After the Viet Minh defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the 17th Parallel, a latitude line 17 degrees north of the equator, was proposed as the dividing line between North and South Vietnam with a demilitarized zone (DMZ) on either side. The proposal was made by officials of the People’s Republic of China during the 1954 Geneva Conference.
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was the 16th President of the United States. His election in 1860 precipitated the secession of South Carolina from the Union and the onset of the Civil War. Lincoln, a Republican, sought first to preserve the Union during the Civil War and then to end the institution of slavery. He served as president from March 4, 1861, until his death on April 15, 1865, after being shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., the previous evening.
Born in Braunau, Austria, Adolf Hitler rose to lead the Nazi Party in the early 1920s and was appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933. Upon the death of President Paul von Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler abolished that office and consolidated power in himself while suspending basic freedoms, such as those of the press and assembly. Hitler assumed the title of Führer, or leader, and became a totalitarian dictator. He repudiated the Treaty of Versailles, rearmed and expanded the German military, and pursued an aggressive persecution of Jews and other minorities. Hitler led Germany to ruin in World War II. Following the nation’s defeat in the spring of 1945, it was partitioned, East and West, for nearly 50 years. At the age of 56, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, in the Führerbunker in Berlin as troops of the Soviet Red Army advanced through the streets of the German capital.
Agent Orange is the common name applied to a class of herbicides or defoliants used to curb the growth of jungle foliage and vegetation. First used by the British in Malaya during the 1950s, Agent Orange was employed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War and linked to a number of health related conditions among the native population and military personnel who were exposed to the chemical substance. The name Agent Orange was derived from the orange stripes on the barrels in which the defoliant was shipped.
A graduate of the West Point class of 1847, General Ambrose Burnside commanded the Union Army of the Potomac during the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. During the course of the Civil War, Burnside twice refused command of the army but finally accepted, although he considered himself ill equipped for such a high level of responsibility. Burnside was a likable individual, and his distinctive facial hair resulted in the word “sideburns” entering American lexicon. Burnside commanded Union troops at Antietam, during campaigns in East Tennessee, at the Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg, and elsewhere. After the war, Burnside was elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Rhode Island. He died in 1881 at the age of 57.
Advocated by Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, the Anaconda Plan was a grand strategy prosecuted to defeat the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Anaconda Plan included a blockade of Southern port cities and an advance by Union forces down the Mississippi River to split the Confederacy in two.
The ANZACS were Australian and New Zealand Army soldiers, particularly those of an Allied corps who landed on the peninsula at Gallipoli, in the Ottoman Empire, in the spring of 1915. The fighting at Gallipoli forged the national identities of three modern nations, Australia, New Zealand, and Turkey.
Prior to World War II, Great Britain and France pursued an appeasement policy toward Nazi Germany during Hitler’s wave of territorial expansion in the 1930s. British and French diplomats made territorial and political concessions to the Nazis to avoid open military conflict. The appeasement policy has been blamed for emboldening Hitler to make further claims and hastening the coming of World War II, particularly following the Munich Pact of September 1938.
The Battle of Appomattox Courthouse, fought April 9, 1865, was one of the last battles of the Civil War. It was fought the same day that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of all Union Armies in the field. The Battle of Appomattox Courthouse was notable as Confederates under General John B. Gordon attacked Union troops to their front, advanced to a ridgline, and were then confronted by overwhelming numbers of Union soldiers in at least two corps deployed for battle. On receiving word of the presence of such strong opposition, Lee concluded that he had no alternative but to surrender.
The Army of the Potomac was the primary Union fighting force in the Eastern Theater during the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865. During the course of the war, the Army of the Potomac was commanded by generals Irvin McDowell, George B. McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and George G. Meade. Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac during its victory at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, and through the successful Overland Campaign, the siege of Petersburg, and the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. Although Meade was in command of the Army of the Potomac, General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of all Union armies, maintained headquarters in the field along with Meade.
Following the defeat of Japanese forces in World War II, the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh incited a general uprising against the restoration of French colonial rule in Vietnam. The date that is generally assigned to the beginning of the revolution is August 19, 1945. The August Revolution, also known as the Vietnamese Revolution or August General Uprising, preceded the First Indochina War.
In 1936, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy concluded a series of agreements and announced that the world would rotate on the Rome-Berlin Axis, hence the two were called the Axis Powers. In the spring of 1939, Germany and Italy concluded the Pact of Steel, further aligning the two nations militarily and politically. The Pact of Steel was followed in September 1940 by an agreement between Germany, Italy, and Japan known as the Tripartite Pact and pledging mutual assistance. The alliance also became known as the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The three nations were the principal partners of the Axis that opposed the Allies during World War II.
The climax of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North during the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam took place along the banks of Antietam Creek in western Maryland on September 17, 1862. Fighting raged in the Cornfield, a sunken road that later became known as Bloody Lane, and at Burnside Bridge, leaving nearly 23,000 dead and wounded as Antietam became the single bloodiest day in American history. The Battle of Antietam is also well known for several other reasons. Despite confronting a much larger force, Lee divided his army, sending General Stonewall Jackson to reduce the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, and survived as General A.P. Hill’s Light Division made a 17-mile forced march to reach the battlefield just in time to save the day. Despite possessing overwhelming numerical superiority, General George B. McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, committed his forces piecemeal and failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to destroy Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Although Antietam was a hollow victory for the Union, it gave President Abraham Lincoln enough political capital to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Battle of Britain, a series of aerial engagements fought from July 10 to October 31, 1940, for control of the skies over the English Channel and Great Britain during World War II, resulted in a victory for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and thwarted Hitler’s plan for an amphibious invasion of the British Isles. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring had assured Hitler that his Luftwaffe could gain control of the air and protect the German invasion force; however, the Luftwaffe sustained heavy losses and failed to eliminate the RAF. The Battle of Britain was a turning point in World War II in the West.
Often considered the tactical masterpiece of Confederate General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, the Battle of Chancellorsville was fought April 30 through May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Chancellorsville itself amounted to little more than a tavern and farmstead. Lee gambled at Chancellorsville, dividing his forces in the face of the larger Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by General Joseph Hooker. Lee detached Stonewall Jackson and a substantial force on a circuitous flanking march while holding positions to Hooker’s front. Jackson attacked the exposed right flank of Union Army and routed it. Chancellorsville was a great victory for the Confederacy, but it came at a terrible cost. Jackson was wounded by friendly fire on the evening of May 2 and died of pneumonia 10 days later, depriving the South of one of its most capable commanders.
Following the disaster at Chickamauga, General William S. Rosecrans was replaced in command of Union forces at Chattanooga, Tennessee, by General Ulysses S. Grant, who immediately set about raising the siege of the city, which Confederate General Braxton Bragg and the Army of Tennessee had invested. Fought November 23-25, 1863, the Battle of Chattanooga resulted in a resounding victory for Grant and the Union as elements of three Union armies defeated Bragg in successive actions at Orchard Knob on the 23rd, Lookout Mountain on the 24th, and Missionary Ridge on the 25th. The fighting at Lookout Mountain is remembered romantically as the “Battle Above The Clouds,” and with the capture of Missionary Ridge Union forces established a firm base for the Atlanta Campaign that was undertaken in the spring of 1864.
A pivotal engagement of the North African campaign during World War II, the Battle of El Alamein, fought October 23 through November 4, 1942, and sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of El Alamein, resulted in a victory for General Bernard Montgomery and the British Eighth Army over the German and Italian forces of Panzerarmee Afrika led by General Erwin Rommel. The reinforced British and Commonwealth troops had been in retreat before pausing in the Egyptian desert about 50 miles west of the port city of Alexandria. With substantial reinforcements, the British launched their decisive attack against depleted Axis forces whose supply lines were tenuous at best. Subsequently, the British chased the Germans and Italians westward along the Mediterranean coast of Africa and across more than 1,000 miles of desert.
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought in and around the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, from December 11-15, 1862, during the Civil War. The battle was marked by the futile advances of troops from the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by General Ambrose Burnside, against Confederate positions at Marye’s Heights on December 13. The Confederate troops of the Army of Northern Virginia, under General Robert E. Lee, were supported by artillery and protected by entrenchments and a low stone wall that ran along the high ground. The Union soldiers were obliged to advance from Fredericksburg across open ground, and the predictable result was a debacle for Burnside’s forces. Union casualties at Fredericksburg totaled 1,284 dead and approximately 9,600 wounded, more than twice those of the Confederates. Burnside was subsequently relieved of army level command.
The Battle of Gallipoli was a campaign that included numerous engagements on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Dardanelles as British forces attempted to secure a maritime route to Russia. The campaign was waged unsuccessfully from March 1915 to January 1916 and included a failed naval attack on strong Ottoman positions. This was followed by the landings of British Commonwealth troops at Helle and an inlet that later became known as ANZAC Cove. Months of indecisive fighting followed, and by the time Commonwealth forces were withdrawn each side had sustained casualties in excess of 250,000 men.
Fought over a three-day period July 1-3, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was the conclusion of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North during the Civil War. On the first day, Confederate forces pressed the Union Army of the Potomac, under General George G. Meade, through the streets of the small Pennsylvania town to a fish hook-shaped defensive line on high ground to the south. The Union line was anchored on Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill to the north and west, continued along Cemetery Ridge, and terminated at Little Round Top in the south. On July 2, Lee attacked Meade’s left, and fighting raged in the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, and Devil’s Den. Union troops won the race to the summit of Little Round Top and fought off several Confederate attempts to capture the hill. On July 3, Lee ordered the divisions of Generals George Pickett, Isaac Trimble, and J. Johnston Pettigrew to assault the Union center along Cemetery Ridge. The epic attack, known as Pickett’s Charge, was repulsed, and Lee was compelled to withdraw into Virginia. Losses on each side in killed, wounded, and captured topped 23,000, the greatest of the entire Civil War. The pivotal Battle of Gettysburg has been called the Confederate High Tide because Lee never again possessed the strength to mount a major invasion of the North. On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the cemetery where many of the Union dead from the battle were buried, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the stirring Gettysburg Address.
The turning point of World War II in the Pacific, the Battle of Midway was fought June 4-7, 1942, and ended in a major defeat for the Imperial Japanese Navy, whose losses included four aircraft carriers, Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu. The U.S. Navy lost the aircraft carrier Yorktown and the destroyer Hammann. The U.S. victory ended a Japanese bid to take Midway Atoll, which would have posed a direct threat to Hawaii. After their shattering defeat in the Battle of Midway, the Japanese were essentially on the defensive for the remainder of World War II.
One of the turning points of World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad was a catastrophic defeat for Nazi Germany. A large industrial city on the Volga River, Stalingrad was occupied by German troops in the late summer of 1942. The Germans never completely controlled the city, and a battle of attrition ensued. A Soviet counterattack in November surrounded the Germans in Stalingrad, and Hitler refused to allow the trapped Sixth Army, under Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, to break out. Efforts to relieve the surrounded troops on the ground failed, as did an airborne resupply effort by the Luftwaffe. In February 1943, Paulus surrendered more than 250,000 German troops to the Red Army.
A pivotal battle in the East fought August 26-30, 1914, the Battle of Tannenberg resulted in the near destruction of two Russian armies during a series of clashes as German forces utilized rail transportation to move rapidly and engage the Russians at several locations. The decisive German victory made a national hero of Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and seized the initiative on the Eastern Front from the Russians.
The Battle of the Coral Sea was fought May 4-8, 1942, during World War II in the Pacific. The results of the battle were mixed. Although the U.S. Navy lost the aircraft carrier USS Lexington and the aircraft carrier Yorktown was damaged, the Japanese invasion force headed toward Port Moresby in New Guinea was turned back, resulting in a strategic victory for the Americans. The Japanese lost the light carrier Shoho and many aircraft and experienced pilots from the carriers Zuikaku and Shokaku, while Shokaku was heavily damaged. The result is deemed by many historians to have been a tactical victory for the Japanese. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first carrier versus carrier engagement in history, and the opposing naval surface forces did not see one another during the battle.
Fought December 8, 1914, in the South Atlantic, the Battle of the Falklands was a British naval victory over a German force that had recently defeated a British naval squadron at Coronel. Outgunned by the larger and faster British task force that included two battlecruisers, the Germans lost two armored cruisers and two light cruisers in the engagement. German Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee was killed.
A series of engagements fought between the invading Germans and opposing French, British, and Belgian troops during the opening weeks of World War I, August to September 1914, the Battle of the Frontiers preceded the First Battle of the Marne as the Allies thwarted the grand strategy of the Schlieffen Plan and halted the initial German offensive that reached the vicinity of Paris.
As many as five separate engagements were fought during World War I for control of the strategically important Belgian town of Ypres and its environs. As the Allies sought to secure supply lines and thwart a German attempt to outflank their lines in the north, the Germans attacked toward the port cities of Boulogne and Calais. Also known as the First Battle of Flanders, the First Battle of Ypres, fought October 19 to November 22, 1914, was a costly Allied victory.
Fascist dictator of Italy from 1922 until 1943, Benito Mussolini rose to power as the prime minister of Italy following the March on Rome. By 1925, he became virtual dictator of Italy and chose a political course that would lead to an alliance with Nazi Germany, known as the Rome-Berlin Axis. Mussolini sought to restore the glory of the Roman Empire to Italy and plunged his nation into World War II with disastrous results. Italian Fascist forces were defeated by the Allies, and after Mussolini’s ouster in 1943 the nation formally switched sides. German forces occupied much of the country and fought a long and costly campaign against the British and Americans that lasted until the conclusion of the war in Europe in 1945. Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were captured and executed by communist partisans in April 1945.
The German Blitzkrieg, or Lightning War, was an innovative tactical doctrine employed by the German armed forces during aggressive military operations early in World War II, particularly against Poland in 1939 and France and the Low Countries in the spring of 1940. The concept of Blitzkrieg involved artillery bombardment, rapidly advancing armored spearheads punching holes in opposing lines and striking deep in the enemy rear as infantry followed to exploit any breakthrough. Tactical air support, particularly that of dive bombers acting as airborne artillery, weakened the enemy’s ability to concentrate troops and coordinate a response to a Blitzkrieg assault. The Blitzkrieg utilized speed and coordinated firepower to achieve great success on the battlefield early in World War II.
The term blockade runner refers to the captains and their sleek ships that carried contraband and cargo through the Union naval blockade of Southern port cities during the Civil War. Blockade runners carried on clandestine foreign trade and fueled a black market economy in the South. These ships were light and swift, often able to outrun ships of the Union Navy when entering and exiting Southern harbors.
The Border Campaign of 1950 was launched in February of that year and resulted in a series of Viet Minh victories against French forces along the Vietnamese border with the People’s Republic of China. Viet Minh forces under General Vo Nguyen Giap received substantial supplies from China and the Soviet Union and defeated the French at Lai Khe, Dong Khe, Cao Bang, and Lang Son and destroyed a French airborne battalion south of Cao Bang. Retreating French troops were repeatedly ambushed along Route 4, and by the time they reached the safety of the Red River Delta, the French had suffered 6,800 killed, wounded, and missing.
Legislation approved by the U.S. Congress in June 1973, the Case-Church Amendment prohibited further American military involvement in Southeast Asia without the approval of Congress, in effect a reversal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that had authorized the president to take action against North Vietnam without a formal declaration of war. The Case-Church Amendment ended direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
Fought in the woods and fields of North Georgia on September 19-20, 1863, the Battle of Chickamauga was the bloodiest of the Western Theater of the Civil War. Beginning in the spring of 1863, General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Union Army of the Cumberland, conducted a brilliant campaign of maneuver, forcing General Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee out of the state of Tennessee virtually without firing a shot. Rosecrans took the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a vital rail junction, in the process. However, Bragg turned on his enemy along Chickamauga Creek, a few miles south of Chattanooga, and heavy fighting ensued. On September 20, a mistaken order created a gap in the Union line. A well-timed Confederate charge by General James Longstreet’s I Corps, just arrived from Virginia, routed Rosecrans’ command, which retreated headlong to Chattanooga. Troops under the command of General George Thomas fought a stirring rearguard action at Snodgrass Hill, buying time for the rest of the Army of the Cumberland to escape. Thomas earned the nickname of the “Rock of Chickamauga,” and Bragg laid siege to the Union troops in Chattanooga. Combined casualties at Chickamauga neared 35,000.
The Chinese Nationalist Party governed most of mainland China from 1928 to 1949. Led by Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalists lost control of China to communist forces under Mao Tse-tung in 1949. After the communist victory, approximately two million Chinese nationalists evacuated to the island of Taiwan. Along with British forces, nationalist Chinese troops occupied portions of Vietnam immediately after World War II.
The M18A1 Claymore Mine entered service with the U.S. military in 1960. A directional anti-personnel mine, the Claymore is detonated by remote control and, similar to the discharge of a shotgun, fires a spread of steel balls in a killing zone of approximately 100 meters, or 110 feet.
The Bell Huey AH-1 Gunship, often referred to by its nickname “Cobra,” was developed from the basic propulsion system of the UH-1. Heavily armed with rockets, missiles, and machine guns, the Huey Gunship was developed to protect troop carrying helicopters such as the UH-1 from enemy antiaircraft fire and to provide direct fire support to troops on the ground. The success of the Huey Gunship has resulted in a service life of more than half a century.
The Compromise of 1850 was actually a package of five bills that addressed the slavery question and territorial claims arising after the United States victory in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. The Compromise of 1850 forestalled the coming of the Civil War, providing a temporary solution to the question of the extension of slavery into the newly acquired territories. The principal architect of the Compromise of 1850 was Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky.
Implemented prior to World War II, first as prison camps that detained political opponents of the Nazis, the concentration camps were expanded later to imprison Jews and other minorities and perceived enemies of the state. Several of these camps were involved in the Final Solution, housing gas chambers in which millions of prisoners were murdered, and crematoria in which the bodies were burned. Among the most infamous of the concentration camps were Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Sobibor, Mauthausen, and Ravensbrück. After World War II, many Nazis and their accomplices were tried for crimes against humanity for their administration of the concentration camps in which millions died and others were imprisoned, used as forced labor, beaten, and systematically starved.
Confederacy is the term used commonly to refer to the Confederate States of America, which seceded from the United States of America in 1861 and subsequently was defeated in the Civil War in 1865. The 11 states that formed the Confederacy included South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.
Distinguished from other World War II Allied fighter aircraft by its gull-wing design, the Chance Vought F4U Corsair was nicknamed the “Whistling Death” by Japanese airmen. Flying from aircraft carrier decks and land bases, the Corsair was piloted by airmen of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the British Royal Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Corsair was also used as a fighter bomber, carrying rockets, napalm, and conventional ordnance. The service life of the Corsair extended several decades, and the aircraft was used extensively in the Korean War. During World War II, the Corsair gained fame as the plane flown by VMF-214, the U.S. Marine fighter squadron commanded by the legendary Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington and known as the Black Sheep.
Code named Operation Overlord, the D-Day Invasion occurred on June 6, 1944, as elements of five Allied infantry and three Allied airborne divisions assaulted the Normandy coast of Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Under the overall command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the landings on Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and Omaha beaches succeeded in establishing a foothold on the continent. Following an arduous campaign in Normandy and savage fighting across the German frontier, troops of the Western Allies met the Soviet Red Army, advancing from the East, and Nazi Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945.
One of the greatest orators in American history, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts was one of the leading members of the U.S. Senate during the years preceding the Civil War. Webster also served as a member of the House of Representatives from New Hampshire. Webster, along with Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, was a member of the Senate’s Great Triumvirate. He opposed the Doctrine of Nullification, a predecessor to secession, and served as secretary of state under three presidents. Webster supported the Compromise of 1850 sponsored by senators Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas. He died in 1852 at the age of 70.
The Domino Theory was a predominant Cold War perspective on the global rise of communism. It stated that if one country or region came under the influence of communism or a communist government was installed there, other countries or regions nearby would soon fall to the communists as well, hence the analogy of a series of dominoes collapsing after the first is tipped.
On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led 16 American B-25 Mitchell bombers in a raid on Tokyo. The planes flew from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, and the raid was significant morale booster for the American people early in World War II. Although the Doolittle Raid inflicted only slight damage, the attack shook the highest echelons of the Japanese government and military establishment. Some of the raiders, including Doolittle, flew on to China after bombing the Japanese capital. Doolittle was among those who evaded capture. Three airmen were killed during the mission. Eight were captured by the Japanese, and three of these were executed. One crew landed in the Soviet Union and was interned.
A manufacturer of aircraft for the Luftwaffe during the Nazi era, Dornier was founded in 1914. Among its primary aircraft produced during World War II was the Do-17 bomber, a slim light bomber that was used during the Battle of Britain and nicknamed the “Flying Pencil.” Dornier also engaged in the design and manufacture of seaplanes and other aircraft for the Nazis.
The New York City Draft Riots took place from July 13-16, 1863, in protest of conscription laws passed to fill the ranks of the Union Army during the Civil War. The riots involved working class men, many of them Irish, who believed that they carried an unfair burden in the bloody war while wealthier men were able to purchase substitutes to serve in the Union Army for them for the price of $300. The rioters also protested being drafted to fight to end slavery and targeted blacks in the city. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered troops, some of whom had fought in the Battle of Gettysburg just days earlier, to New York to assist in suppressing the riots.
The dragoon saber is a type of saber with a curved blade meant for use by cavalry and mounted troops. Ideal for slashing, the light saber was used by both sides during the Civil War, particularly the Model 1840 cavalry saber that was 44 inches long with a blade of 35 inches and weight of only 2.5 pounds.
A graduate of the West Point Class of 1915, later known as the “Class the Stars Fell On” because of the great number of generals that emerged from its ranks, Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded Allied forces in Europe during the preparation and execution of the D-Day invasion and the subsequent fighting against Nazi Germany that resulted in victory in Europe during World War II. Eisenhower rose to the five-star rank of general of the army and served as a two-term president of the United States from 1952 to 1960.
Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, following the strategic Union victory at the Battle of Antietam, the Emancipation Proclamation made the end of slavery a strategic goal of the Union during the Civil War. The proclamation declared all slaves in states then in rebellion against the United States to be free along with other provisions related to the enlistment of former slaves in the Union Army and the protection of former slaves by Union forces.
One of the most renowned officers in modern military history, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel commanded the German 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 campaign against France and the Low Countries during World War II. He earned the nickname of the “Desert Fox” while commanding the Afrika Korps and Panzerarmee Afrika during the protracted fighting in North Africa. Rommel later commanded Army Group B in France and oversaw construction of the Atlantic Wall defenses that contested the Allied D-Day invasion. Seriously wounded when his staff car was strafed by Allied aircraft, he was recovering at his home in Ulm when he was implicated in the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Hitler. Rommel chose to commit suicide in October 1944, rather than stand trial for treason and risk harm to his family.
A former employee of Adolf Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, Eva Braun became Hitler’s mistress and his companion in the early 1930s and remained so throughout World War II. She spent much of her time at Hitler’s mountain retreat, the Berghof, and was rarely seen in public. Braun was often unhappy and attempted suicide twice during their relationship. She was a photography and film enthusiast and captured much of the known visual record of Hitler’s private moments at the Berghof. As Nazi Germany crumbled and the Soviet Red Army advanced through the streets of Berlin, Hitler married Eva Braun in the Führerbunker on April 29, 1945. The following day, the two committed suicide. At the time of her death, Eva Braun was 33 years old.
The F-4 Lightning was the first variant of the famous Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft to enter active service in World War II. Rather than mounting the cannon and machines guns of the legendary P-38, the weapons suite was replaced in the F-4 with four K-17 cameras for photo reconnaissance. The Lightning was easily distinguished from other aircraft by its twin fuselage configuration. The fighter was nicknamed the “Fork-tailed Devil” by German pilots.
The culmination of the 1975 spring offensive by the communist People’s Army of Vietnam, popularly known as the North Vietnamese Army, and the allied National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, generally referred to as the Viet Cong, the fall of Saigon includes the capture of the Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by communist forces and the establishment of a unified Vietnam under communist rule. The event marked the end of the Vietnam War. The iconic image of the fall of Saigon was captured on April 30, 1975, as a North Vietnamese tank smashed through the gates of the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace.
The political and social philosophy of Fascism centers on an individual dictatorial leader who exercises significant control over the lives of the people and initiates economic and social authority focusing on fervent nationalism and the interests of the state over those of the individual. Often characterized by violent suppression of human rights and basic freedoms, Fascism gained attention around the world during the government of Benito Mussolini in Italy from 1922 to 1943. Mussolini led Italy into World War II as an Axis partner of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
The Final Solution was the somewhat euphemistic term applied the program of systematic, state sponsored extermination of the Jewish race in Europe that was prosecuted with vigor by the Nazis during World War II. The term was first expressed during the infamous Wannsee Conference held on the outskirts of Berlin on January 20, 1942.
A significant strategic victory for the Allies, the First Battle of the Marne was fought September 5-12, 1914, and ended German hopes for a quick victory against France. The resulting “race to the sea” initiated four years of trench warfare. One of the most famous incidents of the First Battle of the Marne was the transportation of several thousand French reserve troops to the front by Parisian taxis.
Located on the Cumberland River, Fort Donelson was captured by Union forces following a five-day battle from February 11-16, 1862. The victory propelled Union General Ulysses S. Grant to national prominence for demanding the “Unconditional Surrender” of the fort. Although Fort Donelson was surrounded, some Confederate troops managed to escape. Nearly 14,000 Confederate soldiers were captured, and the Cumberland River was opened to Union traffic, contributing to the success of operations against the Confederates in Tennessee.
Situated on the Tennessee River in upper Middle Tennessee, Fort Henry was constructed in 1861. During the Civil War, its capture on February 6, 1862, provided a significant early victory for the Union during the Civil War and opened the Tennessee River to Union movement beyond the Alabama state line. Union General Ulysses S. Grant had planned a ground assault against Fort Henry while gunboats of the Union Navy shelled the fort from the river. However, the Confederates surrendered Fort Henry prior to the commencement of the land assault. From Fort Henry, Grant marched to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.
Although it was never completely finished, Fort Jefferson, located in the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico, was intended to protect one of the deep water anchorages vital to the interests of the United States and to guard the Straits of Florida. Construction was carried on at Fort Jefferson from 1846 to 1875. After the Civil War, Fort Jefferson served as a prison, where Dr. Samuel Mudd, convicted as a conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, was held from 1865 to 1869.
The largest of four forts built to defend the harbor of Pensacola, Florida, Fort Pickens was completed in 1834. During the Civil War, Fort Pickens was one of only four forts in the entire South that remained in Union hands throughout the conflict.
Located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Sumter is famous as the target of the first shots of the Civil War, fired on April 12, 1861, by Confederates artillery that ringed the harbor. After 34 hours of intermittent bombardment, the Union garrison of the fort, under the command of Major Robert Anderson, surrendered.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a career politician who became the 32nd president of the United States in 1932. The only man to be elected president for four consecutive terms, Roosevelt held the office through much of the Great Depression and World War II. His overt and covert assistance to Great Britain, through programs such as Lend-Lease, kept the island nation fighting against Nazi Germany during a crucial period from 1939 to 1941. Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. Germany declared war on the United States four days later. Afflicted by polio during the 1920s, Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down for the remainder of his life. He died in office on April 12, 1945, at the age of 63 and was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.
Heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, along with his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. The assassination sparked the opening of World War I with a declaration of war by Austria-Hungary against Serbia.
Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus was a senior German Army commander during World War II. Paulus is best known as the commander of the Sixth Army, which was surrounded and utterly destroyed by the Soviet Red Army at Stalingrad, where he surrendered more than 250,000 German troops. Rather than committing suicide as Hitler expected, Paulus became a prisoner of the Soviets and eventually cooperated with them, offering radio broadcasts that were critical of the Nazis. After the war, he lived in East Germany. He died in 1957 at the age of 66, and his body was returned to Baden, West Germany, for burial beside his wife.
A member of the Bosnian Serb terrorist organization Black Hand, Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, which led to the outbreak of World War I. The 19-year-old Princip was too young for the death penalty according to the law. He died in prison of tuberculosis in 1918.
Held in April 1954, the Geneva Conference was convened with the hope of resolving the conflict between the communist Viet Minh and the French in Indochina and the conversion of the armistice that ended the Korean War into a permanent peace settlement. The Geneva Conference did result in the partition of Vietnam at the 17th parallel.
Formed in 1933, the Gestapo served as the secret police in Nazi Germany. The term Gestapo is an abbreviation for Geheime Staatspolizei, or secret state police. During the Nazi era, the Gestapo actively hunted actual and perceived enemies of the state, including political opponents, Jews, and others deemed to be subversive.
The Green Beret Affair began in June 1969 when a group of American Green Beret officers, believing that one of their attached Vietnamese personnel was a double agent, summarily executed the Vietnamese man and disposed of his body in the ocean. Following an investigation, the Green Berets involved were arrested. The charges were later dropped amid controversy as to whether a murder had been committed or the killing of the Vietnamese operative was no different from actions taken during search and destroy missions in the Vietnamese countryside. American public opinion was divided, some considering the incident to be evidence that politicians exerted such influence on the conduct of the war that American troops were unable to fulfill their mission and win in Vietnam. On the other hand, the incident prompted Daniel Ellsberg to go public with the Pentagon Papers.
A unit of the People’s Army of Vietnam, Group 559 was organized in the spring of 1959 to coordinate the movement of troops and supplies from communist North Vietnam to South Vietnam in support of regular military formations and the operations of Viet Cong guerrillas.
Located in the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal was the scene of a bitter struggle between American and Japanese forces during World War II. The campaign lasted from August 1942 to February 1943, when Japanese forces abandoned the island to the Americans. The U.S. victory at Guadalcanal was the first land offensive against the Japanese during the war in the Pacific. The campaign also involved several major naval engagements.
The Gulf of Tonkin is a body of water located off the coast of northern Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China. On August 2, 1964, a naval incident involving the destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy and North Vietnamese gunboats led President Lyndon Johnson to request authorization from Congress to respond with military force. Known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the event remains shrouded in controversy. Nevertheless, both houses of Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 10, 1964, giving Johnson broad powers to commit U.S. military forces to Vietnam without a formal declaration of war.
Situated on the right bank of the Red River, the city of Hanoi served as the seat of French colonial government in Vietnam, then as the capital of North Vietnam, and ultimately as the capital of a unified Vietnam following the communist victory in the Vietnam War in the spring of 1975.
A plain spoken native of Missouri and veteran of World War I, Harry S. Truman became president of the United States upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945. Truman led the nation through the waning days of World War II and made the fateful decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan to end the fighting in the Pacific. The decision remains the subject of controversy to this day, and Truman was not even aware of the bomb’s existence until he became president. Truman was reelected to the presidency in 1948. He died in 1972 at the age of 88.
A hero fighter pilot of World War I, Hermann Göring was an early member of the Nazi party and close associate of Adolf Hitler. Göring held numerous positions in the Nazi hierarchy, and chief among these was the post of commander of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, during World War II. As the war progressed, Göring fell somewhat out of favor with Hitler as his promises proved hollow. The Luftwaffe failed to disrupt the evacuation of Commonwealth troops at Dunkirk or to gain control of the skies over the English Channel during the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe was unable to deliver enough supplies to sustain the encircled Sixth Army at Stalingrad, and Allied bombers raided German cities despite Göring’s promise that such raids would never occur. After the war, Göring was convicted of war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to death. He cheated the hangman by committing suicide.
Emperor of Japan during World War II, Hirohito was the nation’s monarch from 1926 until his death in 1989. Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan to his people in August 1945, and after the war a constitution patterned after that of the United States created a constitutional monarchy form of government in the island nation. The depth of Hirohito’s involvement in leading Japan to war remains the subject of debate.
The central political and nationalist figure in the struggle for Vietnamese independence from French colonial rule and later the unification of Vietnam under a single communist government, Ho Chi Minh served as chairman of the central committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party and as president and prime minister of Vietnam. From 1941 to 1965, Ho led North Vietnamese and communist guerrilla forces. He died in 1969 at the age of 79.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a route for the movement of troops and the supply of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces operating in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The trail stretched 1,000 kilometers, just over 600 miles, and was actually a series of developed roads and footpaths. The route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran primarily through neighboring Laos and Cambodia along the border with North and South Vietnam. It was the target of American bombing and interdiction throughout the Vietnam War.
Served by a crew of eight, the 105mm M102 Howitzer entered service with U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1964. Lighter than its World War II-era predecessor, the M101, the M102 Howitzer was towed behind a vehicle or transported by air. It introduced other improvements in light artillery, such as better traverse and a lower silhouette, making it less susceptible to enemy detection.
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, nicknamed the Huey, is an icon of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The concept of airmobile warfare was executed by troops ferried into and evacuated from combat zones aboard the UH-1. Powered by a turboshaft engine and rotors, the UH-1 entered service with the U.S. Army in 1959, and more than 16,000 were built.
A great Allied counteroffensive, which prominently featured Canadian troops, the Hundred Days Offensive was launched against German forces in the West with the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918, and concluded with the Armistice on November 11. The Hundred Days Offensive followed the failed German Michael Offensive launched in March 1918 and brought to a halt in July.
The 34-day battle for the island of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest of World War II in the Pacific. Located in the Volcano Islands, Iwo Jima was considered a vital point for disabled American bombers to land when returning from air raids on the Japanese home islands, and more than 20,000 airmen were saved from ditching in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean after the eight-square-mile island was captured in March 1945. Iwo Jima was the scene of the iconic raising of the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, which has become emblematic of the valor of the U.S. Marine Corps.
General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, an 1854 graduate of West Point, was one of the most colorful commanders of the Civil War. Stuart led the Cavalry Corps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until his death at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 12, 1864. A dashing cavalryman, Stuart was the epitome of the Southern cavalier and was known for his distinctive uniform, wearing a yellow sash around his waist and an ostrich plume in his hat. Although Stuart showed brilliance at times, he is most often criticized for his detachment from General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the Gettysburg Campaign, depriving Lee of his “eyes” during a critical period. At the time of his death, Jeb Stuart was 31 years old.
John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill—known as “Jack Churchill” to his friends, and later “Mad Jack” or “Fighting Jack”—was a professional soldier, son of an old Oxfordshire family. Born in Hong Kong, Churchill graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926 and was commissioned in the Manchesters, a storied regiment with battle honors dating back to the 18th century. He would go on to lead one of the most celebrated and fantastic military careers of the late 20th Century.
James Buchanan of Pennsylvania was the 15th President of the United States. Historians have judged Buchanan largely ineffective as president, accomplishing little while attempting to deal with the growing issues of states rights and slavery as the United States careened toward secession and the holocaust of the Civil War. A Democrat, Buchanan was in office from March 4, 1857, to March 4, 1861.
An aviation pioneer, James Doolittle gained lasting fame during World War II as the commander of the American air raid on the Japanese capital of Tokyo on April 18, 1942. At the time of the raid, Doolittle held the rank of lieutenant colonel. He received the Medal of Honor for the daring mission, and wartime promotion came swiftly. Doolittle rose to the rank of lieutenant general and commanded the Twelfth, Fifteenth, and Eighth Air Forces during World War II. He died in 1993 at the age of 96.
A principal figure during the Bolshevik Revolution and the establishment of communist rule in the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin served as general secretary of the central committee of the communist party for more than 30 years. He led the Soviet Union during World War II as the Red Army defended the country against the invasion by German forces that began on June 22, 1941. After initial setbacks, the Soviets assumed the offensive and drove the Germans westward hundreds of miles, capturing Berlin in 1945. Stalin ruled with an iron fist and was responsible for the deaths of millions. His ruthlessness was particularly evident during a bloody purge of the Soviet military leadership in the 1930s. He expanded communist rule into Eastern Europe following World War II and opposed his former Allies during the early days of the Cold War. He died of a stroke in 1953 at the age of 74.
The July Crisis included a series of diplomatic maneuvers among the nations of Europe during the summer of 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo on June 28. The crisis led directly to the outbreak of World War I when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia, demanding concessions that would weaken the small Balkan nation.
Formed after World War I and first proposed by President Woodrow Wilson as one of his 14 points for a lasting peace in Europe, the League of Nations was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and established as an organization that would provide a setting for the resolution of international disputes. Although Wilson was its foremost proponent, the United States did not become a member.
The Luftwaffe was the official name of the German Air Force during World War II. Despite substantial curbs on their military imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, the Nazis organized clandestine training of pilots and the development of combat aircraft during the interwar years. Although a formidable weapon of war, the Luftwaffe was eventually overwhelmed by combat attrition and, at times, inept leadership.
A toggle lock semiautomatic pistol, the Luger P08 has become an icon of the German military during World War II. Best known as a 9mm Parabellum weapon, it was also chambered in 7.65mm or .45 calibers. The Luger was a favored sidearm among German officers, although by World War II it was being supplanted in general issue by Walther pistols. The Luger was a highly prized souvenir among Allied troops and remains collectible.
The M1A1 carbine is the folding stock variant of the M1 carbine rifle, a shortened .30-caliber semiautomatic rifle often issued to airborne, headquarters, armored, and artillery troops during World War II. The carbine served as the shoulder arm for support troops, while the M1 Garand semiautomatic rifle was standard issue among American infantry units during the war.
The portable M2 flamethrower entered service with U.S. troops during World War II and was common in the military until the late 1970s. Carried by one soldier, the M2 fired a 7-second burst of flame a maximum distance of 132 feet. The flame was produced and propelled with a combination of a 2-gallon gasoline tank paired with a nitrogen tank, and the 43-pound apparatus was worn on the soldier’s back.
The M2 Tank was the predecessor to the M3 Stuart series of light tanks that saw extensive service during World War II. Developed for the U.S. Army in the mid-1930s, the M2 light tank featured a 37mm main weapon in a traversing turret along with .30-caliber machine guns for infantry support. The M2 tank did serve early in World War II and proved pivotal in the defeat of the Japanese on Guadalcanal in 1942.
The M61 Vulcan, generally mounted on aircraft, is a 20mm, six-barrel rotary weapon styled after the famed Gatling Gun, which entered service with U.S. forces in 1959 and saw extensive deployment during the Vietnam War. Still in use, the M61 provides highly accurate 20mm fire against air and ground targets at a rate of approximately 100 rounds per second.
The 22mm M7 grenade launcher was a tubular device affixed to the barrel of the M1 Garand rifle to hurl a grenade up to 380 yards. The M7 was in service with U.S. forces from 1943 to 1957 and saw extensive service during World War II.
Overseen by General Leslie Groves, The Manhattan Project was the U.S.-led effort to produce the world’s first atomic bomb during World War II. The Manhattan Project was undertaken in 1942 and resulted in the development of the atomic bombs that devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended World War II in the Pacific.
Named for Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Marshall Plan was officially known as the European Recovery Program. In the wake of World War II, the economies of many nations, particularly those of Europe, were devastated. The Marshall Plan offered economic aid for the reconstruction of these nations with the view that economic stability would engender political stability. Eventually, more than $12 billion were allocated during a four year period. The Marshall Plan proved effective in restoring the economies of many nations and reduced the prospects that communism would spread to Western Europe.
Messerschmitt was a major producer of aircraft for Nazi Germany before and during World War II. Named for its chief engineer, Willy Messerschmitt, the company manufactured the famous Me-109 fighter that dominated the skies above Europe during the early days of World War II and opposed the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Messerschmitt also produced the world’s first operational jet fighter, the Me-262 Schwalbe, or Swallow. The company survived World War II and is now a subsidiary of Deutsche Aerospace.
The 7.92mm MG 42 was one of the finest general purpose machine guns of World War II. Entering service with the German Army in 1942, the MG 42 was capable of a rate of fire up to 1,200 rounds per minute and weighed slightly more than 25 pounds. More than 400,000 were produced during the war years.
The mortar is a basic infantry carried support weapon used at relatively short range and with a high angle of fire. Those of 60mm and 81mm were used extensively by American infantry units during World War II. Such weapons were also fielded generally by all armies engaged in the war. The mortar is serviced by a crew of several soldiers and is fired by dropping a high explosive projectile down the barrel to strike a firing pin that in turn detonates a charge and fires the projectile.
Signed on September 30, 1938, the Munich Agreement was concluded between Great Britain, France, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy less than a year before the outbreak of World War II. The agreement allowed Germany to annex Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia that was home to ethnic Germans, without interference. The agreement was the result of an appeasement policy pursued by Britain and France. It isolated Czechoslovakia and paved the way for eventual German occupation of the entire country.
A blistering agent composed of carbon, chlorine, sulfur, and hydrogen, mustard gas was named as such due to its distinctive odor and yellow color. It was used on the Western Front first by the Germans near Ypres in 1917 and later by the Allies. Subsequent international agreements have condemned the use of such chemical weapons.
Nakajima was a primary manufacturer of aircraft for the Japanese military prior to and during World War II. Among its prominent designs was the Ki-43 Peregrine Falcon, code named Oscar by the Allies, the foremost fighter aircraft of the Japanese Army during the war, and the B5N Type 97 carrier attack bomber, code named Kate by the Allies. After World War II, Japanese aircraft production was limited, and the company closed. Nakajima later reemerged as Fuji Heavy Industries and Fuji Precision Industries. Among its best known brands today is the Subaru automobile line.
The ultra right-wing National Socialist German Workers Party, popularly known as the Nazi Party, was formed in 1920 and gained power in Germany through the nation’s electorate, winning seats in the Reichstag, or parliament, while its leader, Adolf Hitler, was appointed chancellor and later assumed dictatorial powers as the nation’s Führer, or leader. Hitler and the Nazis persecuted minorities, particularly the Jews, and initiated a system of extermination against them. The Nazis also plunged Europe into World War II with the invasion of Poland in 1939. After the war ended in 1945, the victorious Allies prosecuted numerous Nazis and former Nazis as war criminals. In modern Germany, strict laws apply to the display of any Nazi-related materials and the formation of any neo-Nazi political groups.
The dragoon saber is a type of saber with a curved blade meant for use by cavalry and mounted troops. Ideal for slashing, the light saber was used by both sides during the Civil War, particularly the Model 1840 cavalry saber that was 44 inches long with a blade of 35 inches and weight of only 2.5 pounds.
The last Romanov czar of Imperial Russia, Nicholas II ascended to the throne in 1894 and ruled during a period of considerable unrest until his abdication in March 1917, following the February revolution. Nicholas and his family were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries in Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918.
During a lengthy trip abroad in the summer of 1969, President Richard Nixon released a statement during a brief stopover on the island of Guam in the Pacific. The statement, delivered on July 25, became known as the Nixon Doctrine and indicated that the United States expected Asian nations to develop and sustain their own armed forces for the purpose of defense. At the time, the United States was embroiled in the Vietnam War, and the Nixon Doctrine supported the administration’s policy of “Vietnamization” to facilitate American withdrawal from Vietnam.
The barren shell pocked killing ground between opposing trench lines during World War I was named No Man’s Land. At times, Allied and German troops went “over the top,” attempting to cross No Man’s Land and breach the enemy’s trenches. Often, the result was a bloody repulse with horrific casualties and little or no territorial gain.
Operation Barbarossa was the German code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union that occurred along a front of approximately 1,000 miles on June 22, 1941. Although initially successful with German forces occupying thousands of miles of Soviet territory and inflicting devastating losses on the Red Army, the invasion of the Soviet Union hastened the defeat of Nazi Germany, and resurgent Soviet troops conquered Berlin in 1945.
Conducted primarily by U.S. forces January 8-27, 1967, Operation Cedar Falls was a military offensive aimed at clearing the Iron Triangle, an area near the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, of Viet Cong insurgents. The operation achieved mixed results according to most observers, as gains against the communist guerrillas were judged to be only temporary.
Operation Linebacker, conducted May 9 to October 23, 1972, marked the resumption of continuous bombing of North Vietnam for the first time since its suspension in November 1968. A combined operation of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, Operation Linebacker was initiated to interrupt the flow of supplies to communist forces during their Easter Offensive launched in the spring of 1972.
The Allied code name for the invasion of Nazi-occupied northwestern France on June 6, 1944, during World War II, Operation Overlord was a combined arms assault against five enemy-held beaches and the environs along the coast of Normandy. During the predawn hours of June 6, an airborne assault preceded the landings on Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and Omaha beaches. Operation Overlord was conducted by five Allied infantry divisions, three American and two British, and three airborne divisions, two American and one British.
Operation Vulture was the name of a plan for American intervention against the communist Viet Minh to aid French forces trapped at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Operation Vulture called for extensive raids by dozens of American Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers and other aircraft and the possible use of up to three nuclear weapons. President Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the risks associated with the execution of Operation Vulture and decided against its implementation.
The term Ordinance of Secession describes each of the documents drafted by the 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union prior to and during the early months of the Civil War. The ordinances were drafted and ratified during 1860 and 1861 by the individual states of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The ordinances described the rationale for secession in each state. Although Missouri and Kentucky remained in the Union, secessionists in those states drafted and approved ordinances as well.
Dating to the 14th century, the Ottoman Empire was founded by Turkish tribes in the Middle East. The empire spanned more than six centuries, ending in 1922 when it was supplanted by the government of the modern Turkish republic. At its zenith during the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, extending from the Arabian Peninsula to Ukraine and the territories of modern eastern European nations such as Romania and Bulgaria to the gates of Vienna, and across North Africa.
The alliance between the Ottoman Empire and Imperial Germany was concluded shortly after the outbreak of World War I. The Ottoman Empire was in serious decline, and its leaders sought economic and military assistance that might strengthen the Ottoman army and navy. The Germans sought access to the Middle East and Asia in order to threaten British colonial interests.
During May and June 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant, supreme commander of all Union armies, accompanied the Army of the Potomac, under General George G. Meade, in the prosecution of Grant’s Overland Campaign during the Civil War. Union forces crossed the Rapidan River on May 4, and as the two armies sought to maintain favorable positions in relation to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, major engagements took place during the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. The Overland Campaign ended with the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia entrenched at Petersburg and Union forces drawing up to lay siege to the city, a vital rail link to Richmond.
The North American P-51 Mustang is one of the most famous aircraft of World War II. An American design originally configured as a dive bomber, the plane was then considered for use as a fighter. However, its Allison engine was not equal to the task. The introduction of the British Rolls-Royce Merlin engine provided the power to develop a highly capable long-range fighter interceptor and escort for heavy bomber formations participating in deep penetration raids against German cities and industrial targets. The Mustang accounted for nearly 5,000 aerial kills during World War II.
Literally translated from the German as “tank” or “military vehicle,” the word panzer became familiar around the globe during World War II. Its most familiar usage is in describing German vehicles such as the PzKpfw. IV and PkKpfw. V Panther medium tanks or the PzKpfw. VI Tiger heavy tank.
Following years of negotiations, the Paris Peace Accords were concluded on January 27, 1973, ending formal U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and temporarily suspending the fighting between South Vietnam and communist North Vietnam and its Viet Cong allies. The Paris Peace Accords provided for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, and negotiations for a political settlement to the fighting that had wracked Vietnam for years. However, communist and South Vietnamese forces renewed the armed conflict as the Americans withdrew, and by the spring of 1975 the communists gained control of the country with the fall of Saigon.
The epic Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought July 31 through November 10, 1917, for control of several ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres. Although Passchendaele may be considered an Allied victory, the three-month campaign remains shrouded in controversy, particularly as it relates to the human cost.
A city at the western edge of the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola is located on the Gulf of Mexico. During the Civil War, the Pensacola area was the scene of fighting between Union and Confederate troops occupying several fortifications. After Union forces captured New Orleans in the spring of 1862, the Confederates abandoned Pensacola.
Popularly known as the North Vietnamese Army, or NVA, the communist People’s Army of Vietnam today includes nearly a half million ground troops. Organized initially as the Viet Minh during the mid-1940s, the People’s Army of Vietnam opposed the Japanese during World War II and later fought against the reintroduction of French colonial rule. Ultimately, the People’s Army of Vietnam and its Viet Cong allies fought American and South Vietnamese forces during the latter phase of the Vietnam War from 1959 to 1975.
German prince and politician Maximilian of Baden served briefly as chancellor of Germany during the autumn of 1918. Maximilian was appointed chancellor by Kaiser Wilhelm II and presided during the transition to parliamentary government and the series of reforms that took place near the end of World War I.
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Prussian forces and those of the allied provinces of the North German Confederation seized the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. The resounding Prussian victory during the brief conflict and particularly the occupation of Alsace and Lorraine were contributing factors in the outbreak of World War I.
Richard Nixon served as vice president of the United States in the Eisenhower administration and later as president of the United States during U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Nixon’s decision to heavily bomb North Vietnam in an effort to force the communists to the negotiating table drew a storm of criticism. The Paris Peace Accords, described by Nixon as “peace with honor” were concluded during his administration, and U.S. forces were withdrawn from Vietnam.
A former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Robert E. Lee is perhaps the most famous general officer of the Civil War. A Virginian, Lee was offered command of all Union forces at the outbreak of the war but refused and resigned his commission in the U.S. Army, unable to raise his hand against his native state, which had seceded. As the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Lee became a legend, taking great risks and winning several major battles due to his audacity and the battlefield competence of lieutenants such as Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and James Longstreet. However, modern historians have criticized his performance at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. After the Civil War, Lee became president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He died in 1870 at the age of 63, and the college was renamed Washington & Lee in his honor.
Developed by Count Alfred von Schlieffen, the former chief of the German general staff, the Schlieffen Plan considered the possibility that Germany could face a war on two fronts, with France in the West and Russia in the East. Rather than a preemptive strike against Russia, Schlieffen suggested that a rapid German flanking movement against France, through neutral Belgium, followed by a southward sweep would trap French armies and inflict a major defeat on Germany’s traditional enemy. A revised Schlieffen Plan was set in motion early in World War I.
Sectionalism is primary loyalty to one’s own state or geographic region of a country rather than to a larger state or nation. Sectionalism was prominent during the period of U.S. history that led to the secession of the Confederate states, located in the Southeast and Southwest, and the coming of the Civil War.
Produced in great numbers during World War II, the M4 Sherman medium tank and its variants were the primary armored fighting vehicles of the United States military during the war. They were also provided to U.S. allies in significant numbers through such programs as Lend-Lease. The Sherman mounted a 75mm main gun, while later variants carried a high velocity 76mm weapon, and the British mounted their 17-pounder gun atop the Sherman chassis in a variant called the Firefly. The Sherman was fast but lightly armored. In most cases, it was inferior to German weapons in tank versus tank combat. During the war in Western Europe, sheer weight of numbers helped the Sherman to eventually prevail.
Southern Reconstruction refers to the post-Civil War period from 1865 to 1877 during which the Union was restored and initiatives were undertaken to establish and safeguard the rights of former slaves and to transform Southern society. President Abraham Lincoln had favored a conciliatory form of Reconstruction; however, he was assassinated in April 1865, and a somewhat harsher Reconstruction program was implemented, including the armed occupation of parts of the South.
The last great German offensive in the West during World War I, the Spring Offensive, including four subsidiary actions code named Michael, Georgette, Gneisenau and Blücher-Yorck, was launched on March 21, 1918, and concluded on July 18. General Erich Ludendorff realized that Germany’s only opportunity to defeat the Allies in 1918 was to strike a decisive blow against British and French forces before the arrival of American troops and materiel in overwhelming numbers. After making initial progress, the German offensive stalled due to supply difficulties and heavy casualties.
Stephen A. Douglas was an astute politician from Illinois, who was largely responsible for the passage of the Compromise of 1850 by the U.S. Congress. Douglas served in the House of Representatives, as a U.S. Senator, and as the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 1860. He lost to Republican Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated in a legislative election some years earlier. Douglas was a champion of popular sovereignty, believing that the people should decide issues related to territorial expansion, and he served as chairman of the Committee on Territories. Douglas is perhaps best remembered for opposing Lincoln during the 1858 legislative campaign in Illinois and engaging in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and for renewing the debate on the slavery question with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. He was nicknamed the “Little Giant” and died of typhoid fever in Chicago in 1861 at the age of 48.
An 1846 graduate of the United States Military Academy, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was one of the most capable and best known general officers of the Civil War. Jackson was serving as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute on the eve of the Civil War and earned his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. He went on to command the Second Corps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and became General Robert E. Lee’s most trusted subordinate. Although his eccentricities were well known, Jackson skillfully conducted the Valley Campaign in 1862 and carried out Lee’s orders for a successful flanking march and assault against the Union line at Chancellorsville in May 1863. Jackson seemed to intuitively interpret Lee’s orders. Tragically, Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire at Chancellorsville on May 2. His left arm was amputated, and he died of pneumonia 10 days later. Lee was grief stricken and said, “…He has lost his left arm, but I my right.” Lionized throughout the South, Jackson was 39 at the time of his death.
After 10 years of construction, the Suez Canal, a waterway in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea was opened to maritime traffic in 1869. The Suez Canal allows passage between Europe and Asia without sailing around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent. During numerous military and political conflicts of the 20th century, control of the Suez Canal was considered vital to the national interests of many nations.
The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the legendary fighter aircraft of World War II. Developed in the 1930s, the Spitfire was sleek, agile, and capable of great speed. The production model mounted four .303-inch Browning machine guns. More than 20,000 were produced from 1938 to 1948. Along with the Hawker Hurricane, the Spitfire achieved everlasting fame during the Battle Britain, defeating the Luftwaffe in the skies above Britain and the English Channel and ending Hitler’s bid for an amphibious invasion of the British Isles.
Slated for January 30, 1968, to coincide with the Tet, or lunar new year, holiday, the Tet Offensive was the largest communist-led military offensive of the Vietnam War. Coordinated actions by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong guerrillas struck without warning across South Vietnam and triggered heavy fighting. Viet Cong infiltrators penetrated the grounds of the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Communist forces sustained significant casualties during the months that followed, resulting in a tactical defeat for the communists.
However, the shock of the offensive and the realization that communist forces were capable of such a coordinated military action resulted in a strategic and propaganda victory for the NVA and Viet Cong. Extensive media coverage in the United States contributed to an erosion of support for the Vietnam War among the American people.
The Tiger tank was one of the most feared land weapons of World War II. Introduced with the Germany Army in 1942, the Tiger mounted a high velocity 88mm cannon and was protected by significant armor. The Tiger II incorporated some improvements and reached the battlefield in 1944. Both were designed and manufactured primarily by Henschel, although Porsche competed for the contract and elements of the Porsche design were incorporated in the development of the Tiger tank. The Tiger was feared; however, it consumed great quantities of fuel, its ponderous weight limited cross country operations, and it proved somewhat mechanically unreliable.
The Treaty of Bucharest refers to two agreements during the 20th century. The first, signed in 1913 after the Second Balkan War, resulted in some territorial gains for Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania, but left numerous issues unresolved. The second agreement, signed in 1918, ended the military involvement of Romania in World War I following the exit of Bolshevik Russia from the conflict. Romania’s concessions in the Treaty of Bucharest were later overturned by the Treaty of Versailles.
Signed June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles formally ended World War I between Germany and the Allied nations and placed the blame for the war and its tremendous cost in lives and treasure on Germany. The treaty included more than 400 clauses that restricted German military and economic activities after the war, including the cession of territory and the payment of huge war reparations the Allied nations.
Following the opening battles of World War I in 1914, Allied and German forces raced to the coast along the French and Belgian border in an attempt to outflank one another. Subsequently, both sides dug extensive defensive trench systems that stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. A lengthy stalemate and war of attrition developed on the Western Front.
A secret agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy initially enacted in 1882, the Triple Alliance provided for mutual support or a neutral stance by the three nations in the event of war with another European power. The Triple Alliance was renewed in 1887, 1902, 1907, and 1912. However, a separate agreement between Italy and neighboring France nullified Italian participation in the Triple Alliance. Italy subsequently entered World War I in 1915 on the side of the Allies.
The Hawker Typhoon was a rocket- and cannon-firing fighter bomber employed primarily by the British Royal Air Force during World War II in Western Europe. The Typhoon entered service in 1941 and also served as a low altitude fighter interceptor. More than 3,300 were built during the course of the war.
German submarines, or unterseebooten, were the scourge of the Atlantic for much of World War I, preying on Allied merchant shipping in an attempt to starve the British Isles into submission, a strategy that was nearly successful. German prosecution of unrestricted submarine warfare pushed the United States closer to entering the war prior to 1917.
One of the most famous generals of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant was an 1843 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He served two terms as 18th President of the United States from 1869 to 1877. Prior to the Civil War, Grant left the army and proceeded to fail at farming and other enterprises. With the outbreak of war, he returned to the military and became an officer in the Union Army. Grant achieved fame with the surrender of Fort Donelson in February 1862, at Shiloh in April 1862, and later during the successful siege of Vicksburg, concluded on July 4, 1863. Although Grant had a reputation as a heavy drinker, Lincoln recognized that he was also a fighter and promoted him to command of all Union armies in the field in 1864. Grant conducted a relentless campaign of attrition against General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from the spring of 1864 until the end of the war a year later. While the Union army sustained heavy casualties in such battles as the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, Grant realized that the war would be won only when the Confederacy was no longer able to muster sufficient numbers of men to bear arms against the growing strength of the Union forces. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Grant’s strategy was somewhat vindicated. Grant died of throat cancer in 1885 at the age of 63.
V-E Day (Victory in Europe) occurred on May 8, 1945, the day following the German surrender to the victorious Allies at Reims, France. V-E Day was proclaimed by President Harry Truman to commemorate the Allied victory over the Nazis in World War II and continues to be observed today.
V-J Day occurred on September 2, 1945, the day the Japanese signed the instrument of surrender to the Allied powers aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay ending World War II. The date continues to be observed annually. In the United Kingdom, V-J Day is regularly noted as August 15, 1945, the day following the announcement of the Japanese intent to surrender.
The siege of Vicksburg occurred May 18 through July 4, 1863, during the Civil War. The Union Army of the Tennessee, under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, conducted a campaign for the capture of the city against the Confederate Army of Vicksburg, commanded by General John C. Pemberton. The fortified city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, commanded the passage of the Mississippi River from high bluffs, and Grant laid siege to the city after direct assaults failed. After 40 days, the Confederates were compelled to surrender. Along with the capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, the fall of Vicksburg gave the Union control of the lower Mississippi River. The event coincided with the great Union victory at Gettysburg. Together, the triumphs at Vicksburg and Gettysburg doomed the Confederacy to defeat.
Officially named the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, the Viet Cong were a well armed and supplied guerrilla force that carried on a communist insurgency in South Vietnam operating from 1959 to 1975. Some Viet Cong troops were organized in formal military units and attached to the North Vietnamese Army. The Viet Cong were masters of concealment and usually employed ambush, hit-and-run, or infiltration tactics against American and South Vietnamese forces.
The Viet Minh were a communist guerrilla force organized in 1941 originally to fight occupying Japanese troops during World War II. The Viet Minh later fought a guerrilla war against France as the latter attempted to reassert colonial rule in Southeast Asia after World War II ended. The decisive Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu compelled the French to vacate their former Indochina colonies.
Literally translated from the German as “People’s Car,” the original Volkswagen was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, and production was advocated by Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. It was intended that the German family could afford a car that would carry two adults and three children at a maximum of 62 miles per hour. Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by the German Labor Front.
The soldiers of the Waffen-SS constituted the military or “armed” units of the SS, or Schutzstaffel, originally a paramilitary Nazi force that served as Hitler’s bodyguard. Numerous Waffen-SS divisions were formed prior to and during World War II, and these engaged in fighting as active combat formations. Waffen-SS troops were noted for their fanatical loyalty to the Nazi regime and were responsible for many atrocities during World War II.
The Walther P38 is a 9mm Parabellum short recoil pistol that entered service in 1938 and was intended as a replacement for the Luger P08, production of which was scheduled to end in 1942. The standard issue sidearm of the German military during World War II, the Walther P38 remains popular today.
Held on the outskirts of Berlin on January 20, 1942, the Wannsee Conference was a gathering of top Nazi officials during World War II to discuss the implementation of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, the systematic extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.
Wehrmacht, literally translated as “defense force,” is the collective term used to describe the German military machine during the decade from 1935 to 1945 and throughout World War II. Although the term Wehrmacht is often used in describing the German Army alone, the Wehrmacht encompassed the German Navy, or Kriegsmarine, the German Air Force, or Luftwaffe, and the German Army, or Heer.
General William T. Sherman was one of the most significant Union field commanders of the Civil War. A close friend of General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, Sherman is best known for his command of the Army of the Tennessee, his conduct of the Atlanta Campaign in the spring and summer of 1864, and his infamous March to the Sea, from Atlanta to Savannah, during which he vowed to “make Georgia howl.” Sherman’s prosecution of total war has remained controversial, and he is remembered for uttering the phrase, “War is hell, and you cannot refine it.” Sherman died in 1891 at the age of 71.
A career conservative politician, Winston Churchill served as prime minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945 and from 1950 to 1955. Churchill is best remembered for his leadership of the British people during World War II, particularly during the Luftwaffe Blitz of British cities and the period when the nation stood alone against the Nazis. Churchill’s stirring oratory provided inspiration to millions. On several occasions, Churchill, through force of personality, was able to resurrect his political career.
The Zimmerman Note was a secret communication from the German Foreign Ministry to the Mexican government offering the Mexicans the recovery of territory in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas that had been lost in 1836 and 1848 to the United States in exchange for Mexico’s entry into World War I on the side of the Central Powers. The note was sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann on January 16, 1917, intercepted by British intelligence, and passed to the United States government, which declared ware on Germany three months later. The Mexican government declined the German overture.