January 30: A beginning, beginning of the end, end of the beginning, end

January 30, 2017

When students claim to find fantastic conjunctions of dates that they claim show worldwide conspiracies, sometimes centuries in existence, I point them to the internet to find what happened on that date (whatever date it is) and note coincidences “a suspicious mind” might find compelling.

Almost every date on the calendar produces astonishing coincidences. But that’s all they are.

Right? It’s not as if there are such conspiracies, or that the gods conspire to send us messages by making momentous things occur on the same day, right?

January 30 is a momentous date, according to the AP list of events that occurred on this day.
A suspicious mind might reel at these coincidences.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Beginning: Franklin Roosevelt, the only president of the U.S. to break the tradition of getting elected to two terms only, was born on January 30, 1882,  in Hyde Park, New York.  (Both Ulysses Grant and his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had tried to break the two-term tradition  before.)  Roosevelt served at the 32nd president, winning election in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944.  During his first term the date of presidential inaugurations was moved from March 21 to January 21, partly in appreciation for the period of time the nation drifted seemingly deeper into depression between Roosevelt’s election in November 1932 and his inauguration in March 1933.  Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, won election as New York’s governor in 1928, and then won the 1932 presidential race.  His death on April 12, 1945, pushed Harry Truman into the presidency for three years before he had to face the electorate.

End of the beginning: On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler took office as chancellor of Germany.  A World War I veteran, Hitler had spent time in prison for trying to overthrow the government. Hitler was seven years younger than FDR, but their careers occasionally coincided on key years.  Hitler’s assuming power in January 1933 gave him a two-month jump on FDR; at the time, few people, if anyone noticed the coincidental rise, nor could see the significance of the events of the year.  According to The History Place:

Germany was a nation that in its history had little experience or interest in democracy. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler took the reins of a 14-year-old German democratic republic which in the minds of many had long outlived its usefulness. By this time, the economic pressures of the Great Depression combined with the indecisive, self-serving nature of its elected politicians had brought government in Germany to a complete standstill. The people were without jobs, without food, quite afraid and desperate for relief.

Now, the man who had spent his entire political career denouncing and attempting to destroy the Republic, was its leader. Around noon on January 30th, Hitler was sworn in.

“I will employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone,” swore Adolf Hitler.

Democratic-based government in Germany was doomed for the foreseeable future.  Few foresaw that.

Beginning of the end: On January 30, 1968, during the Vietnamese new year celebration known as Tet, Vietcong and North Vietnamese army regulars kicked off the Tet Offensive, striking targets all over Vietnam simultaneously.  Caught nearly completely by surprise, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces lost control of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital for a time.  While the U.S. and South Vietnamese eventually won these many battles and pushed out the invading forces,  the simple fact that the thought-to-be-decimated forces of Ho Chi Minh could pull of the offensive at all sent the chilling message that victory in this guerrilla did not yet belong to South Vietnam and the U.S., nor had a tide been turned.   After tumultuous elections in the U.S., Richard Nixon’s presidency could not turn the tide, either.  A “peace” was negotiated, mostly between North Vietnam and the U.S., in 1973, but it did not hold.  In 1975 relations between North Vietnam and South Vietnam hit crisis again, and the U.S. pulled out the last forces left in South Vietnam in April.  Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces defeated the rapidly dissipating military of the South, and the country was united under communist, North Vietnam rule.

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians; image from Bins Corner, probably public domain

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

An end: Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse shot and killed Mohandas K. Gandhi in India, on January 30, 1948.  Gandhi was known as “Mahatma,” which means “Great Soul.”  Gandhi campaigned for India’s independence and end of British colonial rule for most of the 1920s, including a period of time in prison for subversive activities.  Gandhi’s great contribution to political change is the massive use of non-violent, non-cooperation.  Non-violent tactics tend to highlight the moral positions of groups in conflict, and make the non-violent side appear to have the stronger case.  Such tactics expose hypocrisy and despotic government rules.  Though he resigned from his political party in 1934, Gandhi remained a key icon of the drive for India’s independence.  When violence broke out over the Mountbatten plan to grant independence in 1947, creating two nations of Pakistan and India divided along religious, Gandhi again appealed for peace, but became the most famous victim of the religious violence that still roils the region today.  Committed to peace and non-violence, Gandhi himself did not ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps because his life was cut short.  His work inspired other Nobel Peace laureates, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964), the Dalai Lama (1989), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Nelson Mandela (with Frederik Willem deKlerk, 1993), and U.S. President Barack Obama (2009).

On January 30, 2011, when I first noted these coincidences here, much of the world held its breath, watching events in North Africa, including especially Tunisia and Egypt.  I wondered, which of these traditions would that day follow, to peace, or toward war?

On January 30, 2017, the installation of Hitler and the Tet Offensive remind us of hubris of world leaders and really bad decisions that can have disastrous results, soon, and for a long time after.

Coincidence? What do you think?


White House proclamation: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, 2016

December 7, 2016

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama proclaimed Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day for 2016:

Presidential Proclamation

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, 2016

NATIONAL PEARL HARBOR REMEMBRANCE DAY, 2016

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Seventy-five years ago, Japanese fighter planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, destroying much of our Pacific Fleet and killing more than 2,400 Americans. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on the Congress to declare war and “make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.” In that spirit, Americans came together to pay tribute to the victims, support the survivors, and shed the comforts of civilian life to serve in our military and fight for our Union. Each year on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor those whose lives were forever changed that December morning and resolve to uphold the legacy of all who stepped forward in our time of need.

From the docks of Pearl Harbor to the beaches of Normandy and far around the world, brave patriots served their country and defended the values that have sustained our Nation since its founding. They went to war for liberty and sacrificed more than most of us will ever know; they chased victory and defeated fascism, turning adversaries into allies and writing a new chapter in our history. Through their service and unparalleled devotion, they inspired a generation with their refusal to give in despite overwhelming odds. And as we reflect on the profound debt of gratitude we owe them for the freedoms we cherish, we are reminded of the everlasting responsibilities we have to one another and to our country.

In memory of all who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 — and those who responded by leaving their homes for the battlefields — we must ensure the sacrifices they made in the name of liberty and democracy were not made in vain. On this solemn anniversary, there can be no higher tribute to these American patriots than forging a united commitment to honor our troops and veterans, give them the support and care they deserve, and carry on their work of keeping our country strong and free.

The Congress, by Public Law 103-308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 7, 2016, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I encourage all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I urge all Federal agencies and interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff this December 7 in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA


2016: Election day art of Norman Rockwell, and unpredictability of elections

November 8, 2016

Especially in 2016, I think of this great, undersung painting by Normal Rockwell, “Election Day (1944)”:

Norman Rockwell, Election Day, 1944, watercolor and gouache, 14 x 33 1/2 in., Museum purchase, Save-the-Art fund, 2007.037.1.

Norman Rockwell, Election Day, 1944, watercolor and gouache, 14 x 33 1/2 in., Museum purchase, Save-the-Art fund, 2007.037.1.

Remember when people used to dress up to go to the polls?

In 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented fourth term.  Most Americans did not know it, but he was deathly ill at the time.  He dropped Vice President Henry Wallace from his ticket — some argue it was a mutual disaffection at that time — and selected the relatively unknown young Missouri U.S. Sen. Harry S Truman for the vice president’s slot.

In November 1944, D-Day was known to be a successful invasion, and most Americans hoped for a relatively speedy end to World War II in both Europe and the Pacific.  Within the next ten months, the nation would endure the last, futile, desperate and deadly gasp of the Third Reich in the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Berlin in April 1945, and end of the war in the European Theatre on May 8; the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Philippines Campaign, and the bloody, crippling battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific Theatre, and then the first use of atomic weapons in war, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and we hope, the last use).

Voters in Cedar Rapids could not have known that.  They did not know that, regardless their vote for FDR or his Republican challenger, New York Gov. Thomas Dewey, Harry S Truman would be president within six months, nor that the entire world would change in August 1945.

This painting captures a time of spectacular moment, great naivity, and it pictures the way history got made.

For a 2007 exhibition, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offered this history:

Norman Rockwell: Fact & Fiction

September 12, 2009 – January 3, 2010

In 2007, the citizens of Cedar Rapids rallied together to purchase a series of watercolors destined for the auction block in New York. These five watercolors, by acclaimed 20th century American artist Norman Rockwell, depicted scenes associated with an election day and were created specifically for the November 4, 1944 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. To complete the Post commission, Rockwell traveled to a quintessential Midwestern town, Cedar Rapids, to study local citizens as models for his series of images.

In the 65 years since his visit, numerous anecdotes and stories have arisen about the artist’s time in Cedar Rapids and the creation of this work. This exhibition uses these five, newly conserved and restored watercolors and a related oil painting from the Norman Rockwell Museum, along with numerous photographs taken by local photographer Wes Panek for Rockwell, to investigate the many facts and fictions associated with Rockwell’s visit and this set of watercolors.

Norman Rockwell: Fact & Fiction has been made possible in part by Rockwell Collins, Candace Wong, and local “Friends of Norman Rockwell.” General exhibition and educational support has been provided by The Momentum Fund of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

Friends of Norman Rockwell: Wilma E. Shadle, Howard and Mary Ann Kucera, Jean Imoehl, Ben and Katie Blackstock, Marilyn Sippy, Chuck and Mary Ann Peters, Phyllis Barber, Ann Pickford, Anthony and Jo Satariano, Barbara A. Bloomhall, Virginia C. Rystrom, Jeff and Glenda Dixon, Robert F. & Janis L. Kazimour Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Fred and Mary Horn, Mrs. Edna Lingo, John and Diana Robeson, Jewel M. Plumb, Carolyn Pigott Rosberg, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Buchacek, Dan and Anne Pelc, Mary Brunkhorst, and John and Diana Robeson.

I am amused and intrigued that this scene also closely resembles the scene when I voted in Cheverly, Maryland, in 1984 — down to the dog in the picture.  Oh, and most of the women didn’t wear dresses, none wore hats, and I was the only guy in the room with a tie.

Roosevelt won the 1944 election in an electoral college landslide, 432 to 99, but Dewey won Iowa, and we might assume Dewey won Cedar Rapids, too.

And that Truman guy?  Rockwell came back to the topic of elections four years later, when Truman was running for election to the office he’d filled for nearly four years, with another classic, American election portrayal.

“Election Day,” by Norman Rockwell, 1948

More:

 

Yes, this is an encore post.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.


October 31, we remember the sinking of the Reuben James

October 31, 2016

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

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:

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

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

 


Fly your flag for Navy Day, October 27, 2016

October 26, 2016

A reminder to fly your U.S. flags tomorrow 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 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.”

 

Navy Day poster, 1940s, perhaps. From an eBay listing

Navy Day poster, 1940s, perhaps. From an eBay listing

 

 

 


August 21, 2016: Fly your flag for Hawaii Statehood in 1959

August 21, 2016

It’s been 57 years since the youngest state entered the union — the longest stretch in which the U.S. has not added another state.

"On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood." Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka? See comments on last year’s post.)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

June’s plebiscite smoothed the path for statehood, declared two months later.

A newsboy happily hawks the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood, August 21, 1959. Star-Bulletin photo

13-year-old paperboy Chester Kahapea happily hawks a commemorative edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the law authorizing Hawaii as a state. Star-Bulletin photo by Murray Befeler.

Hawaii’s official statehood day is August 21, commemorating the day in 1959 when Hawaii was recognized as a member of the union of the United States of America.  Hawaiians should fly their flags to day in honor of the date (you may, too).

Hawaii formally celebrates the day on the third Friday in August, this year on the 19th.  I hope you joined in the festivities (it’s a holiday in Hawaii) — but under the U.S. Flag Code, you may certainly fly your flags on August 21, regardless which day of the week that is.

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

After the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 (in action separate from the Spanish-American War) attempts at getting Hawaii admitted as a state got rolling.  After World War II, with the strategic importance of the islands firmly implanted in Americans’ minds, the project picked up some steam.  Still, it was 14 years after the end of the war that agreements were worked out between the people of Hawaii, the Hawaiian royal family, Congress and the executive branch.  The deal passed into law had to be ratified by a plebiscite among Hawaiian citizens.  The proposition won approval with 94% of votes in favor.

Some native Hawaiian opposition to statehood arose later, and deference to those complaints has muted statehood celebrations in the 21st century.

Other than the tiny handful of loudmouth birthers, most Americans today are happy to have Hawaii as a state, the fifth richest in the U.S. by personal income.  The nation has a lot of good and great beaches, but the idea of catching sun and surf in Hawaii on vacation might be considered an idealized part of the American dream.

“Loudmouth birthers?” Yeah, Barack Obama, our 45th President, was born in Hawaii in 1961. Some whiners think that, but for statehood, Obama would not have been a citizen eligible to be president. Hawaii is not good ground for growing sour grapes, though. Birth in a territory would probably be enough to make him eligible. Water under the bridge: Hawaii was a state in 1961. President Obama remains president.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

More:

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's admission to the union.

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission to the union.

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood C55 26432. Wikipedia image

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood stamp. Wikipedia image

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.

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Trinity test, world’s first atomic bomb – July 16, 1945

July 17, 2016

Another good reason to follow the National Archives on Twitter, Tumblr and other media:  Great updates.

Like this one on the explosive arrival of the Atomic Age:

 Atomic Age Begins

"Trinity" atomic device being positioned at White Sands, New Mexico - National Archives

Trinity atomic device “Jumbo” being positioned at White Sands, New Mexico – National Archives

Atomic Age Begins

On July 16, 1945 the United States tested a nuclear device, code named “Trinity”, for the first time in White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico.

Above: [“Jumbo” atomic device being positioned for “Trinity” test at Alamogordo, New Mexico.], 1945

Below: [“Trinity” explosion], 07/16/1945

Source: research.archives.gov

It’s astonishing to think anyone could hide the explosion today. Near the end of World War II, after Germany had surrendered to end the war in Europe, no one really knew just what at atomic explosion would look or sound like. The test occurred near dawn in a very desolate part of New Mexico’s southern desert, a then sparsely populated state. A few thousand may have seen the flash; a few hundred may have heard or felt the explosion. No one in government confirmed any report of a weapon.

English: Rare color photograph of the first nu...

Rare color photograph of the first nuclear test at Trinity site, July 16, 1945. Blurriness is in the original photograph (done when color photography was still fairly new). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is based on an earlier post, and is mostly an encore post.

This is based on an earlier post, and is mostly an encore post.


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