Little Bits of History

Last of the Line

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 26, 2015
Ali Maow Maalin in 1977

Ali Maow Maalin in 1977*

October 26, 1977: Ali Maow Maalin gets sicker. He was born in 1954 in Merca, Somalia. He worked there at the regional hospital as a cook. He also was an occasional vaccinator for a WHO smallpox eradication team. He had not been successfully vaccinated even though it was a mandatory policy at his place of employment. According to CDC epidemiologists, he had been vaccinated, but the vaccine did not take effect and he was unprotected. Other sources state that he had never been vaccinated at all. Maalin himself denied having received the shot stating it looked like it hurt and he therefore avoided it.

In August 1977 there was an outbreak of smallpox in a Somalian group of about 20 families of nomads. Between August and October, eight children developed symptoms of the disease and on October 12, two children were discovered with the disease in a small settlement of Kurtunawarey – about 55 miles inland from Merca. Officials drove there to contain the outbreak and 23-year-old Maalin served as a guide. It is believed that it was during this trip that he became infected with the virus. On October 14, Habiba Nur Ali (6) died of smallpox, the last person to die naturally from the disease. By October 18, WHO workers successfully contained the outbreak among the nomadic group but they did not list Maalin as a contact.

On October 22, he began to feel bad and presented with a fever and headache. Malaria treatment was begun. On this day, the telltale rash appeared but yet it was ignored. Since he worked in the hospital, it was assumed he had been vaccinated against smallpox and so he was diagnosed with chickenpox and sent home. Over the next few days, his symptoms grew worse but he did not want to be isolated and so failed to report his distress to authorities. On October 30, a male nurse colleague reported him. It may not have been altruism, but rather the reward of 200 Somali shillings (about $35). Maalin was taken to isolation camp and diagnosed with smallpox, the last person to ever be diagnosed with naturally occurring smallpox. He did not suffer any complications and was discharged in November.

Donald Henderson had directed the WHO eradication program from 1967 to 1976. When he looked at the Maalin case, he was appalled. Maalin had been a popular young man and was visited by many relatives and friends before he was finally put in isolation. While he had been hospitalized with the initial fever, he had been permitted to walk freely throughout the hospital and interacted with many patients. There had been 91 people who had had face-to-face contact with Maalin and 12 of them were unvaccinated. All contacts were monitored for the following six weeks and face-to-face contacts were vaccinated. Merca Hospital was closed to new patients and all staff were vaccinated. No one was discharged. A total of 54,777 people were vaccinated in the two weeks following Maalin’s isolation. The program was effective and smallpox has been wiped out. Maalin died in 2013 at the age of 58.

I was scared of being vaccinated then. It looked like the shot hurt. – Ali Maow Maalin

Now when I meet parents who refuse to give their children the polio vaccine, I tell them my story. I tell them how important these vaccines are. I tell them not to do something foolish like me. – Ali Maow Maalin

Somalia was the last country with smallpox. I wanted to help ensure that we would not be the last place with polio too. – Ali Maow Maalin, explaining why he volunteered to help eradicate polio

A classic one in depicting omissions and mistakes in program operations. – Donald Henderson, describing this case

Also on this day: Tombstone, Arizona – In 1881, the gunfight at the OK Corral took place.
Whoa! – In 1861, Pony Express service officially ended.
Cloud of Death – In 1948, Donora, Pennsylvania was shrouded in a toxic fog.
Outnumbered – In 1597, the Battle of Myeongnyang was fought.
Baby Fae – In 1984, the baby was given a baboon’s heart.

* “Ali Maow Maalin (1977)en” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Primrose Path to Hell

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2015
Francis Joseph Beckman*

Francis Joseph Beckman*

October 25, 1938: Francis Joseph Beckman speaks to the National Council of Catholic Women. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1875 and entered the Seminary in Cincinnati and then studied in Belgium and in Rome. He was ordained a priest on June 20, 1902. He then received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1907) and later a Doctor of Sacred Theology (1908) from the pontifical school in Rome. The first of those degrees is comparable to a Masters Degree. He returned to Cincinnati and taught at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, was a rector at the church, and worked for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. On December 23, 1923 he was appointed as Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska by Pope Pius XI. On January 17, 1930, the Pope appointed Beckman as Archbishop of Dubuque (Iowa).

Beckman was instrumental in aiding Catholic entities which help the poor and disadvantaged to grow. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Holy Name Society, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Conference on Industrial Relations, and the Catholic Youth Organization all grew during his tenure. He had begun the Catholic Student’s Mission Crusade in Cincinnati and in 1935 their national convention was held in Dubuque. He was also a pacifist and in the years leading up to World War II, advocated for the US to hold a stance of neutrality. It was his opinion that the Soviets wished for the US to enter the war in order to weaken the country so they might be able to spread Communism here.

Archbishop Beckman began a campaign against the evils of swing music in 1938. Swing music stemmed from the jazz era. The new music style took off and peaked during the years of 1935 and 1946. Jazz had been highly regarded by most serious musicians around the world, including classical masters such as Stravinsky. Swing was seen as a “dance craze” and a degeneration of music. It was just a means to sell records to the masses so they might dance. And that is what Beckman spoke about on this day. Before the National Council, he proclaimed that swing music was going to ruin young people and send them down the “primrose path to Hell”. His attempts to rid the world of the genre were unsuccessful.

His own primrose path to Hell was brought on by his love of art. He had appreciated the Church’s culture while in Europe and began to collect fine art pieces. Beckman began to showcase his collection in a newly created museum at Columbia College. His collection was said to be worth $1.5 million. In 1936, he was introduced by Phillip Suetter to the idea of investing monies in gold mines. It is now thought he hoped to have more funds to buy more art. Instead, he signed promissory notes on behalf of the archdiocese and caused financial problems for the entity. Suetter was eventually arrested for fraud and Beckman and the Archdiocese were brought under investigation. The holders of the notes demanded payment and Beckman had to sell off most of his art collection to make good on the notes. He retired in November 1946 and moved back to Cincinnati. He died two years later at the age of 72.

A degenerated musical system… turned loose to gnaw away the moral fiber of young people. – Francis Beckman

Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation — then they called it ragtime, then blues — then jazz. Now, it’s swing. White folks, yo’all sho is a mess. – Louis Armstrong

Telling someone about what a symbol means is like telling someone how music should make them feel. – Dan Brown

Baptists never make love standing up. They’re afraid someone might see them and think they’re dancing. – Lewis Grizzard

Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwave ovens became available for home use.
Fox River Grove – In 1995, a train hit a bus stopped at a red light.
St. Katherine Docks – In 1828, the London docks opened.

* “Francis J L Beckman” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –




Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 24, 2015
1911 Wright Glider

1911 Wright Glider

October 24, 1911: Orville Wright is able to fly for 9 minutes and 45 seconds. The Wright brothers, Wilber and Orville, began their foray into flight by making a kite in 1899. They flew the kite near their home in Dayton, Ohio. It had a wingspan of only 5 feet and was too small to carry anyone. They wanted to test their theory of wing-warping for roll control – an essential discovery making controlled flight possible. Their first Wright Glider able to carry a person was built in 1900. It was designed after Octave Chanute’s 1896 two surface glider. The wing airfoil was based on Otto Lilienthan’s tables of aerodynamic lift. This was a full size craft but it was first tested for flight on October 5, 1900 by flying it again as a kite, this time near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Wilbur went up in the first plane while men on the ground held tethered ropes. Eventually it was possible to make several test flights but the plane was abandoned when the brothers went back to Ohio and it was torn apart by storms and pieces salvaged for other uses. They built a second glider in 1901 and tested it at Kill Devil Hills, about four miles south of Kitty Hawk. This glider had larger wings and the brothers were able to fly 50 to 100 times in free flights as well as many tethered flights as a kite between July 27 and August 17, 1901. During these flights, measurements of lift and drag led the brothers to believe that Lilienthal’s calculations were wrong.

The 1902 Wright Glider was their third glider and the first to have yaw control by having a rear rudder under the pilot’s control. Their wing design was perfected during the winter using their homemade wind tunnel. They were able to fly with true control between September 19 and October 24, 1902 and their longest glide lasted for 26 seconds and went 622.5 feet. They put their craft into storage. The wingspan was 32 feet, 1 inch and had an area of 305 square feet. The craft, empty, weighed 117 pounds. They returned to North Carolina in 1908 to test their new Flyer III and found that the storage shed and the glider inside had been destroyed by storms.

In 1911, Orville Wright returned to Kill Devil Hill along with Alec Ogilvie. They hoped to test an automatic control system for the glider but did not invite reporters to witness their attempts. The glider was taken up on this day using a design which is considered now to be a conventional tailplane. The pilot was seated with hand controls rather than lying prone in a cradle. Winds that day were about 40 mph and the plane was able to fly much longer. The previous record had been 1 minute and 12 second so the nearly ten minute flight was quite remarkable. In fact, the record stood for ten years.

If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance. – Orville Wright

I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. – Wilbur Wright

The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who … looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air.  – Wilbur Wright

It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill. – Wilbur Wright

Also on this day: Nedelin Catastrophe – In 1960, a Soviet Union ICBM exploded on the launchpad.
Notre Dame – In 1260, the cathedral was dedicated.
Terror Along the Beltway – In 2002, the Beltway Sniper was arrested.
Earth – In 1946, the first picture of Earth from outer space was taken.
Thar She Goes – In 1901, Annie Taylor celebrated her birthday.



Messing with the Mob

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 23, 2015
Dutch Schultz

Dutch Schultz

October 23, 1935: At 10.15 PM, the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey is invaded. Arthur Simon Flegenheimer was born in New York City in 1901. He was Jewish and born to German immigrants parents. The father abandoned the family before Arthur was ten although he tried to change the story, saying his father had died. Arthur dropped out school in the 8th grade to help support his family. He took small jobs in the neighborhood and eventually these led him to work in a nightclub owned by a minor mobster. Soon Arthur was robbing craps games and eventually turned to burglary. At age 18, he was arrested and incarcerated. He managed to escape but was recaptured.

After he was paroled, he began to work for Schultz Trucking and when asked what his name was, gave it as Dutch (a corruption of Deutsch which means German) and soon became known as Dutch Schultz. With Prohibition, there was a new revenue stream to be controlled and Schultz Trucking began smuggling liquor and beer into New York City from Canada. Dutch got into an argument with the company and went to work with Italian competitors. Schultz moved up through the ranks in the mob and rose to a position of power. He got into more trouble with the law for tax evasion and Thomas Dewey brought him to trial twice for the crime. He asked for permission from the mob to kill Dewey and was denied. Schultz had also run afoul of Lucky Luciano. Schultz disregarded all advice and made an attempt on Dewey’s life which led to the order for his murder.

He was at Palace Chophouse which he used as headquarters and in the restroom when Charles Workman and Emanuel Weiss, two hitmen working for Louis Buchalter’s Murder, Inc. Workman entered the bathroom and shot Schultz with the bullet entering below his heart and exiting the small of his back. While this was going on, Weiss joined in and both hitmen fired at Schultz’s entourage. Otto Berman, Schultz’s accountant; Abe Landau, Schultz’s chief henchman; and Schultz’s bodyguard, Bernard “Lulu” Rosencrantz were all hit. Berman collapsed immediately. Landau’s carotid artery was severed but he still somehow managed to give chase. Weiss got to an escape car and fled, leaving Workman behind. Rosencrantz had been hit with 00 lead buckshot at point blank range.

Rosencrantz  called for an ambulance before losing consciousness. Since he and Landau were more seriously wounded, they were taken away first and a second ambulance came for Schultz and Berman. Berman died first, Laudau bled to death eight hours after the shooting. Schultz survived surgery, but died of peritonitis 22 hours after the incident at the age of 34. As his life was ending, he was babbling and everything was written down but no clues were found. Rosencrantz died seven hours later. Workman was found guilty of Schultz’s murder and was sent to Sing Sing. Weiss was electrocuted in 1944 for an unrelated murder.

You can play jacks and girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it.

I want harmony. Oh, mamma, mamma! Who give it to him? Who give it to him? Let me in the district -fire-factory that he was nowhere near.

Cut that out, we don’t owe a nickel; hold it; instead, hold it against him; I am a pretty good pretzler -Winifred- Department of Justice. I even got it from the department. Sir, please stop it. Say listen the last night! – all from Dutch Schultz as he incoherently talked before dying

Dutch Schultz did that murder just as casually as if he were picking his teeth. – Dixie Davis

Also on this day: Fore – In 1930, the first miniature golf tournament was held.
Bump! Boom! – In 1958, the Springhill mining disaster struck.
Poison Gas – In 2002, the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis began.
Schtroumpfs – In 1958, the Belgian comic strip debuted.
National Women’s Rights Convention – In 1850, the first convention was held.

* “Schultz dutch mug” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –



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Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2015
André-Jacques Garnerin's parachute

André-Jacques Garnerin’s parachute

October 22, 1797: The first descent using a parachute is successful. André-Jacques Garnerin was born in Paris in 1769. He was captured by the British during the Napoleonic Wars and turned over to the Austrians who held him in prison for three years. He was a student of ballooning pioneer Jacques Charles. Garnerin and his older brother were famous for their hot air balloon work. They regularly staged tests and shows of ballooning feats at Parc Monceau in Paris.

Garnerin began experimenting with parachutes and based his design on umbrellas. He used his silk parachute on this day at Parc Monceau. The parachute looked like a closed umbrella while ascending. There was a pole in the center of the 23 foot diameter cloth and a rope ran through a tube in the pole. The rope was connected to the hot air balloon.  Garnerin was in a basket attached to the bottom of the parachute. About 3,000 feet up in the air, he cut the rope connecting his parachute to the balloon. The balloon continued to rise and Garnerin and his parachute (and basket) floated to the ground. The basket swung violently while it fell and it bumped and scraped along the ground on impact. But Garnerin emerged uninjured.

The Garnerin brothers created a stir when they announced in 1798 that their next flight would include a woman. They had to go to officials to explain how the decreased air pressure was not going to harm the internal organs of their delicate passenger. There was a fear that the poor woman would lose consciousness and there was also the impropriety of her being aloft in such close quarters with – men. They were forbidden to take a woman up since she was ill equipped to understand the dangers inherent in the ascent. More meetings were held and the ruling was overturned. Citoyenne Henri and Garnerin made their trip on July 8, 1798 and flew about 19 miles without ill effect on the delicate passenger.

Garnerin was the Official Aeronaut of France and he and his wife made a trip to England in 1802 during the Peace of Amiens. They made a number of demonstration flights while visiting. On September 21, Garnerin rose from the Volunteer Ground in North Audley Street in Grosvenor Square and then made a parachute descent into a field near St. Pancras. Ballooning was a family affair. He often went up into the air with his brother. His wife was first his student and then married Garnerin. She was the first woman to parachute. His niece was also a trained balloonist, beginning to fly at age 15. Garnerin was struck by a wooden beam while making a balloon and died from his injuries in Paris on August 18, 1823. He was 54 years old.

Bold Garnerin went up / Which increased his Repute / And came safe to earth / In his Grand Parachute. – English ballad

The young citoyenne who will accompany me is delighted to see the day approach for the journey. I shall ascend with her from the Parc Monceau, some time during the next ten days. – André-Jacques Garnerin, advertising his upcoming flight with a woman

Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute. – Gil Stern

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. – Maimonides

Also on this day: When the World Was New – In 4004 BC, the world was created – according to the math.
Where Is He? – In 1844, Jesus Christ did not return to Earth.
Pretty Boy – In 1934, Charles Floyd was killed.
No, Thanks – In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize.
Shipwreck – In 1707, four ships sunk off the coast of England.



Islands of the 11,000 Virgins

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2015
Sainte Pierre aerial view

Sainte Pierre aerial view

October 21, 1520: João Álvares Fagundes is the first European to discover the Sainte Pierre and Miquelon. He originally named the two islands as “Islands of the 11,000 Virgins” because he found them on the feast day of Saint Ursula and her virgin companions, said to have numbered 11,000. The islands are located in the northwest portion of the Atlantic Ocean near present day Canada. Fagundes was a Portuguese sailor/explorer who led expeditions to present-day Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Although there are artifacts indicating indigenous people had visited the islands, there was no aboriginal population there when Fagundes found the area.

Even the first Europeans who came to the islands did not live there permanently. Basque fisherman came during the fishing season, but then returned to the mainland during the off-season. The first permanent settlement was established in the middle of the 17th century when the French produced settlements. There were about 200 people living on the islands. During King William’s War (1689-1697) and Queen Anne’s War (1702-1712) there were at least five British attacks on the islands. Eventually all the permanent settlers fled. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 ended the wars and France ceded the islands as well as Newfoundland to Great Britain. The British took possession of the islands and the larger of the two was already called Sainte Pierre. They changed the name to Saint Peter’s.

The British gave the lands back to the French in 1763 and French settlers moved back in. During the American Revolutionary War, the French supported the rebellious Americans and the British once again began attacks on the islands. The French Revolutionary War led to more upheaval for the small islands in the west. Rule of the lands switched back and forth between England and France until France finally ended up with control after Napoleon’s second abdication in 1815. The French fishing industry thrived there for the next 70 years. During Prohibition in the US, the islands had a boom economy as they were a great place for smuggling in banned alcohol. During the Vichy France era of World War II, the islands were Nazi-controlled. They were liberated in 1941.

Today, the overseas collective is under the French and therefore the President of France, Francois Hollande is the head of state. Stephane Artano is President of the Territorial Council. The total land area covers 93 square miles. There are about 6,000 people living there. They are 3,819 miles from the closest point in Metropolitan France but only 16 miles from the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland. Regardless, they are French with French being the official language and the euro being the official currency. Fishing in the area is depleted and can no longer support the economy. They wish to bring in tourists and built a new airport in the hopes of luring visitors.

Everyone’s free to embark on either a great clipper or a little fishing boat. An artist is an explorer who oughtn’t to shrink from anything: it doesn’t matter whether he goes to the left or the right — his goal sanctifies all. – George Sand

Fish stimulates the brain, but fishing stimulates the imagination. – Thomas Robert Dewar

If you don’t go fishing because you thought it might rain you will never go fishing. This applies to more than fishing. – Gary Sow

He liked fishing and seemed to take pride in being able to like such a stupid occupation. – Leo Tolstoy

Also on this day: Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.
Disaster – In 1966, the Aberfan disaster took place.
Rudolph Valentino – In 1921, The Sheik debuted.



Pirates of the Caribbean

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 20, 2015
Calico Jack's flag

Calico Jack’s flag

October 20, 1720: Calico Jack’s career ends. John Rackham, aka Calico Jack, was born in 1682. Little is known of his early life. It is known that he was English. The first mention of him is as quartermaster (helmsman) for Charles Vane aboard the sloop Ranger. The ship was operating out of New Providence island in the Bahamas which at the time (1718) was known as the Pirates’ republic. Vane had led the men in the capture of several ships outside New York. They encountered a French man-of-war which was twice the size of their sloop. Vane wanted to escape to avoid capture. Rackham led a call to attack the larger ship for two reasons. First there was a good likelihood of riches aboard and secondly if they captured the ship, they would have a much larger ship for their own use. The men held a vote and of the approximately 90 men aboard, only 15 sided with Vane. He called captain’s privilege and fled.

On November 24, 1718 a vote was called by Rackham and Vane was removed as captain and Rackham was given command of the ship. They made a habit of pirating in the Caribbean and stayed mostly close to shore. They were able to capture Kingston, a small Jamaican ship, and made it their flagship. They continued on this path for a time, robbing, plundering, and escaping capture themselves. When attacking other than British ships, the government turned a mostly blind eye to the pirates. Calico Jack began an affair with Anne Bonny, wife of a sailor employed by Governor Woodes Rogers of Nassau. They were found out and Anne eventually ran off with the pirate. In September 1720, Governor Rogers issued a proclamation declaring Calico Jack to be a pirate, essentially a warrant for his arrest.

Governor Nicholas Lawes of Jamaica had Captain Jonathan Barnet lead two sloops to hunt down Calico Jack. Tyger was the more heavily armed and crewed with Royal Navy sailors and some British Army troops. Around 10 PM on this day, Tyger found William, Calico Jack’s ship, anchored in Dry Harbor Bay. Most of the men aboard were drunk and sleeping when Barnet extinguished all lights and approached. As Lawes neared the ship, he called for their surrender. The pirates were awakened and fired a few shots at the larger ship whereupon Lawes ordered a broadside return and to close in and board the pirate vessel. William tried to flee but was unsuccessful. The British boarded the ship and the pirates were soon captured (and without much of a fight). A few of the British were wounded, but there were no deaths.

Calico Jack is most noted for designing the Jolly Roger flag, symbol of pirates today. It was he who created the black flag with the white skull and crossed swords. He was also noted for having two female crew members. His lover and Mary Read who fought more daringly than many of her male counterparts. When captured, he had managed to accrue booty worth about $1.6 million in today’s currency and ranks 19th in a list of wealthy pirates. Calico Jack was brought to trial and executed in Port Royal on November 18, 1720. Most of his crew was also hanged in February 1721. Both women aboard ship declared they were pregnant and given stays of execution. Read died in April 1721, probably due to childbirth. There is no record of what happened to Bonny.

Drinking rum before 10 AM makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic. – Earl Dibbles, Jr.

It is a glorious thing to be a pirate king. – WS Gilbert

Life’s pretty good, and why wouldn’t it be? I’m a pirate, after all. – Johnny Depp

People build up a picture of Johnny Depp as being some sort of weird pirate character. In reality he’s incredibly nice… one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. – Freddie Highmore

Also on this day: Subway Vigilante – In 1987, Bernard (Bernie) Goetz was sentenced.
What Big Feet You Have – In 1967, a film of Bigfoot was taken – maybe.
Football Fiasco – In 1851, Johnny Bright was injured on the field.
Kragujevac – In 1941, the Kragujevac massacre began.
Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion – In 1944, a section of Cleveland was leveled.



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Allies to POWs

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 19, 2015
MS Sinfra when first launched by the Fern Line

MS Sinfra when first launched by the Fern Line

October 19, 1943: The MS Sinfra sinks. The cargo ship was built in 1929 by Akers Mekaniske Verksted in Oslo, Norway. She was launched on May 15, 1929 and completed in July. She was 385 feet long and 55 feet at the beam. There were two 6-cylinder diesel engines powering twin screw propellers which gave her a top speed 12.5 knots or 14.4 mph. The steel-hulled ship was christened Fernglen and had electric lighting, wireless telegraph, and two decks. She was one of nine ships belonging to Fearnley & Egar and the ships formed the “Fern Line”. They carried phosphate and cotton to Japan and then after a stop in the Philippines, sailed to the US with copra, the dried kernel of the coconut.

While on a voyage from Macassar In the Netherlands East Indies with 7,422 tons of copra and heading toward Denmark, she ran aground. The damage was said to be beyond economic repair and the ship was towed back to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. She was sold to a Swedish company who refurbished her and renamed her Sandhamn. At the time, it was one of the largest hull repair jobs ever done in Sweden. Work was done in December 1934. The ship plied the waters as a cargo vessel for five years before being sold to the French in 1939 and named Sinfra. She was confiscated by the Germans in 1942.

Crete had been captured by the Germans and Italians in May 1941. There were 21,700 Italians occupying the easternmost prefecture. When Armistice between Italy and the Allies was signed on September 8, 1943, the Italians on the island were offered the choice of continuing to fight with the Germans or to be sent to perform forced labor. The Germans used ships to transport those who would not continue fighting. Dozens of these ships were lost resulting in the death of about 13,000 prisoners. There were 2,389 prisoners loaded in the cargo holds on Sinfra on October 18. They were guarded by 204 Germans. Also aboard was a shipment of bombs.

As she headed toward Greece, ten fighter aircraft (combined USAF and RAF planes) engaged the ship. At 10.05 PM, the ship was struck by a torpedo near the front hatch and at 11 PM she was hit by a bomb which penetrated the engine room. She was without steering and on fire. At 2.31 AM on this day, she blew up and sank. Most of those killed in the sinking were Italian POWs. There were between 2,000 and 5,000 killed, depending on reports. Survivors included 597 Italians, 197 Germans, and 13 Greeks. There had been two escort vessels with the transport and 11 other German ships responded to the SOS. Rescue efforts were prioritized to bring in Germans first. Reports showed that as the ship was sinking, the Germans had locked the Italians in the holds and thrown hand grenades at them. The Italians broke free and charged life boats and the Germans opened up with machine gun fire. After returning to Crete, about half of the Italian survivors were executed for “undisciplined behavior” at sea.

A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him. – Winston Churchill

I was not an anthropology student prior to the war. I took it up as part of a personal readjustment following some bewildering experiences as an infantryman and later as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany. The science of the Study of Man has been extremely satisfactory from that personal standpoint. – Kurt Vonnegut

Under the Geneva Convention, for example, a POW is required only to provide name, rank, and serial number and cannot receive any benefits for cooperating. – John Yoo

My father, unusually for a PoW, talked about his experiences, but he talked about them in a very limited way. – Richard Flanagan

Also on this day: Streptomycin – In 1943, Streptomycin was first isolated.
Not Soccer – Not Rugby – In 1873, the rules for American football were first codified.
Stella or A Deal You Can’t Refuse – In 1944, Marlon Brando made his Broadway debut.
Disco – In 1959, the Scotch-Club opened.
New Beginnings – In 1781, the Siege of Yorktown ended.



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Flag Changing at Sitka

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 18, 2015
The Alaska Purchase

The Alaska Purchase

October 18, 1867: The US officially takes possession of the Alaska Territory. The land was purchased from Russia on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million. William Henry Seward had been opposed to the Gadsden Purchase which was made in 1853. At that time the US bought land from Mexico and straightened the border between the two countries. The 29,640 square miles brought most of Arizona south of Phoenix and a small portion of New Mexico in the Union. He had also been against an attempt to purchase Cuba from Spain. It is thought today that this may have been because he considered these to be possible areas for slavery to increase. After the Civil War, new lands would not mean more slaves.

Even while working as a senator, Seward had been interested in whaling. His interest in Russian America was due to whaling and even before 1860 he had predicted that Alaska would become part of the US. In 1864, he learned the land might be for sale and he pressed the Russians who were allied with the US at the time, to begin negotiations. When the Russian minister made his way back to the homeland in 1866, he feared the lands would be overrun by American settlers and lost regardless and so urged the government to sell the lands instead. The minister returned in March 1867 having been authorized to negotiate a sale. Seward originally offered $5 million and the end price was settled at $7 million. When presented to Congress, several concerns were raised and the price was raised to $7.2 million in order to quell those concerns.

On this day, the official ceremony was held at Fort Sitka. The parties met at Castle Hill, a rock outcropping about 60 feet in height. It is near the edge of Sitka Harbor where the city-borough of Sitka resides on Baranof Island. The name is taken from the Tlingit word for the area they had occupied for over 10,000 years. The Russians had settled in Old Sitka in 1799 and named it for Saint Michael as Fort Arkhangela Mikhaila. There were about 250 US soldiers present who marched from the Governor’s house to Castle Hill. They were met there by Russian troops awaiting the transfer. The Russians lowered their flag after a gun salute had been fired. The Americans then raised their flag and as the flag reached the top, a second salute marked the end of the ceremony.

It is interesting to note that at the time of the transfer, Russia was still using the Julian calendar and there is an 11 hour time difference between Sitka and St. Petersburg, then capital of Russia. They therefore give this date as October 7. In Alaska, the day is marked yearly with a parade held in Sitka. Alaska Day is a state holiday and state employees get the day off. Schools are usually let out early so that children may celebrate. At Sitka, there is a yearly reenactment of the flag raising to commemorate the shift from Russian to American. The Tlingits maintain that Russia only owned Baranof Island and had no right to sell the entire 586,412 square miles of Alaskan territory.

Someday … this part of the world is going to be so important that just to say you’re an Alaskan will be bragging. – Edna Ferber

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world. – John Muir

The American dream is not dead. It is gasping for breath, but it is not dead. – Barbara Jordan

Abandon your animosities and make your sons Americans. – Robert Edward Lee

Also on this day: Le Bateau – In 1961, Henri Matisse’s painting was hung at the Museum of Modern Art – upside down.
Not the Essex – In 1851, Moby-Dick was published in England.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre – In 1009, the church was destroyed.
Terrorism – In 2007, a suicide bomber attacked Benazir Bhutto.
Movable Music – In 1954, the transistor radio was developed.




Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 17, 2015
Death warrant of King Charles I of England

Death warrant of King Charles I of England

October 17, 1660: The signers of the King’s death warrant meet their fate. King Charles I was the King of England and Ireland from March 27, 1625 until he was executed on January 30, 1649. The High Court of Justice was established by the Rump Parliament for the purpose of trying the King. During the English Civil War, Charles was permitted to have a small amount of power, but in using it, he provoked the second Civil War. Oliver Cromwell felt the King was responsible for the deaths of thousands due to the wars. The King’s trial began in Westminster Hall on January 20, 1649 and the end result was that 59 Commissioners signed the King’s death warrant.

Charles II, his son, became the King of Scotland on February 5, 1649 while England was under the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth period and ruled by Oliver Cromwell. The Battle of Worcester in 1651 was lost by the Scots and Charles II fled to the continent while Cromwell became dictator of the entire island. Cromwell died in 1658 and the rule of Great Britain was uncertain. It was decided that the monarchy would be restored and on May 29, 1660 (his 30th birthday), Charles II was received in London to public acclaim. All documents were then back dated to seem as if he had immediately followed his father to the throne. John Bradshaw (President of the Court), Oliver Cromwell, and Henry Ireton (Cromwell’s son-in-law) were posthumously executed by having their bodies disinterred and hanged and beheaded.

Something had to be done with the various officials who had condemned Charles I to death and so they were brought to their own trial. Nineteen of the signatories were already dead by the time of the restoration. That did not stop them from being tried.  The first to be executed was Thomas Harrison who died four days earlier. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered as soon as possible as he was a leader of the Fifth Monarchists and still posed a threat to Charles II. On this day, six Commissioners and four others were found guilty of regicide. One was hanged while the other nine were hanged, drawn, and quartered. In 1662, three more men were hanged, drawn, and quartered for the same offense. Nineteen more served life imprisonment.

In order to escape prosecution, seven of the signatories fled to Switzerland, four made their way to the Netherlands, and four escaped to Germany. Three made their way to America. John Dixwell was presumed dead in England and so no search warrants were issued. He lived in the colonies under an assumed name. Edward Whalley (c. 1607-1675) and his son-in-law William Goffe (c. 1605-1679 [really]) landed in Boston on July 27, 1660 and were received by the Governor. Upon their arrival it was thought they may have been pardoned. When it was later learned they weren’t, opinions were divided. Before the colonials could come to a consensus, the men fled, first to New Haven and then when they were found there, they escaped again. They managed to elude capture.

Will you dwell on killing this man? You wish for revenge? If you do, he has already killed you by slow poison. So, let it go. Why waste your time? His life will see to his death. – Lloyd Alexander

I tasted too what was called the sweet of revenge — but it was transient, it expired even with the object, that provoked it. – Ann Radcliffe

Nothing inspires forgiveness quite like revenge. – Scott Adams

There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness. – Josh Billings

Also on this day: National Geographic – In 1888, the National Geographic Society began publishing a new magazine.
Fore – In 1860, the Open Championship was first played.
War on Poverty – In 1993, the UN sponsored its first International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Tornado – In 1091, the London Tornado struck.
Man’s Achievement – In 1965, the New York World’s Fair closed.




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