The Texas City Disaster

Today in History, April 16, 1947:

The Texas City Disaster, the worst industrial disaster in US History.

A French ship, the SS Grandcamp, loaded with 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the port city of Texas City, across from Galveston, in the channel leading to Houston, explodes, devastating the city.

All but one of the town’s fire department were killed, and several other fires were ignited on other ships and in the oil town in the following days. Most of the city was destroyed, and at least 581 people were killed.

Evil Personified; Perseverance Exemplified

Today in History, April 11, 1945:

“To the Allies. To the army of General Patton. This is the Buchenwald concentration camp.

SOS.

We request help. They want to evacuate us. The SS wants to destroy us.”

The Allies were driving across Europe, and as a result, the German War Machine was in panic. When the Russians overtook concentration camps on their front, the Germans “evacuated” thousands of Jews, Gypsies and prisoners of war to their second largest concentration camp, Buchenwald, Germany.

Buchenwald had housed slave labor, and murdered thousands, since 1937. EIGHT interminable years of forced labor, torture, rape, experiments on human beings.

Now when the Americans approached Buchenwald, the SS planned to “evacuate” the prisoners there, and destroy the camp to destroy the evidence.

The hundreds of thousands of prisoners were…evidence.

The prisoners had managed to construct a makeshift transmitter and sent the above message in several different languages in desperation.

After years of no hope, of unimaginable horrors….they received a reply, “KZ Bu. Hold out. RUSHING TO YOUR AID. Staff of Third Army.” The prisoner who had risked his life to send the plea for assistance…fainted.

Emboldened, several prisoners who were able, charged the machine gun towers surrounding them and took control of the main camp (there were several satellite camps).

On April 11 elements of the US 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, U.S. 6th Armored Division, US Third Army (Patton’s Army) entered Buchenwald and liberated it.

US Army commanders ordered the Mayor and citizens of the nearby towns to provide food for the starving prisoners until US supplies could arrive.

Reportedly Patton ordered that the citizens of nearby towns, who had known of the atrocities but remained silent, to tour the camps that included stack after stack after stack of bone thin bodies. A lesson?

Each generation thinks that they have “progressed” beyond such inhumanity. It is a delusion. As long as man exists, evil will exist. It must be recognized and guarded against.

A.S.P.C.A. is Born

Today in History, April 10, 1866:

Philanthropist Henry Bergh begins the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City.

While a diplomat in Russia, Bergh had been horrified by the mistreatment of horses by their Russian owners.

On his way back home, he spent time in London, and learned of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Inspired, he lobbied for the creation of a similar group at home.

New York gave the ASPCA authority to investigate and arrest for cruelty to animals, including horses and dog and rat fighting.

Eight years later Bergh and others would create the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

By 1888 thirty-seven of thirty-eight states had created versions of the ASPCA.

A Kamikaze Over London!

Today in History, April 9, 1937:

A Kamikaze in….London. In the 1930’s most nations were attempting to set aircraft range records…for the sake of doing so and for military purposes.

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun sponsored the flight of the “Kamikaze-Go”, a long range reconnaissance aircraft from Tokyo to London in honor of the coronation of King George VI.

Arriving at it’s destination in a little over 51 hours, the aircraft was greeted in London by cheering crowds. It’s pilot, Masaaki Iinuma, became a Japanese national hero, hailed as the Japanese Lindbergh.

He and his navigator, Kenji Tsukagoshi would both be killed during WWII, the aircraft would crash, be recovered, and placed in a museum which would be destroyed by bombing in WWII. The aircraft type would be used as a long range recon plane during the war. The whole thing began as the Japanese designed aircraft that could reach their far-ranging territories.

The Mercury Seven

Today in History, April 9, 1959:

NASA announces the identities of “The Mercury Seven”, America’s first astronauts.

Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton, 3 from the USAF, 3 from the USN, and one Marine.

The seven, all test pilots, had been selected from over 500 applicants after arduous testing. The astronauts had to have at least a bachelor’s degree and among other specs, could not be over 5’11” tall so they could fit into the space capsules.

They would take flight in all of the space missions through the space shuttle program. 36 years later, Senator John Glenn would become the oldest astronaut to fly a mission (so far) at age 77.

We Are Going “Over There!”

TODAY IN HISTORY, APRIL 6, 1917:

President Woodrow Wilson asks Congress for a Declaration of War.

“It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it.

The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation.

We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.”

We Are The World

TODAY IN HISTORY, APRIL 5, 1985:

We are the World.

“Check your ego at the door.” This was the sign that Quincy Jones placed on the door to the studio in Los Angeles on January 28, 1985 as a warning to the 46 celebrity vocalists who arrived to record “We are the World.” The single was produced to benefit starving people experiencing famine in Africa.

The album was a run away success, and on April 5, 1985, approximately 6,000 radio stations around the world coordinated to play the single at the same time, 11:50 A.M.

President Reagan, who had not heard the song prior, had it piped through Air Force One and was duly impressed.

I know we aren’t to April 5 yet, but I felt we could use this right now.

I noticed in 1985 they were not afraid to invoke God’s name. May he bless us in the coming times.

Honor and Dishonor

Today in History, March 27, 1836:

The Goliad Massacre.

In the preceding days, several battles had been fought between the Mexican Army and Texians fighting for their independence.

Among others, James W. Fannin had to surrender his forces faced with overwhelming Mexican force and artillery. He and his men had been promised surrender terms that included good treatment and “parole” back to the United States.

They were not aware that in December of the previous year Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had asked for and received from the Mexican Congress a law declaring that any Texian or American soldiers that were captured would be treated as pirates and executed. In spite of pleas from one of his generals, Santa Anna ordered the men executed. Deprived of the ability to fight to the end by false promises of parole (parole was a common military practice – those that surrendered simply promised not to take up arms again), 303 men that were ambulatory were marched out of Fort Defiance in Goliad along three separate roads.

They were told that they were to gather wood, or that they were being taken to a port to shipped to New Orleans. Many of the men joined in a chorus of “home sweet home” the night before. After marching about 3/4 of a mile, they were halted. Their Mexican guards turned and, on a prearranged signal, shot the unarmed men down. Only 28 managed to play dead and survive. 40 more, including Fannin, were too injured to join the march and were executed within the fort.

The Mexicans saved Fannin for last, setting him on a chair in the courtyard due to his injuries. He asked only that his property be returned to his family, that he be shot in the heart, not the face, and that he be given a Christian burial.

The Mexicans shot him in the face, shared his effects, and burned his body where it lay. The other murdered soldiers were piled up and set afire, their remains left for the vultures.

After the Battle of San Jacinto and Santa Anna’s surrender, they returned and attempted to destroy the evidence. The Massacre did a great deal to gain support for the Texian cause for independence from the United States.

NYC Rapid Transit Railroad

Today in History, March 24, 1900:

New York City Mayor Robert Anthony Van Wyck uses a silver spade to turn the first shovel-full of dirt on a new project: The first underground “Rapid Transit Railroad” in NYC. The first leg would run from Manhattan to Brooklyn. What is now known as the subway would get someone from downtown to Harlem in 13 minutes.

“When Mayor Van Wyck, silver spade in hand, lifted the first shovel of dirt from a small excavation in the flagging in front of the City Hall yesterday, the rapid transit tunnel was officially begun. Around New York’s Chief Magistrate were grouped the men whose persevering work of years had at last made rapid transit a certainty in New York, city officials who have aided them more-or-less in their efforts, financiers who came to the rescue when their aid was most needed, citizens whose names are a power in the professional and commercial world. and beyond all these, banked in almost solid phalanx from the sidewalks of Broadway across the park to the tall buildings in Park Row, were thousands of citizens of all degrees of life, who fought and struggled for position to witness one of the most important events in the history of the city.” –The New York Times, March 25, 1900

A Hero Lost

Today in History, March 22, 1820:

Stephen Decatur, Naval hero of the first and second Barbary Pirate wars, and of the War of 1812, hero and example to many of the U.S. Navy, is killed in a senseless duel.

In 1807 Commodore James Barron refused to defend his ship, Chesapeake, against British attack and was court-marshaled; Decatur, an old friend had to sit on the court-marshal board.

Suspended from the Navy for 5 years, Barron chose to wait until after the War of 1812 to be recommissioned. His cowardice was called, and he challenged Decatur, former comrade, to a duel.

Decatur, U. S. Navy hero, was mortally wounded. Such a shame. Decatur was a swashbuckler, a fierce fighter for his country.

Only 41-years-old, Decatur had untold potential remaining in his life. Such a waste.