Presidential Roosevelts…Firsts in Flight

TODAY IN HISTORY, JANUARY 14, 1943:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first US President to fly in an aircraft for official business.

FDR was to meet Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco to discuss strategy in WWII. For previous meetings the President and Prime Minister had travelled by warship, but the US military was concerned about heightened U-Boat activity in the Atlantic.

As a result President Roosevelt agreed to make the trip by plane, specifically a Boeing 314 four engine flying boat named the Dixie Clipper. The flight flew from Florida to South America and crossed to North Africa. After the meeting, FDR celebrated his 61st birthday on the return flight. He was already in poor health and the 1700 mile trip took its toll.

Thirty-three years earlier, FDR’s cousin Theodore Roosevelt had become the first president to fly in an aircraft. After having left office, TR was on a speaking tour when he encountered pilot Arch Hoxley at Kinloch Field in St. Louis, Missouri.

The always adventurous TR could not resist the offer to go for a jaunt in the Wright built airplane…little more than a powered kite, and much less luxurious than the Clipper his cousin would use. In fact, TR’s pilot, Hoxley, would die in a plane crash the following December.

I have to wonder if this is historic coincidence or much more. FDR grew up in TR’s very large shadow, and greatly admired him. FDR followed TR’s path as much as he could…Under Secretary of the Navy, the New York legislature and New York governor. While TR was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat, FDR traded on TR’s legend…and TR supported his prodigy. TR wanted to break tradition and serve a third term, which did not happen. FDR was into his fourth term when he died.

So of course one has to wonder if from competitiveness or emulation, was the opportunity to follow up on a Presidentially pioneering flight just too much too pass up?

This 1940…or 2020…That Just Doesn’t Happen Any More…Do You Believe in Evil?

Today in History, January 13, 1992:

“The women cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.” –Japanese WWII soldier Yasuji Kaneko.

The Japanese government issued an official apology to Korea for having recruited, abducted, and imprisoned thousands of civilian women into “Comfort Stations” to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers and sailors.

Women from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were trafficked and raped repeatedly.

Depending on who you ask, between 20,000 and 410,000 women. 75% of the women died in their captivity, and those that survived were rendered infertile due to sexual abuse or venereal disease.

Yes, evil does exist.

Yes, human trafficking does exist.

Do you believe it exists today? Throughout history, societies have believed the evils of the past don’t exist anymore…that they have outgrown them. “This is 1910…..this is 1940….this is 2013….that stuff doesn’t happen anymore….”

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.

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.

An Oklahoma Sheepdog Fights to the Death in Defense of his Flock

Today in History, October 26, 1944:

OKLAHOMA PROUD.

Did you know that we Okies make up only a little over 1% of the US population? And we’ve been around as a territory or state for less than half our nation’s history. Yet I keep finding that we’ve given a much larger accounting of ourselves in courage, commitment and love of our neighbors than that…much more than our 1% share.

Whether its the Sooners in the Great Land Rush, US Marshal Bill Tilgman, Will Rogers, the survivors of the Dust Bowl, OKC in ’95, our many astronauts, or the man in the photo, Ernest E. Evans, we are everywhere.

During the Battle Off Samar, in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (Oct. 24-26, 1944), Commander Evans (Oklahoma Cherokee) found his tiny destroyer and a couple of others, the only defense for the light carriers of “Taffy 3” from a massive Japanese force that included battleships, cruisers and destroyers.

For 3 hours he and his crew fought so hard that the enemy thought they were fighting a much larger combatant. In the end, the enemy retreated from the fierce American defense. Evans and his crew continued until they were sunk, and Evans went down with his ship. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Commander Evans knew his tiny ship did not stand a chance against the larger ships, but he placed himself and his crew between the enemy and his helpless charges…a true Sheepdog.

The United Nations Initiated

Today in History, October 24, 1945 & 1949:

Since 1941 FDR and Winston Churchill had been referring to the Allies as the “United Nations.”

on this date in 1945 the 5 permanent members of the Security Council and other signatories signed the UN Charter, beginning the organization two months after the end of WWII.

Exactly 4 years later in 1949 the cornerstone to the United Nations building in New York City was laid down.

A Horrific Day over Schweinfurt

Today in History, October 14, 1943:

During it’s Second Raid on Schweinfurt, Germany’s ball bearing plants, the Mighty US Eighth Air Force loses SIXTY B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

That number becomes more ominous when you know that each aircraft had at least a 10 man crew, meaning that 600 airmen either lost their lives or were captured that day.

The casualties in the Eighth Air Force over Europe accounted for more than half of the losses for the entire US Army Air Corps.

With over 26,000 dead, it surpassed the horrific losses of the US Marine Corps during the war by far…the USMC having lost almost 18,000 dead in the bitter battles in Pacific Islands.