Time Machine corrupting external USB hard drives

In February I installed two Mac Minis running 10.8 Server. Each machine had an external hard drive connected to it.
Sometime over the Labor Day weekend, both drives stopped working. When I came in Tuesday, each machine had a message on the screen that the Time Machine drive had been improperly ejected. I powered down both drives and then powered them back up. Here's what is going on with each machine:
MACHINE #1:
Has a Western Digital 1TB drive formatted as OS X Extended Journaled.
Disk Utility is able to see the external drive; however, whenever I try to back up, I get the message "Time Machine couldn't complete the backup... Files can't be copied onto the backup disk because it appears to be read-only."
In Disk Utility, if I select the partition and Verify Disk, I get the message "Disk Utility stopped verifying Backup. Couldn't unmount disk."
When I try to reformat the drive, I get the message "Disk Erase failed. Disk Erase failed with the error: Couldn't unmount disk."
The Time Machine System Preference pane shows "None" for both oldest and latest backup times; however, I am able to enter Time Machine and see files going back to April.
MACHINE #2
Has a Segate 2TB drive formatted as OX X Extended Journaled.
Initially Disk Utility would recognize this drive about 50% of the time. I would power it down and back up. Sometimes it would appear in Disk Utility, sometimes it wouldn't. Whenever I would try to verify or repair this disk, it would immediately unmount and I would get the message that the disk was not ejected properly. When I try to backup using Time Machine, TM acts like it is preparing to back up and then the disk disappears from Disk Utility and from the Desktop and I get the message that The disk was not ejected properly.
This machine showed it was last backed up on September 1.
After fiddling with it, I was able to format the drive. After formatting the drive, I started a Time Machine backup and the drive unmounted again.
It seems that some event over the weekend caused both drives to corrupt. There was no sign of a power-outtage. Can anyone suggest how I can track down what caused this? Would there have been a maintenance script that would have run on Sept 1 that could have messed both drives up? Some other system event? Losing the data isn't a big deal. I just want to make sure I prevent whatever caused this in the future. Any tips would be much appreciated.

Yeah, I don't know much about the logs. I flipped through some using Console but didn't really know what I was looking for. I was hopeing to see an event that was followed by a notice that the USB drives had been improperly ejected since that was a message I received on both machines.
Since both machines were affected at the same time it seems logical it would be a scheduled event or, as you suggested, some power issue.

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    The large print: please read the Community Participation Rules before posting. Include as much information as possible: model, machine type, operating system, and a descriptive subject line. Do not include personal information: serial number, telephone number, email address, etc.  The fine print: I do not work for, nor do I speak for Lenovo. Unsolicited private messages will be ignored. ... GeezBlog
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