On this day in 1865, the soldiers from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army ransack Columbia, South Carolina, and leave a charred city in their wake.
On this day in 1861, Jefferson Davis, a veteran of the Black Hawk and Mexican-American Wars, begins his term as provisional president of the Confederate States of America.
On this day in 1945, Operation Detachment, the U.S. Marines’ invasion of Iwo Jima, is launched. Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific island guarded by Japanese artillery, but to American military minds, it was prime real estate on which to build airfields to launch bombing raids against Japan, only 660 miles away.
On this day in 1942, Lt. Edward O’Hare takes off from the aircraft carrier Lexington in a raid against the Japanese position at Rabaul, and minutes later becomes America’s first flying ace.
On this day in 1967, writer and historian Bernard B. Fall is killed by a Viet Cong mine while accompanying a U.S. Marine patrol along the seacoast about 14 miles northwest of Hue, on a road known as the “Street Without Joy” (which Fall had used for the title of one of his books about the war).
On this day in 1847, during the Mexican-American War, Mexican General Santa Anna surrounds the outnumbered forces of U.S. General Zachary Taylor at the Angostura Pass in Mexico and demands an immediate surrender. Taylor refused, allegedly replying, “Tell him to go to hell,” and early the next morning Santa Anna dispatched some 15,000 troops to move against the 5,000 Americans. The superior U.S. artillery was able to halt one of the two advancing Mexican divisions, while Jefferson Davis’ Mississippi riflemen led the defense of the extreme left flank against the other Mexican advance. By five o’clock in the afternoon, the Mexicans begin to withdraw.
On this day in 1945, during the bloody Battle for Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division take the crest of Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest peak and most strategic position, and raise the U.S. flag.