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Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent them must share in the guilt for the dead.

-- General Omar Bradley

Commodore William D. Porter, USN (1808-1864)

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William David Porter, son of Commodore David Porter and elder brother of Admiral David Dixon Porter, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on 10 March 1808. He entered the Navy as a Midshipman in January 1823 and attained the rank of Lieutenant at the end of 1833. He was retired in September 1855, but was later reinstated on active duty with the rank of Commander. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he was commanding the sloop of war USS Saint Mary's.

Late in 1861, Porter took command of the newly-converted gunboat New Era, serving in the Mississippi River area with the Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla. He renamed her Essex, after his father's old ship of the War of 1812. During late 1861 and early 1862, he had Essex further modified and took her into action on a number of occasions, distinguishing himself for his courageous conduct. After the gunboat was damaged in action with Fort Henry, Tennessee, in February 1862, Porter had the ship virtually rebuilt. He then commanded her in further combat undertakings, including the destruction of the Confederate ironclad Arkansas. A controversial figure in the Navy, Porter received the rank of Commodore in recognition of his achievements, but was detached from Essex in September 1862 and had no further assignments afloat. He died on 1 May 1864.

USS William D. Porter (DD-579), 1943-1945, was named in honor of Commodore Porter.

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This Day in History
1415: During the Hundred Years War between England and France, Henry V, the young king of England, leads his forces to victory at the Battle of Agincourt in northern France.

1854: During the Crimean War, a brigade of British light infantry is destroyed by Russian artillery as they charge down a narrow corridor in full view of the Russians.

1861: Signaling an important shift in the history of naval warfare, the keel of the Union ironclad Monitor is laid at Greenpoint, Long Island.

1916: German pilot Rudolf von Eschwege shoots down his first enemy plane, a Nieuport 12 of the Royal Naval Air Service over Bulgaria.

1940: German troops capture Kharkov and launch a new drive toward Moscow.

1944: during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, the Japanese deploy kamikaze ("divine wind") suicide bombers against American warships for the first time.

1950: Chinese Communist Forces launch their first-phase offensive across the Yalu River into North Korea.

1952: The 7th Infantry Division battled the Chinese near Kumwha and suffered 2,000 casualties during the Battle of Sniper Ridge.

1958: The last U.S. troops leave Beirut.

1972: The White House orders a suspension of bombing above the 20th parallel.