July 31, 1943: Death of Private Petrarca

Hero

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

It is a trite but true observation that war brings out the very worst and the very best in men.  In the category of very best, sacrificial courage has to be high on the list.  Such was displayed by Private Frank J. Petrarca on three occasions in the bitter fighting on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.  One of ten children he had attended parochial school before following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a carpenter.  In October 1940 he enlisted in the Army.  On July 27, 1943 he began displaying a courage that was rare even in the Pacific theater where, as Admiral Nimitz stated, valor was a common virtue.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation: (more…)

Published in: on July 31, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 31, 1943: Death of Private Petrarca  
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Custer the Goat

 

George Armstrong Custer established a record that is still talked about at West Point.  He graduated dead last in his class of 1861, 34th out of 34.  This made him the class goat. He also compiled more demerits for misconduct than any other cadet who went on to graduate.

Interestingly enough, being the class goat is considered almost an honor at West Point.  At graduation ceremonies the goat always receives the loudest cheers when his name is announced to receive his diploma.  More than a few goats have attained the rank of general, military life and war often requiring qualities and abilities that are difficult to test in the classroom.

So it was with Custer.  Within two years of graduation he was a brigadier general of volunteers.  By the end of the Civil War he was commanding a cavalry division with the rank of major general of volunteers.  Custer’s defeat at the Little Big Horn in 1876 gained him immortality, but also an undeserved reputation as a brave bumbler.  Actually Custer was a skilled commander of troops, as his record in the Civil War amply demonstrates.  Not bad for a goat.

 

Published in: on July 30, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Custer the Goat  
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Milton Friedman on Slavery and Colonization

Slavery and colonization bulk large in the period of American history covered by this blog, so I thought our readers might like to hear Milton Friedman’s views on these topics.  (For people who had the good fortune not to live in the Seventies, yes many people on college campuses did really dress like Mr. Friedman’s interlocutor, and yes more than a few college students did go around chanting half-baked Marxist cliches, which, unfortunately has come back into fashion as of late.)

Published in: on July 29, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Milton Friedman on Slavery and Colonization  
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July 28, 1861: Death of Sullivan Ballou

 

 

Thirty-two years old in 1861, Sullivan Ballou was already well-established in life.  Married with two sons, he was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and had served as speaker of that body.  When Lincoln called for volunteers, he did not hesitate, and enlisted as a Major with the Second Rhode Island infantry.  At the battle of Bull Run he received what would prove to be a mortal wound.  His right leg was amputated and he succumbed to his wounds on July 28, 1861.  Before the battle of Bull Run he wrote to his wife a timeless letter of love and hope for the future beyond the grave:

July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
 Sullivan

His wife never remarried.  She died in 1917 and was buried beside her husband.

Published in: on July 28, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Vacation 2019

 

Something for the weekend:  Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer (1963) sung by Nat King Cole.  I am on vacation with my family until August 4. My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent. That is now by choice.  In the past it was not, but now with ubiquitous wi-fi, portable ipads and kindles, that is no longer the case, and, truth to tell, it hasn’t been for the last several years.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or Trump  and Ilhan Omar  have a fist fight on the White House steps, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

First, up to Kenosha, Wisconsin with a visit to my bride’s mother.  We have been doing this since the birth of the twins and it has always been a fun family gathering.  I heartily recommend both the Kenosha Civil War Museum and the Milwaukee Zoo  Then it is back home next Tuesday for an overnight pit stop.

 

Then on to GenCon 52 over in Indianapolis, with a brief stop in Urbana on the way for a bankruptcy hearing.  (Yes, the law mines do have a habit of intruding on vacations!)

 

My bride and I have only been attending since 1986, my bride missing 1991 when she was heavily pregnant with our twins.  (I made a 300 mile one day dash to the Convention that year through continual thunder storms by myself, one of the more foolish actions of my life.)

 

If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 61,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.

A good week albeit somewhat tiring, but I can rest in the law mines after I get back!

Published in: on July 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Vacation 2019  
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You Have to Love Buzz Aldrin

 

Aldrin shot down two MIGs in combat in the Korean War, and he earned two Air Force Service Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals  during his career.  As An astronaut he risked his life time after time on beyond cutting edge technology.  Post his NASA career he had a problem with depression and alcoholism and quit drinking for good in 1978.  He was 72 when he punched the obnoxious lunatic, who accused him of being a coward, in the above video.

Published in: on July 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on You Have to Love Buzz Aldrin  
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Apollo 11 Press Conference

The post flight press conference of Apollo 11 conducted on August 12, 1969.

Published in: on July 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Apollo 11 Press Conference  
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July 24, 1969: Splashdown

Waking up at 6:47 AM Eastern Daylight Time, the crew made final preparations for reentry.  At 12:21 PM the Command Module separated from the Service Module.  Columbia entered the Earth’s atmosphere four minutes later.  Columbia splashed down 950 miles southwest of Honolulu and 15 miles from their recovery ship, USS Hornet. Collins, Armstrong and Aldrin were home, their mission completed.

Published in: on July 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 24, 1969: Splashdown  
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July 23, 1969: Preparing for Landing

 

Fifty years ago was a relatively quit day on Columbia as the crew prepared for the splash down the next day.  It gave the astronauts time to contemplate the remarkable events they had been through, something that was mentioned in the telebroadcast from Columbia on July 23.

Published in: on July 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 23, 1969: Preparing for Landing  
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July 22, 1969: Heading Home

On July 22, 1969 the engines of the Columbia were fired to begin the trip back to Earth, the Columbia leaving lunar orbit with a speed of 3600 miles per hour.  About 15 hours later a mid course correction was made to keep the Columbia on track back to Earth.

 

Published in: on July 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 22, 1969: Heading Home  
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