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 came 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.

"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 - 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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

AUGUST 19 = Augustus Caesar Dies

"On the day that he died , Augustus frequently inquired, if whether the rumors of his death were causing any popular disturbance.  He called for a mirror, and had his hair to be combed, and his lower jaw, which had fallen from weakness, propped up.  Presently, he summoned a group of friends  and asked: 'Have I played the my part in the farce of life credibly enough?' adding the theatrical tag: 

 'If I have pleased you, then kindly signify, 
 Appreciation with a warm goodbye.'

Then he dismissed them, but when fresh visitors arrived from Rome, wanted to hear the latest news of the daughter of Drusus the younger who was ill.  Finally he kissed his wife with: 'Goodbye Livia:  never forget our marriage!' and he died almost at once."

This was the way that the writer Suetonius (writing in 96 AD) recorded the death of Augustus Caesar, which occurred on today's date, August 19 in the year 14 AD. Why do I place this as an important day in history by telling you about it in my Blog?  Because so much of our political, technological, and cultural heritage comes to us from Roman times, and it was this man, Rome's first "Emperor" who essentially saved it for the years after his death. Augustus created the "Pax Romana" - the "Peace of Rome" which allowed her civilization to solidify and to flourish for the ages hence.

"Caesar" and Augustus' Rise

First of all the title of  "Caesar" was not originally a title, but a family name of the first Caesar, Julius who was murdered in 44 BC by Roman Senators who were angry about the assumption of dictatorial powers by him over the Roman Republic. The death of Julius Caesar was the cause of a great civil war within the Roman Empire. Augustus who went by the name of Octavian before rising to great prominence was
actually the nephew of Julius Caesar, and a rather slight and sickly child at that.  But eventually Julius made him his adopted son and heir.  Civil war broke out in the wake of Julius Caesar's death with the forces of Octavian, and Julius Caesar's friends Marcus Lepidus, and Mark Antony defeating those of Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius.  Then Lepidus attempted to take charge of this triumvirate, but his armies were basically bought out by Octavian.  This left Mark Antony, in charge of the Eastern Half of the Roman Empire. But he fell out with Octavian and the rest of Rome's elite over his affair with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by the forces of Octavian at the Battle of Actium (above) on Sept. 2, 31 BC.  This left Octavian in sole possession of the leadership of Rome.

Octavian/Augustus Rebuilds a Shattered Empire

Now Octavian stood as the sole power in an Empire that had been shattered by years of Civil War. First, in order to avoid the mistake of his adoptive father Julius Caesar he sought to appear as if he was not gathering too much power around himself personally.  So he humbly laid down his power, but the Senate simply voted to restore his power and then granted him the title of "Augustus" which means "great" or "venerable", derived from Latin "augere" meaning "to increase".  In public though, he went by the simpler title of "Princeps" or "First
Citizen".  Just as the month of July had been named in honor of Julius Caesar, the month of August was so named in honor of Augustus.  His main accomplishment was in the peace, the Pax Romana which he established which in turn allowed the economy, agriculture, and the Arts to flourish. He established political stability by reducing the number of Senators, streamlining the way that the Senate did business.  He went on a vigorous building campaign in Rome, constructing many temples and public buildings.  He was also a great patron of the arts.  It was during this time that Virgil wrote  his epic poem "The Aeneid". Buildings such as the Marcellus Theater (above) were constructed.  He also firmly set the empire's boundaries in all its areas, such as the north where he considered the Rhine River to be the empire's natural northern border.

The Augustan Legacy

The reign of Augustus Caesar - he continued to use the name Caesar to link himself openly with Julius Caesar, and it wound up being another tradition which stuck -- was most certainly a Golden Age for Rome.  It was his steady hand at the helm of power, carefully and patiently building up Rome's political, economic, cultural and military institutions that enabled those institutions to grow roots and to become ways of life which in tune secured the succession to other rulers long after his death.  And it was in this way that much of that heritage survived to be handed down to successive generations such as our own.

Also... his history included a tumultuous private life in which, while he tried his best to set a good example, there was constant plotting, back-stabbing (literally), and sexual escapades.  If the rumors which abounded then and since are to be believed, much of this was set in motion by his wife Livia, who seemed to be poisoning everyone. Whether or not this was true, it was the picture painted by the poet, novelist and classical historian Robert Graves (1895 - 1985) in his novel "I, Claudius" published in 1934.  This was in turn made into a fascinating Television Series on PBS's "Masterpiece Theater" in 1976 (above, actor Brian Blessed as Augustus in "I, Claudius") which inspired a young man of 16 named Brian T. Bolten to read Suetonius, Graves, and to fall in love with history, as a collection of incredible stories.... !!

Sources =

"Suetonius - The Twelve Caesars", Translated  by Robert Graves, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1979.

"I, Claudius" by Robert Graves, Copyright, 1934, Electronic Edition, Rosetta Books, LLC, 2014

"Augustus - the Life of Rome's First Emperor" by Anthony Everitt, Random House, New York, 2006

Friday, August 15, 2014


The Woodstock Music & Art Fair— better known simply as "Woodstock" began on today's date, August 15 in 1969.  Billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music", it came to symbolize all that that decade of youth and counterculture had come to symbolize... "peace", "love", or at least "free love" drugs, psychodelia, and all of that young yippie life.  At least that's what I think it was all about... I was only 8 years old at the time, and never quite understood the mindset.  But it certainly was a kind of watershed moment for that generation, so I felt that it definitely should be mentioned here.

It was held at the 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskills belonging to Max Yasgur, near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York.  It lasted from August 15 to 18, 1969.  The weather was pretty rainy through much of the festival, so one sees a lot of muddy hippies in the pictures from these crazy few days. 32 acts performed outdoors in front of 400,000 young people.  And the list of acts reads like a "Who's Who" of 1960's musical popular acts, going from Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie on day one from Santana, to "the Grateful Dead" to "Credence Clearwater Revival" to Janis Joplin on day two and from Crosby, Stills, and Nash to Jimmy Hendrix on day three.

"I felt like 'Alice in Wonderland!'"

Iris Shapiro remembers: "We took our "stuff" (we really hadn't thought about what to bring, just sleeping bags and a change of clothes) and started walking. The only thing I can describe it as would be a "pilgrimage to Mecca." Everyone was heading in the same direction with various items of baggage.

"Finally, we approa- ched the fence of the event itself. At the very point that we reached the fence, I witnessed the enormity of the crowd pushing forward. I saw the multitude actually trample the fence, pushing it over, and proceed through, like a stampede of cattle. Our tickets were no longer of any value. Of course, we followed.

"As the dark settled, the show began. Now my husband will find this abominable, but I don't really remember the music! I was so involved with the enormity and diversity of the audience and the general scene that I felt like Alice in Wonderland." 

"I fell asleep to 'the Grateful Dead'...."

A friend of Ted Kraver's recalls:

" I remember Gabe Pressman, a local NY broadcaster, standing at the edge of the stage telling the camera about the terrible conditions—I wanted to yell “We’re having fun, Gabe” but he wouldn’t have heard me in any case. The festival was an eye-opening experience for a shy kid from the suburbs. I was very na├»ve about drug use going in and much less so going home. I saw more flesh than I ever had, though rarely from the girls I would most have enjoyed watching. But generally, I saw kids on the cusp of adulthood acting more like grown-ups—cooperating, helping each other out, dealing with challenging 
situations—than the grown-ups I knew. Or the grown-ups we turned out to be, I’m sad to say. In the end, Woodstock was still about the music and that was overwhelming. I was a Buffalo Springfield fanatic so I went to see the unknown successor band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They were charming and sang brilliantly (though their guitars needed tuning). I heard the Band, my other favorite group, who were terrific. I fell asleep to the Grateful Dead and woke up to Sly Stone. The Who, Richie Havens and Santana probably made the strongest impression from the weekend. I heard Hendrix echoing through trees as I left for home. "

Hearing Crosby, Stills and Nash

From Greil Marcus of "Rolling Stone" Magazine:

"The band was very nervous.  Neil Young was stalking around, kissing his wife, trying to tune his guitar off in a corner... Stills and Nash paced back and forth and tested the organ and the mikes... Finally, they went on.  They opened with 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes', stretching it out for a long time, exploring the figures of the song for the crowd.. they strummed and picked their way through other numbers, and then began to shift around, Crosby singing with Stills, then Nash and Crosby, back and forth.  They had the crowd all the way.  They seemed like several bands rather than one.

"Then they hit it. Right into 'Long Time Gone' a song for the season if ever there was one; Stills on organ, shouting out the choruses, Neil snapping out lead, Crosby aiming his electric twelve string out over the edge of the stage, biting off his words and stretching them out - lyrics as strong as any we are likely to hear.  

'There's something, something, something/ Goin' on around here/ That surely, surely, surely/
Won't stand / The light of day/ Ooooooohhh! / And it appears to be a long time...' 

I have never seen a musician so involved in his music.  At one point Crosby nearly fell off the stage in his excitement." 


"The Mammoth Book of Eyewitness History" Edited by Jon E. Lewis, Carroll and Graf Publ. Inc., New York, 1998

Friday, August 8, 2014

AUGUST 8 = President Nixon Resigns

On today's date, August 8 during the long hot summer of 1974 President Richard Milhous Nixon (left) announced his intention to resign the office of President of the United States, effective at noon the following day.  He would be succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. Ford. There is so very much that I could say about Nixon and the scandal which forced his resignation.  There is so much that I would like to say.  Perhaps at some point in the future I will do so on this or some other relevant date. But I haven't had time during the last few days to organize my thoughts into a form which does justice to this momentous event.  So I think that the best thing I can and should do on this, the anniversary of this sad day is to let the man speak for himself.  So here is his resignation speech in its entirety:

Good evening.

This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of this Nation. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the national interest.

In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me.

In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.

But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.

I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations.

From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require.

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.

To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford (right) will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.

As I recall the high hopes for America with which we began this second term, I feel a great sadness that I will not be here in this office working on your behalf to achieve those hopes in the next 21/2 years. But in turning over direction of the Government to Vice President Ford, I know, as I told the Nation when I nominated him for that office 10 months ago, that the leadership of America will be in good hands.

In passing this office to the Vice President, I also do so with the profound sense of the weight of responsibility that will fall on his shoulders tomorrow and, therefore, of the understanding, the patience, the cooperation he will need from all Americans.

As he assumes that responsibility, he will deserve the help and the support of all of us. As we look to the future, the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us, and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people.

By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.

I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my Judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the Nation.

To those who have stood with me during these past difficult months, to my family, my friends, to many others who joined in supporting my cause because they believed it was right, I will be eternally grateful for your support.

And to those who have not felt able to give me your support, let me say I leave with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me, because all of us, in the final analysis, have been concerned with the good of the country, however our judgments might differ.

So, let us all now join together in affirming that common commitment and in helping our new President succeed for the benefit of all Americans.

I shall leave this office with regret at not completing my term, but with gratitude for the privilege of serving as your President for the past 51/2 years. These years have been a momentous time in the history of our Nation and the world. They have been a time of achievement in which we can all be proud, achievements that represent the shared efforts of the Administration, the Congress, and the people.

But the challenges ahead are equally great, and they, too, will require the support and the efforts of the Congress and the people working in cooperation with the new Administration.

We have ended America's longest war, but in the work of securing a lasting peace in the world, the goals ahead are even more far-reaching and more difficult. We must complete a structure of peace so that it will be said of this generation, our generation of Americans, by the people of all nations, not only that we ended one war but that we prevented future wars.

We have unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

We must now ensure that the one quarter of the world's people who live in the People's Republic of China will be and remain not our enemies but our friends.

In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries, many of whom have considered us their enemy for nearly 20 years, now look on us as their friends. We must continue to build on that friendship so that peace can settle at last over the Middle East and so that the cradle of civilization will not become its grave.

Together with the Soviet Union we have made the crucial breakthroughs that have begun the process of limiting nuclear arms. But we must set as our goal not just limiting but reducing and finally destroying these terrible weapons so that they cannot destroy civilization and so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer hang over the world and the people.

We have opened the new relation with the Soviet Union. We must continue to develop and expand that new relationship so that the two strongest nations of the world will live together in cooperation rather than confrontation.

Around the world, in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle East, there are millions of people who live in terrible poverty, even starvation. We must keep as our goal turning away from production for war and expanding production for peace so that people everywhere on this earth can at last look forward in their children's time, if not in our own time, to having the necessities for a decent life.

Here in America, we are fortunate that most of our people have not only the blessings of liberty but also the means to live full and good and, by the world's standards, even abundant lives. We must press on, however, toward a goal of not only more and better jobs but of full opportunity for every American and of what we are striving so hard right now to achieve, prosperity without inflation.

For more than a quarter of a century in public life I have shared in the turbulent history of this era. I have fought for what I believed in. I have tried to the best of my ability to discharge those duties and meet those responsibilities that were entrusted to me.

Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt once said about the man in the arena, "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there is not effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievements and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

I pledge to you tonight that as long as I have a breath of life in my body, I shall continue in that spirit. I shall continue to work for the great causes to which I have been dedicated throughout my years as a Congressman, a Senator, a Vice President, and President, the cause of peace not just for America but among all nations, prosperity, justice, and opportunity for all of our people.

There is one cause above all to which I have been devoted and to which I shall always be devoted for as long as I live.

When I first took the oath of office as President 51/2 years ago, I made this sacred commitment, to "consecrate my office, my energies, and all the wisdom I can summon to the cause of peace among nations."

I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge. As a result of these efforts, I am confident that the world is a safer place today, not only for the people of America but for the people of all nations, and that all of our children have a better chance than before of living in peace rather than dying in war.

This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the Presidency. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the Presidency.

To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

AUGUST 7 = The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

"Despite his misgivings, Johnson was not about to forgo the chance to gain bi-partisan support of Capitol Hill for whatever policies he chose to pursue in Southeast Asia.  His aides had broadened the draft of the proposed congressional resolution so that it now authorized him to 'take all necessary measures' to repel attacks against U.S. forces and to 'prevent further aggression' as well as determine when 'peace and security' in the area had been attained.  In short, as Johnson later quipped, the resolution was 'like grandma's nightshirt -- it covered everything.'" 

- Stanley Karnow

On today's date, August 7 in 1964 the United States Senate passed Public Law 88-408.  It was signed into law by President Johnson three days later on Aug. 10. This bill, which passed with very much the overwhelming bi-partisan support that Mr. Karnow speaks of above in his history of the Vietnam War (82 -2 in the Senate, 416 - 0 in the House) came to known as "the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution."  It became the classic case of giving the President a kind of "blank check" to do whatever he wants to do with American forces, and has ever since made Congress very wary of what it authorizes the President to do militarily.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident(s?)

This title refers to an incident or a pair of them which occurred on August 2 and 4th in the Gulf of Tonkin, which is a body of water off the coast of North Vietnam and Southern (Mainland) China.  The reason for
the question mark above is the fact that the second incident most likely never happened at all but was actually based on faulty radar readings.  The U.S. Navy was conducting intelligence gathering (code-named DESOTO) missions in the Gulf of Tonkin.  While the U.S. was involved at this time in the Vietnam conflict, our involvement was limited, and had not involved any large scale combat with North Vietnam.  The incident occurred when the U.S. Navy Destroyer U.S.S. Maddox, commanded by Captain John J. Herrick engaged in gunfire with three torpedo boats of
the North Vietnamese Navy. On Aug. 2, 1964 the Maddox intercepted radio commands to the torpedo boats to attack the Maddox. When the three gunboats approached at high speed (left) Herrick opened fire on them at just after 3:00 p.m.  Each of the boats launched a torpedo. Two missed and the third was a dud. Aircraft from the nearby U.S. Carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga arrived and strafed the enemy boats.  The gunfire from the Maddox damaged two of the torpedo boats and sunk a third.  The skirmish lasted twenty minutes.  Four NVN sailors were killed and four were wounded.  There were no U.S. casualties.

The second attack was probably not an attack at all.  The Maddox and another destroyer, the C. Turner Joy were sent to "show the flag" on Aug. 4 after the provocative action on Aug. 2.  During the summer the Gulf of Tonkin's climate is volatile, and subject to atmospheric conditions which can make radar and radio data difficult to read.  At
about 8:00 p.m., the Maddox (right) intercepted messages which seemed to indicate that the NVN torpedo boats were preparing to attack again.  The Maddox and the Turner Joy opened fire, as did air support called in from the Ticonderoga, and kept it up for four hours.  But Capt. Herrick reported in the end: "Review of action makes many reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen may have accounted for many reports. No actual visual sightings by Maddox. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action taken"

The Political Fallout - LBJ Gets a Blank Check

These two incidents taken by themselves were of no great consequence.  But there was an election going on in the United States.  President Lyndon B. Johnson, filling out the term of John F. Kennedy was
running for election in his own right against the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was a strongly conserv- ative man, and there were charges that LBJ would be soft on communism.  And LBJ was fully determined to blunt any such talk about his stand.  So when the first incident occurred, he was very measured in his response. He elected to return the naval force to the area and "attack anything that attack them."  So with the "second incident",  any doubts about it having occurred were papered over. It gave LBJ the ammo that he needed to go to a Congress which was very willing to back him with a Resolution which essentially gave him carte blanche to handle the military in any way he saw fit in dealing with the Vietnamese conflict. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution paved the way for an enormous escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam,  with heavy bombing raids against North Vietnam itself beginning almost immediately.  As Stanley Karnow concluded:

"So the Senate approved the resolution with only (Senators) Morse and Gruening dissenting while the House passed it unanimously.  Morse predicted that its supporters 'will live to regret it'.... The outcome of the vote pleased nobody more than (LBJ adviser) Walter Rostow, who had originally conceived the idea.  Looking back on the Tonkin Gulf incident and its aftermath, he remarked, 'We didn't know what happened, but it had the desired result.'" 

Sources =

"Vietnam, A History" by Stanley Karnow, Viking Press, New York, 1983.