Friday, June 24, 2011

Military Anniversaries

I don't normally do a "Today in History" bit, but today is quite a date in military history:

1314 - Edward II of England is handed his ass by the Scottish at the battle of Bannockburn.  The battle was a complete rout of the English.  Of approximately 16,000 infantrymen who started the battle on the English side, 11,000 would be dead or captured two days later.  This action sealed the reputation of Robert the Bruce as king of an independent Scotland and probably contributed to the eventual murder of Edward after he abdicated a few years later.

1812 - Napoleon's Grande Armee crossed into Russian territory on their ill-fated invasion.  By the time Napoleon got to Moscow and back, his army of almost 500,000 had been whittled down to about 27,000 soldiers.  380,000 French soldiers were dead, and about 100,000 were prisoners.  Napoleon had lost his charm of invincibility, and he never recovered from the military, political, or diplomatic losses from this fateful decision.

1916 - Artillery preparation for what would become the Battle of the Somme began.  The infantry advance started on July 1.  By the time the battle was declared over in mid-November, Allied and German casualties numbered over 1,000,000,  of which over 300,000 were killed.  This butcher's bill paid for an advance of at most 7 miles along the trenches for the Allies.  British and Commonwealth soldiers, who bore the majority of the casualties on the Allied side, advanced only 2 miles.

1948 - The Berlin Blockade begins when Soviet occupation forces cut off all water and land access to Berlin from Western Germany.  The American, French, and British governments responded by supporting Berlin from the air, using transport aircraft to bring in food, fuel, medicine, and everything else the city needed until the blockade was lifted in May 1949.  This was the opening shot of the Cold War.

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