Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for June 21, 2014

US Marines watch F4U Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese positions near the Chosin Reservoir; December 26th, 1950

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Forgotten war. And forgotten it seems, that the main foe were Chinese soldiers.

There is a great documentary called “Chosin”. It’s on Netflix and has a lot of interviews with survivors that are unbelievable.

One that has stuck with me was the man who was wounded, then the truck carrying him to an aid station was captured by the Chinese/North Koreans. They set the truck on fire to kill the wounded, but this guy managed to get out only to be shot in the head. He survived that, crawled down a trench only to be discovered by a chinese patrol who tried to beat him to death with their rifles. Survived that too and almost died of hypothermia before finally being discovered by a American patrol. It really gives you a sense of how horrendous that campaign really was…

Here’s the trailer: 

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Hitler’s Pants being burnt by the allies after the war; ca 1947

 

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I’ve always loved the pointing gesture. As if to say “See? invade and occupy most of Europe, murder tens of millions of people, and we will burn your goddamn pants.”

The Nazis had carefully preserved the pants from the  Operation Valkyrie assassination attempt and the allies inherited them after the war. They were concerned that if they put them in a museum they’d end up becoming a shrine to Hitler so they burnt them instead.


Hitlers pants after the Operation Valkyrie assassination attempt; ca. 1944

It looks like he got blown up with Acme dynamite.

It looks like he got blown up with Acme dynamite.


The last photo of the Far Eastern Party. Two of them would never make it home; ca. 1912

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The leading theory as to why the two expedition members died is hypervitaminosis A from eating their own husky sled dog’s livers.

(A gripping account of Douglas Mawson’s 1912-13 Antarctic expedition. Unimaginable hardship in the cause of science. Mawson’s hair fell out, skin peeled off. He survived only by bathing his eyes in cocaine and eating his dogs)

This story reminds me of the time when it was about 30 degrees (F) and I had to walk about three blocks to get some chips. I made it, but on the way back, I actually pulled out liner gloves and put them under my regular gloves, as I had packed them in my coat, along with other provisions. Slipping more than once on the way, I had to bend my knees to keep from falling in the snow that was a record 2 inches deep. Unexpectedly high winds made the last block nearly impassable on the sidewalk and I actually had to revert to walking along the street, which had not yet been cleared — and it wouldn’t be clear for a whole day due to the demands of this unheard of weather phenomenon of 2 inches of snow in early December. When I finally arrived, the I found that many of the chips had been broken from the rigors of the journey. So, I can identify.


Sinbad in a Sousaphone; ca. 1940s

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The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Campbell adopted a mixed-breed puppy in 1938.  Little did they know that their canine companion would become a world famous Coast Guard veteran.  He was, literally, a member of the crew, complete with all the necessary enlistment forms and other official paperwork,  uniforms, and his own bunk.  He sailed on board the combat-tested cutter through World War II and saw much action, both at sea and in port.  As Life Magazine reported: “An Old Sea Dog Has Favorite Bars and Plenty of Girls in Every Port.”  Until recently he had the honor and distinction of being the only Coast Guardsman to be the subject of a biography!  It was Sinbad of the Coast Guard, written by Chief Specialist George R. Foley, USCGR and published by Dodd, Mead and Company of New York during the war. The book made him an international celebrity.

Although he served honorably, he did run into a bit of trouble on occasion, as any sailor might during a long career at sea.  He caused an international incident in Greenland, another in Casablanca, and was busted in rank a few times for minor infractions.  As another author noted:

“Sinbad is a salty sailor but he’s not a good sailor. He’ll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals.  He’s been on report several times and he’s raised hell in a number of ports.  On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones.  Perhaps that’s why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us.”

Regardless of the fact that he liked to blow off a little steam while on liberty, he was a brave and capable sailor when he was on duty.  He earned the respect and affection of his shipmates during one famous battle when the Campbell fought it out with the Nazi submarine U-606.  The cutter was severely damaged during the fight and the commanding officer ordered all but essential personnel off the ship. They transferred to a nearby destroyer but a tough and hardy few stayed on board the Campbell while the cutter was towed to safety, patching her hull and ensuring that she stayed afloat during the voyage.  Among that few was Sinbad.  

He served faithfully on board Campbell for eleven years, garnering more sea time than most of his contemporaries, before finally retiring to the Barnegat Light Station.  He passed away 30 December 1951 and was laid to rest beneath the station’s flagstaff. 

(Source)


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From his mount a German horseman views an early airplane at Tempelhofer Feld (Tempelhof’s Airfield) Berlin; ca. 1900s

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Alfred J. Eggers, Jr. stands beside the Atmosphere Entry Simulator he invented in 1958 as a laboratory means of studying the problems of aerodynamic heating and thermal stresses during re-entry.

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The tubular tank in the foreground held air under high pressure. When a valve was opened, the air flowed through the test section (the dark area under the high-voltage signs) into the chimney-like vacuum tank. As the airstream moved, a high-velocity gun fired a test model through the chamber in a left-to-right direction.” (More info)


A self-firing rifle improvised by the Anzacs during their evacuation from Gallipoli, used to deceive the Ottomans into thinking that the Anzacs still occupied their trenches; ca. 1915

 

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Fire was maintained from the trenches after the withdrawal of the last men, by rifles arranged to fire automatically. This was done by a weight being released which pulled the trigger. Two kerosene tins were placed one above the other, the top one full of water and the bottom one with the trigger string attached to it, empty. At the last minute, small holes would be punched in the upper tin; water would trickle into the lower one, and the rifle would fire as soon as the lower tin had become sufficiently heavy. Another device ran a string, holding back the trigger, through a candle, which slowly burnt down, severed the string, and released the trigger.

Such devices provided sporadic firing which helped convince the Turks that the Anzac front line was occupied long after thousands of men had crept down to the beaches and escaped. British generals estimated that half the force would be lost in any attempt to withdraw because the Turks could not fail to notice as the trenches were so close. In the event, the Turks were so deceived that 80,000 men were evacuated with only about half a dozen casualties.

Source


RB-36H Peacemaker of the 72nd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Heavy (51-13741) flying over San Francisco Bay; ca.1954

 

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The original concept was intended to bomb Germany from bases in North America because the US thought that Britain would fall to the Nazis. (Source)

A Convair B-36H sitting next to a B-29 Superfortress, for scale:

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Children playing with stacks of hyper-inflated currency in the Weimar Republic; ca. 1922

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More information on that period and its effects here. This is often cited as one of the reasons that Hitler rose to power.

(It’s also why we used the tactic of the Marshall Plan after WWII.)