Signal Corps Airplane No. 1 at Fort Myer, Va., 1908.

AUGUST 1, 1907

Air Force Day – The Aeronautical Division in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army was established

On August 1, 1907, U.S. Army established a small Aeronautical Division called the Signal Corps; they tested their first airplane August 20, 1908. On September 9, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge and Orville Wright were killed when the plane crashed; Selfridge was the first military aviation casualty. The Wright Flyer underwent additional testing and maintenance until the Army formally accepted “Airplane No. 1” on Aug. 2, 1909.

The Department of the Air Force was officially created by the National Security Act of 1947.

Fresh and Eager U.S. Marine troops, newly arrived at the vital southern supply port of Pusan, are shown prior to moving up to the front lines. August 1950.

AUGUST 1, 1950

Lead elements arrived in Korea from the U.S. to defend the Pusan Perimeter

At the beginning of the Korean War, lead elements were delivered in preparation for the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division into Korea from the U.S. to defend the Pusan Perimeter.

On August 4, 1950 the Battle of Pusan began, which was one of the first major conflicts of the Korean War between UN Troops and the KPA.

Kuwaiti M-84, 1992

AUGUST 2, 1990

Iraqi forces commanded by Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait

August 2, 1990 began a two-day military invasion lead by the Iraqi military, resulting in a seven-month Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. The day of the invasion, the United Nations condemned the actions of Iraq and months later authorized a coalition to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

The invasion and annexation of Kuwait was filled by Iraq gaining 20% of the world’s oil reserves and disputed global oil trade. These actions catapulted the First Gulf War, the United States’ largest military operation since the end of the Vietnam War with over 700,000 service members.

The USS Nautilus (SSN 571) being launched into the Thames River.

AUGUST 3, 1958

The first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, passes under the North Pole

Operation Sunshine, completed on August 3, 1958, saw the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine complete a submerged voyage of the North Pole. The USS Nautilus was submerged 1,830 miles under the polar ice caps and faced a dangerous mission. Above 85 degrees North, both magnetic and gyrocompasses stop functioning properly and the submarine’s crew navigate blindly.

The Nautilus, named after the famed ship from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, was commanded by Vice Admiral Eugene Parks “Dennis” Wilkinson. A member of the U.S. Navy, Vice Admiral Wilkinson set many of the Navy Nuclear protocols into use that are still followed today. The USS Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980, became a national historic landmark in 1982, and is now being used as a museum.

Lieutenant Nikole Barnes
Credit: US Sailing Team

AUGUST 4, 1970

Coast Guard Day was established

The United States Revenue Cutter Service was created by Congress on August 4th, 1790, at the request of Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. In 1915, Congress reorganized the Revenue Cutter Service into the recognizable United States Coast Guard, which has been involved in every major U.S. war since 1790. The Coast Guard remains the second smallest branch of the armed services, but is recognized as the 12th largest naval force in the world.

Today, there are an estimated 40,992 active duty service members and 7,000 reservists in the Coast Guard. Recently, the Coast Guard made Olympic history at the 2020 Tokyo Games with Lt. Nikole Barnes being the first active-duty Coast Guard member to represent Team USA.

View of Hiroshima from the sky after the bomb was dropped on August 6th, 1945
Briefing before the dropping of the first atomic bomb, taking place in Guam on August 5, 1945

AUGUST 6, 1945

The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan

On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Dropped by US B-29 bomber Enola Gay and commanded by Air Force Colonel Paul Tibbets, this bomb enacted “prompt and utter destruction” on the citizens of Hiroshima. 70,000 residents died instantly, and 20,000 more died in the aftermath from various afflictions.

This bomb, named “Little Boy” by Operation Centerboard I, was dropped to bring about a swift end to the war in the Pacific. While President Truman had a multitude of other options at his disposal, failure of the Japanese to accept unconditional surrender at the Potsdam Conference earlier that year led him to believe that nuclear warfare was the most effective way to bring a decisive conclusion to the brutal fighting.

This attack opened the nuclear age, which would spark an aggressive arms race across the international stage in the years to come.

Marines from the US 1st division using sharpened stakes in lieu of supplies located on ships that were forced to leave by enemy threats
Aftermath of the attack on Solomon Island

AUGUST 7, 1942

The U.S. 1st Marine Division lands on the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Soloman Islands

On August 7, 1942, the United States began its first amphibious offensive of WWII with a mission called “Operation Watchtower.” On orders to seize hold on the Japanese airfield, the U.S. 1st Marine Division landed on the Solomon Island of Guadalcanal in the early hours of dawn after significant tactical planning and preparation. Due to poor weather conditions, the Japanese scouting aircraft had been grounded that day, allowing over 11,000 Marines to land undetected within 24 hours. However, the target airbase was well within striking distance of the bombers and warships based at Rabaul and Kavieng, leaving the Americans at a severe disadvantage upon detection.

Though the Marines came under fire from both air and sea, the US Navy was able to send sufficient reinforcements, forcing the Japanese to surrender after the loss of 25,000 men, compared to the United States’ 1,600. Only five of the 27 Japanese bombers survived to return to Rabaul; each side lost a total of 24 warships.

Purple Heart Memorial at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois
Second Lieutenant Samuel S. Junkin Jr. receiving the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross at a Canadian army hospital

AUGUST 7, 1782

Purple Heart Day is established

In 1782, General George Washington authorized the first “Badge of Military Merit,” now known as the “Purple Heart” award in recognition of military exceptionalism. Initially, these awards were presented as a singular action in honor of three soldiers who fought courageously in the Revolutionary War. No additional awards of this nature were presented until 150 years later when the Purple Heart award was presented to a handful of WWI veterans in 1932, the bicentennial year of George Washington’s birthday.

Since its reinstatement, 1.8 million service members have received the modern Purple Heart award, including those who have been killed or wounded in action, as well as prisoners of war who suffered forms of maltreatment. Additionally, the award’s parameters have expanded to include servicemembers of all branches, as opposed to including only those in the Army and Air Corps. Those who receive a Purple Heart are presented with a purple ribbon, outlined with a thin strip of silver, attached to a gold and purple heart. On the front is a profile image of George Washington’s head, and the back side is engraved with the words “For Military Merit” (based off of the original design which included only the word “Merit”).

Purple Heart Day was established as a day of observance in 2014, and continues to gain recognition each year on August 7 as a day to honor those whose courage and valor exceeded expectations. We thank all service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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