Today in History, July 14, 1919:
US Airman Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, dies when he is shot down over France in WWI.
He and his brothers, who all served in WWI were very competitive in the voracity of their service, trying to live up to their father’s exploits…a father who also wanted to serve but was refused due to President Wilson’s fear that TR’s service might lead to a run for President in 1920. TR wouldn’t live that long…and he spent his last years heartbroken over the loss of his youngest son.
TR Jr. would die of a heart attack just weeks after leading his division in the Normandy invasion of 1944…again living up to his father’s legacy. A family of immense wealth; several generations of which dedicated their lives to service to their country.
Today in History, July 13, 1863:
Just days after men had died fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Irish immigrants began rioting in New York City against a draft.
The poor immigrants, who had recently come to America to escape the famines in Ireland, and who were living in poverty, were not happy to be drafted into military service when rich men could buy their way out of the draft for $300.
They were also competing directly with black freedmen for jobs, so the riot soon took on a racial component…even a black orphanage was burned.
Those men that had fought at Gettysburg? They had to leave their dead and move quickly to New York City to put down the insurrection. The NYC Draft Riots remain the most damaging in our history.
As an aside, to remain true to history…my favorite President’s father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was one of the wealthy men that bought his way out of service. Making up for that is part of the reason TR gave up a safe position as Under Secretary of the Navy to head up the Rough Riders in Cuba.
Today in History, July 11, 1921:
Former President William Howard Taft is sworn in as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, his dream job.
He had been a jurist in several different posts, Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of War and finally President. His former friend Theodore Roosevelt had tried to appoint him to the court several times, but he had refused because he felt responsibilities to the positions he filled at the time.
He never really wanted to be President, but Chief Justice had been his life long dream. President Warren G. Harding gave it to him, making him the only person to hold both jobs, and the only former President to swear in future Presidents.
Today in History, July 9, 1944:
Victory at the Battle of Saipan. The US Marines defeat the Japanese military on Saipan, the first island with Japanese civilians to be taken by the US.
It was a difficult battle, made all the more so by the existence of a civilian population. The Marines set up well lit camps for the civilians to be safe from battle.
Fearing that his citizens would find out that the Americans were not the vicious, heartless enemy projected by propaganda, the Emperor issued a communique to the civilian population of Saipan, telling them that if they committed suicide they would receive the same treatment in the afterlife as Japanese soldiers that died in battle.
American servicemen were horrified as Japanese civilians threw their children from cliffs, then followed them to the rocks below. The newly won island would be used as an air base for B-29 Superfortress bombers that would bomb the Japanese mainland.
Today in History, July 8, 1853:US Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his fleet arrive in Edo Harbor (Tokyo) Japan and by threat of force, demand that the Japanese contemplate relations with the US. Faced with the threat of bombardment from Perry’s ships, the Japanese accepted a letter from President Millard Filmore. When Perry returned the next year, the offer of open relations was accepted. The rest of the story is that Commodore Perry also pioneered steam power in the Navy, served under his famous older brother Oliver Hazard Perry (“We have met the enemy and they are ours!”) during the War of 1812, was a hero in the Mexican-American War, and he and his brother were direct descendents of William Wallace. Wow. The irony cannot be ignored that America dragged Japan kicking and screaming into the modern industrial world, and less than a century later would have to fight a thoroughly modern Japanese military in a world war. And then would drop an Atomic bomb on their homeland.
Today in History, July 7, 1900:Warren Earp is killed in a bar fight in Willcox, Arizona. This is interesting for the “here’s something I didn’t know” and the “we aren’t told everything” categories. Most of us know of the exploits of Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp. But how many know of Warren, the youngest brother? After Morgan was murdered and Virgil was injured in the aftermath of the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”, Warren, who had been visiting his parents in California, returned to Tombstone and helped Wyatt hunt down the “Cowboys” that had victimized their brothers. But, as Virgil said, “‘If Warren ever dies he will be shot. He is too hasty, quick-tempered and too ready to pick a quarrel. Besides he will not let bygones be bygones, and on that account, I expect that he will meet a violent death.” Virgil was right. On this date in 1900 Warren was bullying a local range boss, Johnny Boyett in a local bar, advancing on him and threatening him, when Boyett fired 5 rounds into him. Boyett hid out for some time, afraid of revenge from the Earp brothers. While Virgil did conduct his own investigation and decided that it was murder, Wyatt never became involved. Boyett died of natural causes in Texas, never harassed by Wyatt or Virgil.
Today in History, July 6, 1885:9-year-old Joseph Meister had been badly mauled by a rabid dog, which meant he would almost certainly contract the horrible disease. Louis Pasteur had been experimenting on a vaccine for rabies using rabbits, and had tested the vaccine successfully on several dogs. Treating the boy put Pasteur at risk of prosecution should the treatment fail, as he was not a licensed physician. He chose to attempt to save Joseph. His vaccine was successful, saving the boy and countless others in the future. Meister would live to be 64 years old, taking his own life when the Nazis captured Paris in 1940, where he served as caretaker for the Pasteur estate.