This Day in Military History: April 20

 

In order to prepare for the future, we must understand our past.  Follow OpsLens “On This Day in Military History” to learn more about the events that shaped our country as well as honor those that simply inspired us to do better.

 

1861: Col. Robert E. Lee, considered for a top command by Gen. Winfield Scott (whom Lee served as a chief aide during the Mexican-American War), and having just rejected an offer of command in the Confederate Army, reluctantly resigns his commission in the U.S. Army following the secession of his home state of Virginia. In three days, Lee takes command of Virginia state forces – one of the first five generals appointed to the Confederate Army.

Meanwhile, Norfolk Navy Yard is abandoned and burned by Union forces to prevent it from falling into enemy hands after Virgnia’s secession. The Confederates would do the same when they abandon the shipyard in May 1862.

1914: Following the arrest of U.S. sailors in Veracruz and the discovery of an illegal arms shipment from Germany to Gen. Victoriano Huerta’s regime, Pres. Woodrow Wilson obtains Congress’ approval to occupy the Mexican port. The following day, Marines and Naval “Bluejacket” infantry seize the port and, supported by Naval gunfire, take the town. Marines will remain in Veracruz until November.

1st Marine Brigade (L to R) Lt. Col W.C. Neville, Col. J. A. Lejeune, Col. L. W. T. Waller, Maj. S. Butler

1918: German pilot Manfred von Richtofen – the infamous “Red Baron” – scores his last two kills of the war. The next day, Richtofen (who began the war as a cavalry officer) is shot down and killed. The Australian fighter squadron credited with shooting the German ace down gives Richtofen a full military funeral. Over the course of the war, the Red Baron shoots down an incredible 80 planes – the most victories by any pilot in World War I.

1945: After five days of perhaps the most fierce urban combat of the war, the 7th Army captures Nuremberg. The Stars and Stripes are raised over Adolf Hitler Platz, the site of Nazi party rallies, on the Führer’s 56th birthday.

1947: U.S. Navy Capt. L.O. Fox accepts the surrender – in fact the last formal surrender of  World War II – of Lt. Ei Yamaguchi and 26 Japanese soldiers and sailors on the island of Peleliu. After the Japanese holdouts attack the island’s Marine Corps detachment in March, a Japanese admiral had to be flown in to convince Yamaguchi that the war had ended nearly two years ago.

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