Thursday, November 20, 2014
"Another young Marine walked briskly along the beach. He grinned at a pal who was sitting next to me. Again there was a shot. The Marine spun all the way around and fell to the ground, dead. "
This was the recollection of Robert Sherrod (left), an American journalist, editor and author. Sherrod covered the war in the Pacific as a war correspondent for Time and Life magazines. He was embedded with United States Marine Corps units during combat on Attu, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Sherrod wrote five books on World War II, one of which was "Tarawa - the Story of a Battle" (1944) In the following short excerpt written on today's date of November 20, in 1943, he gives a slice of what life could be like in a Marine Amphibious operation, and how the dividing line between life and death in such a setting could be so very thin both for the hunter and for the hunted and how the end for each could be not only macabre but terrible.
"Somebody go get the son-of-a-bitch!"
"From where he lay, a few feet away, he looked up at us. Because he had been shot squarely through the temple his eyes bulged out wide, as in horrible surprise at what had happened to him, though it was impossible that he could ever have known what hit him.
'Somebody go get the son-of-a-bitch,' yelled Major Crowe. 'He's right back of us here, just waiting for somebody to pass by.' That Jap sniper, we knew from the crack of his rifle, was very close.
A Marine jumped over the sea wall and began throwing blocks of fused TNT into a coconut-log pillbox about fifteen feet back of the sea wall against which we sat. Two more Marines scaled the sea wall, one of them carrying a twin-cylindered tank strapped to his shoulders, the other holding the nozzle of the flame-thrower. As another charge of TNT boomed inside the pillbox, causing smoke and dust to billow out, a khaki-clad figure ran out of the side entrance. The flame-thrower, waiting for him, caught him in its withering stream of intense fire. As soon as it touched him, the Jap flared up like a piece of celluloid. He was dead instantly but the bullets in his cartridge belt exploded for a full sixty seconds after had been charred almost to nothingness."
Tarawa, the largest of the Gilbert Islands was eventually taken by the United States Marine Corps by November 23, 1943. But the price had been terrible. Nobody had expected the Japanese to put up such resistance for Tarawa. But the landing craft were caught on the coral reef surrounding the island, and the defenders had managed to withstand a full week of bombing, and several hours of naval bombardment in their sand-covered concrete bunkers. The result was 911 Marines were killed and over 2300 were wounded. But vital lessons had been learned in the taking of Tarawa. The length of bombardment was increased to two MONTHS, for example, and the right type of landing craft were used. Thus, when the Marines invaded Kwajalein, northwest of Tarawa in February, the casualties among Marines were 1/3 of what they had been on Tarawa.
Out of more than 3500 Japanese defending Tarawa, one officer and 16 soldiers survived.
"Eyewitness to History" Edited by John Carey, Avon Books, New York, 1987
"The American Heritage Picture History of World War II" by C.L. Sulzberger. American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc., 1966
Saturday, November 8, 2014
"The Momentous Day
he day has come--the day of fate. Before this morning's sun sets, the destinies of this republic, so far as depends on human agency, are to be settled for weal or for woe. An inevitable choice is this day to be made by the American people, between a policy carrying salvation or a policy carrying ruin to the nation. On the one hand is war, tremendous and terrible, yet ushering in at the end every national security and glory. On the other is the mocking shadow of a peace, tempting us to quit these sacrifices, and sink again into indulgence, and yet sure to rob us of our birthright, and to entail upon our children a dissevered Union and ceaseless strife. "
So wrote the New York Times on today's date, November 8, 1864 - One hundred fifty years ago - about the stark choices facing the voters that day. It was not only the personal choice facing the voters about which the Times spoke. That was between President Abraham Lincoln for the Republicans and George McClellan for the Democrats. It was between continued vigorous prosecution of the war against the Confederate States of America, including the ultimate goal of an end to slavery on the one hand, and on the other hand, a quick pursuit of peace negotiations to end that war as proposed by the Democratic platform written for and endorsed by McClellan. It was quite literally between one or two countries.
Lincoln's Chances Looked Bleak
As late as the Summer of 1864, things did not look good at all for Lincoln. 1863 had the twin triumphs of Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. But with U.S. Grant now in charge of the Army of the Potomac and bogged down in a seemingly endless siege of Petersburg, he looked like a
Then the News From the Battle Front Improves...
But in late August, the picture on the battle field began to improve. First, there was the victory of Admiral Farragut in shutting down Mobile Bay, Alabama news of which hit northern newspapers
on August 15. Then, on August 31 the armies of Gen. William Tecumseh
Lincoln Goes on to WIIIIIIN!!
After Farragut's victory in Mobile Bay, and Sherman's taking of Atlanta, northern defeatism which had been so prevalent up to that time was wiped out. But the news from the battle front only got better. General Philip Sheridan, who had been assigned the task of bringing General Jubal Early's army to heel, and to shut down the Confederate "bread basket" that had been the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia was attacked by Early on the morning of October 18 at Cedar Creek.
"I give thanks to the almighty for this evidence off the people's resolution. This contest has demonstrated to the world that a people's government can sustain a national election in the midst of a great Civil War." - Abraham Lincoln.
"A Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2005.
"The Civil War". Episode 7, "Most Hallowed Ground", Dir. by Ken Burns, PBS, 1990
Friday, November 7, 2014
On today's date, November 7 in 1917 the Bolshevik Party of Vladimir Lenin (left) took over power in Russia by means of a nearly bloodless coup d'etat in the Russian city of Petrograd (St. Petersburg). The coup was against the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky, which had been set up when the government of the Czar, Nicholas II had been deposed in March of 1917. Kerensky's government had been able to garner only limited support to begin with, and his insistence on keeping Russia involved in World War I had doomed his regime from the start. The Bolsheviks had promised "Peace, land and Bread" to a peasant population who were war-weary, starving, and wanted their own land to work. Here are a few different view points of that momentous day when Russia was taken into the iron grip of the Communists.
November 7, 1917 - John Reed (below)
Wednesday 7 November, I rose very late. The noon cannon boomed from Peter-Paul (Fortress) as I went down the Nevsky. It was a raw, chill day. In front of the State Bank some soldiers with fixed bayonets were standing at the closed gates.
'What side do you belong to?' I asked. 'The Government?'
'No more government,' one answered with a grin. 'Slava Bogu! Glory to God!' That was all I could get out of him. The street cars were running on the Nevsky, men, women, and small boys hanging on every projection. Shops were open, and there seemed to be less uneasiness among the street crowds than there had been the day before..."
The "relative bloodlessness..." - W.H. Chamberlin
The Bolsheviks had placed armed detachments at all of the major pulse points of Petrograd: The Power stations, the Train Stations, the State Bank and the Central Telephone Exchange. Thus with only a few thousand dedicated followers in arms, they were able to take over the government of Russia from a weak Provisional Government with ease.
"The most striking thing about the Bolshevik overturn in Petrograd was it relative bloodlessness. Both the March Revolution and the July disturbances cost far more lives. At first sight it seems amazing that the decisive act, the seizure of power in the capital... should have been accomplished with so little resistance. There was a noteworthy absence of rioting and looting; theaters and moving picture houses remained open as usual."
Not much looting, but at the Winter Palace...
John Reed was with a crowd of soldiers later that day, when they surged into the Winter Palace wherein the Provisional Government had been seated. All of it's members were arrested. Kerensky himself had escaped in an unsuccessful attempt to rouse support among the troops for his regime. He found none. Meanwhile in Petrograd Reed found himself in the middle of a riotous scene:
According to Chamberlin, Lenin himself remained in the background...
"While Congress rolled on its course, the master strategist of the victorious uprising, Lenin remained in the background, saving his strength for the next night, when the decisive decrees on land and peace would be promulgated, perhaps resting from the 'giddiness,' which, as he once told Trotsky (left), the sudden leap to power inspired in him. For a short time Lenin and Trotsky lay side by side on covers and cushions in a little room..."
"Ten Days That Shook the World" by John Reed, Penguin Books, New York, 1977
"The Russian Revolution" by William Henry Chamberlin, Vol. 1, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1965
"Eyewitness to History" Ed. by John Carey, Avon Books, New York, 1987
Monday, October 27, 2014
The scene is the Chicago office of Clarence Darrow, a lawyer who was well-known for taking the side of the underdog, the under-privileged, the labor union against the bosses. He would shortly become nationally famous for his work on defense in the Leopold and Loeb case, and later for his defense in the Scopes Monkey Trial. But at this point, the summer of 1915, he was at a low ebb in his career, having just escaped charges of bribery and jury tampering in Los Angeles. Darrow had many clients from the humble worker up to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He never knew who would come to his door.
"One day, the figure in Darrow's doorway was slight, gaunt. The short man looked frightening. He wasn't world-weary, like Darrow's other supplicants; he was traumatized. His cheeks were sunken. His eyes, dark sockets. He was sickly, skeletal. He introduced himself as Joseph Erickson. He was the chief engineer of the "Eastland", and he was in trouble."
The above excerpt is taken from the recently published book "Ashes Under Water: the S.S. Eastland and the Shipwreck that Shook America" by Michael McCarthy, historian and a former Feature Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. McCarthy's book is about the fate of the S.S. Eastland when she capsized literally feet from her dock on the Chicago River on July 24, 1915, resulting in the death of 855 passengers. I would like to fully recommend this book to my readers, not only as a good read. But it is history written the way I love to read it: not just a dry collection of names and dates, but a living, breathing story of people with aspirations and motivations, some of them good and some of them bad, but all of them fascinating. And McCarthy has given us the full range of such characters. In his pages we find heroes, villains, and everything in between: lawyers, bystanders, and first responders. Most poignantly of all we find victims, including 22 whole families, who boarded the Eastland that morning expecting a day of pleasure at a company picnic, but who instead met their deaths.
The Eastland, the Lawyer, and the Engineer
The S.S. Eastland (right) began her life in 1903 as a steamer built to take advantage of the rapidly expanding economic base of the Great Lakes region. In the first part of his book, McCarthy details the need for a ship to carry the tons of fruit being produced to the many summer resorts in the area along with passengers to these places. But as she was being constructed, her owners wanted her designed for speed and large passenger capacity. Hence she was designed with a length of 275 feet and a beam of 38 feet. "Fast ship, or no ship," versus the fact that the rivers she would be traveling were just too small for such a leviathan sized craft. "In other words, too much ship, too little water." We then see the accidents that followed the Eastland from one set of owners to the next each one overlooking the difficulties in handling a ship that was clearly top heavy and which acquired a reputation as a "cranky" sailor. Along side of this we see the rise of young Joseph Erickson from a young Norwegian immigrant into an excellent engineer, the downturns in the career of Clarence Darrow, and the blossoming of the families who would all be brought together by a terrible tragedy.
In Part Two, McCarthy takes us through the story of the disaster itself. We see how the Captain Harry Pederson a man with little experience and his chief engineer, Joseph Erickson, an honest, hard working man, each go through their paces on the morning of July 24, 1915 taking on over 2500 passengers of the Western Electric Company bound for a company holiday picnic. These were hard working people who were dressed in their best holiday attire: "Most of the women, in their twenties and their thirties, crowded near the dock with long-
"At the bottom of page 14, the police chief asked Erickson precisely who within the company knew what would stop any stability issues on the Eastland. He replied, 'Why the general manager and the secretary, they all knew.' Next to that passage, in the pitiful penmanship that was signature-Darrow, were two words: Owners knew."
With those two words McCarthy, with the skill of a master story-teller, takes us into Part Three: the twisted world of the courtroom. With richly detailed portraits of the men involved, McCarthy shows us a veritable rogues gallery of characters: Darrow, the sloppy and unkempt man who was a brilliant lawyer, who agreed to take on the case of the gaunt man who appeared in his doorway. We are shown the owners
of the ship who lied and dissembled repeatedly all throughout the trial. We see how the judge, Clarence Sessions slowly began to favor the defense against the prosecutors who called a dizzying array of marine experts. Darrow realized that he would have to save all of these men from the charge of conspiracy in order to keep his client, Joseph Erickson from being made into a scapegoat. So he attempts all kinds of fancy legal footwork to discredit the experts until he can bring the focus around to the simple honesty of his client. The six pages wherein
All of this is drawn against the background of a nation dealing with the unsettling changes brought about by the industrial revolution to American society. This was a new and strange world brought about by telephones, automobiles, and the changing roles of women and men and who would be he source of income within these new family structures. And this is all brought tragically to life in McCarthy's pages with the Red Cross Tolls, wherein we see the bulletins of the Red Cross giving details of the unidentified among the dead pulled from the hull of the Eastland. And this went on while a shocked nation hung on every detail of the trial in the newspapers from all over the country (above). Drawing on court documents, and previously unpublished letters, Mike McCarthy has written for the first time the complete story of a tragedy which would shortly be forgotten as our country was swallowed up into the even greater tragedy of the Great War. More than that, it is a fascinating character study of a slice of our country and our people just at our entrance onto the world stage.
Monday, October 6, 2014
"About one hundred feet north of the reservoir in the center of the vast park, now bright with autumn foliage, Remus' powerful limousine gradually moved ahead of the taxi and began crowding it to the curb. To avoid a collision, the cab driver pulled to a stop, When Ruth began opening the cab door on the right side as if to get out, her mother pushed her back into the seat and opened the door on the left side. Her husband, directing a stream of epithets against her, reached the door just as Imogene opened it. Grabbing her by the wrist and shouting 'I'll fix you! I'll fix you!' he pulled her down from the running board. As he drew her close to him, she noticed that he held in his left hand a small, pearl handled revolver which he had once given her for protection .
'Oh, Daddy, you know I love you!' she cried. 'You know I love you! Daddy, don't do it! Don't do it!'
Pressing the revolver against her belly, Remus pointed it upward and fired one bullet. His screaming wife fell to the pavement. His stepdaughter, Ruth, having emerged from the car, ran up to him, grabbed him by the coat lapels, and cried, 'Do you realize what you're doing?' Looking at Ruth but speaking almost to himself, he said of his wife, 'She can't get away with that.'" 1.
So it went in Cincinnati's Eden Park right near the Gazebo that autumn day on today's date, October 6 in 1927, when the Bootlegger George Remus (above) killed his wife in the presence of her daughter, Ruth. Some accounts have Remus calling Imogene a "Decomposed mass of clay", but the basic fact of his having murdered his wife was never disputed by anyone. What was in dispute in court was Remus' state of mind at the time of the killing. Was this man, dubbed "the King of the Bootleggers" by some, who was nevertheless a lifelong teetotaler, a sane man at the moment he committed murder or not? This was the central question at his trial which lasted for just over a month, and held the whole country in thrall, as the son of the former President of the United States, and this paunchy bald little man battled over what was then a new idea in American courtrooms: the insanity defense.
The Rise of George Remus
One could hardly conjure up a more quintessentially American "rags to riches" story than that of George Remus. Born on November 14, 1874 in Berlin, Germany, his family immigrated to America in 1879, settling in Chicago. George did well in school, but he had to drop out at the age of 14 to support his family when his father became disabled. He worked at his Uncle's drug store and soon
George Remus Turns to Bootlegging
He had his sights on something bigger in life than merely security. "Remus liked being a lawyer; he enjoyed the prestige and the public notoriety. But deep inside himself, George Remus was a material man, and he saw that a few of his clients were getting very rich from bootlegging... (and) they were of marginal intelligence. It led him to consider what the monetary possibilities in the liquor trade were for someone with a high degree of demonstrated intellect, someone such as himself. Later in his life Remus would say about his bootlegging clients, 'I was impressed by the rapidity with which these men without any brains at all, piled up fortunes in the liquor business. I saw a chance to clean up.'" 2.
So George Remus read the Volstead Act very carefully - from a lawyer's perspective. And he found that it did not touch any of the millions of gallons of liquor already produced before the Act went into effect. Further, this liquor could legally be used for "medicinal purposes". And he found that 80% of such liquor was located within a 300 mile radius of Cincinnati. The key was to buy up as many of these
1920, Remus set up shop in Cincin- nati. He had by this time divorced his first wife and married a pretty young secretary named Imogene Holmes, who had a daughter, Ruth from a previous marriage. He set up a distilling operation on the west side of town on the Dater farm which covered about 100 acres to Queen City and La Feuille Ave. This became known as "Death Valley Farm" because there were hired guns covering every foot of the road into it (above). It was used to distill liquor and also to gather in the liquor which Remus had bought from other distilleries using government permits and phony authorizations from his own drug companies. He would buy the booze, have his convoys hijacked by his own men, who would then bring it to Death Valley for "redistribution". He was in effect both the buyer and the seller.
Remus Finds Success, Fortune... and Jail
"Remus was to bootlegging what Rockefeller was to oil." - St Louis Post-Dispatch 3.
Of course all of this required help from above. Remus began paying huge bribes to Federal officials for access to the necessary permits to buy his liquor. And he even went to Washington D.C. to buy the cooperation of the U.S. Justice Department in the form of bribes totaling over $250,000 to one Jess Smith who was a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General. Smith assured Remus that no matter what happened neither he nor his men would ever go to jail. With millions in cash pouring into his coffers Remus became "The Man". He began to speak of himself in the third person; "Remus was in the whiskey
And he began living large. He bought a home in the Price Hill section of the city on Hermosa Ave. (above) and filled it with the finest furniture, carpets, paintings, and books that he could find. Gold door knobs, a huge swimming pool with Rookwood Pottery linings, and the finest plants and landscaping. At that time, it was the largest private home in the U.S. that was not located on either the East or the West Coast. And he and his wife had only the finest clothes. Remus had always longed to be in a higher social bracket, so he had many a lavish party at his Price Hill Mansion. One such soiree' was the legendary New Years Eve gathering on Dec. 31, 1921 in which every guest was given diamond stickpins and (allegedly) crisp new thousand dollar bills for party favors. And for the ladies: a brand new Pontiac automobile for each one of them. Such was his repute for ostentatious living, that he is said to have been the inspiration for the title character in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, "The Great Gatsby". But Remus also made himself very popular with the common folks by hiring the men for his trucks, allowing the neighborhood boys to swim in his grand pool, and handing out lavish tips for any service done him.
"... he was a teetotaler, his perspective on liquor unaffected by personal tastes or unclouded by personal habit. He cared only about the money, and his care was rewarded. In one year Remus deposited $2.8 million into one of his many bank accounts -- the equivalent, in 2009, of more than $32 million." - Daniel Okrent 5.
But this could only go on for so long. Remus had bought out distilleries throughout the Midwest, and also had bought off cooperation from federal officials. Eventually he ran into a couple of solid, staid officials who were not available at any price. A shipment coming from the Squibb Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana brought him under the eyes of Burt G. Morgan. Morgan found so much of the booze going to
Imogene Remus and Franklin Dodge
As his days in prison wore on, Remus got antsy. His conditions there had gone from Hotel-like from bribes he paid to prison officials to regular prison conditions after the corrupt warden was sacked by Mrs. Willebrandt. Remus put Imogene in touch with a man whom he had heard could be dealt with: Franklin Dodge, the Justice Department's "Ace of Investigators". But instead of helping Imogene (below) clear
Remus Goes on Trial for Murder
"She who dances down the primrose path must die on the primrose path. I'm happy. This is the first peace of mind I've had in two years." - George Remus on killing his wife, Oct. 6, 1927. 6.
This hardly sounds like a man who was insane. But in the trial that began on November 14, 1927, that was exactly what Remus sought to do: prove that he was insane at the time he shot his wife, and might possibly still be insane. Remus, conducted his own defense with assistance from the former D.A. Charles Elston. Opposite them were prosecutors led by Charles P. Taft II, scion of political royalty in the U.S.; his father was former U.S. President, and sitting Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, William Howard Taft. "Remus," he said, "has committed a cold blooded murder, and I have no doubt that he will be executed for it." 7. But no amount of maneuvering, or witness
This writer believes that given his obsessive-compulsive behavior from the very moment that he first heard rumors that his wife was having an affair with Franklin Dodge, a very creditable case could be made that George Remus was in the grip of what would today be called an irresistible impulse to kill his wife and end his mental torture. But clearly, the forgetful witnesses, and Remus' own histrionics in the courtroom helped him in being acquitted by a jury that was obviously very sympathetic to him to begin with. Whatever the case, Remus kept the loyalty of his own daughter Ramola who stood by him throughout the trial and of the average citizen who viewed him as a generous (if not totally law-abiding) man who had been done wrong by a greedy wife and her lover. George Remus tried to get back into bootlegging but found that the Al Capone-type violence of the business had long passed him by. He went into Real Estate, before re-marrying and dying in relative obscurity in a Covington, Kentucky home on January 20, 1952. His fabulous estate in Price Hill was demolished in 1934. The one portion of it which survives is the wrought iron gates to the Mansion property which now serve as the back gates to nearby Elder High School on Panther Court. 10. Below is pictured his grave in Falmouth, Kentucky, minus the wings on the angelic figures which somebody knocked off a long time ago....
1. - Coffey, pp. 216-217.
2. - Cook, pp. 24-25
3. - Burns
4. - Ibid
5. - Okrent p. 198
6. - Cook, p. 120
7. - Rosenberg, cover
8. - Cook, p. 155
9. - Ibid, p. 168
10. - Hotchkiss, pp. 10-11
"King of the Bootleggers - A Biography of George Remus" by William A Cook, McFarland and Co. Inc., North Carolina, 2008
"The Long Thirst - Prohibition in America: 1920-1933" by Thomas A. Coffey, W.W. Norton and Co. Inc., New york, 1975
"The Cincinnati Crime Book" by George Stimson, the Peasonhall Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1998
"Remembering Remus in Price Hill" by Julie Hotchkiss, and Joyce Meyer, Edgecliff Press with the Price Hill Historical Society and Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2011
"The American Gladiators: Taft -vs- Remus" by Albert Rosenberg and Cindy Armstrong, Aimwell Press, Hemet, California, 1995.
"Prohibition" a film by Ken Burns an Lynn Novak, Episode Two, PBS, 2011
"Last Call - The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" by Daniel Okrent, Scribner, New York, 2010
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Saito calls for a jeep with a machine-gun in the back, pulling it up in front of the British commander and his officers. From the hospital hut, Shears tells the doctor, Major Clipton that he fears the worst about Saito's threat: "He's going to do it. Believe me. He's really going to do it." Before Saito reaches the count of three, Clipton runs out, interrupting the stand-off:
"Colonel Saito! I've seen and heard everything. So has every man in the hospital. There are too many witnesses. You'll never get away with calling it a mass escape! Most of those men can't walk...Is this your soldier's code? Murdering unarmed men?"
This is a quote from "The Bridge on the River Kwai" which was playing on ABC TV that night. It was the first time that this film, the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture of 1957, had ever shown on network TV. Back in 1966, long before DVDs, a network showing was the only way an major movie like this could be seen outside of the Big Screen. I recall my parents letting me stay up and watch it. Major Clipton warns Colonel Saito that he'll never get away with this massacre. "There are too many witnesses." he says. Little did anyone near Greenway Ave. that night realize how ironic those words would prove to be in retrospect. Little did any of us realize as we sat in our homes so safe and cozy - that night, September 25 in 1966, I with my parents just a short distance from there - that a truly unspeakable massacre was taking place. And that the only witness - a beautiful little four year old girl - was being murdered along with her parents.
Jerry, Linda, and Little Debbie Bricca
Jerry Bricca, 28, seemed to have the perfect American life. He had come from an upbringing in San Francisco, wherein by hard work, he had risen rapidly in the Monsanto Chemical Co. which had transferred him to its Addyston, Ohio plant near Cincinnati. He brought with him his wife, Linda. She has been described everywhere as being beautiful, with large brown eyes which in the words of one writer "...possess even in photos, an alluring intensity." And even in the old photos of her, one
But Something Was Wrong
Yet in spite of this picture of the blissful american couple in their suburban home, something was wrong. Jerry worked very hard... some would say too hard. He would work long hours into the night, often staying at work all night. In fact it was not at all unusual, neighbors would say for him to be home only a few hours a week. His beautiful wife had a daughter to look after, but something seemed to be missing for her. She filled this void by indulging her passion for animals. Apart from her dogs and her rabbits, she took on part-time work at one of the Veterinary Hospitals on nearby Glenway Avenue. And there was where she apparently attracted some special attention. But for the moment
That evening, was a rather cool night for early autumn... the temperatures were in the low fifties, and it had rained that day. Jerry had been working as usual, so he stopped at the local store and picked up some milk. At around 8:45 pm, Jerry Bricca who was taking out the garbage cans, encountered his neighbor, Joan Janzen as she walked her dog. They exchanged pleasantries about the weather and went on their ways. She was certain of the time because she wanted to get home in time to watch "Bridge on the River Kwai"; she was one of an estimated 60 million viewers who tuned into ABC to watch the movie that night. She was also the last person outside that house (above) to see any of the Briccas alive. While Sessue Hayakawa had his test of wills with Sir Alec Guiness, the Bricca's lives were being brutally brought to an end.
The Murders Are Discovered
Monday, September 26, people dressed for work and got the kids off to school. They brought in the garbage cans from the front and picked up the morning paper. Only, oddly enough, the garbage cans were still in front of the Bricca home. The morning paper had been collected, but the lights were on in the house including the back yard floodlights. And the dogs were not barking as usual. The evening paper was not picked up. And, strangest of all, Linda's pet rabbits had been left out in the rain since Sunday night. When it got to be Tuesday, the 27th and that morning's paper was still on the lawn, and another evening paper was left, the neighbors knew that something was terribly amiss. Joan Janzen's husband Richard had called the Bricca's phone repeatedly with no answer. So at about 10:00 pm he and the Bricca's next-door neighbor, Richard Meyer went over to 3381 Greenway to investigate. They knocked at the front door and found it unlocked. Peaking their heads in and calling for Linda, they were immediately hit with a horrible foul smell which Meyer, a World War Two veteran recognized as the smell of death. "I knew it what it was as soon as I opened the
Hamilton County police arrived at 10:40 p.m. to a horrific scene. In the Master bedroom Jerry Bricca and his wife were both found dead from multiple stab wounds. Jerry was face down on the bed with stab wounds to his back, his neck and his head. Linda was sprawled across her husband with her negligee and housecoat open to reveal stab wound to her breasts as well as to her neck and head. And worst of all in this scene dripping with blood, the body of little Debbie (above) was found in her room against the wall, where she apparently had been deposited. She had been stabbed so viciously in the back that several of the wounds had gone clear through her body. They had been bound and gagged with rope and tape, as some residue of tape was found on Jerry's mouth, which also had a sock in it. But the restraints had been removed. The dogs were found in the basement, where they were now barking lustily. The TV set was still on, tuned to Channel 12, WKRC TV, the local affiliate to ABC which had broadcast "Bridge on the River Kwai" on Sunday night. There was a six-inch knife missing from a collection kept in the Dining Room. And there was laundry, some still wet, and some folded in the basement.
This, the mid-sixties was a tough time for our country. We had just buried a martyred president, and his successor was teetering on the edge of the abyss Vietnam. The year of 1968 with its riots and assassinations was still in the future. But that future seemed all the more precarious to us, as if things were slipping out of control, and no less so in Cincinnati where we were already being terrorized by a serial killer/rapist known as the Cincinnati Strangler. And now here in the very heart of the seemingly secure suburbs came this brutal annihilation of an entire young family. People were petrified. The sales of door locks and big guard type dogs went up. People started locking those doors and bolting those windows. Halloween was moved to Sunday afternoon. All of this in large part due to what seemed like the motiveless act of a bloodthirsty killer. But was he really motiveless? The motive which originally seemed to be rape was eventually discounted. There had been no robbery, so that was out. Eventually a report on the evidence sent to the FBI crime lab in Washington D.C. ruled on the basis of hair samples that the killer was not a Black man, which apparently the Cincinnati Strangler was. So that wasn't it. So who then, and why?
The investigation eventually lead to the conclusion that the Briccas likely knew their killer. There had been no forced entry. There had been no screams and no barking dogs heard in the homes of neighbors which were a mere fifteen feet away. There was no sign of struggle inside the home. The murder weapon (which was missing) seemed indeed to have been taken from a set inside the home. And it also seemed very likely that little Debbie had been killed because she knew the killer too. And while the coroner had originally said that she had been raped, this had been softened to the conclusion that she had had "recent intercourse" at the time of her death. This really set the rumor mill going in a way that hasn't stopped since 1966. It could have been anyone in the neighborhood! Police questioned everyone whom the Briccas knew and who had had any dealings with them, right down to Linda's beautician. And after weeks of questioning suspects, friends and mere acquaintances an interesting picture began to emerge.
Linda's "Male Friend"
It seemed that Linda Bricca had a male friend whom she had been secretly seeing since not too long after her arrival in Cincinnati in 1963. Witnesses saw them in secluded spots, and "lovers' lanes" any number of times. Where exactly these "lover's lanes" are I cannot say, but apparently they are there or were there in 1966. This with the fact that Jerry had been a workaholic husband did certainly fit the pattern of a wayward relationship. The police had conducted hundreds of hours of interviews and gradually eliminated all but one suspect. This man had at first been questioned for 10 minutes by officers and later for over 45 minutes by Lieutenant Herbert Vogel of the Cincinnati Police Department. Vogel taped the interview which had been held at the suspect's place of business, and had problems with some of his replies, so he called the suspect's wife to clear up some of these problems and she told him that her husband had been so upset with the taped interview that he had hired a lawyer to protect him. This was in the days when the Supreme Courts Miranda ruling was still fairly new, so it was easy for police to commit a technical violation of them which
One theory of the case has the killer making love with Linda when Jerry (left) came home and walked in on them. But the fact that her father called Linda at 9:30 that night and heard nothing wrong in her voice, and the fact that they were evidently watching the movie while Linda folded laundry makes the following more likely: Linda met the man at her part time job at the man's Veterinary business. The affair flourished for a time, but Jerry found out and told Linda that she would have to end it or else their marriage was through. She had one last time in bed with him but this was not enough. He HAD to have her. He stalked her through the back door while they watched the movie in the basement TV room. Jerry took Debbie up stairs to put her to bed, and then the killer moved in while Linda was in the basement by herself. He tried to make her continue the affair, but she was unwilling. She tried to make him go, but once she had gotten him upstairs he went for the knife in the dining room, and started threatening her. When Jerry came down and saw the threat to his wife he tried to quietly talk him out of it. But instead he tied them up, gave the dogs a sedative to keep them quiet, (as he was a Veterinary Doctor, this would be no difficulty at all) and then closed them in the basement. Then he went back to his victims, ultimately killing them in a fit of a spurned lover's rage. Then in the same fit killed little Debbie because she knew him and could identify him. He then calmed down, and cleaned the home of any evidence of their affair, wrapped the knife in the morning paper when it came at @5:30 am, threw it in the garbage and left. The fact of the suspects invoking of his Miranda rights made it impossible to push the investigation any further.
And that is where it has been ever since. Lt. Vogel has long since conceded that their investigation has centered on this one man, but that he has hidden successfully behind his lawyer, Richard Morr. Morr has been able on his client's behalf to refuse to answer any further questions about the case, and has been able to reject all requests for blood, hair or fingerprints for crime scene comparisons. And as a result of this the case has remained officially unsolved. Why have I been so careful not to name the man's place of business or the man himself? The man's place of business is now owned and run by a couple whom I happen to know; the wife is an old High School friend. I want to talk with her before I go naming her and her husband's business in connection with this whole miserable affair. As to the man himself, well his name is well known to the police and others familiar with this case. But it was in the absolutely superb and utterly fascinating book, "Queen City Gothic" that I gained most of my familiarity with this case. In this fine book, author J.T. Townsend names this main suspect, and I feel that that bit of information is, and should remain Mr. Townsend's "scoop". However, the physical description of this suspect which I have differs somewhat from that in Mr. Townsend's book. I have a friend whose pets were in the man's care for quite a few years. My friend describes the man as being about 5 ft. 10 inches tall, and maybe 190 lbs., but as Mr. Townsend reports, a man with large powerful hands. Also, interestingly enough, my source describes him as being "a kindly man, with kindly eyes..." So take from that what you will. If you really want a full reading of this mysterious case buy "Queen City Gothic" and therein you will find all of the details for which I hadn't the space.
As to the fate of the suspect, he retired in 1995 and then moved to Florida where he died in 2004.
The case was never solved. The main suspect got away with it... in this life anyway. Jerry, Linda, and Deborah Bricca were buried in Winfield Memorial and Nature Sanctuary in Illinois, near the Chicago area town of Barrington where Linda grew up. The last scene of the film "Bridge on the River Kwai" has the only final word which I feel is truly appropriate in this case. As Major Clipton (played by the actor James Donald) surveys the wreckage all around him; the bridge destroyed, the Japanese Colonel, Saito, and his own commander, Colonel Nicholson dead, he is stunned. "Madness!" he says. "MADNESS!!"
"Queen City Gothic - Cincinnati's Most Infamous Murder Mysteries" by J.T. Townsend, AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2009, 2012.
"The Cincinnati Crime Book" by George Stimson, The Peasenhall Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1998.
"Death On a Quiet Street" by Jack Heffron and John Boertlein, Cincinnati Magazine, April, 2008.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
"Washing- ton could not agree with one of his aides that Arnold must, after the catast- rophe, be under- going the torments of a mental hell. He wants feeling! From some traits of his character which have lately come to my knowledge, he seems to have been hackneyed in villainy, and so lost to all sense of honour and shame that while his faculties will enable him to continue his sordid pursuits there will be no time for remorse."
This, in proper 18th century verbiage was George Washington's way of saying that Benedict Arnold was a scumbag who cared only for himself. On today's date, September 24, in 1780 General Benedict Arnold of the Continental Army had been unmasked as a traitor, and had just barely escaped capture. Arnold had been negotiating with the British to hand over the American fortress at West Point, New York, when his main partner on the British side, Major John Andre' had been captured with incriminating documents hidden in his shoe (above). The plot then quickly unraveled leading Arnold to run for his life.
Benedict Arnold - A Very Strange and Difficult Man
One could scarcely invent a man stranger and more mercurial than Benedict Arnold (below). Born in 1741 to a merchant father, he was given the name of an older brother who had died before him and seemed to spend his life enviously living in the shadows of others. Joining the Americans in 1775 as an officer he rose rapidly by showing imagination, bravery and a shrewd tactical sense. But a persistent sense of insecurity left him always feeling slighted. Congress promoted
Arnold Turns Traitor...
"Arnold, a heroic and valiant soldier, was a low, sly Iago among traitors, but this defector was also the most senior mole in espionage history. His betrayal poleaxed (knocked back)Washington. Even his peers, who thought him arrogant and snotty, had respected his undoubted martial talents, and none suspected him capable of treachery of the blackest dye." - Alexander Rose
During the spring of 1779, Arnold took the step of nursing his grievances and his wounded pride into actual treason. He sent for John Stansbury, a loyalist merchant in Philadelphia, and through him made overtures to Sir Henry Clinton (the British commander in New York) that his "co-operation" (his word) was for sale. But the Brits held
Major Andre' Travels North to Get the Goods
"Those who argued against him pointed to his quick temper, his growing pessimism toward the success of the American war effort, and his apparent motivation by glory and personal gain. Col. John Brown, one of Arnold's rivals, prophetically wrote of him in 1777: 'Money is this man's God, and to get enough of it, he would sell his country.'" - Brian Kilmeade
Arnold haggled with the Brits for the exact amount of cash he should get for his skulduggery; at first 10,000 then 20,000 pounds was his price. And he sent out orders that a certain James Anderson traveling from British lines on business was to be given safe passage through American lines. On the evening of Thurs. Sept. 21, Arnold ordered a boatman, Joshua H. Smith, to row out on the Hudson to pick up Anderson aboard the British sloop Vulture (below). James Anderson
Andre' is Discovered and the Plot Unravels
The officer in charge of the post was one Colonel John Jameson. James Anderson was obviously the man about whom Gen. Arnold had written the orders that he be given safe passage. But here he was with these incriminating documents - in Arnold's handwriting - stuffed in his sock, heading for British lines instead of coming from them. Jameson, quite puzzled, and fearful of drawing a rebuke from Arnold for appearing to question his orders, hedged his bets by sending Anderson on to Gen. Arnold, sending a note ahead of the prisoner to Arnold
Arnold Receives Word.... Washington Does Too
"When I received and read the letter (for he handed it to me as soon as he had written it), my agitation was extreme, and my emotions wholly indescribable." - Major Benj. Tallmadge
Tallmadge's reaction when James Anderson gave him his letter to George Washington in which he finally confessed his true identity: "Major John Andre', Adjutant General to the British Army." may have been extreme agitation. But it must have paled compared to Arnold's reaction when early on this date, Sept. 24, he got Jameson's letter. He learned that James Anderson had been captured and these papers he
A short time later, Washington arrived at West Point. Of course, he had been expecting to meet Arnold who, following breakfast was to take him on an inspection tour of the fort. But Arnold was not there. Hamilton told him that Arnold had received a letter and had to go tend to something. This was a strange way for Arnold to treat his Commander, but as Brian Kilmeade has pointed out: "Arnold was, admittedly, something of a strange man." But when Arnold was not there following his inspection, Washington knew that something was
Arnold Escapes, Andre' Does Not
Arnold had indeed escaped. Major Andre' was not so fortunate. Although negotiations were conducted with the British authorities for Andre's release, it wouldn't work. Andre' had been captured in civilian clothes and as such had to be court-martialed as a spy and given the death penalty. The only deal which Washington would accept was a prisoner exchange: Arnold for Andre' but of course the Brits could not agree to hand Arnold over... this would only serve to warn off any others who might spy for the British. So Andre', who impressed everyone on the American side with his wit and courage as he faced the
"George Washington's Secret Six" by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager, Sentinel Publ., New York, 2013.
"Washington's Spies" by Alexander Rose, Bantam Books, New York, 2006.
"Secret History of the American Revolution" by Carl Van Doren, Viking Press, New York, 1941
"General Washington's Spies" by Morton Pennypacker, Long Island Historical Society, Brooklyn, New York, 1939
"Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge" by Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, Arno Press, N.Y., 1968
"The Neutral Ground" by Bruce A. Rosenberg, Greenwood Press, London, 1994