Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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.)

Obit watch: September 11, 2014.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Colonel Bernard F. Fisher (USAF – ret) passed away on August 16th, though his death does not appear to have been widely reported until today.

Col. Fisher (he was a major at the time) received the Medal of Honor for pulling off one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the Vietnam War.

(I swear that I read this story in Reader’s Digest when I was a child, maybe as a “Drama In Real Life”.)

The paper of record does not seem to have deigned to note the passing of Richard “Jaws” Kiel, but the LATimes and the A/V Club have.

Edited to add: now the NYT gets around to it.

You want sad? I’ll give you sad.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Very often the president would stride briskly out of the White House, with Tad at his side trying to keep up, and march four blocks down to 1207 New York Avenue, to Stuntz’s Fancy Store, a magical little toy shop. The owner, Joseph Stuntz, was a retired French soldier who carved wooden toy soldiers in a tiny back room. Sometimes Lincoln showed up alone at Stuntz’s and bought toy soldiers for Tad for Christmas. “I want to give him all the toys I did not have and all the toys I would have given the boy who went away,” Lincoln told the master toy maker.

The Last Lincolns, page 49 (paperback).

Inside the White House, workmen were making last minute repairs, preparing the executive mansion for the new president. In a second-floor bedroom they found something unexpected — the vast collection of Tad Lincoln’s toy soldiers. These were the beautiful, hand-carved figurines Abraham Lincoln had purchased for his son at Stuntz’s toy store. They were Tad’s favorite playthings, but he had left them behind, probably because he could not bear to see them again. He was no longer the president’s son. He was just Tad Lincoln.

–ibid., page 71

Quote of the day

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Lincoln, Robert Todd, xi, 3, 4, 22, 210.
See also Jinxy McDeath;
Presidential Angel of Death

—index entry in Charles Lachman’s The Last Lincolns: The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family.

(Explained.)

(I just started reading Lachman’s book yesterday. For some reason, I found Chapter 2, about Willie, Tad, and the president’s relationship with the boys, really hard to get through. You want sad? That’s a sad sundae with sad sauce and chopped sad sprinkled over it.)

Musical interlude.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Because even old New York was once New Amsterdam.

Random notes: August 12, 2014.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Garry Kasparov lost his bid to run the World Chess Federation. The incumbent president, Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, was re-elected by a wide margin (110 to 61).

Mr. Ilyumzhinov, 52, a native of Kalmykia, a poor Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, has led the chess federation since 1995, but not without controversy. He cultivated friendships with Saddam Hussein, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and claims that he was abducted by space aliens one night in 1997. He also claims the game was invented by extraterrestrials.

(Previously.)

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright: or, Lawrence goes to the tank museum. Hilarity ensues.

Actual LAT headline: “Convicted smuggler of prized fish bladders gets 1-year prison term“.

It was 40 years ago today…

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

…Richard Nixon went away.

Classic Austin cliches.

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Anyone who’s spent time in Austin is familiar with the complaint that too many Austin residents like to sit around and talk about how things were so much better when the Armadillo World Headquarters was in business, and how they saw Shiva’s Headband there, and rent was only $25 a month, and there was no traffic and abundant dope and and and…

The official name was Armadillo World Headquarters. But anyone who enjoyed live music just called it the ‘Dillo.

Yep. That’s your Statesman.

Obit (sort of) watch: August 1, 2014.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

There’s a nice story in today’s NYT. And I wonder why I’m reading it there, rather than in the Statesman.

Background: Gary Lavergne wrote what is widely considered the definitive book on Charles Whitman, A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders.

Claire Wilson was one of Whitman’s victims. She was walking with her boyfriend, Thomas Eckman, when Whitman shot her in the belly. He then shot and killed Eckman. Ms. Wilson survived, but she was eight months pregnant; Whitman’s bullet killed the baby.

Ms. Wilson (now Ms. Jones) got in touch with Mr. Lavergne after the book was published (he was unable to find her previously) and they became friends. Sometime later, Mr. Lavergne began researching a question, and found the answer last year.

In November 2013, he was preparing the materials from his most recent work, “Before Brown,” a history of Heman Marion Sweatt’s efforts to integrate the university beginning in the 1940s. Mr. Lavergne revisited a database of nearly 23,000 graves at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, where Theophilus S. Painter, the university president of that era, is buried.

The end result is that Ms. Jones now knows where her baby was buried. And the grave has a headstone, paid for by Mr. Lavergne.

Pretty much everyone has acknowledged this, but: Dick Smith. A/V Club.