American Military History

The “Wall Committee” charged with selecting the most profound historical highlights to clearly portray our nation’s conflicts found it a difficult task. They soon learned that some often-quoted “facts” were in error. This led to hundreds of hours of research to bring forth accurate accounts.

It is our hope that these words will cause readers to seek more of the vast array of information available on the past actions that were needed to help preserve our freedom.



2 JULY 1776
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves… the fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission… we have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”


4 JULY 1776
“When in the course of human events…. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…. that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states….and for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”


The struggle for freedom in America began after the Colonial Wars between England and France. The English Colonies united in rebellion against the oppressive acts of Parliament and the occupying British military forces. The Stamp Act Congress and the First Continental Congress were initiated to formalize colonial grievances and arm the militia. On 19 April 1775, shots were exchanged between the British and the Colonial Militia at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. Referred to as “The shot heard round the world”, this was the start of the Revolutionary War. Battles ensued which resulted in victories for the British and hardships for the Colonials. In October 1781, a large British force surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia. That defeat led to peace talks and the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war on 3 September 1783.

WAR OF 1812

On 18 June 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain because they forced American seamen into the British Navy, violated U.S. territorial waters, and blockaded French ports. On 24 August 1814, the British marched into Washington and set fire to public buildings, including the White House. The United States military success at the Battle of New Orleans occurred two weeks after the signing of the Peace Treaty of Ghent on 24 December 1814, which ended the war.


On 14 Sept 1814, Francis Scott Key was inspired by a 15-star flag, still flying over Fort McHenry, Maryland, after a lengthy British bombardment. He wrote the words as a patriotic poem that became a rallying cry for America. It was not until 3 March 1931 that the U.S. Government designated “The Star-Spangled Banner”, as our National Anthem


On 13 May 1846, Congress passed a resolution of war against Mexico after the U.S. military force occupying disputed territory north of the Rio Grande suffered casualties when fired upon by Mexicans. The first battle of the war at Palo Alto was fought before war was declared. U. S. attempts to settle the boundary dispute through negotiation and purchase failed. The U.S. President and his cabinet made war plans, which included strategies for taking over the Mexican territory of California. The American victory at Buena Vista ended the fighting in Northern Mexico. American forces entered southern Mexico and moved inland, capturing Mexico City on 14 September 1847. On 2 February 1848, the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo to end the war. Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas north of the Rio Grande, and ceded New Mexico and California to the United States. Many officers who fought together in the conflict were later to fight on opposite sides in the Civil War.


Political and economic problems, such as slavery, westward expansion, and state’s rights, started the Civil War. America was split between a farming, slave-owning South and an industrialized North favoring free soil and protectionism. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Southern States seceded from the Union. The attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, 12 April 1861, started the war.


Minnesota was the first state to volunteer troops to aid the Union during the Civil War of 1861-1865. The 25,000 volunteers played a great role in many important battles for the preservation of the Union and to end slavery. Minnesota volunteers served in many areas but are best known for their bravery at the Battle of Gettysburg where they incurred the highest casualty rate of any Civil War unit.


The battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1 July 1863, is considered by historians as the turning point of a war that was to last another two years. This three-day battle was the largest and bloodiest battle ever in North America. The battle engaged 160,000 men with casualties of over 43,000, including 7,000 killed.


On 19 November 1863, at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, 17 acres were dedicated as a military cemetery. The keynote speaker stood in the field where nearly 7,000 men had died and delivered a polished oration for two hours. After the applause died away, Abraham Lincoln, holding two hand-written sheets, delivered these unforgettable sentences:


“Fourscore and seven years ago our Fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the Nation might live. This we may in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate–we can not consecrate– we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here. It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


On 19 June 1864, a Union soldier from Byron, Minnesota entered Andersonville as a prisoner of the Confederacy. He was horrified by the crowded, dirty, brutal conditions in the prison and recorded his observations in a journal. Out of a total of 45,000 prisoners
12,920 died. He and his fellow POWs, suffered greatly due to starvation, lack of sanitation, and disease. At the end of the war, the commander of the prison was arrested, tried, and hanged. In 1970 the site of Andersonville Prison in Georgia was designated as a memorial to all Prisoners of War.


The 24-note bugle call known as “Taps” is thought to be a revision of a French bugle signal called “Tattoo”, which called soldiers back to their garrisons. The present day “Taps” originated during the Civil War. A Union general used it to signal day’s end. Other U.S. brigades and the Confederates adopted the mournful bugle call. The Army made it the official bugle call after the war. It was not given the name “Taps” until 1874. An 1891 regulation stipulated that “Taps” be played at military funerals. It is also played at memorial services, the lowering of the flag, and lights out.


In 1790 the U.S. Revenue Service was created to collect duties on foreign merchant ships and imports. Revenue Cutters participated in all our nation’s wars, as did its successor, the U.S. Coast Guard, whose motto is SEMPER PARATUS, (“Always Ready”).
Created in 1915, USCG transferred from the Treasury to the Transportation Department in 1967 and merged with the Homeland Security Department in 2003.
Responsible for the enforcement of U.S. laws at sea, search and rescue, port security, and aids to navigation, the USCG is a military service under the U.S. Navy in wartime.
Both regular and reserve men and women of the USCG have served at home and overseas in all major conflicts from WW-I to Operation Iraqi Freedom.



During the 1898 hostilities with Spain, Minnesota formed three new regiments. The 13th Minnesota Regiment was ordered to fight the Spanish in the Philippines while the 12th and 14th Regiments stayed in the United States. At the Battle of Manila, they suffered a greater number of casualties than all other regiments combined. After the hostilities ended with Spain, the 13th Minnesota Regiment fought against the Philippines in their fight for independence.


The Philippine American War, (Insurrection), was America’s first true colonial war as a world power. After defeating Spain in 1898, the United States purchased the Spanish Philippines, where rebels resisted U.S. control. Fighting broke out in February 1899. Although war was never declared, the United States President proclaimed it over on 4 July 1902, but fighting continued for many years. The war is said to have cost the lives of one million Filipino civilians, more than 4,000 American soldiers and 20,000 Filipino fighters. The United States finally granted the Philippines their independence 4 July 1946.


Cuba, which had been a Spanish colony since 1511, struggled for independence. Spain sent a military force to help the colonial government maintain control. On 15 February 1898, an explosion sank the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor. On 25 April 1898, the United States declared war on Spain, sent the U.S. Navy to the Spanish Philippines, and prepared to send troops to Cuba. The U.S. Navy destroyed the Spanish Pacific Fleet in Manila Bay. American troops were dispatched to Cuba in June and attained military victories on San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill. The next day the U.S. Navy destroyed the Spanish Atlantic Fleet as it was leaving Santiago Harbor. Hostilities ended 12 August 1898. The Treaty of Paris, 10 December 1898, formally ended the war between the United States and Spain.


During World War I Germany published a notice in the United States that any vessel in the waters around Britain flying the Flag of Great Britain was liable for destruction. The Lusitania, a British luxury liner, ignored the warnings and left New York. On 7 May 1915, a German submarine torpedoed and sank the Lusitania with the loss of 1,200 lives, including 128 Americans. The sinking threatened the neutrality of the United States and promoted anti-German sentiment. Investigation in later years revealed the Lusitania was carrying munitions.


The primary causes of World War I, also known as the Great War, were imperialism, territorial disputes and economic rivalries among the Great Powers. After the assassination of the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, 28 June 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Soon every major power in Europe was involved in the war. Entangling alliances contributed to the spread of the war. For three years trench warfare kept battle lines stationary. Later in the war, poison gas was introduced. Unrestricted German submarine warfare caused the United States to enter the war in 1917. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 11 November 1918. That day was designated Armistice Day now known as Veteran’s Day.


From 15 July to 4 August 1918, the Second Battle of the Marne, in France, marked the turning point of World War I. After a German attack, the Allied Forces counterattacked with a force that included several American divisions. Fierce combat occurred at Chateau-Thierry, where the Americans won their first decisive victory of the war.


From 26 September to 11 November 1918, the Meuse-Argonne, France, offensive was the greatest battle of World War I. In six weeks, the American Expeditionary Forces lost over 26,000 killed and 96,000 wounded. This was the final battle of the war.


In June 1918, the battle for Belleau Wood, France, was the first battle where the American Expeditionary Forces experienced heavy casualties and showed the world that America was there to fight. The U.S. Marine Corps suffered the worst single day’s casualties in their history when more than 1,000 men were killed or wounded. Four Medals of Honor were awarded for battlefield heroism.



A Japanese task force sailed undetected across the North Pacific to launch a surprise attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Two waves of air attacks caused heavy damage and destruction to the United States Fleet. The USS Arizona was destroyed and today lies undisturbed as a memorial where it sank. 7 December 1941 is known as the day that will live in infamy.


On 8 December 1941, the United States declared war on the Axis Powers, simplicity of life vanished and everyone made sacrifices. Women replaced men in factories and businesses, symbolized by “Rosie the Riveter,” Victory gardens were planted. Gasoline and food were rationed. Clothes were made from recycled material. Scrap metals were collected and recycled. War bonds were purchased. World War II altered the lives of the American people permanently and the sacrifices helped Allied Forces win the war.


Besieged and blockaded on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines, 75,000 men, including 12,000 Americans, were taken prisoner by the Japanese on 9 April 1942. The Japanese promised fair treatment but the number of sick and starving proved overwhelming. Too few trucks were allotted to haul the captives to prisoner-of-war camps 60 miles away. Some POWs were treated humanely on the forced march, but many were denied food and water, beaten, shot, bayoneted, and buried alive. The atrocities and deprivation during which 7,000 to 10,000 perished, shocked and enraged America and earned it the name “Bataan Death March.”


On 18 April 1942, a force of sixteen B-25 bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan. They took off from an aircraft carrier to raid Tokyo and other Japanese cities. The raid revived American morale and stunned the Japanese because they realized their heartland was no longer safe from attack. Eleven of our eighty airmen were killed or captured.


Five brothers, abiding by the motto: “We stick together,” enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January 1942. In November all five lost their lives after a Japanese torpedo sank their ship. One year later the Navy commissioned a warship in their honor. Other brothers have served together. This is the only time since the Civil War that five military personnel from the same immediate family perished in battle.


In August 1942, United States Marines landed on the island of Guadalcanal in the first American offensive in the Pacific. The landings were initially unopposed while across the channel at Tulagi the Japanese offered fierce resistance. Tulagi was secured in a few days but bitter fighting continued on Guadalcanal for six months. The battle left 24,000 Japanese and 1,750 Americans dead before the Japanese withdrew in February 1943. It was the first time the Japanese were defeated on land and they never again took the offensive in the Pacific War.


On 3 February 1943, the transport ship USS Dorchester was torpedoed and sunk in twenty minutes. There were not enough life jackets for all on deck, so the four chaplains gave their life jackets to others. The chaplains, Catholic, Jewish, Methodist, and Reform, locked arms, prayed and comforted others as the ship sank into the frigid Atlantic. For their heroism, Congress awarded them a Special Medal of Valor never given before and never to be given again.


The flag raising on Iwo Jima, in February 1945, is the best-known photograph of World War II. The photo was a re-enactment of the first flag raising four hours earlier.


The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a large-scale naval action fought in June 1944 in response to American landings on Saipan. Over 300 enemy planes were reported destroyed by U.S. planes and anti-aircraft fire before the Japanese withdrew. American sailors, who witnessed the action, dubbed the battle: “The Marianas Turkey Shoot.”


The Mariners, known as the Merchant Marines, began 12 June 1775. Presidents and military leaders have acknowledged that the role of transporting troops and supplies is essential to the welfare of the nation. During World War II the Merchant Marines had a higher percentage of war related deaths than all other United States Armed Forces. It was not until 1998 that all World War II Mariners who served in hazardous waters received Veteran status.


During World War I Choctaw Indians were used to communicate in their language. During World War II Comanche Indians were used in Europe for the same reason. The Marine Corps, in search of an unbreakable code, recruited Navajo Indians during World War II. A code was developed based on the Navajo language, which was unwritten and understood only by the trained Navajo, making it impossible for the enemy to understand battlefield communications. The code continued in use through the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was never broken. In December 1971, the President of the United States awarded the Navajo Code Talkers a Certificate of Appreciation.


The first formal United States code breakers were established before World War I. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 they had a staff of 19, by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 a staff of 331, and in a few years a staff of thousands. The success of the code breakers was vital to the outcome of World War II. They were critical to the outcome at the Battle of Midway, a turning point of the war in the Pacific.


The atomic bombs that ended World War II were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on 6 and 9 August 1945. The United States estimates deaths of up to 110,000 while Japan estimates a total of 240,000. The two bombs each had an explosive force of nearly 20,000 tons of TNT.


On 14 August 1945, the Emperor announced Japan’s intent to surrender. On 2 September 1945, aboard the USS Missouri, Japan signed Documents of Surrender with the Allied Powers. World War II ended with the remarks, “That from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past.”


On 22 January 1944, Allied Troops landed near Anzio, Italy to achieve one of the most complete military surprises in history. Little resistance was met during the landing however, the next four months saw some of the most savage fighting of World War II. During the campaign the Allies suffered over 29,200 combat casualties, including 4,400 killed.


The 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated military unit in United States history for its size and length of service. It was a World War II Japanese-American unit which earned 18,000 individual decorations, 9,486 Purple Hearts, seven Presidential Citations, and twenty-one Medals of Honor. The records show the unit never had a desertion. The majority served while their families were in detention units in the United States.


The Allied invasion of Europe was delayed on two occasions by inclement weather. A break in the weather prompted the launch of “Operation Overlord” on 6 June 1944. The invasion was the largest force ever assembled in military history. The landing location was a complete surprise to Germany. The Allied Forces landed simultaneously on French beaches named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Casualties were high, but the beaches were secured within twenty-four hours. After three weeks of fighting, the Allies put ashore one million troops. Over three million combat and support personnel with more than 20,000 vehicles were involved in this invasion known as D-Day.


In December 1944, a few Allied, battle-weary, veterans and some of the greenest troops in Europe held the Ardennes Forest area on the German-Belgium border. At dawn on 16 December, the German army launched the largest land battle of World War II. More than one million men participated in this battle with staggering casualties on both sides. The battle lasted until the end of January during the coldest, snowiest weather in memory. The Battle of the Bulge was one of the worst battles of World War II and signaled the defeat of Germany just a few months away.


During World War II, over 400,000 German prisoners-of-war were interned in the United States. Six thousand were sent to Minnesota to work on farms, in canneries, logging camps or wherever help was needed. Minnesota had 21 camps including Faribault, Owatonna, Hollandale and St. Charles. After repatriation more than 5,000 former enemy prisoners returned to the United States and became citizens.


In April 1945, Nazi Death Camps were liberated across Eastern Europe. American GIs saw horrors that would stay in their minds forever. They smelled nauseating death and discovered rooms piled with suitcases, shoes, clothing, teeth, hair, and glasses, reminders of the millions of prisoners who had passed through the gates of the death camps. Soldiers of all ranks were horrified when they discovered gas chambers and ovens used to exterminate human beings, mostly Jews. In the Nazis haste to flee, prisoners were left as walking skeletons confused by their sudden freedom. The GIs offered whatever they could to give hope to the survivors.


On 7 May 1945, Germany surrendered, ending World War II in Europe. The surrender was reenacted the following day so 8 May is known as Victory in Europe (VE Day). The Allied Commander announced the surrender with the words, “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241 local time 7 May 1945.”



At the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel. Russia occupied the North and the United States the South. On 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to unify the country under communism. The United Nations demanded a withdrawal. When North Korea refused, United Nations military forces, under American leadership, went to war. Twenty-two countries joined the United Nations “Police Action” against North Korean and later, Chinese troops.


In July 1950, the North Korean Army advanced south to capture the South Korean capital of Seoul and tried to push retreating Allied Forces into the sea at Pusan. To stop the advance and gain time, the United States flew in a task force of 500 men. Heavily outnumbered, and without weapons capable of penetrating North Korean tanks, they fought a delaying action and fell back seventy miles in seventeen days. This tactic allowed U.S. troops and equipment to land on the southeastern 140-mile front, which became known as the Pusan Perimeter.


One of the most brilliant strategies in military history was the amphibious invasion at the Port of Inchon, Korea, 15 September 1950. A battalion of United States Marines went in on a 30-foot tide and captured the offshore island of Wolmi-Do, which protected Inchon. On the next tide, nine hours later, United Nation troops climbed the Inchon sea walls and fought into the heart of the city. The Inchon landing turned the war’s course in favor of the Allies.


After the landing at Inchon, September 1950, the South Korean capital city of Seoul was recaptured. Simultaneously, United Nations Forces broke out from the Pusan perimeter and drove the communists north toward the Yalu River and the Chinese border. UN Forces were told victory was at hand and they would be home for Christmas. This did not happen for two more years.


In November 1950, as United Nation Forces approached the Chinese border, the Chinese army attacked with over 300,000 troops and surrounded UN Forces near the Chosin Reservoir. These UN troops broke out and were evacuated to Pusan by sea. Other UN Forces on the western front retreated south of the 38th parallel by land. After a period of rebuilding, a counter offensive brought UN Forces back to the 38th parallel and they retook the capital city of Seoul.


Peace talks in Korea began 10 July 1951. A two-year stalemate followed with brutal battles such as Heartbreak Ridge, Pork Chop Hill, the Iron Triangle, and Old Baldy. Continuous battles resulted in constantly changing truce lines. A major issue was the repatriation of Chinese and North Korean prisoners-of-war, who did not wish to return to their country. On 27 July 1953, the United Nations, North Korea, and China signed an Armistice. South Korea refused to sign. The fighting ended but, as of 25 June 2000, a peace treaty has never been signed and North and South Korea remained divided.



The United States Senate approved the Tonkin Gulf Resolution on 7 August 1964, authorizing the President to take whatever steps necessary to prevent further aggression against U.S. Forces in Vietnam. It was the only Congressional action taken, other than funding, during the war.


Opposition to the Vietnam War began in 1964 and mounted in intensity. Virtually every college had an organized anti-war movement. By 1969, some business and labor leaders supported the anti-war movement. The publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 further eroded public support for the war and demands were made for U.S. military withdrawal.

HILL 875

In November 1967, North Vietnamese armies surrounded the southern Vietnamese city of Dak To. For twenty-two days a fierce battle was waged in the area. A 500-lb. bomb was accidentally dropped on our own soldiers. On Thanksgiving morning, the troops took Hill 875, but it was a hollow victory as the North Vietnamese had retreated in the night.


In 1964 the United States began bombing Laos. In 1971 South Vietnamese armies, supported by U.S. bombers, invaded Laos. Casualties were high on both sides. South Vietnam’s forces were expelled. U. S. bombing contributed to the rise of a Communist government in Laos in 1975.


In October of 1965 one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War was fought in Ia Drange Valley. The defeat of the North Vietnamese caused them to change their combat strategy and tactics to hit and run.


During the Vietnam War, Allied Forces were stymied by their inability to find the enemy. The Viet Cong had a complex array of tunnels that enabled them to move secretly. The tunnels could hold an entire battalion and were constructed several layers deep, so they were not affected by bombings. In January 1966, Operation Crimp was started to find and destroy the tunnels. From that operation U.S. soldiers earned the title “Tunnel Rats.” Units were formed to enter the tunnels, engage the enemy, and destroy the complexes.


On 31 Jan 1968, the North Vietnamese launched an all-out offensive, striking almost every major city and provincial capital in South Vietnam. The bloodiest fighting of the entire war took place at the Imperial Capital of Hue. The Tet Offensive lasted until the Fall of 1968 with tremendous losses to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. American Forces felt the enemy was conquered but that proved to be wrong.


When the United States ordered troops into Cambodia, protests erupted on college campuses across the nation. Four students in Ohio and two in Mississippi were killed in riots. This resulted in Congress repealing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and passing the Cooper-Church Amendment, which forbade the use of U.S. troops outside of Vietnam.


In May 1969, one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War was fought for Hamburger Hill, one of the last search and destroy missions of the war.


When Saigon was surrounded, the order was given to start Operation Frequent Wind. The evacuation of Saigon and the United States Embassy took place on April 1975. In a 24-hour period, over 50,000 people were removed. The last casualties of the Vietnam War occurred during this operation.


On 27 January 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords, which called for the withdrawal of all U. S. Forces, the release of all American prisoners of war, the end of military operations in Laos and Cambodia, a cease fire between North and South Vietnam, the formation of a National Council of Reconciliation, and continued United States aid to South Vietnam.



Women have played important military roles since the Revolutionary War. Although unfairly treated in early wars, they distinguished themselves in teaching sanitation, nursing and spying. Disguised as men, they fought on battlefields. Although women were authorized to serve as nurses in 1861, they were not eligible for health care, salary and a uniform until 1899. During World War II, opposition to women in the military was strong. In May of 1942, the Women’s Auxiliary Corps was formed to serve with the Army but did not receive military status until August 1943. The Nurse Corps was denied rank until 1947 and veteran status until 1977. Women are now integrated into the military and serve in all capacities and levels of command.


Black Americans were initially recruited to serve in the Revolutionary War. Post-war laws first denied Blacks access to military service, but they eventually fought and served valiantly in all of the wars since 1812. Initially denied freedoms, suffering rejection and segregation, they proved themselves capable and courageous in fulfilling escalating responsibilities in recognition of their abilities. Fully integrated at the start of the Korean conflict and since, Black Americans confirmed their ability to perform in battle and at high levels of responsibility.


In August 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait. The United Nations and the Arab League condemned the action and imposed an economic embargo on Iraq. An international force gathered in Saudi Arabia to prevent further Iraqi aggression. On 17 January 1991, after a withdrawal deadline had passed, the United Nations Coalition, led by the United States, began a massive air attack called Operation Desert Storm.


On 17 January 1991, the Gulf War air campaign was launched by a coalition led by the United States after Iraq failed to comply with the United Nations deadline to withdraw from Kuwait. Command centers, radar installations, military bases and other targets near Baghdad were destroyed. Continued bombing attacks destroyed Iraqi military units, enemy convoys and targets in southern Iraq and Kuwait.


On 29 January 1991, Iraqi armor and mechanized infantry attacked United States and Arab joint forces along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border. Coalition air power ended the four-day battle. It was the major Iraqi offensive of the war, later determined to be the “defining moment” of Operation Desert Storm.


The Gulf War ground offensive began on 24 February 1991. The United States led coalition forces began a flanking maneuver that would prove to be fateful to the Iraqi army. This action overran Iraqi positions, which cut supply lines and avenues of retreat. Iraqi soldiers surrendered in great numbers creating a need for large confinement facilities in the desert. The Allied ground assault caused the massive retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Military operations ended 28 February 1991.


The Iraqi military sabotaged oil wells before leaving Kuwait. Flames and heavy black smoke could be seen for miles. Oil spilled over the land and into the Persian Gulf killing fish and wildlife.


The lone highway out of Kuwait, jammed with vehicles loaded with looted items, was bombed, killing and wounding thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians. Vehicles of every description were destroyed along the “Highway of Death.”


The 79th Military Police Company of Rochester, Minnesota, was activated in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Desert Calm. The 158-member unit, including twenty-five females, served in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq from 27 November 1990 through 8 May 1991.


The 407th Army Reserve Unit based in Winona, Minnesota, included members from Southeast Minnesota. The unit was activated 27 December 1990 through 3 May 1991 to serve in the Gulf War. Their mission was to arrange for shelter, transportation, food, medicine, water and other needs for Iraqi civilians.


Mayo’s commitment to the military began with the Civil War when William W. Mayo was named examining surgeon for the enrollment board for the First Minnesota District. He served from April 1863 until February 1865.

Charles and Will Mayo served on the Medical Board for National Defense. In 1916 the board, working through the Red Cross, organized 50 base hospitals. One was organized through the University of Minnesota with financial support and staff from the Mayo Clinic.

In 1928, the Mayo Clinic Plummer Building was dedicated with the 23-bell carillon dedicated to the American soldier.

In 1934, the American Legion recognized W. J. and C. H. Mayo for “distinguished service to our sick and disabled comrades and to suffering humanity.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented a plaque to the brothers at Soldiers Field Memorial Park on 8 August 1934.

Mayo research on oxygen requirements in humans, the development of the oxygen mask and an antigravity suit enabled high altitude flying. President Roosevelt recognized Mayo’s efforts by presenting them with the highest U.S. aviation award in 1940.

In 1944, two Mayo Medical Units served in the Pacific Theater until the end of World War II.