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.

A Pompous Speech Too Far

Today in History, January 7, 1945:

The Battle of the Bulge.

After the American 101st Airborne held out against overwhelming German forces for days, refusing to surrender;

after American Gen. George S. Patton turned his entire 3rd Army 90 degrees and ran full tilt through winter conditions to reach his comrades;

after American air power helped save the day when the weather cleared,

British Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery held a press conference during which he took credit for the hard won victory. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to address Parliament to assert the truth that The Battle of the Bulge was solely an American victory after the political fall-out of Montgomery’s typically arrogant statements.

“Ohhh…Do You Remember the FUN of him??”

“Oh…Do You Remember the Fun of Him?”

Posted on JANUARY 6, 2019Categories HistoryUncategorized

Today in History, January 6, 1919:

“The old lion is dead.”

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

-Vice President Thomas Marshall.

President Theodore Roosevelt dies at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York in his sleep of a heart attack. “Teddy” had taken every last drop of adventure and worthiness that he could squeeze out of life in the preceding 60 years.

Roosevelt had been a sickly child; constantly plagued by breathing problems, he could rarely play with the other children. His father, Theodore Sr., a remarkable man himself, told “Teedie” that if he wanted to have a successful life, he would have to take charge and force his body into the form he needed to match his intellect. Roosevelt did just that. He took exercise as his “raison detre” until he was barrel chested and of vigorous health. Each time he became sick during his life, he would simply work through it.

As a young man, while serving in the New York Assembly, Roosevelt was called home from Albany by an urgent message. After the train ride to NYC, he arrived home to be met at the door by his brother, “There is a curse upon this house.”

Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day…February 14, 1884, within hours of each other. Writing in his diary only a large X and the words “The light has gone out of my life”, Roosevelt fled into the west, becoming a rancher and for a time a lawman in the Dakota Territory. The experience would strengthen him and give him a background people respected.

During his life he was a state rep from New York, the Police Commissioner for New York City, Governor of New York, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he oversaw the building of a modern US Navy while his boss was not paying attention), he led the “Rough Riders” (1st Volunteer US Cavalry) up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, became Vice President, and the President after President McKinley was assassinated.

As President he defined the modern presidency, breaking up monopolies, seeing that mistreated workers got a fair shake, sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world establishing American as a world influence, saw the Panama Canal built, saw the establishment of the National Parks Service, and countless other accomplishments.

He worked tirelessly for the American people. After the Presidency he traveled extensively, going on an African Safari, and exploring an unknown region of South America, “The River of Doubt”; a region so treacherous that it was considered a no-man’s land. He nearly died in the mapping of the river, now called “Rio Roosevelt” in his honor.

All of his male children fought in WWI, and the only reason Teddy didn’t was because the Democrat President (Wilson) refused to let him, afraid Roosevelt would run against him in the next election and win. One of his sons, Quentin, would be shot down over France and be killed. That was the last straw for the “Old Lion”. He mourned dreadfully until his death.

One of his other children, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would be the only General to go ashore with the troops at D-Day in WWII; Teddy Jr would die of a heart attack himself several weeks after the Normandy invasion. The entire world would mourn President Roosevelt’s passing; he had become larger that life, a hero to people the world over. The quintessential American. And in case you couldn’t tell, my favorite Hero.

At TR’s funeral at Oyster Bay, what I believe is the best, most heartfelt eulogy was spoken in passing. Walking from the church a New York City Police Captain who had served with Roosevelt more than 20 years earlier when he was Police Commissioner, was overcome with emotion. He turned to TR’s sister and asked, “Oh…do you remember the FUN of him?”

Shortening the War with Tech

Today in History, January 5, 1943:

The light cruiser USS Helena is the first to utilize an anti-aircraft shell equipped with the newly invented radio proximity fuse to shoot down a Japanese dive bomber attacking American ships.

Prior to this anti-aircraft fire had been somewhat inaccurate. The proximity fuse used radio waves projected from the fuse to detonate the shell when it came within range of the enemy aircraft.

Now gunners only had to get their ammunition aimed toward the enemy aircraft, getting the range didn’t matter. The invention is credited with shortening WWII by a year and saving countless lives as a result.

Savannah Falls…

Today in History, December 29, 1778:

It appears Christmas time is not lucky for Savannah, Georgia in war time. On this date in 1778 British forces over powered the Colonials and took the city; they would hold the city, despite a seige by American and French forces, until the end of the Revolutionary War.

86 years later on Dec. 22, 1864, Union forces under William T. Sherman would take Savannah again, presenting it as a “Christmas gift” to President Lincloln during the American Civil War.

Standing Up For Religious Freedom in Early America

Today in History, December 27, 1657:

The Flushing Remonstrance.

Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesent had banned the practice of any religion other than that of the Dutch Reform Church.

Flushing, New Netherland, now Queens, New York, was then a Dutch colony. Stuyvesent diligently enforced his edict, imprisoning or banishing those that dared practice their own religions, including Quakers.

On this date 26 English colonists in Flushing signed a written protest and sent it to the Director-General protesting the mistreatment of the Quakers, though none of the signers were Quaker.

Four of them were arrested and/or banished for their trouble, and the law remained in place. The remonstrance is considered a pre-cursor to our own religious freedoms, and is remarkable for it’s eloquence and because none of the signers stood to personally gain by their acts.

Stuyvesent would eventually be ordered by the Dutch home government to end his persecution of other religions.

In part…”Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man. And this is according to the patent and charter of our Towne, given unto us in the name of the States General, which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing.”