Year
1944

Americans launch Operation Stalemate—at extraordinary cost

On this day in 1944, the U.S. 1st Marine Division lands on the island of Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands in the Pacific, as part of a larger operation to provide support for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was preparing to invade the Philippines. The cost in American lives would prove historic.

The Palaus, part of the Caroline Islands, were among the mandated islands taken from Germany and given to Japan as one of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles at the close of World War I. The U.S. military lacked familiarity with the islands, and Adm. William Halsey argued against Operation Stalemate, which included the Army invasion of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, believing that MacArthur would meet minimal resistance in the Philippines, therefore making this operation unnecessary, especially given the risks involved.

Peleliu was subject to pre-invasion bombardment, but it proved of little consequence. The Japanese defenders of the island were buried too deep in the jungle, and the target intelligence given the Americans was faulty. Upon landing, the Marines met little immediate resistance—but that was a ploy. Shortly thereafter, Japanese machine guns opened fire, knocking out more than two dozen landing craft. Japanese tanks and troops followed, as the startled 1st and 5th Marine regiments fought for their lives. Jungle caves disgorged even more Japanese soldiers. Within one week of the invasion, the Marines lost 4,000 men. By the time it was all over, that number would surpass 9,000. The Japanese lost more than 13,000 men. Flamethrowers and bombs finally subdued the island for the Americans—but it all proved pointless. MacArthur invaded the Philippines without need of Army or Marine protection from either Peleliu or Morotai.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Scott captures Mexico City

During the Mexican-American War, U.S. forces under General Winfield Scott enter Mexico City and raise the American flag over the Hall of Montezuma, concluding a devastating advance that began with an amphibious landing at Vera Cruz six months earlier. The Mexican-American War ...read more

Napoleon enters Moscow

One week after winning a bloody victory over the Russian army at the Battle of Borodino, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée enters the city of Moscow, only to find the population evacuated and the Russian army retreated again. Moscow was the goal of the invasion, but the deserted ...read more

American canonized as saint

Elizabeth Ann Seton is canonized by Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in Rome, becoming the first American-born Catholic saint. Born in New York City in 1774, Elizabeth Bayley was the daughter of an Episcopalian physician. She devoted much of her time to charity work with the poor and ...read more

Key pens Star-Spangled Banner

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded ...read more

Seventh Battle of the Isonzo

On September 14, 1916, Italian troops during World War I launch a short, concentrated attack on Austro-Hungarian positions on the Italian Front, near the Isonzo River. Italy’s entrance into the Great War on May 23, 1915, had opened up a new front stretching 600 kilometers—most of ...read more

Denny McLain becomes a 30-game winner

On this day in 1968, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain wins his 30th game of the season, becoming the first 30-game winner in the major leagues since 1938. The Tigers scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to come from behind in a 5-4 decision over the Oakland A’s. McLain, ...read more

Millions flee from Hurricane Floyd

Millions of people evacuate their homes as Hurricane Floyd moves across the Atlantic Ocean on this day in 1999. Over the next several days, deaths are recorded from the Bahamas to New England due to the powerful storm. Floyd began as a tropical storm on September 7 and attained ...read more

A song about crime hits the charts

“I Shot the Sheriff” hits No. 1 on the music charts. While the song had been written by reggae legend Bob Marley the previous year, it was Eric Clapton’s version that ascended to the top of the charts. Crime and murder have been the subject of popular recorded music since the ...read more