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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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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August 6, 1945: Remembering Hiroshima in 2017

August 6, 2017

Mostly an encore post.
Toronto Star version of a Japan News story on Hiroshima's prayers for peace in 2016:

Toronto Star version of a Japan News story on Hiroshima’s prayers for peace in 2016: “Children pray as lanterns float on the river during Saturday’s 71st anniversary activities, commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. (Yuya Shino)”

Say a prayer for Hiroshima, today.

Then repeat it, for the rest of the planet.

72 years ago, U.S. military action brought a quick close to hostilities without an invasion of Japan, with the detonation of two atomic bombs, one over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and one over Nagasaki on August 9.

Events marking the anniversary now carry the spectre of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which experienced core meltdowns in reactors as a result of a tsunami in 2011.  Anti-nuclear activists in Australia note similarities between the bombs ending the war, and the disaster at Fukushima.

In Hiroshima on August 6, then in Nagasaki on August 9, Japanese citizens soberly and somberly observe the anniversaries, and pray for an end to nuclear weapons. As the only cities ever bombed with atomic weapons, they have special experience, a special pleading to which we should all listen.

Daily Yomiuri Online carried a description of memorial events in Hiroshima in 2008, from Yomiuri Shimbun:

NAGASAKI–The Nagasaki municipal government held a ceremony Saturday marking the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, at which participants called for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

A total of 5,650 A-bomb survivors, representatives of victims’ families from around the nation and Nagasaki citizens participated in the ceremony. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda also attended the ceremony, which was held in Nagasaki Peace Park near ground zero.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue read out the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, which urges the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons.

“Human beings have no future unless nuclear weapons are eliminated. We shall clearly say no to nuclear weapons,” Taue said.

The ceremony started at 10:40 a.m. Three books listing the names of 3,058 people confirmed to have died as a result of the bombing in the past year were placed inside a memorial box in front of the Peace Statue.

The total number of books listing the names of the deceased is 147, and the number of names is 145,984.

Representatives of surviving victims, bereaved families, the prime minister and Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba placed flowers at the site.

At 11:02 a.m., the time the atomic bomb struck, ceremony participants offered a silent prayer. At the same time, local high school students rang the Bells of Nagasaki.

In the peace declaration, Taue read from an academic paper written by four people, including a former U.S. secretary of state, which promoted a new policy for developing nuclear weapons. The proposal encouraged countries to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The mayor said world nuclear powers “should sincerely fulfill their responsibility of nuclear disarmament,” and urged the government to pass the three nonnuclear principles into law.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Takashi Nagai, a medical doctor who helped rescue of victims after the bombing.

The mayor referenced one of the doctor’s remarks, saying: “There are no winners or losers in a war. There is only destruction.”

Shigeko Mori, 72, representing survivors of the bombing, read out an oath for peace that said Japan should promote its Constitution and the three nonnuclear principles to the rest of the world to prevent nuclear proliferation.

Fukuda gave a speech, saying, “Japan should play a responsible role in the international community as a nation cooperating for peace.”

(Aug. 10, 2008)

As a Utah Downwinder, these dates push me to depression. We just saw atomic fallout (thought, from more more than 100 bombs), and many of us escaped with no significant physical injury. I cannot imagine the pain of survivors in Japan.

I can imagine what could happen, if we do not join them in calling for reining in of nuclear weaponry.

Other information:

Other related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Remembering that U.S. involvement in World War II as a combatant came after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, one may respect and appreciate the Japanese national desire to commemorate the brutal end of the war with conversations about peace and how to achieve it.  The film below is a short, touching introduction to the Hiroshima Peace Museum website:

Related articles, 2012:

A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan

A-Bomb Dome at Ground Zero, Hiroshima, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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August 4, 1944: Germans capture Anne Frank and her family

August 4, 2017

Image and Caption from CNN: A handwritten page of Anne Frank's diary includes photos of herself on the beach during a holiday with her sister, Margot. The two sisters would live hidden in the annex with their mother, Edith; father, Otto; and another family.

Image and Caption from CNN: A handwritten page of Anne Frank’s diary includes photos of herself on the beach during a holiday with her sister, Margot. The two sisters would live hidden in the annex with their mother, Edith; father, Otto; and another family.

When I look at the time line, I feel frustrated and angry.

On August 4, 1944, the German Army in the Netherlands raided the warehouse where Anne Frank’s family hid from the Nazis since 1942.  As you know, Anne died in a concentration camp shortly after — only her father survived from her immediate family.

History students will recognize that this was nearly two months after D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy that set off the events leading to liberation of Europe from Nazi rule and the collapse of Hitler’s grand visions of conquest.  How could Nazi minions not know their time was limited, and oppression ultimately futile?

Germany surrendered in May 1945.  In nine months, the Frank family would not need to hide.  Anne died in March 1945, less than eight weeks before the surrender of Germany.

1980s postage stamp from the Netherlands, honoring Ann Frank's memory.

1980s postage stamp from the Netherlands, honoring Ann Frank’s memory.

More:

Photos from the liberation of Amsterdam, which occurred on May 6, 1945:

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.

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Chess games of the rich and famous: Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler divide the Balkans

June 17, 2017

Cartoon by the great Leslie Illington, probably in Punch Magazine, 1941.

Cartoon by the great Leslie Illington, probably in Punch Magazine, 1941. “In 1940 and 1941 Germany and Italy started swallowing up the Balkan countries. Russia frowns.” Image from Pictures from War and History


Fly your flag for Victory Europe Day, May 8, 2017 – 72nd anniversary

May 9, 2017

Yes, you should be flying your flag today for Victory Europe Day (VE Day)!

Caption from Pinterest, World War Items: A huge American flag unfurled in New York’s Herald Square on VE Day on May 8, 1945. This 80x160 foot flag was hung from the eighth floor balcony of Macy’s New York department store, covering the façade from 34th and 35th Streets along Broadway. Beneath it were placed a set of British, Chinese, French and Russian flags, held by two giant mailer fists. (AP Photo)

Caption from Pinterest, World War Items: A huge American flag unfurled in New York’s Herald Square on VE Day on May 8, 1945. This 80×160 foot flag was hung from the eighth floor balcony of Macy’s New York department store, covering the façade from 34th and 35th Streets along Broadway. Beneath it were placed a set of British, Chinese, French and Russian flags, held by two giant mailer fists. (AP Photo)

VE Day is not one listed in the Flag Code for flying the colors, but in most years there is a proclamation from the President urging that we do fly the flag. There appears to be no proclamation in 2017 — you may fly your flag anyway.

In 2015 year President Obama noted the 70th anniversary of VE Day with his weekly message:

From Business Insider: Col. Gen. Paul Stumpff, second left, Luftwaffe commander; Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, German army commander, raising baton; and Gen. Adm. Hans von Freideburg, rear, commander of the German navy; emerge after Germany's unconditional surrender was formally ratified in Berlin, May 9, 1945. (AP Photo/U.S. Signal Corps)

From Business Insider: Col. Gen. Paul Stumpff, second left, Luftwaffe commander; Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, German army commander, raising baton; and Gen. Adm. Hans von Freideburg, rear, commander of the German navy; emerge after Germany’s unconditional surrender was formally ratified in Berlin, May 9, 1945. (AP Photo/U.S. Signal Corps)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill waves his hat to enthusiastic crowd at Whitehall, after unconditional surrender of Germany announced. (Who else is in the picture?)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill waves his hat to enthusiastic crowd at Whitehall, after unconditional surrender of Germany announced. (Who else is in the picture?)

Perhaps thinking of the future, Churchill put down his hat, and waved his well-known and well-loved

Perhaps thinking of the future, Churchill put down his hat, and waved his well-known and well-loved “V for Victory” sign to the crowd at Whitehall.

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

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


Happy coincidence: Pi Day is Albert Einstein’s birthday

March 14, 2017

How many ways can we say happy birthday to a great scientist born on Pi Day?  So, an encore post.
E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day! to us.  Albert’s been dead since 1955 — sadly for us.  Our celebrations now are more for our own satisfaction and curiosity, and to honor the great man — he’s beyond caring.

Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day? He’s 138 years old today, and famous around the world for stuff that most people still don’t understand. 

Fittingly, perhaps, March 14 now is celebrated as Pi Day, in honor of that almost magical number, Pi, used to calculate the circumference of a circle. Pi is 3. 1415~, and so the American date 3/14 got tagged as Pi Day.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein.

26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man – Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them all off in just a few months, forever changing the fields of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo-electric effect. Irony in history. Nobel committee members didn’t understand Einstein’s other work much better than the rest of us today.

117 years later, Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t fully understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement.

Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

English: Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp

Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But while urging FDR to keep up with the Germans, Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

English: USSR stamp dedicated to Albert Einste...

Everybody wanted to claim, and honor Einstein; USSR issued this stamp dedicated to Albert Einstein Русский: Почтовая марка СССР, посвящённая Альберту Эйнштейну (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife, in the divorce settlement, a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character.

His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that though mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets, in history, diplomacy and science.

Does anyone know? What was Albert Einstein’s favorite pie?

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