I’ve posted this story before. After losing two Officers in Kansas City this week, and the FBI taking it on the chin lately, I thought it worth repeating.
Today in History, June 17, 1933:
The Kansas City Massacre. This story is important to FBI history and to Oklahoma history.
As a young man, Frank Nash began his criminal career by robbing a Sapulpa, Oklahoma business of $1,000. He then shot his accomplice in the back of the head so he could have the loot all to himself. He managed to talk his way out of prison by convincing the warden he wanted to fight for his country in WWI.
Years, several crimes, and two prison sentences later, he had escaped federal custody.
Apprehended in Arkansas by an FBI agent and by MacAlester Chief Otto Reed, he was being transported back to Leavenworth when four gunmen attacked the officers at the Kansas City Railroad Station, in an attempt to rescue Nash (maybe…some versions have it as a hit, to keep Nash from talking).
Two Kansas City police officers, an FBI agent, and Chief Reed were all killed in the attack…along with Nash.
The importance in history for the FBI? Agents went from being unarmed without arrest powers to being armed with pistols, Winchesters and Tommy guns and having arrest powers within the year.
And for Oklahoma? Well…an Oklahoma lawman had tracked the bad guy down and his actions resulted in historic changes…not the first time and certainly not the last time.
Today in History, June 16, 1816:
Lord Byron hosts a party at Villa Diodati. His guests include the Shelleys, Percy and Mary, Claire Clairmont and John Polidori.
They partake in a reading of the horror collection Fantasmagoriana and Byron challenges his fellow authors to write a ghost story. The result is Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” and Byron’s “Darkness”.
Today in History, June 15, 1904:
The General Slocum Disaster. The St. Mark’s German Lutheran Church charters the River Boat General Slocum to transport their teachers and children across the East River to Brooklyn to hold their annual picnic.
Keep in mind this was 1904, and Brooklyn was not part of a metropolis. One of the 1,360 passengers, a child, went to the boat’s captain to report that he had seen fire in a room below decks. The Captain responded basically with “go away kid”. By the time the crew found the fire, it was too late.
The Captain, Captain Van Schaik, decided to beach to boat on an island rather than at a dock where fire crews could have assisted with the fire. The boat’s rescue boats were tied down tight, so they couldn’t be used. The life preservers were not buoyant, so the children that donned them sank to the bottom of the river.
Over 1,000 of the passengers were either burned to death or drowned in the conflagration. The “Knickerbocker Company” was charged, but only the Captain actually served any time for the disaster. President Theodore Roosevelt fired the inspector responsible for the safety of the General Slocum.
Today in History, June 13, 1777:
A 19-year-old boy, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette, arrives at North Island, Georgetown, South Carolina from his native France. He had been a commissioned officer in the French Army since he was 13.
I’m sure Lafayette seemed somewhat ridiculous to many in the Continental Army at first, but he was dedicated to the American cause and soon gained the confidence of Gen. George Washington. He served with distinction in several battles, including the siege of Gen. Cornwallis at Yorktown. His influence as a French aristocrat gained vital support for the US cause from the French King and populace.
Americans were thoroughly impressed with him, and he idolized Washington…his only son would be named George Washington Lafayette. He would go on to be a key figure in the French Revolution, penning “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” with the assistance of Thomas Jefferson.
Today in History, June 12, 1987:
President Ronald Reagan had taken actions that helped win the Cold War that our nation had fought for forty years, brought back our economy, and on this date traveled to Berlin. He was received by Germans with the same fervor as when Kennedy spoke there years earlier when he spoke those now famous words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear DOWN this wall.”
Today in History, June 11, 1963:
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Democrat Governor of Alabama George Wallace stands in a door way of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in an attempt to prevent the enrollment of two African-Americans as students.
Democrat President John F. Kennedy had Federalized the Alabama National Guard to ensure that the enrollment occurred. American politics are often more nuanced that we realize. Wallace would run for President 4 times without success.
Today in History, June 10, 1944:
Oradour-sur-Glane, France. Elements of the Nazi SS, acting on belief that one of their officers had been captured by members of the French Resistance, rounded up every citizen of the town and 6 hapless passersby. They locked all of the women and children in a church, then took all of the men to barns, where machine gun nests were already set up. The men were intentionally shot in the legs so that they would die more slowly…once they were all unable to move, the Nazis poured gasoline over them and set the barns afire.
They then returned to the church, where they set off an incendiary device inside. As the church burned, women and children tried to climb out of windows…where they were machine-gunned. 642 innocent civilians were slaughtered.
1944 – Distomo, Greece. In retaliation for a partisan attack, German SS troops go house to house in the village (whose residents had nothing to do with the attack), killing every man woman and child, totaling 218 dead in the end. They disemboweled one infant in front of his family and committed numerous other atrocities before burning the village.