JULY 16 = The Atom Bomb is First Tested

On today’s date, July 16 in 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the first atom bomb is success- fully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. This was the end result of  the Manhattan Project,  which was thee code name which was given to the efforts of the United States government to produce an Atom Bomb. Pictured above is a photo of the explosion.

 Leó Szilárd and Albert Einstein Warn FDR

The effort had been going on for some years, ever since a letter written by the famed physicist Albert Einstein, and conceived by Einstein and the Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd In 1939 was sent to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Einstein (below) and Szilárd came to the conclusion that the neutron-driven fission of heavy atoms could possibly utilized to create a nuclear chain reaction which could yield vast amounts of energy for electric power generation or… atomic bombs. in the letter, written on August 2, 1939, just one month minus a day that Hitlers’ armies invaded Poland and began World War II. And the letter didn’t hesitate to point fingers:

“I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium 

from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.”

General Groves Assembles the Team

This led FDR to thee conclusion that a committee of scientists needed to be formed in order to counter the Nazi threat.  Initially the amount of $6,000.00 was granted toward this project, but with onset off war with Germany in December of 1941 this cap was removed. Brigadier

General Leslie Groves (left) who had himself spent his army career as an engineer, was put in charge of organizing the whole project, which included assembling the finest scientific minds in the United States, and bringing them into his program. Groves was introduced to Robert Oppenheimer.  Oppenheimer had like Einstein and others had made known his concerns about the Germans coming up with an atomic weapon, and this brought him to Groves attention. Groves had been favorably impressed with clarity of Oppenheimer’s vision as well as his determination to get the bomb before the Germans could.  These were two very different types of men; Groves determined and quite boorish, and Oppenheimer cerebral and intellectual. But they both managed to work together at the secret facility that was put together by Groves at Los Alamos, New Mexico. In true U.S. Governmental fashion, the Manhattan Project grew to the employment of over 130,000 people and cost close to US $2 billion (roughly $27 billion in 2016 dollars).

The Bomb is Assembled and Tested

Neither Groves nor Oppenheimer were pleasant taskmasters for the men working under them. Maj. General Kenneth Nichols called Groves “…the biggest sonovabitch I ever met in my life. I hated his guts and 

so did everybody else.” But with the men working at Los Alamos and elsewhere in the country he and Oppenheimer produced results – the bomb which was tested on this date.  The first detonation of a nuclear weapon was given the Code Name “Trinity” by the ever mercurial Oppenheimer (left) who had been so inspired by the poetry of John Donne a  poet of Elizabethan England.  After an earlier delay groves resumed the countdown. At the sixty second point, the scientists smeared suntan lotion on their faces and slipped on welding goggles. And at 5:29 a.m. the detonation unleashed the explosive energy of about 22 kilotons of TNT (92 TJ). There was only one possible target left, as Germany was out off the war, and that was Japan. It was so used on Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9, 1945), after which Japan finally surrendered. By March 1946, when Oppenheimer met President Harry Truman, he had long since decided that the use of the Atom bomb had been terribly wrong. “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands,” To which Truman sternly replied “It’ll all come out in the wash.” After Oppenheimer had departed, Truman said to an aide: “Don’t you bring that fellow around here again.” Such are the vagaries at the intersection of politics and science…..






“Past Imperfect – History According to the Movies” Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1995.


JUNE 7 = Earthquake Wrecks Pirate Haven at Port Royal

Port Royal, a natural harbor on the island of Jamaica was a veritable den of pirate iniquity by 1692. It had been called “richest and wickedest city in the world” by some.  But on today’s date, June 7 in 1692 the city was virtually swallowed up by an earthquake and tsunami which left it an uninhabitable mess, but which gave rise to one of the finest cities of the Caribbean.

Port Royal Grows Into a Pirate Haven

Established by the Spanish in 1518, by the 17’th Century it had become a center of commerce and shipping in the Caribbean. It also became a home for privateers (which were essentially free-lance pirates operating with the tacit but never open blessing of one European power or another) for nations – mainly the English and the Dutch which wanted to raid Spanish shipping without going to war with the Spanish

empire. It was during the war with Spain with the English between 1655 and 1680 that Port Royal became a haven and a hideout for pirates of every sort. As said above it was a natural harbor and thus an excellent buccaneer hiding place, and launch site for their raids.  Of course along with this came all of the brothels and hundreds of taverns that went along with the pirate life. And along with this came the legal trade of slaves and sugar, and all manner off plunder that made Port Royal such a key piece of the not so legal mercantile picture in the Caribbean.

The “Ungodly and Debauched People” Are Hit By an Earthquake

Well in this corner of the Caribbean, on the morning of today’s date at about 11:40 pm the Rev Emmanuel Heath, wrote that he had concluded prayers – “to keep up some show of religion among a most ungodly, debauched people” – and was patronizing a local tavern. Then he felt the floor started to sway beneath him. Plates, wine and chandeliers all came crashing to the floor.  The Reverend rushed outside just in time to see “the earth open and swallow up a multitude of people, and the sea mounting in upon us”. As Port Royal grew many of the buildings had been built on land that had simply been thrown in to fill up water. Thus, when the quake came it had only to sweep this fake land away. The tremor, the soil liquefaction and the huge tsunami that followed wiped the pirate den away with ease.

               Above  is a picture of the wreck of Port Royal, circa 1692.

The Frigate “Swan’s” Journey and Mr. Galdy

The the frigate H.M.S. “Swan” had been in a slipway on the east end of the Port having the barnacles scraped away from her keel.  Suddenly she was thrust upward by monstrous seismic wave and was sent on a bizarre ride through the town skimming over the parts that had already been flooded, “sailing” over the tops of buildings at vast speeds.  But because she had so many ropes hanging from her sides that large numbers of would-be victims were able to grab onto her as “Swan” barreled trough the town and were miraculously saved. The “Swan” finally came to rest when she was beached on top of a building which had been partly sunken. A very strange experience happened to

one Thomas Galdy.  He was walking along when the second tremor opened a huge fissure in the ground before him into which he was swallowed up.  A moment later came the third tremor – a seismic sea wave that forced Galdy up from his spot like a cork and onto level ground again.

The Totals of Port Royal’s 1692 Quake.

There were a total of  three separate tremors on that hellish morning. They lasted it total less than two minutes.  But because of the landfill on which most of the houses had been built, almost the entire town was tossed about, and then flooded under some 43 feet of water by the resulting Tsunami. I have found sources on-line and in print calculating the number of dead as anywhere between 1,600 and 3,000. But the town had been totally obliterated.  The subsequent aftershocks kept a lid on any hopes of rebuilding the old pirate’s den. But in time a new city rose up nearby: the city of Kingston, Jamaica – one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of the Caribbean.

Sources =

“Darkest Hours – the Great Book of Worldwide Disasters – From Ancient times to the Present”

by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York, 1976






MAY 20 = Strauss & Davis Acquire Patent for Blue Jeans

On today’s date, May 20 in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss, and a Nevada tailor Jacob Davis were granted a patent on a special kind of work pants.  Made from a tough cloth called “Denim”, these pants were  reinforced with metal rivets. This was the birth of  the most famous and often worn garments in the world: blue jeans.

Levi Strauss Started Out As An Immigrant

Born in Buttenheim, Bavaria, in 1829, Loeb Strauss immigrated to New York  in 1847 with his family after his father died. He was working at in his family dry goods store  J. Strauss Brother & Co.by 1850 and changed his from Loeb to Levi.  But these were exciting times in America with gold having been discovered in California so young Levi decided to head west and seek his fortune with the rest of the

 gold-hungry diggers.  He set up shop in San Francisco putting together a wholesale dry goods business bearing his own name. But he worked as a representative of the family firm. In this company he fed the need for everything having to do with gold mining: shovels, pick-axes and all manner of dry goods. He also imported fabric and clothing all of which he distributed to the hundreds of small stores in the quickly proliferating communities of settlers and gold miners.

A New Kind of Workpants Were Needed

A man who frequently used bolts of cloth made from denim, was at Latvian Jewish immigrant, one Jacob Davis. This fabric had it’s origins in cities of France. “Gênes” was the french word for Genoa, which may account or the origin for “jeans” in Nimes they attempted to produce a product like the jeans but wound up with a similar twill product which was called “denim” from it’s origins in “de Nimes” (“from Nimes”).

Well it seems that Mr. Davis (left) had a customer who was forever buying cloth to reinforce torn pants. Davis had come up with the idea of using copper rivets to reinforce the points of greatest strain — pocket corners as well as the base of the cotton fly. Davis lacked the necessary funds to afford the cost of a government patent for such an idea. So in 1872, Davis wrote to Strauss, telling  him of the idea of copper rivets and asked his financial backing for his rivet reinforced denim work pants. Levi Strauss liked the idea so on today’s date in 1873 they were granted U.S. Patent # 131,121 for the “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”

Of Course There are Always Conflicting Reports…

One paragraph in a Wikipedia source states:

“Popular legend incorrectly states that it was imported from Nimes, France. A popular myth is that Strauss initially sold brown canvas pants to miners, later dyed them blue, turned to using denim, and only after Davis wrote to him, added rivets.Initially, Strauss’ jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by factory workers, miners, farmers, and cattlemen throughout the North American West.”

That last sentence has it right, though.  Strauss’ jeans became a huge selling favorite among workers of all types throughout the United States. The original name for the jeans: “XX”– was changed to 501 by 1890 and it had become a huge seller. They were the 1920’s best selling work pants in the United States. And eventually it caught on with young people all over the world. So jeans have become an industry and style unto themselves Quite a growth story, isn’t it?

Sources =






MAY 15 = Women’s Army Corps is Established

“Your Job: To Replace Men. Be Ready To Take Over.”

– From the physical training manual published by the War Department in July 1943, entitled “You Must Be Fit” which was intended to bring the women recruits to top physical condition.  On today’s date, May 15 in 1942, a bill establishing a women’s corps as a part of the U.S. Army became law, creating the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACs) and granting women official military status. It is difficult to imagine the men who supported this measure could have had any idea of today’s military with women in every facet of duty, including combat roles.  But that’s what they were going for: right there in black and white.

The Legislation for the WAACs

Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts (below), one of the first women ever elected to congress, introduced this legislation which would make it possible for women to serve in non-combat positions in the army. Rogers had been active in volunteer work for the Red Cross and had served in overseas military hospitals. As a member of congress from 1925 onward she was appointed to the Committee on

Veterans Affairs. Rep. Rogers  introduced the legislation in May of 1941, but was held up for months until the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 put the matter on a faster track… still it wasn’t until today’s date in 1942 that it finally passed, although a section backing the enlistment of 150,000 volunteers was at first limited by executive order to 25,000. At first the benefits that went to men were greater than women, but by July 1942 a bill dropped the word “Auxiliary” from the name making them WACs and they were granted full Army benefits in keeping with the men.

“My best soldiers….”

The work that the WACs were assigned covered a great many different sorts of occupations.  Air Traffic Control, Radio Operations, Electrician work on down to basic Office Clerking jobs and occasional mechanic’s work were all areas that women covered.  But the Army always made it clear that these jobs would free men up for combat work, in order to soothe public sensitivities about having women in the military. The

work they did must have been done well as Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur referred to the WACs as “my best soldiers” adding that they were better disciplined, complained less, and in general worked harder than the men. All told once they were allowed to serve in greater numbers, the (Above: WAC Signal Corps Operators)150,000 who did serve freed up the equivalent of 7 full divisions of men for combat. No less an authority than Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said: “their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable” 

The WACs Give Way to the Modern Military

As a separate branch of the military the WAC was in 1978 disbanded, and all of the women’s units were integrated with their male counterparts.  WACs then were moved into whatever Military Specialty they had been working in before.  And ever since that time, women have worked with men in the same units.  This has included work in or nearby combat areas. In 1994 Les Aspin directed that “substantial risk of capture” could no longer used as grounds for keeping women out of some military units. So there you have it! That basic purpose stated so boldly way back in the original WAC manual : “Your Job: To Replace Men. Be Ready To Take Over.” has been more than fulfilled.

Sources =





MAY 3 = The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Begins

On today’s date, May 3 in 1946 in Tokyo, the International Military Tribunals for the Far East began hearing the cases against 28 Japanese military and government officials who had been of committing or ordering war crimes and crimes against against both military and civilian personnel during World War Two.

These Trials Differed from Nuremberg,

The way in which these trials were conducted was different from those which were being held in Nuremberg, Germany against the Nazi war criminals in 1946. At the Nuremberg proceedings there were four countries running the trial, with chief prosecutors from the four main powers, the United States, Britain, France, and the U.S.S.R. .  In these Tokyo Trials there was only one chief prosecutor – Joseph B. Keenan an American, in fact the former U.S. Attorney General. But Australian William Flood Webb was the presiding judge. And other Allied nations on the prosecution team included China, the Philippines, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, Canada, and India.

But the Rouge’s Gallery of Criminals Was Almost the Same

At the Nuremberg Trials William Shirer remarked how the men who had once wielded such enormous power, “they no longer resembled the arrogant leaders of old. They seemed to be a drab assortment of mediocrities.” Well the Japanese war criminals certainly had been lowered by several pegs by the time they entered the courtroom of  the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo. According to Arnold C. Brackman, a U.P. correspondent who covered the trial:

“Former Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoke entered the dock at a painfully slow gait, his face pallid, his cheeks sunken.  Ex- Premier Kiichiro Kiranuma’s equine face looked longer and more melancholy than ever.  Admiral Osami Nagano, another aged militarist, wore his naval dress blues stripped of all emblems and badges.  The figure 

most familiar to both Japanese and everyone in the courtroom, Hideki Tojo (above), strode in wearing a dapper khaki bush jacket.  Tojo appeared bemused and dispirited, but looked remarkably healthy for a man who had shot himself inn a failed suicide attempt just months before…. General Suzuki maintained his scowl.Thought by many to be the number one power broker in Tokyo, he was accustomed to arriving at Ichigaya in circumstances very different from those of the trial.”

Shorn of all of their military regalia, and their titles of state, Joseph Keenan left them no quarter: “war and treaty-breakers should be stripped of the glamour of national heroes and exposed as what they really are — plain, ordinary murderers.”

The Trial and the Evidence

The trial, which lasted from today’s date in 1946 until November, 1948 included official state documents, depositions and affidavits from over 700 people as well as harrowing eyewitness testimony from more than 400 victims. According to Brackman, the defendants showed varying degrees of interest. While hearing the charges against them read: “All of the defendants, including those who were fluent in English, listened to the Japanese translation over their headphones. Hideki  Tojo sat with his hands behind his back; (Shigenori) Tōgō, and Shigemitsu, the two foreign ministers stared blankly ahead….”

Throughout the trial, the defendants displayed various degrees of odd and nervous behavior. While evidence of mass atrocities were read “Shigemitsu leaned forward and cupped his head in his hands. Toshio Shiratori’s long face grew longer; he often bit his lip.  Admiral Shimada, who sat behind Okinori Kaya frequently leaned over the dock and ran his fingers nervously along the back of Kaya’s seat…. Hideki Tojo continued his habit of taking copious notes and occasionally picking his nose; one suspected after watching him for months, that the note taking was a theatrical device designed to impress the silent gallery while keeping himself occupied.”

The Verdict on the Main Defendants

But the evidence of guilt was overwhelming. The six main defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace. These included General Kenji Doihara, chief of the intelligence services, General Seishirō Itagaki, war minister, Kōki Hirota, prime minister (later foreign minister), Lieutenant General Akira Mutō, chief of staff, and General Heitarō Kimura, commander, Burma Area Army.  And most important of all General Hideki Tōjō, who as Army leader, and later as Prime Minister became the very face of Japanese military and political aggression ascended to the gallows along with the others at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro on December 23, 1948. In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed.

Sources =

“The Other Nuremburg – the Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials” by Arnold C, Brackman,

William Morrow & Company, Inc., New York, 1987.



APRIL 8 = “Venus de Milo” is Found

“the ruins of an ancient theater in the vicinity of Castro, the capital of the island”, adding that Bottonis and his son “came accidentally across a small underground cave, carefully covered with a heavy slab and concealed, which contained a fine marble statue in two pieces, together with several other marble fragments.” This is a description of what happened on today’s date, April 8 in the year 1820, when a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas accidentally discovered the statue “Venus de Milo”, one of the finest and most beautiful examples ever found of classical Greek art.

Where and by whom was “Venus” found?

There are other sources which identify the discoverers as Yorgos Bottonis and his son Antonio. The statue was found on the Aegean sea Island of Melos which is called Milo in modern Greek. It has come to be called “Venus” because Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, although the ancient Greeks would have referred to her as Aphrodite who was the Greek Goddess of love and beauty. Exactly why there is conflicting accounts of who found her is something which I have not been able to determine through on-line sources, but there it is.

More Details of Venus and Her Discovery

Whatever the conflicting of WHO found her the accepted belief is that the statue was discovered in two large portions (the upper torso and a lower portion with cloth-draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads). Fragments were also found of the upper left arm and left hand which was holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth (a usually square block serving as a base). Venus de Milo is thought to have been the work of one Alexandros of Antioch, about whose life not much is known, working about 100 B.C. during a late portion of the

Hellenistic age. Originally made in two large blocks of granite, she stands 6 feet 7 inches from top to bottom. And this is where the details of WHO discovered her get a bit murky again. Apparently a French Navy Ensign with an interest in antiquities observed “a farmer” pulling rocks out off a cave for making a wall. Whether this farmer was the Bottonis and son or the peasant Kentrotas cited above, is not at all clear to me.  But the ensign,  Olivier Voutier noticed that the “farmer” had discovered the top half of the Venus statue.  So he and his superiors bought the statue from the farmer “for a relatively modest sum.” She was then transported back to Paris as a gift to Louis XVII, who placed in the French museum, the Louvre wherein she has remained ever since.

What About Her Arms?

There has been much speculation on this subject over the years. One account has the arms being pulled off in a fight between French and Turkish military (as this part of the world was at that time ruled by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.  But most scholars believe that the arms were already missing when Venus was found and dug out of the cave where she was found.

Sources =

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sources =Venus_de_Milo




MARCH 28 = Juan Bautista de Anza Founds S.F.

On today’s date in 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza, (left) one of the great western explorers of the North American continent in the 18th century, arrived at the future site of San Francisco with 247 colonists.

Juan Bautista de Anza – a Born Soldier

Born into a military family in Fronteras, Sonora, New Spain (Modern day Mexico) in 1736 (near Arizpe), Anza enlisted in the army in 1752 and had risen to teh rank of captain by 1760. His  primary duties lay in making Forays into lands in California against Indian tribes such as the Apache.  In this area he excelled showing a keen tactical mind in these engagements.

Anza Explores California

In 1772, with a long and difficult expedition northwest to the Pacific Coast, Anza put in place the first successful overland connections between the northern California, and the Mexican State of Sonora. The Mexican Government in Sonora, always eager to expand commerce into new areas was very happy with Anza’s work in this domain. So the

Mexican Viceroy directed Anza (pictured above, circa 1774) to go back to California with an eye towards setting up  a more substantial settlement along the northern California coast  For a good many years, Spanish Explorers at sea had sailed along the coast of northern California, both in the 16th and 17th Century.  But the area of present day San Francisco with it’s outstanding natural features for a harbor was not discovered by the Spaniards in 1769. While they of course could plainly see it’s strategic value it would be some seven years before they Anza there to claim it for the King of Spain.

Anza’s Trail Leads to S.F.

In 1772, Anza proposed taking an expedition to Alta California he won the backing of the Viceroy of New Spain. This plan was endorsed by the King of Spain, Charles III, and on January 8, 1774, with an assortment of over 170 men ranging from servants to padres, to soldiers, moved out on his trek from Tubac, near present day Tuscon, Arizona. He reached Monterrey, CA. in April of 1774.  Anza returned to Tubac in May of 1774 and reorganized his forces.  Anza was raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and given orders with a slightly more military nature. He was directed to lead a corps of colonists to Alta California. This was not for purely commercial purposes – there had been Russian colonies advancing from the north. A new Spanish port in the area would give safety to Spanish ships. This group moved out on October 23, 1775, arriving at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in January, 1776, with the colonists having been assaulted by bad winter weather along the way.

Anza Finally Gets There

Anza’s diary entry on March 25, 1776, states that he “arrived at the arroyo of San Joseph Cupertino (now Stevens Creek), which is useful only for travelers. Here we halted for the night, having come eight leagues in seven and a half hours. From this place we have seen at our right the estuary which runs from the port of San Francisco.”  Anza and his men finally arrived at this spot on today’s date in 1776.  Anza

stuck to the military nature of this expedition; he did not set up a settlement, but rather set up military fortifica- tions, building a fort on the tip off the San Francisco peninsula. But the colonists came some months later, a Spanish Franciscan priest founded a mission near the fort which he named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi—in Spanish, San Francisco de Asiacutes. San Francisco remained a fairly isolated post – she became an American possession following the Mexican War (1846 – 1848) at which time she had just 900 inhabitants.  But once GOLD was discovered at Sutter’s Mill nearby…. all bets were off, and by 1852 she had ballooned to 36,000 with many more to come. Anza was appointed as the Spanish Governor of New Mexico in 1777.  He retired from the post in 1786.  He died in 1788.

Sources =