Battle of the Alamo Begins 186 Years Ago: February 23, 1836

by HB Auld, Jr.

On this day, 186 years ago, February 23, 1836, one of the bloodiest battles of the Texas War for Independence began:  The Battle of the Alamo. At the end of the 13-day battle, more than 187 Texians (as they were called back then) lay slaughtered in and around the San Antonio mission, along with 400 to 600 Mexicans who died or were wounded in the assault on the Mission.   This battle generated the battle cry: “Remember the Alamo,” which resonates with Texans, even today.

At the end of the 13-day siege (February 23 – March 6, 1836) Mexican President and Army commander of more than 1,500 Mexican attackers, General Antonio Lopez de Sana Anna claimed victory over the Alamo’s Texian defenders, all of whom were either killed in the onslaught or executed after the battle.   This bloody massacre was soon followed by the Battle of Goliad and later the Battle of San Jacinto where Santa Anna (as he was called) was defeated in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes by Texas General (and first Republic President) Sam Houston on April 21, 1836.  The rallying cries, “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” echoed throughout this final battle for Independence.  The Battle of Goliad was fought at sunrise on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. The Mexican Army marched most of the captured Texian army from the Persidio La Bahia near Goliad out in three groups. A short distance later, the Mexican army opened fire on the unarmed Texian defenders and executed 342 of them. Forty of the executed soldiers were too wounded to march.  

Travis became the sole commander of the Alamo on February 24, 1836. 

In February, 1836, the garrison at the Alamo, a Spanish mission near San Antonio, Texians led by 26-year old Colonel William B. Travis, James Bowie (originator of the famed “Bowie Knife”), Tennessean Davy Crockett and others, prepared to defend the mission.  James Bowie had originally been ordered to the Alamo on January 19, 1836.  He arrived with orders to destroy the complex.  Instead, he took command of the garrison as its co-commander, along with Colonel William Barret Travis.  Travis became the sole commander of the Alamo on February 24, 1836. 

Texians, enraged by the slaughter at the Alamo and later Goliad, joined the Texas Revolution cause across the state.  A little more than a month after the fall of the Alamo, Texas General Sam Houston made his stand on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto Bay near the present-day city of Houston, and defeated Mexican General and Commander, Santa Anna in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes.  General Santa Anna was captured while disguised as a mere foot soldier and Private, but was recognized and cheered by his men as he was paraded through the other Prisoners of War.  Santa Anna was presented to General Sam Houston and just three weeks after the battle, was forced to sign a peace treaty which dictated that the Mexican Army would depart the area to south of the Rio Grande River.  The Republic of Texas then became an independent country, General Samuel Houston became a national celebrity, and the rallying cries “Remember the Alamo,” and “Remember Goliad” became legendary in Texas history. 

The Assault on Iwo Jima Began 77 Years Ago Today: February 19, 1945

by HB Auld, Jr.

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the bloody assault on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II: February 19, 1945.

Most think of the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi when the island of Iwo Jima is mentioned. That would come four days later on February 23 after a bloody battle that took the lives of more than seven thousand US Marines.

But the beginning of this epic, important battle began with an underwater attack by US Navy “Frogmen” (Underwater Demolition Teams or UDTs, the precursors of Navy SEALS). Japanese snipers fired upon them, giving up their “secret” positions on the island. Under the watchful eyes of the US Navy Secretary of the Navy (later the first Secretary of Defense) James Forrestal, US Marines landed on the island in amphibious landing crafts. Forrestal was offshore, accompanied by journalists, in a command ship watching the attack.

By nightfall that first day, more than 550 Marines lay dead on the beaches and more than 1,800 were wounded from seven Japanese battalions defending the island. Many more American Marines and Japanese defenders would die during the next four days before famed photojournalist Joe Rosenthal would take his famous photograph of six US Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi.

A vital piece of Pacific real estate would finally be in the hands of the Americans in their onward march toward Japan and Victory over Japan (VJ) Day, still almost seven months away.