June 6th, 1944 Is A Day That Should Be Remembered

   June 6th, 1944.
   This is a monumentally important date in history, for on this day, forces of the Western Allies under the command of General Dwight D Eisenhower stormed beaches in Normandy, France.
   The liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation had begun.
   It was a massive operation that had been in the works for months. It took time for troops to be gathered in Britain and then properly trained for the attack. Another big problem was that the Germans knew an invasion of some kind was coming, but the German High Command didn’t know for sure exactly when or where it was going to strike. So the Allies conducted massive deception operations to try to the confuse the Germans. These included creating a phantom army with fake tanks and aircraft, fraudulent radio transmissions, and the use of double agents. The purpose of all this was to hopefully fool the Germans into thinking that the main attack was going to occur at Pas de Calais, which is the narrowest point between Britain and France. The deception operations also tried to mislead the Germans into thinking there were other possible targets such as Norway.
   Another issue facing the Allies was about when atmospheric conditions would be optimal for an invasion. Planners had a set of criteria that they wanted met for an attack to take place.  One example was going in under a full moon. You must remember that in those days, they didn’t have modern night vision goggles like today, so a full moon was important for the pilots, airborne/glider troops, and navy personnel who would be operating the night before soldiers would be storming the beaches. They also wanted the landings to occur at or just before dawn between low and high tides with the tide going in. Part of this was so that attacking forces could see some of the obstacles that the Germans had set up, but at the same time they didn’t want soldiers to be too far out since they would have to run across the open beaches under fire. Hitting at dawn also allowed the ships to get closer, hopefully undetected by the Germans. The result of all this was that there were only a few days each month that would work for the invasion. And the more postponements that occurred, the greater the chances that the Germans would see through the deception operations that were going on and realize the attack was going to be at Normandy. If that had happened, it would have been a disaster because German forces could have focused on the Normandy beaches and then badly outnumbered Allied troops trying to come ashore.
   General Eisenhower and the High Command were initially going to invade June 5th, but it was postponed because meteorologists were predicting really bad weather that day. As a matter of fact, when word came of the postponement, some ships had already set sail so that they had to turn around and return. On the 5th, meteorologists predicted that there would be a window of better weather for June 6th, but as we all know, meteorology is not an exact science and there was always a chance they would be wrong. Trying to land troops in stormy seas would likely have been disastrous, but the longer the Allies waited, the greater the chances the Germans would see through the ongoing deception operations. So the decision of go or no go on June 6th must have been agonizing. But General Eisenhower and the High Command made it.
   June 6th was set for D-Day.
   Just after midnight, approximately 23,000 British and American airborne and glider troops began landing behind German lines. Their job was to sabotage targets like bridges and railway lines, seize important points, and create general confusion.
   An armada of over 5000 landing craft and other ships had crossed the English Channel and at or around 6:30 a.m. begin landing troops on five different beaches. British and Canadian forces attacked three that had been codenamed Gold, Sword, and Juno while American forces attacked Utah and Omaha. Soldiers landed on the beaches, which held various obstacles designed to damage landing craft or tanks that got in too close, barbed wire, and mines (many of these were attached to the obstacles). Allied troops had to get through this in the open while under bullet, grenade, and artillery fire from German troops who were fighting from entrenched and fortified positions.
   On that first day, progress had gone fairly well at Gold, Sword, Juno, and Utah beaches, but Omaha was another matter. The American forces who hit Omaha took heavy casualties. Germans had strong entrenchments and fortifications on the bluffs above and rained terrible fire upon the soldiers who were trying to cross the open beach below. Another complication for the Americans at Omaha was that of the 29 specially designed amphibious tanks, 27 sank in the choppy waters and never made it to the beach. And of the other tanks that had been taken to the beach on landing craft, many were knocked out. So it was pretty much up to infantry. They had to work their way across the open beach with little or no cover and deal with barbed wire while under withering fire and then battle their way up the bluffs to take out German soldiers who were fighting from entrenchments, bunkers, and pill boxes.
   By the end of the day, Allied forces had established beachheads at all five sectors and had landed over 156,000 troops in France. But it came at a price. Allied casualties are estimated to have been over 10,000 on that day. Of those, 4400 were killed in action.
   The liberation of Western Europe had begun.

Continue reading “June 6th, 1944 Is A Day That Should Be Remembered”

Washington DC Is One Of The Most Beautiful Cities In The Entire Country

   Washington DC.
   For many people these days, when they hear those words, they conjure up images of the vicious partisan politics which has been plaguing this country of late. They think of Republicans and Democrats in Congress at loggerheads against each other to such a severe degree that it often seems like little gets done.
   But what a great number overlook or forget is that Washington DC is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country.
   Really, it is.
   Why, do you ask? I think it’s a combination of its distinctive layout, beautiful architecture, extensive monuments, and lovely parks.
   First, the layout. While Washington DC has the traditional north south and east west grid system of roads, it is also crisscrossed with impressive avenues that run diagonally through the city. This distinctive layout of streets creates unique intersections, such as traffic circles the centers of which often contain impressive monuments.  There are also numerous parks, big and small, scattered throughout the city which frequently contain statues and other monuments.
   Then you have the impressive architecture of the city which includes a variety of styles such as Classical, Neoclassical, Greek Revival, Palladian, Second Empire, Modern, and Postmodern. Another vitally important facet of the characteristic look of Washington DC is the fact that homes and buildings are not allowed to exceed a certain height. There are no skyscrapers within the city limits. The reason for this is so that the US Capitol Building and other monuments can impressively stand out instead of being overshadowed.
   And of course, one can’t forget the heart and soul of Washington DC: the National Mall. This beautiful park runs from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial between which stands the towering Washington Monument. Lining each side are impressive national museums, including the National Gallery of Art as well as multiple branches of the Smithsonian Institution.
   The result is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country. And if you don’t believe me, check out these photos. I think they’ll prove my point
   Enjoy.

US Capitol Building in Spring
DC row houses on East Capitol Street NE
Row houses on East Capitol Street NE
Home on East Capitol Street NE
Historic DC home
Sumner School Building. 1872. One of the earliest schools for African Americans in DC.
Georgetown University
United States Supreme Court
Washington Monument during the Cherry Blossoms
Smithsonian
Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall
Park between Union Station and the US Capitol Building
Statue in DC
View of the Potomac River with the Kennedy Center and Watergate in the background.
Washington Monument in the Fall.
A neighborhood park during the Cherry Blossoms.
The Tidal Basin at sunset.
Korean War Memorial on the National Mall.
Jefferson Memorial at dusk.
Typical DC row houses. There are blocks and blocks of these throughout the city.
An intersection in a typical DC neighborhood of row houses.
DC residential neighborhood
Washington DC neighborhood
FDR Memorial in Fall
FDR Memorial in Fall
FDR Memorial in Fall
FDR Memorial in Fall

DC’s Federal Triangle Neighborhood Was Night And Day Different In The 19th Century

    Washington DC. It’s a beautiful city full of powerful government buildings,  majestic monuments, blocks of lovely old townhouses, amazing museums, and wonderful restaurants.
   Just east/southeast of the White House between Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, and 15th Street NW are the impressive, neoclassical buildings that make up the formidably large Federal Triangle complex. These grand structures are full of offices where people work throughout the week keeping the bureaucracy of government churning along. Next to the office buildings is the stunning columned National Archives.
   But it wasn’t always this way.
   Nope.
   The structures there now were built in the 20th Century. Before this, the neighborhood was quite different. Like night and day different.
   Put it this way, during the latter half of the 1800s, this neighborhood had several names including Hooker’s Division and Murder Bay.
   Back then, the area was often pretty rough and consisted of smaller buildings and houses, many of which contained saloons and bordellos. Gambling and prostitution were prevalent as was theft, fighting, and the occasional murder.
   During the Civil War, Union troops were frequently encamped in and around the city.  In their off hours, the soldiers would often seek out places to drink, gamble, and have sex. As a result, prostitution in the neighborhood became very common. Apparently, for a while, Union General Joseph Hooker ordered all the city’s prostitutes to congregate in this neighborhood, thus the nickname Hooker’s Division. Though, it should be noted that the referring to prostitutes as hookers probably predates this time.
   Immediately after the war, it seems to have been a working class neighborhood that became much rougher as the years went by. Gambling, drinking, prostitution, and theft were extensive and murders were not uncommon. Many would say don’t go south of Pennsylvania Avenue after dark, and supposedly, many police agreed and stayed away at night themselves. There are reports that as a result, volunteer firefighters may have taken on the role of peacekeepers at times. This is considerably ironic since they were often a tough, rowdy bunch and likely started quite a few drunken brawls themselves.
   In 1914, Washington DC began to seriously crackdown on prostitution which led to the closure of the bordellos. The Federal Government acquired the area and eventually tore down the old buildings and replaced them with the structures you see today.

Fast Food In The Ancient Roman World

12-27-20
   A fast food place (known as a thermopolium) uncovered at Pompeii, Italy gives us a glimpse of everyday life in the Ancient Roman world.
   Thermopolia were quite common in Roman towns and cities. There are over 80 in the ruins of Pompeii alone. They were places where people could stop by to get hot food and drink. While some thermopolia had a room in back for people to dine in, many did not. So it appears that these places were often used as take out.
   This particular thermopolium has the typical counter whose top contains a row of sizable holes. These holes are the tops of embedded jars called dolia. Since the dolia were built in, they probably held dried foods such as nuts because cleaning them out would have been clearly problematic otherwise.
   Thermopolia served a variety of things such as wine, meats, cheeses, fish, lentils, and nuts. A sauce made of fish guts called garum would have often been involved since it was commonly used back then, similar to how something like ketchup is today.
   While the wealthy may have gone to Thermopolia on occasion, it was probably ordinary people on the lower end of the financial spectrum who frequented these establishments the most because the majority of lower or middle class Romans who were in towns and cities lived in apartment buildings called insulae. The apartments (especially those for the poor) were often small, cramped, and without a private kitchen. As a result, the lower classes would often frequent thermopolia for prepared meals.
   Decorations in thermopolia varied. For some, they would have been quite simple while others more elaborate. This particular thermopolium has multiple frescoes whose subjects include one with two mallard ducks, one of a rooster, and another of a mythological figure. A fresco of a dog was discovered which is unique in that a person(s) of the time had scratched some graffiti along its edge insulting someone, possibly the proprietor of the establishment.
   While there are certainly major differences between our time and the ancient Roman world, there are similarities too. They were human beings trying to live their lives.
   Check out the links below for more information and photos, including about the thermopolium discussed in this piece.

A thermopolium at Herculeaneum. On the right, you can see how dolia were built in to the counters.

http://pompeiisites.org/en/comunicati/the-ancient-snack-bar-of-regio-v-resurfaces-in-its-entirety-with-scenes-of-still-life-food-residues-animal-bones-and-victims-of-the-eruption/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/romans-loved-fast-food-much-we-do-180971845/

The Border Between North And South Korea Is One Of The Most Tense And Heavily Fortified In The World

12-26-20
   On May 3rd of this year (2020), North Korean soldiers fired across the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) towards a guard post on the southern side. South Korea says its soldiers then issued a warning broadcast and fired two shots back in return. No one on the southern side was injured.
   Did you know that the Korean DMZ is probably the most heavily fortified border in the world?
   It is.
   The Demilitarized Zone was established in 1953 when the Korean War came to end and runs across the Korean peninsula separating the Communist North from the Democratic South. It’s approximately 150 miles long and 2.5 miles wide running along the 38th parallel. An estimated 2 million mines are dispersed in or near the DMZ which is in addition to all the guard posts, fences, barbed wire, tank traps, artillery, combat vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of troops that line the entire border area.
   And guess what? This isn’t the first incident to occur there. Oh no. There have been scattered clashes occurring between the two sides since the end of the war which have included helicopters being shot down when they accidentally strayed across the border, engagements on water, and guard posts having firefights against each other.
   Panmunjom is a village that straddles the border itself. Here, North Korean and South Korean soldiers stare at each other day in and day out, sometimes with just feet separating them. There are 5 one story buildings, 3 of which are painted United Nations blue, that stand directly on the border line so that half is in the South and half is in the North. These buildings are where delegates can sit down at a table (that is also bisected by the border) for talks. When South Korean soldiers open the door to the North, they do so in pairs. One opens the door while the second holds on to him. They do this because there is genuine fear that North Koreans might try to grab and abduct the first soldier. That is how tense things are.
   Considering how dictatorial and ruthless the North Korean regime is, it doesn’t look like there will be any significant easing of tensions at the Korean DMZ anytime soon.

The True Story Of A Brave Dog In The Civil War, Sallie Ann Jarrett

   I’m going to tell you a story…
   A true story about a dog named Sallie Ann Jarrett.
   But we have to go back in time. The year is 1861. A Union regiment, the 11th Pennsylvania, had recently been organized and was training for the American Civil War.
   Being early in the conflict, local civilians would come out to watch the new soldiers march, drill, and train. Once such individual was an attractive, young woman named Sallie Ann. As you can imagine, the soldiers liked it when Sallie Ann stopped by.
   Well, one day, someone arrived with a basket. Inside the basket was a little, female pit bull puppy who was presented to the regiment as a gift.
   The soldiers named her Sallie Ann Jarrett after the popular young woman they liked and their original commanding officer, Colonel Phaon Jarrett.
   Little Sallie Ann was quite popular with the troops with her playful exuberance. Early on she would wind her way through the soldiers as they marched, but then she learned to join the commanding officer at the head of the column.
   In 1862, the regiment, under the command of Colonel Richard Coulter, headed south to join the war for real.
   And Sallie Ann went with them.
   The 11th Pennsylvania saw its first action at Cedar Mountain. As the muskets fired and bullets flew, Sallie Ann stayed at the front with her soldiers, for the 11th was her family. She apparently tried to bite Confederate bullets when they struck the ground.
   She saw more fighting. At the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the war, the soldiers tried to get her to stay behind, but Sallie Ann refused and remained with her regiment.
   She gave birth to puppies, who were sent north to families, but Sallie Ann continued on with the 11th.
   When the Army of the Potomac marched before President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, Sallie Ann was in her place at the head of her unit.
   In July of that year, large Union and Confederate armies ran into each other at Gettysburg, resulting in a brutal three day battle. The 11th Pennsylvania saw action on the first day, during which they suffered a number of killed and wounded. When Union forces retreated back through town to regroup on Cemetery Ridge, Sallie Ann got separated from the regiment. As the bloody battle raged for 2 more days, no one knew what had happened to her. Considering there were 51,000 casualties, many probably feared the worst.
   After the fighting ended, Union soldiers explored the devastated battlefield. When they arrived at the site where the 11th had fought on the first day, they found Sallie Ann.
   After getting separated, she had returned and stayed vigil over the dead and wounded members of her family, soldiers of the 11th Pennsylvania.
   In 1864, Sallie Ann was shot at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse; though, she fortunately recovered.
   Then in February of 1865, Sallie Ann was sadly killed in action. Reportedly, several mourning soldiers buried her while the battle still raged. Finally, later that year, the terrible Civil War came to an end.
   Years passed by.
   In 1890, a monument was erected at Gettysburg honoring the 11th Pennsylvania. Veterans had demanded that Sallie Ann Jarrett be honored too.
   They got their wish.
   The monument consists of a Union soldier standing on top of a pedestal. On the front of the pedestal near the base, is the statue of a curled up dog, Sallie Ann Jarrett.
   In 1910, there was a reunion of surviving members of the regiment. They had their photograph taken with the monument behind them. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll notice 3 veterans are standing off to the right creating a gap. They did this so that Sallie Ann would be in the photo too, for if you zoom in, you can see the profile of her statue on the monument in the gap.
   So if you visit the Gettysburg Battlefield, stop by the monument and honor the brave little dog, Sallie Ann Jarrett.

1910 Reunion
Memorial to the 11th Pennsylvania at Gettysburg
Photo of Sallie Ann Jarrett

There Is Too Much Hate Permeating Society These Days

7-21-20
   There is way too much hate permeating society these days. Way too much.
   It seems to be coming from all around, like it’s oozing from everywhere.
   Unfortunately, hate is nothing new. It has been a part of human existence for as long as humans have been around.
   The reasons why a person hates can actually be quite complex and is often due to a combination of factors. Fear of people or things that are different or that an individual doesn’t understand is a common one. Lashing out and projecting against others because of insecurities about oneself is another. Influences from surrounding people, family, leaders, and organizations often play roles as well in encouraging and exacerbating hate. Also, hate frequently leads to more hate. Person A hates person B. Person B commonly responds back with their own version of hate.
   Sometimes, it seems almost contagious, and these days, we are seeing populist political leaders using and encouraging hate to increase their power and hold over followers. This sadly is nothing new as historical figures like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Benito Mussolini used such tactics quite effectively in their rise to power and then desperate quests to keep that power.
   But it doesn’t have to be this way.
   People need to routinely take a good, hard look at themselves examining who they are, how they feel about things, and why. All should strive to recognize hate, or the stirrings of it, and then find ways to let it go.
   Yes, let it go.
   Imagine the world if more people opened their minds educating themselves, seeking out different points of view, and then learning to let go of their hate.
   Imagine.
   And you know what? It’s got to start somewhere.
   And yep, that means with you!

African American Hero From The American Civil War

   William Carney was born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia in 1840. His father, William Sr, escaped North via the Underground Railroad and after working hard, was able to buy freedom for the rest of his family. They settled in Massachusetts where young William learned to read and write, planning on becoming a minister.
   However, in 1863, 23 year old William Carney joined the 54th Massachusetts Black Regiment instead. He was now a soldier in the American Civil War.
   In July of that year, the 54th and other Union forces were gathered outside Charleston, South Carolina preparing to take part in the assault on Fort Wagner, one of the installations guarding Charleston Harbor.
   On the 18th, the 54th was taking cover behind sand dunes about 1000 yards from the fort. When nightfall arrived, the order was given.
   Advance.
   The 54th was leading the attack on Fort Wagner.
   After dressing their lines, the regiment moved across open ground under withering cannon and musket fire. Seeing the color bearer start to fall, Carney quickly dropped his gun and grabbed the flag moving to the front of the line. He and the 54th continued forward through a storm of bullets, cannonballs, and canister. Soldiers fell all around with terrible bloody wounds, but the regiment kept going with Carney at the front holding the American flag aloft.
   He crossed a ditch and clambered up the fort’s earthen wall. When Carney arrived at the top and looked around, he found himself surrounded by dead and wounded members of his battered, bloodied regiment.        
   At that moment, William Carney realized that in his area, he was the only one still standing.  
   Seeing Confederate forces advancing towards him, Carney worked his way back down the wall through the carnage and made it to the ditch that was now waist deep in water. Pausing there, he thought about his next course of action. As he rose up to get a better look around, William Carney was shot. A second bullet struck him shortly after. While Carney was painfully pushing his way towards friendly lines, he came upon a soldier from the 100th New York who asked if he was wounded. As Carney responded, a third bullet grazed his arm. The soldier came over to help him, offering to take the flag, but Carney wouldn’t let it go. Together the two men, one black and one white, struggled towards Union lines during which a fourth bullet grazed Carney’s head.
   When they made it back, he refused to give up the flag to anyone except another member of his regiment. Once they reached other survivors of the 54th, Carney said, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”
   In 1900, William Carney was finally awarded The Medal of Honor.

John Quincy Adams, The Skinny Dipping President

  

   Yes, you heard me right! But first, let’s start at the beginning.
   John Quincy Adams was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts in 1767. He was the eldest son of John and Abigail Adams, who were both very important figures in the early United States. His father was a member of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution, served as a diplomat in Europe, and became the 2nd American President. As a result, young John Quincy grew up among movers and shakers including some in European countries. He was very intelligent, learning multiple languages and was an avid reader. Apparently, he had hoped to pursue a career in writing; though, his future lay in politics.
   John Quincy Adams had a long career as a civil servant and politician. He served as a diplomat overseas, was a member of the United States Senate, became Secretary of State, and was the 6th President of the United States after which he had a long career as a member of the House of Representatives. As a matter of fact, he is the only person to serve in the House after being President.
   In many ways, he was ahead of his time. He despised the institution of slavery and was more sympathetic to the rights of Native Americans than many of his contemporaries. As much as he hated slavery and fought against it, John Quincy Adams predicted that the only way the terrible institution would come to an end would be if the Southern states ended it voluntarily or if there was a civil war. He also predicted that if there was a civil war, the president of the time would use war powers to end slavery. This is quite close to what actually happened since Abraham Lincoln used the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in the Confederate states.
   In 1797 London, Adams married Louisa Johnson, the daughter of the US consul to Britain. They had 3 sons and 1 daughter together. Tragically, two died as young men after battles with alcoholism. One possibly from suicide. John Quincy likely suffered from depression and had a serious disposition much of the time. In politics, he became well known for his oratory, giving powerful impassioned speeches. In fact, when his end finally came in 1848, he was giving a fiery speech in Congress when he collapsed from a stroke. He died two days later in the US Capitol Building.
   Obviously, John Quincy Adams spent many years living in Washington DC. He had a habit of getting up early in the predawn hours to walk around the city getting exercise when it was quiet and other people were still asleep. If the weather was good, he was known to swim in the Potomac River. In those days, when men swam in the river, they would remove their clothes and take a dip. Although in 1821 when the British Ambassador George Canning spotted then Secretary of State Adams in the water, he wasn’t entirely naked. Canning later wrote, “The Secretary of State was seen one morning at an early hour floating down the Potomac, with a black cap on his head and a pair of green goggles on his eyes.”
   So yes, John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States, would remove his clothes and skinny dip in the Potomac River! Not something you’d catch any modern president doing!
   So when you have a few minutes, perhaps learn about and remember the skinny dipping President of the United States, John Quincy Adams.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Quincy-Adams

https://shannonselin.com/2017/07/john-quincy-adams-swimming/

The True Story Of A Dog Named Stubby

   It all started on a day in 1917. The place was the Yale University campus in Connecticut where the 102nd Infantry Regiment was training in preparation to join the brutal trench warfare of World War 1 Europe.
   What made this day different from the others was how a stray mixed breed dog wandered in amidst the regiment, apparently making himself quite at home. He quickly won over the young soldiers, was named Stubby (due to his short tail), and found himself adopted by Private James Robert Conroy. 
   Stubby was very popular with the soldiers. He would apparently try to join them in some of the drills and reportedly learned to salute with his right paw.
   Finally, the time arrived to ship off to France and join the war for real.
   And yes, Stubby went with the regiment.
   Over the years, numerous stories and legends have been told about Stubby so that separating fact from fiction can be extremely difficult. One tale says that Conroy tried to smuggle Stubby over to Europe but got caught. The story goes on to say that when the commanding officer discovered what had happened, he was won over by a right paw salute. Great story, but is it true? We’ll likely never know.
   What does appear true is that Stubby kept up morale in the front lines and would warn the troops of gas attacks by barking and running through the trenches. Another brave feat was the way he would go into no man’s land between the American and German positions finding wounded soldiers and staying with them until medics arrived.
   Stubby was also known to wander, sometimes disappearing for days at a time. But he always found his way back to the 102nd and his owner, James Robert Conroy.
   The brave dog suffered multiple battle wounds, but was fortunate enough to survive the war, after which he became a celebrity. He had his photo taken with General John Pershing, commander of all US forces in Europe and became the mascot of Georgetown University, where Conroy studied law.
   Stubby passed away in 1926 in his owner’s arms. He was stuffed and eventually ended up with the Smithsonian Institution where the brave pooch is sometimes displayed.