Raison D’être – Sam Finishes His Book

Today in History, July 16, 1885: Sam finishes his book.

Sam had led a bit of a rough life. He saw great success, no doubt, but he was also an alcoholic. His father struggled with the demon for a time, and his grandfather had succumbed to it. In those days they didn’t realize it was often a family trait or a disease…it was simply a weakness. Sam had fought the demon his entire adult life. He was brilliant at is chosen profession. He quit it for a time because of his drinking and tried other jobs…farmer, realtor, shopkeeper…none worked out. As brilliant as he was, he had another weakness; he had a big heart and was much to quick to trust people with his money. So Sam spent most of his life broke.

Even with this, events in his life led him in a round about way to the pinnacle of success. He succeeded where others failed miserably due to his tenacity, his organizational skills and his ability to see the big picture. Yet through it all, no matter how much he achieved, his detractors never forgot, and certainly never let him forget, his demons.

Sam had made his fortune at last…but then, in his older years when there was little to no chance of building success anew, his other failure reared its ugly head again. The people he trusted with his money were scoundrels, and he found himself…and more importantly to him, his family, destitute once again.

Living on borrowed money, things got worse. One day while eating a peach his wife had given him, he felt as if he had been stung by something within it. He had no time for doctors and stubbornly toiled for months until the pain was unbearable to relent to his wife’s demands to see his physician. By then, it was too late. The mouth and throat cancer was advanced, and all that could be done was to provide him with pain killers until the end would come.

Sam’s father had been an inveterate braggart, a schemer and an incessant talker. It embarrassed Sam so that he became the exact opposite. Quiet and humble to a fault, it took everything he had to do what he had refused for years…to blow his own horn and tell his own story. But now it was the only way he could leave his wife and children with a means of support. So he threw himself into the task.

For over a year he wrote. He wore a muffler to cover the baseball sized tumor at his throat. Typical of his demeanor, he never complained of the excruciating pain that wracked him day and night…his family only saw him grimace from the pain when he was asleep and unable to hide it.

Sam worked with a purpose…he amazed his publisher by finishing 10,000 words in a day, written out. Mark couldn’t believe it…Mark was one of the most prolific story-telling authors of his time, and could never match Sam, who disliked the task of telling his own story. But now he had to…for his family…for his legacy because his old detractors were only too happy to repeat their own refrain, “See, we told you so.”

Fighting past the pain and past the fog of his medications, he toiled even when he could no longer write, and tortured himself to dictate his story to others.

Finally on July 16, 1885, Sam completed his autobiography. Mark had promised to publish it for a handsome price which would see to it that Sam’s family did not want for anything. It was suspected that Mark had ghostwritten the work…which he adamantly and angrily denied. His friend Sam had written the work…brilliant and surprising as usual.

Having won his last battle, he could let go now. Seven days later on July 23, 1885, Hiram Ulysses Grant, “U.S. Grant” due to an Army administrator’s error in his youth, Sam to his friends, a drunk to his detractors, an amazing horseman and hero of the Mexican-American War, General of the Army and President of the United States, passed from this earth.

Mark Twain saw that “The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant” was published and the family was treated fairly and well. Sam had found someone trustworthy this time. I’ve read General Grant’s memoirs, and they would be impressive if written by someone in perfect health. They are nothing less that heroic considering the suffering he endured during his final work.

Carl Spaatz, Pioneer of Air Power

Today in History, July 14, 1974:

General Carl Spaatz dies.

Spaatz was a fighter pilot in his youth during WW1. He remained in the Army Air Corps, and when WW2 began went to England.

As German bombs fell on London during the Blitz and everyone else ran for the shelters, Spaatz sat on rooftops to gain knowledge of German tactics by watching their bombers and fighters in action.

When America entered the war, he became the commander of the Eighth Air Force as it began daylight bombing raids over Germany.

After the war, the Army Air Corps was separated from the US Army and became its own military branch, the US Air Force in 1947. Spaatz was it’s first Chief of Staff.

Saipan Banzai Charge

Today in History, July 7, 1944:

The largest Japanese Banzai charge (suicidal attack) of World War II is conducted during the Battle of Saipan, when the Japanese military is finally cornered on the island.

3,400 Japanese soldiers, including the wounded and civilians were killed as they charged the US Army and Marines. 650 Americans would die in the massive attack, but they held firm, and within two days the island was declared secure.

I won’t post the photos and videos I found, as they are gruesome. Look them up if you’d like.

3 posthumous medals of honor would be awarded out of this horrific battle.

Circus Horror

Today in History, July 6, 1944:

The Hartford, Connecticut Circus Fire.

During a performance by Barnum & Bailey Ringling Brother’s Circus, held in a massive tent, the tent suddenly caught fire. The tent had been treated with a mixture to make it waterproof that was also flammable, and the fire spread very quickly and within seconds large flaming sections were falling on the spectators below.

Many managed to escape by cutting holes in the sides of the tent, but when the supporting ropes burned through, the tent poles gave way and the entire structure came down. Between 167 and 169 people were killed and 700 injured, mostly children.

“Steady, men….steady! ChaaaaAAAaaRRGE!!”

Today in History, July 1:

A day for important battles.

1863 – The Union and the Confederates first clash at The Battle of Gettysburg, and both send reinforcements. The first day went badly for the Union, but the largest battle in North America had three more days to go, and would become a major turning point in the Civil War.

1898 – The Battle of San Juan Hill becomes a major victory for the US in the Spanish-American War as the US Army’s Fifth Corps takes the heights over Santiago de Cuba. It also set the stage for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to become President as he became famous for leading his Rough Riders up Kettle Hill (not San Juan).

1916 – The Battle of the Somme in France; after a week’s bombardment with over 250,000 shells, the British launch an attack into no-man’s land. The Germans had retained many machine guns despite the bombardment, and the British soldiers were slaughtered. With 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded in one day, it was one of the worst defeats for the British military’s history.

1942 – The Battle of El Alamein; In North Africa Erwin Rommel’s army had routed the British and their allies, driving them back so quickly that they had to leave much of their equipment behind. But on today’s date the British Army, resupplied by Americans and reorganized, turned the tide back on Rommel at El Alamein.

The “Jungle” and The Birth of the USDA

Today in History, June 30, 1906:

The Federal Meat Inspection Act is passed by Congress.

After Upton Sinclair had published “The Jungle” about Chicago’s corrupt meat packing industry, President Theodore Roosevelt sent representatives to investigate the industry.

Despite the Chicago industry’s efforts to hinder the investigation, the investigators uncovered horrible practices. TR respected his investigator’s findings, and Congress acted to protect the public.

The USDA was born, and healthy meat processing practices were enforced. It may seem a mundane issue, but where would the health of our children be without these actions?

Ignore History at Your Peril

Today in History, June 22, 1941:

Operation Barbarossa.

The largest invasion in history, ordered by Adolph Hitler, kicks off as 3 million German soldiers, supported by 19 Panzer (tank) divisions, 2,500 aircraft and 7,000 artillery pieces use their now standard Blitzkrieg tactics against Russia.

Initially the offensive was incredibly successful, pushing 300 miles into enormous Russia within weeks.

Hitler’s fellow meglomaniac Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, and had recently asked to join Hitler in his designs on world domination, so he thought his country was safe; and Russia’s air forces were obsolete.

However, Hitler was ignoring history (never, ever, EVER, do that!!). Napoleon (almost 129 years to the day) had invaded Russia and been turned back by the Russian winter, in WWI Hitler’s predecessors had been ruined by opening a second front against Russia. Hitler’s fate would be the same.

Russia benefited from an almost limitless source of manpower, and the industrial might of America, which sent arms and modern aircraft. Added to the Russian winter which Hitler did not prepare for, and defeat was unavoidable for Germany. 

Being sent to the “Eastern Front” was the kiss of death for German troops who had gained disfavor with their superiors.