Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SPECIAL = California Couple Discovers GOLD!!

"It was a very surreal moment. It was very hard to believe at first....I thought any second an old miner with a mule was going to appear."   - The anonymous discoverer of the gold.

"I see somebody, maybe in the mining industry looking around making sure that nobody's watching them burying the treasure, planning on coming back to get it some day and clearly...he didn't make it." - Donald Kagin, coin expert.

Well whoever buried the coins is something we'll never know, but we now know what they buried, and how much it's worth: a cool Ten MILLION dollars.

There It Was! Right in Their Own Backyard...

In February of last year, a couple were walking their dog through the backyard of their property in what was once the fabled Gold Country near the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Then they spied what looked like a rusty old can poking out of the dirt.  They used a stick to dig it out of the ground, and found that it was fairly heavy.  So they took it back to their home and managed to get inside to it's contents and found that it appeared to contain a bunch of metal discs which were covered in dirt that had sifted through holes that had rotted through the can over time. They took the discs out and after a little brushing off they found that the discs were in fact gold coins dated mostly from the 1890's.  They went back and dug up eight cans which held a total of 1,427 gold coins.  The face value of these coins came to $27,980.  When they had organized the coins they found that they were all gold, mostly minted in San Francisco and mostly were 20 dollar coins, but there were also fifty 10 dollar coins and four were five dollar coins. Some of them dated as far back as 1847, some in the 1860's.  And about 1/3 of them were in mint condition, never having been circulated.

What to Do With It?  

Imme- diately after finding the coins, the couple took eighteen of them and put them into a cigar box with some foam rubber.  Then they took the rest of the coins, put them in a cooler, and re-buried them under a woodpile at their home. They were afraid of having all of this wealth in their possession and and had to think about what to do with it. They contacted some lawyers and eventually gave them to Don Kagin of Tiburon, California, who has evaluated some major gold finds in the past.  Kagin's senior numismatist, David McCarthy (above) were quite taken aback by what they were looking at:

" I pulled out the first coin, and it was from 1890. It had dirt on it, but when I looked close, it dawned on me just exactly what it was. I almost fell out of my chair. It was mind-blowing. I was literally sitting with the most amazing buried treasure I've ever heard of."

And as mentioned above, the value of the coins when they are auctioned off later this year is expected to come to ten milllllllion dollars!!

Who Buried It There to Begin With??

The coins took several months to be restored, and another month to be appraised.  They now have been mounted in individual containers, and readied for sale in the near future on Amazon. The couple who found all of this, "the Saddle Ridge Hoard" it has been dubbed after the area in which it was found, have decided to remain anonymous in order to keep their
property from becoming a magnet for others looking to find more.  But they have expressed a desire to donate much of their new-found wealth to homeless charities.  Also, they plan to keep some of the coins as keepsakes.  But they like their life as they have it, and will likely stay where they are. As to who put them there in the first place, nobody knows.  The family and their lawyers attempted to research that, but came up empty. Whether it was some loot from a stage coach robbery, some old miser just hiding his wealth somewhere, or if it was placed there over some time, like a savings account, as Mr. Kagin describes at the top of this posting is something that will likely remain a mystery.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

FEBRUARY 25 = Clay Defeats Liston

On today's date, February 25 in 1964, a young, and to say the least, outspoken 22 year-old boxer named Cassius Clay defeated the heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston to claim the heavyweight champion's title in pro-boxing. The bout in Miami was a huge surprise to everyone (except perhaps to Clay himself), as Liston was a powerful and experienced boxer who was favored at 8-1 odds to win this fight.  But Liston pulled out of the fight after the sixth round. The new champion, who would shortly change his name  to Muhammad Ali would go on to dominate the world of pro-boxing for more than 15 years of controversy and knock-outs.

Clay and Liston Rise to Challenge for the Title

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay was by 1960 already a force in the boxing world. Having put together over 100 wins in amateur competitions, and winning the International Gold Gloves heavyweight title in 1959, he won a Gold Medal in the light heavyweight competition of the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.  Beginning his pro-career in October of 1960 with a six-round decision over Tony Hunsaker, Clay had by 1963 amassed a record of 19 - 0 with 15 of those wins coming by knock-out. This made him the prime contender to challenge Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title.  Liston,was a tough, sure-footed fighter with tremendous punching power.  About 10 years older than Clay he had acquired the heavyweight title by wrecking Floyd Patterson in one round in 1962. 

Liston and Clay Face Off in Miami

Clay had by this point in time made a practice of publicly belittling his opponents, which made him fairly unpopular with the press and some of the public. He had said that he would beat Liston in 8 rounds. So it was that some 8300 boxing fans crowded their way into the Convention Hall in Miami, Florida on this night, 52 years ago to see if this brash young fighter could back-up his boastful taunts. From the first round it was obvious that Clay's taunts that he would "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee..." were no idle boast as he swiftly dodged and evaded Liston's powerful left hook.
According to Donald Saunders of the Daily Telegraph, Clay just wouldn't hold still: "He boxed beautifully in the first round, and may well have established control there and then. He flashed his jab and left hooks into Liston's scowling face, with amazing ease, slipped the champion's counters gracefully, and moved neatly out of distance when serious danger threatened."

Liston Lashes Out, But Clay Wins

Liston hurt his shoulder during this first round as he lashed back at his elusive challen- ger, pulling some muscles as he swung at Clay and missed. Liston did better in the second round, but Clay managed to open a cut under Liston's left eye during the third round with a right hand punch. In the fourth round the fight started to go perceptibly against Liston as he swung angrily back at Clay, but grew slower, while Clay only danced faster.  Liston managed to land some powerful blows on Clay during the fifth round, but Clay's young frame absorbed them. By the sixth round Clay was clearly dominating the fight.  At this point following the sixth round, Liston went back to the stool in his corner, and stayed there.  He would not come out for the seventh round. Clay, who had already called himself "the Greatest" exulted on his way out of the ring: "I came, I saw, I conquered. I borrowed that line from Caesar." Although he would be considerably more calm in the interviews the day after the fight, saying that he felt sorry for Liston, his way of trumpeting his ability to take other fighters apart would last throughout his career.

Cassius Clay Becomes Muhammad Ali

A short time after his victory over Liston, Clay would convert his religion to the Nation of Islam, and would change his name to Muhammad Ali, who would go on to terrorize opponents into the 1980's. His brash nature was obvious enough to all who watched him at the time.  But the controversy - his conversion to Islam, his subsequent refusal to be drafted for service in Vietnam, his fights with George Foreman, and Joe Frazier... all of these things were in the future 52 years ago. This date may very well have signaled the beginning of the 60's, with all of the change and strife, Vietnam, Civil Rights that some writers have dubbed it.  But on this date in 1964, all that could be said for sure was that there was a loud and new force on the scene in pro boxing.


Monday, February 24, 2014

FEBRUARY 24 = MGM Purchases "The Wizard of Oz"

"I like Dorothy, because she was in the dress and stuff. But I didn't like the witch." - Film lover Quinn Brianna Mc Dunough on "The Wizard of Oz".
"...a delightful piece of wonder-working which had the youngsters' eyes shining and brought a quietly amused gleam to the wiser ones of the oldsters....not since Disney's Snow White has anything quite so fantastic succeeded half so well." - Film critic Frank S. Nugent on "The Wizard of Oz"

On today's date in 1938, the entertainment trade newspaper Variety
reported that the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had bought the rights to adapt L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" for the screen, and that the studio had cast 16-year-old Judy Garland in the film’s central role, Dorothy Gale. And with these first steps an American, indeed a world classic was born. But there were a lot of bumps on this particular road to Oz, with changes of cast, story and at least one signature song almost ending up on the cutting room floor.

L. Frank Baum and "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz".

Based on "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", by Lyman Frank Baum (right, 1856 - 1919), a story published in 1900, the movie makes quite a number of departures from Baum's story, but comes a lot closer than the two silent versions of 1910 and the 1925 version in which Dorothy was made a princess of Oz. There was also a animated cartoon in 1933. In Baum's book, Oz was a real place to which Dorothy would return in later Oz books. Whereas in the 1939 film Oz is a dream world in which she meets several characters based upon people in her real life such as Miss Gulch, Professor Marvel, and the farmhands, none of whom appear in the book.

Casting "Dorothy""the Wizard" and "the Tin Man"

Casting was a bit of a problem. The film's Producer Mervyn LeRoy always maintained that he had Judy Garland in mind for the lead role of Dorothy. But there is evidence that suggests that at least some negotiations were conducted at an early stage with 20'th Century Fox to obtain the services of child star Shirley Temple. These were the days when the all-powerful Hollywood "Studio System" (wherein a studio basically owned a star and could loan them out or not as they saw fit)
was in full force. But the deal never happened. Originally the tall lanky dancer Ray Bolger was set to play the Tin Man, and Buddy Ebsen (left), who later became famous later as "Jedd  Clampett" in "the Beverly Hillbillies" on TV was set to play the Scarecrow. But Bolger was convinced that his frame and his long legs were just right for the Scarecrow, so he convinced Mervyn LeRoy to recast him for that part, and Buddy Ebsen
for the Tin Man. But fate had different plans in mind. Ebsen wound up developing a serious allergic reaction to the silver dust make-up being used for the Tin Man, and thus had to leave the film altogether. Jack Haley was brought in to replace him. And the comedian W.C. Fields was originally planned for the title role of the Wizard. But MGM became exasperated at his negotiations for his fee. So they hired Frank Morgan for the role.

Some Items Which(Almost) Didn't Make the Cut...

Inevitably, there were some cuts to both the story and the finished film, as well as some cuts which almost happened. One interesting cut to the story came in the relationship between Dorothy and the Scarecrow. There was in the script a scene in the conclusion of the film wherein the character of Huck (the real-world counterpart to the Scarecrow) gets Dorothy to promise to write to him when he leaves the farm for Agricultural College. Clearly there was a romance intended for these two, but it was removed from the final script. But it seems pretty obvious that Dorothy leans on the Scarecrow most of all during the film. And this does make it into the final cut when just before she is to leave Oz, she tells the Scarecrow, "I think I'll miss you most of all."  There was an elaborate dance scene called the "Jitterbug" planned for when the flying monkeys intercept the quartet of heroes in the forest.
This was cut for time purposes, but this too survives in the final film when just after sending them after their quarry, the witch says "And just to take the fight out of them I'll send the little worm ahead." But most important of all was a cut which did NOT happen. The film was running on a bit too long, so MGM was looking for some room to cut. "Over the Rainbow" in their eyes made the Kansas portion of the film drag, and was also beyond the understanding of the target audience of kids. But the song with words by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, and music by the great Harold Arlen was a favorite of Producer Mervyn Le Roy, and he fought to have it kept in, and obviously he won. Happily so, as the song went on to win the Academy Award for "Best Original Song" of 1939. And of course it wound up being the signature song of Judy Garlands concert career.

A Long Afterlife on Television

"The Wizard of Oz" was shown on television for the first time on November 3, 1956 on CBS, as the last installment of the "Ford Star Jubilee" , which made it the first Hollywood film ever shown uncut in one evening on a commercial television network. The Oz scenes were shown in color, but most televisions at that time were not color sets, so very few members of the TV audience saw the film with the full color sequences. An estimated 45 million saw this first broadcast. However, it was not rerun until three years later. On December 13, 1959 the film was shown as a two-hour Christmas season special. This Christmas broadcast was an even bigger ratings hit, so CBS made it an annual Christmas tradition, showing it from 1959 through 1962 always during the Christmas season. This was changed in 1963 due to the proximity of the John F. Kennedy assassination, which had occurred just a few weeks earlier. So the broadcast occurred that year on January 26, 1964. And since then, The Wizard of Oz has been shown at least once a year for nearly three decades. And with the advent first of color television, and then the wide availability of VHS and then of DVD copies and players, this tale has come to be one of the best loved films of all time, being ranked number six on the American Film Institute list of the Top 100 films of all time.


- MGM, 1939; Produced by Mervyn Leroy.


The poster =

L. Frank Baum =

Buddy Ebsen =

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" =

+ 3268.
+ 453.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

SPECIAL = Maria von Trapp Dies

To the readers of "Today in History" -- the following article is an item taken right from today's headlines and is related to a previous posting on this Blog called : "Anschluss, The Sound of Music + 50"  The article below is not written by me, but is taken directly from another on-line source by the author Steven Weber, and can be found at the following web address:

Maria von Trapp, the Last Surviving Member of the von Trapp Family Dies at 99

Von Trapp was the last surviving member of the Austrian family of seven brothers and sisters and died in her sleep at her Vermont home (on Tuesday, Feb. 18). "It was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest because ever since she was a child she suffered from a weak heart," family friend Marianne Dorfer told the Austrian Times.

"It was the fact that she suffered from this that her father decided to hire Maria von Trapp to teach her and her brothers and sisters," she continued. "That of course then led to one of the most remarkable musical partnerships of the last century."

Indeed, as the second-eldest daughter, Von Trapp and her family famously escaped the Nazis in the 1930s for a better life in the states. Their journey was the inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1959 broadway hit, and in 1965, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer then starred in its film adaptation. Actress Heather Menzies-Urich portrayed her as the character Louisa. (According to the Times, Von Trapp's first visit back to Austria after escaping was in 2008.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

FEBRUARY 22 = "Miracle on Ice!!"

READERS : Early on the morning of Feb. 15, I received the following request: "Brian, please give us a history lesson in US vs Russia hockey?"  Well at that late moment it was impossible for me to get together the type of posting that I would normally do.  BUT... I was able to put together a posting form one of my most reliable on-line sources for background on any subject, and that would be "Wikipedia"!!  But that request came just a few days before the actual Anniversary of the celebrated "Miracle on Ice" which happens to be THIS very day, February 22!! So what follows is entirely from "Wikipedia"... their presentation of "Miracle on Ice".... and has been moved from it's original posting day (Feb. 15) to today in order to make it in keeping with the the rest of this  Blog which is afterall "Today in History" !!
The actual article (which will shortly be replaced by one of my  own authorship)  can be accessed at:  if you want all off the references and sources that they always list with their articles.  So here it is directly from "Wikipedia":

The "Miracle on Ice" is the name in American popular culture for a medal-round men'sice hockey game during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, on Friday, February 22. The United States national team, made up of amateur and colle- giate players and led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet Union national team, which had won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Olympic games.
Team USA went on to win the gold medal by winning its last match over Finland. The Soviet Union took the silver medal by beating Sweden in its final game. In 1999,Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century.[1] As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) chose the "Miracle on Ice" as the century's number-one international ice hockey story.[2]

The Soviet and American teams[edit]

The Soviet Union entered the Lake Placid games as the heavy favorite, having won the previous four ice hockey gold medals dating back to the1964 games. In the four Olympics following their 1960 upset by Team USA at Squaw Valley, Soviet teams had gone 27–1–1 (wins-losses-ties) and outscored the opposition 175–44.[3] In head-to-head match-ups against the United States, the cumulative score over that period was 28–7.[4] The Soviet players, some of whom were active-duty military,[5] played in a well-developed league with world class training facilities. They were led by legendary players in world ice hockey, such as Boris Mikhailov (a top line right winger and team captain), Vladislav Tretiak (the consensus best goaltender in the world at the time), the speedy and skilled Valeri Kharlamov, as well as talented, young, and dynamic players such as defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov and forwards Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov. From that team, Tretiak, Kharlamov, and Fetisov would eventually be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
U.S. head coach Herb Brooks conducted tryouts in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1979. Of the 20 players who eventually made the final Olympic roster, Buzz Schneider was the only one returning from the 1976 Olympic team.[6] Nine players had played under Brooks at theUniversity of Minnesota, which included Rob McClanahanMike Ramsey, and Phil Verchota; while four more were from Boston UniversityDave SilkJack O'Callahan, goalie Jim Craig, and team captain Mike Eruzione.[7] Boston and Minnesota were perennial rivals in College Hockey and the hostility carried over from some of the players on the Olympic team for the first few months. The average age of the U.S. team was 21 years old, making it the youngest team in U.S. team history to play in the Olympics and would be the youngest team in the Olympic tournament. Assistant coach Craig Patrick had played with Brooks on the 1967 U.S. national team.[8]
The Soviet and American teams were natural rivals due to the decades-old Cold War. In addition, President Jimmy Carter was at the time considering a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow, in protest of the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On February 9, the same day that the American and Soviet teams met in an exhibition game in New York City, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance denounced the impending Moscow games at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).[9] President Carter eventually decided in favor of the boycott.

Olympic group play[edit]

In Olympic group play, the Americans surprised many observers with their physical, cohesive play. In their first game against favored Sweden, Team USA earned a dramatic 2–2 draw by scoring with 27 seconds left after pulling goalie Jim Craig for an extra attacker. Then came a stunning 7–3 victory over Czechoslovakia, who were a favorite for the silver medal. With its two toughest games in the group phase out of the way, the U.S. team reeled off three more wins, beating Norway 5–1, Romania 7–2, and West Germany 4–2 to go 4–0–1 and advance to the medal round from its group, along with Sweden.
In the other group, the Soviets stormed through their opposition undefeated, often by grossly lopsided scores. They defeated Japan 16–0, theNetherlands 17–4, Poland 8–1, Finland 4–2, and Canada 6–4 to easily qualify for the next round, although both the Finns and the Canadians gave the Soviets tough games for two periods. In the end, the Soviet Union and Finland advanced from their group.[15]

Preparing for the medal round[edit]

The U.S. and Soviet teams prepared for the medal round in different ways. Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov rested most of his best players, preferring to let them study plays rather than actually skate. U.S. coach Herb Brooks, however, continued with his tough, confrontational style, skating hard practices and berating his players for perceived weaknesses and to build stamina. Brooks' goal was to have his team be able to keep up with the Soviets through all three periods.[citation needed]
The day before the match, columnist Dave Anderson wrote in the New York Times, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments."[16]

"Do you believe in miracles?"[edit]

With a capacity of 8,500, the Field House was packed.[17] The home crowd waved U.S. flags and sang patriotic songs such as "God Bless America".[10] The game was aired live on CTV in Canada, but not ABC in the United States. Thus, American viewers who resided in or near Canadian border regions and received the CTV signal could watch the game live, but the rest of the United States had to wait for a delayed rebroadcast.
After the Soviets declined a request to move the game from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for U.S. television (this would have meant a 4 a.m. start in Moscow for Soviet viewers), ABC decided to broadcast the late-afternoon game on tape delay in prime time.[18] To this day some of the people that watched the game on television still believe that it was live.[19] Before the game, Brooks read his players a statement he had written out on a piece of paper, telling them that "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."[20]

First period[edit]

As in several previous games, the U.S. team fell behind early. Vladimir Krutov deflected a slap shot by Aleksei Kasatonov past U.S. goaltender Jim Craig at the 9:12 mark to give the Soviets a 1–0 lead, and after Buzz Schneider scored for the United States at 14:03 to tie the game, the Soviets struck again with a Sergei Makarov goal with 17:34 gone. With his team down 2–1, Craig improved his play, turning away many Soviet shots before the U.S. team had another shot on goal (the Soviet team had 39 shots on goal in the game, the Americans 16).
In the waning seconds of the first period, Dave Christian fired a slap shot on Tretiak from 100 feet (30 m) away. The Soviet goalie saved the shot but misplayed the rebound, which bounced out some 20 feet (6.1 m) in front of him. Mark Johnson sliced between the two defenders, found the loose puck, and fired it past a diving Tretiak to tie the score with one second left in the period. This would be an important judgment call by the officials, as an official announcement confirming the goal did not come until many Soviet players were off the ice and heading to the locker room for intermission.[21] The first period ended with the game tied 2–2.[22]

Second period[edit]

Tikhonov replaced Tretiak with backup goaltender Vladimir Myshkin immediately after Johnson's tying goal,[23] a move which shocked players on both teams.[10] Tikhonov later identified this as the "turning point of the game",[24] and called it "the biggest mistake of my career".[25] Years later, when Johnson asked Slava Fetisov, now an NHL teammate, about the move, Fetisov responded with "Coach crazy".[26] Myshkin allowed no goals in the second period. The Soviets dominated play in the second period, outshooting the Americans 12–2, but scored only once, on apower play goal by Aleksandr Maltsev 2:18 into play. After two periods the Soviet Union led 3–2.

Third period[edit]

Vladimir Krutov was sent to the penalty box at the 6:47 mark of the third period for high-sticking. The Americans, who had managed only two shots on Myshkin in 27 minutes, had a power play and a rare offensive opportunity. Myshkin stopped a Mike Ramsey shot, then U.S. team captain Mike Eruzione fired a shot wide. Late in the power play, Dave Silk was advancing into the Soviet zone when Valeri Vasiliev knocked him to the ice. The puck slid to Mark Johnson.[27] Johnson fired off a shot that went under Myshkin and into the net at the 8:39 mark, as the power play was ending, tying the game at 3.[28] Only a couple of shifts later, Mark Pavelich passed to Eruzione, who was left undefended in the high slot. Eruzione, who had just come onto the ice, fired a shot past Myshkin, who was screened by Vasili Pervukhin.[29] This goal gave Team USA a 4–3 lead, its first of the game, with 10 minutes remaining.
The Soviets, trailing for the first time in the game, attacked furiously. Moments after Eruzione's goal, Maltsev fired a shot which ricocheted off the right goal post.[30] As the minutes wound down, Brooks kept repeating to his players, "Play your game. Play your game."[31] Instead of going into a defensive crouch, the United States continued to play offense, even getting off a few more shots on goal.[32] The Soviets began to shoot wildly, and Sergei Starikov admitted that "we were panicking". As the clock ticked down below a minute, the Soviets got the puck back into the American zone, and Mikhailov passed to Vladimir Petrov, who shot wide.[33] The Soviets never pulled Myshkin for an extra attacker, much to the Americans' disbelief. Starikov later explained that "We never did six-on-five", not even in practice, because "Tikhonov just didn't believe in it".[34] Craig kicked away a Petrov slap shot with 33 seconds left. Kharlamov fired the puck back in as the clock ticked below 20 seconds. A wild scramble for the puck ensued, ending when Johnson found it and passed it to Ken Morrow.[34] As the U.S. team tried to clear the zone (move the puck over the blue line, which they did with seven seconds remaining), the crowd began to count down the seconds left. SportscasterAl Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC along with former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, picked up on the countdown in his broadcast, and delivered his famous call:[35]
11 seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!
The March 3, 1980 cover of Sports Illustrated ran without any accompanying captions or headlines.
As his team ran all over the ice in celebration, Herb Brooks sprinted back to the locker room and cried.[36] In the locker room afterwards, players spontaneously broke into a chorus of "God Bless America".[37]
During the broadcast wrap-up after the game, ABC Olympic sports anchor Jim McKay compared the American victory over the Soviets to a group of Canadian college football players defeating thePittsburgh Steelers (the recent Super Bowl champions and at the height of their dynasty).
The cover of the March 3, 1980 issue of Sports Illustrated was a photograph by Heinz Kluetmeier; it did not feature any explanatory captions or headlines, because, as Kluetmeier put it, "Everyone in America knew what happened".[38]
It's me Brian again... and here's Al Michaels with the call..........

+ 58.

Friday, February 21, 2014

FEBRUARY 21 = Malcom X is Assassinated

"There was a prolonged ovation as Malcolm walked to the rostrum past a piano and a set of drums waiting for an evening dance and stood in front of a mural of a landscape as dingy as the rest of the ballroom. When, after more than a minute the crowd quieted, Malcolm looked up and said, “A salaam aleikum (Peace be unto you)” and the audience replied “Wa aleikum salaam (And unto you, peace).”

"Bespectacled and dapper in a dark suit, his sandy hair glinting in the light, Malcolm said: “Brothers and sisters . . .” He was interrupted by two men in the center of the ballroom, about four rows in front and to the right of me, who rose and, arguing with each other, moved forward. Then there was a scuffle in the back of the room and, as I turned my head to see what was happening, I heard Malcolm X say his last words: “Now, now brothers, break it up,” he said softly. “Be cool, be calm.”  Then all hell broke loose. There was a muffled sound of shots and Malcolm, blood on his face and chest, fell limply back over the chairs behind him. The two men who had approached him ran to the exit on my side of the room shooting wildly behind them as they ran. "

These were the last moments in the life of "Malcom X", the fiery spirited Afro-American Muslim leader as reported in the "New York Post" on Feb. 22 by Thomas Skinner. Malcom X was shot to death on this day, February 21, 1965 just as he began to address a meeting of his followers at the Audobon Ballroom in New York City.

Malcom X and His Conversion to Islam

Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz had been born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, the fourth of seven children to Earl Little and Louise Norton. Malcom's father
was an outspoken Baptist lay speaker, who was killed, it was believed by white suprem- acists when Malcom was a young child. His mother was  judged to be insane a few years later, and Malcom spent much of his youth in foster homes. He was a good student, but chafed at the limited opportunities open to an intelligent young black man, being told by a teacher that being a lawyer was "no realistic goal for a nigger." He moved from Boston, wherein he lived for a time with his older sister, to New York where he wound up living in Harlem. There he lived a life of occasional employment,mixed with the fast crowd of clubs, crime and drugs. He returned to Boston and was eventually sent to jail on charges of burglary.

There at Charlestown State Prison in Charlestown, Boston, Malcom met a self-educated fellow prisoner named John Elton Bembry, who introduced him to the teachings of the Nation of Islam. Bembry convinced the headstrong and proud young Malcom that by educating himself and cleansing his body of the poisons of cigarettes and drugs, he could become free and self-reliant. Malcom thereafter became a voracious reader and converted to the Islamic faith as preached by the American Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad. It was in 1950 that he began signing his letters as "Malcom X". In his autobiography he explained why:

"The Muslim's 'X' symbolized the true African family name that he never could know. For me, my 'X'  replaced the white slave master name of 'Little' which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears."

Malcom X Becomes an Orator

This newly emboldened and very devoted Malcom X became one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam as the African American Muslim
movement was then known. He had a natural gift for public speaking, able to deliver fiery addresses to rouse large crowds, but also adept in one on one interviews. In the segments which this writer has seen his calm, almost matter of fact way of saying things which were fairly radical then or now (that all whites were devils for example), made him one of the most remarkable figures of this or any period. The man also had a fairly imposing physical presence. He stood at 6 ft. 3 inches tall, and weighed about 180 pounds and was described by Marable Manning as "mesmerizingly handsome ... and always spotlessly well-groomed."

The Break With the Nation of Islam

Of course, being so much in the public eye made Malcom the object of some amount of jealousy within the Nation of Islam. By 1963, he had already fallen into disfavor with some of that groups leadership. There had long been rumors of illegitimate children fathered by Elijah Muhammad, and on investigating some of these claims, Malcom found them to be true. When he referred to the assassination of John F. Kennedy as "Chickens coming home to roost" he was suspended from speaking in public by Elijah Muhammad. This lead to his break with the Nation of Islam in March of 1964. He pledged to try and organize black Americans in order to heighten their political awareness, and also to work more openly and cooperatively with other civil rights leaders, whom he had previously dismissed for their devotion to a non-violent approach. During a pilgrimage to Mecca, he found himself conversing with and praying alongside many white Muslims as well, so he returned with a willingness to accept help from whites that he had previously lacked.

Malcom is Killed on February 21, 1965.

It was when addressing a meeting of his new organization "the Organization of Afro-American Unity" that Malcom X was shot down and killed (below). The account by Thomas Skinner from the New York Post continues:

"I fell to the floor, got up, tried to find a way out of the bedlam.
Malcolm's wife, Betty, was near the stage, screaming in a frenzy. “They're killing my husband,” she cried. “They're killing my husband.”
Groping my way through the first frightened, then enraged crowd, I heard people screaming, “Don't let them kill him.” “Kill those bastards.” “Don't let him get away.” “Get him.”
At an exit I saw some of Malcolm's men beating with all their strength on two men. Police were trying to fight their way toward the two. The press of the crowd forced me back inside.
I saw a half-dozen of Malcolm's followers bending over his inert body on the stage, their clothes stained with their leader's blood. Then they put him on a litter while guards kept everyone off the platform. A woman bending over him said: “He's still alive. His heart's beating.”
Four policemen took the stretcher and carried Malcolm through the crowd and some of the women came out of their shock long enough to moan and one said: “I don't think he's going to make it. I hope he doesn't die, but I don't think he's going to make it.”
I spotted a phone booth in the rear of the hall, fumbled for a dime, and called a photographer. Then I sat there, the surprise wearing off a bit, and tried desperately to remember what had happened. One of my first thoughts was that this was the first day of National Brotherhood Week."

Malcom X was pronounced dead a short time later. Not only had the man been gunned down by a shotgun blast that blew half of his lectern away with him, but horribly, this had happened in full view of his wife and young children who were sitting in the front row at the time. Three men would be convicted of the murder, but their ties to elements within the Nation of Islam have never been clearly defined. Although most historians believe that some such connection did in fact exist, the precise nature  of that connection remains undetermined to this day. The New York Post reacted to Malcom's death by writing that "even his sharpest critics recognized his brilliance—often wild, unpredictable and eccentric, but nevertheless possessing promise that must now remain unrealized."


Directed by Spike Lee, 1992.


Malcom X =

Malcom as a young man =

Malcom X as orator =

Assassination =

+ 3334.
+ 478.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FEBRUARY 19 = The USMC on Iwo Jima 70 Years Ago

"You were sacred to death. You just wanted to dig deeper into the sand. But on Iwo, you couldn't. It was this damned black volcanic stuff. Besides, you had a job to do. We tried to pull our guns into position, but it was impossible by mechanized means. We just had to muscle them up to their place. It was crazy."

This was one of the memories of John P. Bolten, Battery A, 14th Regiment, Fourth Marine Division of his experience on Iwo Jima. On today's date, February 19 in 1945 - 70 years ago - the Fourth marines were part of an invasion force which landed on that island with the intention of taking it from it's Japanese defenders. The ultimate objective was to construct a forward air base for operations directed against the Japanese homeland. The next month would witness one of the most murderous crossfires which human beings have ever unleashed upon each other, but it would also be the site of the most iconic and heroic images of the war, and perhaps the most reproduced photograph of all time.

Iwo Jima - Japanese Home Soil

Iwo Jima, a largely barren volcanic rock in the Pacific ocean was home to a small civilian population, all of which had been evacuated long before the battle that February. But it was the first of what was considered to be a part of the Japanese home islands to be attacked by the Americans, so the Imperial Japanese Army was prepared to defend it tenaciously. There really was no way for them to prevail, but they were prepared to make the Americans pay a very heavy price in blood for every foot of ground, and in this effort they were indeed successful. The Japanese Commander, Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribiyachi had decided to break with established Japanese practice in not
contesting the landings themselves. Instead, he elected to wait until the beaches were crowded with men and materiel before opening fire. Further, he built strong defensive positions a bit further into the island's interior. Towards this end, he created interlocking fields of fire with machine guns, tanks in fixed positions, plus thousands of land mines and hidden mortar positions all over the island. The positions were mutually supporting via a network of tunnels which the Japanese had had years to prepare, and which therefore had survived the massive bombing and naval artillery barrage that preceded the assault. B-24's launched from bases in the Marianas had been pounding Iwo for 74 full days. But intelligence reported that this was having little effect. The top Marine at Iwo was Lt. General Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith, who had wanted a more extensive naval action. Smith had wanted the Navy to hit Iwo for a full ten days, but the Navy, saying it needed to conserve ordinance for the coming assault on Okinawa, begged off, and bombarded the island for three days instead.

The Raising of the Flag on Mt. Suribachi

At 8:59 a.m., the landings began. The scene at the very beginning was eerily quiet. It was only as that first wave advanced to the first line of Japanese bunkers that they took withering enemy fire. The black volcanic sand on Iwo proved to be a double-edged sword. While it made for very poor cover for the advancing marines, and provided equally poor traction for the U.S. tanks and other heavy equipment, it also absorbed a considerable portion of the fragments from Japanese shells. Artillery positions dug into the interior of Mt. Suribachi, the mountain which dominated the south end of the island eventually opened fire on the beaches once they had become clogged with marines and equipment. Due to heavy naval, air and ground bombardment, the marines were eventually able to cut Suribachi off from the rest of the island, but only by the fifth day was it possible to get to the summit of the heavily defended peak. Most of it's defenders remained in caves, so actually reaching the top was not nearly so difficult as securing the entire mountain. Nevertheless, a first flag was placed in the ground, the first American flag to fly on Japanese soil (below).

But this flag was replaced by a larger version, when Navy Secretary James Forrestal, who had just arrived on the island wanted the first one for a souvenir. This resulted in the famous photograph of the second flag raising by photographer Joe Rosenthal. It became the very image of the war, the only photo to win the Pulitzer Prize in the same year in which it was made.

John P. Bolten Remembers

But the rest of the island would not be taken for over three more weeks. The infantry units took dreadful casualties, having to fight desperately, sometimes for just a few yards at a time. They would observe a position, and then call in artillery barrages from the Marine guns that had been landed. John Bolten remembered this carnage all too well, including the particular view that he and the men of Battery A had from their emplacement of a 105 MM artillery gun:

"They took a beating in those infantry units. One of my friends, Marty Fiorie - his brother was a boxer, and while he wasn't big - he was built like a battleship - kept saying that he got into the war to kill Japs, and he never got to see one. So he transferred to a recon unit, and had one of those big damn radios attached to his back while he called in Jap positions. He got killed. And then later, right in front of (our fox hole) was a severed leg, still wrapped in it's legging. There was a rosary wrapped around it. It was about 50 yards in front of our machine gun and we had to look over it. Those guys in the infantry really took it in the teeth. If I had had to go in on the first wave like they did, I wouldn't be here today." 

The Heavy Casualties on Iwo Jima

By the time Iwo Jima was officially declared secured in March, the USMC had suffered 26,038 casualties, with 6,821 of those
having been men who were killed in action -- a larger casualty list than
the total Allied losses on D-Day itself in Europe. In fact, it was also the only operation in which the total American casualties exceeded those of the Japanese. Of the 22, 786 Japanese soldiers defending Iwo Jima, only 216 survived to be captured. The Japanese soldier's code of Bushido made surrender a disgrace. Thus many, perhaps 3,000 or more committed ritual suicide rather than surrender. The last two stragglers hid out in caves and eventually surrendered in 1951.

   Heroes? In my opinion, yes. We owe our safe comfortable lives to these men who were willing to put their own lives on the line to protect us -- these and all of the men and women who have been willing to do this from Lexington and Concord back in 1775, on through to Afghanistan and Iraq in the last few years. But I suspect that they never did and never will look upon themselves as heroes, but rather as men and women who simply had a job to do, and who were lucky enough to survive where others were not. Whatever the case, may God Bless them all!!


by Bill D. Ross, Vanguard Press, New York,1985.

The Wartime Memories of John P. Bolten, unpublished, possession of the author.

"Marines Remember the Bloodiest Battle" - Lew Moores, Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 19, 1995


THE Flag Raising =

Map =

The first Flag raising =

Marines on the beach =

+ 180.
+ 246.