Thursday, September 25, 2014

SEPTEMBER 25 = The Bricca Murders 51 Years Later

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 a 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, - 51 Years Ago - 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
would have to agree with this description.  Linda, 23, had been an airline stewardess, who had a passion for animals.  The couple had a pair of dogs, and Linda had some rabbits whom she loved, keeping them in back of their home.  And they had a beautiful sweet little girl, Deborah who loved to play on the brand new swing set which they had in back of the house, and who liked for her own little reasons to be called "Carole" on occasion.  And they had a nice, tri-level home in a quite suburban area of Cincinnati called Bridgetown, which was just a short five minute ride from where this writer lived at the time.  They fit in well with the neighbors, of whom they were the youngest.  "The Kids" as they were dubbed were always at barbeques, and block parties.  They were friendly and well liked, although Linda was described by some as being a bit aloof.

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
life seemed to go on as usual.

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 
front door." said Meyer. "Nothing else smells like that." The police were called.

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.

The Investigation

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 Linda 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, Veterinary Doctor Fred Leininger, 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 Dr. Leiniger'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 would enable a suspect to hide behind them and simply refuse to answer questions,

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 Leininger'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 use the name of Fred Leininger until now?  Leininger'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 Leininger 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 named Leininger, so I felt that bit of information should remain his "scoop" until I became more familiar with the case myself. 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. You could also log onto the "Historical True Crime Cincinnati" site on Facebook wherein this crime is a frequent subject of discussion  =

As to the fate of the suspect, Dr. Leininger 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

SEPTEMBER 24 = Benedict Arnold Escapes

"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 having been unmasked as a traitor, just barely managed to escape 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 to major general in 1777, but at the Battle of Saratoga (Sept. 19, Oct. 7, 1777), Gen. Horatio Gates, relieved him of command during the battle due to insubordination, in spite of his having been wounded in the leg in action. He was given command of Philadelphia when that city was recaptured from the Brits (June, 1778). There he began to court and ultimately married the beautiful and vivacious Margaret "Peggy" Shippen, the daughter of a prominent loyalist (Pro-British) family who was nearly twenty years younger. Between the two of them they lived a lavish lifestyle well beyond their means and managed to ring up huge debts which brought him under the scrutiny of Congress.  This lead to a court-martial for shady book-keeping.  He was acquitted on most of the charges and was mildly rebuked by Washington.

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
back, wanting him to bring them a real prize. And this he did by lobbying for and obtaining from General Washington command of the American fortress at West Point, New York.  West Point (above) was situated on a spot on the Hudson River wherein artillery placed there could control the Hudson River and, in British hands effectively cut off New York and most of New England from the rest of the colonies. Its fall to the British could have ended the Revolution in one fell swoop.

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
was in fact Major John Andre',  a personal assistant to British General Sir Henry Clinton who had come to pick up documents which Arnold had provided with the defense plans of West Point. After the exchange, Andre' was to return to Vulture, but American gunfire had forced her down river. So they spent the night at Smith's home and on Sept. 22, looked over the plans and conferred on the best approach for the Brits to use in bagging the fort. Washington himself would be inspecting the place, so if Andre' could get the plans to Gen. Clinton in time, the Brits could take Washington along with West Point. But by that evening the Vulture, damaged by American gunfire was had left, so Andre' was forced to make his way back on foot. On Saturday, Sept. 23, Andre' was nearing safety when he was stopped by an American patrol who quickly went through his goods, hoping to find loot, but instead found his sock stuffed with papers.  He was taken by these three marauders to a nearby post.    

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
telling of this odd situation, and sending the documents themselves on to General Washington who was on his way to West Point.  At this time, Major Benjamin Tallmadge (left) arrived at the post. Tallmadge was the man in charge of the Culper Spy Ring which was sending intelligence from New York City about British activities. Tallmadge had also gotten the order concerning this Mr. Anderson, but where Jameson was merely puzzled, Tallmadge smelled a rat. With considerable difficulty Tallmadge, convinced his doubtful Colonel at least to recall Anderson. Upon meeting Anderson, he was able to discern by his manners that this was a military gentleman. After being told that the documents found hidden in his sock were going to Washington, Andre', on the 24th, realizing his situation asked after dinner for pen and paper, and wrote out in a letter to Gen. Washington a confession of the whole plan.

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
had been carrying were on their way to General Washington who was expected to arrive at any time. In fact Washington's aide, Alexander Hamilton had already arrived. "Arnold's reaction, a picture of forced calm as his terrified eyes focused on Jameson's handwriting, can only be imagined." says Alexander Rose. As Washington related the story "... a letter was delivered to Arnold which threw him into the greatest confusion. He told Colonel Hamilton that something had occurred on the opposite side of the river to his quarters.." he would be back soon. He went upstairs to say a few words to his wife and then galloped off (above) to a barge which he hoped would take him to safety in the Vulture .

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
amiss.  "The impropriety of his conduct when he knew I was to be there struck me very forcibly, and my mind misgave me; but I had not the least idea of the real cause.." he said. Then Jameson's packet with the documents found on Andre', as well as the letter from Andre' arrived. This information "...immediately brought the matter to light.  I ordered Col. Hamilton to proceed with the greatest dispatch... in order to stop the barge if she had not passed; but it was too late." Arnold had escaped (above), and was indeed safely aboard HMS Vulture, As to Washington's personal feeling we again can only guess. He remained as cool headed as ever he did under fire, though this must have felt a deeply stinging personal blow.  All that we know is that he later was said to have remarked "Whom can we trust now?"

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
hangman (at right is a sketch which the man did of himself on the eve of his execution) was hung as a spy on October 2, 1780. Arnold on the other hand took his wife (who had been released to him on Washington's orders.. he was convinced that she was innocent of her husbands treachery, although she wasn't really) to live in England.  He was given a Brigadier General's commission in the British Army and even took part in some raids on Virginia - during which time he narrowly avoided kidnapping by the Americans. He lived on in Britain after the war, but had little success. His old leg wound flared up and after four days of delirium he died on June 14, 1801 at age 60.  And his name has of course ever after become synonymous with the word "TRAITOR".  And the great riches he had hoped to get for his attempt at stabbing his country in the back never materialized.  He wound up getting slightly more than 6000 pounds. In Paris, Benjamin Franklin, upon learning the low price that Arnold had gotten for selling out wryly remarked: "Judas sold only one man, Arnold 3,000,000. Judas got for his one man 30 pieces of silver, Arnold, not a halfpenny a head.  A miserable bargainer."


"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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SEPTEMBER 16 = The Washington Navy Yard, 3 Years Later

Today is the three-year anniversary of the deadly shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013.  I cannot say that I saw anything about it on the national news.. but with so many other things going on, it may have been swallowed up by other events.  Anyway.. here is the posting which I published at the time; marked on the day itself, Sept. 16, as a remembrance of those killed:

The Navy Yard at Washington D.C. does indeed have a long and illustrious history.  It has always been a fine and impressive location to work at in full view of the wonders of our democracy,  and the strength and the superb traditions of the United States Navy.  The reason behind my posting this today -- the attack by a deranged mad-man upon the people who work there in order to assist our Navy in keeping us free and the world safe -- is a truly sad reason to be mentioning this fine and venerable place.  But I want to remind my readers of the tradition and history of this place before the tales of the tragic events of September 16 become so ingrained in our minds that we think of little else. I hope that in the future, we think of the history and honored service of this place and not just the actions one sick man.

The Washington Navy Yard Goes Waaaaay Back...

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

The Change from Ship Building....

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

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

Post Civil War to the Present....

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


George V visit =

Brits burn Washington =

Japanese Embassy =

Navy Yard, circa 1861 =

Navy Yard Bridge =

Flooded =

Unknown Soldier=

Circa 1985 =

Saturday, September 13, 2014

SEPTEMBER 13 = The "Star Spangled Banner" Turns 203!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the line "through the perilous fight" was actually the way that the poem was originally written. The manuscript above was indeed written by Mr. Key, but it was written by him in 1840, and included that alternate wording "through the clouds of the fight". This image can be enlarged for closer viewing merely by clicking on the image. Although why Key wrote this alternate wording, I do not know. While I have encountered any number of web sites noting the difference in the lyrics, I have yet to find anything explaining it. It may simply have been a matter of Key forgetting the correct lyric later on in his life. - B.T.B., 9/13/15.


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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SEPTEMBER 10 = Nathan Hale Volunteers

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

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

The American Position and the Need for Intelligence

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

Nathan Hale Volunteers

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

Hale's Mission Fails, He is Captured and Hung

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


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

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

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

SPECIAL = "Jack the Ripper" ID'ed (Updated, 8/8/16)?

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

NEWS ....

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


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

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

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

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

Is this Jack the Ripper?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some have cast doubt on Edwards' findings.

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

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

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


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

The full article from Yahoo News can be found at:


Follow -up from more recent sources quoted on Wikipedia

"On 7 September 2014, Dr. Jari Louhelainen, an expert in historic DNA analysis, announced that he had been commissioned by British author Russell Edwards[35][36] to study a shawl supposedly found with victim Catherine Eddowes and that he had extracted mitochondrial DNA that matches female line descendants of Eddowes, and mitochondrial DNA that matches female line descendants of Kosminski's sister from the shawl.[35][37] Louhelainen stated that "The first strand of DNA showed a 99.2 percent match, as the analysis instrument could not determine the sequence of the missing 0.8 percent fragment of DNA. On testing the second strand, we achieved a perfect 100 percent match.

"In his book Naming Jack The Ripper, Edwards names Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. Edwards was inspired to try to finally solve the case after the release of From Hell, the 2001Johnny Depp film about the Whitechapel murders.[39] He bought at auction the shawl from which the DNA was extracted and commissioned Louhelainen, with Miller assisting, to analyze it for forensic DNA evidence.[39] Edwards states that Kosminski was on a list of police suspects but there was never enough evidence to bring him to trial at the time. Kosminski died at the age of 53 of gangrene of the leg in a London mental hospital in 1919.[40] He says, however, that the DNA samples can now prove that Kosminski was "definitely, categorically and absolutely" the person responsible for the Whitechapel murders.

"The primary criticism of the initial report centered around the fact that the findings first appeared in Britain's tabloid Daily Mail newspaper.[37][41] One critic, Susannah L. Bodman ofThe Oregonian newspaper pointed out that "The Daily Mail's reporting on science and scientific evidence is—let's say—not known to be robust." Other criticisms include questions about "the chain of evidence or provenance on the shawl", the fact that publishing the information in the press "is not the same as reporting and publishing your methods in a peer-reviewed journal",[42] and concerns regarding the entire recent body of Jack the Ripper investigative and historical forensic work in general, pointing out how often the work of mediums and clairvoyants, human interest angles, recycled evidence from coroner's courts and other sources and the general acceptance of misinformation and urban myth as fact have undermined and hobbled previous efforts to conduct objective, scientific investigations.[43] 

"Louhelainen's findings have not been subject to peer review by other scientists or investigators.[37][41] Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the forensic scientist who invented DNA fingerprinting in 1984, initially commented that the find was "an interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator's descendants and its power of discrimination".[37] He went on to point out that the evidence has not been received or examined yet by independent third parties.[37]"

Brian again :
So in other words..., this evidence may be what they say it is, but they won't 
have it absolutely sealed as such until they submit their findings to independent third party review.  So whether or not they have actually put the finger on "Jack the Ripper" will just have to wait for further review. 

IF and when the author Russell Edwards is willing to do so....

Friday, September 5, 2014

SEPTEMBER 5 = "17 Die in Olympic Day of Terror"

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

The 1972 Olympic Games Are Shattered by Terrorists

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

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

The Terrorists Gain Access and Take Israeli Athletes Hostage

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

Negotiations Lead to the Airport

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

The Massacre at the Airport

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

A Harbinger of Future Acts of Terror

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


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