This Day in History

June 29th

1659 – Battle of Konotop. This took place in what is now Ukraine. It is a confusing historical event and the cast of characters all have long, unpronounceable names mostly void of vowels. No one seems certain what happened there, a great victory for Ukraine, or an insignificant one as Russia claims. It pitted Russian and Cossacks cavalry forces on one side against Ukrainian, Cossacks, Crimean Tartars and Polish on the other. Historians in the Ukraine seem to multiply the number of Russian casualties with each passing century, while in Russia, using today’s language, it is thought of as fake history.

If history is indeed written by the winner, than I don’t think of it as fake history, but favorable history. When I look at what I was taught in grade and high school, and what I’ve learned since with more in-depth reading, it seems history can be manipulated by societal and governmental needs. History can be burdensome when all the facts are included, keeping it simple by just presenting favorable ones make it easier to digest. So I doubt I’ll ever reach an easy conclusion about the Battle of Konotop.

 1767 – Townsend Revenue Act. The act, imposing tax on paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea imported into the American colonies, received royal assent on June 29th. Proposed by Charles Townsend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the taxes were designed to help alleviate war debt in England. Britain dismissed American protest of taxation without representation by saying they had “virtual representation.”

Oh Charles, little did you know what a can of worms you opened. Although if it could be sold, “virtual representation” is a masterstroke. Maybe that’s what we have now.

 1954 – J. Robert Oppenheimer security clearance not reinstated. Subjected to Congressional hearings Oppenheimer had lost his governmental security clearance and his appeal was rejected on June 29th. Head of the Manhattan Project and known as the “Father of the Atom Bomb”, Oppenheimer was hailed as a hero at the end of WWII. His past became suspect during the McCarthy hearing because of prior Communist affiliations. He was also opposed to the development of the hydrogen bomb and argued for international arms control. Incidentally, his wife’s first husband was killed in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the Lincoln Battalion. This was all enough to justify the revoking of his clearance despite him having the backing of the scientific community.

Somehow scientists progressed from hero status after WWII to being considered threats. There is still evidence of that today. Oppenheimer saw the hydrogen bomb as a threat to mankind. In response the government saw him as a threat to them.   Then, as now, political persuasion carried more weight than scientific evidence.


1803 – John Newton Brown. Brown was a Baptist minister in New England and later Virginia who published “New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith”, which was a more moderate version of Calvinistic beliefs. He was also a poet. One of his poems:

“Hints To A Young Preacher“:

“Your air is too dogmatic;

Your tones are too emphatic;

Your style has too much splendor;

Your voice has nothing tender;

Your gestures are too frequent far,

And quite ungraceful many area.”

Not bad.

1960 – Sergey Kopylov. Russian bicyclist who competed in the Olympics and was an amateur champion.

1963 – George Hincapie. American professional bicyclist. He was part of the Lance Armstrong team when they (and their drugs) were dominating the Tour de France.

Although a long ways from the professional ranks, I’m an avid cyclist myself. And I have my own competitive streak. I was biking on the Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin with my friend Tump. The Elroy-Sparta trail has some long, dark railroad tunnels and it is recommended to bring a flashlight. But it is much more disorienting, and fun, if you don’t have one.

We had ridden a long portion of the trail and were on our way back when a young couple came riding up behind us. They had superior bikes, all the appropriate attire, and twenty years on us.

As they passed, they both called out, one after the other, “On your left.” Maybe I should have looked on it as them just being considerate, but there was something about their tone, their smugness, their attitude, that annoyed us both. Tump and I looked at each other, and with no words exchanged, took up the chase.

Being that we were on our way back we knew that section of the trail, and we knew there was a long hill not too far ahead. Pumping furiously we closed the gap as we approached the hill. They had slowed their pace and were talking. We blew by them at the base of the hill. Both of us called out an attitude-tinged “On your left.”

Momentum was on our side as we hit the hill with a full head of steam. It was hard for them to gather speed going uphill so we quickly increased the gap between us. I glanced back to see they had taken up the chase. They were younger, better bikers, and in better shape. Our performance-enhancing drug of choice was Leinenkugels and while it is good for energetic bursts, endurance suffers. So with the outcome of this race predictable, when we crested the hill and were for a moment out of their sight, I said, “Tump, there, stop!”

His thoughts were along the same line and understood immediately. We braked to a stop, hopped off our bikes and pushed them into the bushes alongside the trail. We were no sooner hidden when our pursuers came into view. Hands dropped low on the bars, backs bent, jaws clenched, neck muscles taut, they pedaled past at a determined pace.

We biked back to the closest town and had a cold beer. I sometimes wonder how far they chased us. They either figured it out or thought those two old guys could really bring it.


This Day in History

June 24th

1535 – Anabaptists conquered at the city of Münster, Germany. Anabaptists were Christians in the 16th century who believed in adult baptism because infants were incapable of confessing their faith to God. Anabaptism was an outgrowth of the Reformation and they took over the city of Münster where they formed their own government. The established Protestant church, opposing both the movement and the takeover, promptly laid siege to the city. One of the Anabaptist leaders, after hearing a message from God, rode out with 30 followers to confront the besiegers. All were killed and his head was exhibited on a pike before the city walls. (Be careful with those messages from God.) The movement was crushed and thousands of Anabaptists across Western Europe were hunted down and executed, an estimated 50,000 in Holland alone.

The theme back then seemed to be the same as now: “Don’t Mess with My Religion!”

 1901 – Pablo Picasso 1st art exhibit. The 19 year old Picasso exhibited 75 paintings in a gallery in Paris. The dealers and critics who saw his work were impressed and this started his 70 year run of fame and creativity. He is perhaps the most well known artist of the 20th century. He had been in Paris only a few months and already was friends with many influential people, including Gertrude Stein.

I happen to be an admirer of his work. But talk about moving on the fast track. In addition to his brilliance, he must have understood, at a very young age, how the game was played. He both talked the talk and walked the walk.

 1955 – Harmon Killebrew hits his first home run. That was for the Washington Senators, before the franchise moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. The “Killer” became a fan favorite in Minnesota and also one of baseball’s leading home run hitters. He is in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Late summer, 1969. Along with 3 buddies, I was in the left field bleachers at old Metropolitan Stadium. We were all recent college graduates, having finished up during summer school. Killebrew was getting close to 500 home runs by this time. It was an afternoon game and one of our last days of leisure before embarking on our professional careers. There were odd circumstances that day in that it wasn’t a normal crowd, at least not in the left field bleachers. There must have been some kind of ticket package deal for every group home or institution for developmentally disabled adults in the metro area. The stands were packed with hundreds and hundreds of people who wove their way through life facing a different set of mental challenges than most of us. It was a joyful, exuberant, and directionless crowd. By that I mean most of the excitement and cheering in our section had little to do with the action on the field. The spirit would seize some individual and soon the rapture would spread until hundreds would be standing and cheering for no reason at all. Once one of my friends stood and yelled to summon a beer vendor and that was enough to set off the whole section. Yelling, cheering, clamoring, with counselors and attendants scurrying around to administer to those who became overexcited. The left fielder turned to look, wondering what was going on.

Then late in the game Killebrew launched one directly toward us. I followed the high arc of the ball against the blue sky. We all stood but the ball landed about three rows behind us. If there was a catch I didn’t see it. But somehow a young man, a young man who led a life unlike ours, ended up with the ball in his hands. It couldn’t have been more perfect. That day was one of the most joyful and unique experiences I’ve ever had at a ballgame.


1485 – Johannes Bugenhagen. One of the leading figures in the Reformation. He officiated at Martin Luther’s wedding. His chief talent was organization and he helped spread the Reformation across northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

So, in addition to Martin Luther, a man I’ve never heard of before, was largely responsible for my religious education.

 1771 – E.I. DuPont. Founder of DuPont, now the 4th largest chemical company in the world. It was originally started as a gunpowder mill in Delaware. DuPont, amazingly, supplied the Union Army with half the gunpowder it used during the Civil War. Many years later, to create a new need for its product, the company produced a pamphlet, “Farming with Dynamite” as a way of removing stumps.

It is just a rumor that they also published, “Fishing with Dynamite.”

 1842 – Ambrose Bierce. Journalist and prolific writer of short stories. He was a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, owned by William Randolph Hearst. Bierce fought in the Civil War and was at a number of major engagements including the Battle of Shiloh, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and he was severely wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. His wartime experiences inspired many stories, including his most famous “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”

The railroad companies that built the transcontinental railroad had a secret bill proceeding through Congress that would forgive their loans from the government. Bierce uncovered and reported it and the subsequent public outcry killed the bill. Bierce had refused a “name your price” bribe from railroad lobbyists.

In 1913 Bierce traveled to Mexico to cover the Revolution, disappeared, and his ultimate fate remains a mystery. Some believe he was executed by Pancho Villa’s soldiers.

Fascinating character. I just added some new titles to my reading list.




This Day in History

June 18

1815 – Battle of Waterloo. In what is now present day Belgium Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the army of the Duke of Wellington. The defeat ended Napoleon’s military career.

“Little General Napoleon of France
Tried to conquer the world, but lost his pants
Met defeat known as Bonaparte’s retreat
And that’s when Napoleon met his Waterloo”

A country western singer named Stonewall Jackson helped teach me history.

 1873 – Susan B. Anthony fined $100 for voting. Anthony had voted in the 1872 national election and subsequently a U.S. district attorney charged her with violating the 14th Amendment, which allowed blacks to vote. Part of it guaranteed the right to vote to any male 21 or older. The DA focused on the word “male.” He stated in his opening remarks, “At the time of the election Susan B. Anthony was a woman.” Her lawyer conceded that she was still a woman.

The 14th Amendment also stated “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge [lessen] the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Anthony argued that she was a citizen of the United States and therefore had a right to vote. The judge was notably anti-suffrage and he instructed the jury to find her guilty. Then he pronounced her guilty without allowing the jury to vote and fined her $100. Anthony refused to pay and the judge could not jail her because that would have allowed her attorney to appeal and it was obvious she had not been allowed a fair trial. The judge had even refused to her right to take the witness stand because he was afraid to allow her to talk. Because of the unfair trail Anthony gained favorable public sentiment, was freed and continued her important work.

The prevailing side always declares that “Justice was done.” But, unfortunately, injustice within our judicial system is not a rarity. When it happens it must be publicized and seized upon, and like with Susan B. Anthony, maybe some good eventually will come of it.

 1940 – Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech. In the House of Commons, after France had fallen to the Nazis, Winston Churchill announced that the Battle of Britain was about to begin. Part of his speech, “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

While it hasn’t been a thousand years yet, it still is their finest hour.


1886 – George Mallory. Mountaineer who died in an ill-fated attempt to scale Mt. Everest. An accomplished climber in the Alps, he made three attempts on Everest, the last in 1924. Mallory was also famous for his “Because it’s there” quote when asked why he wanted to climb Everest. Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine made their attempt on June 8th, 1924. They left base camp at 26,800 feet and after disappearing into the clouds were never seen again. There is speculation and mystery as to what happened. Some believe they were the first to reach the summit and died on their way down. A storm engulfed the mountain and it is more probable they died while still on the ascent. Mallory’s body was found in 1991 and it was determined he had died from a fall. Irvine’s body has never been located.

The romantic in me would like to believe they made it but we’ll never know. A friend of mine, Tom, was at a base camp on the north side of Everest, the same side Mallory tried to climb. He was there to view and not make an attempt to reach the summit. I’m envious of Tom for just having seen it. And even if I had the physical capabilities I would rather just see and respect the mountain rather than fulfill any personal challenge.

1917 – Richard Boone. Actor best known for his role as Paladin in the TV series “Have Gun Will Travel.” In movies he was mostly in westerns and could play a very convincing bad guy. In “Hombre”, a western starring Paul Newman, he played the antagonist with the wonderful name of Cicero Grimes. As fine as an actor that Newman was, in their first scene together Boone dominates the screen.

Boone served four years in the Navy as a gunner in the South Pacific and fought against the kamikaze attacks. Some attributed his heavy drinking to the trauma of his wartime experiences. He died in St. Augustine, Florida at the age of 63.

For boys growing up in the 1950’s Paladin was a mesmerizing character and “Have Gun Will Travel” the gold standard when it came to westerns.

1924 – George Mikan. Center for the Minneapolis Lakers professional basketball team when they were the NBA’s first dynasty. At 6’10” he was the first successful “big” man to play the game and he revolutionized basketball. Rule changes such as goaltending and widening the lane were adopted because of him. He is also credited with popularizing the league when he played and helping create what the NBA is today.

I was a kid during the Lakers’ dynasty but didn’t really pay much attention to it. Sports did not have such a stranglehold on the nation back then. Televising sporting events was still in its infancy and did not have much of an impact. I remember a championship series game against the Syracuse Nationals. My buddies and I watched the grainy black and white broadcast for a while, didn’t really understand what it had to do with us, and went outside and played our own pickup game. I think that was a much healthier approach to sports.



This Day in History

June 13th

1777 – Marquis de Lafayette arrives in America. Landing near Charleston, SC, the wealthy, young aristocrat was immediately embraced by Congress. Lafayette had been taken with the American cause, romanticized it, and offered to serve without pay. Only nineteen years old he was given the rank of Major General. It couldn’t have been on merit so more than likely America was seeking to curry favor with France. Lafayette, however, served with distinction as a member of Washington’s staff as well as in battle.

Lafayette was granted special privilege because of his wealth. Somewhat opposite of the American ideals. So it is ironic that he did turn out to be a valuable asset in the fight for independence.

 1922 – Charles Osborne gets the hiccups. For sixty-eight years! Despite hiccupping an estimated 430 million times he led a pretty normal life, marrying twice and fathering 8 children. At age 90 the hiccups mysteriously went away. Osborne had slipped while butchering a hog, fell down, and that’s when he got the hiccups.

How he kept from going insane I don’t know.

 1966 – Miranda Decision. Ernesto Miranda was arrested by Phoenix police, charged with rape and kidnaping, confessed, and was sentenced to 20-30 years. His lawyer appealed, saying the confession had been coerced and he had been denied his rights. In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court concurred.

Miranda was retried in 1967 and found guilty a second time, based on testimony from his then girlfriend. He was paroled in 1972 and in 1976 was stabbed to death in a bar fight. Then, in a great ironic twist, his assailant exercised his Miranda rights, remained silent, and was released for lack of evidence.

That Supreme Court ruling has provided a supposedly dramatic and predictable conclusion to just about every TV crime show since.


1731 – Martha Washington. The 1st “First Lady”, although that term hadn’t been coined yet. She was a very wealthy widow of 27 when she and George married. She had four children from the prior marriage and sadly outlived them all. Two died in childhood, a daughter died of epilepsy as a young adult and her son, Jacky, married with a family of his own, joined General Washington’s staff and died of disease in 1781 after serving only a few days. When George died she took it poorly and burned all the letters exchanged between the two of them. She also did not want him to become President and did not attend the inauguration.

Martha brought 300 slaves to their marriage while George only had 10. Upon his death his will freed his slaves, Martha’s did not. Although not enlightened on the subject, George was more favorable toward abolitionist policies than Martha.

Slavery, that shameful mark on our nation’s history. It taints the reputation of the otherwise great men who were our Founding Fathers. Born into wealth because of it, even our 1st First Lady embraced the practice. How do we reconcile such a legacy?

 1892 – Basil Rathbone. Actor best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films. He preferred to be known as a Shakespearean actor and referred to those films as his “bread and butter” roles. He was born in South Africa and his father was forced to flee after accused of being a spy by the Boers during that war. He served with distinction in the trenches during WWI. He once protested the censorship on a play he was in because of its reference to homosexuality. He believed it was a subject that should be brought out in the open. In Hollywood Rathbone and his wife were famous for the raucous parties they threw.

I was never much of a Sherlock Holmes fan but it sounds like there was much more to Rathbone than that role.

 1897 – Paavo Nurmi. A distance runner who became known as the “Flying Finn.” Nurmi won 9 gold and 3 silver medals in his three Olympics. After his athletic career he started a construction and property business and became one of Finland’s richest men. He had a short-term marriage to a socialite which produced a son. He reportedly was unhappy that his son had such small feet and therefore wouldn’t become a world class runner. After the divorce Nurmi led a reclusive life style. During one of the few interviews he granted, he said, “Worldly fame and reputation are worth less than a rotten lingonberry.”

Since I am not well versed in either world fame or rotten lingonberries I have no comment.




This Day in History

June 8th

1967 – USS Liberty attacked. The US communications ship was attacked by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats. 34 Americans were killed and 171 wounded. The ship had been under surveillance by Israeli forces for nine hours before the attack. The attack took place during the Six-Day War and Israel has always maintained that it was a case of mistaken identity. They thought it was an Egyptian transport ship. This despite the facts that the Liberty was sailing in international waters, flying the American flag, and was twice the size of the transport ship. The attack came in two assaults. Over 30 sorties were flown by as many as a dozen planes firing cannons and rockets, followed by boats launching torpedoes into the Liberty’s hull and then machine gunning those trying to fight the fires, and even firing on lifeboats launched to help the wounded.

Those aboard the ship and many in the Navy are convinced the attack was deliberate. The resulting investigations were conducted in a way to clear Israel. Pressure was put on President Johnson and Congress to protect the alliance between the two nations by sweeping the incident under the rug. The Liberty was a lightly armed ship with only four 50-caliber machine gun mounts. It was a communications ship, or as some could view it, a spy ship. Their mission was to monitor Egyptian and Russian communications in order to assist Israel if necessary. Some maintain that Israel thought their own communications were being monitored, took exception and this provoked the attack.

Another puzzling aspect was that the Liberty was left defenseless by the U.S. Navy. The captain had requested a destroyer escort but that request had been denied. He was told that if he got into trouble jets from the 6th Fleet could reach him in ten minutes. The Liberty did radio for help, the fighter jets were scrambled, and then recalled. The thought of Israeli and American jets dueling over the Mediterranean was too unsettling.

“Chief Petty Officer J.Q. “Tony” Hart, who monitored conversations between then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Sixth Fleet Carrier Division Commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, reported McNamara’s instructive reply to Geis, who had protested the order to recall the U.S. warplanes on their way to engage those attacking the Liberty. McNamara: “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally (sic) over a few sailors.” (1) The Vietnam War was also going on at this time with several hundred soldiers being killed each week so apparently a handful of Naval fatalities wasn’t that big a deal.

No defensive action, no retaliation, slipshod inquiry, and after the initial reporting, no in-depth press coverage, as if even that was suppressed.

I was standing in line one day, waiting not so patiently to enter the chow hall. I was surrounded by other sailors, most of whom, given the complaining going on, were not happy with their current existence. I was aware that my life at the moment was not normal. For one thing I had pretty much relinquished control over which direction it would take. The Navy had chosen to train me to be a radioman, and there was a fair amount of time and money being put into that effort. It occurred to me at the time that a payback would be expected. And that payback had the potential to be unpleasant. There were dozens and dozens of training facilities throughout the nation producing whatever the Navy needed. It was like a massive assembly line and they just kept churning us out, filling that need. Then a different, even silly, imagery took hold. That of a shooting gallery. Every carnival or arcade in those days had one. Little yellow ducks on a conveyor passing left to right before a shooter with an air rifle. When the shooter was on target the little yellow duck would be plunked over. For the term of our enlistments, that’s all we were, little ducks. I just had to hope there would be no shooting going on while I took my turn on the conveyor line.

A cartoonish application for a serious matter, I know, but hey, I was eighteen. I got lucky and there were no paying customers during my time on the conveyor. The sailors aboard the USS Liberty were not so lucky. They were killed, wounded, and traumatized, abandoned at the time of the attack and conveniently forgotten afterwards.

At the time I was very interested, and aghast, over the attack, and then puzzled at how quickly it passed through the news cycle and nothing more was heard. From the books I’ve read on the subject I’m convinced the attack was knowing and deliberate. Why, I’m not sure. Maybe some rogue elements within the Israeli military. And since no real investigation was ever done those elements were protected rather than exposed. Higher priorities were at stake and a real life deadly shooting gallery did not matter. As in most conflicts, those doing the dying were not the main issue. My immature imagery in chow line that day was not so far off.


1831 – Thomas Higgins. Medal of Honor winner. He was a flag bearer in a Union assault on the Confederate ramparts at Vicksburg. A massive volley decimated the Union ranks. As the smoke cleared only one man, Higgins, carrying the Union colors, marched forward alone. A hundred Rebel rifles were leveled at him. They fired, and somehow, miraculously, all missed. Higgins continued forward. And then an amazing thing happened. The Rebels, in awe, stopped shooting, and a loud cheer rose from their ranks. He reached the enemy’s position, was captured, and welcomed with handshakes. It was partly at their insistence that he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Higgins was later paroled back to the Union Army and he survived the war.

Unlike those aboard the Liberty, Higgins’s valor was recognized.



One event and one birthday are enough for today.


This Day in History

June 1st


1568 – Eighteen nobles beheaded by the Duke of Alba. Catholic authorities sent the Duke and a large mercenary army from Spain to the Netherlands to confront the growing Calvinist movement. This was during a period known as the Council of Troubles. The usual charge of heresy was brought against those who did not adhere to Catholic teachings. This wasn’t just about religion but also about Spanish control of the Netherlands. The Duke did not spare the political elite, indicting many of them. Thousands of nobles and Calvinists fled to live in exile but over a 1,000 were executed.

After the Duke left the persecution eased and eventually there was some retribution. One of the Duke’s more notorious judges was named Hessels. He was famous for sleeping through the trials, then awakening with a start and bellowing “To the gallows!” He was summarily hanged himself.

As with most “troubles”, religion and money were at the core of this one. I must say though, in centuries past they embraced a more descriptive application to events. “Council of Troubles” caught my eye.

1922 – 50,000 Fascists gather in Bologna, Italy. Their leader, Benito Mussolini, warns the government against any anti-Fascist reaction. Later that summer he organized a Fascist march on Rome. Yet another step in the takeover of the government and the creation of a Fascist state. Here are some quotes from Mussolini.

“Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.” Even given periodic attempts to hijack it from within, I believe democracy will prevail.

“Militarism! Here is the monstrous leech that is incessantly sucking the blood of the people and its best energy! Here is the target for our attacks! We must put an end to barbarism, proclaim that the army is now a highly organized school of crime and that it exists solely to protect bourgeois capital and profits.” Damn, kind of scary but on that one I can almost find myself in agreement with a Fascist dictator.

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” For some not so strange reason that seems troublingly accurate.

 1968 – “Mrs. Robinson” hits #1. The song by Simon and Garfunkel rose to the top of the charts.

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you”


1831 – John Bell Hood. A graduate of West Point, he became a general in the Confederate Army at the young age of 31. He distinguished himself at a number of major battles including Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and despite disagreeing with the orders, led the charge on Little Round Top at Gettysburg and was wounded severely in the arm. By war’s end he had also lost a leg. He was the general opposing Sherman on Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”

I toured Little Round Top and Devil’s Den where Hood had fought. My friend, Trick, and I wended our way about Gettysburg on bicycles. I recommend it as a way to see the hallowed battlefield. A tour guide thought so also and stopped us. He was thinking of offering guided bicycle tours and wondered if he could take our pictures, on our bikes, and use them for a brochure. We said yes. He introduced us to his photographer, a somewhat nervous middle-aged woman who seemed periodically distracted by some unseen force. After the first three photographs I suggested it might work better if she took the lens cap off. I have a feeling the photos of Trick and I never made it onto a brochure for guided tours at Gettysburg.

 1926 – Norma Jeane Mortenson aka Marilyn Monroe. “Blonde Bombshell”, “Sex Symbol” and “Dumb Blonde” are all terms associated with the famous movie star. She was famously married to Joe DiMaggio, the baseball star, and Arthur Miller, the playwright. An ill-suited match with each. She died of a drug overdose at age 36. There has been much speculation regarding her death. Accidental, suicide or even murder has been suggested.

Her life of “glamor” seemed so sad. A prisoner of her success, image and created persona.

 1933 – Alan “The Horse” Ameche. He played for the University of Wisconsin and won the Heisman Trophy for the best collegiate football player of the year in 1953. He died of a heart attack in 1988. And then, interestingly, his widow remarried, to the Heisman Trophy winner of 1946, Glenn Davis. It doesn’t quite end there either. One of his daughters married the brother of a Heisman Trophy winner.

So what does all that Heisman Trophy connection add up to? Nothing really, other than I manage to find interest in the weird and meaningless.



This Day in History

May 26th

451 – An Armenian army, fighting for religious freedom and independence, clashed with a larger Persian army. The Armenians lost the battle but continued fighting in guerilla warfare, eventually resulting in a treaty that allowed them to practice Christianity.

“The following account of the battle is provided by Yeghisheh, a contemporary court chronicler of the Mamikonian family: “Both sides being thus prepared and seized with a mighty rage and burnt with a wild fury, rushed against each other. The loud cry on both sides sounded like the clash of clouds, and the thundering sound of the noises rocked the caverns of the mountains.

“The countless helmets and the shining armor of the warriors glowed like the rays of the sun. The flashing thousands of swords and the swaying of innumerable spears seemed like an awful fire being poured down from heaven.

“But who can describe the tremendous tumult caused by these frightful noises — the clangor of the shields and the snapping of the bow strings — which deafened everyone alike?

“One should have seen the turmoil of the great crisis and the immeasurable confusion on both sides, as they clashed with each other in reckless fury. The dull-minded became frenzied; the cowards deserted the field; the brave dashed forward courageously, and the valiant roared.” (1)

Now that’s some good writing. I have a sense of what a 5th century battle was like.

1647 – Alse Young hanged as a witch. Young of Hartford, Connecticut is believed to be the first person in the 13 colonies executed for witchcraft. The usual accusation brought was that Satan existed within the witch. Puritans were always on the lookout for the devil. According to Connecticut historian Walter Woodward, “When they think they’re under attack by the devil, their response is based on perceived threat. “This wasn’t just mean-spiritedness. This was the product of intense fear.”

So one day poor Alse was going about her business as usual, inadvertently did something unusual, and boom, found herself before a kangaroo court and than facing an awful sentence. As behavioral control no doubt it was quite an effective method. Thinking outside the box probably wasn’t a good idea during that era. And I imagine somebody with say, oh, Asperger’s Syndrome, walked a rather rocky path.

 1959 – Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings. Haddix, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, retired 36 straight batters. And this was against the Milwaukee Braves, a very good hitting team. Lew Burdette of the Braves held Pittsburgh scoreless so the game proceeded to the 13th inning. The Pirates committed an error to start the 13th, ending the perfect game. Eddie Mathews sacrificed the runner to second, Hank Aaron was intentionally walked, and then Joe Adcock hit one over the right field fence and the Braves were victorious. In the happy confusion that followed, Adcock somehow passed Aaron on the base paths and was called out, changing his homer to a double in the official box score.

I remember Haddix’s feat quite clearly. I was, and am, a baseball nut. This was before Major League Baseball came to Minnesota and we followed the game from afar. I was in a car with some other kids, going to a neighboring town to take our drivers’ license tests. I was quite nervous over taking the test and the news, on the car radio, of his incredible feat helped detract me, and dissipate some anxiety. So thanks, Harvey, I passed the test.


1919 – Jay Silverheels. Actor who played Tonto on the Lone Ranger television series. He was one of the few authentic Indian actors playing an Indian role in Hollywood. His real name was Harold Smith and he was a Mohawk from Ontario, Canada. His father fought with the Canadian Army in WWI and was the most highly decorated Native Canadian soldier. Silverheels was a Golden Gloves boxer and excellent athlete and traveled with a lacrosse team that toured the West Coast of America. His teammates nicknamed him Silverheels because of the way he played.

The comedian Joe. E. Brown saw him play, was impressed and thought he’d make a good actor. With Brown’s encouragement and connections, Silverheels became a stuntman, extra, had small roles in films with Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart before landing the role of Tonto. Although the role of Tonto was little more than a stereotype, Silverheels saw it as a start as he fought for more roles for Indians in film and TV. It was a losing battle against Hollywood entrenched racism however and native roles continued to go to white actors using dark makeup. Jay Silverheels died of a stroke at age 62.

To me the most unusual aspect of this story is the connection between Silverheels and Joe E. Brown. Based on their performances there could not have been two more different men in Hollywood. I guess that’s why they call it acting.

 1923 – James Arness. Actor who played Matt Dillon on TV’s “Gunsmoke” for about a hundred years. In 1950, before “Gunsmoke,” he was in one episode of “The Lone Ranger.” He was also in a gritty WWII drama called “Battleground” which was type casting because Arness was wounded in combat at the Anzio beachhead in Italy.

My father had little use for TV, thought it a waste of time and he would get on my case when I was a kid if I watched too much. However we made peace when it came to “Gunsmoke” which he liked. I only wished it had been “Have Gun Will Travel” which I thought was far superior.

 1949 – Hank Williams Jr. Country western musician, son of country legend Hank Williams, and father to Hank Williams, III.

Musically I’d rank them as follows: 1st-Hank Williams, Sr. 2nd-Hank Williams III, 3rd-Hank Williams, Jr.




This Day in History

May 19th


1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol. Novelist, poet, and man about town in London, Wilde had served two years at hard labor for indecency. His crime? Homosexuality.

Homosexuality is still a crime in some parts of the world, probably to the envy of some in the U.S., 

1960 – Payola scandal results in eight arrests. Disc jockeys from rock and roll radio stations were charged with accepting money for playing certain songs. Among those arrested was Alan Freed who was widely credited with coining the term “Rock and Roll.”

Both Freed and Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame were suspected of taking bribes. Most of the focus was on Freed. “Why did the committee single him out? Freed was abrasive. He consorted with black R&B musicians. He jive talked, smoked constantly and looked like an insomniac. Clark was squeaky clean, Brylcreemed, handsome and polite.”(1)

Although Freed only received a fine and a suspended sentence his career was ruined and he died destitute five years later. Whereas Clark went on to become an industry icon.

I was in high school when the scandal broke and didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about.

“1960 was also an election year and the Congressional Subcommittee was eager to be seen on the right side of a highly visible “moral” issue.”(2)

Ah, yeah, now I get it.

1979 – Armed uprising begins on Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Disturbed by what many felt was a corrupt administration under tribal chairman Roger Jourdain, a group led by Harry Hanson seized the B.I.A. building and burned it. Three days of rioting and sniper fire ensued with 4 more buildings burned to the ground, 45 others damaged, as well as many cars destroyed.

B.I.A. police, local county police, a special law enforcement task force and the FBI finally quelled the uprising. Harry Hanson was sentenced to 26 years in prison and his followers received sentences ranging from 10 to 16 years. The presiding judge said: “Mr. Hanson, you led a revolution of blatant lawlessness. Your oath as an Indian person is not now to be respected.” Unlike the oaths of the U.S. Government in the form of treaties.

In a prior post I noted that a German SS commander received a 12 years sentence for killing 15,000 Jews while Hanson received 26 years. I guess destroying property in the U.S. is more heinous than killing Jews in Europe.

That summer I went to northern Minnesota with a girlfriend. There was nothing political about our trip, just a weekend getaway. My girlfriend’s grandfather was from the Philippines and she had dark hair, brown eyes and olive skin. Pat grew up white in a small town and her partial ethnic background was in the far recesses of her mind.

We came across a small bar and grill in the middle of the northern woods and the idea of a beer and burger appealed to us. I realized later that we weren’t far from Red Lake and tensions were still high. At the entrance a beefy bouncer blocked our way. He shook his head. “Nope, you’re not coming in.” I was confused and argued. “We just want to get something to eat.” With the practiced benign malevolence of a seasoned bounced he looked at me and said, “If you want to get something to go, she can wait in the car.” Now I understood. He took her for an Indian. Pat laughed and said, “I didn’t really want to be in your crummy dive anyway.” The bouncer appeared to be offended. At what I’m not sure. That his establishment had been insulted or more likely because a member of a lesser race had lipped off to him. Showing our own disdain we walked away but, even though it was second hand for me, I felt the sting of racism.


1795 – Johns Hopkins. A philanthropist after whom the famous hospital was named. Hopkins grew up on a plantation in Virginia and was 12 years old when his Quaker parents emancipated their slaves and Hopkins became a lifelong abolitionist. As an adult he resided in Baltimore, became a shrewd businessman and amassed great wealth. He fell in love with a first cousin but Quaker law prevented them from marrying. Both remained single their whole lives. Hopkins was a strong supporter of President Lincoln and aided the Union cause during the Civil War. He appears to have been a man ahead of his times. He started an orphanage for African-American children, advocated equal health care for black and white and created medical schools for women. He believed there should be no discrimination due to sex or color and stood in opposition to the racial practices that began after the Civil War. Baltimore was a southern city and many of his prominent peers shunned him but Hopkins remained firm in his beliefs and deeds.

I never realized that Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University were named after such a great man.

 1812 – Felix Zollicoffer. A newspaper editor, U.S. House Representative (1853-59) from Tennessee, and a general in the Confederate Army. In 1862 while fighting in Kentucky he was killed by Union forces.

Nothing to do with his achievements, I just included him because it’s a wonderful name.

 1891 – Oswald Boelcke

1897 – Frank Luke

Both were aviators in The Great War. Boelcke German and Luke American. Oswald Boelcke was regarded as the father of the Luftwaffe and the man who trained the more famous Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. Frank Luke had the second most “kills” for the Americans, behind only Eddie Rickenbacker and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Both were dashing, daring WWI aces. Neither lived out the war. Boelcke died in 1916 and Luke in 1918.

The Wright brothers made their first flight in 1903. It took only a little more than a decade to turn this magnificent achievement into an instrument of death, and create a new class of heroes, and victims.




This Day in History

May 15th

1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues Papal Bull Ad Extirpanda. A decree that allowed torture to be used. This was during the Spanish Inquisition and the Pope basically said that church law superseded civil law. It was rationalized as a way of arriving at the “truth” for when the victim went to trial.

I wonder if Dick Cheney was somehow related to Pope Innocent IV?

 1829 – Joseph Smith ordained by John the Baptist. Smith founded the Mormon religion and the Church of Latter Day Saints. “John [the Baptist] held the Aaronic Priesthood, and was a legal administrator, and the forerunner of Christ, and came to prepare the way before him.” (1)

Previously Smith was visited by God and Jesus Christ and told he should start a new religion. He was praying in the woods with his scribe Oliver Cowdery when, also according “While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us.” (2)

Smith is now viewed as a prophet and millions hold him in high esteem.

I initially was going to comment with something snarky. Something along the lines of why do some people, when they have a “vision”, get to start a religion, while others are derided or institutionalized for life? But Smith was confronted with much conflict, derision and hostility. He had to fight for control as others had competing visions, including scribe Oliver Cowdery. The people of Ohio, where they settled, were not happy with the Mormons. Smith was beset upon, tarred and feathered at one point, and eventually killed by a mob. So Smith did suffer the plight of many who claimed to have had a vision or visit from God.

I think I’ll keep my visions to myself. A religion with a membership of one is good enough for me.

 1869 – National Women’s Suffrage Association founded. The 15th Amendment allowed black men to vote. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton opposed it because it did not also allow women to vote. They split with the National Women’s Party who believed it was at least a fundamental step in the right direction. They also thought the old association had too many men in control. It took fifty years, and with the two factions reunited, before the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote was passed in 1919.

I imagine there are some who harken back to the greatness, the terrifically, unbelievable greatness of America before the passage of those two amendments.


1902 – Richard Daly. Mayor of Chicago for 21 years. He ran the city with an iron-handed efficiency, and some say, a corrupt hand. A staunch Democrat, he helped John Kennedy win Cook county and Illinois in the 1960 presidential election. He is famous for his quote, “Vote early, and often.” It helped create the myth that Daly stole Illinois, and the election from Richard Nixon. In reality even if Nixon had won Illinois, JFK would still have had 277 electoral votes and he needed 269 to win.

Daly was also mayor during the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. There was mayhem both on the streets and in the convention hall. There is a famous close-up of him shouting what appeared to be profanities at a speaker. And he also presided over what is sometimes called a “police riot” as police beat demonstrators in the streets. He made another famous quote at that time. “The policeman is not here to create disorder. The policeman is here to preserve disorder.” A slip of the tongue that captured the moment perfectly.

I was watching the chaotic events unfolding on TV with an uncle. He was in his seventies and had been a Doughboy in France during WWI. He shook his head sadly and said, “This isn’t what America is supposed to be.” Now I’m old and find myself watching TV, shaking my head, and thinking, “This isn’t what America is supposed to be.”

 1936 – Anna Maria Alberghetti. Italian singer and actress who appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 53 times.

I grew up in a small town that was still heavily influenced by the Germans who had settled there. So in a town full of guttural sounding surnames it was fun just to say Anna Maria Alberghetti. As kids it made us feel more cosmopolitan. I remember her name more than her career or talent.

 1937 – Madeleine Albright. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Albright, a naturalized U.S. citizen, became the first female Secretary of State. At the time it was the highest appointment a woman had received in the U.S. government. Earlier she had been the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Although in 1998 she did argue for U.S. military action in Iraq, in an interview given to Newsweek International published July 24, 2006, Albright gave her opinion on current U.S. foreign policy. Albright said: “I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid that Iraq is going to turn out to be the greatest disaster in American foreign policy – worse than Vietnam.”

No comment. History will decide.

(1) › manual › teachings-joseph-smith

(2) › manual › teachings-joseph-smith



Newsweek International

This Day in History

May 10th

1267 – Jews forced to wear horned hats in Vienna.

1276 – Jews in England are imprisoned.

1427 – Jews are expelled from Berne, Switzerland.

When did it all start?

From › Laws & religion “1205 Pope Innocent III wrote to the Archbishops of Sens and Paris that ‘the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord…As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ’s death set free…’” I’m not sure Pope Innocent III chose the correct name.

The religious tolerance website noted above lists a horrid litany of Jewish persecution. It wasn’t like Hitler came up with some new idea. Year after year, century after century, the atrocities continue. How can such hatred continue on so unabated? The feeling I got as I read the list was that those in charge, the rulers, found it convenient to have a scapegoat. A convenient deflection of their own deficiencies by shifting blame to someone else, and it also was an easy way to unite the populace behind them. Castigate many for the sins of a few. Kind of like branding all Muslims as terrorists.

 1775 – 2nd Continental Congress convenes. This was the body that eventually produced the Declaration of Independence. Initially the majority of the delegates did not favor independence, rather they sought a solution to work with England, but the radicals, led by John Adams, convinced them otherwise. One of their responsibilities was to create and fund the Continental Army.

We are purported to be a Christian nation but at this momentous assembly alcohol was more in evidence than any mention of Christ. Partly because drinking was prevalent in that era, and partly because local drinking water supplies were unsafe. So these men traveled with their own casks of wine, beer and whiskey. Plus I think the dudes also liked to get it on. Here’s an account of a party from…/George-Washington-Knew-How-to-Party “The bar tab from a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.”

In the spirit of patriotism and the tradition of our Founding Fathers, I’ve been trying to do my part.

 1941 – Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland. Hess, one of the Third Reich’s top officials, behind only Hermann Goering to succeed Hitler, perpetrated one of the strangest acts of WWII. Under the cover of darkness, he took a Messerschmitt fighter, flew to Scotland, and parachuted. His stated mission was to offer acceptable peace terms to England and avoid more war. Whether it was a sincere but misguided effort, or somehow duplicitous, the whole incident remains mysterious. Was he a spy, did he have Hitler’s permission, or was he simply deranged? The latter seems obvious since he was a Nazi. Given the massive egos in the upper echelon of that regime maybe he did believe he could singlehandedly end the war. Hess spent the remainder of his life, and he lived to age 91, in captivity. For his last 20 years he was the only prisoner at Spandau prison.

Nazis who were guilty of far more hideous atrocities were given lighter sentences, or released, such as fellow prisoner at Spandau, Albert Speer. So why, even as his mental capacities eroded, was Hess kept in prison? He committed suicide at age 93 and some suspect that was staged, that he was murdered. Everything from the night of his ill-fated flight on remains shrouded in mystery.


1838 – John Booth. Assassin of President Lincoln.

Or as history referred to him: John Wilkes Booth. Why do assassins need middle names? Lee Oswald, like most people, never used his middle name yet the world knows of him as Lee Harvey Oswald. If that had been a path chosen for me at least my name would have been out there with a poetic rhythm to it. Gary Lee Jenneke (pronounced Jen-eck-kee). My mother was a poet and didn’t even know it.

 1902 – David O. Selznick. Producer of one of the most successful movies of all time, “Gone With The Wind.”

He was also co-producer of “The Third Man” which in my opinion is a better movie.

 1903 – Otto Bradfisch. When the German Army invaded Russia, Bradfisch was part of a SS unit that was to act as a police force. Their orders included rounding up Jews and executing them. His commander, understanding what they were being ordered to do was illegal, resigned. Bradfisch had no such qualms and took over command. He carried out his orders efficiently. The exact number is uncertain but he was responsible for the execution of an estimated 15,000 Jews and Russian prisoners-of-war. The actual amount is probably higher.

After the war he concealed his identity and escaped capture until 1958. He was then sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released early in 1965.

That’s about one year for each 2,000 murders. It’s appalling to read about Nazis who escaped with light or no punishment. In comparison to Rudolf Hess he got off light. Although Hess’s continued imprisonment was more than likely symbolic. A top Nazi official could not be released. Even at that there is a contradiction. Albert Speer, part of Hitler’s inner circle, was released after 20 years in the same prison as Hess. I’ve read Speer’s autobiography and he was a master liar, I suspect Hess was more guilty because he told the truth.