October 31, remember the Reuben James

November 1, 2017

U.S.S. Reuben James (D-245) on the Hudson River in April 1939, over two years before she was sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic.

U.S.S. Reuben James (DD-245) on the Hudson River in April 1939, over two years before she was sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic. Photo from the Ted Stone Collection, Marines Museum, Newport News, Virginia, via Wikipedia

We shouldn’t let October steal away without a remembrance of the brave crew of the Reuben James. The ship was sunk on October 31, 1941, by a German submarine. 66 years ago.

It was a tragedy in 1941, but before the U.S. could develop a serious policy response to Germany’s action, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  Within a week after that, our policy towards Germany was set by Germany’s declaration of war on the U.S.

It’s important history for a couple of reasons.

  • The sinking was part of the massive, years-long Battle of the Atlantic, which the Allies won only by building ships faster than Germany could sink them.  Had the Allies lost this battle, the war would have been lost, too.
  • While the USS Reuben James was a Navy destroyer, the key weapons of the Battle of the Atlantic were Merchant Marine cargo ships, carrying goods and arms to Britain and other Allied nations.  “Civilians” played a huge role in World War II, supplying the soldiers, armies, navies and air forces.
  • Recently, politicians took to making claims that the U.S. declared war on Germany without any hostile action having passed between them, without Germany having perpetrated any hostilities toward the U.S.  Look at the dates, it’s not so.
  • Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the event, giving us a touchstone to remember.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub covered the event with longer, detailed articles in past years, including these, which you should see especially if you are a student in a history class or a teacher of one:

Europe has changed. The world has changed.  The U.S. has changed.  War has changed.  We should remember, especially those people who died defending the merchants who defended the idea of the Four Freedoms.

Where did the ship get its name? From a Barbary War hero:

Reuben James was born in Delaware, Ohio about 1776. He joined the U.S. Navy and served on various ships, including the frigate USS CONSTELLATION. It was during the infamous Barbary Wars that the American frigate PHILADELPHIA was captured by the Barbary pirates. Having run aground in the pirate capital of Tripoli on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the crew had to abandon ship and formulate a plan of attack. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, along with a group of volunteers which included Boatswain’s Mate Reuben James, entered Tripoli harbor under the cover of darkness in an attempt to set the PHILADELPHIA to the torch so that the pirates could not make use of her.

The American volunteers boarded the PHILADELPHIA on 16 February 1804 and were met by a group of the savage Barbary pirates who were guarding their prize. A furious battle ensued, and during the bloody chaos of hand-to-hand combat, a villanous pirate made ready to end the life of Lieutenant Decatur. Reuben James, with both of his hands already wounded, in an act of selfless dedication and courage did throw his hand before the pirate’s cleaving blade! Willing to give his life in defense of his captain, Reuben James took the blow from the sword!

Having proved to the world over the courage and dedication of United States Sailors, Reuben James also hammered home the fact that US Sailors are undefeatable by not only surviving, but recovering from his wounds and continuing his career in the U.S. Navy! After spending many more years with Decatur, James was forced to retire in January 1836 because of declining health brought on because of past wounds. He died on 3 December 1838 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C.

More:

A Weavers recording of “The Sinking of the Reuben James.”

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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November 2017 flag-flying dates

October 28, 2017

A giant American flag is unfurled at Wrigley Field before World Series Game 3, October 28, 2016 (Cubs won the Series, remember?) Will 2017's World Series push into November for the first time? Wikimedia Commons image

A giant American flag is unfurled at Wrigley Field before World Series Game 3, October 28, 2016 (Cubs won the Series, remember?) Will 2017’s World Series push into November for the first time? Wikimedia Commons image

Nine events spread over seven different days come with urgings to fly the U.S. flag in November: Six states celebrate statehood, Veterans Day falls as always on November 11, and Thanksgiving Day on November 23.

Did I say eight? 2017 is an election year in many states, like Texas; we fly flags at polling places on election day, so that makes nine events. You may fly your flag at home on election day, too.

Two states, North Dakota and South Dakota, celebrate their statehood on the same date. Washington’s statehood day falls on Veterans Day, November 11 — so there are only seven days covering eight events.

In calendar order for 2017, these are the seven days:

  • North Dakota statehood day, November 2 (1889, 39th or 40th state)
  • South Dakota statehood day, November 2 (1889, 39th or 40th state) (shared with North Dakota)
  • Election day, November 7 (several states)
  • Montana statehood day, November 8 (1889, 41st state)
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Washington statehood day, November 11 (1889, 42nd state) (shared with Veterans Day)
  • Oklahoma statehood day, November 16 (1907, 46th state)
  • North Carolina statehood day, November 21 (1789, 12th state)
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November (November 24 in 2016)

Most Americans will concern themselves only with Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. Is flying the U.S. flag for statehood day a dying tradition?

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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O, say! Does that woman’s lamp still burn beside the golden door in 2017?

October 28, 2017

Liberty gazing out at about 265 feet above the water of New York Harbor. Image by Statue of Liberty Tickets

Liberty gazing out at about 265 feet above the water of New York Harbor. Image by Statue of Liberty Tickets

Liberty was dedicated to the people of the United States on October 28, 1886. She’s 131 years old today.

Liberty stands gazing out at about 265 feet* above the water of New York Harbor, a fixture there since construction in the 1880s.

The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.

The Statue of Liberty has been a fixture in the U.S. and American psyche, too.  Excuse me, or join me, in wondering whether we have not lost something of our former dedication to the Statue of Liberty, and the reasons France and Americans joined to build it.

Poem-a-Day sent Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” out this morning (Poem-a-Day is a wonderful service of the American Academy of Poets — you may subscribe and I recommend it).  There it was, waiting for me in e-mail.   My students generally have not heard nor read the poem, I discover year after year —  some sort of Texas-wide failure in enculturation prompted by too-specific requirements of federal law and state law, combining to make a slatwork of culture taught in our classrooms with too many cracks into which culture actually falls, out of sight, out of mind; out of memory.  I fear it may be a nationwide failure as well.

Have you read the poem lately?  It once encouraged American school children to send pennies to build a home for the statue.  Today it wouldn’t get a majority of U.S. Congressmen to sign on to consponsor a reading of it.  Glenn Beck would contest its history, Rush Limbaugh would discount the politics of the “giveaways” in the poem, John Boehner would scoriate the victims in the poem for having missed his meeting of lobbyists (‘they just missed the right boat’), and Sarah Palin would complain about “an air-bridge to nowhere,” or complain that masses who huddle are probably up to no good (they might touch, you know).

Have you read it lately?

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde - Wikimedia Commons image

Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde – Wikimedia Commons image

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

AAP makes poems available for iPhones, too, and you can see how it appears, phrase by phrase.  “The New Colossus” takes on more of its power and majesty delivered that way.

Is the Academy of American Poets playing politics here?  In much of America, there is an active movement to nail shut the “golden door,” to turn out a sign that would say “No tired, no poor nor huddled masses yearning to breathe free; especially no wretched refuse, no homeless, and let the tempest-tost stay in Guatemala and Pakistan.”

Would Americans bother to contribute to build a Statue of Liberty today?  Or would they protest against it?

Does that lamp still shine beside the golden door?

Stereoscopic image of the arm and torch of Liberty, at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia

Stereoscopic image of the arm and torch of Liberty, at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; Robert N. Dennis Collection, New York Public Library.  The arm was displayed to encourage contributions to the fund to build a pedestal for the statue, from private donations.

_____________

*  I’m calculating Liberty’s gaze at about 40 feet below the tip of the torch, which is just over 305 feet above the base of the statue on the ground.  The base is probably 20 feet higher than the water, but this isn’t exact science we’re talking about here.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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Fly your flag for Navy Day, October 27, 2017

October 27, 2017

NORFOLK – Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) lower the ensign as the ship shifts colors from the fantail to the mast in preparation to get underway. (U.S. Navy file photo and caption)

NORFOLK – Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) lower the ensign as the ship shifts colors from the fantail to the mast in preparation to get underway. (U.S. Navy file photo and caption)

A reminder to fly your U.S. flags today in honor of the U.S. Navy.

We celebrate Navy Day each year on October 27, one of the score of dates designated in the U.S. Flag Code to fly Old Glory. Navy Day honors everyone who serves or served in the U.S. Navy.

Navy Day may be eclipsed by Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day in modern life, but it’s still in the law and the Navy still notes it.

So should we.

You get an idea of the celebrations from some of the old Navy Day posters. (If you can put a year on posters undesignated, please tell us in comments; if you know of a poster not shown here, please give a link in comments.)

Navy Day poster, after World War I

Navy Day poster, after World War I

 

This may have been used as a Navy Day poster after the death of Theodore Roosevelt, a former, popular Secretary of the Navy. Crasch McDuff blog

This may have been used as a Navy Day poster after the death of Theodore Roosevelt, a former, popular Secretary of the Navy. Crash MacDuff blog

 

Navy Day poster, post World War I, pre-World War II

Navy Day poster, post World War I, pre-World War II

Navy Day poster, 1931; Crash MacDuff blog

Navy Day poster, 1931; Crash MacDuff blog

 

Navy Day poster, early 1940s

Navy Day poster, early 1940s, featuring the battleship USS New Jersey.
Illustration by Matt Murphey

 

Navy Day poster, 1940s

Navy Day poster, 1940s

 

Two more 1940s Navy Day posters

Two more 1940s Navy Day posters

 

Navy Day poster, 1944

Navy Day poster, 1944

 

Billboard showing art similar to the poster, Navy Day 1944

Billboard showing art similar to the poster, Navy Day 1944. History 101 image

 

Navy Day Poster, 1945

Navy Day Poster, 1945

 

Navy Day Poster from after World War II (?)

Navy Day Poster from after World War II (?)

 

Navy Day poster, 1947, Crash MacDuff blog

Navy Day poster, 1947, Crash MacDuff blog. “Issued September 1947. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 78860.”

 

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 

 

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Hillary Clinton’s birthday quote of the moment: Learning from the Chicago Cubs

October 25, 2017

Today is the birthday of Hillary Rodham Clinton, born October 26, 1948.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Happy birthday, Hillary!

Without citation, Robert A. Nowlan’s Born This Day lists this as something Clinton said:

Being a Cubs fan prepares you for life — and Washington.

When she wrote or spoke that about a decade ago, she knew it was wise, but not how apt, for 2017.

Since she spoke it, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series.

Hope is alive.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


What President Trump blurted out; what Little Donald really meant

October 19, 2017

Bill Watterson's Calvin, on the impossibility of getting homework to do itself. Copyright Bill Watterson.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin, on the impossibility of getting homework to do itself. Copyright Bill Watterson. As Ms. Ashenhurst describes it: “SCH 4U is a university preparation course. As such some independent work is required for success.”

Do you ever get the feeling that President Donald Trump is speaking a foreign language? Or that he’s speaking what he thinks might sound like a foreign language, to cover for his not having done his homework?

Looking back now, we can see whatever it was he said about talking to families of fallen soldiers, he probably needed someone to translate it to himself.

Canadian reporter Daniel Dale explained on Twitter:

Here’s the translation into English, from Craig Battle:

Glad we got that settled.

Now Trump has, reluctantly, called the families of the fallen soldiers. Somehow, inexplicably, Trump managed to make things worse, to embarrass the entire nation. We couldn’t know that, then.

Bill Watterson's Calvin figures out that obfuscation sometimes buys you a few minutes before the authorities and voters catch on to your game. Copyright Bill Watterson.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin figures out that obfuscation sometimes buys you a few minutes before the authorities and voters catch on to your game. Copyright Bill Watterson.

It’s graveyard humor. It seems to me Trump often leaves us fearful, and looking at great tragedy, with no coping mechanism apart from trying to find humor in what he’s done.

Which suggests, to me, it’s time for Trump to go away on his own. He’s damaging the nation.

What do you think?

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Americans want EPA’s environmental protections; Verge film tells why

October 19, 2017

Verge caption:  A woman holds a jar of undrinkable water from her well in Ohio in 1973. She filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company, which owned the land around her house. Photo by Erik Calonius / US National Archives. From EPA's Documerica project.

Verge caption: A woman holds a jar of undrinkable water from her well in Ohio in 1973. She filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company, which owned the land around her house. Photo by Erik Calonius / US National Archives. From EPA’s Documerica project.

Short film from The Verge:

It’s good to be reminded of the burning Cuyahoga River, from time to time. As a great example of EPA’s successes, the the Cuyahoga has not caught fire for many years.


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