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.”

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau – Our Decisions Affect Our Children…

Today in History, December 23, 1829:

Prince Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg leaves St. Louis and heads up the Missouri River. This was actually the second exploration of the American wilderness by the scientifically inclined German prince.

But a side note is what I find fascinating… Several years earlier, in 1822, the Prince had undertaken his first expedition into the west. To do so he needed the permission of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, William Clark of “Lewis and Clark” fame, who had originally explored the West.

Clark had a foster son, the son of an Indian girl who had greatly assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Sacagawea. Her son, Clark’s foster son, was Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Clark was so impressed with the Prince that when the Prince completed his first expedition in 1822, he allowed Jean (age 16) to accompany the Prince to Europe.

The young Jean was the Prince’s constant companion as they toured Europe and North Africa. Jean learned French, German and Spanish and became quite cosmopolitan. The trip back to the wild of America in 1829 was taken in order to bring Jean back to his home with Clark.

An interesting story, and what I take from it is the impact of decisions we make on our fate and the fate of those around us. Sacagawea could have led out her life quietly; but she made a decision that led her son on an odyssey she likely could never have imagined.

The Thirteenth Amendment & The House of Representatives

Today in History, December 18, 1865:

The US House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The issue had divided the nation from its inception due to its inherent disagreement with our founding principles….

The Republican Party had been founded by break-away former members of the Whig party, who had formed the new party in the 1850’s because of their abolitionist beliefs. The Civil War had begun because of the election of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln; the largely Democrat South believed abolition was eminent due to his election and seceded from the Union rather than give up their slaves. Republican Lincoln did in fact enact the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing slaves in southern states, an admittedly partial measure. For his efforts a Democrat radical assassinated him in 1865 before he could see the realization of the 13th Amendment. Lincoln had wanted the measure to be bi-partisan in an effort to re-unite the nation. Although he wouldn’t live to see it, he got his wish, to an extent. 7 Democrats abstained from voting rather that be a part of freeing the slaves, but the measure still passed due to a Republican majority and partial Democrat support. Angry southern Democrats would go on to form the KKK, resulting in another century of violence before civil rights measures were finally passed.

The Boston Tea Party – Saying No to Tyranny

Today in History, December 16, 1773:

The Boston Tea Party. In an effort to bolster the struggling British East India Company, the British Parliament passed the Tea Act of 1773, refunding taxes the company paid in England while retaining those paid by American colonists. The debate concerning taxation without representation had been raging for years, and this was, in a way, the last straw. In several cities protests had forced cargo ships to return to England with their holds still full of tea. But in Boston the British Governor of Massachusetts refused to allow 3 ships there to leave. So on this date Sam Adams led a contingent of the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Mohawk Indians aboard the ships and dumped their cargo of tea into Boston Harbor. This enraged Parliament, whose responses would light the fuse on the American Revolution.

Landmark 1963 Army – Navy Game; JFK & Instant Replay

TODAY IN HISTORY, DECEMBER 7, 1963:

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a US Navy Veteran of the Second World War. He had served in the Pacific Theater, commanding PT-109, a “Patrol-Torpedo” boat about 77 feet in length. His boat was sunk in the Solomon Islands and he became a war hero for his efforts in his crew’s rescue. But that is another story.

As President it was his habit to attend the annual Army-Navy game to unabashedly root for Navy. He planned to attend the game on December 1, 1963. However he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Out of respect for their commander in chief the services postponed the game. Kennedy’s widow asked that the game be played in his honor.

On December 7 the game was held in Philadelphia. It would become a landmark game because when Army scored a touchdown, the producers decided to use a new technology for the very first time. They used their new machinery to instantly replay the touchdown for viewers. Their phones immediately lit up as viewers were confused as to whether Army had scored twice! Of course this technology has advanced markedly since and is frequently utilized to decide debated plays.

Navy Quarterback Midshipman Roger Staubach led “The President’s Team” to a 21-15 victory over Army. Staubach would receive the Heisman Trophy and go on to lead the Dallas Cowboys in a remarkable career.