Tuesday, April 22, 2014

APRIL 22 = The Oklahoma Land Grab of 1889

"The order was given, the bugle blew the blast -- charge -- forward.  And that line broke with a hurrah and rush, and impetuous onward movement -- the cowboys firing their pistols and yelling, making a scene never before witnessed in this or any other country, settling up a country by the aid of a bugle call..."

- Arkansas City Republican Traveler, April 25 1889

With the crackling sound of that bugle, the Oklahoma Land Rush began at precisely noon on today's date, April 22 in 1889 (above).  This was a truly unique moment, when the U.S. government, having declared nearly two million acres of land to be open for homesteading, simply put it up for grabs, and said "go get it!!"  Of course the land had to belong to someone to begin with, and they -- the Indigenous Americans were pushed aside once again.  And there would indeed be other land grabs until the government ultimately came up with a lottery system of handing out available public land. But for the sheer grandeur of it... for the spectacle of thousands of people lined up at the starting lines and then at the sound of the cannon, or the gun, or whatever,  just racing off to grab their own plot of earth... nothing ever has or will equal this remarkable day.

"Indian Territory" Becomes Valuable

This large chunk of land which was being opened up for development was located in what had been called "Indian Territory".  Previously, the area had been considered rather arid
and un- attractive for white people to settle.  But it was consi- dered the ideal location to cram all of the Indigenous American tribes who were being thrown off their lands elsewhere in the country.  So beginning in 1817, and on through the 1880's a wide variety of Indigenous tribes, including the Commanche, the Cherokee, the Apache and the Creek just to name a few were forcibly relocated to an area which roughly encompasses today's state of Oklahoma.  But improvements in
irrigation and other farming and ranching techniques had by the late 1880's made the area desirable for settlement by white men for the first time.  This land had all been closed to white settlement, but @ 1.9 million acres had not been assigned to any particular tribe.  So President Benjamin Harrison (right) was convinced to open that portion of the land to settlement. Then the Dawes-Severalty Act of 1887 was passed by which the "Indians" were introduced to private ownership of their tribal lands, thus enabling the Federal government to consolidate their holdings and opening up large swaths of land to settlement.  Thus, the Indigenous Americans were pushed off of more land.

"Harrison's Hoss Race"

After the reservations were all divided into allotments, any and all remaining land was declared surplus and opened up for white settlement under the Homestead Act of 1862. This act, which had been signed into law by President Lincoln, held that settlers who stayed on their claims for five years could own the land, free and clear. This was good for up to 160 acres provided the settlers stayed on the claim and made improvements on it.  Harrison then announced on March 3 of 1889 that the land would be made available to anyone at all who was capable of getting to and laying physical claim upon it. This bonanza of land free for the taking
attracted land hungry people from all over the country to the boarders of the new Oklahoma Territory in what came to be called "Harrison's Hoss Race".  Not all of them were entirely scrupulous, of course.  The people who assembled at the territorial frontiers were called "boomers".  They were faced with some of  the settlers sneaking into the territory early and laying claim to the choicest areas ahead of the official start time.  These sneaky-types wound up being called "sooners". Sorry if that offends all of you O.U. fans out there, but that's what all of the books say.  Some of them were women (above), who were widowed, some with families to support.  The sight of all of these people straining at their various lines of departure which encircled all sides of the territory, and then breaking free to stake their claims when the signal was given at 12:00 noon that day was memorable:

From the Caldwell Journal, 5/2/1889:

"What a sight! The horsemen start in a mad race with one another, leaving the wagons behind.  For about a mile they keep together and then first one and then another will swing out to the right or to the left to get away from the rush, or to go to some place already chosen for their homestead. The sound from the earth made from this immense caravan sounds like the roaring of thunder."

From the St. Louis Republic, 4/24/1889:

"It was a thrilling sight. The great prairies, boundless and beautiful, were dotted with covered wagons and they looked for all the world like a fleet of ships upon the undulating sea. The horsemen were soon out of sight, and half an hour after the start the wagons were lost to view."

These mad charges lead not only to thousands of new farmers, ranchers, and citizens, but also to some towns such as Guthrie. Norman, and Oklahoma City, being set up very nearly overnight.  As civilization began to take root, so did the civil population of this burgeoning new territory.  Oklahoma became the 46th state to be admitted to the Union on November 16, 1907. And what of the way it had started out? Author Stan Hoig has said:

"At worst the run can be viewed as an act of conglomerated human greed, where citizens dashed frantically about to grab land that had once been faithfully promised to the Indian forever.  At best, it can be seen as a fulfillment of God-fearing citizens who wished to build homes for themselves an for future generations. In truth, the Run of 1889 was much of both."

So now, let the whole story - both the good and the bad - be told.


"The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889" by Stan Hoig, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1984





Monday, April 21, 2014

APRIL 21 = "The Red Baron" is Killed

"Went back again and dived on a pure red triplane which was firing on Lieut. May.  I got a long burst into him and he went down vertical and was observed to crash by Lieut. Mellersh and Lieut. May."

Captain Arthur R. "Roy" Brown, R.A.F.

This is the report of today's action in the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France as recorded by the ranking British officer present at the time. Although Capt. Brown didn't know it at the time he wrote this report, the pilot of the "pure red triplane" was Manfred von Richthofen (above), the highest scoring fighter ace of World War One, popularly known as the Red Baron, who died in this battle on today's date, April 21 in 1918.  Credit for this victory for the Allies was a matter of controversy then and remains so to the present day.  But it was a kind of one-on-one battle that was seeing its last days and would never come again.

The Rise of Manfred von Richthofen

Manfred von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892 in Kleinburg, near Breslau, Lower Silesia a part of Europe which is now part of Poland but which was then part of the German Empire. His father was Major Albrecht Philipp Karl Julius Freiherr von Richthofen, a nobleman of the old aristocratic order in Prussia, which was the leading of the Germanic states which formed the German Empire
in 1872. He was the oldest of four children which included Lothar (right) who would follow Manfred into the air war.  As a youth, he loved sports.  He excelled as a horseman and a hunter wherein he honed his marksmanship in solitary contests with wild boar and stag in the forests of his native region.  When war came in 1914, he was an officer of an Uhlan cavalry unit.  But it soon became obvious that horses were of little use in this war of machine guns and barbed wire between dug-in trenches.  So by 1916 he had transferred to the air service and gotten his badge as a scouting pilot. This was a kind of combat in which he could use hiss natural instinct as a hunter.

The "Red Baron" and "His Flying Circus"

He studied air combat tactics under the great flier Oswald Boelcke and by November of 1916 had scored his eleventh victory over Lanoe Hawker, who was Englands greatest flying ace.  In January of 1917 he was awarded Germany's highest military decoration, the Pour le Merite (known as the "Blue Max"), and put in charge of his own unit, Jagdgeschwader 11 or "Jasta" for short.  Although he was only 23 years old, Manfred took his job of commanding younger, inexperienced fliers very seriously, teaching them the "Boelcke Dictum", air combat tactics as conceived by his old mentor Boelcke.  But his rising fame in Germany, a country which was losing the war, and needed heroes, did bring about a certain flamboyance.   Around this time, Manfred began having his aircraft (which was then the Albatross D3) painted red, after the
colors of his old cavalry unit.  Supposedly in order to keep their leader from being singled out, the other fliers in his squadron began painting all sorts of odd colors and patterns on their planes, but keeping red at certain spots in order to distinguish themselves as being a part of the Richthofen Wing.  In the German press reporters began referring to Manfred as "Der Rote Kampfflieger"—the "Red Battle-Flyer".  And eventually British fliers began to refer to Richthofen as "The Red Baron" and to his squadron with its outlandishly colored planes as his "Traveling Circus" and ultimately his "Flying Circus".  By 1918 Richthofen was flying the new Fokker DR1 Triplane, which had three wings making it highly maneuverable - pictured above.

Other German air aces, among them his fellow-ace Ernst Udet (below) saw of Richthofen's rising tally of victories, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and more, and held him in awe.  Udet wrote of him:

"What a man he was! ....Richthofen always lived on the other side of that boundary which we crossed only in our great moments. When he fought his private life was always thrust ruthlessly behind him. Eating, drinking, and sleeping were all he granted life, and  then only the minimum that was necessary to keep flesh and blood in working order.  He was the simplest man I ever met.  A Prussian through and through.  A great soldier."

The "Red Baron" Falls

On April 20, 1918, Richthofen shot down a Sopwith Camel northeast of Villiers- Brettoneaux for his eightieth victory in one-one air combat. This was a type of individual combat that was close to the Knights of mid-evil times jousting against each other, and which had always appealed to Manfred's hunter's instincts.  And this kind of combat between chivalrous foes who often respected each other, was coming to a close in this air-war of 1916 - 1918.  In fact that eightieth was to be Richthofen's last.
On today's date, April 21 he was on patrol with his squadron in Northern France, not far from the Somme River, when he encountered a British patrol under the command of a Canadian officer, one Captain Arthur R. "Roy" Brown.  One of Browns pilots, Lieutenant May found himself the object of Richthofen's guns.  May tired to flee towards the safety of the British lines, with Richthofen in hot pursuit. Brown took out after Richthofen, and apparently surprised him by firing at him from behind in a high speed chase which lead them into British lines,  mere one to two hundred feet in the air.  This put Richthofen's well within easy range of the Australian anti-aircraft units on the ground. May recalled:

"I was beginning to despair -- then something happened.  Watching over my shoulder I saw something so wonderful that I could not believe it -- the red plane -- rolled drunkenly... and fell to the ground with a great crash and a cloud of dust..."

Controversy has raged ever since as to who fired the fatal shot which at long last brought down the Red Baron.  Most of the evidence points towards the Australian ground gunners as being the likely "winners" of  the prize, but the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) nevertheless awarded it's man official credit for the victory. Manfred von Richthofen was buried by the British with full military honors (above) in a ceremony complete with mourners and an armed honor guard... a gesture of respect for a fallen foe that would certainly not survive the year of 1918.  But he has certainly proven a famous name ever since.  The "Red Baron's" inclusion in the "Peanuts" comic strip as the unseen menace to a Beagle flying an imaginary Sopwith Camel, as well as his unlikely presence on a line of frozen pizza has granted this man who died at age 25, nearly a century ago a strange immortality.  

Go figure....


"Richthofen - A True History of the Red Baron" by William E. Burrows, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1969

"The Day the Red Baron Died" by Dale M. Titler, Bonanza Books, New York, 1970


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

As there is no fixed date for Easter, I have not included one in the above "Title".  BUT it does usually come sometime in early April.  More about that ("the Easter Rule") below.  But it is the celebration in the Christian religion of the day when Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, following His crucifixion by the Roman authorities in Judea. This idea that Christ was crucified by the Romans and that in this way he paid for the sins of mankind,  that he overcame death and was resurrected into eternal life is central to the faith of Christians all over the world. As it is a faith belief, I will not attempt to document it as historical fact, although there is a very great deal about the life and death of Jesus Christ that can in fact be documented.   That it was merely the end of His life as a human being who walked among us,  and the beginning of His eternal life after His physical death must remain a point of faith for me and Christians like me (depiction of the resurrection of Jesus by Bernhard Plockhorst, 19th century).   That said, let's move on to a bit about Easter traditions.....

Easter From the Second Century in Rome

The fact that easter became a festival of holy days is an example of the early church's successful practice of co-opting popular pagan holidays (like Christmas for example), and making them part of regular christian life and traditions.  Christian missionaries who fanned out across Europe in the Second Century faced many customs and pagan beliefs already in place.  These missionaries tried to avoid interfering with these practices too much, preferring to tranform these practices into traditions which harmonized as seamlessly as possible with Christian doctrines.  This was for the very practical reason of avoiding persecution.  If the Christian rite was held at the same time and in a similar way as the pagan rite, then the new Christians might possibly survive long enough to spread the word.  The old festival of "Eastre" which celebrated the coming of the spring came at about the same as the new Christian's celebration of Christ's resurrection.  So the early missionaries simply held their "Eastre" celebrations at that same time, and thus avoided much of the persecution which might have come their way.   For years "Easter" (as it came to be spelled) was held variously on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  But in 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea, which had been convened  by the Roman Emperor Constantine (above, Emperor from 306 to 337) who had made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire isued the "Easter Rule" which stated that Easter was to be celebrated on "the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox." Therefore, Easter must occur between March 22 and April 25. 

 The Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs, etc.

Our old friend "the Easter Bunny" originates  from the fact that according to the English historian, the Venerable Bede (an English Monk at the Northumbrian monestary of Saint Peter), the goddess of Eastre was worshiped by the Anglo-Saxons in the person of her earthly incarnation or symbol, the hare. The idea of the Easter Hare spread eventually to the Germans, who brought it to America in the 18'th & 19'th centuries.  The tradition was disdained by the Quakers, and other groups who thought that a white rabbit was rather a frivolous symbol for a serious event like Easter. Only after the Civil War with all of it's murderous destruction did the tradition of Easter, with it's emphasis on life after death, and with it the easter Bunny come to be celebrated throughout the country.  The Easter Egg goes waaaay back in time. The Egyptians placed eggs in their tombs and the Greeks placed them on top of graves. Tradition has it that Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry Christ's cross to Mt. Calvary earned his living as an egg merchant. When he returned to his farm after the crucifixion he found that his eggs had all turned a fabulous array of colors.  So it was easy for the early church to come up with this symbol for Easter. This tradition went in all manner of directions.  During the 1880's in Germany,  for example Easter eggs were actually a substitute in some areas for a birth certificate.  The egg would be dyed a solid color, and the child's name and birthdate would then be etched into the shell with a sharp tool.  Eggs of this type would actually be honored in courts as evidence of the child's age and identity.  And of course there were the fabulous jewel encrusted Faberge' eggs which were created by Peter Carl Faberge' for the Russian royal family beginning in 1886 (one of which is pictured above). Of the 50 eggs made by Faberge' through 1918, 42 have survived in museums around the world, and are valued well into the millions! But it is the symbolic value of life renewed that makes the colored Easter egg so appropriate for this holiest day in the Christian calender! So HAPPY EASTER!!

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  krustybassist@gmail.com  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!



by Charles Panati, Harper & Row, New York,


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APRIL 20 = Adolf Hitler is Born

On today’s date, April 20, in the year 1889 at 6:30 in the evening was born one of, if not the most monstrous individual ever to walk the earth – Adolf Hitler. Just as the great leader of France – Napoleon, was not actually born in France, but rather on the island of Corsica, Adolf Hitler was not actually born in Germany, but in Austria, specifically in the small town of Braunau am Inn, across the border from Bavaria. Hitler’s father, Alois was a minor Austrian customs official. Alois was the illegitimate son of Johann Hiedler and a peasant woman from the village of Strones, one Maria Anna Schiklgruber, and had only taken the name of Hitler in 1876, when the old man had returned to the scene after a long absence and testified before a notary that he was in fact the father. By this time he was spelling his name “Hitler” and thus his son took that name. Hitler’s mother, was actually the second cousin of Alois, Klara Poelzl (the two had to acquire an Episcopal Dispensation to permit the marriage), who was 25 at the time of the marriage, while Alois was 48. It was the third marriage for Alois, and Adolf was the third child. The first two children died in infancy, and the fourth, Edmund died at age 6. Only the fifth child, a daughter, Paula, would live into adulthood, as did Hitler’s half brother, Alois.

Vater und Mutter, Alois, Angela, and Geli

Hitler’s father, with whom he had a very strained relationship (Alois had wanted his son to follow him as a civil servant, while Adolf had…. other ideas) died in 1903. His mother, whom he loved dearly then at age 42, moved young Adolf and his sister to Urfahr – a suburb of Linz. There, she supported herself and her two children as best she could on her small savings and her late husband’s pension. She died on Dec. 21, 1908 when Adolf was 19 years old. His half-brother Alois would eventually wind up as the owner of a small beer house in Berlin. Adolf didn’t much like him, and didn’t wish to hear his name mentioned. His sister Paula
survived him. He also had a half-sister, Angela. He brought her to Berchtesgaden as his housekeeper. Angela had a daughter, Geli,(pictured, right) with whom Hitler would have the one true love affair of his life, other of course than with himself and his ambition.  BUT... just imagine: his father could just as easily have taken the name of "Schiklgruber".  Can you picture it?? "HEIL SCHIKLGRUBER!!" I don't think so....

Hitler: An Evil Genius

ANYWAY... those are the bare facts of Adolf Hitler’s birth, his very early life and his family. But what can one say of the man, the monster, and his place in history? I shall leave that task to the historian and reporter William L. Shirer who saw so much of the history of Hitler’s Third Reich first hand. He was the man who in the words of historian William Manchester, “saw it all, and saw it first.” In the very early pages of his huge, but fascinating book, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” , Shirer wrote that Hitler

“…who founded the Third Reich, who ruled it ruthlessly and often with uncommon shrewdness, who led it to such dizzy heights and such a sorry end, was a person of undoubted, if evil genius. It is true that in the German people, as a mysterious Providence and centuries of experience had molded them up to that time, he found a natural instrument which he was able to shape to his own sinister ends. But without Adolf Hitler, who was possessed of a demonic personality, a granite will, uncanny instincts, a cold ruthlessness, a remarkable intellect, a soaring imagination and – until the end, when, drunk with power and success, he overreached himself – an amazing capacity to size up people and situations, there almost certainly would never have been a Third Reich.”

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  krustybassist@gmail.com  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!



by William Shirer, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

APRIL 19 = Lord Byron Dies

"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."

The Death of Lord Byron

So wrote George Gordon, better known to the world as Lord Byron, who died in what is now Greece on today's date, April 19, in 1824. He wrote these words in 1815 after meeting his beautiful young cousin by marriage, Mrs. Robert John Wilmot, who was wearing a black mourning gown brightened with spangles. Byron had many close relationships with the women in his life which were of a more intimate nature than the verse quoted above. The scandal surrounding his divorce forced him to leave England in 1816. He settled in Switzerland near the home of fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. It was Mary Wollstonecraft who commented on Byron's volatile temperament some years after his death after reading a collection of his work:

"The Lord Byron I find there is our Lord Byron -- the fascinating. faulty, childish, philosophical being, daring the world, docile in to a private circle, impetuous and indolent, gloomy, and yet more gay than any other....(I become) reconciled to those waywardnesses which annoyed me when he was away through the delightful and buoyant tone of his conversation and manners."

Lord Byron died in Greece where he had gone to show his support for Greek independence from Turkey. The remainder of "She walks in beauty":

"One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!"

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  krustybassist@gmail.com  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


"Lord Byron: The Major Works" by George Gordon Lord Byron (Author), Jerome J. McGann (Editor), Oxford World's Classics


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Friday, April 18, 2014

APRIL 18 = The Great San Francisco Earthquake

"The whole street was undulating. It was as if the waves of the ocean were coming toward me, and billowing as they came."

That was how San Francisco Police Sergeant Jesse Cook described the opening moments of the great San Francisco earthquake which took place on today's date, April 18, in 1906. The earthquake, which came from the infamous 600 mile-long San Andreas Fault registered 8.3 on the Richter scale, and lasted about seventy-five seconds in two separate jolts. Thousands of cheaply made buildings on landfill areas of the city were wrecked, and as huge fissures opened and closed, most of the city's gas and water mains ruptured. The fires which broke out after the quake burned for three days.

Chief Sullivan Might Have Saved the Day...

The death and destruction are all the more horrendous when considered in light of the fact that the bulk of it might have been avoided. Chief Dennis T. Sullivan (pictured, below right)
of the San Francisco Fire Department had worked hard for years on an elaborate plan to fight the huge blaze which he feared would one day strike the city. His plan included a system of fire-breaks and the reactivation of old cisterns for emergency use. Funding his plan brought the Chief into combat with corrupt politicians. But he courageously persisted. Tragically for the city, Chief Sullivan's plan would never go into effect. After a social gathering on the night of the 17'th followed by a call to two fire scenes, Chief and Mrs. Sullivan elected to spend the night at the fire station on Bush St. rather than make the long drive home. They retired to separate rooms on the third floor at 3:00 a.m. When the quake struck just after 5:00 a.m., Chief Sullivan awakened to masonry crashing all around him. He ran to the jammed door of his wife's room. Forcing it open, he fell three stories through a huge hole in the floor caused by the quake. He sustained multiple fractures, and was in a coma. He died several hours later. The city's magnificent City hall was ruined. Luxurious Hotels crashed to the street. Sam Wolfe, a guest of the Grand Hotel, ran for his life as the building disintegrated with the quakes arrival. He found the street to be equally dangerous:

"The street seemed to move like waves of water. On my way down Market Street the whole side of a building fell out and came so near me that I was covered and blinded by the dust. Then I saw the first dead come by. They were piled up in an automobile like carcasses in a butcher's wagon, all over blood, with crushed skulls, and broken limbs, and bloody faces. A man cried out to me, "Look out for that live wire!" I had just time to sidestep certain death."

The Great Caruso Is Caught in the Quake

Rich and poor, famous and obscure alike were thrown into chaos. The great operatic tenor, Enrico Caruso (pictured, below left)
who the night before had performed in a production of Bizet's Opera "Carmen", was driven from his hotel into the street where he sat atop a wagon clutching an autographed picture of Theodore Roosevelt, and guarding his belongings with a pistol. A young actor named John Barrymore, (below, right) then unknown, had finished a performance of a play he hated, and afterward he
dressed in his tuxedo to go spend his night drinking. By the time the quake hit he was wondering the streets fully inebriated, secure in the belief that the chaos would lead his troupe to assume he was a victim of the quake and leave without him, thus getting him out of his contract. He stayed loaded for two days, and the troupe did indeed leave without him. Millionaire C.C. Kendallof Omaha, was driven from his room at the Palace Hotel and sought like almost everyone, to escape the city. He headed for the ferry and found himself part of a desperate crowd:

"It (was) only a few blocks from the Palace...to the ferry, but it took me from 6:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. to cover the space.... Men and women fought about the entrance to the ferry like a band of infuriated animals. I made my escape -- I do not know how, for I was as desperate as any of them. As the boat pulled over the bay, the smoke and flame rose sky high, and the roar of falling buildings and cries of the people rent the air."

Italian Wine, Fixed Bayonets, and General Funston.

The 585 man fire department, minus the leadership of it's dead chief, found it's efforts frustrated because water mains were smashed throughout the city. The Italian community around Telegraph Hill turned to using over 1,000 gallons of wine from their cellars to hold back the flames. Upon hearing reports of widespread looting, Brigadier General Fredrick Funston (below)
took the liberty of declaring martial law and called out troops from the Presidio Army base, ordering them into the streets with bayonets fixed. Funston had not consulted any civil authority, but the city's corrupt mayor, Eugene E. Schmitz, pretended that he had given his consent. As the city whose treasury he had so happily looted went up in flames, Schmitz gave his full approval to the wholesale execution of looters and mere suspected looters that was being conducted by Funston's troops and vigilante groups as well. The efforts of the troops to use explosives to stop the flames proved ineffective, and thousands of refuges were driven by the second day to take refuge in Golden Gate Park, and the Presidio. The troops took axes and broke open warehouses of food in order to feed them. The exodus continued into the third day with more than 75,000 making it across the bay to Oakland, Berkeley, and elsewhere. Many more moved into the hills just outside the city limits. The fire was finally stopped on the broad expanse of Van Ness Avenue where squads using dynamite at last created several successful backfires. But by that time the flames had consumed 520 city blocks, and over 28,000 buildings. Damages totaled over five hundred million dollars. Of the buildings destroyed, half were homes. More than 700 people were killed.

And Enrico Caruso never returned to San Francisco again.

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  krustybassist@gmail.com  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!

Darkest Hours : A Narrative Encyclopedia of Worldwide Disasters from Ancient Times by Jay Robert Nash, Nelson-Hall Publ.,
Chicago, 1976. pp. 490 - 507.

Disaster!: The Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire of 1906by Dan Kurzman, Harper Collins Publ., New York, 2001

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

APRIL 17 = Apollo 13 Returns to Earth

Bergman : "The one un-jinxed element of this flight in addition to their survival.   Beautiful pictures, the para- chutes opening... descen- ding into a slight cloud cover over the Pacific.  But a spectacularly clear day after earlier threats of bad weather. And a mill pond sea... calm as could be."  Reynolds: "And there's the splash..." 

These were the words of two ABC newsmen, Jules Bergman and Frank Reynolds as they describe the return of Apollo 13 to planet earth on today's date, April 17 in 1970.  Apollo 13 had suffered a major malfunction which had put the Astronaut's lives in danger for several days, until the return to a safe splashdown on this date.  It had been only a few minutes before the splashdown that we found out that the Astronauts had survived.

Apollo 13's Ill-fated Mission to the Moon

Apollo 13's  mission had been to land on and explore the Fra Mauro highlands, which had been named after the 80-kilometer-diameter Fra Mauro crater inside of it. It is a very large, hilly area thought to be composed of moon rocks from the impact that began the moons formation. The mission had been launched on April 11.  Aboard Apollo 13 were (pictured above, L to R) the mission commander. James A. Lovell for whom this was the fourth and final space flight, and with him were John L. Swigert, the command module pilot and Fred Haise, the pilot of the lunar module.  This was the first space flight for Swigert and Haise. All three were former test pilots.

"Houston. we've had a problem..."

On the afternoon of April 14 a significant problem arose.  Mission Control asked Swigert to turn on the hydrogen and oxygen tank stirring fans, and he did. About a minute and a half later, the astronauts heard a "loud bang," in addition to changes in electrical power and firing of the attitude control thrusters. This is when Swigert made the famous report to the Johnson Space Center in
Houston (where Mission Control - pictured left - was located): "Houston, we've had a problem." About two minutes of their subsequent conversation can be heard on a Wikipedia Sound File by clicking on the highlighted words in the quotation at the top of this paragraph.  In that recording you can hear the crew reporting not only the "loud bang" that they heard, but also right at the end you can hear them reporting that they could see that they were venting some sort of gas into space.  At first, the crew thought that a meteoroid might have hit the Lunar Module. But what had actually happened was that the number-2 oxygen tank, one of two in the Service Module, had exploded due to some faulty wiring insulation.  This explosion had taken out the ship's main supply
of air and power. Lovell said later that he thought "...the odds were very small at that time that we were going to get out of this alive." 

The Perilous  Return Trip

With so much of their oxygen gone, the decision was sorrowfully made that the landing on the moon would have to be cancelled.  The only hope of success would now be to get the crew back to earth alive. This with depleted energy left on the space craft meant
that a whole bunch of new emer- gency proce-  dures would have to be impro- vised.  This also  brought the dangerous situation into the focus of television news all over the world.  As Americans and people around the world, anxiously followed the situation on TV, a whole array of jury rig-type solutions were utilized.  The craft was taken around the moon to use the its gravitational pull to fire the modules back toward earth.  Various odds and ends around the craft were put together into a make-shift purifier to leave enough breathable air for the men to breathe (pictured, above).  And a whole series of dramatic and quite untried navigational maneuvers had to be used in order to correct Apollo 13's course in order to bring her back into the earth's orbit at the right place.  And to top it all off nobody was at all sure that Apollo 13's heat shield had survived thee initial explosion.  So as said before, it was not until after a six minute radio silence during the plunge to the ocean that anybody could be certain that the crew had not burnt up during re-entry.  But they had indeed survived.

"When that spacecraft splashed down an water came over the windows," Jim Lovell would later remember, "I said 'Hey, we're home!!'" 






"Apollo 13", directed by Ron Howard, 1995.