One Man…Many Lives

Today in History, January 24, 1965:

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill died at the age of 90 in London, England.

I normally try to avoid posting people’s birth and natural cause death dates. These are natural events in their lives, which we all experience. Normally not something they “accomplished.” However as I did my standard research for today’s date, my mind was changed.

Most of the individuals I post about led significant lives…and finding their connections through time is one of my favorite subjects. Yet as I read over several events that I might post about for just this single date, I kept seeing major events which I recognized for having one thing in common…or one person…the remarkable Winston Churchill.

So. Keeping in mind these events are only a microcosm of the influence he had during his 90 years on this Earth:

January 24, 1900. 26-year-old Winston Churchill was a correspondent covering the Boer War in South Africa when he was made a Lieutenant for his exploits. On today’s date he covered the Battle of Spion Kop during the Siege of Ladysmith. During the war he would manage to distinguish himself in combat.

January 24, 1915. The Royal Navy engages the German Navy at the famous Battle of Dogger Bank due to intelligence gained by the Admiralty. In charge of the Admiralty was a 41-year-old First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. He would leave the office somewhat in disgrace after failed efforts in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli…but the indefatigable man would reinvent himself, serving in the government in several posts, including Lord of the Admiralty again.

January 24, 1943. After having done his time in “the wilderness” when he was nearly the sole voice shouting against appeasement of the Nazi regime, now Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Britain. On this date he concluded a landmark conference with American President Franklin Roosevelt at Casablanca, Morocco, during which the Allied leaders set the course for the second world war.

There is so much more to cover that Churchill was involved in; what an amazing life!

Five-Hundred-Fourteen Years of Service

Today in History, January 22, 1506:

At the request of Pope Julius II, the first contingent of 150 Swiss Guards march into the Holy City and take up their posts providing security for the Vatican. 514 years later, they are still there.

Switzerland in the 16th century was a poor country, and many of their young men became mercenaries to survive, providing security for capitols in Europe.

Obviously there is a lot of ceremony to their job today, but don’t be fooled…in addition to those swords and pikes, they’re packing Sigs, Glocks and MP5’s.

How America Receives News Changes

Today in History, January 17, 1998:

It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Matt Drudge, of the “Drudge Report” breaks the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal, in which President Bill Clinton was discovered having an affair with a young White House intern.

Amidst a series of lies and cover-ups, Clinton would eventually be found to be in contempt of court, see charges of perjury, the suspension of his law license by the state of Arkansas and by the United States Supreme Court, and impeachment.

The incident also cemented internet news sources as legitimate, much to the chagrin of the mainstream media, which had tried to kill the story to protect the Democrat in the White House.

Many incidents since have demonstrated for Americans just how few individuals had controlled the information they received, and the bias those sources allowed to drive them.

Presidential Roosevelts…Firsts in Flight

TODAY IN HISTORY, JANUARY 14, 1943:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first US President to fly in an aircraft for official business.

FDR was to meet Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco to discuss strategy in WWII. For previous meetings the President and Prime Minister had travelled by warship, but the US military was concerned about heightened U-Boat activity in the Atlantic.

As a result President Roosevelt agreed to make the trip by plane, specifically a Boeing 314 four engine flying boat named the Dixie Clipper. The flight flew from Florida to South America and crossed to North Africa. After the meeting, FDR celebrated his 61st birthday on the return flight. He was already in poor health and the 1700 mile trip took its toll.

Thirty-three years earlier, FDR’s cousin Theodore Roosevelt had become the first president to fly in an aircraft. After having left office, TR was on a speaking tour when he encountered pilot Arch Hoxley at Kinloch Field in St. Louis, Missouri.

The always adventurous TR could not resist the offer to go for a jaunt in the Wright built airplane…little more than a powered kite, and much less luxurious than the Clipper his cousin would use. In fact, TR’s pilot, Hoxley, would die in a plane crash the following December.

I have to wonder if this is historic coincidence or much more. FDR grew up in TR’s very large shadow, and greatly admired him. FDR followed TR’s path as much as he could…Under Secretary of the Navy, the New York legislature and New York governor. While TR was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat, FDR traded on TR’s legend…and TR supported his prodigy. TR wanted to break tradition and serve a third term, which did not happen. FDR was into his fourth term when he died.

So of course one has to wonder if from competitiveness or emulation, was the opportunity to follow up on a Presidentially pioneering flight just too much too pass up?

This 1940…or 2020…That Just Doesn’t Happen Any More…Do You Believe in Evil?

Today in History, January 13, 1992:

“The women cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.” –Japanese WWII soldier Yasuji Kaneko.

The Japanese government issued an official apology to Korea for having recruited, abducted, and imprisoned thousands of civilian women into “Comfort Stations” to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers and sailors.

Women from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were trafficked and raped repeatedly.

Depending on who you ask, between 20,000 and 410,000 women. 75% of the women died in their captivity, and those that survived were rendered infertile due to sexual abuse or venereal disease.

Yes, evil does exist.

Yes, human trafficking does exist.

Do you believe it exists today? Throughout history, societies have believed the evils of the past don’t exist anymore…that they have outgrown them. “This is 1910…..this is 1940….this is 2013….that stuff doesn’t happen anymore….”

How do We Know the Distance to the Moon? To the Planets?

Today in History, January 10, 1946:

“Operation Diana”.

The US Army Signal Corps, using a “bedspring antenna” radar from a World War II era US Navy ship, somewhat modified, bounces a signal off of the moon, which took 2.5 seconds to return to the Earth.

The experiment was the precursor to using Radar to determine the distance to other bodies, such as Saturn, and for learning to communicate with later spacecraft outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

Diana was the Roman Moon Goddess, and this project would take the lead in naming later space projects after Roman Gods.

Common Sense

Today in History, January 9, 1776:

The first copies of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” are published in Philadelphia.

Pamplets were the editorials, or blogs, if we must, of the day in the 18th century.

Paine had only recently immigrated to America from his homeland of England, yet he quickly took up the cause of independence. Most of the people in America prior to the Revolution saw themselves not as Americans, but as British subjects, and proudly so. Many wanted to remain such, most were uncertain whether independence was a good idea. Most of the colonists were commoners, and it was assumed that only the elite were worthy of governance.

Paine turned this theory on it’s head. He wrote to the commoners in plain language the difference between society and government; that gov’t was necessary, but must be limited; that AMERICA should govern herself.

He started a firestorm….his pamphlet sold 120,000 copies the first month, 500,000 the first year. Percentages taken into account, Common Sense still counts as the best seller of all time.

Paine refused to take any of the profits, donating all of them to Gen. Washington’s Continental Army.