This day in 1960 a U-2 spy plane was on an sanctioned mission flying over Soviet territory when it was shot down. Pilot Francis Gary Powers was supposed to take a cyanide pill to avoid capture, but was captured before he could do so. The ensuing events led to a cancellation of a summit between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
This day in 1863, Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson led a flanking attack around Union General Joe Hooker’s Army Of The Potomac at Chancellorsville, Virginia. It would become one of the biggest upsets of the American Civil War. Sadly, it would also lead to the tragic death of Stonewall Jackson. He would be shot by his own men from the 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and die a few days later.
This day in 1942, carrier task forces from the U.S. and Japan face off against each other around Port Moresby, New Guinea. This would be the first time in history that opposing fleets did not come within cannon range of each other. The carrier’s strike forces were the attacking power. Though both sides suffered heavy damage, the Japanese would be forced to cancel most of the operations in the South Pacific due to the loss of experienced pilots. This would come to haunt them in the next campaign in June at Midway Island.
On May 4, 1864, the Army of the Potomac moved out of its winter quarters and crossed the Rapidan River to the dense woods of the Wilderness forest. Grant had with him four corps and over 100,000 men. The plan was to move the Federal troops quickly around Lee’s left flank and advance beyond the Wilderness before engaging the Confederates. But logistics slowed the move, and the long supply train the Union troops had to stop in the Wilderness. The stage would be set for Grant’s 1864 Overland campaign, which would culminate in the Siege of Petersburg and the ultimate surrender at Appomattax Courthouse in 1865.
That’s right. Cinco De Mayo people. But its not really about drunken parties and massive hangovers for the next day. Outnumbered and with almost no supplies, a Mexican army under the command of a Texan-born General Ignacio Zaragoza. The French were intent on capturing the town of Puebla de Los Angeles. Zaragoza had his 2000 men fortify the town. The French would attack with about 6000 men and the fight would last all day. Though it was not an important strategic victory, it brought the Mexican people together and gave them the idea that they could stop the French.
This day in 1942, saw the surrender of all U. S. troops in the Philippines. General Johnathan Wainwright would surrender to Japanese General Homma. This was the largest surrender in U.S. Army history. The Bataan Death March would follow and thousands of POWs and civilians would be murdered over the next four years. General Wainwright would be awarded the Medal Of Honor and be present on the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered on September 2nd, 1945
On this day in 1954, Dien Bien Phu falls to the Viet Minh. In March, a force of 40,000 Viet Minh troops with heavy artillery had surrounded 15,000 French soldiers, putting the French position under siege. The Viet Minh guerrillas had been fighting a long and bloody war with French colonials for control of Vietnam since 1946. In an attempt to gain a decisive victory, French General Henri Navarre had positioned the large French force 200 miles behind enemy lines in a remote area next to the Laotian border. He had planned to draw the communists into a conventional battle in which he hoped superior French firepower would destroy the enemy, but he vastly underestimated his foe.