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Dennis Donovan

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Member since: Wed Oct 15, 2008, 06:29 PM
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Obligatory Post...

I FUCKING HATE Republicans!
Posted by Dennis Donovan | Fri Apr 19, 2019, 04:42 PM (6 replies)

24 Years Ago Today; Terror in OKC


The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two days after the bombing, viewed from across the adjacent parking lot

The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States on April 19, 1995. Perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing happened at 9:02 am and killed at least 168 people, injured more than 680 others, and destroyed one-third of the building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage. Extensive rescue efforts were undertaken by local, state, federal, and worldwide agencies in the wake of the bombing, and substantial donations were received from across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated 11 of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, consisting of 665 rescue workers who assisted in rescue and recovery operations. Until the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States, and remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the country's history.

Within 90 minutes of the explosion, McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charlie Hanger for driving without a license plate and arrested for illegal weapons possession. Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh and Nichols to the attack; Nichols was arrested, and within days, both were charged. Michael and Lori Fortier were later identified as accomplices. McVeigh, a veteran of the Gulf War and a U.S. militia movement sympathizer, had detonated a Ryder rental truck full of explosives parked in front of the building. His co-conspirator, Nichols, had assisted with the bomb's preparation. Motivated by his dislike for the U.S. federal government and unhappy about its handling of the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 and the Waco siege in 1993, McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

The official investigation, known as "OKBOMB", saw FBI agents conduct 28,000 interviews, amass 3.5 short tons (3,200 kg) of evidence, and collected nearly one billion pieces of information. The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, and Nichols was sentenced to life in prison in 2004. Michael and Lori Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols; Michael was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn the United States government, and Lori received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

As a result of the bombing, the U.S. Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which tightened the standards for habeas corpus in the United States, as well as legislation designed to increase the protection around federal buildings to deter future terrorist attacks. On April 19, 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the site of the Murrah Federal Building, commemorating the victims of the bombing. Remembrance services are held every year on April 19, at the time of the explosion.



Map showing the layout of downtown Oklahoma City near the bombed building. The map uses simple shapes to identify some notable nearby buildings and roads. A large circle covers half the map, illustrating the extent of damage from the bomb. A red path shows the path McVeigh took to get to the building with the Ryder truck, and a blue line shows his escape on foot.

McVeigh's original plan had been to detonate the bomb at 11:00 am, but at dawn on April 19, 1995, he decided instead to destroy the building at 9:00 am. As he drove toward the Murrah Federal Building in the Ryder truck, McVeigh carried with him an envelope containing pages from The Turner Diaries – a fictional account of white supremacists who ignite a revolution by blowing up the FBI headquarters at 9:15 one morning using a truck bomb. McVeigh wore a printed T-shirt with the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Sic semper tyrannis ("Thus always to tyrants", according to legend what Brutus said as he assassinated Julius Caesar, also shouted by John Wilkes Booth immediately after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln) and "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" (from Thomas Jefferson). He also carried an envelope full of revolutionary materials that included a bumper sticker with the Thomas Jefferson slogan, "When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." Underneath, McVeigh had written, "Maybe now, there will be liberty!" with a hand-copied quote by John Locke asserting that a man has a right to kill someone who takes away his liberty.

McVeigh entered Oklahoma City at 8:50 am. At 8:57 am, the Regency Towers Apartments' lobby security camera that had recorded Nichols's pickup truck three days earlier recorded the Ryder truck heading towards the Murrah Federal Building. At the same moment, McVeigh lit the five-minute fuse. Three minutes later, still a block away, he lit the two-minute fuse. He parked the Ryder truck in a drop-off zone situated under the building's day-care center, exited and locked the truck, and as he headed to his getaway vehicle, dropped the keys to the truck a few blocks away.

An overhead view shows the Alfred P. Murrah building, half of it destroyed from the bomb's blast. Near the building are various rescue vehicles and cranes. Some damage is visible to nearby buildings.

At 9:02 a.m. (14:02 UTC), the Ryder truck, containing over 4,800 pounds (2,200 kg) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, nitromethane, and diesel fuel mixture, detonated in front of the north side of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. 168 people were killed and hundreds more injured. One third of the building was destroyed by the explosion, which created a 30-foot-wide (9.1 m), 8-foot-deep (2.4 m) crater on NW 5th Street next to the building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 4-block radius, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings. The broken glass alone accounted for 5% of the death total and 69% of the injuries outside the Murrah Federal Building. The blast destroyed or burned 86 cars around the site. The destruction of the buildings left several hundred people homeless and shut down a number of offices in downtown Oklahoma City. The explosion was estimated to have caused at least $652 million worth of damage.

The effects of the blast were equivalent to over 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of TNT, and could be heard and felt up to 55 miles (89 km) away.[68] Seismometers at the Omniplex Science Museum in Oklahoma City, 4.3 miles (6.9 km) away, and in Norman, Oklahoma, 16.1 miles (25.9 km) away, recorded the blast as measuring approximately 3.0 on the Richter magnitude scale.


An estimated 646 people were inside the building when the bomb exploded. By the end of the day, 14 adults and 6 children were confirmed dead, and over 100 injured. The toll eventually reached 168 confirmed dead, not including an unmatched left leg that could have belonged to an unidentified 169th victim or could have belonged to any one of eight victims who had been buried without a left leg. Most of the deaths resulted from the collapse of the building, rather than the bomb blast itself. Those killed included 163 who were in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, one person in the Athenian Building, one woman in a parking lot across the street, a man and woman in the Oklahoma Water Resources building, and a rescue worker struck on the head by debris.

The victims, including three pregnant women, ranged in age from three months to 73 years. Of the dead, 108 worked for the Federal government: Drug Enforcement Administration (5); Secret Service (6); Department of Housing and Urban Development (35); Department of Agriculture (7); Customs Office (2); Department of Transportation/Federal Highway (11); General Services Administration (2); and the Social Security Administration (40).[96] Eight of the federal government victims were federal law enforcement agents. Of those law enforcement agents four were members of the U.S. Secret Service, two were members of the U.S. Customs Service, one was a member of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and one was a member of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Six of the victims were U.S. military personnel; two members of the U.S. Army, two members of the U.S. Air Force, two members of the U.S. Marine Corps. The rest of the victims were civilians, including 19 children, of whom 15 were in the America's Kids Day Care Center. The bodies of the 168 victims were identified at a temporary morgue set up at the scene. A team of 24 identified the victims using full-body X-rays, dental examinations, fingerprinting, blood tests, and DNA testing. More than 680 people were injured. The majority of the injuries were abrasions, severe burns, and bone fractures.

McVeigh's later response to the range of casualties was: "I didn't define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. Women and kids were killed at Waco and Ruby Ridge. You put back in [the government's] faces exactly what they're giving out.


Oklahoma City National Memorial

Panoramic view of the memorial, as seen from the base of the reflecting pool. From left to right are the memorial chairs, Gate of Time and Reflecting Pool, the Survivor Tree, and the Journal Record Building.

For two years after the bombing the only memorials to the victims were plush toys, crucifixes, letters, and other personal items left by thousands of people at a security fence surrounding the site of the building. Many suggestions for suitable memorials were sent to Oklahoma City, but an official memorial planning committee was not set up until early 1996, when the Murrah Federal Building Memorial Task Force, composed of 350 members, was set up to formulate plans for a memorial to commemorate the victims of the bombing. On July 1, 1997 the winning design was chosen unanimously by a 15-member panel from 624 submissions. The memorial was designed at a cost of $29 million, which was raised by public and private funds. The national memorial is part of the National Park System as an affiliated area and was designed by Oklahoma City architects Hans and Torrey Butzer and Sven Berg. It was dedicated by President Clinton on April 19, 2000, exactly five years after the bombing. Within the first year, it had 700,000 visitors.

The memorial includes a reflecting pool flanked by two large gates, one inscribed with the time 9:01, the other with 9:03, the pool representing the moment of the blast. On the south end of the memorial is a field of symbolic bronze and stone chairs – one for each person lost, arranged according to what floor of the building they were on. The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims' families. The seats of the children killed are smaller than those of the adults lost. On the opposite side is the "survivor tree", part of the building's original landscaping that survived the blast and fires that followed it. The memorial left part of the foundation of the building intact, allowing visitors to see the scale of the destruction. Part of the chain link fence put in place around the site of the blast, which had attracted over 800,000 personal items of commemoration later collected by the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, is now on the western edge of the memorial. North of the memorial is the Journal Record Building, which now houses the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, an affiliate of the National Park Service. The building also contains the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a law enforcement training center.


Posted by Dennis Donovan | Fri Apr 19, 2019, 05:28 AM (12 replies)

32 Years Ago Today; Meet the Simpsons!


The entire Simpson family in Homer and Marge's bed during the final segment of the short

"Good Night" (also known as "Good Night Simpsons" is the first of forty-eight Simpsons shorts that appeared on the variety show The Tracey Ullman Show. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 19, 1987, during the third episode of The Tracey Ullman Show and marks the first appearance of the Simpson family — Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — on television. After three seasons on Tracey Ullman, the shorts would be adapted into the animated show The Simpsons. "Good Night" has since been aired on the show in the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" (in its entirety), along with several other Ullman shorts, and is one of the few shorts to ever be released on DVD, being included in the Season 1 DVD set.

Homer and Marge say goodnight to their children, but all does not go according to plan. Bart tries to ask about the mind, but is left contemplating it as he does not get a proper answer. Lisa fears that bed bugs will eat her after hearing Marge say "Don't let the bed bugs bite". Maggie is terrified by the lyrics of "Rock-a-bye Baby". Ultimately, all of the three children decide to sleep in the parents' bed.

Groening first conceived of the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office. He had been called in to pitch a series of animated shorts, and had intended to present his Life in Hell series. When he realized that animating Life in Hell would require him to rescind publication rights for his life's work, Groening decided to go in another direction. He hurriedly sketched out his version of a dysfunctional family, and named the characters after his own family. Bart was modeled after Groening's older brother, Mark, but given a different name which was chosen as an anagram of "brat."

This short was written and storyboarded by Groening. The family was crudely drawn, because Groening had submitted basic sketches to the animators, assuming they would clean them up; instead they just traced over his drawings. The animation was produced at Klasky Csupo, with Wesley Archer, David Silverman, and Bill Kopp being animators.

Despite later making the decision for Maggie to not speak throughout the show's run, Maggie does say the words 'good night'. While Yeardley Smith does Maggie's babbling in the show, her speaking bits in this short were done by Liz Georges. The Simpsons Archive suggests that Gabor Csupo did the pacifier sucking noises, as opposed to Matt Groening who did the role later. At this point in time, the characters were very different from how they would be in the first season of The Simpsons and beyond. In addition to this, Homer was smarter than portrayed later and spoke in a Walter Matthau-style voice. Lisa misbehaved as much as Bart.


Critical reception
FilmThreat says "This dark nursery rhyme is funny and disturbing. Homer’s voice is totally off the wall, nothing like it stands today, and it’s interesting to see how far they’ve come since these early forays into animation". Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits was sad that "only [one] of the original Tracey Ullman Show shorts" was featured on the first season DVD". He added, "Still, the one you gets perfectly illustrates just how far the show has come". DVD.net describes it as "The Simpsons as some of you may never have seen before, drawn by the hand of Matt Groening himself and looking a little worse for wear." DVD Movie Guide says, "I’ve seen a few additional Ullman shorts and think they’re nearly unwatchable, so I can’t say I miss them, at least not for their entertainment value. However, they’d make a nice historical addition, so it’s too bad we only get this single clip. The first one ever aired, “Good Night Simpsons” runs for 115 unfunny seconds." The Digital Fix says the short extra on the DVD "showcases the superb sense of humour that has made The Simpsons what it is today", and that "the picture quality is quite breathtaking (considering the age of these shorts) while the sound is standard DD2.0 Stereo". It adds that "it is a teaser for something we will supposedly never see (all 48 shorts on DVD)" and wishes they had chosen a short that hadn't been featured in a future episode (The 138th Episode Spectacular), and therefore released on the Season 7 Box set. Planet Simpson says "the drawing and animation were blatantly crude, thick-lined, and primary-colored" and that "the vignettes were far too short for anything as sophisticated as 'character development'". It adds that the "central gag [of] kids finding ironic horror in bedtime platitudes" was very simplistic, and doubts many people even watched the airing of the short. However, the book explains the significance of Good Night as "the first baby steps of an institution that would become one of the most-watched TV shows on earth and the most influential cultural enterprise of its time".

It's almost hard to remember a world without the Simpsons...
Posted by Dennis Donovan | Fri Apr 19, 2019, 04:27 AM (2 replies)

30 Years Ago Today; A Firing Exercise goes terribly wrong in Turret 2


Debris and smoke fly through the air as USS Iowa's Turret Two's center gun explodes

USS Iowa turret explosion

On 19 April 1989, the Number Two 16-inch gun turret of the United States Navy battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) exploded. The explosion in the center gun room killed 47 of the turret's crewmen and severely damaged the gun turret itself. Two major investigations were undertaken into the cause of the explosion, one by the U.S. Navy and then one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Sandia National Laboratories. The investigations produced conflicting conclusions.

The first investigation into the explosion, conducted by the U.S. Navy, concluded that one of the gun turret crew members, Clayton Hartwig, who died in the explosion, had deliberately caused it. During the investigation, numerous leaks to the media, later attributed to U.S. Navy officers and investigators, implied that Hartwig and another sailor, Kendall Truitt, had engaged in a homosexual relationship and that Hartwig had caused the explosion after their relationship had soured. In its report, however, the U.S. Navy concluded that the evidence did not show that Hartwig was homosexual but that he was suicidal and had caused the explosion with either an electronic or chemical detonator.

The victims' families, the media, and members of the U.S. Congress were sharply critical of the U.S. Navy's findings. The U.S. Senate and U.S. House Armed Services Committees both held hearings to inquire into the Navy's investigation and later released reports disputing the U.S. Navy's conclusions. The Senate committee asked the GAO to review the U.S. Navy's investigation. To assist the GAO, Sandia National Laboratories provided a team of scientists to review the Navy's technical investigation.

During its review, Sandia determined that a significant overram of the powder bags into the gun had occurred as it was being loaded and that the overram could have caused the explosion. A subsequent test by the Navy of the overram scenario confirmed that an overram could have caused an explosion in the gun breech. Sandia's technicians also found that the physical evidence did not support the U.S. Navy's theory that an electronic or chemical detonator had been used to initiate the explosion.

In response to the new findings, the U.S. Navy, with Sandia's assistance, reopened the investigation. In August 1991, Sandia and the GAO completed their reports, concluding that the explosion was likely caused by an accidental overram of powder bags into the breech of the 16-inch gun. The U.S. Navy, however, disagreed with Sandia's opinion and concluded that the cause of the explosion could not be determined. The U.S. Navy expressed regret (but did not offer apology) to Hartwig's family and closed its investigation.


Preparation for fleet exercise
On 10 April the battleship was visited by commander of the US 2nd Fleet, Vice Admiral Jerome L. Johnson, and on 13 April Iowa sailed from Norfolk to participate in a fleet exercise in the Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico. The exercise, titled "FLEETEX 3-89", began on or around 17 April under Johnson's command. Iowa served as Johnson's flagship during the exercise.

Throughout the night of 18 April, Turret Two's crew conducted a major overhaul of their turret in preparation for a firing exercise scheduled to take place the next day. The center gun's compressed air system, which cleansed the bore of sparks and debris each time the gun was fired, was not operating properly.

Also on 18 April, Iowa's fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day's main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.

The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900 lb (861.8 kg) shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, "WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles." D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment's purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns. Skelley's plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles (20 mi; 30 km) away.

Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Gunner's Mate Second Class Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun's crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.

The rammerman's position was of special concern, as ramming was considered the most dangerous part of loading the gun. The ram was used to first thrust the projectile and then the powder bags into the gun's breech. The ram speed used for the projectile was much faster (14 feet (4.3 m) per second) than that used for the lighter powder bags (1.5 feet (0.46 m) per second), but there was no safety device on the ram piston to prevent the rammerman from accidentally pushing the powder bags at the faster speed. Overramming the powder bags into the gun could subject the highly flammable powder to excessive friction and compression, with a resulting increased danger of premature combustion. Also, if the bags were pushed too far into the gun, a gap between the last bag and the primer might prevent the powder from igniting when the gun was fired, causing a misfire. None of Iowa's rammermen had any training or experience in ramming nonstandard five-bag loads into the guns. Complicating the task, as the rammerman was shoving the powder bags, he was also supposed to simultaneously operate a lever to shut the powder hoist door and lower the powder hoist car. Iowa crewmen later stated that Turret Two's center gun rammer would sometimes "take off" uncontrollably on its own at high speed. Furthermore, Backherms had never operated the ram before during a live fire shoot.

At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles (300 mi; 480 km) northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h).

Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One's left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.

Forty-four seconds after Moosally's order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two's right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two's center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret's phone circuit that, "We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here."[30] Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret's phone circuit, "Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We'll straighten that out." Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two's phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, "I'm not ready yet! I'm not ready yet!" Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two's leading petty officer suddenly called out, "Mort! Mort! Mort!" Ziegler shouted, "Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!"[34] At this time, Ziegler may have opened the door from the turret officer's booth in the rear of the turret into the center gun room and yelled at the crew to get the breech closed. About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, "Oh, my God! There's a flash!"

Iowa's Number Two turret is cooled with sea water shortly after exploding.

At 09:53, about 81 seconds after Moosally's order to load and 20 seconds after the left gun had reported loaded and ready, Turret Two's center gun exploded. A fireball between 2,500 and 3,000 °F (1,400 and 1,600 °C) and traveling at 2,000 feet per second (610 m/s) with a pressure of 4,000 pounds-force per square inch (28 MPa) blew out from the center gun's open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer's booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret. The resulting fire released toxic gases, including cyanide gas from burning polyurethane foam, which filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred. All 47 crewmen inside the turret were killed. The turret contained most of the force of the explosion. Twelve crewmen working in or near the turret's powder magazine and annular spaces, located adjacent to the bottom of the turret, were able to escape without serious injury. These men were protected by blast doors which separate the magazine spaces from the rest of the turret.

Immediate aftermath
Firefighting crews quickly responded and sprayed the roof of the turret and left and right gun barrels, which were still loaded, with water. Meyer and Kissinger, wearing gas masks, descended below decks and inspected the powder flats in the turret, noting that the metal walls of the turret flats surrounding several tons of unexploded powder bags in the turret were now "glowing a bright cherry red". Meyer and Kissinger were accompanied by Gunner's Mate Third Class Noah Melendez in their inspection of the turret. On Kissinger's recommendation, Moosally ordered Turret Two's magazines, annular spaces, and powder flats flooded with seawater, preventing the remaining powder from exploding. The turret fire was extinguished in about 90 minutes. Brian Scanio was the first fireman to enter the burning turret, followed soon after by Robert O. Shepherd, Ronald G. Robb, and Thad W. Harms. The firemen deployed hoses inside the turret.

After the fire was extinguished, Mortensen entered the turret to help identify the bodies of the dead crewmen. Mortensen found Hartwig's body, which he identified by a distinctive tattoo on the upper left arm, at the bottom of the 20-foot (6.1 m) deep center gun pit instead of in the gun room. His body was missing his lower forearms, legs below the knees, and was partially, but not badly, charred. The gas ejection air valve for the center gun was located at the bottom of the pit, leading Mortensen to believe that Hartwig had been sent into the pit to turn it on before the explosion occurred. Mortensen also found that the center gun's powder hoist had not been lowered, which was unusual since the hoist door was closed and locked.

Navy pallbearers, attended by an honor guard, carry the remains of one of the victims from the turret explosion after its arrival at Dover Air Force Base on 20 April 1989.

After most of the water was pumped out, the bodies in the turret were removed without noting or photographing their locations. The next day, the bodies were flown from the ship by helicopter to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico. From there, they were flown on a United States Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Meyer made a rudimentary sketch of the locations of the bodies in the turret which would later contradict some of the findings in the U.S. Navy's initial investigation. With assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Navy was able to complete identification of all 47 sets of remains on 16 May 1989. Contradicting FBI records, the U.S. Navy would insist that all the remains had been identified by 24 April 1989, when all of the bodies were released to the families. The FBI cut the fingers off the unidentified corpses to identify them later. Body parts which had not been matched to torsos were discarded. Many of the remains were released to family members for burial before they were positively identified. Most of the bodies recovered from the center gun and turret officer's booth were badly burned and in pieces, making identification difficult. The bodies discovered lower in the turret were mostly intact; those crewmen had apparently died from suffocation, poisonous gases, or from impact trauma after being thrown around by the explosion. An explosive ordnance disposal technician, Operations Specialist First Class James Bennett Drake, from the nearby USS Coral Sea was sent to Iowa to assist in unloading the powder in Turret Two's left and right guns. After observing the scene in the center gun room and asking some questions, Drake told Iowa crewmen that, "It's my opinion that the explosion started in the center gun room caused by compressing the powder bags against the sixteen-inch shell too far and too fast with the rammer arm". Drake also helped Mortensen unload the powder from Turret One's left gun. When Turret One's left gun's breech was opened, it was discovered that the bottom powder bag was turned sideways. The projectile in Turret One's left gun was left in place and was eventually fired four months later.

Morse directed a cleanup crew, supervised by Lieutenant Commander Bob Holman, to make Turret Two "look as normal as possible". Over the next day, the crew swept, cleaned, and painted the inside of the turret. Loose or damaged equipment was tossed into the ocean. No attempt was made to record the locations or conditions of damaged equipment in the turret. "No one was preserving the evidence," said Brian R. Scanio, a fireman present at the scene.[46] A team of Naval Investigative Service (NIS) investigators (the predecessor of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or NCIS) stationed nearby on the aircraft carrier Coral Sea was told that their services in investigating Iowa's mishap were not needed. At the same time, Moosally called a meeting with all of his officers, except Meyer, who was working in Turret One, in the ship's wardroom. At the meeting, Iowa's legal officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Bagley, instructed the ship's officers on how to limit their testimony during the forthcoming investigation into the explosion. Terry McGinn, who was present at the meeting, stated later that Bagley "told everybody what to say. It was a party line pure and simple".

On 23 April Iowa returned to Norfolk, where a memorial service was held on 24 April. Several thousand people, including family members of many of the victims, attended the ceremony at which President George H. W. Bush spoke. During his speech, Bush stated, "I promise you today, we will find out 'why,' the circumstances of this tragedy." In a press conference after the ceremony, Moosally said that the two legalmen killed in the turret were assigned there as "observers". He also claimed that everyone in the turret was qualified for the position that they were filling.

Shortly after the memorial service at Norfolk on 24 April, Kendall Truitt told Hartwig's family that Hartwig had taken out a $50,000 double indemnity life insurance policy on himself and named Truitt as the sole beneficiary. Truitt was a friend of Hartwig's and had been working in Turret Two's powder magazine at the time of the explosion, but had escaped without serious injury. Truitt promised to give the life insurance money to Hartwig's parents. Unsure if she could trust Truitt, Kathy Kubicina, Hartwig's sister, mailed letters on 4 May to Moosally, Morse, Costigan, Iowa's Chaplain Lieutenant Commander James Danner, and to Ohio Senators Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn in which she described the life insurance policy. She asked that someone talk to Truitt to convince him to give the money to Hartwig's parents.


Investigation conclusion
On 15 July 1989 Milligan submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act "most probably" committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been overrammed into the center gun by 21 inches (53 cm), but had been done so under Hartwig's direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.

Donnell, on 28 July, endorsed Milligan's report, saying that the determination that Hartwig had sabotaged the gun "leaves the reader incredulous, yet the opinion is supported by facts and analysis from which it flows logically and inevitably". Donnell's superior, Atlantic Fleet Commander Admiral Powell F. Carter, Jr., then endorsed the report, adding that the report showed that there were "substantial and serious failures by Moosally and Morse", and forwarded the report to the CNO, Carlisle Trost. Although Miceli had just announced that test results at Dahlgren showed that an electronic timer had not caused the explosion, Trost endorsed the report on 31 August, stating that Hartwig was "the individual who had motive, knowledge, and physical position within the turret gun room to place a device in the powder train". Trost's endorsement cited Smith's statement to the NIS as further evidence that Hartwig was the culprit. Milligan's report was not changed to reflect Miceli's new theory that a chemical igniter, not an electrical timer, had been used to initiate the explosion.

On 7 September, Milligan and Edney formally briefed media representatives at the Pentagon on the results of Milligan's investigation. Edney denied that the Navy had leaked any details about the investigation to the press. Milligan stated that the Navy believed Hartwig had caused the explosion, citing, among other evidence, the FBI's equivocal death analysis on Hartwig. Milligan displayed two books, Getting Even and Improvised Munitions Handbook, which he said belonged to Hartwig and provided "explicit" instructions on how to construct detonators and bombs. Milligan and Edney said that there was no proof that Hartwig was homosexual. Edney then stated that the investigation had proved that the Iowa-class battleships were safe to operate and that the powder in use on the ships "is stable and ready to use".

Most of the victims' family members criticized the Navy's conclusions. Many of the families told media representatives of private misgivings that the victims had expressed to them about problems with training and the dangerous gunfire experiments occurring on Iowa before the explosion. Hartwig's family disputed the allegations that he was depressed and suicidal.

Several journalists immediately began questioning the results of Milligan's investigation. John Hall, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, wrote a series of four articles beginning on 17 September that revealed that Iowa was engaged in illegal powder experiments when the gun blew up; that conflicts of interest were evident in the investigators assigned to the inquiry; that many of the ship's crew were improperly or inadequately trained; and that evidence did not support the Navy's theory that Hartwig caused the explosion. The Associated Press picked up Hall's story and it was run in other newspapers throughout the United States. Robert Becker and A. J. Plunkett from the Daily Press wrote a lengthy story which criticized Milligan's report in detail. ABC reporter Robert Zelnick wrote an op-ed piece, which ran in The New York Times on 11 September, heavily criticizing the Navy for, in Zelnick's words, "scapegoating a dead seaman." Television newsmagazines 20/20 and 60 Minutes both ran stories questioning the Navy's conclusions. The Washington Post, in contrast, ran a story by George Wilson that generally supported the Navy's findings.

On 3 October, Donnell disciplined Iowa's officers in response to findings in Milligan's report. Moosally and Bob Finney, Iowa's operations officer, were given nonpunitive "letters of admonition" which were not placed in their permanent personnel records. Kissinger and Skelley received punitive letters of admonition which were placed in their records, as well as fines of $2,000 and $1,000 respectively. Donnell suspended both fines. Shortly thereafter, the Navy issued a statement explaining that the safety violations and training deficiencies found aboard Iowa during the investigation were unrelated to the explosion. Two weeks later, a panel of thirteen admirals recommended that Moosally be given another major command, stating that Moosally was "superbly fit" for such responsibility. Milligan was one of the admirals on the panel who supported the recommendation. After 60 Minutes producer Charles Thompson asked Brent Baker and Chief of Naval Personnel Jeremy Michael Boorda about the recommendation, Moosally's name was withdrawn.


Posted by Dennis Donovan | Fri Apr 19, 2019, 04:09 AM (2 replies)

77 Years Ago Today; 30 Seconds Over Tokyo


The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18, 1942, was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, the first air operation to strike the Japanese Home Islands. It demonstrated that the Japanese mainland was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and provided an important boost to American morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces.

Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China—landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. The bombing raid killed about 50 people, including civilians, and injured 400. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. Of the 80 crew members, 77 initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union was confiscated, with its crew interned for more than a year before being allowed to "escape" via Soviet-occupied Iran. Fourteen complete crews of five, except for one crewman who was killed in action, returned either to the United States, or to American forces.

After the raid, the Japanese Army conducted a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China, in an operation now known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi campaign, searching for the surviving American airmen and inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided them, in an effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan.

The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it had major psychological effects. In the United States, it raised morale. In Japan, it raised doubt about the ability of military leaders to defend the home islands, but the bombing and strafing of civilians also steeled the resolve to gain retribution and was exploited for propaganda purposes. It also contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific—an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway. The consequences were most severely felt in China, where Japanese reprisals cost an estimated 250,000 lives.

Doolittle, who initially believed that the loss of all his aircraft would lead to his court-martial, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two ranks to brigadier general.



B-25Bs on the USS Hornet en route to Japan

On 1 April 1942, the 16 modified bombers, their five-man crews, and Army maintenance personnel, totaling 71 officers and 130 enlisted men, were loaded onto the USS Hornet at Naval Air Station Alameda. Each aircraft carried four specially constructed 500-pound (225-kg) bombs. Three of these were high-explosive munitions and one was a bundle of incendiaries. The incendiaries were long tubes, wrapped together to be carried in the bomb bay, but designed to separate and scatter over a wide area after release. Five bombs had Japanese "friendship" medals wired to them—medals awarded by the Japanese government to U.S. servicemen before the war.

The bombers' armament was reduced to increase range by decreasing weight. Each bomber launched with two .50-caliber (12.7-mm) machine guns in an upper turret and a .30-caliber (7.62-mm) machine gun in the nose. The aircraft were clustered closely and tied down on Hornet's flight deck in the order of launch.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, skipper of the USS Hornet, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle.

Hornet and Task Force 18 got underway from San Francisco Bay at 08:48 on 2 April with the 16 bombers in clear view. At noon the next day, parts to complete modifications that had not been finished at McClellan were lowered to the forward deck of the Hornet by Navy blimp L-8. A few days later, the carrier met with Task Force 16, commanded by Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.—the carrier USS Enterprise and her escort of cruisers and destroyers in the mid-Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. Enterprise's fighters and scout planes provided protection for the entire task force in the event of a Japanese air attack, since Hornet's fighters were stowed below decks to allow the B-25s to use the flight deck.

The combined force was two carriers (Hornet and Enterprise), three heavy cruisers (Salt Lake City, Northampton, Vincennes), one light cruiser (Nashville), eight destroyers (Balch, Fanning, Benham, Ellet, Gwin, Meredith, Grayson, Monssen), and two fleet oilers (Cimarron and Sabine). The ships proceeded in radio silence. On the afternoon of 17 April, the slow oilers refueled the task force, then withdrew with the destroyers to the east while the carriers and cruisers dashed west at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) toward their intended launch point in enemy-controlled waters east of Japan.

At 07:38 on the morning of 18 April, while the task force was still about 650 nautical miles (1,200 km; 750 mi) from Japan (around 35°N 154°E), it was sighted by the Japanese picket boat No. 23 Nittō Maru, a 70-ton patrol craft, which radioed an attack warning to Japan. The boat was sunk by gunfire from USS Nashville. The chief petty officer who captained the boat killed himself rather than be captured, but five of the 11 crew were picked up by Nashville.

Doolittle and Hornet skipper Captain Marc Mitscher decided to launch the B-25s immediately—10 hours early and 170 nautical miles (310 km; 200 mi) farther from Japan than planned. After respotting to allow for engine start and runups, Doolittle's aircraft had 467 feet (142 m) of takeoff distance. Although none of the B-25 pilots, including Doolittle, had ever taken off from a carrier before, all 16 aircraft launched safely between 08:20 and 09:19. The B-25s then flew toward Japan, most in groups of two to four aircraft, before flying singly at wave-top level to avoid detection.

Doolittle's B-25 at launching, 18 April 1942

The aircraft began arriving over Japan about noon Tokyo time, six hours after launch, climbed to 1,500 feet (460 m) and bombed 10 military and industrial targets in Tokyo, two in Yokohama, and one each in Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Osaka. Although some B-25s encountered light antiaircraft fire and a few enemy fighters (made up of Ki-45s and prototype Ki-61s, the latter being mistaken for Bf 109s) over Japan, no bomber was shot down. Only the B-25 of 1st Lt. Richard O. Joyce received any battle damage, minor hits from antiaircraft fire. B-25 No. 4, piloted by 1st Lt. Everett W. Holstrom, jettisoned its bombs before reaching its target when it came under attack by fighters after its gun turret malfunctioned.

The Americans claimed to have shot down three Japanese fighters – one by the gunners of the Whirling Dervish, piloted by 1st Lt. Harold Watson, and two by the gunners of the Hari Kari-er, piloted by 1st Lt. Ross Greening. Many targets were strafed by the bombers' nose gunners. The subterfuge of the simulated gun barrels mounted in the tail cones was described afterwards by Doolittle as effective, in that no airplane was attacked from directly behind.

Fifteen of the 16 aircraft then proceeded southwest off the southeastern coast of Japan and across the East China Sea toward eastern China. One B-25, piloted by Captain Edward J. York, was extremely low on fuel, and headed instead for the Soviet Union rather than be forced to ditch in the middle of the East China Sea. Several fields in Zhejiang province were supposed to be ready to guide them in using homing beacons, then recover and refuel them for continuing on to Chongqing, the wartime Kuomintang capital. The primary base was at Zhuzhou, toward which all the aircraft navigated, but Halsey never sent the planned signal to alert them, apparently because of a possible threat to the task force.

The raiders faced several unforeseen challenges during their flight to China: night was approaching, the aircraft were running low on fuel, and the weather was rapidly deteriorating. None would have reached China if not for a tail wind as they came off the target, which increased their ground speed by 25 kn (46 km/h; 29 mph) for seven hours. The crews realized they would probably not be able to reach their intended bases in China, leaving them the option of either bailing out over eastern China or crash-landing along the Chinese coast.

All 15 aircraft reached the Chinese coast after 13 hours of flight and crash-landed or the crews bailed out. One crewman, 20-year-old Corporal Leland D. Faktor, flight engineer/gunner with 1st Lt. Robert M. Gray, was killed during his bailout attempt over China, the only man in that crew to be lost. Two crews (10 men) were missing. The 16th aircraft, commanded by Capt. Edward York (eighth off—AC #40-2242) flew to the Soviet Union and landed 40 miles (65 km) beyond Vladivostok at Vozdvizhenka, where their B-25 was confiscated and the crew interned.

Although York and his crew were treated well, diplomatic attempts to return them to the United States ultimately failed, as the Soviet Union was not at war with Japan and therefore obligated under international law to intern any combatants found on its soil. Eventually, they were relocated to Ashkhabad, 20 miles (32 km) from the Iranian border, and York managed to "bribe" a smuggler, who helped them cross the border into Iran, which at the time was under British-Soviet occupation. From there, the Americans were able to reach a nearby British consulate on 11 May 1943. The smuggling was actually staged by the NKVD, according to declassified Soviet archives, because the Soviet government was unable to repatriate them legally in the face of the neutrality pact with Japan and unwilling to openly flout its treaty obligations with Japan in light of the fact that Vladivostok and the rest of the Soviet Far East were essentially defenceless in the face of any potential Japanese retaliation. Nevertheless, by the time of the American aircrew's "escape" from Soviet internment, Japan's armed forces were clearly on the defensive and drawing down their strength in Manchuria in order to reinforce other fronts. Meanwhile, Soviet forces had gained the strategic initiative in Europe. Even if the Americans' "escape" managed to gain significant attention in Tokyo, it was by then thought extremely unlikely that Japan would respond with any sort of military retaliation.

Doolittle and his crew, after parachuting into China, received assistance from Chinese soldiers and civilians, as well as John Birch, an American missionary in China. As did the others who participated in the mission, Doolittle had to bail out, but he landed in a heap of dung (saving a previously injured ankle from breaking) in a paddy in China near Quzhou. The mission was the longest ever flown in combat by the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, averaging about 2,250 nautical miles (4,170 km).


<- for all 16 crews
Posted by Dennis Donovan | Thu Apr 18, 2019, 05:47 AM (11 replies)

6 Years Ago Today; Explosion in West, TX


On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, eighteen miles (29 km) north of Waco, while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. Fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Investigators have confirmed that ammonium nitrate was the material that exploded. On May 11, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stated that the fire had been deliberately set.

West Fertilizer Company had supplied chemicals to farmers since it was founded in 1962. As of 2013 it was owned by Adair Grain, Inc. and employed nine workers at the facility. Adair Grain, Inc. is wholly owned by Donald Adair and his wife Wanda.

At the time of the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had last inspected the plant in 1985. According to records obtained by the Associated Press, OSHA cited the plant for improper storage of anhydrous ammonia and fined it $30. OSHA could have fined the company as much as $1,000. OSHA also cited the plant for violations of respiratory protection standards, but did not impose a fine. OSHA officials said the facility was not on their "National Emphasis Plan" for inspections, because it was not a manufacturer, had no record of a major accident, and the Environmental Protection Agency did not consider it a major risk.

After a complaint in 2006 about an ammonia smell coming from the facility, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated and cited the operator for not having a permit for two storage tanks that contained anhydrous ammonia. A permit was issued once the operators brought the facility into accord with agency regulations and recommendations. Also in 2006, the EPA fined the owners $2,300 for problems that included not filing a risk management program plan on time. In June 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration further fined the facility $5,250 for violations regarding anhydrous ammonia storage.

According to an open records request by Reuters, the plant had a long history of minor thefts, presumably by people wanting to use anhydrous ammonia to make methamphetamine. The facility lacked burglar alarms, or even a fenced perimeter. It installed a surveillance system in 2009 after law enforcement recommended they do so.

In an emergency planning report filed with the EPA in 2011, company officials said the ammonia storage tanks did not represent a significant fire or explosion hazard. The tanks were still intact following the fire and explosion.

According to its last filing with the EPA in late 2012, the company stated that it stored 540,000 pounds (270 short tons; 240 t) of ammonium nitrate and 110,000 pounds (55 short tons; 50 t) of anhydrous ammonia on the site.[20] A week after the explosion, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Senate investigators that the company did not appear to have disclosed its ammonium nitrate stock to her department. Federal law requires that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be notified whenever anyone has more than one ton of ammonium nitrate on hand, or 400 pounds (180 kg) if the ammonium nitrate is combined with combustible material.

Fire and explosion
The facility caught fire on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, and roughly 20 minutes after the fire was first reported to emergency dispatchers the site exploded. At 7:50:38 p.m. CDT (00:50 UTC, April 18), as firefighters were attempting to douse the flames, it exploded with the force of 7.5-10 tons of TNT.

The explosion created a 93 foot wide crater where the site of the fertilizer plant had previously been, and resulted in 12 deaths and numerous injuries.

After weeks of investigation, the cause of the initial fire remained unknown; authorities ruled out weather, natural causes, anhydrous ammonia, and ammonium nitrate in a rail car as possible causes.

In May 2016, the ATF announced that they had determined the fire had been deliberately set.

The massive explosion obliterated the West Fertilizer Company plant and caused heavy damage and further destruction to surrounding areas. Numbers for people dead or injured varied initially.

In addition to the obliterated plant, the damaged buildings included the public West Middle School, which sits next to the facility. A neighboring 50-unit, two-story apartment building was destroyed.

The blast damaged the nearby West Rest Haven nursing home, and many residents were evacuated. Many of the nursing home residents received cuts from flying glass, but emergency personnel on scene judged that most of these injuries were not life-threatening.

On April 20, some residents who tried to return to their destroyed homes were turned away, because leaking gas tanks were causing small fires.

According to the company's insurer, United States Fire Insurance of Morristown, New Jersey, the facility was only covered by $1 million in liability insurance. According to official estimates from both state and company officials, this amount did not even begin to cover the cost of damages. Furthermore, according to The Dallas Morning News, Texas law allows fertilizer storage facilities to operate without any liability insurance at all, even when they store hazardous materials.

Injuries and fatalities
West Mayor Tommy Muska told the Waco Tribune-Herald that as of late evening, April 17, six or seven volunteer firefighters from the city were unaccounted for. West EMS Director Dr. George Smith, himself injured, said he believed at least two emergency responders were killed.

"We do have confirmed fatalities," Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman D.L. Wilson said at a midnight news conference on April 17. "We have a tremendous amount of injuries ... over 100 injuries at this time." Wilson did not confirm or deny an earlier report that the number of deaths could be in the range of 60 to 70. He said the blast zone was "just like the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City," comparing its effects to the Oklahoma City bombing, and that "50 to 75" homes and businesses were damaged. Sergeant William Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department said the operation has gone into a "search-and-rescue mode", aiming to find survivors and recover those who might be trapped in buildings. He said at least 160 people had been injured, and the firefighters who were combating the initial fire were still unaccounted for. Swanton quoted local environmental officials and emergency personnel in saying there was no risk to the community from the smoke fumes rising from the facility.

Over 100 people were reported injured in the blast, and were originally transported to a makeshift triage set up at West High School's football field. It was later moved to a community center due to its proximity to the still-burning facility. Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco received over 40 injured for treatment. Patients were also admitted to Waco's Providence Healthcare Network, Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Health Network, Dallas's Parkland Memorial Hospital, and Temple's Scott and White Memorial Hospital.

Authorities announced on April 19 that twelve bodies had been recovered, sixty people were missing, and at least 200 had been injured. The twelve dead included ten first responders as well as two civilians who had volunteered to fight the fire.[37]

The final confirmed death toll was fifteen fatalities, and approximately 160 to 200 people were injured.


I didn't realize that the West, TX explosion took place a day after the 66th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster.
Posted by Dennis Donovan | Wed Apr 17, 2019, 05:41 AM (5 replies)

72 Years Ago Today; The Texas City Disaster


The Texas City disaster was an industrial accident that occurred April 16, 1947 in the Port of Texas City, Texas. It was the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history, and one of history's largest non-nuclear explosions. Originating with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp (docked in the port), her cargo of approximately 2,200 tons (approximately 2,100 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate detonated, initiating a subsequent chain-reaction of additional fires and explosions in other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities. It killed at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department. The disaster triggered the first ever class action lawsuit against the United States government, under the then-recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), on behalf of 8,485 victims.


The ammonium nitrate, needed either as fertilizer or an explosive, was manufactured in Nebraska and Iowa and shipped to Texas City by rail before being loaded on the Grandcamp. It was manufactured in a patented process, mixed with clay, petrolatum, rosin and paraffin wax to avoid moisture caking. It was also packaged in paper sacks, then transported and stored at temperatures that increased its chemical activity. Longshoremen reported the bags were warm to the touch before loading.

On April 16, 1947, around 8:00 a.m. smoke was spotted in the cargo hold of the Grandcamp while she was still moored. Over the next hour, attempts to extinguish the fire or bring it under control failed as a red glow returned after each effort to douse the fire.

Shortly before 9:00 a.m., the captain ordered his men to steam the hold, a firefighting method where steam is piped in to extinguish fires, to preserve the cargo. This was unlikely to be effective, as ammonium nitrate produces its own oxygen, thus neutralizing the extinguishing properties of steam. The steam may have contributed to the fire by converting the ammonium nitrate to nitrous oxide, while augmenting the already intense heat in the ship's hold.

The fire attracted spectators along the shoreline, who believed they were at a safe distance. Eventually, the steam pressure inside the ship blew the hatches open, and yellow-orange smoke billowed out. This color is typical for nitrogen dioxide fumes. The unusual color of the smoke attracted more spectators. Spectators also noted that the water around the docked ship was boiling from the heat, and the splashing water touching the hull was being vaporized into steam. The cargo hold and deck began to bulge as the pressure of the steam increased inside.

At 9:12 a.m., the ammonium nitrate reached an explosive threshold from the combination of heat and pressure. The vessel then detonated, causing great destruction and damage throughout the port. The tremendous blast sent a 15-foot (4.5 m) wave that was detectable nearly 100 miles (160 km) off the Texas shoreline. The blast leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land. The Grandcamp explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant and resulted in ignition of refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront. Falling bales of burning twine from the ship's cargo added to the damage while the Grandcamp's anchor was hurled across the city. Two sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off, forcing them out of the sky. 10 miles (16 km) away, half of the windows in Galveston were shattered. The explosion blew almost 6,350 short tons (5,760 metric tons) of the ship's steel into the air, some at supersonic speed. Official casualty estimates came to a total of 567, including all the crewmen who remained aboard the Grandcamp. All but one member of the 28-man Texas City volunteer fire department were killed in the initial explosion on the docks while fighting the shipboard fire. With fires raging throughout Texas City, first responders from other areas were initially unable to reach the site of the disaster.

The first explosion ignited ammonium nitrate in the nearby cargo ship High Flyer. The crews spent hours attempting to cut the High Flyer free from her anchor and other obstacles, without success. After smoke had been pouring from the hold for over five hours, and about 15 hours after the explosions aboard the Grandcamp, the High Flyer exploded, demolishing the nearby SS Wilson B. Keene, killing at least two more and increasing the damage to the port and other ships with more shrapnel and burning material. One of the propellers on the High Flyer was blown off and subsequently found nearly a mile inland. It is now part of a memorial park and sits near the anchor of the Grandcamp. The propeller is cracked in several places, and one blade has a large piece missing.

The cause of the initial fire on board the Grandcamp was never determined, but it may have been started by a cigarette discarded the previous day, meaning the ship's cargo had been smouldering throughout the night when it was discovered on the morning of the day of the explosion.

Scale of the disaster
The Texas City disaster is generally considered the worst industrial accident in American history. Witnesses compared the scene to the fairly recent images of the 1943 air raid on Bari and the much larger devastation at Nagasaki. Of the dead, 405 were identified and 63 have never been identified. These were placed in a memorial cemetery in the north part of Texas City near Moses Lake. An additional 113 people were classified as missing, for no identifiable parts were ever found. This figure includes firefighters who were aboard Grandcamp when she exploded. There is some speculation that there may have been hundreds more killed but uncounted, including visiting seamen, non-census laborers and their families, and an untold number of travelers. However, there were some survivors as close as 70 feet (21 m) from the dock. The victims' bodies quickly filled the local morgue, and several bodies were laid out in the local high school's gymnasium for identification by loved ones.

Parking lot 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) away from the explosion

More than 5,000 people were injured, with 1,784 admitted to 21 area hospitals. More than 500 homes were destroyed and hundreds damaged, leaving 2,000 homeless. The seaport was destroyed, and many businesses were flattened or burned. Over 1,100 vehicles were damaged and 362 freight cars were obliterated—the property damage was estimated at $100 million[7] (equivalent to $1,100,000,000 in 2018).

A 2-short-ton (1.8-metric-ton) anchor of Grandcamp was hurled 1.62 miles (2.61 km) and found in a 10-foot (3 m) crater. It now rests in a memorial park. The other main 5-short-ton (4.5-metric-ton) anchor was hurled 1⁄2 mile (800 m) to the entrance of the Texas City Dike, and rests on a "Texas-shaped" memorial at the entrance. Burning wreckage ignited everything within miles, including dozens of oil storage tanks and chemical tanks. The nearby city of Galveston, Texas, was covered with an oily fog which left deposits over every exposed outdoor surface.

Firefighting casualties
Some of the deaths and damage in Texas City were due to the destruction and subsequent burning of several chemical plants (including Monsanto and Union Carbide), oil storage, and other facilities near the explosions. 27 of the 28 members of Texas City's volunteer fire department and 3 of 4 members of the Texas City Heights Volunteer Fire Department who were on the docks near the burning ship were killed. One firefighter, Fred Dowdy, who had not responded to the initial call, coordinated other firefighters arriving from communities up to 60 miles (100 km) away. Alvin Fussell, sole survivor of the Heights Volunteer fire fighters, was driving to work in Alvin when he heard of the fire on the radio. Eventually 200 firefighters arrived, from as far away as Los Angeles. Fires resulting from the cataclysmic events were still burning a week after the disaster, and the process of body recovery took nearly a month. All four fire engines of Texas City were twisted and burned hulks.


Posted by Dennis Donovan | Tue Apr 16, 2019, 05:46 AM (12 replies)

107 Years Ago Today; Harriet Quimby becomes first Woman to fly across English Channel


Harriet Quimby (May 11, 1875 – July 1, 1912) was an early American aviator and a movie screenwriter. In 1911, she was awarded a U.S. pilot's certificate by the Aero Club of America, becoming the first woman to gain a pilot's license in the United States. In 1912, she became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Although Quimby lived only to the age of 37, she influenced the role of women in aviation.

Early life and early career
She was born on May 11, 1875 in Arcadia Township, Manistee County, Michigan. After her family moved to San Francisco, California, in the early 1900s, she became a journalist. Harriet Quimby's public life began in 1902, when she began writing for the San Francisco Dramatic Review and also contributed to the Sunday editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Call. She moved to Manhattan, New York City in 1903 to work as a theater critic for Leslie's Illustrated Weekly and more than 250 of her articles were published over a nine-year period. Quimby continued to write for Leslie's even when touring with airshows, recounting her adventures in a series of articles. Totally committed to her new passion, the dedicated journalist and aviator avidly promoted the economic potential of commercial aviation and touted flying as an ideal sport for women.

Quimby became interested in aviation in 1910, when she attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament in Elmont, New York. There she met John Moisant, a well-known aviator and operator of a flight school, and his sister Matilde.

On August 1, 1911, she took her pilot's test and became the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviator's certificate. Matilde Moisant soon followed and became the second.

Due to the absence of any official birth certificate, many communities have claimed her over the years.

After earning her license, the "Dresden China Aviatrix" or "China Doll," as the press called her because of her petite stature and fair skin, moved to capitalize on her new notoriety. Pilots could earn as much as $1,000 per performance, and prize money for a race could go as high as $10,000 or more. Quimby joined the Moisant International Aviators, an exhibition team, and made her professional debut, earning $1,500, in a night flight over Staten Island before a crowd of almost 20,000 spectators. As one of the country's few female pilots, she capitalized on her femininity by wearing trousers tucked into high lace boots accentuated by a plum-colored satin blouse, necklace, and antique bracelet. She drew crowds whenever she competed in cross-country meets and races. As part of the exhibition team, she showcased her talents around the United States and even went to Mexico City at the end of 1911 to participate in aviation activities held in honor of the inauguration of President Francisco Madero.


English Channel flight
On April 16, 1912, Quimby took off from Dover, England, en route to Calais, France, and made the flight in 59 minutes, landing about 25 miles (40 km) from Calais on a beach in Équihen-Plage, Pas-de-Calais. She became the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel. Her accomplishment received little media attention, however, as the sinking of the RMS Titanic the day before consumed the interest of the public and filled newspapers.

On July 1, 1912, she flew in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts. Although she had obtained her ACA certificate to be allowed to participate in ACA events, the Boston meet was an unsanctioned contest. Quimby flew out to Boston Light in Boston Harbor at about 3,000 feet, then returned and circled the airfield. William A.P. Willard, the organizer of the event and father of the aviator Charles Willard, was a passenger in her brand-new two-seat Bleriot monoplane. At an altitude of 1,000 feet (300 m) the aircraft unexpectedly pitched forward for reasons still unknown. Both Willard and Quimby were ejected from their seats and fell to their deaths, while the plane "glided down and lodged itself in the mud".

Harriet Quimby was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York. The following year her remains were moved to the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.


Posted by Dennis Donovan | Tue Apr 16, 2019, 05:27 AM (0 replies)

99 Years Ago Today; An armed robbery at the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, MA


Controversial anarchist trial defendants Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left) and Nicola Sacco

Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891 – August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (June 11, 1888 – August 23, 1927) were Italian-born American anarchists who were controversially convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the April 15, 1920 armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts, United States. Seven years later, they were electrocuted in the electric chair at Charlestown State Prison. Both men adhered to an anarchist movement.

After a few hours' deliberation on July 14, 1921, the jury convicted Sacco and Vanzetti of first-degree murder and they were sentenced to death by the trial judge. Anti-Italianism, anti-immigrant bias, and anti-right political motives were suspected as having heavily influenced the verdict. A series of appeals followed, funded largely by the private Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee. The appeals were based on recanted testimony, conflicting ballistics evidence, a prejudicial pre-trial statement by the jury foreman, and a confession by an alleged participant in the robbery. All appeals were denied by trial judge Webster Thayer and also later denied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. By 1926, the case had drawn worldwide attention. As details of the trial and the men's suspected innocence became known, Sacco and Vanzetti became the center of one of the largest causes célèbres in modern history. In 1927, protests on their behalf were held in every major city in North America and Europe, as well as in Tokyo, Sydney, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, and Auckland.

Celebrated writers, artists, and academics pleaded for their pardon or for a new trial. Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter argued for their innocence in a widely read Atlantic Monthly article that was later published in book form. The two were scheduled to die in April 1927, accelerating the outcry. Responding to a massive influx of telegrams urging their pardon, Massachusetts governor Alvan T. Fuller appointed a three-man commission to investigate the case. After weeks of secret deliberation that included interviews with the judge, lawyers, and several witnesses, the commission upheld the verdict. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair just after midnight on August 23, 1927. Subsequent riots destroyed property in Paris, London, and other cities.

Investigations in the aftermath of the executions continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The publication of the men's letters, containing eloquent professions of innocence, intensified belief in their wrongful execution. Additional ballistics tests and incriminating statements by the men's acquaintances have clouded the case. On August 23, 1977—the 50th anniversary of the executions—Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names".


The Slater-Morrill Shoe Company factory was located on Pearl Street in Braintree, Massachusetts. On April 15, 1920, two men were robbed and killed while transporting the company's payroll in two large steel boxes to the main factory. One of them, Alessandro Berardelli —a security guard— was shot four times as he reached for his hip-holstered .38-caliber, Harrington & Richardson revolver; his gun was not recovered from the scene. The other man, Frederick Parmenter—a paymaster who was unarmed—was shot twice: once in the chest and a second time, fatally, in the back as he attempted to flee. The robbers seized the payroll boxes and escaped in a stolen dark blue Buick that sped up and was carrying several other men.

As the car was being driven away, the robbers fired wildly at company workers nearby. A coroner's report and subsequent ballistic investigation revealed that six bullets removed from the murdered men's bodies were of .32 automatic (ACP) caliber. Five of these .32-caliber bullets were all fired from a single semi-automatic pistol, a .32-caliber Savage Model 1907, which used a particularly narrow-grooved barrel rifling with a right-hand twist. Two of the bullets were recovered from Berardelli's body. Four .32 automatic brass shell casings were found at the murder scene, manufactured by one of three firms: Peters, Winchester, or Remington. The Winchester cartridge case was of a relatively obsolete cartridge loading, which had been discontinued from production some years earlier. Two days after the robbery, police located the robbers' Buick; several 12-gauge shotgun shells were found on the ground nearby.

Arrests and indictment
An earlier attempted robbery of another shoe factory occurred on December 24, 1919 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts by people identified as Italian who used a car that was seen escaping to Cochesett in West Bridgewater. Police speculated that Italian anarchists perpetrated the robberies to finance their activities. Bridgewater police chief Michael E. Stewart suspected that known Italian anarchist Ferruccio Coacci was involved. Stewart discovered that Mario Buda (aka 'Mike' Boda) lived with Coacci.

On April 16—one day after the Braintree robbery-murders—the Federal Immigration Service (FIS) called Chief Stewart to discuss Galleanist and anarchist Coacci, whom Stewart had arrested on their behalf two years earlier. Coacci was slated for deportation on April 15, 1920, the day of the Braintree holdup, but telephoned with the excuse that his wife was ill. The FIS asked Stewart to investigate Coacci's excuse for failing to report for deportation on April 15. On April 16, officers discovered Coacci at home and determined that he had given a false alibi for not showing up for deportation. They offered him another week, but Coacci declined and left for Italy on April 18, 1920.

When Chief Stewart later arrived at the Coacci home, Coacci was missing but they found Buda. When he was questioned, Buda said that Coacci owned a .32 Savage automatic pistol, which he kept in the kitchen. A search of the kitchen did not locate the gun, but Stewart found a manufacturer's technical diagram for a Model 1907 .32 Savage automatic pistol – the exact pistol type and caliber used to shoot Parmenter and Berardelli – in a kitchen drawer. Stewart asked Buda if he owned a gun, and the man produced a .32-caliber Spanish-made automatic pistol. Buda told police that he owned a 1914 Overland automobile, which was being repaired. The car was delivered for repairs four days after the Braintree crimes, but it was old and apparently had not been run for five months. Tire tracks were seen near the abandoned Buick getaway car, and Chief Stewart surmised that two cars had been used in the getaway, and that Buda's car might have been the second car. The garage proprietor who was repairing Buda's vehicle was instructed to call the police if anyone came to pick up the car.

When Stewart discovered that Coacci had worked for both shoe factories that had been robbed, he returned with the Bridgewater police. Coacci had since left for Italy with his family along with his possessions, and Buda had just escaped.

On May 5, 1920, Mario Buda arrived at the garage with three other men, later identified as Sacco, Vanzetti, and Riccardo Orciani. The four men knew each other well; Buda would later call Sacco and Vanzetti "the best friends I had in America." Police were alerted, but the men left. Buda escaped and did not resurface until 1928 in Italy.

Sacco and Vanzetti boarded a streetcar, but were tracked down and soon arrested. When searched by police, both denied owning any guns, but were found to be holding loaded pistols. Sacco was found to have an Italian passport, anarchist literature, a loaded .32 Colt Model 1903 automatic pistol, and twenty-three .32 Automatic cartridges in his possession; several of those bullet cases were of the same obsolescent type as the empty Winchester .32 casing found at the crime scene, and others were manufactured by the firms of Peters and Remington, much like other casings found at the scene. Vanzetti had four 12-gauge shotgun shells and a five-shot nickel-plated .38-caliber Harrington & Richardson revolver similar to the .38 carried by Berardelli, the slain Braintree guard, whose weapon was not found at the scene of the crime. When they were questioned, the pair denied any connection to anarchists.

Orciani was arrested May 6, but gave the alibi that he had been at work on the day of both crimes. Sacco had been at work on the day of the Bridgewater crimes but said that he had the day off on April 15—the day of the Braintree crimes— and was charged with those murders. The self-employed Vanzetti had no such alibis and was charged for the attempted robbery and attempted murder in Bridgewater and the robbery and murder in the Braintree crimes. Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with the crime of murder on May 5, 1920 and indicted four months later on September 14.

Following Sacco and Vanzetti's indictment for murder for the Braintree robbery, Galleanists and anarchists in the United States and abroad began a campaign of violent retaliation. Two days later on September 16, 1920, Mario Buda allegedly orchestrated the Wall Street bombing, where a time-delay dynamite bomb packed with heavy iron sash-weights in a horse-drawn cart exploded, killing 38 people and wounding 134. In 1921, a booby trap bomb mailed to the American ambassador in Paris exploded, wounding his valet. For the next six years, bombs exploded at other American embassies all over the world.


On April 9, 1927, Judge Thayer heard final statements from Sacco and Vanzetti. In a lengthy speech Vanzetti said:

I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth, I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. But my conviction is that I have suffered for things that I am guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I am an Italian and indeed I am an Italian ... if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already.

Thayer declared that the responsibility for the conviction rested solely with the jury's determination of guilt. "The Court has absolutely nothing to do with that question." He sentenced each of them to "suffer the punishment of death by the passage of a current of electricity through your body" during the week beginning July 10. He twice postponed the execution date while the governor considered requests for clemency.[130]

On May 10, a package bomb addressed to Governor Fuller was intercepted in the Boston post office.

Clemency appeal and the Governor's Advisory Committee
In response to public protests that greeted the sentencing, Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller faced last-minute appeals to grant clemency to Sacco and Vanzetti. On June 1, 1927, he appointed an Advisory Committee of three: President Abbott Lawrence Lowell of Harvard, President Samuel Wesley Stratton of MIT, and Probate Judge Robert Grant. They were presented with the task of reviewing the trial to determine whether it had been fair. Lowell's appointment was generally well received, for though he had controversy in his past, he had also at times demonstrated an independent streak. The defense attorneys considered resigning when they determined that the Committee was biased against the defendants, but some of the defendants' most prominent supporters, including Harvard Law Professor Felix Frankfurter and Judge Julian W. Mack of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, persuaded them to stay because Lowell "was not entirely hopeless."

One of the defense attorneys, though ultimately very critical of the Committee's work, thought the Committee members were not really capable of the task the Governor set for them:

No member of the Committee had the essential sophistication that comes with experience in the trial of criminal cases. ... The high positions in the community held by the members of the Committee obscured the fact that they were not really qualified to perform the difficult task assigned to them.

He also thought that the Committee, particularly Lowell, imagined it could use its fresh and more powerful analytical abilities to outperform the efforts of those who had worked on the case for years, even finding evidence of guilt that professional prosecutors had discarded.

Grant was another establishment figure, a probate court judge from 1893 to 1923 and an Overseer of Harvard University from 1896 to 1921, and the author of a dozen popular novels. Some criticized Grant's appointment to the Committee, with one defense lawyer saying he "had a black-tie class concept of life around him," but Harold Laski in a conversation at the time found him "moderate." Others cited evidence of xenophobia in some of his novels, references to "riff-raff" and a variety of racial slurs. His biographer allows that he was "not a good choice," not a legal scholar, and handicapped by age. Stratton, the one member who was not a "Boston Brahmin," maintained the lowest public profile of the three and hardly spoke during its hearings.

In their earlier appeals, the defense was limited to the trial record. The Governor's Committee, however, was not a judicial proceeding, so Judge Thayer's comments outside the courtroom could be used to demonstrate his bias. Once Thayer told reporters that "No long-haired anarchist from California can run this court!" According to the affidavits of eyewitnesses, Thayer also lectured members of his clubs, calling Sacco and Vanzetti "Bolsheviki!" and saying he would "get them good and proper". During the Dedham trial's first week, Thayer said to reporters: "Did you ever see a case in which so many leaflets and circulars have been spread ... saying people couldn't get a fair trial in Massachusetts? You wait till I give my charge to the jury, I'll show them!" In 1924, Thayer confronted a Massachusetts lawyer at Dartmouth, his alma mater, and said: "Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day. I guess that will hold them for a while. ... Let them go to the Supreme Court now and see what they can get out of them." The Committee knew that, following the verdict, Boston Globe reporter Frank Sibley, who had covered the trial, wrote a protest to the Massachusetts attorney general condemning Thayer's blatant bias. Thayer's behavior both inside the courtroom and outside of it had become a public issue, with the New York World attacking Thayer as "an agitated little man looking for publicity and utterly impervious to the ethical standards one has the right to expect of a man presiding in a capital case."

On July 12–13, 1927, following testimony by the defense firearms expert Albert H. Hamilton before the Committee, the Assistant District Attorney for Massachusetts, Dudley P. Ranney, took the opportunity to cross-examine Hamilton. He submitted affidavits questioning Hamilton's credentials as well as his performance during the New York trial of Charles Stielow, in which Hamilton's testimony linking rifling marks to a bullet used to kill the victim nearly sent an innocent man to the electric chair. The Committee also heard from Braintree's police chief who told them he had found the cap on Pearl Street, allegedly dropped by Sacco during the crime, a full 24-hours after the getaway car had fled the scene. The chief doubted the cap belonged to Sacco and called the whole trial a contest "to see who could tell the biggest lies."

After two weeks of hearing witnesses and reviewing evidence, the Committee determined that the trial had been fair and a new trial was not warranted. They assessed the charges against Thayer as well. Their criticism, using words provided by Judge Grant, was direct: "He ought not to have talked about the case off the bench, and doing so was a grave breach of judicial decorum." But they also found some of the charges about his statements unbelievable or exaggerated, and they determined that anything he might have said had no impact on the trial. The panel's reading of the trial transcript convinced them that Thayer "tried to be scrupulously fair." The Committee also reported that the trial jurors were almost unanimous in praising Thayer's conduct of the trial.

A defense attorney later noted ruefully that the release of the Committee's report "abruptly stilled the burgeoning doubts among the leaders of opinion in New England." Supporters of the convicted men denounced the Committee. Harold Laski told Holmes that the Committee's work showed that Lowell's "loyalty to his class ... transcended his ideas of logic and justice."

Execution and funeral
The executions were scheduled for midnight between August 22 and 23, 1927. On August 15, a bomb exploded at the home of one of the Dedham jurors. On Sunday, August 21, more than 20,000 protesters assembled on Boston Common.

Sacco and Vanzetti awaited execution in their cells at Charlestown State Prison, and both men refused a priest several times on their last day, because they were militant atheists. Their attorney William Thompson asked Vanzetti to make a statement opposing violent retaliation for his death and they discussed forgiving one's enemies. Thompson also asked Vanzetti to swear to his and Sacco's innocence one last time, and Vanzetti did. Celestino Madeiros, whose execution had been delayed in case his testimony was required at another trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, was executed first. Sacco was next and walked quietly to the electric chair, then shouted "Farewell, mother." Vanzetti, in his final moments, shook hands with guards and thanked them for their kind treatment, read a statement proclaiming his innocence, and finally said, "I wish to forgive some people for what they are now doing to me." All three executions were carried out by Robert G. Elliott, the state executioner. Following the executions, death masks were made of the men.

Violent demonstrations swept through many cities the next day, including Geneva, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Tokyo. In South America wildcat strikes closed factories. Three died in Germany, and protesters in Johannesburg burned an American flag outside the American embassy. It has been alleged that some of these activities were organized by the Communist Party.

At Langone Funeral Home in Boston's North End, more than 10,000 mourners viewed Sacco and Vanzetti in open caskets over two days. At the funeral parlor, a wreath over the caskets announced In attesa l'ora della vendetta (Awaiting the hour of vengeance). On Sunday, August 28, a two-hour funeral procession bearing huge floral tributes moved through the city. Thousands of marchers took part in the procession, and over 200,000 came out to watch. Police blocked the route, which passed the State House, and at one point mourners and the police clashed. The hearses reached Forest Hills Cemetery where, after a brief eulogy, the bodies were cremated. The Boston Globe called it "one of the most tremendous funerals of modern times." Will H. Hays, head of the motion picture industry's umbrella organization, ordered all film of the funeral procession destroyed.

Sacco's ashes were sent to Torremaggiore, the town of his birth, where they are interred at the base of a monument erected in 1998. Vanzetti's ashes were buried with his mother in Villafalletto.


Later evidence and investigations
In 1941, anarchist leader Carlo Tresca, a member of the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee, told Max Eastman, "Sacco was guilty but Vanzetti was innocent", although it is clear from his statement that Tresca equated guilt only with the act of pulling the trigger, i.e., Vanzetti was not the principal triggerman in Tresca's view, but was an accomplice to Sacco. This conception of innocence is in sharp contrast to the legal one. Both The Nation and The New Republic refused to publish Tresca's revelation, which Eastman said occurred after he pressed Tresca for the truth about the two men's involvement in the shooting. The story finally appeared in National Review in October 1961. Others who had known Tresca confirmed that he had made similar statements to them,[189] but Tresca's daughter insisted her father never hinted at Sacco's guilt. Others attributed Tresca's revelations to his disagreements with the Galleanists.

Labor organizer Anthony Ramuglia, an anarchist in the 1920s, said in 1952 that a Boston anarchist group had asked him to be a false alibi witness for Sacco. After agreeing, he had remembered that he had been in jail on the day in question, so he could not testify.

Both Sacco and Vanzetti had previously fled to Mexico, changing their names in order to evade draft registration, a fact the prosecutor in their murder trial used to demonstrate their lack of patriotism and which they were not allowed to rebut. Sacco and Vanzetti's supporters would later argue that the men fled the country to avoid persecution and conscription; their critics said they left to escape detection and arrest for militant and seditious activities in the United States. However, a 1953 Italian history of anarchism written by anonymous colleagues revealed a different motivation:

Several dozen Italian anarchists left the United States for Mexico. Some have suggested they did so because of cowardice. Nothing could be more false. The idea to go to Mexico arose in the minds of several comrades who were alarmed by the idea that, remaining in the United States, they would be forcibly restrained from leaving for Europe, where the revolution that had burst out in Russia that February promised to spread all over the continent.

In October 1961, ballistic tests were run with improved technology on Sacco's Colt semi-automatic pistol. The results confirmed that the bullet that killed Berardelli in 1920 was fired from Sacco's pistol. The Thayer court's habit of mistakenly referring to Sacco's .32 Colt pistol as well as any other automatic pistol as a "revolver" (a popular custom of the day) has sometimes mystified later-generation researchers attempting to follow the forensic evidence trail.

In 1987, Charlie Whipple, a former Boston Globe editorial page editor, revealed a conversation that he had with Sergeant Edward J. Seibolt in 1937. According to Whipple, Seibolt said that "we switched the murder weapon in that case", but indicated that he would deny this if Whipple ever printed it. However, at the time of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, Seibolt was only a patrolman, and did not work in the Boston Police ballistics department; Seibolt died in 1961 without corroborating Whipple's story. In 1935, Captain Charles Van Amburgh, a key ballistics witness for the prosecution, wrote a six-part article on the case for a pulp detective magazine. Van Amburgh described a scene in which Thayer caught defense ballistics expert Hamilton trying to leave the courtroom with Sacco's gun. However, Thayer said nothing about such a move during the hearing on the gun barrel switch and refused to blame either side. Following the private hearing on the gun barrel switch, Van Amburgh kept Sacco's gun in his house, where it remained until the Boston Globe did an exposé in 1960.

In 1973, a former mobster published a confession by Frank "Butsy" Morelli, Joe's brother. "We whacked them out, we killed those guys in the robbery," Butsy Morelli told Vincent Teresa. "These two greaseballs Sacco and Vanzetti took it on the chin."

Before his death in June 1982, Giovanni Gambera, a member of the four-person team of anarchist leaders who met shortly after the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti to plan their defense, told his son that "everyone [in the anarchist inner circle] knew that Sacco was guilty and that Vanzetti was innocent as far as the actual participation in killing."

Months before he died, the distinguished jurist Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., who had presided for 45 years on the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, wrote to Russell stating, "I myself am persuaded by your writings that Sacco was guilty." The judge's assessment was significant, because he was one of Felix Frankfurter's "Hot Dogs," and Justice Frankfurter had advocated his appointment to the federal bench.

The Los Angeles Times published an article on December 24, 2005, "Sinclair Letter Turns Out to Be Another Expose", which references a newly discovered letter from Upton Sinclair to attorney John Beardsley in which Sinclair, a socialist writer famous for his muckraking novels, revealed a conversation with Fred Moore, attorney for Sacco and Vanzetti. In that conversation, in response to Sinclair's request for the truth, Moore stated that both Sacco and Vanzetti were in fact guilty, and that Moore had fabricated their alibis in an attempt to avoid a guilty verdict. The Los Angeles Times interprets subsequent letters as indicating that, to avoid loss of sales to his radical readership, particularly abroad, and due to fears for his own safety, Sinclair didn't change the premise of his novel in that respect. However, Sinclair also expressed in the letters in question doubts as to whether Moore deserved to be trusted in the first place, and he did not actually assert the innocence of the two in the novel, focusing instead on the argument that the trial they got was not fair.

Dukakis proclamation
In 1977, as the 50th anniversary of the executions approached, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis asked the Office of the Governor's Legal Counsel to report on "whether there are substantial grounds for believing–at least in the light of the legal standards of today–that Sacco and Vanzetti were unfairly convicted and executed" and to recommend appropriate action. The resulting "Report to the Governor in the Matter of Sacco and Vanzetti" detailed grounds for doubting that the trial was conducted fairly in the first instance, and argued as well that such doubts were only reinforced by "later-discovered or later-disclosed evidence." The Report questioned prejudicial cross-examination that the trial judge allowed, the judge's hostility, the fragmentary nature of the evidence, and eyewitness testimony that came to light after the trial. It found the judge's charge to the jury troubling for the way it emphasized the defendants' behavior at the time of their arrest and highlighted certain physical evidence that was later called into question. The Report also dismissed the argument that the trial had been subject to judicial review, noting that "the system for reviewing murder cases at the time ... failed to provide the safeguards now present."

Based on recommendations of the Office of Legal Counsel, Dukakis declared August 23, 1977, the 50th anniversary of their execution, as Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day. His proclamation, issued in English and Italian, stated that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names." He did not pardon them, because that would imply they were guilty. Neither did he assert their innocence. A resolution to censure Dukakis failed in the Massachusetts Senate by a vote of 23 to 12. Dukakis later expressed regret only for not reaching out to the families of the victims of the crime.


Posted by Dennis Donovan | Mon Apr 15, 2019, 06:04 AM (2 replies)

84 Years Ago Today; The Black Sunday Dust Storm

Black Sunday (storm)

The "Black Sunday" dust storm approaches Spearman in northern Texas, April 14, 1935.

Black Sunday refers to a particularly severe dust storm that occurred on April 14, 1935, as part of the Dust Bowl. It was one of the worst dust storms in American history and it caused immense economic and agricultural damage. It is estimated to have displaced 300 million tons of topsoil from the prairie area in the US.

On the afternoon of April 14, the residents of the Plains States were forced to take cover as a dust storm, or "black blizzard", blew through the region. The storm hit the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwestern Oklahoma first, and moved south for the remainder of the day. It hit Beaver around 4:00 p.m., Boise City around 5:15 p.m., and Amarillo, Texas, at 7:20 p.m. The conditions were the most severe in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, but the storm's effects were felt in other surrounding areas.

The storm was harsh due to the high winds that hit the area that day. The combination of drought, erosion, bare soil, and winds caused the dust to fly freely and at high speeds.

The Dust Bowl
In North America, the term "Dust Bowl" was first used to describe a series of dust storms that hit the prairies of Canada and the United States during the 1930s, and later to describe the area in the United States that was most affected by the storms, including western Kansas, eastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

The "black blizzards" started in the Eastern states in 1930, affecting agriculture from Maine to Arkansas. By 1934 they had reached the Great Plains, stretching from North Dakota to Texas, and from the Mississippi River Valley to the Rocky Mountains. "The Dust Bowl" (as an area) received its name following the disastrous "Black Sunday" storm in April 1935, when reporter Robert E. Geiger referred to the region as "The Dust Bowl" in his account of the storm.

Cattle farming and sheep ranching had left much of the West devoid of natural grass and shrubs to anchor the soil, and over-farming and poor soil stewardship left the soil dehydrated and lacking in organic matter. During a massive drought that hit the United States in the 1930s, the lack of rainfall, snowfall, and moisture in the air dried out the top soil in most of the country's farming regions.

The destruction caused by the dust storms, and especially by the storm on Black Sunday, killed multiple people[citation needed] and caused hundreds of thousands of people to relocate. Poor migrants from the American Southwest (known as "Okies" - though only about 20 percent were from Oklahoma) flooded California, overtaxing the state's health and employment infrastructure.

In 1935, after the massive damage caused by these storms, Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act, which established the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) as a permanent agency of the USDA. The SCS was created in an attempt to provide guidance for land owners and land users to reduce soil erosion, improve forest and field land and conserve and develop natural resources.

Personal accounts of Black Sunday and other dust storms
During the 1930s, many residents of the Dust Bowl kept accounts and journals of their lives and of the storms that hit their areas. Collections of accounts of the dust storms during the 1930s have been compiled over the years and are now available in book collections and online.

"People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk…. The nightmare is deepest during the storms. But on the occasional bright day and the usual gray day we cannot shake from it. We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions."
— Avis D. Carlson, The New Republic

Lawrence Svobida was a wheat farmer in Kansas during the 1930s. He experienced the period of dust storms, and the effect that they had on the surrounding environment and the society. His observations and feelings are available in his memoirs, Farming the Dust Bowl. Here he describes an approaching dust storm:

"… At other times a cloud is seen to be approaching from a distance of many miles. Already it has the banked appearance of a cumulus cloud, but it is black instead of white and it hangs low, seeming to hug the earth. Instead of being slow to change its form, it appears to be rolling on itself from the crest downward. As it sweeps onward, the landscape is progressively blotted out. Birds fly in terror before the storm, and only those that are strong of wing may escape. The smaller birds fly until they are exhausted, then fall to the ground, to share the fate of the thousands of jack rabbits which perish from suffocation."

The Black Sunday storm is detailed in the 2012 Ken Burns PBS documentary The Dust Bowl.

Media references
Musicians and songwriters began to reflect the Dust Bowl and the events of the 1930s in their music. Woody Guthrie, a singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, wrote a variety of songs documenting his experiences living during the era of dust storms. Several were collected in his first album Dust Bowl Ballads. One of them, Great Dust Storm, describes the events of Black Sunday. An excerpt of the lyrics follows:

On the 14th day of April of 1935,
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky.
You could see that dust storm comin', the cloud looked deathlike black,
And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track.
From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line,
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande,
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom.

Musician Kat Eggleston has written a play, The Cyclone Line, about her father Al Eggleston's experiences growing up in 1930s Oklahoma, Black Sunday, and the Dust Bowl in general. Its first public performances were on Vashon (Island), Washington, where he lived most of his life.

Americana recording artist Grant Maloy Smith released an album in 2017 called Dust Bowl – American Stories that featured two songs that directly referenced Black Sunday. The song "Old Black Roller" is written from a first person perspective during the Black Sunday storm, and another song "Never Seen The Rain" has these chorus lyrics: "We worked the land to death, me and my brother | 'Til April 14, 1935 | Oklahoma, you were like our mother - oh, my"

American recording artist Gillian Welch refers to the storm and other historical events in a two-part song on her 2001 album Time (The Revelator) : "April the 14th Part I" and "Ruination Day Part II".


A terrible event in the middle of the misery of the Great Depression...
Posted by Dennis Donovan | Sun Apr 14, 2019, 06:38 AM (2 replies)
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