Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Robert Conquest, call your office, please.

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Traditionally, Ukrainian historians have characterized the famine as a genocide, the direct result of Stalin’s forced collectivization and the Soviet government’s requisitioning of grain for export abroad, leaving Ukraine short — and its borders sealed shut. Since Ukraine gained independence, that is what its students have been taught.

But that is not what students in southeastern Ukraine are learning this year. Instead, under orders from the newly installed separatist governments, they are getting the sanitized Russian version, in which the famine was an unavoidable tragedy that befell the entire Soviet Union.

(Harvest of Sorrow from Amazon.)

Random notes: April 22, 2015.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

You know, I’m a little tired of this geocentric crud. Why just “Earth Day”? Why not a day for each of the other eight planets as well? I’d try to organize “Pluto Day” on March 13th, but that’s too close to Pi Day. Maybe Neptune Day on September 23rd?

Edited to add: Mike the Musicologist responds.

It’s not Earth as in the planet. It’s earth as in dirt. Or the element.

We need Fire Day, Wind and Waters Days.

Or maybe just an Earth, Wind and Fire Day. But then people would call for a Kool & The Gang Day. Imagine the furor when Average White Band Day is celebrated.

As I told Mike, I’m not sure I can get into Earth, Wind, and Fire Day. But Parliament Funkadelic Day? I’m there.

Serdar Argic, call your office, please.

Stolen bourbon. And anabolic steroids. That seems like an odd mix.

Happy Patriot’s Day!

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Enjoy your day off, folks in Massachusetts and Maine. (Hi, Weer’d!)

In other news, it seems that I am now 50 years old. I’m trying to make some time to work on a longer post about childhood memories, nostalgia, and the gun I bought in Tulsa, but things are so busy (gun show this past weekend, followed by dinner, followed by more kicking around on Sunday, etc.) that I’m not sure when that’s going to go up. I’m hoping that I’ll have more time this week to blog in general, but that post is going to require some photography…

Obit watch: March 31, 2015.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Robert L. Hite passed away on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Hite was one of Doolittle’s Raiders. He was captured by the Japanese after his plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out over China.

Mr. Hite was imprisoned for 40 months, 38 of them in solitary confinement. His weight had dropped to 76 pounds from 180 when the war ended.

Obit watch: March 27, 2015.

Friday, March 27th, 2015

This has been covered elsewhere, but I did want to highlight the NYT coverage of Richard III’s reburial.

After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — “Richard III, 1452-1485” — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times.

I wish I could have been there.

To those seething at the spectacle of a notoriously violent monarch being rehabilitated by the church, the cardinal cautioned that power in Richard’s time was “invariably won or maintained on the battlefield and only by ruthless determination, strong alliances and a willingness to employ the use of force, at times with astonishing brutality.”

Giggle. Snort.

For more than 500 years, he has been popularly cast as one of the most odious villains of English history — the “poisonous, bunch-back’d toad” of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” reviled as a child killer for his role, as Shakespeare and generations of historians have depicted it, as the prime mover in the smothering murders of the two young brothers known as the Princes in the Tower.

Since the 1700s, there has been a minority voice among writers and historians that has cast Richard as the victim of a conspiracy by the Tudors, whose dynasty was founded on Henry Tudor’s victory. Among these protagonists, Shakespeare is seen as having won favor at court as a spin doctor for the Tudor cause, especially for Queen Elizabeth I, who, this version contends, wanted Richard’s reputation blackened to strengthen the Tudors’ own shaky legitimacy.

I’m just going to leave these links here.

The Richard III Society.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

Also: nice tribute by the NYT to the author, John Burns.

Obit watch: February 19, 2015.

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Dr. John P. Craven, a hugely important figure in Navy history.

From 1959 to 1969, as chief scientist of the Special Projects Office, Dr. Craven led the Navy’s drive to expand its presence into the crushing depths of the sea. Among other things, he turned submarines into spy machines that could reach down miles to inspect and retrieve lost enemy matériel, including nuclear arms.

Dr. Craven shows up frequently in the many recently published histories of the US Navy during the Cold War. His own book, The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea is well worth reading.

Oliver Sacks is dying. I don’t want to write this obituary now; I plan to wait until I have to.

Obit watch: special Hellcats Over the Pacific edition.

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Alex Vraciu passed away on January 29th, though his death does not seem to have been widely reported until this weekend.

Mr. Vraciu shot down 19 Japanese planes in eight months, and destroyed another 21 planes on the ground.

Mr. Vraciu (which rhymes with cashew) accomplished his most spectacular feat in the South Pacific when he shot down six dive bombers within eight minutes in what became known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” in the Philippine Sea. He called it “a once-in-a-lifetime fighter pilot’s dream.”

More:

Mr. Vraciu achieved his pace-setting six kills under harrowing conditions on June 19, 1944, as Japanese planes attacked a task force of American carriers and battleships. His plane’s folding wings were mistakenly unlocked, and a malfunctioning engine was spewing oil on his windshield and preventing him from climbing above 20,000 feet. Still, he downed the dive bombers firing only 360 of the 2,400 bullets in his arsenal.

Random notes: January 15, 2015.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Obit watch: Phil Africa, “a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia-based black-liberation group Move”. You may remember MOVE from the 1985 Philadelphia police stand-off and bombing. Phil Africa was not involved in that, as he was already serving time for killing a police officer in the 1978 shootout.

It was unclear why the man was wearing body armor.

I’m just going to take a wild guess here and suggest he was wearing body armor because HE DIDN’T WANT TO GET SHOT!

(Oh, and for the record: both the gun and body armor were stolen from a sheriff’s deputy.)

Neat story:

Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park came upon a gun frozen in time: a .44-40 Winchester rifle manufactured in 1882. It was propped up against a juniper tree.

Some more detail here and here. (Interestingly, at the time I’m writing this, that story is the most-read one on the WP website.)

Obit watch: December 19, 2014.

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Mandy Rice-Davies has passed away at 70.

Ms. Rice-Davies, you may recall, was one of the central figures in what became known as the Profumo Affair. In brief, she was a roommate and friend of Christine Keeler, who had brief affairs with both Secretary of State for War John Profumo and Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet intelligence agent. This was quite the scandal back in 1963.

After action report: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I’ve sort of hinted at this, but now the full story can be told.

Mike the Musicologist and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma the weekend of November 8th.

(more…)

Blogger, with occasional tank.

Friday, November 7th, 2014

IMG_0413

Hey, if Lawrence is going to do it, I’m going to do it. (Though technically mine is not a selfie.)

Edited to add: Okay. This is absurd. The photo imported off the phone and into Shotwell in Ubuntu displayed upside down using Google Chrome and the WordPress interface. I flipped it 180 degrees using WordPress. Now it displays correctly in Google Chrome and Firefox under Ubuntu, and on the Kindle…but displays upside down on two iPhones. What is going on here, he said, slamming his head against a wall?

Edited to add 11/11: Okay. Now that I’m back home and can use iPhoto, let’s see how this comes out.

Obit watch: October 30, 2014.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Col. Jack Broughton (USAF – ret.) passed away last Friday.

Col. Broughton was a former Thunderbird and wrote several books, including Thud Ridge and Going Downtown.

He is perhaps most famous for an incident that occurred during the Vietnam War. At the time, Col. Broughton was vice commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. One of his pilots approached him after a raid and stated that he might have accidentally hit a Soviet ship with cannon fire while he was bombing Vietnamese anti-aircraft positions located nearby. The next day, the Soviets complained that one of their ships had been bombed; Col. Broughton, in an attempt to protect his pilots, ordered the gun camera film from their aircraft destroyed.

Col. Broughton and two of his pilots were court-martialled for allegedly bombing the Soviet ship. However, the gun camera film was the only evidence of what happened; since it had been destroyed, there wasn’t any evidence that the ship had actually been bombed, and Col. Broughton and the pilots were acquitted on that charge. Col. Broughton was, however, found guilty of “destruction of government property” (the gun camera film, with an estimated worth of $5). His conviction was later overturned due to “undue command influence”.

One observer on the Board for the Correction of Military Records called the court-martial ‘the grossest example of injustice in history.’ As Broughton himself wrote in his book, Going Downtown: The War Against Hanoi and Washington, ‘I found it interesting that in the entire history of the United States flying forces, only one other officer had ever had a general court-martial set aside and voided. His name was Billy Mitchell.’

Here’s a pretty good article reprinted from Vietnam magazine that covers the cases of Col. Broughton and Jack Lavelle. (I’ve also written about the Lavelle case; the linked article is from 1997, and doesn’t cover the more recent developments.)