Today in History, July 22, 1933:
We all know that Wiley Post died with his more famous Oklahoma brother Will Rogers at Point Barrow, Alaska in a plane crash. Will was a favorite Oklahoma son and a national hero as a humorist.
But on this date in 1933 Will’s friend Wiley, born in Texas but raised in Oklahoma, was the first man to circumnavigate the Earth by air in the Winnie Mae.
He also was an original innovator of the pressurized suit to allow high altitude flight, and made several attempts at cross country high altitude flight. He also discovered the Jet Stream, which has become so important to weather and aviation history.
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, February 28, 1933:
The Reichstag Fire Decree. On the night of February 27, 1933, the German Parliament, or Reichstag, was burned by arsonists.
The very next day (strike while the iron is hot) German President Paul Von Hindenburg, on the “advice” of Chancellor Adolph Hitler, issues the Reichstag Fire Decree “for the protection of the people and the state.”
The order suspended basic civil liberties guaranteed by the German Constitution.
The fire was blamed on the Nazi’s enemies, Communists. However it is likely the fire was contrived to justify the order, which began Hitler’s dictatorship.
The same type of maneuver would be used by the Nazis in September, 1939, to justify the invasion of Poland.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
Today in History, February 15: 1933 –
Assassination; Courage; and links between courageous Presidents. President elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives a speech, from his car (he is crippled, though few know it), in Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida. Standing on the running board of the car was a political ally, Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak.
Nearby a 5 foot, unemployed Italian immigrant bricklayer stands on a chair so that he can see the soon to be president, and fires his revolver. Instead of FDR he strikes Cermak before a woman standing beside him attacks him…and his next four shots injure standersby instead.
Within weeks Cermak dies…and the assassin will die by execution. Stories will go forward about whether FDR was the intended target, or Cermak, who was at the time fighting the Chicago mob.
What I find most interesting is the extended story. The crowd was about to beat the assassin to death in a bloodlust…Franklin calmed them…the suspect should face a court of law. FDR then directed that the Chicago mayor be loaded into his car, and cradled him in his lap as he was rushed to a nearby hospital. Cermak would die, the assassin would be executed…but FDR’s courage would inspire the nation.
FDR had adored his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. TR had been shot in the chest while campaigning for the Presidency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (by an insane immigrant)discouraged the crowd from abusing the would-be assassin…and continued on to finish a lengthy speech before seeking medical attention…he was a Bull Moose.
When he was a young boy in 1865 in New York, Teddy Roosevelt had watched from the window of a New York apartment as the body of his idol, President Abraham Lincoln, passed by in a funeral escort after he was assassinated in Washington, D. C. Lincoln had been discouraged from public appearances, including at Ford’s Theater, and responded to the effect that if someone wanted him dead, they would find a way. Our history is not nearly as disconnected as we think, and courage comes from knowledge and perspective.
Today in History, March 12: 1933 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt holds his first “Fireside Chat” with the American public. We must set the historical stage to begin with. Get rid of your cell phone; you don’t have a computer, nor a television. Chances are, you don’t have a telephone at all. You have, however, scrimped, and saved so that you could buy a radio for your family. Each evening you and your family huddled close to the large box that conveyed sound from all over the country. Last week the President unilaterally closed every bank in the country because people were panicking and making “runs” on the banks during the Great Depression. Today, after the panic had calmed down, he re-opened the banks. And tonight, he spoke to his “friends”, as if he were sitting in their living rooms by the fire, to explain his actions with his calming, melodious voice. He was the first President that was able to do so…and FDR was a master politician, a master at making his listeners believe that he was actually sitting next to his fire in a rocker chatting with his friends. Although he was certainly upper class, he spoke in common language so he could relate to all walks of life. In reality he was sitting at his desk in the oval office, speaking into several microphones, surrounded by wires. He calmed the American citizens, as he did 31 more times in “fireside” chats until 1944 through financial strife and World War. I wonder what his cousin TR would have done with this medium; I also wonder what it would be like to live in a “simpler” time…I say that because our values were more focused then, not because our parents and grandparents dealt with less complicated problems…that is certainly not the case. Some reading this could school us on their feelings as children during those times. The rest of us can only imagine that it was new and amazing for the President to speak to you directly.