thinks a Japanese surprise attack is a distinct possibility. “We are likely to be attacked next Monday, for the Japs are notorious for attacking without warning,” Roosevelt had informed his Cabinet. Kimmel’s command was specifically at the mid-Pacific base at Oahu, which comprised, in part, Pearl Harbor. At the time he received the “warning” from Stark, he was negotiating with Army Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander of all US forces at Pearl Harbor, about sending US warships out from Pearl Harbor in order to reinforce Wake and Midway Islands, which, along with the Philippines, were possible Japanese targets. But the Army had no antiaircraft artillery to spare. War worries had struck because of an intercepted Japanese diplomatic message, which gave November 25 as a deadline of sorts. If Japanese diplomacy had failed to convince the Americans to revoke the economic sanctions against Japan, “things will automatically begin to happen,” the message related. Those “things” were becoming obvious, in the form of Japanese troop movements off Formosa apparently toward Malaya. In fact, they were headed for Pearl Harbor, as was the Japanese First Air Fleet. Despite the fact that so many in positions of command anticipated a Japanese attack, especially given the failure of diplomacy (Japan refused US demands to withdraw from both the Axis pact and occupied territories in China and Indochina), no one expected Hawaii as the target.
On 26 Nov 1950, during the Korean War, in some of the fiercest fighting of the Korean War, thousands of communist Chinese troops launch massive counterattacks against US and Republic of Korea (ROK) troops, driving the Allied forces before them and putting an end to any thoughts for a quick or conclusive US victory. When the counterattacks had been stemmed, US and ROK forces had been driven from North Korea and the war settled into a grinding and frustrating stalemate for the next two-and-a-half years.
On 25 Nov 1966, Marilyn Moran married Army 1LT Denny Gillem; Denny had just returned from a tour in Vietnam. On their honeymoon they went to the Army-Navy football game—and saw Army win–for the first time in years.
On 26 Nov 1968, during the Vietnam War, while returning to base from another mission, Air Force 1st Lt. James P. Fleming and four other Bell UH-1F helicopter pilots got an urgent message from an Army Special Forces team pinned down by enemy fire. Although several of the other helicopters had to leave the area because of low fuel, Lieutenant Fleming and another pilot pressed on with the rescue effort. The first attempt failed because of intense ground fire, but refusing to abandon the Army green berets, Fleming managed to land and pick up the team.
When he safely arrived at his base near Duc Co, it was discovered that his aircraft was nearly out of fuel. Lieutenant Fleming was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
On 29 Nov 1947, despite strong Arab opposition, the UN voted for the partition of Palestine and the creation of an independent Jewish state. The modern conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine dates back to the 1910s, when both groups laid claim to the British-controlled territory. The Jews were Zionists, recent emigrants from Europe and Russia who came to the ancient homeland of the Jews to establish a Jewish national state. The native Palestinian Arabs sought to stem Jewish immigration and set up a secular Palestinian state.
On 30 Nov 1864, the once proud Confederate Army of Tennessee suffered a devastating defeat when its commander, General John Bell Hood, ordered a frontal assault on strong Union positions around Franklin, Tennessee. The loss cost Hood six of his finest generals and nearly a third of his force. Hood assumed command in late July 1864 while the Confederates were pinned inside Atlanta by the armies of Union General William T. Sherman. Hood made a series of desperate attacks against Sherman but finally relinquished the city in early September. No longer able to wage an offensive against the massive Yankee force, Hood retreated into Alabama to regroup. In early November, he moved north into Tennessee to draw Sherman out of the Deep South. By now, Sherman had enough troops to split his army. He dispatched General George Thomas to the Nashville area to deal with Hood’s threat while he took the rest of the force on his infamous March to the Sea, during which his men destroyed most of central Georgia.
~ Humor/Puns ~
- Man who runs in front of car gets tired. Man who runs behind car gets exhausted.
- I told my wife that it was her turn to shovel and salt the front steps. All I got was icy stares.
- Bank robbery is a safe job.
- Ms. Earhart’s loss to aviation could never be ameliorated.
- A blood-sucking arachnid from the moon would be a Luna tick.
- Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.
- Never upset a cannibal. You might end up in hot water.
- Batman bought a fedora. He wanted to be the capped crusader.
- Does working for UPS make you a professional boxer?
- War does not determine who is right. It determines who is left.
- When my ice house falls apart igloo it back together.
- Marine biologists never make mistakes on porpoise.
- The surgeon really didn’t know how to perform quick surgeries on insects, but he did one on the fly.
- Swimming can be easy or hard. It deep-ends.
- If you ever get locked out of your house, talk calmly to the door lock, because communication is key.
The Frontlines of Freedom Newsletter is published twice monthly; the dates of publication each month depend on the events and history of that month.