Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SEPTEMBER 16 = The Washington Navy Yard, 1 Year Later

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the deadly shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard.  I cannot say that I saw anything about it on the national news.. but with so many other things going on, it may have been swallowed up by other events.  Anyway.. here is the posting which I published at the time; marked on the day itself, Sept. 16, as a remembrance of those killed:

The Navy Yard at Washington D.C. does indeed have a long and illustrious history.  It has always been a fine and impressive location to work at in full view of the wonders of our democracy,  and the strength and the superb traditions of the United States Navy.  The reason behind my posting this today -- the attack Monday by a deranged mad-man upon the people who work there in order to assist our Navy in keeping us free and the world safe -- is a truly sad reason to be mentioning this fine and venerable place.  But I want to remind my readers of the tradition and history of this place before the tales of Monday's tragic events become so ingrained in our minds that we think of little else.  I hope that in the future, we think of the history and honored service of this place and not just the actions one sick man.

The Washington Navy Yard Goes Waaaaay Back...

In the photo above, King George V and Queen Elizabeth arrive on June 6, 1939 to accompany President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a cruise down the Potomac River to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to see the home of England's one-time arch enemy, George Washington. And that time was very recent when the base was established in the very year of the death of George Washington - 1799. President John Adams had approved the use of public land for the site and the construction of the base on the Western banks of the Anacostia River, a small tributary of
the Potomac, was officially approved on Oct. 2, 1799. And it was built a mere 3.5 miles from the White House. Thomas Jefferson liked this positioning in the heart Washington because it would keep the military right within physical sight of the civilian authority, which was important to him with his distrust of militarism.  But this unfortunately placed the Navy Yard along with the rest of the new capitol city right in the path of destruction when the British invaded the United States, and burned most of the public buildings in Washington, including the White House. The Americans were obliged to burn the Navy Yard ahead of the advancing Brits under Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, to prevent it's supplies and ships from falling into British hands. Up into flames went three older frigates, a sloop, and the new 44 gun frigate, the U.S.S. Columbia (above).

The Change from Ship Building....

It soon became apparent that the Anacostia River was too shallow for major ship building opera-tions, so gradually the Navy Yard became a center for armaments manufacture and supply. Once the steam frigate Minnesota was launched ad completed in May of 1857, the Navy Yard (pictured above, circa 1861) built and installed machinery for several ships and continued to do repairs.  But no further ship construction was done there; it's focus became that of ordnance manufacture and testing.  But is also served as an important headquarters for Naval planning and even diplomacy. Below is thee official photo taken in May of 1860 at the Navy Yard of the first
Japanese Embassy to the United States.  The Japanese Ambassador is seated third from the right. Standing directly behind him is the Navy Yard's Commandant, Captain Franklin Buchanan who would soon desert the U.S. to join the Confederacy, and who would command the first Ironclad warship, the C.S.S. Merrimack in her losing combat against the U.S.S. Monitor on March 9 of 1862. Throughout the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor to the Navy Yard, as the new Commandant was John H. Dahlgren whom Lincoln held in great esteem.

The Civil War would have it's dreadful conclusion nearby and in the Washington Navy Yard.  The escape route for President Lincoln's murderer John Wiles Booth and his accomplice David Herold was the Navy Yard Bridge (below). They chose that point as their escape route
on the evening of April 14, 1865 because it was the one route into the back country of Maryland away from the manhunt for him in Washington D.C. But this was a crazed gunman who would be quickly killed and brought back to the Yard to have his body examined, as well as his accomplices photographed aboard the Ironclad Monitor U.S.S. Montauck, which was docked in the Navy Yard.

Post Civil War to the Present....

Following the Civil War the Washington Navy Yard continued as a site of testing and development of naval ordnance, being used to manufacture some oft he big 14 inch guns that were sent to France during World War I, as well as torpedoes which were developed and tested there. Also during this period the Yard was extended both to the east and the west, until it nearly doubled its previous dimensions. Mother Nature periodically would interrupt the function of the Navy Yard by flooding the banks of the Anacostia (below) until a modern high-water-mark was established in 1942.

Since the 1920's the Washington Navy Yard has served a function as a kind of ceremonial entrance to our nation's capitol.  When Col. Charles A. Lindberg returned from his successful Trans-Atlantic crossing he returned through the Navy Yard.  In 1921, the body of the Unknown Soldier from World War I was received there (pictured below).
And of course, the King and Queen of Great Britain were received there in 1939 as they made a good-will visit to the United States on the eve of what would turn out to be World War II, in which the United States and Britain would stand as allies with a friendship that was cemented on these grounds.

The Washington Navy Yard currently serves not only ceremonial functions but also a variety of administrative purposes as well.  In addition to more classified services, it serves as the Home of the Chief of Naval Operations, and is also the HQ for Naval  Sea Systems Command.  Also housed there are the Marine Corps Institute, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps an even the U.S. Navy Band. The U.S. Navy Yard (pictured below, circa 1985) of course is also the workplace (as it has been since it's very inception) of several thousand civilian workers. These citizens tragically wound up being the only fatalities of the shooting of September 16, 2013.  It is to them (listed below) and their grieving families, as well as to their long and honorable service on our nation's behalf, that I would like to dedicate this posting.  May they rest in peace.

Those who died at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013:

Michael Arnold, 59
Martin Bodrog, 54
Arthur Daniels, 51
Sylvia Frasier, 53
Kathleen Gaarde, 62
John Roger Johnson, 73
Mary Francis Knight, 51
Frank Kohler, 50
Vishnu Pandit, 61
Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Gerald L. Read, 58
Richard Michael Ridgell, 52


"The Naval War of 1812" Ed. by Robert Gardiner, Chatham Publ. Co., Great Britain, 1998.

"Picture History of the U.S. Navy" by T. Roscoe & F. Freeman, Bonanza Books, New York, 1956.

"Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly, Henry Holt & Co., LLC, New York, 2011.


George V visit =

Brits burn Washington =

Japanese Embassy =

Navy Yard, circa 1861 =

Navy Yard Bridge =

Flooded =

Unknown Soldier=

Circa 1985 =

Saturday, September 13, 2014

SEPTEMBER 13 = The "Star Spangled Banner" Turns 200!!

"Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the clouds of the fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

These lyrics to our nation's national anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner" were born on this night, September 13, in the year 1814... two hundred years ago today.  They were the words of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, one Francis Scott Key was inspired to write as he stood aboard the deck of the H.M.S. Surprise and watched the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in Maryland, during the War of 1812.  Of course the lyrics have changed just a little bit, but more about that in a moment.

The Brits Shell Baltimore, Key is Aboard One of Their Ships

The War of 1812 (1812-1815) had not gone very well for the Americans up to this point and this certainly seemed like the darkest of hours for us.  The Brits had just sailed up the Potomac River, and had sacked and burnt our Capitol City, Washington D.C. to the ground. They now decided to turn about, sail into Chesapeake Bay, and then turn north and sail into Baltimore harbor and attack that city.  But in order to do this, they had
first to get past Fort McHenry, guarding the mouth of the harbor. Dr. William Beanes, had been taken prisoner by the British at that time. Beanes was a friend of Key's, so Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. But, Key and Beanes weren't permitted to depart until the morning after the Brits had finished their bombardment of the Fort (above). Having failed to take the Fort, the Brits decided to pack up and leave. But Key, witnessing the assault from the British side, had no way of knowing the outcome of the battle until the dawn broke and he saw our nations flag flying over the fort.

Key Is Inspired to Write a Song.....

The song was not actually written until the next day. Key, who had been greatly inspired by the sight of our nation's flag still waving triumphantly over the scene the battle, had come up at that time with the words of poem which he jotted down the following morning onto the back of a letter which he had kept in his pocket.  When he and his party were released on September 16, Key went back the Indian Queen Hotel where he had been staying, and completed the poem, which he entitled "Defence of Fort M'Henry". The poem, and an explanation of its origin were published in newspapers and on broadsheets (copies of the song).  Eventually it was set to the tune of a popular English drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven" by composer John Stafford Smith.  Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843. Today, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 is housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1916 that
the song should be played at all national ceremonies.  It was formally adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.

And the line "through the perilous fight" was actually the way that the poem was originally written. The manuscript above was indeed written by Mr. Key, but it was written by him in 1840, and included that alternate wording "through the clouds of the fight". This image can be enlarged for closer viewing merely by clicking on the image. Although why Key wrote this alternate wording, I do not know.  But I shall endeavor to find out why as soon as I can.


"Picture History of the U.S. Navy" by Theodore Roscoe and Fred Freeman, Bonanza Books, New York, 1956.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SEPTEMBER 10 = Nathan Hale Volunteers

"Not that Washing- ton hadn't been impressed with Hale.  Quite the opposite in fact.  The passion, boldness , and just a touch of cockiness that Hale (above, Hale confers with Washington) had demonstrated seemed to Washington to perfectly encapsulate the patriot movement.  But just as many questioned the American's challenge to the British Crown, Washington, too, found himself wondering whether Hale's fervor, while certainly admirable, was not also a little naive. Did he really know what he was getting into?  Then again, did any of them?  The Americans had yanked the lion's mane and now Hale had walked into one of its lairs."

On today's date in 1776, Captain Nathan Hale volunteered for a dangerous mission to spy on British preparations for the new Continental Army. And author Brian Kilmeade above summarizes what General George Washington was likely thinking when accepted Hale for the mission.  Did Hale know what he was getting into? Indeed, did any of them?

The American Position and the Need for Intelligence

American fortunes in this revolution against our mother country had never seemed so precarious as in the autumn of 1776.  From the siege, and the successful ejection of the Brits from the city of Boston in March to the bold Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, our fortunes had fallen.  The strategically vital city of New York had mostly fallen into British hands in the Battle of Long Island on August 27.  With the (God-sent) help of a heavy fog, Washington had managed to ferry all
9,000 of his remaining troops out of Brooklyn and to safety in Manhattan on August 30, but this was temporary safety at best.  The British each day consolidated their hold on the rest of New York, and their push to eject the Americans from Manhattan, bag the whole lot, and put a quick end to these upstarts and their rebellion would come any day now.  Gen. Washington badly needed intelligence on the British dispositions, and he needed it quickly.  Past attempts at such intelligence gathering had been unsuccessful... what was needed was a man to go behind British lines, dressed as an average citizen, and to make what observations he could, and to listen for any idle talk that might contain useful information.

Nathan Hale Volunteers

Washington had Lt. Colonel Thomas Knowlton assemble a group of officers, and to inform them of what was needed for this mission.  This was a lot to ask; capture carried with it the certainty of execution... the sure fate of spies both then and now. And in the eighteenth century, spying was looked upon as somehow beneath the dignity of a gentleman. This was a mission that required a volunteer, and nobody stepped forward at first. But just when it looked as if nobody would,
" 'a  young officer appeared, pale from the effects of recent severe sickness.'  Knowlton repeated the invitation, when almost immediately the voice of the young soldier was heard uttering the immortal words, 'I will undertake it!' It was the voice of Nathan Hale." Hale (left) was a Yale graduate, and hardly looked the part of a spy. But he was filled with patriotic ardor, and had barely gotten a shot off at the Brits in his service so far.  He was anxious to strike at the enemy. He said later to his friend William Hull, "... for a year I have been attached to the army and have not rendered any material service.. if the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service its claims to perform that service are imperious." As Alexander Rose has pointed out, friends didn't really talk to each other in flowing words like that even in 1776. but the meaning is clear, even if the words have been dressed up.

Hale's Mission Fails, He is Captured and Hung

Well, even the least scholarly of you know how this story ended up. The main thrust of  Hale's mission had been to collect whatever information he could on what the British plan of attack on Manhattan was to be. But the British move came on September 15, a mere three days after Hale arrived in Long Island on his mission.  He had little or no time to establish his cover as a Dutch Schoolmaster, let alone get any useful information to Washington on an attack which was already in progress.
Hale had to change his mission while keeping up his cover story and it all proved too much. Although the exact circum- stances of his capture are unclear, he was discovered, captured, and hung by the British on September 22, 1776 (above). Legend has it that as his final words he said "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country".  As with the earlier quote about "exigencies" that quotation was likely applied by his friend William Hull, who was of course not there for Hale's execution.  The British officer who was there says that Hale "Behaved with great composure and resolution..." But again the dressed-up version was very much in the character of the man. Washington was deeply affected by Hale's death and resolved to learn from this costly mistake, and to establish a working ring of spies in New York (see also "Washington's Spies").


"George Washington's Secret Six" by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Sentinel Publishers, New York, 2013

"Washington's Spies" by Alexander Rose, Bantam Publishers, New York, 2006

"General Washington's Spies" by Morton Pennypacker, Long Island Historical Society, Brooklyn, New York, 1939

Sunday, September 7, 2014

SPECIAL = "Jack the Ripper" Identified?!?!?! {Updated, 9/8/14.}

The following is a re-print of an article from the Advertiser of Adelaide,; the original found below in the Sources.

NEWS ....

DNA tests ‘prove’ that Jack the Ripper was a Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski.


A suspicious character ... an etching of a ‘vigilance committee’ identifying possible suspects in London in 1888. Picture: The Illustrated London News

THE search to uncover the identity of Jack the Ripper appears to be over.

DNA on a shawl found near one of the victims, Catherine Eddowes, reportedly contains a match to both her and one of the chief suspects, Aaron Kosminsky.

The Polish hairdresser, who moved to England with his family in 1881, was committed to a mental asylum at the peak of Ripper hysteria.

Is this Jack the Ripper?

Revealed? ... DNA evidence reportedly confirms that Aaron Kosminski is Jack the Ripper.

The breakthrough came when Dr Jari Louhelainen, an expert in historic DNA, was commissioned to study a shawl found with Eddowes, the second-last “confirmed” victim of the Ripper more than 125 years ago.  The shawl — which still retained historic stains — had been bought by a businessman at an auction in 2007.

“It has taken a great deal of hard work, using cutting-edge scientific techniques which would not have been possible five years ago,” Dr Louhelainen told a British newspaper.

“Once I had the profile, I could compare it to that of the female descendant of Kosminski’s sister, who had given us a sample of her DNA swabbed from inside her mouth.

“The first strand of DNA showed a 99.2 per cent match, as the analysis instrument could not determine the sequence of the missing 0.8 per cent fragment of DNA. On testing the second strand, we achieved a perfect 100 per cent match.”

Killing sports ... the map above of Whitechapel in the 1800s shows Flower and Dean Streets in purple and the sites of some killings as red spots.

Kosminski was born in Poland in 1865 before moving to Whitechapel, England, in 1881.  The murders attributed to Jack the Ripper began in 1888, with up to 11 deaths around the Whitechapel area linked to the killer.  Frances Coles, believed to be the Ripper’s last victim, died in February 1891 — the same year Kosminski was forcibly put in Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum.  He remained in mental health facilities until his death in 1919, aged 53.
For further reference: "Today in History" August 31 = "Jack the Ripper's" First Victim is Found =

Further comments from "Yahoo News" an article by Robin Millard, today, 9/8/14:

Some have cast doubt on Edwards' findings.

The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, meaning the claims cannot be independently verified or the methodology scrutinized.

Professor Alec Jeffreys, who invented the DNA fingerprinting technique 30 years ago this week, called for further verification.

"An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator's descendants and its power of discrimination; no actual evidence has yet been provided," Jeffreys told The Independent newspaper.


The above quoted article from the Advertiser of Adelaide can be found in it's entirety at:

The full article from Yahoo News can be found at:

Friday, September 5, 2014

SEPTEMBER 5 = "15 Die in Olympic Day of Terror"

On today's date in 1972.... "Arab terrorists killed eight Israelis they took hostage at the Olympic Village (above, a terrorist looks down from the site of the attack) Tuesday when German police opened fire while the guerrillas were trying to escape at an airport near Munich. At least 15 persons were killed in the day-long drama that jeopardized the 20th Olympic Games " So ran the first paragraph of the United Press International account of the day of terror which did indeed interrupt, but which did not end the Olympic Games that year. Only the headline from the Cincinnati Enquirer the next morning which headlines this posting proved wrong in one respect... the death toll came in the end to 17.

The 1972 Olympic Games Are Shattered by Terrorists

The 1972 Olympic Games were held in Munich, which was a modern city in what was then the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. These games were intended to show off to the world that Germany had risen above and beyond the Nazi regime which had hosted the Olympic Games in 1936.  This was to be the new, modern Germany shorn of her past and operating within the new spirit of international cooperation.  The games had been going well. Mark Spitz had won a record-breaking seven gold medals in swimming. Olga Korbut was winning hearts with her performances in Women's Gymnastics.

But all of this was shattered at 4:30 am local time on September 5.  While the athletes were sleeping, eight (above, the room where the Israeli hostages were held) members of  the Black September faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, dressed in black tracksuits and carrying athletic bags loaded with arms and explosives climbed a two-meter chain-link fence with the assistance of unsuspecting athletes who were also sneaking into the Olympic Village.  Once inside, they used stolen keys to enter two apartments being used by the Israeli team at 31 Connolly Street.

The Terrorists Gain Access and Take Israeli Athletes Hostage

The following is an eyewitness account given to the Times of London by Dr. Shaul Ladany who managed to escape the Arab killers: "The guards apparently assumed that they were athletes who had been out late and were arriving back in an unconventional fashion. Then a burst of bullets was fired through a door.  A few minutes later, another Israeli in a second apartment heard someone ringing his doorbell.  Someone opened the door.. and at once four Arabs, armed with Russian Kalashamikov rifles came in and ordered the Israelis out. With the 
Arabs was one of the trainers (Moshe Weinburg (left), who was already bleeding from a gunshot wound to the side of his face).  The Arabs forced Weinburg and the other trainers to say where the rest of the team was." Leading the intruders past Apartment 2, Weinberg lied by telling them that the people in there were not Israelis.  Weinberg then led them to Apartment 3; where the gunmen took six wrestlers and weightlifters as additional hostages. Weinberg likely hoped that these stronger men would have a better chance of fighting off the attackers, but they were all surprised in their sleep.  They were then marched single file to the coaches apartment, wherein there was further struggle in which Weinburg and weightlifter Yossef Romano were killed.

Negotiations Lead to the Airport

The terrorists demands were the release of 234 Palestinians and non-Arabs jailed in Israel, and also the release of two German terrorists held by the Germans, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, both  founders of the German Red Army Faction. The terrorists threw the body of Weinberg out through front door of the building to demonstrate their resolve. Israel's response was immediate and absolute: no negotiation. Israel's official policy was and remains to this day refusal to negotiate with terrorists under any circumstances, for the
obvious reason that such negotiations would give an incentive to future attacks.  The German government offered unrestricted ransom for the hostages, and also to substitute several high-ranking Germans for the Israelis. But this was refused.  At one point negotiations were conducted through the windows by Fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who spoke fluent German, and shooting coach Kehat Shorr. (Above, Shorr is on the left).  Shorr told the Germans that the Israelis would not object to being flown to an Arab country, provided that their safety was guaranteed by the Germans and whichever country they flew to. At 6 pm Munich time, the Palestinians made a further demand, that they be flown to to Cairo.

The Massacre at the Airport

The plan was to take the hostages via helicopter to F├╝rstenfeldbruck Airport, a nearby NATO base where a jet would be boarded by the terrorists and their hostages, which would then take them to Cairo.  Of course, the Egyptians wanted nothing to do with this business, and refused to take the plane, but the Germans let the terrorists think that this part of the deal had been arranged, The Germans had placed several sharpshooters in key positions and the plan was to let two of the terrorists go to inspect the plane wherein they would be overpowered
by German police. In the meantime, the sharp- shooters were to knock off the remaining terrorists who would remain with the hostages who were thought to number only three. Unfortunately, there were in fact twice that many. So when the Germans on the jet decided not to attempt to take the two terrorists, and when the terrorists found the plane empty, they knew that they were in a trap, and ran back towards the helicopters, and there were plenty enough terrorists to conduct a firefight,  While the hostages tried valiantly to break free of their constraints, and the sharpshooters fired away, the terrorists tossed a hand grenade into the chopper, killing all of the hostages (above).  In the firefight, all of terrorists were killed.

A Harbinger of Future Acts of Terror

There were of course plenty of recriminations to go around.  Clearly the Germans had blown it at several points.  In their zeal to make clear the emergence of a new and democratic Germany, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany had let security at the Olympic Village to become entirely too slack.  And obviously they had blown the execution of the rescue at several points.  But after a pause wherein a memorial
service was held (right) in which the Overture to Egmont (a story in which a patriot dies for his country) was played, the games continued.  The Federal Republic of Germany went on to reoccupy the comatose eastern part of their country when the old East Block fell along with the... "Old" Soviet Union.  The Israeli government hunted down and killed all of the planners of the terrorist massacre of her athletes.  And the world got an unwelcome, in-your-face look at the depths to which the modern terrorist will sink, which has lead in turn to the Achille Lauro, the U.S.S. Cole, the mass-murders of 9/11, and of course to the depraved scourge of ISIS.


The Cincinnati Enquirer, Wednesday Morning, September 6, 1972, No. 150, Final Edition

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

AUGUST 27 = The Volcano "Krakatoa" Erupts

“Krakatoa was a terrifying glory….it looked like an immense wall, with bursts of forked lightening darting through it, and blazing serpents playing over it.  These bursts of brilliancy were the regular un-coverings of the angry fires. (Later) the sea gained an advantage through fresh breaks in the crater walls that offered new points of attack.”
- Captain Woolridge, Aug. 25, 1883

“There came an explosion so loud, so violent, and with such far-reaching effects, that it made all that had gone before seem as child’s play in comparison, and made all other explosions known to earth in historic times dwindle into insignificance.”   - Local Historian, Aug. 27, 1883

As these two eyewitness accounts make clear, the eruption of the Volcanic Island of Krakatoa on August 27, in the year 1883 was no small affair. In fact, even though it had been giving off warning blasts of no small intensity for some days prior, as the second account makes clear, the blast which finally occurred on the 27’th of August was far beyond anything previously seen or recorded by man.  And it shot volcanic ash high into the air which proved to be a menace to navigation.  But this ash also produced strange effects around the world for months after.

Krakatoa - Ready to Blow...

Krakatoa, a large volcanic island lying in the Sunda Strait that is between Sumatra and Java, in Indonesia, was discovered in the 1500’s, and it’s first recorded eruption was in 1680.  By the time of it’s eruption of two centuries later, it was covered with lush jungle vegetation, and while it was uninhabited, it was frequently visited by local islanders from Java.  As was noted above, Krakatoa had been giving off signals of impending eruption for some time prior to the big eruption.  But these signs had been coming and going for a long time, and nobody could know what was coming next.

Then on August 27 four vast explosions occurred at 5:30, 6:44, 10:02, and 10:41 a.m. local time. These blasts were so violent that they could be heard 2,200 miles away in Perth, Australia and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 3,000 miles away, where they were thought to be cannons being fired from a nearby ship.  In fact the sounds reported as coming from Krakatoa were many times described in just that way.  The pressure wave caused by the huge final explosion
radiated from Krakatoa at 675 mph.   It was so powerful that it broke the eardrums of sailors on ships in the Sunda Strait and brought
(Above: The tsunami(s) from the August 27, 1883 explosions and collapse of the volcano of Krakatoa as recorded by the tide gauge at Jakarta. Superimposed on the tide gauge record is a barograph record, recorded by the tide gauge prior and after the arrival of the tsunami.)
about a jump of more than two and half inches of mercury in pressure gauges attached to gasometers in the Jakarta gasworks, causing them to go off their normal scale.  This huge and powerful pressure wave radiated around the world and was recorded on barographs all over the globe, which continued to register it for a full five days following the explosion. Barograph recordings show that the shockwave from the last and most violent explosion reverberated around the world a total of seven times. And of course the tsunami that cane about as a result of Krakatoa’s eruption proved to be highly lethal indeed.  This killer wave which was variously estimated to have been 50, 90, even 135 feet high and which was moving at a speed of 600 mph, wiped out the towns of Negery Babawang and Negerey with a total of 15,000 inhabitants.

Tsunami Kills Thousands

More than 300 villages and towns throughout the East Indies were totally flooded and obliterated. The ship “Loudon” was near Java when Krakatoa erupted, and was just barely able to turn her keel into the path of the wave, and ride it out as it tossed her into the air like a toy.  But the coastal towns of Java were not so fortunate as to survive.  As N. van Sandick, the engineer on board the “Loudon” recorded, the villages were wiped out:
“Like a high mountain, the monstrous wave precip- itated its journey towards the land.  Imme- diately afterwards another three waves of colossal size appeared.  And before our eyes this terrifying upheaval of the sea, in a sweeping transit, consumed in one instant the ruin of the town; the lighthouse fell in one piece, and all the houses of the town in a blow like a castle of cards.  All was finished. There, where a few moments ago lived the town of Telok Bekong was nothing but open sea.”

Volcanic Ash "Screams" Around the Globe

Volcanic ash, pumice and black smoke was propelled into the air to a height of over fifty miles.  For months after the blast, this pumice settled onto the sea, and floating on the water sometimes as much as seven feet thick, thus causing a definite hazard to navigation of the sea lanes.  Further, the fine dust which was shot into the air from the eruption of Krakatoa remained there for more than two years,
circling the globe like a kind of morbid doomsday shroud in the upper atmosphere and bringing about the bizarre phenomenon of odd colored sunsets and sky glows.  In locations as distant as New Haven Connecticut, fire wagons were called out to fight what looked like fires in the distance, but which turned out to be simply brilliant orange sunsets.  This strange sight also occurred in Norway, and in fact is believed to be responsible for the dramatic orange colored sky that is depicted in Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” (above).  The Royal Society of London brought together such reports from around the world.  At Mauritius: “Crimson dawn, sun red after rising, gorgeous sunset, sky and clouds yellow up to the zenith,”  In Trinidad, “The sun looked like a blue ball, and after sunset, the sky became so red, that there was supposed to be a big fire.”

The Eruption Literally Changes the Map

As to the island of Krakatoa itself and the immediate region around it, the results were more serious.  The combined effects of lava flows, volcanic ashes and tsunamis had results for the region which were clearly disastrous.  There were no survivors from 3,000 people who lived on the island of Sebesi, about 8 miles from Krakatoa. Lava flows killed around 1,000 people at Ketimbang on the coast of Sumatra which
lay 25 miles north of Krakatoa. The death toll recorded officially by the Dutch authorities was 36,417, although some have estimated the loss of life at 120,000 or more. Many settlements and villages were wiped out, including Teluk Betung and Ketimbang in Sumatra, and Sirik and Semarang in Java. The areas of Banten on Java and the Lampung on Sumatra were devastated. There were many well-documented reports of groups of human skeletons floating across the Indian Ocean on rafts of volcanic pumice and washing up on the east coast of Africa. The island which had been Krakatoa literally blew up and sunk into the sea, ceasing to exist altogether, and only remaining as several smaller islands.  And some land on Java was never re-inhabited; it reverted to jungle and is now the Ujung Kulon National Park.


“Darkest Hours”  by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York, 1977.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

AUGUST 23 = Pete Rose is Banned From Baseball - 25 Years Ago

"More than anything, his brazen, unadulterated, unapologetic pursuit of money has been both his ruination and kept him from being able to truly re-configure his life in the way that Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti meant it."

- John Erardi, Cincinnati Enquirer

On today's date, August 23 in 1989 - 25 years ago, Pete Rose was given a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball by Commissioner Bart Giamatti for having bet on baseball games.  Eight days later on September 1, 1989, Mr. Giamatti died of a heart attack.  Rose's ban was controversial to say the least, and remains so to this day. But for different reasons than when the Commissioner imposed it.  Because on December 12, 2003, after years of denials, Rose admitted in a interview with Charles Gibson of ABC News that he had in fact bet on baseball, including on Reds games, and that he had admitted as much to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in November of 2002.  The part that remains controversial is the fact that his lifetime ban has proven thus far to be just that: LIFETIME.  There have been calls for years now that Rose should be reinstated to baseball, and given the place of honor in the baseball Hall of Fame which he as the Major League life-time leader in base hits - he collected 4,256 of them - surely entitles him.  That is another question which I shall deal with shortly. But since my purpose here is to bring you historical fact most of all, let me briefly do that first.

The Trail to the Ban

On February 21, 1989 Rose and his lawyers met in New York with Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and other officials.  Later it was revealed that the discussion had been of Rose's gambling habits. After Ueberroth left A. Bartlett Giamatti (below) became Baseball's new Commissioner.  Rose had been known to consort with gamblers and bet on horses and other sports frequently in spite of the sign in every baseball clubhouse reminding all who trod forth that players, coaches and managers were forbidden to take any part in gambling on baseball
games, on pain of a lifetime ban from the game. There should have been NOBODY who was more aware of that most sacred of tenets of the game than Pete Rose. Nevertheless the rumors persisted that Pete Rose had bet not only on baseball games, but on his own team, the (MY) Cincinnati Reds while he was their player/ manager. Rose denied all of this,  But enough credible evidence against Rose was found to keep the investigation going. Giamatti supported an investigation by Attorney John Dowd which found among other evidence betting slips in Rose's handwriting (according to experts) that showed bets being placed.  Rose's attorneys shot back that Giamatti was pursuing a personal vendetta against Rose.  On June 25, they even got a temporary restraining order to keep Giamatti from taking action against Rose.  But eventually the string ran out.  On today's date in 1989, Rose accepted a place on Baseball's "permanently ineligible list" in return for an agreement that Major League Baseball would reach no formal findings on the gambling allegations.

Giamatti's Death, Pete in the Wilderness

Immediately there was added controversy when at the press conference announcing the decision Giamatti answered reporters questions that yes, he personally believed that Rose had indeed bet on baseball games including those played by the Reds.  Rose hotly denied this, and claimed that Giamatti had gone against the spirit of the agreement.  He insisted that the agreement meant that he could apply for reinstatement after a period of one year.  Giamatti said that while Rose could indeed apply for reinstatement, there had been no deal at all as to whether he would be granted his request. That would come only if Rose re-configured his life to deal with his apparent gambling addiction.  But this all came to a
shocking conclusion with Giamatti's untimely death on on September 1, 1989.

And Pete has been in baseball's wilderness ever since. He did indeed apply for reinstatement but his request was denied and has been ever since. Rose went on to consistently deny having bet on baseball for years against all evidence that he did it.  And he failed to "re-configure" his life as per the agreement, instead continuing his association with the world and the casinos of Las Vegas, and other such interests.  But eventually he came to accept that he would have to come clean. That same bull-headed stubbornness that had made him so great as a player despite a lack of natural gifts, finally had to give way to the truth.. that he had bet on baseball and on the Reds.  He has since come clean about that, and tearfully admitted the wrong he had done to the game of baseball.  But the Commissioners who followed Giamatti, first Fay Vincent, and most recently, Bud Selig have denied him reinstatement, not only for the allegations, but reportedly because they consider him responsible for Giamatti's death.

Should Pete Rose Be in Baseball's Hall of Fame?

The answer to this question has been argued back and forth ad infinitum, but in my opinion must be answered YES.  Of course, I have my own bias, being from Cincinnati, and having graduated the same high school that Pete did - Western Hills High School. I have attended Reds games and been a fan of the Reds and Rose ever since watching him from the right field bleachers at Crosley Field in 1969. I've said throughout that Pete Rose was the most explosively exciting player I ever witnessed in person. And while he did bet on Reds games, it was to win. He never did anything to throw a game.  Pete has payed his dues and done his just punishment.  He should be in Baseball's Hall of Fame (pictured below).

BUT... if he is not allowed in, or if as has been suggested the lords of baseball only let him in posthumously.. then he has nobody to blame but himself. Was he responsible for Giamatti's death? Of course not.  The late commissioner smoked three packs of cigarettes a day.  He was a candidate for a heart attack anyway.  No Pete didn't cause it, but in the words of Giamatti's son, Pete didn't help either. I can't really begrudge either Mr. Vincent or Mr. Selig if in fact they did feel that way. In much more serious matters, both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton made similar claims. Their critics, they told us, claimed that they were looking after the institution in coming after me, but they really were out to soothe their hatred of me, no matter what it cost the institution. A perfectly plausible case could be made in both cases that they were right.  But they never could have gotten them if Nixon or Clinton had not given them exactly what they needed while lying about it.  The same, regrettably could be said of Pete. As John Erardi said at the top of this posting, the man has been his own ruination.


The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 10, 2014

"It's Time to Rethink Pete Rose" by Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated, March 10, 2014