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This Day in Military History


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13 December 1939


The first naval battle of WWII, the Battle of the River Plate, takes place off the coast of South America.


The German "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee, which had been commerce raiding in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean, since the start of the war, is hunted down by the three Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles.


Exeter is severely damaged and forced to retire, her sisters Ajax and Achilles having suffered moderate damage.


Graf Spee, meanwhile, is critically damaged.


Trapped in Montevideo and deceived into believing a far superior British force is assembling, German Capt Hans Langsdorff scuttles the Graf Spee four days later and then commits suicide.


A interpretation in Harpoon HCE/HUCE of the 13 December 1939 Battle of River Plate: http://harpgamer.com/harpforum/index.php?/files/file/448-battle-of-the-river-plate-december-13-1939/

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16 December 1914


Ships of the Imperial German Navy, led by Rear Admiral Franz Hipper, conduct a raid of the British seaport towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby.


There is outrage over the civilian casualties, but also over the Royal Navy's decision to try and intercept the German fleet after the raid instead of attempting to prevent it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

9 January 1943


Russian planes overfly the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, dropping leaflets with an ultimatum for surrender to Field Marshal Paulus.


He refuses to meet with Soviet emissaries, and the battle drags on for nearly another month before the Sixth Army finally surrenders.

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10 January 1920


The Treaty of Versailles takes effect.


Although the guns had fallen silent on 11 November 1918, negotiations to finalize the treaty continued for another six months and it did not officially take effect until the following January.


The longer lasting effects - and consequences - would come home to roost in September 1939.

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14 January 1969


While operating off Hawaii, a 5 inch Zuni rocket "cooks off" aboard the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), due to hot exhaust from a MD-3A 'Huffer' flight deck APU vehicle being directed against the four round LAU-10/A rocket pod.


The ensuing explosion of the rocket's 3.3 kg Composition B explosive warhead ignites the JP-5 fuel aboard the F-4J Phantom carrying the rocket pod.


The resulting fire detonates three more Zuni warheads, punching holes through the flight deck and allowing burning fuel to drop into the level below.


Some 18 more secondary explosions and fires follow, including several 500 lb Mk 82 iron bombs and a tanker aircraft carrying 6,000 USG of JP-5. Eight holes are blown through the flight deck and through the decks below. In less than four hours, the fires are extinguished, but 28 crewmen are killed and 344 injured. 15 aircraft are destroyed and 17 more damaged.


The fire and subsequent investigation leads to further work on developing insensitive munitions.

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