Sunday, March 06, 2005

On this day in military 1836 and 1990

On this day in military history….in 1836. The Mexican Army captures the Alamo after killing all the Texan (or Texican) defenders. In December 1835, during the Texas Revolution, the Mexican commander of San Antonio was forced surrender his garrison and supplies, which included the Alamo, to the forces from the Republic of Texas. Because of its strategic importance, Mexican General Santa Ana launched an offensive to retake San Antonio with 6,500 troops and he crossed the Rio Grande in January 1836. Because Texas had declared itself independent a few days earlier (and was recognized by the United States), the taking of San Antonio was only an intermediate objective. The ultimate objective was to capture the Texas government and restore Mexican rule over Texas.

The Alamo was an old Spanish mission that was not designed as a fortress, but the Texans fortified the mission with 18 cannon. The mission overlooked the road to the northeast which lead further into Texas and was ideal to control all traffic to and from San Antonio. The Mexican forces could not bypass it and would be forced take the Alamo. The defenders were members of the Texas militia that came from many places outside of Texas. Two of the more famous were the New Orleans Greys (whose company flag was captured by the Mexicans is on display in the National Historical Museum in Mexico City) and the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers lead by Davy Crockett.

The Mexican army arrived on 23 February and immediately surrounded the mission. Before doing so, the commander of the garrison, Lt. Col. William Travis, was able to dispatch riders to tell the Texas government of his situation and to ask for help. The circle around the mission wasn’t very good since midway thru the siege, 32 men were able to make it thru Mexican lines and join the defenders.

The final attack began at 5:00 AM and by 6:30 AM, the mission was in Mexican hands. Before the final battle, the Mexican army “raised the red flag” indicating that no quarter would be given. As such, any defenders that were captured were executed. Only two dozen women and children and two slaves were released from the Alamo.

Unfortunately for the Mexicans, the taking of the Alamo (and the massacre at Goliad) became a battle cry for the Texan forces. The payback for the Alamo came when Santa Anna’s forces were defeated the Texan forces of Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto later in April and won Texas its independence.

On this day in military history….in 1990. The SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft officially becomes the fastest aircraft ever built. Just after the first retirement of the SR-71, as the military was deciding what to do with the various airframes, it was decided to give one aircraft to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington as a display. Since the aircraft in question was sitting in Edwards Air Force Base in California, either thru design or accident, the decision was made to fly the aircraft to Dulles airport just as fast as possible. On March 6, 1990, tail number #64-17972 (in Air Force lingo, just “972”) was flown by Pilot Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and RSO Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida from Edwards Air Force Base (close to Los Angeles) to Washington DC. The journey took 1 hour, four minutes and 20 seconds with an average speed of 2,124 miles per hour. At the conclusion of the flight, Lt. Col. Vida became the longest serving crewman by logging 1,392.7 hours of flight time in the SR-71. The aircraft itself had accrued 2,801.1 hours of flight time and spent 24 years in the service of the US Air Force.

I worked at one time on the SR-71 and watching the ground crews “light up” those two Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines (“In thrust we trust”) was a sight to behold. Now that was a “jet”.


Post a Comment

<< Home