Friday, December 30, 2016

DECEMBER 30 = Rasputin is Murdered



Gregori Rasputin (left) was assassinated on today's date, December 30 in 1916. This man was as strange and mysterious a character as could have been invented by any novelist. He was a figure whom, as stated elsewhere in my Blog, belonged in a nightmare. And the circumstances surrounding his death on this date were equally mysterious, nearly to the point of being unbelievable.  But I shall try here to give the facts as best as I can manage. And you, my readers can judge for yourselves as to whether they are believable or not.

Rasputin, Alexei, and Alexandra

The basic problem was this: When the heir to throne, Alexei, was born on August 12, 1904 it was soon discovered that he suffered from hemophilia - an illness that prevents a clot from forming to stop any bleeding either external or internally.  Russia was a weak but extremely important player on the world stage especially by 1916 when she was embroiled on the Allied side against Germany and Austria during
World War One. If Alexei's condition (that the heir to the throne was in such delicate health) had become public knowledge especially during the extreme political stress of wartime, the effect would have been enormously destabilizing. Thus his hemophilia was a closely kept secret. Rasputin was first presented to the Russian Emperor (Czar) Nicholas II and the Empress (Czarina) Alexandra (above) on Nov. 1, 1905. He was not a monk or even a priest - he was a "starets" a kind of wondering holy-man.  But when Alexei suffered from his episodes of bleeding and on at least or more occasions when Rasputin was present, the bleeding stopped, Empress Alexandra became totally convinced that he was the only salvation for her son. Thus this man was kept in the very bosom of the Imperial Family.

Rasputin Becomes a BIG Problem

  As the course of the war ground on and on, the public popularity of the Imperial Family and the Empress in particular fell steeply.  The poor families were seeing their young men killed by the hundreds of thousands, seemingly for no reason, while they starved at home. The noble class didn't starve, but they suffered the same losses of their sons for the same useless cause. And all of it in the service of an Imperial Family which kept this unkempt, monstrous man in their midst for no apparent reason. According to biographer Robert Massie: "He rose 
and slept and rose again without ever bothering to change his clothes. His hands were grimy, his nails black, his beard tangled and encrusted with debris." And his influence extended to telling the Empress who should be appointed to the government and to important army commands. Having this man at the very heart of the government and the ruling family was indeed a nightmare. It was clear to anyone that this man had to go. And one man who determined to get rid of Rasputin was Prince Felix Yussoupov (above), one of the very richest men in Russia, and the husband of the Czar's niece, Irina. Felix was a fairly thin. slight figure of a man. But he was very charming and was a social friend of Rasputin's.

The Conspiracy to Murder Rasputin

   This is where the story gets difficult to believe in its details. But I am following the account of Massie, which is based primarily on the account of Yussoupov himself. And different accounts have surfaced over the years to muddy the picture. As "Wikipedia" puts it: "So the murder of Rasputin has become something of a legend, some of it invented, perhaps embellished or simply misremembered."
In any event Prince Felix invited Rasputin at a late hour to his basement apartment at the Moika (below) Palace in St. Petersburg, one
of his many family possessions. The lure was that Felix's wife Princess Irina was supposedly there, and Rasputin had always wanted to meet her. Irina was actually in the Crimea, but Rasputin thought that she was waiting to meet him. The band of conspirators numbered five: Yussoupov, Vladimir Purishkevich a member of the Duma (the Russian Parliament), an officer named Sukhotin, Dr. Lazovert, a Doctor from the Army, and a young friend of Prince Felix: Grand Duke Dimitry Pavlovich. So late on the night of today's date, they lured Rasputin to Prince Felix's basement with plenty of wine, cakes and the promise of Princess Irina.

The Murder of Rasputin
 
   So Rasputin entered Felix's apartment with it's low vaulted ceilings and rich furnishings and rugs. Upstairs a gramophone played of all tunes "Yankee Doodle" so Prince Felix could claim that there was another party going on which Irina was attending, but she would be with them shortly. There was an array of cakes which Rasputin gobbled
down, each of which had been laced with cyanide according to Dr. Lazovert. Only the poisoned cakes didn't seem to be having any effect on Rasputin.He asked for some wine which Lazovert said he had laced with enough poison to kill several men. Still Rasputin showed no effect. So Felix went up and consulted with his cohorts as to what next? Purishkevich the elder of the group  (left) urged them to finish the man off.  Prince Felix went back down holding Dimity's revolver behind his back, and found Rasputin seated and calling for more wine. Felix got him to take a look at a crucifix which he had on the shelf. When Rasputin turned his back, Prince Felix fired, and Rasputin screamed and fell backward onto the floor.

"...the green eyes of a viper..."

    The rest of the group ran downstairs when they heard the shot.  Dr. Lazovert quickly took his pulse and declared Rasputin dead. But the Dr. spoke too soon. While Yussoupov was briefly alone with the "corpse", it's face twitched, then its eyes opened! "I then saw both eyes 
-- the green eyes of a viper -- staring at me with an expression of diabolical hatred" Prince Felix  recalled. Rasputin then leapt to his feet and grabbed Felix by the throat! Screaming, Prince Felix tore himself away and ran up the stairs with Rasputin on all fours roaring in fury right behind him. Purishkevich dashed outside to see Rasputin
running across the snowy courtyard towards the iron gate to the street. Purishkevich fired two shots which missed, but got him in the shoulders with the third shot. Prince Felix reappeared and
began hitting the body with a rubber club. When at last the body was dead it was wrapped up in a rope,  and then taken to a hole in the ice of the frozen Neva river and pushed through. When it was found three days later, Rasputin lungs were filled with water. Chained, riddled with bullets and full of poison  he had died from drowning.

Epilogue....

   That is the way that the story was told by Prince Felix Yussoupov and several of his cohorts. Dr. Lazovert later denied the part about the cyanide laced cakes and wine saying that his Hippocratic Oath as a Doctor would never permit him to do such things. Rasputin's daughter, Maria disputed all of the details about the shots, saying that it was just one that had hit and killed her father.  Prince Felix was placed under arrest, but was never put on trial. Instead the Czar, had him exiled from Russia for life (above:Felix & Irina in exile). The other conspirators were exiled to distant fronts. Rasputin's grave was ransacked by the Bolsheviks following their triumph in the Revolution.  Prince Felix lived until the ripe old age of 80, dying in Paris in 1967.  So there it is, much of it anyway. Look at he facts, or research it further on your own and believe what you will. But one thing is certain: Rasputin was the
very embodiment of pure evil, and he got what he deserved - whatever the details.



Sources =

"Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert K. Massie, Random House, New York, 1967

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigori_Rasputin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Yusupov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Purishkevich


















Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DECEMBER 21 = First Basketball Game is Played





“I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began.…"  - James Naismith

  On today's date, December 21 in 1891 the first basketball was played at the Springfield YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.The sport had been developed by one Mr. James Naismith as a way of giving rowdy young men a way to blow off some steam during the long winter months in that part of the country when they mostly had to stay inside.

Naismith - the Athlete/Educator

James Naismith was born in 1861 in Almonte (now part of Mississippi Mills), Ontario. He enrolled in Almonte High School, in Almonte, Ontario graduating in 1883.Later that in same year, Naismith entered the Montreal's McGill University (below). Naismith was not a
particularly imposing man, physically speaking. He weighed 178 pounds, and was 5 foot 10 ½ tall. Nevertheless he was apparently a skilled and versatile athlete, representing McGill in lacrosse, rugby, gymnastics, soccer, and Canadian football for which he held the tough and demanding position of center. He graduated McGill in 1888 with a BA in Physical Education. He then moved from Montreal to become a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Naismith Develops a New Game

It was in this position that Naismith found himself with a bunch of
young boys who were very rowdy and needed some sort of activity or game to keep them from getting even rowdier during the long harsh New England winters. He was given the task of coming
up with a game that would keep the track athletes in shape, but which it was clearly specified "make it fair for all players and not too rough." So Naismith decided that the larger softer soccer ball was preferable to the objects used in lacrosse, or hockey. Next he determined that the most physical contact came when running with or hitting the ball, so he made passing the only way to move the ball from one player to the other.  And finally, he made thee goal unguardable, by making it a basket high above the players heads. Above is pictured tthe original court, with the ball on the floor (center), and the peach basket visible way above the door.  He called it "Basketball" and the first time it was ever played was on today's date of Dec. 20, 1891.

Naismith on That First Game

Years later, in Dec. 1939, James Naismith recalled thaat first game:  "Well I didn't have enough (rules), and that's where I made my big mistake. The boys began tackling, kicking and punching in the clinches. 
They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor. Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several of them with black eyes, and one with a dislocated shoulder. It certainly was murder. Well after that first match I was afraid they'd kill each other.  But they kept nagging me to let them play again.  So I made up some more rules. And the most important one was that there should be no running with the ball. That stopped tackling and slugging. So we tried out the game with those rules. And we didn't have one casualty. We had a fine, clean sport."  








Friday, November 25, 2016

NOVEMBER 25 = Evacuation Day



"So perfect was the order of march, that entire tranquility prevailed and nothing occurred to mar the general joy..."

This was he recollection of Major Benjamin Tallmadge of the general  joyousness among the crowds which greeted George Washington on his triumphant return to New York City (pictured above) on today's date, November 25, 1783."Every countenance" Tallmadge continued, "seemed to express the triumph of republican principles over the military despotism which had so long pervaded this new happy city."

New York in British Hands Since 1776

Leaving the largest city in the 13 Colonies in the hands of the British had been an especially bitter pill for George Washington to swallow. In fact NYC back then was hardly "the Big Apple" of today. It occupied in it's northern reach just the southern tip of Manhattan as far the modern day Wall Street area. Nevertheless it was the most important single port in the country. And it just stuck in General Washington's heart that he had lost it and never did manage to re-take it.  His army had suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Long Island on August 26,
1776, and in subsequent action had had to retreat into New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and eventually taking shelter behind the banks of the Upper Delaware River.  From that point onward despite Washington's
fondest hope of re-capturing it,  New York City became the center of British planning and logistics for their war against the 13 Colonies. It was also the center of the American "Culper" Spy Ring under the leadership of the above quoted Major Benjamin Tallmadge (above) which continued to collect intelligence on British operations in the city.

The Fortunes of War Force the Brits Out

But the fortunes of war turned sharply against the Brits with their defeat at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Yorktown was the largest single British offensive force in the Colonies, and once it had fallen all that they had left was New York City. The Treaty of Paris (signed Sept. 3, 1783), effectively recognized American Independence so on this date of Nov. 25 they moved out of the city, and at noon of that day General Washington rode in with his officers and troops in a group spreading
eight men across. It was a triumphant precision march down the center of Manhattan over Broadway to the Battery (the southern tip of the island). Of course there were a large number of Loyalist (pro-Brit Americans) who were obliged to scurry out along with their protectors. In fact some 29,000 such people were evacuated in the days leading up to this one. A British flag had been left atop a pole, which as a final prank had been covered with grease and all off it's cleats removed. But ultimately new cleats were attached, and the American flag was in full view as the British ships sailed out of sight.

"It was indeed a joyful day..."

As Major Tallmadge wrote of the experience: "It was indeed a joyful day to the officers and soldiers of our army, and to all the friends of American Independence, while the troops of the enemy still in our waters, and the host of tories and refugees, were sorely mortified.  The joy of meeting friends, who had been separated by the cruel rigors of war, cannot be described."



Sources =

"George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution" by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Sentinel Publ., New York, 2013

"Washington's Spies - the Story of  America's First Spy Ring" by Alexander Rose, Bantam Books,
New York, 2006

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuation_Day_(New_York)
















Saturday, November 12, 2016

NOVEMBER 12 = Ellis Island Closes



"In America Life is golden/
In America the flowers are more beautiful/
In America life is much better/
And that's what I'm longing to be my dear..."

The above is a song which some immigrants sung
upon entering New York harbor and seeing the statue of liberty for the first time. It  speaks of their hopes for a better life in a land off freedom. Ellis Island closed on today's date November in 1954. After the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island was the first view of America that most of the immigrants had.  It was the main clearing house for the over 12 million people passed through it's gates in the time that it was in operation, starting in 1892.

Originally built on 3.3 Acres

Ellis Island started out quite small taking up a mere 3.3 acres of land.
Eventually it was expanded to 27.5 acres mostly by using landfill produced by the excavation of the New York Subway tunnel system.
Named after Samuel Ellis, the original owner of the land from colonial days. In 1892, the first station opened. Almost 450,000 immigrants were processed during that first year.  On June 15, 1897 a fire destroyed the main building along with most of its immigration records back to 1855. Plans were immediately made for it's rebuilding with one condition: it had to be fireproof. The new building resembled rather castle-like railroad station.  The total cost for the new building was @ 1.5 million dollars.  It included a baggage room, a large kitchen and dining hall, (above) a dormitory with 600 beds. 4 hospitals, and an outdoor recreation area and garden on the roof.  

The Six Second Physical

All immigrants to America had to pass through Ellis Island, but those in first of second class had only a brief shipboard examination.   Those in third class had a more rigorous course to navigate. Upon arrival the immigrants were inspected for any visible ailments; this became known as the "six second physical."  Those who failed were marked with white chalk for a full physical. Those who passed were sent to the "Great Hall" to be processed.  This room (below) was a large cavernous place - 189 ft. long by 102 ft. wide with 60 ft. vaulted ceilings. The average
wait here was 4 hours. People coming through here asked three questions: their name, their occupation and how much money they carried.  About 2% of immigrants were denied entrance due to disease, criminal background, or mental instability.  About 1/3 remained in New York, and the rest spread out around the whole country.  This main island also known as the "Island of Hope" or the "Island of Tears" processed 1,004,756 immigrants in its peak year of 1907.  Among them were such men as Bob Hope (1908), Cary Grant (1920) and Irving Berlin (1893).

Ellis Island Winds Down

New legislation in the 1920's effectively ended the era of mass immigration into the United States. Thus Ellis Islands operations slowed down considerably. It was used as a training and detainment facility during World War II. But over time neglect took it's toll, and the
old Ellis Island complex fell into disrepair. It was for a time a training and deportation station for illegal immigrants and other such detainees.  The last such detainee was a Norwegian merchant seaman, released in November of 1954 afterwhich the facility was closed for good. Happily, Ellis Island has since been restored as a public museum in recent years.  Visitors can research through millions of arrival records to find their own family history.  And this should be a useful endeavor, as it is estimated 40% of Americans can trace some portion of their heritage to Ellis Island!!





Sources =

 http://www.history.com/topics/ellis-island/videos/arrival-at-ellis-island

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Island

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ellis-island-closes

http://www.history.com/topics/ellis-island/videos/hurdles-to-citizenship-on-ellis-island









Thursday, September 29, 2016

SEPTEMBER 29 = Film Director Stanley Kramer is Born.



On today's date, September 29 in 1913, the celebrated Stanley Kramer, the director and producer was born in New York City. Throughout his career, Kramer had his share of flops, but his great films tackled previously taboo subjects as racism, nuclear war,
antisemitism - always putting the problem right there in the audiences face where it couldn't ignored.  Many thought that his films lacked subtlety in this respect - and he became known as the maker of "message pictures".  And while his best work was often nominated for Academy Award's,  Kramer never won the Oscar Statue himself.

Kramer Arrives in Hollywood

Kramer arrived in Hollywood aspiring to be a writer and signed up to MGM, working various jobs such as carpenter, scenery mover, and then wound up as an Editor for three years.  He worked also for Columbia pictures, and on radio as well.  But in the early 1940's he formed his own production company.  His first picture there bombed at the box office, but his next one, "The Champion",
an exciting and intense anti-boxing picture was a hit, which propelled its star, Kirk Douglas to
star status. Next came a string of hits, all of them hitting some nerve in American life. There was racial bigotry in "Home of the Brave" (1949). Then came the issue of disabled veterans in "The Men" (1950), and then the superb film "High Noon" (1952) which starred Gary Cooper (right) as a Marshal who finds that the town which had loved him was leaving him to face an old enemy on his own.

Kramer's Best Period = 1954 - 1961 

Kramer then signed on with Columbia Pictures to make a string of films, all of them excellent. In 1954 he made "The Caine Mutiny" with Humphrey Bogart as the captain of a ship, who appears to go to pieces in a typhoon.  The Court Room scene where Bogie  breaks down, along with the party afterward where the attorney played by Jose' Ferrer reads them all the riot act about who really was guilty is a classic. "The Defiant Ones" (1958), dealt with racism when Tony Curtis and Sydney
Portier play a pair of escaped convicts who were chained together. There was the drama "On the Beach" (1959) which dealt with nuclear war. Then came a pair of magnificent courtroom dramas;
"Inherit the Wind" (1960) dealing with freedom of speech and my own favorite: "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961) which laid the question of responsibility for the Holocaust right there in the open.
Spencer Tracy was in both off those last two, as were Gene Kelly in the first, and a whole raft of stars in the latter; Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift to name just a few.

Kramer's Later Years

Stanley Kramer took a wild comedy turn in "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963, below) about a group of strangers run across an old man (Jimmy Durante) who with his dying breaths gives them the directions to a cache of gold.  This launches them on a wild cross country race to beat each other to the gold. This cast was simply too large to list them all here; let if suffice to say that the main roles are played by Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, and a completely hilarious Jonathan
Winters.  In 1967 Kramer directed "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" which dealt with, albeit in a rather sugary-sweet Hollywood fashion, the subject of inter-racial marriage. As said it was a rather sugary handling, but look nevertheless of an extremely taboo subject as late as 1967. And the screenplay by William Rose contained some excellent dialogue on the subject. Stanley Kramer died at the age of 87 in Woodland Hills, California, on February 19, 2001. His autobiography was titled  "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World - A Life in Hollywood."




Sources =

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/message-filmmaker-stanley-kramer-is-born

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/person/105309%7C141975/Stanley-Kramer/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Mad,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgment_at_Nuremberg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Caine_Mutiny_(film)













Tuesday, September 6, 2016

SEPTEMBER 6 = The Marquis de Lafayette is Born



Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, more commonly known as simply the Marquis de Lafayette was born on today's date, September 6 in 1757, in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, This man (left) deserves a place of honor among America's Founding Fathers for the role he played in not only securing French assistance during our Revolutionary War, but also for taking an actual combat role -- even though he presented himself to George Washington at the young age of 19.

"My heart was enlisted..."

Young Gilbert came from one of France's oldest fighting families, with ancestry dating back to the crusades and even to Joan of Arc.  When his mother died by the boy's eleventh birthday, Lafayette inherited one of the largest fortunes in France.  Yet this very rich young man had little taste for the life of an aristocrat; he sought military action. In 1763, he obtained a Captain's Commission in the Army.  In 1775 he was having
dinner in the city of Metz with the Duke of Gloucester who spent much of the time complaining about the American Colonists and their uprising against British rule. The Duke mocked the American's nonsense about the equality of man, and people ruling themselves. And especially of their having made this George Washington their leader. This made a very ill impression on the young Lafayette: "My heart was enlisted," he later recorded in his memoirs, "and I thought only of joining my colors to those of the revolutionaries."

Lafayette Sneaks to America and Meets George Washington

But it wasn't such an easy matter just to go over to America.  First of all, King Louis XVI denied him permission to go. But the defiant young officer simply ignored the King's order and left for America in early 1777. James Lovell, a Congressman  saw in the 19 years old was a man 
of substance and recommended him for the rank of Major General. Lafayette met Washington on Aug. 5 (right), and the two men immediately formed a strong bond.  Washington had no natural son of his own so naturally he was warmed by Lafayette's enthusiasm and positive attitude for the American cause. Lafayette stood in awe of Washington: "Although he was surrounded by officers and citizens, it was impossible to mistake for a moment his majestic figure and deportment; nor was he less distinguished by the noble affability of his manner." he wrote later in his memoirs. Indeed, the two men would develop a father and son relationship during the war.

Lafayette Serves in Combat 

Washington assigned Lafayette to join in a tough battle to turn the American flank at the Battle of Brandywine Creek, where he served under the command of Gen. John Sullivan's forces. Sullivan was being surrounded, and was obliged to retreat, but Lafayette distinguished himself in this action, sustaining a wounded leg. Washington sent his  
own surgeons to tend to the wound telling them: "Treat him as if he were my son." Lafayette gradually became a trusted member of Washington's inner circle. He also shared in the misery of the brutal winter of 1777 at Valley Forge. The Marquis also took part in the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778). After this he returned to France to take part in the organizing of troops to go to America as a part of the new Alliance between France and the new United States.  Overall command of these troops was given to the Comte de Rochambeau (above).
Lafayette is There at the End

By the summer of 1781, Lafayette had returned to the U.S. and was assigned to lead troops in Virginia along with other generals such as "Mad" Anthony Wayne to attack the British foraging parties as well as their rearguard. These various raids kept the British under Gen. Lord Cornwallis from bringing the Americans to full battle until he finally withdrew to the Peninsula at Yorktown, Virginia. There Cornwallis 
found himself being encircled with his back to the sea, and the combined armies of the Americans and the French. On Sept. 5, 1781 in the Battle of Virginia Capes the British fleet was decisively defeated by the French. By now the land vice was tightening.  In fact, Washington's own forces linked up with those of Lafayette on Sept. 14. With his sea escape cut off, and thee French and the Americans barking at the door, Cornwallis gave up the ghost and surrendered his army on Oct. 18, 1781 at a ceremony (above) in which Lafayette gladly took part.

"Hero of Two Worlds"

Upon his return to France in January of 1782 Lafayette was hailed as a national hero, in fact "A Hero of Two Worlds" for his service to France and to America. But revolution was in the air in France of a much bloodier kind than it had been in America. With help from Thomas Jefferson - the U.S. Ambassador - He was part writer of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. When the Bastille was stormed
in July of 1789 and a revolutionary government was formed, Lafayette sent the key to the old prison (left) to George Washington as a symbol of French freedom from tyranny. This "Hero of Two Worlds" attempted to steer a middle course between the extremes of the men who unleashed wholesale executions via the Guillotine during the Terror.  His arrest was ordered by radicals in Aug. of 1792.  He attempted to escape but was captured by the Austrians spending 5 years in jail. But the government of Napoleon Bonaparte restored his French citizenship on March 1, 1800. He made a grand tour of America in 1824 to an adoring reception.  He died on May 20 1834 at the age of 76.











  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

AUGUST 30 = First African-American Astronaut Blasts Off!!



On today's date, August 30 in 1983, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to take part in a mission to space when the space shuttle Challenger embarked on its third mission, STS 8.  As this was the first night lift-off of a space shuttle, it blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:32 a.m.

Buford Studies and Flies Hard and Makes an Astronaut

Born in Philadelphia in 1942, Guion "Guy" Stewart Bluford II at an early age showed an interest in flight, and building airplanes. He graduated from Penn State with a degree in aerospace engineering. He joined the U.S. Air Force and got his pilot wings in 1965. He was assigned to a fighter squadron in Vietnam, where he flew 144 combat missions. Later, Guy received a master’s degree and doctorate in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. There were 10,000 applicants to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space program, Guy Bluford wound up as one of 35 chosen to join the new space shuttle team in January 1978. And in August 1979 he officially became an astronaut with NASA.

Shuttle Mission STS 8

On mission STS-8 aboard the space shuttle Challenger, Bluford had the job of a specialist for mission.   Bluford and and his crew mates (below) performed several biophysiological experiments, while successfully 
operating a Canadian-built robot arm while Challenger orbited Earth 98 times over the course of 145 hours. On September 5, 1983, the mission concluded when Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. And just as she had left, Challenger returned in a night landing. (Pictured: Seated (L-R): Daniel C. Brandenstein, Pilot, Richard H. Truly, Commander, and Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Mission Specialist. Standing (L-R): Dale A. Gardner, Mission Specialist, and William E. Thornton, Mission Specialist.) Just as with her nocturnal departure, this night landing had been a first. Guion Buford went on to participate in a total four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. After the tragic explosion of Challenger in 1986, Buford wanted to assure that space travel would continue so his last two missions were aboard the Shuttle Discovery. By the time of this final mission Buford had logged over 688 hours in space. Guion S. Buford retired from the Air Force in 1993, and has since worked with such companies as Northrop/Grumman. 

How Guion Buford Felt About Being the First African American Astronaut?

Not surprisingly, when asked this, Guy Buford felt a high degree of responsibility, not only as an African American, but also as a scientist and a space aviator:

"I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black . . . who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country." 






Thursday, August 11, 2016

AUGUST 11 = Reagan Jokes About Russia



While we're all bemoan- ing the "gaffes" of Donald Trump, and wringing our hands
about all of the ruin that they portend for our country, I thought that it might do some good to mark the anniversary of another celebrated "gaffe" made by a U.S. President which left a lot of people in fits of anger, which wound up doing no real harm whatsoever.  For it was today's date, August 11 in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan made his (in)famous joke about "Outlawing Russia" and "we begin bombing in five minutes."

Reagan's Actual Speech and What He MEANT to Say...

Reagan was making a regularly scheduled radio address, and he was
being checked for sound levels before he began.  He had already silently read the first line of his speech which went this way:

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they’ve too long been denied: the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are all owed to do.”

Having already seen this line, Reagan decided to engage in what was to him a bit of levity.  So during his few seconds of sound checking, he said: "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Although Reagan's press aides, as well as technicians and pool reporters in the room chuckled, a tape soon leaked. According
to Gannett News Service and the Associated Press, the joke was made in a ''voice check,'' in which technicians make adjustments to their recording equipment to the level of the President's voice. There were two networks present who elected not to  report it, those being CBS, and CNN.  The president of CNN,  Burt Reinhardt (right), remarked: ''We thought about it a great deal, talked about it a lot. But anything talked about before the radio broadcast would be off the record.''

The "Joke" Gets Out and Causes a Furor

But as usually happens in campaigns, word of the "joke" did get out and raised a furor.  Reagan was at the time running for re-election against former vice president Walter Mondale (below).  His get tough policies  visa-vie the Soviet Union were making a lot of people nervous at what seemed like the new level of confrontation. Reagan’s joke gave
even more fuel to those commentators and pundits both in the U.S. and abroad who believed that Reagan was
a senile old man who simply didn't understand the forces he was dealing with in his pursuit of his "Cowboy Diplomacy" In fact, "russiapedia.com" has since recorded this very dark reaction:
"The moment the president's flippant remark was released, it immediately caused a stir both in the United States and abroad. Most international media responded with outrage, fearing that the joke about "outlawing" the Soviet Union had once again put the two superpowers on the verge of a third world war.
Upon hearing the news, a leading Parisian newspaper, suggested in dismay that Reagan’s jest be tested by a trained psychologists to determine whether it was “a statement of repressed desire or the exorcism of a dreaded phantom.” As the imminent danger of such a comment was obvious, a Dutch news service ironically remarked, "Hopefully, the man tests his missiles more carefully," referring to the possibility of the Soviets turning their weapons toward the US after hearing such a threat."

But the fact is that White House officials quickly assured Russian officials what was the fairly obvious fact that it had all been a minor joke, although to some a tasteless one and that no attack was forthcoming. There were reports in some papers that the Soviet Far East Army was placed on alert and that the alert was not withdrawn until 30 minutes later. But nothing came of that. 30 minutes later
everything was fine. In the words of CNN Vice President, Ed Turner, "The President is a guy who drops one-liners. In this case it was a little careless of him, considering he's hardly a neophyte.'' 

The careless joke that had so many pundits crowing resulted in a minor jump in the polls for Walter Mondale for a short time.  But then Reagan regained the lead which he carried to a land slide win taking every state except Mondale's home state of Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. And during his second term, Reagan went on to establish the friendliest relations with the Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (above) that had ever been seen between two such leaders before. The U.S. Arms build up coupled with the close relationship wound up bringing the "Cold War" to a victorious end for the West. And in all of those world changing events, the "gaffe" about "bombing in five minutes" was little more than a foot note to be discussed by Bloggers like me!




Sources =

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/reagan-jokes-about-bombing-russia

http://www.politico.com/story/2010/08/reagan-jokes-about-bombing-russia-august-11-1984-040921


 http://russiapedia.rt.com/on-this-day/august-11/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_begin_bombing_in_five_minutes








Monday, August 1, 2016

AUGUST 1 = Hitler Opens 1936 Olympics in Berlin



"The Olympic games held in Berlin in August of 1936 afforded the Nazis a golden opportunity to impress the world with the achievements of the Third Reich and they made the most of it.  The signs of  "Juden unerwuenscht" ("Jews not welcome") were quietly hauled down from the shops, hotels, beer gardens and places of public entertainment..."   - William Shirer

"almost religious event, the crowd screaming, swaying in unison and begging for Hitler. There was something scary about it; his cult of personality." - Thomas Wolfe

The Games of the XI Olympiad were opened on today's date, August 1 in 1936 in the city of Berlin, the capitol city of Germany. That nation was then governed by the murderous Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, one of if not the foremost monster in history.  And I thought that with the games of the XXXI Olympiad coming up in Rio de Janeiro in just a few days, that it might be a good idea to take a look back at what happened when Hitler ran the opening show. Because even though, as William Shirer points out the Nazis were determined to put the brightest face on their ugly regime, to many such as the novelist Thomas Wolfe, there was something scary lurking beneath.

Berlin Builds the Biggest Stadium Ever

Berlin had been chosen over Barcelona, Spain, on 26 April 1931, at the 29th IOC Session two years before the Nazis came to power. Hitler was actually indifferent to sports, so it took some convincing on the part of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to convince Der Fuehrer that the whole thing was worth the effort.  But now that Hitler's crew had the reigns, they were determined to out-do the 1932 Games in Los
Angeles. Towards which end, the Nazi regime sunk 42 million Reich- marks into a fabulous Olympic sports complex comprising some 325 acres. And the centerpiece was to be an enormous Olympic Stadium, built of stone and which could accommodate 110,000 spectators. These Opening Ceremonies were of course held in this brand new edifice beginning with the Parade of Nations (above). A speech by the head of Germany's Olympic Committee, and then Hitler declared the Games open.

The Opening Ceremony Shows Nazi Precision

The idea of having a torch relay first came up with the Amsterdam games of 1928, but it was Nazis who came up with the idea of having the torch relay originate in Olympia and then be carried all the way to the top off the stadium wherein it would burn throughout the games.

"The Guardian", a British newspaper summarized the precision of this opening ceremony in its edition of Aug. 3 :

"The opening ceremony of the eleventh Olympic Games took place here this afternoon in the Stadium at the Reich Sports Field. It was probably the longest ritual that has ever heralded the opening of these Games. It was arranged and carried out with mathematical exactitude by the German Organising Committee, and in the course of it there were moments of beauty and significance which one will remember.

"There were others - not many of them - when one felt that the strength of German national feeling had a little outgrown discretion, but it was a memorable ceremony, immensely enhanced by the nobility of the great Stadium in which it was carried out."

The Pigeons Finish It Off by Making a Deposit on the 1936 Olympics

But the military precision of it all, the determination to glorify the Nazi
regime and Hitler himself could not control everything. One bit of pomp turned to poop as related by an athlete who witnessed it, Distance Runner Louis Zamperini:

"They released 25,000 pigeons, the sky was clouded with pigeons, the pigeons circles overhead, and then they shot a cannon, and they scared the poop out of the pigeons, and we had straw hats, flat straw hats, and you could heard the pitter-patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair, but I mean there were a mass of droppings, and I say it was so funny…"

The Thin Veneer of Nazi Hospitality at the 1936 Olympics

Uncooperative pigeons notwithstanding the truth of this regime and it's vicious anti-semitic, anti- religious character were always there lurking, except for the more gullible observer. As William Shirer wrote:

"the persecution of the Jews, and of the two Christian Churches temporarily halted, and the country put on its best behavior.  No previous games had seen such a spectacular organization nor such a lavish display of entertainment.  Goering, Ribbentrop, and Goebbels gave dazzling parties for the foreign visitors .....The visitors, especially those from England and America, were greatly impressed by what they saw; apparently a happy, healthy, friendly people united under Hitler -- a far different picture, they said, than they had got from reading the newspaper dispatches from Berlin."



Sources =

"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer, Simon & Schuster Publ. 1960















Thursday, July 28, 2016

JULY 28 = The 14'th Amendment is Adopted



On today's date, July 28 in 1868, the Fourteenth
Amend- ment to the Consti- tution of the United States was adopted following its ratification by the required two thirds of states. The amendment basically guaranteed the full rights and privileges
of U.S. citizenship to all African Americans who had been freed from the chains of slavery by the passage of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) during the civil war.

The Need For the 14th Amendment

The American Civil War had left the southern states in a state of physical and political chaos. Although the masses of African Americans were legally free their precise legal status had been nowhere spelled out specifically. The death of Abraham Lincoln had left the pro-southern
Andrew Johnson (below) as the president, and he had been battling
with the Radical Republicans for control of Reconstruction (which was the process for the former Confederate states to rejoin the Union). Such barriers as literacy tests, poll taxes and outright intimidation had been set up to prevent citizens of color from exercising their right to vote. So the Radical Republicans pushed for and passed the 14th Amendment on June 13, 1866.  Johnson in announcing the amendment denigrated it by stating that his actions should "be considered as purely ministerial, and in no sense whatever committing the Executive to an approval or a recommendation of the amendment to the State legislatures or to the people."

The Passage of the 14th Amendment and Its Legaacy

Ratification of the amendment caused bitter debate throughout the State legislatures especially in every single formerly Confederate state. Except for Tennessee, they all refused to ratify it. This brought about the passage of the Reconstruction Acts. which ignored all such existing state governments and instead imposed military governments which
remained in place until the 14th Amendment was finally passed on today's date. It took more than two years but with some troubles over rescinded and re-ratified acts in Ohio and New Jersey, Secretary of State William Seward announced the unconditional certificate of ratification, declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment had been ratified by the required three-fourths of the states.

The Amendment has since been used for both good and ill; it was used to justify the Plessy -vs- Ferguson decision of 1896 which admitted legal segregation of "separate but equal" into law.  But then again, it was used to strike down that very decision with "Brown -vs- the Board of Education" of 1954 (above). The 15th (equal voting rights) and a whole host of laws and amendments had to be put in place before African Americans achieved full legal equality with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Meanwhile the "Equal Protection Clause" of the 16th amendment has since been cited in a whole host off non-racial cases ranging from abortion to gay marriage.

The actual text of article 1 of the 14th amendment reads as follows:

"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."




Sources =

 https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/14thamendment.html

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/14th-amendment-adopted

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/recon/jb_recon_revised_3.html

 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_14th.html












Tuesday, July 26, 2016

JULY 26 = Postal Service Born, Sam Houston Dies



On today's date, July 26 in 1775, at the Second Continental Congress the U.S. postal system was established and Benjamin Franklin was appointed as its first postmaster general. Franklin (1706-1790) put in place the foundation for many facets of the mail system as we know it today.

The Mail of Colonial Days

Back in colonial times here in America most mail whether business or private was carried by hand along roads that were not well marked or well kept. Often it was carried by sea along the coastal routes.  And the carriers could be sailors, sea captains, slaves or simply travelers along the route. Needless to say, this was neither a very efficient, nor reliable
way to move correspondence around.  And the "post office" was often a
local inn, a tavern or a coffee house in the area. And time it would take
for delivery could vary from several days or weeks between points on land to one to three months from overseas.

Ben Franklin Fixes the Mess in the Postal Service

Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, Joint Postmaster General of the colonies for the Crown in 1753, and Postmaster for the United Colonies in 1775. And it was due mostly to Franklin efforts that the time of delivery was cut by 50%. He had already made many improvements to the postal service between the colonies by the time of his appointment on today's date.  He had already set up standard routes for postal delivery between the colonies,
and had the mail wagon traveling day and night by way of relay teams. Franklin standardized the cost of delivery by basing all the mail expenses on weight and distance over which it was to be carried. Franklin made tours of each of the major post offices to inspect their operations and suggest improvements. And routes were surveyed and were set up to be more direct from point to point. He left his post late in 1776 to serve as the U.S. Minister to France but left in place a system that ran all the way from Florida to Maine and all points in between.

Sam Houston Dies

And a brief note marking the passing of one more casualty of the Civil War. Sam Houston (below) had been one of if not THE founding father of the state of Texas.  He had lead her through her War of Independence from Mexico (1835 - 1836), served two terms as President of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846), and helped guide her into statehood with the United States (1846). He was Governor of the
state of Texas as the winds of civil war began blowing across the south and into his
state. But he wanted no part of secession talk.  He was an unshakable supporter of the Union, and saw only misery for his state from joining the Confederacy: “In the name of the constitution of Texas, which has been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.” was what he said when refusing to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. As a result, he was deposed from office on March 15, 1861. He died on today's date in 1863.  He had said of his approaching death:

"...(I) ask that He who buildeth up and pulleth down nations will, the mercy preserve and unite us. For a Nation divided against itself cannot stand. I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monument of my grave, and the graves of my family. I wish no epitaph to be written to tell that I survive the ruin of this glorious Union."



Sources =

Postal Service: 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-postal-system-established

http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_world_letters.html

https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/welcome.htm

Sam Houston :

https://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/sam-houston-and-secession/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Revolution

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Texas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Texas






Thursday, July 21, 2016

JULY 21 = The First Battle of Bull Run



 “You are green it is true, but they are green also, you are all green alike.” - Abraham Lincoln

"....we shall probably have a chance to pay our southern brethren a visit upon the sacred soil of Virginia very soon. I hope that we shall be successful and give the rebels a good pounding."

- Elijah Hunt Rhodes, 2'nd Rhode Island Infantry, July 16, 1861

These were among some of the optimistic views with which the Union Army and it's leaders marched into battle in this campaign. On today's date, July 21 in 1861 the Union and the Confederate armies clashed in the first major battle of the American Civil War. Their leader, Gen. Irvin McDowell was not at all sure that his green and only partially trained troops were ready for a major fight. But the 90 day enlistments of this first group of volunteers was coming to an end soon, and Lincoln didn't have time to wait. So with the assurance quoted above he ordered McDowell into action.

The First Battle of Bull Run Commences

So on July 16 McDowell marched his army of 35,000 men 30 miles south with the intention of capturing the vital railroad hub at Manassas, Virginia, and then to move on to Richmond, the Confederate Capitol, and end this rebellion quickly as everyone expected. But Confederate spies had alerted the Rebel leadership that they were coming.  So an army of 22,000 under the command of Gen. Beauregard was sent north to meet them.  It appeared that everyone knew that a battle was going, because some of the finest members of society came along to watch with picnic baskets and bottles of Champagne. On July 21 the Union army, tired from their long march showed up, and moved across Bull Run Creek which ran through a portion of the battlefield
and smashed into the Rebel left, driving the rebels from their positions.  It looked as if it was going to be a quick victory afterall. But one commander held fast to his position at a hill at thee Rebel center. This was Gen. Thomas Jackson (right). While other regiments faltered, Jackson held firm.  One Confederate officer trying to steady his men yelled "Look! There's Jackson with his Virginians standing like a stone wall!" And thus was earned the nick-name by which Jackson would be known ever after.

The Tide Begins to Turn

The battle went back and forth throughout much of the day.  But then some 9,000 Rebel reinforcements began to arrive, many by train, this being the first time in this war that troops would be moved in this way. At 4:00 in the afternoon Gen. Beauregard ordered a counterattack. This broke into the Union lines and sent them running
from the field. Jackson urged his men forward telling them to "Yell like furies!" Thus was introduced the blood-curdling sound of the "Rebel Yell" that would echo across hundreds of battlefields in that war. The Union assault had been broken. These green troops were clearly not up to this kind of sustained fighting.  By later in the afternoon McDowell was forced to pull his men back across Bull Run Creek (below).  One
soldier, Corporal Samuel J. English of the 2'nd Rhode Island recalled the hurry and the disorder of this retreat:

"After I crossed I started up the hill as fast as my legs could carry and passed through Centreville and continued on to Fairfax where we arrived about 10 o'clock halting about 15 minutes, then kept on to Washington where we arrived about 2 o'clock Monday noon more dead than alive, having been on our feet 36 hours without a mouthful to eat, and traveled a distance of 60 miles without twenty minutes halt. The last five miles of that march was perfect misery, none of us having scarcely strength to put one foot before the other...."

Fortunately for the Union, the rebel troops were far too exhausted to chase after their beaten foes and thoroughly take advantage of their victory. But it was clearly a humiliating defeat for the mighty Union Army which wound up getting back to Washington D.C. just ahead of all of the High Society swells who had come out to watch the war like it was a picnic, and wound up retreating along with their beaten army. But one thing was quite clear: this was going to be a long and bloody war; nothing at all like the three month excursion that so many had been expecting.


Sources =

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/bullrun.htm

"The Civil War" - Vol. 1, "the Cause" Produced and Directed by Ken Burns for PBS, 1985.

http://www.civilwaracademy.com/bull-run.html

"The American Heritage Picture History off the Civil War" by Bruce Catton, American Heritage
 Publishing Co. Inc., 1960

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Hunt_Rhodes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Bull_Run






Friday, July 8, 2016

JULY 8 = The "Liberty Bell" is Rung



On today's date, July 8 in 1776, the Liberty Bell was rung in celebration of the Declaration of Independence.
Of course as readers of this Blog are aware, the Declaration was actually passed on July 2, but it wasn't ready to be signed until July 4. And no announcement was made about it until copies of it came back from the printers on July 8.  At that time the contents of the Declaration were ready for reading to the public, and it was on this day that the Liberty Bell tolled for the newly proclaimed United States of America. Although no contemporary accounts mention it specifically, bells were rung all over the city, and most historians agree that Liberty was one of them. But it was not especially famous at the time, and wasn't even called the "Liberty Bell" until some years later.

The Liberty Bell Was Cast in 1751

The Bell's construction was ordered originally to commemorate the 50'th Anniversary of the constitution of the then colony of Pennsylvania.  Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, sent orders to Robert Charles, Pennsylvania's agent in London to acquire "good Bell of about two thousands pound weight". Norris also added the following directions:

"Let the bell be cast by the best workmen & examined carefully before it is Shipped with the following words well shaped around it vizt. By Order of the Assembly of the Povince of Pensylvania for the State house in the City of Philada 1752 and Underneath Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.-Levit. XXV. 10."

So with this biblical quote going onto it to "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land" as Moses did in the Old Testament, the Bell was cast and brought to Philly and hung in the steeple of the Statehouse (above) in June of 1753. And from that  perch it did honorable service for years being rung to call the people together for important events and proclamations such as King George's accession to the throne in 1761, and also to announce discussion off the very unpopular Stamp Act. In April 1775 it tolled to the news of the fighting at Lexington and Concord.


The Liberty Bell is Moved, Named, and Cracked

As the war shifted and the British moved on Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777 the bell was in danger off being captured by the Brits and melted down to be made into a cannon. So the bell was moved to Allentown where it was hidden for the duration of the war, being returned in 1781.  It continued in use for ceremonial occasions for many years. In 1839 William Lloyd Garrison, the famed abolitionist printed a pamphlet which included a poem called "The Liberty Bell" in which it was noted that in spite of its inscription, the bell did not proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants off the land. And the application stuck. There are differing accounts on how the bell acquired its famous crack. One account holds that it was cracked in 1835 while being rung for the funeral of Chief Justice
John Marshall. Another account holds that the  bell was damaged beyond repair in 1846 while beig rung in honor of George Washington's birthday. Whatever the cause, the Liberty Bell continues to be kept in Philadelphia to this day (right); an enduring symbol of our nation's freedom.



Sources =

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Bell

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/liberty-bell-tolls-to-announce-declaration-of-independence

http://mentalfloss.com/article/51529/how-did-liberty-bell-get-cracked











Tuesday, July 5, 2016

JULY 5 = The "Bikini" is Introduced in Paris



In my never-ending quest to see that you, my T.I.H. readers are kept aware of the most important events in history on any given day I bring you this: on today's date, July 5 in 1946 - 71 years ago - French designer Louis Reard introduced a revealing two-piece swimsuit at the Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris. Reard named his new product the "Bikini" after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean wherein Atomic Bomb testing was being conducted. Why it is that the designer chose to link a small women's bathing suit with the ultimate weapon of mass destruction seems an odd question to which I may have a possible partial answer by the end of this posting. We'll see... but I make no promises.

What EXACTLY IS a Bikini?

Well, just in case any of you out there are somehow unclear on this point we will turn to "Wikipedia" for a proper definition:
"A bikini is usually a women's abbreviated two-piece swimsuit with a bra top for the chest and underwear cut below the navel. The basic design is simple: two triangles of fabric on top cover the woman's breasts and two triangles of fabric on the bottom cover the groin in front and the buttocks in back. The size of a bikini bottom can range from full pelvic coverage to a revealing thong or G-string design." So there you have it - two triangles on top and two (or maybe just one) on the bottom.

The Bikini Developed as a Wartime Measure

Ok, while that may be stretching the truth a bit, wartime needs did play a role in this story. In Europe of the 1930's women had been wearing a 
kind of two-piece bathing suit all along which was made up of a halter top and shorts.  But very little of the midriff was exposed, and none of the navel was visible. Over here in America a fairly tame version of the two piece began appearing during World War II.  The war brought on fabric shortages and the rationing of their use requiring the removal of the skirt panel and other unnecessary bits of material. This version looked something like the suit Betty Grable is wearing at right. But heavily fortified coastlines pretty much put a stop to developments in ladies swimwear like everything else not related directly with the war. 

The War Ends and Things Cut Loose

So the war ended in 1945. And beach lovers in 1946 were looking forward getting back to the beach for the first time in years.  And some, including a pair of French fashion designers were really ready to cut loose. Fabric shortages due to the war were still in effect, so in an
attempt to revive sale of ladies swimsuits, two French designers – Jacques Heim and Louis RĂ©ard (right), launched a new and quite daring design which took advantage of the lingering fabric shortage simply by using less fabric, and leaving more skin on display than had ever been tried before. Heim called his version the "Atome" named after the world's smallest particle - the Atom - calling his creation "the smallest bathing suit in the world". Whereas Reard went a step further introducing his creation as "smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world." At a mere 30 inches of fabric a fair claim, and naming it the"Bikini"... in his words: "like the [atom] bomb, the bikini is small and devastating".  Reard at first thought the Bikini would horrify the world perhaps with this name reference, but he stuck to it.

The Bikini's Reception is Shock and Awe
 
Whatever Reard's confidence in his design, he ran into trouble conveying that to others, as no professional model was willing to
appear in this (nearly) show-all design.  So he wound up hiring one Micheline Bernardini (left), a nude dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no trouble at with the idea of strutting her stuff nearly nude in public. Reard was so certain of the newspaper headlines his suit would generate, that he made the suit with newspaper design printed across it. and he had his model holding a 2" x 2" box into which the suit would fit. Naturally the suit was a tremendous hit critically with men who sent Reard about 50,000 fan letters. But the staid French newspaper "Le Figaro" kept all the fuss in prospective: "People were craving the simple pleasures of the sea and the sun. For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. There was really nothing sexual about this. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life."

The Bikini Is Slow to Catch On

The Bikini was a great success in France, and soon began making appearances along the Mediterranean and Spanish coasts.  Although some attempts were made to outlaw it in some such spots, eventually local officials bowed to the popular tide.  But in spite of it's initial success in France, sales were sluggish, and by the 1950's Reard was back to making the more traditional one-piece design. And in America, buyers resisted the bikini through the 1950's. But once the 1960's arrived with its care-free youth movement in the air the bikini finally began to catch on with it being featured in the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach party movies.
And since then the bikini has become a fashion mainstay for better or for worse, although it seems to be getting progressively smaller all the time to a degree that might have made even Micheline Bernardini blush...  well a little bit anyway....







Sources =