The British Arrive in Australia…Again…Amy Johnson


Today in History, May 24, 1930:

British aviation pioneer and adventurer Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, completing an 11,000 mile solo flight from England.  She was the first woman to do so.  She made the flight in a de Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth biplane.

Amy Johnson went on to set several other records during the 1930’s, including flights to Moscow, Japan and South Africa.

When England entered World War II in 1939 she signed up for the Air Transport Auxiliary, flying RAF aircraft from their production sites to their airfields.  On January 5, 1941 she was conducting one of these flights when her aircraft crashed into the Thames estuary.  Despite heroic efforts by a nearby ship, she was drowned in the tragedy…her remains never recovered.  An officer on the ship who dived in to save her died a few days later as a result of his time in the freezing waters.

The circumstances of her demise are somewhat mysterious.  The initial story was her aircraft went down in bad weather, however a sailor has since come forward saying he had shot her down after she failed to respond with proper codes, believing her aircraft to be the enemy.  He stated investigating officers told him and others to remain silent.

A woman air pioneer who set amazing records and died under mysterious circumstances in WWII.  Such incredible similarities to Amelia Earhart.

Curly Joins His Comrades


Today in History, May 23, 1923:

Ashishishe, son of Strong Bear and and Strikes by the Side of the Water, husband to Bird Woman and later Takes a Shield, is laid to rest at the National Cemetery of the Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, alongside the members of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry who had died there on June 25, 1876.

He was known by his US Army contemporaries as Curly. Curly was a Crow Indian serving the US Army as a scout with the 7th Cavalry leading up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Just before the battle began, as was customary, Custer released his Native American scouts. Curly rode off with the others, stopping on a hill about a mile away, he watched the battle through field glasses.

When it became obvious that the 7th would be defeated, Curly rode for two days until he met an Army supply boat at the confluence of the Big and Little Big Horn rivers, and made his report.

Curly told of how the 7th fought for hours, until they had expended all of their ammunition; by Curly’s estimation taking approximately 600 Sioux warriors with them. Hailed as a hero for being the “lone survivor”, although reporters attempting to glorify his actions used poetic license to say that he was actually in the battle and escaped by pretending to be one of the Sioux allies, Curly’s original and later accounts were that he “did nothing wonderful.” Some reporters “quoted” Curly as saying that he had been in the battle, which angered some of the Sioux that were. But in many accounts Curly repeated that he was not, and that he “did nothing wonderful.”

He served in the Crow Police and given a military pension only three years before his death from pneumonia. I find his story interesting as an example of why we must remember all of the components of the times when viewing history. Is Curly a traitor to his people because he served the US Army against other Indians? I found while researching this that at that time the Sioux and the Crow were dire enemies, so the Crow allied with the Army (the enemy of my enemy is my friend). Did he “desert” the 7th Cavalry? No. It was customary not to keep the Indian scouts in the midst of battle; his leaving was expected of him.

“This damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.” – Sen. Stephen Douglas

Today in History, May 22, 1856:

Years before the Civil War. On May 20, 1856 US Senator Charles Sumner, a free soil Democrat and later Republican from Massachussetts, had given a firey speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” about the violence in that state over slavery.

A devout abolitionist, he excoriated the south, in particular Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who he likened to a pimp abusing a prostitute (slavery).

This enraged Butler’s nephew, Senator Preston Brooks. When Sen. Stephen Douglas heard the speech, he commented, “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.”

On the 22nd, Brooks entered the Senate chamber with two other Southern Senators, found Sumner at his desk writing and proceeded to bludgeon him nearly to death with his heavy metal tipped cane while Sumner was trapped within his desk, defenseless.

Southerners hailed Brooks a hero.

Northerners called him a coward. One of these, Republican Representative Anson Burlingame called him such on the House floor.

Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. When Burlingame actually accepted and showed up, Brooks did not.

Sumner would suffer debilitating pain for the rest of his life from his injuries, but would recover to become a key proponent of abolitionist policies during reconstruction, living until 1872.

Brooks on the other hand died in January 1857, less than a year after the attack, of the croup.

The Patended President

Today in History, May 22, 1849:

“Be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the county of Sangamon, in the state of Illinois, have invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steam boat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draught of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargoes;”

Young Abraham Lincoln receives patent #6469 for an invention to lift river boats over shoals and other obtructions.

Among many other jobs he’d held, he had hauled freight on flat boats on the Mississippi. Twice his boat was hung up. As was common, once the boat had to be unloaded, repaired and portaged over the obstruction…a very laborous job.

Lincoln’s invention would inflate bladders to create more boyancy, lifting the craft over the problem. His invention was never put into use, so it’s viability remains unproven. It does make Abe the only US President with a patent.

“I loved him so much…so I killed him…”

Today in History, May 21, 1936:

“I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him…..” –

Sada Abe is arrested in Japan for killing her lover, 3 days earlier. At the time of her arrest she was found to have his genitals in her bag. Abe told police that Ishida had been the most considerate lover she’d ever known, and she would know, having been a Geisha and a prostitute among other things.

During their most recent dalliance, they had become enamored with erotic asphyxiation. On the 18th, Abe strangled Ishida to death in his sleep.

She told police that she had severed his member and taken it with her to remember him by, even engaging in necrophilia with it prior to her arrest. She was sentenced to only 6 years in prison by a judge who admitted to being aroused during her trial.

Even that sentence would be commuted in 1940. The story became a cult like sensation in Japan, spawning numerous successful books and movies, and of course making Abe a celebrity. The last sighting of her was in a nunnery in the 1970’s.

Going West…The Homestead Act

Today in History, May 20, 1862:

President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which would give 160 acres of western lands to anyone that would farm it successfully for 5 years and build a residence upon it (often a sod building).

The Act would encourage vastly expanded settlement of the west; bad news for Native Americans, good news for those newer Americans wanting to improve their lot in life.

Congress had attempted to pass similar acts in 1852, 1854, and 1859, but each time the attempts were shot down by Southern Democrats who were afraid that if the west were populated it would result in more “free” states, which would result in more votes against slavery.

Once the Republican Lincoln was elected, and the Civil War began, the Southern Democrats were no longer part of the equation in Congress. The Republicans soon passed the Homestead Act and the settlement of the west began in earnest. By the end of the war 15,000 settlers (some of which were merely pawns for land speculators) had accepted their lands. Eventually 80 Million acres would be settled.

Firearms Owner’s Protection Act

Today in History, May 19, 1986:

President Ronald Reagan signs the “Firearms Owners Protection Act” in to law.

The Legislation, while effectively banning machine guns from private ownership, primarily responded to complaints from the public and the nascent NRA regarding abuses of the “Gun Control Act of 1968.”

The act by Congress attempted to protect the rights of peaceful firearms owners and also those possessing Federal Firearms Licenses (FFL), or firearms dealers.