Little Bits of History

March 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2017

1945: The Battle of Iwo Jima ends. The 8.1 square mile island is part of the Japanese Volcano Islands and with two other groups forms the Ogasawara Archipelago. The island is 750 miles south of Tokyo. Pre-World War II the island was inhabited by 1,018 people living in 192 households in six settlements. They had a school, a Shinto shrine, and one policeman. A mail ship arrived once a month. A garrison was built on the island which was off limits to civilians and run by the Imperial Japanese Navy. By 1944, they were building up troops on the island and in July, all the civilians were forcibly evacuated. The primary goal of either keeping or taking the island was to control the airfields built there.

Operation Detachment was the US campaign to take over the island and control the two airfields in order to provide a staging area for future attacks on mainland Japan. To that end, they engaged in the Battle of Iwo Jima commencing on February 19 under Admiral Chester Nimitz for the Navy and General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith for the Marines. The US had 110,000 military personnel and over 500 ships to take the island defended by 21,000 Japanese soldiers armed with 23 tanks, 438 artillery pieces, 33 naval guns, 39 anti-tank guns and about 300 anti-aircraft guns. The outcome was determined even before the first shot was fired, but the cost of taking the island is the stuff of which legends are made.

The Americans and allies lost 6,821 men and another 19,217 were wounded. One carrier was sunk, one carrier was severely damaged, and one carrier was lightly damaged. The Japanese had over 18,000 killed or missing and another 3,000 went into hiding in the caves of the island. The last 216 were taken prisoner. The fighting was so intense the airfields were useless by the end of March. The Americans controlled the air and they had superior numbers on both land and sea. The Japanese were unable to retreat and had limited supplies and food. The iconic picture of the flag being raised on Mount Suribachi by six US Marines was taken by Joe Rosenthal from the Associated Press. It became a symbol of the Pacific War and the USMC.

After the fighting ended, there were still thousands of Japanese hidden in the caves. Due to a combination of Bushido honor code and propaganda depicting the US military as barbarous and cruel, the men were fearful of surrender. When the need arose, they finally succumbed and were surprised to find humane treatment. The last holdout finally gave himself up on January 6, 1949. The island proved unsatisfactory as a staging area for the Army and useless as a fleet base for the Navy. The Seabees rebuilt the landing strips and they were used in emergencies. The US kept possession of the island until 1968 when it was returned to Japan.

Marines were trained to move rapidly forward; here they could only plod. The weight and amount of equipment was a terrific hindrance and various items were rapidly discarded. First to go was the gas mask. – Derrick Wright

Shells screeched and crashed, every hummock spat automatic fire and the very soft soil underfoot erupted underfoot with hundreds of exploding land mines … Marines walking erect crumpled and fell. Concussion lifted them and slammed them down, or tore them apart. – Robert Leckie

A nightmare in hell. – Robert Sherrod

On the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery and honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated. – memorial plaque

Aesop’s Fables in English

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2015
William Caxton imprineur

William Caxton imprint *

March 26, 1484: Aesop’s Fables are printed in English for the first time. William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, writer, and printer. He is said to have introduced the printing press into England in 1476. He was also the first Englishman bookseller; all his contemporaries were either Flemish, German, or French. His place of birth is uncertain as is the time, but it is assumed to have been around 1415. In the preface of his first printed work, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, he said he was born and educated in the Weald of Kent. He was in London by 1438 and apprenticed to Robert Large, a wealthy dealer in luxury goods and Lord Mayor of London. Large died in 1441 and left Caxton £20, which was less than other apprentices, so it is assumed Caxton was still a junior apprentice at that time.

Caxton settled in Bruges by 1450 and was successful in business there. He became governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London and in that capacity traveled to Burgundy and became a member of the household of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. Margaret was the third wife of Charles the Bold and sister to two British Kings. Caxton was able to travel more extensively and was impressed by German printing and aware of the influence of printed material. He set up his first press in Bruges and printed his first book there. The translation of the Troye book was done by Caxton himself. He came back to England and set up a press at Westminster in 1476. His first book printed in England was Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

His printing of Aesop’s Fables on this day was the first time the tales had been translated into English and again it was his own translation. Many other editions would follow over the centuries with some in prose and some written in verse. The fables or Aesopica are credited to the slave named Aesop. He is believed to have lived in Greece between 620 and 560 BC. The stories associated with his name are of diverse origins. They continue to be reinterpreted as they are translated. There is some historical reference to the slave/author by the Greek historian Herodotus as well Apollonius of Tyana, a 1st-century AD philosopher, among others.

The fables have been, even since classical times, differentiated from other narratives. The fables must be short and unaffected. They also must be fictitious and have useful insight into life. While they had to be true to nature, there were often talking animals and plants. In very few of the stories do humans interact only with humans. After the short story is told, the moral is given at the end, reinforcing the idea of the tale. The context would often help guide the story’s interpretation. Some of the titles, such as the “Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” have become proverbs in their own right. Sometimes, a story seems to have been invented to help illustrate and even older proverb. It remains a mystery as to how the tales managed to survive the millennia, but they have managed to be translated into every language now.

Aesopian language was used by all of us. And of course, using this language meant having readers who understood it. – Ryszard Kapuscinski

It is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market. Hares have no time to read. – Anita Brookner

Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder. – Thomas Aquinas

Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men. – Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Also on this day: Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Cruising Legally – In 1934, Britain began testing drivers.
Dr. Death – In 1999, Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of second degree murder.
Mother Ship – In 1997, the Heaven’s Gate suicides were discovered.
Inspired Writing – In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published.

* Picture by Djembayz

Inspired Writing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2014
Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

March 26, 1830: The Book of Mormon is published. Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in 1805 in Vermont and at age seven suffered a bone infection which left the boy crippled and using crutches for three years. He and his family moved to western New York by 1817. The family moved to Palmyra which was created as Swift’s Landing in 1789. By the time the Smith family moved it had changed names and by 1822 the Erie Canal reached this far. The family’s 100-acre farm was mortgaged after three years of crop failures and a failed business venture by Smith senior.

Between 1817 and 1825 was a period know as the Second Great Awakening and there was an increased religious zeal in the young nation. There were several camp meetings in the area of Palmyra and although the Smith family was divided over religious beliefs, they were willing to let their teen son become involved in the movement. Joseph, his parents, and his grandfather all reported visions and dreams where they believed God was delivering messages to them. While praying in a woods near his house, Joseph received a vision from God which altered the course of his life. He was forgiven all sins and was warned that all churches had “turned aside from the gospel”. He was seventeen when the angel Moroni appeared to him.

He was told that a collection of ancient writings were engraved on golden plates and buried on a nearby hill in what is now Wayne County, New York. These writings described the group of people God led from Jerusalem to the Western Hemisphere 600 years before Jesus was born. Moroni was the last prophet of this lost tribe and he had buried the plates and God had promised to bring them up in the latter days. Smith was to meet with the angel every year on September 22 to get more instructions. In 1827 he was finally permitted to take the golden plates and translate them into English. To translate them took divine intervention and there are several tales of how this took place.

The title of the book was, according to Smith, taken from the very last of the golden plates which had been secured together in the form of a book by wires. The purpose of the Book of Mormon was to show the lost tribe what their God had done for them as well as proclaim to both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus Christ was the eternal God. The book is actually a series of books, much like the Bible is a series of books. There are six books to the Small Plates of Nephi; three books which are further subdivided in the Contribution of Mormon; and three books in the Additions by Moroni. There were eleven men who testified to seeing the golden plates before they were returned to the angel, Moroni.

The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.

A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.

If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.

Noah came before the flood. I have come before the fire. – all from Joseph Smith, Jr.

Also on this day: Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Cruising Legally – In 1934, Britain began testing drivers.
Dr. Death – In 1999, Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of second degree murder.
Mother Ship – In 1997, the Heaven’s Gate suicides were discovered.

Cruising Legally

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2013
Keys to freedom

Keys to freedom

March 26, 1934: The United Kingdom implements a driving test that must be passed in order to obtain a driving license. France and Germany were among the first countries to demand drivers be licensed after proving capable of handling a car. The two countries required this proof of skill level when traffic fatalities rose, as early as 1903. On August 1, 1910, North America’s first licensing law, which affected only chauffeurs, went into effect in New York state. By July 1913, New Jersey required all drivers to be licensed.

In the UK today, the exam is divided into three parts: theory, hazard perception, and practical tests. Drivers must pass all three areas. There is some controversy surrounding the hazard perception portion due to questionable administration procedures. There are different requirements for licensing of car drivers, motorcyclists, and HGV drivers (large goods or truck drivers). In Great Britain the Driving Standards Agency issues licenses while in Northern Ireland, the Driver & Vehicle Agency is in charge.

The European Union has given the 300 million drivers in the EU one credit card-style license with a photo or possibly a microchip included. This one card replaced the 110 different plastic or paper cards that were previously issued by various countries throughout Europe. They have raised the eligibility age to 17 or 18 as well, unless a license is for a moped or a small motorcycle (engine size under 125 cc).

Driver’s licenses can also be used as identification cards since Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US do not have national ID cards. Many states in the US issue cards in a vertical orientation to drivers under the age of 21 (the legal age in many states to buy tobacco, alcohol, and lottery tickets) while the orientation shifts to horizontal for those 21 and over. Some countries demand proof of licensure immediately upon request, making it necessary to carry your license at all times. In the UK, you have up to 7 days to show your license at a Police Station. Some European countries not only demand you carry your license/ID at all times, but if you cross country borders, you must also have your passport with you.

“American youth attributes much more importance to arriving at driver’s license age than at voting age.” – Marshall McLuhan

“Must we accept that the only alternatives are to either incrementally improve our current patchwork of identification documents, drivers licenses, Social Security cards and the like, or alternatively, move to some centralized federal data bases that aggregate all sorts of privacy-sensitive information.” – Mike Castle

“There’s more information on your driver’s license than on the census short form.” – Kenneth Prewitt

“Imagine going to the driver’s license office every day.” – John McCusker

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: License can be a verb (meaning to grant a license) or a noun (meaning documented permission). In Britain it is spelled licence and the person granting one is a licensor while the person receiving one is a licensee. A license can be granted for intellectual  property and is often called a patent. It can also be a trademark. A license is also an academic degree, especially when earning a doctorate. There are dog licenses as well as pilot licenses. There are television and amateur radio licenses. One can get a hunting license and it can be specific as to prey. Fishing licenses usually cover all fish. There is also a need for a marriage license should you wish to marry. And then, if you are James Bond, you might have a license to kill.

Also on this day: Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Dr. Death – In 1999, Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of second degree murder.
Mother Ship – In 1997, the Heaven’s Gate suicides were discovered.

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Mother Ship

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2012

Marshall Applewhite of Heaven's Gate

March 26, 1997: The Heaven’s Gate suicides are discovered. Heaven’s Gate was a UFO cult based in San Diego, California. The group was founded in the early 1970s. Marshall Applewhite, born in 1931, had a heart attack and claimed to have a near-death experience. He was on a psychiatric ward when he first met Bonnie Nettles, a nurse. They ran into each other several times outside the hospital. Applewhite decided they were “the Two” mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Revelations. They became known as “Bo” and “Peep” and later were called “Ti” and “Do.”

The two co-founded Heaven’s Gate and mixed together some aspects of Christianity and added some New Age evolutionary doctrine. The cult’s core beliefs centered on Earth’s impending reformation. According to Do/Applewhite, the planet was scheduled for an overhaul. Do compared himself to Jesus with both beings given the mission of raising Humanity to the “Level Above Humanity.” The Luciferian program was waged by Lucifer and the fallen angels. These evil spirits were ruining the planet. The “lower focus” used “norms” to degrade humans.

Heaven’s Gate members were against suicide. The “physical vehicle” or body was needed at this level of existence in order to learn the lessons needed to transition to the next level. Bodies were to be cared for as members awaited the spacecraft approaching from the distant heavens. Suicide did not mean killing oneself but rather “to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered.” The cult members were not committing suicide, but rather they were availing themselves of this special opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Heaven’s Gate members gave up possessions and lived a Spartan life. They rented a 9,000 square foot house. The lease was for seven people but 39 people lived there. Applewhite and six other men underwent castration as a method of maintaining their ascetic lifestyle. The house was labeled and wired (and crowded) and no cult members were ever alone or unmonitored. As the comet Hale-Bopp approached (hiding a spacecraft behind it) the 39 members dressed in black and donned new Nike running shoes. They each had five dollars and three quarters in their pockets. They ingested Phenobarbital and vodka. They tied plastic bags over their heads. They died in shifts with later suicides cleaning up after the previous members. Each body was covered by a purple square cloth.

We fully desire, expect, and look forward to boarding a spacecraft from the Next Level very soon (in our physical bodies). There is no doubt in our mind that our being ‘picked up’ is inevitable in the very near future. But what happens between now and then is the big question. – Marshall Applewhite

I am in the same position to today’s society as was the One that was in Jesus then. My being here now is actually a continuation of that last task as was promised, to those who were students 2000 years ago. – Marshall Applewhite

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so. – Robert A. Heinlein

What’s a cult? It just means not enough people to make a minority. – Robert Altman

Also on this day:

Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Cruising Legally – In 1634, Britain began testing drivers.
Dr. Death – In 1999, Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of second degree murder.

Dr. Death

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 27, 2011

Dr. Jack Kevorkian speaking at UCLA

March 26, 1999: Dr. Jack Kevorkian is found guilty of the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk by a Michigan jury. Dr. Jack was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1928 and became a pathologist. Beginning in 1987, he published ads in Detroit newspapers offering “death counseling.” He claims to have assisted over 130 people in their quest to end their time on earth.

Kevorkian was brought before the courts on numerous occasions for assisted suicides. He was represented by Geoffry Fieger and all prior cases resulted in his acquittal. Kevorkian designed a machine that would inject a lethal drug into an IV tubing when a button was pushed. After he lost his medical license, he began using a machine that would administer a lethal dose of a gas delivered via a gas mask.

On November 23, 1998, 60 Minutes aired a piece about Dr. Kevorkian and his client, Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old in the end stages of ALS [Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease]. In the film shown, Dr. Jack administered the lethal dose via an injection that he physically delivered. The district attorney’s office brought charges. During this trial, Kevorkian fired his lawyer and represented himself. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. He was granted a parole in December 2006 due to his health. He suffers from Hepatitis C. He was released from prison on June 1, 2007.

Euthanasia, or “good death” is an escape from an intolerable life. It is legal for animals worldwide and people in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the state of Oregon. A recent poll in the US showed that 60% approved of assisted suicide. The reasons for euthanasia are threefold: 1. intractable pain; 2. a sense of autonomy; and 3. the right to die with dignity. The World Medical Association disapproves of assisted suicide but does grant that doctors can permit the end stages of disease that lead to death without interfering. Those opposing euthanasia cite the slippery slope of ethics that might make death less of a voluntary request and become more of a way to rid the world of those it does not desire to keep alive.

“I never want to wonder whether the physician coming into my hospital room is wearing the white coat of the healer or the black hood of the executioner.” – Alexander Capron

“Euthanasia is a long, smooth-sounding word, and it conceals its danger as long, smooth words do, but the danger is there, nevertheless.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Whenever the people are for gay marriage or medical marijuana or assisted suicide, suddenly the ‘will of the people’ goes out the window.” – Bill Maher

“The American Medical Association says the humane way is to let people starve and thirst to death. If you did that to an animal, you’d be put in jail immediately … In the face of such insanity masquerading as authority, who wouldn’t be strident?” – Jack Kevorkian

Also on this day:
Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Driver’s licenses – In 1934, the UK began testing for driving privileges.

Tagged with: ,


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2010

Tennessee Williams

March 26, 1911: Thomas Lanier Williams III is born, better known as Tennessee Williams. He was a playwright with over 75 plays written. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. The first time was for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and again in 1955 for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. He was also the recipient of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award twice and won one Tony for best play.

Williams was born into a dysfunctional family and things went downhill from there. He was diagnosed with diphtheria at the age of seven and was nearly incapacitated for two years. His mother encouraged him to use his imagination rather than just drift through the time and at the age of thirteen, he was given a typewriter.

His father was abusive and the abuse escalated as time went on. Williams’s sister, Rose, was schizophrenic and spent most of her adult life in mental institutions. In 1943, she underwent a frontal lobotomy that was unsuccessful, and she never truly recovered. Many of Williams’s characters are based on his sister.

The stabilizing person in his life was his partner and secretary, Frank Merlo. The relationship began in 1947 and ended with Merlo’s death in 1961, throwing Williams into years of depression and alcoholism. Williams died in 1983, choking on a bottle cap being the official story. However, many people including his brother, Dakin, believe he was murdered. Police suspect drugs were implicated due to finding pills beneath his body. His plays offer us insight into his world.

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.”

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.”

“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”

“Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory.”

“All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.” – all from Tennessee Williams

Also on this day, in 1934 the UK began testing drivers in order for them to become licensed.