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, explodes in the channel leading to Houston, devastating the docks and the town.
All but one of the town’s firefighters 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.
Today in History, April 13, 1941:
The Russian and Japanese governments sign a non-aggression treaty. The treaty gave both nations much needed cover.
The Russians didn’t have to fight the Japanese in Manchuria, freeing up hundreds of thousands of troops to fight the Germans.
The Japanese, likewise, freed up hundreds of thousands of troops to fight the Americans. FDR encouraged Stalin at Malta to declare war on Japan after the defeat of Germany.
They did so, conveniently, between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ostensibly after the war was over, invading Manchuria and demanding the northern islands of Japan for their “effort”.
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 aerial bombardment.
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.
Today in History, March 31, 1943:
Historically Broadway musicals had gone for flash and opened with a bang.
So most critics expected this folksy, country new musical, opening on Broadway in the middle of WWII, to bomb.
They misunderstood the mood of the nation, which had been in the midst of world war and the related personal losses and stress for years.
When Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! premiered on this date in 1943 on Broadway, it opened with the melodious tunes of a cowboy singing as he greeted a peaceful morning.
Almost in unison the war weary audience let out an audible “aaaaahh”.
By the time the cast had sung the title song and closed the play, Joan Roberts (Laurey) says that the applause was deafening through two encores. The record setting musical would run for 15 years, 2,212 performances, before closing.
Today in History, March 22, 1908:
Louis L’Amour is born in Jamestown, North Dakota.
Ditching school at age 15, he spent the next twenty plus years traveling the world, working as a cowboy, a longshoreman, a sailor, prizefighter, miner, and a World War II tank crewman in Europe.
When he came home from the war, he began writing. 108 books and 225 million copies later, he was recognized as the most prolific Western writer in America.
His narrative was gritty and quick…and many of us loved them.
Many in Hollywood would be honored to portray his characters…it made some careers. Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, John Wayne, George Peppard, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Debbie Reynolds and so many others.
My second favorite movie, “How the West Was Won” was based on one of his books. What a life!