May 2, 1946: Battle of Alcatraz

The so-called battle of Alcatraz began on May 2, 1946.  Located on an island in San Francisco bay, Alcatraz prior to 1933 was a military prison.  In 1933 the Federal Bureau of Prisons refurbished it, and it became a supposedly escape proof prison, due to the high currents of the bay, where Federal prisoners who had caused trouble in other prisons were transferred.  The prison was closed in 1963.  Ironically considering its infamous reputation, many convicts asked to be transferred to Alcatraz.  Several former inmates report that the food and treatment were better at Alcatraz than in other Federal prisons.

On May 2, 1946 inmates Bernard Coy and Marvin Hubbard teamed up to overpower a guard.  They then released inmates Joseph Cretzer and Clarence Carnes from their cells.  Taking over C block and D block, they attempted to open the yard door to seize the launch, using the nine guards they had captured as hostages.  How they would have escaped from San Francisco after reaching it is a matter of speculation, as the yard door jammed and the inmates were trapped in the two cell blocks they controlled.  Now began a standoff which would receive heavy press coverage, especially due to the involvement  of two platoons of US Marines under Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the leader of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma.  On May 4, 1946 guards retook the cell blocks.  Three inmates died in the fighting:  Cretzer, Coy and Hubbard.  Clarence Carnes would receive a life sentence and be released in 1973.  Inmates Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson were subsequently tried and executed for their role in the slaying of the two guards who died during this foiled escape attempt.  Contrary to the 1962 movie, The Birdman of Alcatraz, inmate Robert Stroud played no role in ending the stand off. (more…)

Published in: on May 2, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Victims of Communism Day: Year of Miracles

 

Today is the Victims of Communism Day  on which we remember the one hundred million and counting butchered by Communist regimes and movements.  Twenty-seven years ago in 1989 I lived through the Year of Miracles in which nation after nation in Eastern European threw off the shackles of the Soviet imposed Communist regimes that had enslaved them in the wake of World War II.   It was a year that seemed like a dream come true.

In 1982 President Ronald Reagan laid out a blue print for what was to come:

Some argue that we should encourage democratic change in right-wing dictatorships, but not in Communist regimes. Well, to accept this preposterous notion — as some well-meaning people have — is to invite the argument that once countries achieve a nuclear capability, they should be allowed an undisturbed reign of terror over their own citizens.

We reject this course. (more…)

Simple Gifts

 

Something for the weekend.  Simple Gifts from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944).

Monmouth College

 

 

(I posted this earlier in the week at The American Catholic.  I thought that Almost Chosen People readers who have kids nearing college age might find it useful.)

 

My bride and I took yesterday off from the law mines to attend the Honors Awards ceremonies at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, in which our twenty-one year old “baby girl” was participating.  (Fortunately our daughter inherited both her looks and her brains from her mother rather than me.)  The ceremony was wonderful.  You haven’t lived until you have seen an academic procession, led by a student clad in a plaid mortarboard and a white gown carrying the American flag, conducted as bagpipers play Scotland the Brave.

Founded in 1853 by Scottish Presbyterians, Monmouth was co-ed from the first.  During the Civil War its student body was almost entirely female when male students, and many of the faculty, enlisted as a body in the Union Army.  Two of them would earn Medals of Honor during the conflict.

It is a fine school offering degrees in most areas for undergraduates.  Its tuition is a scary 35K a year.  However, Monmouth works hard at making the college affordable.  I have never paid more than 8000 a year out of pocket at Monmouth.  That contrasts to the approximately 21000 a year I was paying out each year for the undergraduate education of my son at my alma mater, the University of Illinois.  This comes about due to the mixture of scholarship and grants awarded to our daughter.   In that she was by no means exceptional, as some 95% of the student body receives assistance to make Monmouth one of the better academic choices for families on a budget.  Our daughter will graduate almost entirely debt free.

More important than the cost is the quality of education which is quite superior.  Our daughter loves Monmouth and if I had known about it back in 2010, our son probably would have attended there also.

The campus is lovely and there is a good alum support system after college for Monmouth grads.  The total student body is about one thousand, perfect for students who do not want to be lost in the crowd.  Our daughter reports good one on one interaction with her professors.

I heartily recommend Monmouth to any parent looking for a good college for their offspring at a reasonable cost. (more…)

Published in: on April 29, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Theodore Roosevelt on Lincoln and the Race Problem

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On February 13, 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech to the New York City Republican Club at a Lincoln Day celebration.  His theme was Lincoln and Race.  Race has forever been one of the more explosive issues on the American political scene.  Roosevelt was eager to mend the old wounds of the Civil War between North and South.  Yet he understood the essential injustice visited each day on blacks in the United States, particularly in the South.  The speech is an interesting look at the topic of race from the standpoint of a man who in his day was normally considered to be usually enlightened on the race question.  Now, of course, Roosevelt would be regarded by many as a racist.  However, modesty perhaps should temper our criticism of Roosevelt, a man living more than a century ago, since in many ways we are little closer to harmony between the races than the races were in the time of Roosevelt.  The rights of blacks, thank God, are far, far greater than in Roosevelt’s day, but we are still far from a color blind society that will judge each man and woman by their character, rather than by their race.  Here are the remarks of Roosevelt:

 

 

Mr. President,

and you, my fellow members of the Republican Club, and you, my fellow guests of the Republican Club, before I come to the matter which I have specially to lay before you tonight let me say a word on another subject.

Prior to receiving the invitation to address this Club on this day I had already accepted an invitation from one who is a guest with me tonight. Gen. Howard, who was to give a dinner tonight in behalf of a cause which every man who believes in the memory of Abraham Lincoln, and who believes in the union, should have at heart.

On the last occasion when Gen. Howard spoke with the great martyred President, President Lincoln showed himself deeply interested in the welfare of the people of East Tennessee, Kentucky and the Virginia mountains, and spoke so earnestly of their welfare that Gen. Howard then pledged himself to do all he could to promote the welfare of those people among whom Lincoln was born, and in pursuance of that pledge he and those associated with him have established a group of schools, called the Lincoln Memorial University, at Cumberland Gap, for the industrial, normal and academic training of those people. And the General has felt that he was in a peculiar way carrying out the purpose of Abraham Lincoln in dedicating himself to that work.

I should not have felt at liberty to disregard his invitation to me for any other invitation except that which I have accepted this evening. But when I told the General what this Club meant to me, and what it meant to me to come as President of the United States among my fellow members here, the General at once released me from my promise to him.

And now in what I have to say to you tonight I shall not strive to entertain you. I shall try to speak to you in a manner to express what you and I, I believe, have most at heart.

I do not — I will change the form of that sentence — you here are Republicans only secondarily — you are Americans first. And I speak to you tonight as a typical gathering of my fellow Americans. Typical in the fact that we represent different creeds, that some of us were born here and some abroad, that some of us live here, some in the West and some in the South, but that we are each and all, every one of us, without regard to creed or birthplace, good Americans and nothing else.

I speak to you, my old friends and companions, to you, with many of whom I have been intimately associated in political life from the time that I cast my first vote, to you the men of the great war to whom I looked up from the time I came to manhood, as setting the example for every young American to follow should ever another war call for the people of the United States, to one or two of you beside whom I had the good fortune to fight in a little war—it wasn’t a big war, but it was all the war there was. I speak to a body of men who have rendered in the past, and are rendering in the present, in the Army, in the Navy, on the Bench, in the Senate, in private life, the kind of service which makes us content, and more than content to be American citizens. And, therefore, I intend to speak to you tonight, not as Republicans only, not as New Yorkers only, but as good Americans, good citizens of the United States, and, therefore, having deeply at heart the problems connected with any and all of our fellow citizens in whatever part of the Union they live.

In his second inaugural, in a speech which will be read as long as the memory of this nation endures, Abraham Lincoln closed by saying:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.


Immediately after his re-election he had already spoken thus. Mind you, gentlemen, speaking this within twenty-four hours after his re-election to the presidency in the midst of a civil war which, because of its extreme bitterness, would have corroded with a like bitterness the soul of any man less high-minded than he was. He said:

The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad, and as good.

Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged. . . . May not all having a common interest reunite in a common effort to serve our common country? For my own part, I have striven and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way.

So long as I have been here, I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom. While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election, and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.

May I ask those who have not differed with me to join with me in this same spirit toward those who have?


This is the spirit in which mighty Lincoln sought to bind up the nation’s wounds when its soul was yet seething with fierce hatreds, with wrath, with rancor, with all the evil and dreadful passions provoked by civil war. Surely this is the spirit which all Americans should show now, when there is so little excuse for malice or rancor or hatred, when there is so little of vital consequence to divide brother from brother.

Lincoln, himself a man of Southern birth, did not hesitate to appeal to the sword when he became satisfied that in no other way could the Union be saved, for high though he put peace he put righteousness still higher. He warred for the Union; he warred to free the slave; and when he warred he warred in earnest, for it is a sign of weakness to be half-hearted when blows must be struck. But he felt only love, a love as deep as the tenderness of his great and sad heart, for all his countrymen alike in the North and in the South, and he longed above everything for the day when they should once more be knit together in the unbreakable bonds of eternal friendship.

We of today, in dealing with all our fellow citizens, white or colored. North or South, should strive to show just the qualities that Lincoln showed: his steadfastness in striving after the right, and his infinite patience and forbearance with those who saw that right less clearly than he did ; his earnest endeavor to do what was best, and yet his readiness to accept the best that was practicable when the ideal best was unattainable; his unceasing effort to cure what was evil, coupled with his refusal to make a bad situation worse by any ill-judged or ill-timed effort to make it better. (more…)

Published in: on April 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 25, 1976: Saving the Flag

I am not much of a baseball fan, but I have always remembered Cubs centerfielder Rick Monday saving the flag from two loons who sought to burn it on the field during a game on April 25, 1976 between the Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Field.   When Monday came to bat the next time in the game he received a standing ovation from the crowd.   The Dodgers went on to win the game 5-4 in ten innings, but Rick Monday, nonetheless, went home a winner. (more…)

Published in: on April 27, 2016 at 5:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 26, 1777: Sybil Ludington’s Ride

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The eldest of twelve children, Sybil Ludington grew up in a household of ardent patriots, her father being the commander of the local militia in Duchess County New York.  On April 26, 1777 she became, at age 16, a heroine of the Revolution when she rode forty miles to her father’s militia encampment at night on her horse Star to spread the alarm that the British were moving on Danbury Connecticut.  During her ride she successfully defended herself against a highwayman using a long stick.  She used the same stick to bang on the door of houses along the way to let the occupants know that the British were on the march,  Thanks to her, her father Colonel Henry Ludington chased after the British with 400 of his militia.  They were unable to intercept the British before their attack on Danbury, but they, along with other militia units, harassed the British as they retreated to New York.  The campaign is considered a turning point that helped ensure firm patriot control in Connecticut.  Sybil received the personal thanks of George Washington. (more…)

Published in: on April 26, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Century of Anzac Days

 

Today is Anzac Day, in Australia and New Zealand.   It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

At the beginning of the war the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations,  engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:

We are the ANZAC Army

The A.N.Z.A.C.

We cannot shoot, we don’t salute

What bloody good are we ?

And when we get to Ber – Lin

The Kaiser, he will say

Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !

What a bloody odd lot

to get six bob a day.

By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs.  At the end of the war a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price.  Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II.   American veterans I have spoken to who have fought beside Australian and New Zealand units have uniformly told me that they could choose no better troops to have on their flank in a battle.

The last of the Allied troops were withdrawn from Gallipoli on January 8, 1916.  The first observations of Anzac Day occurred in Australia and New Zealand on April 25 of that year.  In Australia and New Zealand were largely organized by troops recovering from wounds, schoolchildren and the families of men who had fallen in the Dardanelles.  2000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through London, the papers designating them Knights of Gallipoli.  Front line units of Anzac troops in France did their best to solemnize the day.

This reaction was truly remarkable.  It is not unusual to recall fondly a battle where a nation wins.  Doing so for a campaign which was an utter failure is truly remarkable.  However, the peoples of New Zealand and Australia show wisdom in having this commemoration each year.  Wars and battles, come and go as the years pass, and the issues surrounding them become the province of historians when the veterans of the conflict are no longer in this Vale of Tears.  However, the legacy of their courage, ingenuity and good cheer in adversity remain to the descendants of those who fought.  It is an old truism that war brings out the very worst and the very best in men.  On Anzac Day two nations recall the very best that their men a century ago had to give, and that is something worth remembering.

 

 

 

Published in: on April 25, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 24, 1916: The Easter Rising Begins

 

 

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Easter Rising.  A militarily hopeless venture, it was easily crushed by the British.  Yet, astonishingly, this doomed quixotic episode began the events that within five years would bring to an end in most of Ireland of almost a thousand years of English rule.

On Easter Monday April 24, 1916, a coalition of fractious Irish republican groups, organized under the Irish Republican Brotherhood, took over key locations in Dublin and proclaimed the provisional government of the Irish Republic.  The Irish Republican Brotherhood received substantial financial support from the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States, Irish Americans playing a key role throughout the 19th and early 20th century in the struggle for Irish independence.  The Irish Republicans had around 1,250 troops in Dublin.  There was minor fighting elsewhere in Ireland, but the Easter Rising was basically a struggle for Dublin.

In retrospect it is difficult to see how the Republicans believed that the Rising had any chance of success.  Great Britain was fully mobilized to fight World War I, and Ireland, like Great Britain, was swarming with trained British troops, many commanded by veterans of the fighting on the Western Front.  By Saturday the provisional government had surrended.  About 500 people were killed in the Rising, half of them civilians.

Initially the majority of Irish civilians had little sympathy for the rising, viewing it as at best a mad adventure, and at worst treason when many Irish Catholics were serving in France.  However, British mass arrests, albeit swiftly releasing most arrested, began to alter public attitudes toward the rising.  This was enhanced as news of British atrocities, real and false,  against civilians during the Rising began to spread.  Finally, British executions of the leaders of the Rising appalled most Irish Catholics.   The men uniformly met their deaths with great courage, and the British added to this folly by including in the executions the badly wounded James Connolly who had to seated in a chair to be executed.  Asked by the priest who gave him the last rites to pray for the men who were executing him, he replied:   “I will say a prayer for all men who do their duty according to their lights.”

Connolly was the last man executed, except for Sir Roger Casement, knighted by the British government in 1911, who was executed in London on August 3, 1916 and who converted to Catholicism on the date of his execution.  Public opinion was outraged, not only in Catholic areas in Ireland, but also in the United States, and the British Prime Minister ordered that no more executions be undertaken.

From this disaster sprouted the movement that would lead to Irish independence.  Michael Collins, who had taken part in the Rising, realized from his experiences during the fighting that attempting to stand up to the British in a conventional War was merely a form of suicide.  He began to devise a form of urban guerrilla war that would allow tiny Ireland to confront the mightiest empire in the world.

 

(more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Bold Fenian Men

 

Something for the weekend.  Down by the Glenside (The Bold Fenian Men).   Tomorrow marks the hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin which set in motion the chain of events leading to Irish independence.  Shortly before the Rising this song was written by  Peadar Kearney.  He would go on to fight in the Irish War of Independence.  A personal friend of Michael Collins, after Collins was slain in the Irish Civil War, Kearney sickened of politics.  He resumed his trade as a house painter and died in 1942 in relative obscurity and poverty.

 

Compare and contrast the above two versions of The Bold Fenian Men.  Although I have long been a fan of the Clancy Brothers, I confess that I prefer the acappella version.  The Sons of the Pioneers did a notable version of the song in the John Wayne movie Rio Grande, anachronistically singing a song in the 1870s that would not be written until 1916. (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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