Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30: Fall of Saigon Begins

On this date in History .... 1975:

The fall of Saigon began.  

South vietnamese civilians try to climb the wall
of the U.S. Embassy in a desperate bid to board
one of the last evacuation flights out of Saigon.
Photo source: www.navymemorieshop.com
In Dec 1974 the North Vietnamese were making a rapid advancement and by early January had overtaken the capital of Phuoc Binh. Pres. Ford was unable to convince a “hostile Congress” to make good on the U.S.’s previous promise to provide aid in such a situation. When North Vietnam saw the U.S. was backing off of their earlier promise and doing nothing, they pushed forward toward Saigon, defeating the fledgling South Vietnam military at each encounter. 

The population of Saigon became a maddening mob as everyone tried to get a spot on evacuation transportation. 

(It really got to me … really … when I watched  THIS VIDEO and saw grown men shove a young woman & child out of the way as they tried to get thru the Embassy gates …. marker 0:31 thru 0:44.)

The U.S. military on board the aircraft carrier "USS Blue Ridge" pushing the helicopter into the sea off the coast of Vietnam, to make room for evacuees from Saigon. 

Photo taken April 29, 1975.
Photo source: www.namvietnews.wordpress.com 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 29: Liberation of Dachau

On this date in History ..... 1945:

The U.S. Seventh Army liberated Dachau, the first concentration camp established just five weeks after Hitler became Chancellor. 

The pile of shoes found by American
soldiers when they entered Dachau.
Photo source: www.theholocaustexplained.org 
American soldiers encountered 30 railroad cars of dead bodies in various stages of decomposition as they neared the camp. Once inside the camp, they found more dead bodies and 30,000 survivors. The story goes that the Americans were so enraged at what they found, that 30 SS guards were machine-gunned down. 

The civilian townspeople of Dachau were forced to come to the camp and see what was going on right next to them. They then had to bury over 9000 of the dead.  (See this blog for more on the story of bringing neighboring civilians to see these camps: www.scrapbookpages.com ).

Incomplete records indicated over 32,000 people died in the camps of Dachau.  (To put this in perspective, my hometown had a population of approx. 36,000 in 2012. Can you imagine going home one day and finding out the entire town had been killed?)   

While the liberation of this camp was going on, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were having a wedding ceremony. They committed suicide the next day.

And in case you missed the big headline:  Prince William and Kate Middleton decided to get married on Adolph and Eva's wedding date.  How did the royal wedding planners miss THAT piece of trivia?


April 28: Muhammad Ali Refuses to be Drafted

On this date in History ..... 1967:

Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted in the Army during the war with Vietnam, claiming religious reasons.  He said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong. They never called me n*****.”  

He was prosecuted for draft evasion and sentenced to five years and $10,000 but remained out of jail during the appeal. He was stripped of his title and banned from boxing for three years. 

On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court overturned his draft evasion conviction with an 8-0 vote, saying the government had failed to properly specify why his application for conscientious objector status had been denied.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 26: Murder Prompts KKK to Organize

On this date in History .... 1913:

Mary Phagan, 13 yrs old

13-yr old Mary Phagan is murdered in a pencil factory in Atlanta Georgia, and the events of the murder are described as “one of the most disgraceful episodes of bigotry, injustice, and mob violence in American history” and prompted the formation of a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. 

When African-American janitor Jim Conley was arrested he shifted the blame to Jewish factory owner Leo Frank. Even though Conley’s attorney told the judge a number of times that Conley had confessed to the murder, the trial went forward and Frank was convicted.  

The prosecutor, described as “a notorious bigot” was told by his close friend Tom Watson, a local politician who had run for President in 1904 and 1908, "Hell, we can lynch a n****** anytime in Georgia, but when do we get the chance to hang a Yankee Jew?"

The governor investigated the conviction and in finding Frank totally innocent, commuted his sentence three weeks before the end of his term in office.   Watson, however, wouldn’t let it go and he mobilized his followers to form The Knights of Mary Phagan. The police refused to stop this lynch mob and thousands of Jewish residents were forced to run from the city.

On August 16, 1915, this mob managed to take over the prison where Frank was being held, where they took Frank out of prison and brought him back to Mary’s hometown of Marietta where they hung Frank from a tree, then gathered around to have pictures taken. Thousands watched the lynching and the police, again, did nothing to stop it.  While the entire country was horrified at these actions, Watson remained a popular politician and was even elected to the Senate a few years later in 1920.

A few months later, November 1915, William Simmons capitalized on the event by calling together many of the men who had hung Frank and some of the Knights of Mary Phagan.  They burned a large cross on top of Stone Mountain, with Simmons declaring the founding of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Leo Frank received a posthumous pardon in 1986.

Sources for this story include:

April 25: White House Bowling Alley

On this date in History .... 1947:

Harry Truman officially opens the first White House bowling alley by rolling the first ball and knocking down seven of the ten pins, one of which is now on display at the Smithsonian. Eisenhower closed the alley in 1955 and another one was built later in the building next door.  

The Johnsons and the Nixons used the bowling facility frequently. Truman’s favorite activity was poker and he didn’t bowl much while in office.

White House Bowling Alley 1948

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 24: Military Code of Conduct

On this date in History .... 1863: 

The Union Army issues a code of conduct for its soldiers, the first like it in the world. It set 157 rules and articles on things like how to treat prisoners, flags of truce, and prisoner exchanges. Other countries soon copied the code. It became the basis for international military law and influenced much of the rules of the Geneva Convention.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 23: "New Coke" is announced

On this date in History .... 1985:

Coca-Cola made an announcement that forever placed them in the Top Ten of “Worst Marketing Blunders” when the company announced the introduction of New Coke.  They discontinued producing the original Coke formula and New Coke took its place (the formula for Diet Coke was not changed, however). 

Robert Goizueta told employees when he became CEO in 1980 “There are no sacred cows in how the company did its business”. The public was not amused, nor impressed.  Ads that appeared on the Houston Astrodome scoreboard were booed heavily by the crowd.  Cases of Coke were selling on the black market for $30 a case. Wine cellars were being used to store hundreds of cases of Coke.

Robert Goizueta & Donald Keough in 1985.
Even Fidel Castro, who was a big Coke fan, called New Coke “a sign of American capitalistic decadence.” Goizueta’s own father, who had fled Cuba to avoid Castro’s rule, said it was the only time he had agreed with Castro. Bill Cosby discontinued being the Coke spokesman because he said Coke had damaged his credibility. 

The backlash was so severe that it only took three months for Coca Cola to backpedal and re-introduce the original Coke formula under the name of “Coke Classic” on July 10th.  It was such big news that ABC’s Brian Jennings interrupted “General Hospital” with the headline. Within six months, Coke sales increased at more than twice the rate of Pepsi and by the end of the year, New Coke was a mere 3% of the market share. It was eventually discontinued and “Coke Classic” was relabeled just plain “Coke” again.

"There is a twist to this story which will please every humanist and will probably keep Harvard professors puzzled for years," said Coke President Donald Keough at a press conference. "The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people."

April 22: Seduction is made Illegal in Ohio

On this date in History .... 1866:

Ohio passes a law making seduction illegal. The law applied to men who were teachers or instructors of women and did not factor in age or consent. It was not the first such law, however. Georgia also had such a law which read it was illegal for a man to “seduce a virtuous unmarried female and induce her to yield to his lustful embraces, and allow him to have carnal knowledge of her." In Michigan, a man was convicted of three counts of seduction. On appeal, two of the charges were thrown out because the court found the woman was no longer virtuous after the first encounter. The final charge was thrown out because the defense argued the woman’s claim of having sex in a buggy was “medically impossible”.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21: Largest Prison Fire

On this date in History .... 1921:

The worst fire in prison history takes place at the Ohio State Penitentiary (Columbus OH). 322 inmates were killed. 

The prison was representative of “The Big House” era of prison building. It had been built to hold 1500 inmates but at the time of the fire, 4300 were incarcerated there. There is debate on whether the fire was an accident or a prison escape diversion but regardless, the warden had never put a fire escape policy in place nor had he ever authorized any fire drills.  It is said he was more concerned about prisoners escaping than about them dying in a fire.  

Bodies of those killed in the fire.
While the locked up prisoners begged to be let out of their cells, guards continued to lock up remaining prisoners. Two prisoners finally got the keys from the guards and began unlocking cells one by one.  There was no automatic lock/unlock system then.  Each cell had to be opened manually.

This was during the Depression when there were minimum sentences laws in place and many were jailed for minor offenses.  The fire led to a repeal of minimum sentences laws that contributed to the overcrowding of prisons.  By 1931 over 2300 prisoners were paroled from the penitentiary.

(Sources for this story include www.ohiohistorycentral.org  and www.lrc.fema.gov )


Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

On this date in History .... 1983:

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was created, but remained a homeless organization, at least temporarily.  

Several cities were considered and Cleveland lobbied hard with signed petitions and $65 million pledged toward the building. Part of their argument for putting it in Cleveland is that Cleveland DJ Alan Freed is credited with the birth of rock and roll and with organizing the first rock and roll concert, the “Moondog Coronation Ball”, March 21, 1952, which was held in Cleveland.  (“Moondog” was Freed’s nickname.) 

Groundbreaking was held June 7, 1993 with Pete Townshend and Chuck Berry “doing the honors”.  The building is a 7-level pyramid design and includes costumes from famous artists plus a theater to show musical films. The inductee ceremony located is rotated among various cities, but every third year it is held in Cleveland. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19: Yahtzee!

On this date in History .... 1956:

Toy and game entrepreneur Edwin S. Lowe filed Yahtzee as a trademark with the U.S. Patent Office. 

The game did not initially do well commercially. Eventually, he had the idea of organizing Yahtzee parties so people could play the game and get a firsthand appreciation of it. The idea was successful, and enthusiasts quickly popularized the game through word of mouth.

Over 50 million of the Yahtzee dice games are sold each year. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17: Political Mudslinging

On this date in History ... 1950:

Time magazine publishes an article about the story circulating about political mudslinging between Florida incumbent Sen. Claude Pepper and his opponent, George Smathers.
The story, which has become the icon of how words can be used to distort one’s image, first appeared in an Iowa newspaper and grew rapidly on the political grapevine.  While it is denied that Smathers ever made such a speech, it followed the campaign and cost Pepper his seat in the Senate, much to the joy of Harry Truman who wanted Pepper out of office due to Pepper having been part of a failed attempt to “dump Truman” from the Democratic ticket.
The story was:
"Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, he has a brother who is a known homo sapien, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy."

Voters told reporters that they weren’t quite sure what words like “extrovert” and “nepotism” and “thespian” meant but they were sure they were connected to bad, immoral or illegal activities.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16: The Canada/US Treaty Agreement

On this date in history .... 1818:

The Rush-Bagot Treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate after the War of 1812.  

The treaty limited the number of military vehicles permitted to be on the Great Lakes by the U.S. and Great Britain.  The waterways had been the site of many battles during the War of 1812 and both countries were wary of the other’s military power on the waters. 

Fortunately, trade after the war really took off and both sides saw the benefits of establishing a positive trade relationship rather than an adversarial one.  U.S. Acting Secretary of State Richard Rush and Britain’s Minister to the U.S. Charles Bago worked out an agreement that led to a demilitarized boundary between Canada and the U.S. 


Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15: McDonalds

On this date in history .... 1955:

“Two all beef patties...” entered American’s lives in a way they could not imagine.  

On April 15, 1955, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s -- in Des Plaines, IL, a suburb of Chicago. On his first day of business, sales of 15-cent hamburgers and 10-cent French fries totaled $366.12. Thirty years later, McDonald’s grossed a whopping $8.6 billion annually. There is no telling how many burgers have been served at McDonald’s. They stopped counting years ago, saying, “Billions and billions served.”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14: First Abolitionist Society

On this date in history .... 1775:

The first abolitionist society is formed in Philadelphia with a very long name: The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. France-born founder Anthony Benezet began teaching slave children in his home in 1750, and in 1754 established the first girls school in America. In 1758, he convinced Quakers to take a stance against slavery. When he died in 1784, his funeral was attended by over 400 black Philadelphians. 

In 1787, Benjamin Franklin added prestige to the cause when he served as president of the organization.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 13: Hudner Receives Medal of Honor

On this date in History …. April 12, 1951:

Lt. Thomas Hudner is awarded the Medal of Honor for intentionally crashing his plane into a mountain to try to save U.S. Navy Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, the first African-American Navy pilot.  Hudner was sure his career was over when he crashed “a perfectly good plane” in an attempt to save a black man. 

At a very young age, Jesse knew he wanted to be an aviator so he worked hard in school, graduated second in his class at Eureka High School.  The was then accepted at Ohio State and became one of the 1% African-American population in that college. When he entered Navy pilot school, he was the only African-American in a class of 600.

While on one of many flying missions, during the Korean War, to support and protect the U.S.S. Leyte, his plane was hit and losing oil pressure.  He crash landed on a snowy mountain, 5300 feet in elevation. While he was able to open the hatch and wave to the other pilots to send help, he was unable to leave the plane as his legs were pinned by the wreckage.

The other pilots worked to protect Brown from the hordes of Chinese in the area, but after half an hour, Lt. Hudner decided to kick it up a notch. Without alerting or asking permission from his commander, Hudner turned his plane into the wind to slow down his speed and crashed his plane about a 100 yards from Brown.  Hudner said years later, about this decision:

“I knew what I had to do. I was not going to leave him down there for the Chinese. Besides, it was 30 degrees below zero on that slope, and he was a fellow aviator. My association with the Marines had rubbed off on me. They don’t leave wounded Marines behind.”

Rescue helicopters arrived with axes to try to get Brown out of the wreckage.  In addition to fighting extreme cold temperatures, there was also smoke coming from the wreckage.  Hudner threw snow on the fire, but only managed to somewhat control it but unable to put it out.  Darkness was falling and the helicopters were not equipped to fly at night.  Brown was barely conscious and still trapped.  The last thing he said to Hudner was “Tell my wife Daisy I love her.”  The rescue team was forced to fly off and the order came down from their commander for an air strike to napalm the crash site, cremating the frozen body of Ensign Brown.

Hudner after the failed rescued figured he would be reprimanded and his Naval career ended for crashing a perfectly fine Corsair aircraft in a failed attempt to save one man, a black man at that. However, Lieutenant Hudner’s command did something totally unexpected, they instead recommended him for the nation’s highest combat award, the Medal of Honor. Additionally the deceased Ensign Brown was awarded the second highest honor for combat pilots, the Distinguished Flying Cross.”  (source: www.rokdrop.com)

When Hudner received his Medal of Honor at the White House, there was one lone African American woman standing next to him.  Daisy Brown, the wife of Ensign Brown, watched as Hudner received the medal for his heroic attempts to save her husband and she received the last message from her husband, “Tell Daisy I love her.”

In 1972 a destroyer was named the USS Jesse L. Brown.  Daisy and Thomas Hudner were there for the christening ceremony.

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12: Rock Around the Clock

On this date in History .... 1954:

Bill Haley and His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock" for Decca Records. (It was released a month later.) The song was recorded at the Pythian Temple, “a big, barnlike building with great echo,” in New York City. 

Most rock historians feel the tune, featured in the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle", ushered in the era of rock ’n’ roll. It hit number one on June 29, 1955 and stayed there for eight weeks, remaining on the charts for a total of 24 weeks. The record has now sold over 25,000,000 copies. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 11: Truman Fires MacArthur

On this date in History .... 1951:

Truman fires Gen. Douglas MacArthur in what became known as the most public and controversial military firing. 

MacArthur was a brilliant general and strategist and proved it a number of times in the Pacific theater during WWII.  However, he wanted to repeat those successes in Korea but Truman did not want to extend the Korean conflict to include a confrontation with the Chinese. MacArthur assured Truman that the chances of a Chinese invasion into Korea were “slim” but when hundreds of thousands of Chinese moved into North Korea, Truman fired MacArthur, much to the ire of many of the American public.  

MacArthur was given parades and a hero’s welcome upon his return, and he addressed Congress with his famous line of “Old soldiers never die … they just fade away.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 10: American Patent System

On this date in History .... 1790:

Pres. George Washington signed the bill which began the American patent system. For the 1st time in history, the law recognized the right of an inventor to profit from his inventions. 

Early patents were reviewed by Cabinet members until Jefferson realized it was too much to handle. The official patent office was formed in 1802 to take care of the unpredicted volume. 

The first patent was issued in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement in the making of potash (used for lye soap). 

The 1st woman to receive a patent is a little muddled. In 1715, Sybilla Masters invented a new corn mill to make hominy from Indian corn.  She took the patent application to England but the patent had to be issued in her husband’s name because she was a woman.  This makes her the first American woman inventor.  

However the 1st actual patent held by a woman was issued to Hannah Slater in 1793 for a new way to spin cotton thread.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 8: Beer for the White House

On this date in  History .... 1933:

When Pres Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 23rd,  allowing the manufacture & sale of 3.2 beer & light wines during Prohibition, he made his famous remark; “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The Cullen-Harrison Act became law on April 7, 1933, and on April 8, 1933, Anheuser-Busch sent a team of Clydesdale horses to deliver a case of Budweiser to the White House.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6: John Jacob Astor

On this date in History ... 1808:

John Jacob Astor forms the American Fur Company and goes on to become the first U.S. multi-millionaire. He was the creator of the first trust in America. 

Born in Germany, he migrated to London at 16 yrs old, then to America in 1784, at the age of 21. He became a leading figure in the fur trade but when his trading posts were captured by the British during the War of 1812, Astor joined the opium smuggling trade, purchasing ten tons of opium from Turkey and then shipping it to Canton (China).  In the 1830s, he got out of the fur trade and began developing tracts of land in Manhattan. 

At the time of his death, he was the wealthiest person in the US with a net worth of $20 million (approx. $110 billion in 2006 dollars). 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

April 5: Robert Prager Lynched in Illinois

On this date in History .... 1918:

German immigrant Robert Prager was lynched by a mob in Collinsville, Illinois

With WWI came a fear of Germans, the largest non-English immigrant group in the country.   Superpatriotism soon reached ridiculous levels. The names of German food were purged from restaurant menus; sauerkraut became liberty cabbage, hamburger became liberty steak. Even German measles was renamed liberty measles by a Massachusetts physician.

Superpatriots felt the need to protect the American public from contamination via disloyal music by pushing to eliminate classic German composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart from the programs of community orchestras. Some states banned the teaching of the German language in private and public schools alike. In July 1918, South Dakota prohibited the use of German over the telephone, and in public assemblies of three or more persons. (See my January 29 post about Indianapolis Public schools banning the teaching of German.)

Prager had been in the country since 1905 but WWI prompted him to apply for citizenship and to try to join the Navy.  A rumor was circulating that German agents planned to blow up the local mine and several local German citizens were rounded up and forced to declare their loyalty and kiss the U.S. flag. 

Prager was told to leave town but some citizens still demanded he kiss the flag, which he did. He was stripped down to his underwear, wrapped in the flag and forced to stumble thru the city’s streets. The mob then demanded he sing the National Anthem. he didn’t know the words but willingly sang another patriotic tune.

At some point, a brave soul decided to call the police who tried hiding Prager in a basement for his protection but the mob, which had grown to a few hundred persons, found him and dragged him back outside. They stopped passing cars and forced  him to sing patriotic songs to the cars’ occupants.  As the parade of degradation continued, the mob eventually reached the city limits, at which point the police simply stopped following the crowd.  Prager was now on his own with the crowd. 

Someone suggested he be tarred and feathered but when the materials could not be found, three cars were turned to light up a large tree.  A noose was made from a rope and one man, who could not hoist Prager on his own, called out for help.  Fifteen men grabbed the rope and pulled but when that failed to kill him, they let him fall to the ground with the offer to be allowed to say something.

He was granted permission to write a goodbye letter to his mother and to pray.  He then walked unassisted back to the tree and the ropes, telling the crowd of over 200, “All right boys, go ahead and kill me, but wrap me in the flag when you bury me.” Prager was yanked back into the air and hanged.  

Prager’s last request was honored and he was buried wrapped in the American flag.

Twelve persons were charged with murder. The trial took three days. The defense presented its case in six hours, and concluded with the argument that Prager was a suspected German spy and that the lynching was justifiable under “unwritten law” and referred to it as “patriotic murder.” After forty-five minutes of deliberation, the jury found all of the defendants “not guilty.”

Sources for this story include www.authentichistory.com and http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/

Photo from http://www.ioof-stl.org/Stlouis$5/robert_prager_tombstone_dedication.htm


April 4: President William Henry Harrison

On this date in History ..... 1841:


Pres. William Henry Harrison dies of pneumonia 32 days after becoming President. His list of “memorables” include:

·         His term of President is the shortest term served by any president.

·     He was the 1st president to die in office.

·         His inaugural speech of 2 hrs (and that’s the edited version!) holds the record for the longest inaugural speech in U.S. history. (Hmmm … the record for the longest speech and the record for the shortest time in office.  Ain’t that a kick!)

·         He was the oldest president to take office at 68 years old (a record that would hold until Ronald Reagan).

·         He was the last president to be born before the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

·         He became the first congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory.

·         He served as governor of the Indiana Territory and worked to open American Indian lands to white settlers.

·         His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, from Indiana, would become president, making them the only grandfather/grandson presidents in history.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April 3: Pony Express

On this date in History .... 1860:

The Pony Express made its first run. The distance between St. Joseph MO and Sacramento CA was divided into 75-100 mile runs that a lone rider would cover, changing his horse every 10-15 miles.  At the end of the 100 mile run, he’d wait for a rider from the other direction to take mail back. Speed was paramount.  Ads for riders were: "Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."  The most famous rider, of course, was Buffalo Bill Cody, who was hired at the age of 15.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April 2: "As the World Turns"

On this date in History ..... 1956:

The soap opera “As The World Turns” makes its television debut.  It was the first CBS soap opera to expand to one hour (in 1975) and the 3rd soap overall to expand to an hour (the 1st was Another World followed by Days of Our Lives).  Helen Wagner, who played Nancy Hughes from the very first episode in 1956 until her death in 2010, holds the Guiness Book of World Record for “having the longest run in a single role on television.”

April 1: Father-Son Medals of Honor

On this date in History .... 1942:

Douglas MacArthur is awarded the Medal of Honor for his invasion of the Philippines. This made him one of only two sets of father-son recipients of the Medal of Honor.  MacArthur’s father rec’d the MOH during the Civil War.  The other father-son recipients were President Theodore Roosevelt for leading the charge on San Juan Hill and his son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. for actions on D-Day in WWII.