July 31, 1920 Corporal Jackie

Albert took a bullet in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia on February 26, 1916, while the monkey, beside himself with agitation, licked the wound and did everything he could to comfort the stricken man.  It was this incident more than any other that marked Jackie’s transformation from pet and mascot, to a comrade to the men of the regiment.

In 1915, Albert Marr lived with his family and his Chacma baboon, Jackie, on Cheshire Farm, on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa.  The Great War had begun a year earlier, when Marr was sworn into the 3rd (Transvaal) Regiment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, in August of that year.  He was now Private Albert Marr, #4927.

Albert Marr, JackiePrivate Marr asked for and received permission to bring Jackie along with him.  It wasn’t long before the monkey became the official Regimental Mascot.

Jackie drew rations like any other soldier, eating at the mess table, using his knife and fork and washing it all down with his own drinking basin.

He drilled and marched with his company in a special uniform and cap, complete with buttons, regimental badges, and a hole for his tail.

Jackie entertained the men during quiet periods, lighting their pipes and cigarettes and saluting officers as they passed on their rounds.  He learned to stand at ease when ordered, placing his feet apart and hands behind his back, regimental style.

These two inseparable buddies, Albert Marr and Jackie, first saw combat during the Senussi Campaign in North Africa. Albert took a bullet in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia on February 26, 1916, while the monkey, beside himself with agitation, licked the wound and did everything he could to comfort the stricken man.  It was this incident more than any other that marked Jackie’s transformation from pet and mascot, to a comrade to the men of the regiment.jackie

Jackie would accompany Albert at night when he was on guard duty.  Marr soon learned to trust Jackie’s keen eyesight and acute hearing.  The monkey was almost always first to know about enemy movements or impending attack.  He would give early warning with a series of sharp barks, or by pulling on Marr’s tunic.

The pair went through the nightmare of Delville Wood together, early in the Somme campaign, when the First South African Infantry held their position despite 80% casualties.  The pair experienced the nightmare of mud that was Passchendaele, and the desperate fighting at Kemmel Hill.  The two were at Belleau Wood, a primarily American operation, where Marine Captain Lloyd Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, was informed that he was surrounded by Germans.  “Retreat?” Williams retorted, “hell, we just got here.”Jackie

Throughout all of it, Albert Marr and Jackie had come through WWI mostly unscathed.  That all changed in April, 1918.

The South African Brigade was being heavily shelled as it withdrew through the West Flanders region of Belgium. Jackie was frantically trying to build a wall of stones around himself, a shelter from flying shrapnel, while shells were bursting all around. A jagged piece of shrapnel wounded Jackie in the arm and another all but amputated the animal’s leg.  He refused to be carried off by the stretcher-bearers, trying instead to finish his wall, hobbling around on what had once been his leg.

Lt. Colonel R. N. Woodsend of the Royal Medical Corps described the scene:  “It was a pathetic sight; the little fellow, carried by his keeper, lay moaning in pain, the man crying his eyes out in sympathy, ‘You must do something for him, he saved my life in Egypt. He nursed me through dysentery’. The baboon was badly wounded, the left leg hanging with shreds of muscle, another jagged wound in the right arm.  We decided to give the patient chloroform and dress his wounds…It was a simple matter to amputate the leg with scissors and I cleaned the wounds and dressed them as well as I could.  He came around as quickly as he went under. The problem then was what to do with him. This was soon settled by his keeper: ‘He is on army strength’. So, duly labelled, number, name, ATS injection, nature of injuries, etc. he was taken to the road and sent by a passing ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Station”.Jackie Portrait

As the war drew to a close, Jackie was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and given a medal for bravery. Possibly the only monkey in history, ever to be so honored.

On his arm he wore a gold wound stripe, and three blue service chevrons, one for each of his three years’ front line service.

After the pair arrived home, Jackie became the center of attention at a parade officially welcoming the 1st South African Regiment home.

On July 31, 1920, Jackie received the Pretoria Citizen’s Service Medal, at the Peace Parade in Church Square, Pretoria.

Jackie died as the result of a fire, which destroyed the Marr family farmhouse in May 1921.  Albert Marr passed away in 1973, at the age of 84.  Marr had missed his battle buddy Jackie, for all the days in-between.

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July 30 1945 USS Indianapolis

“This is Captain McVay’s dog tag from when he was a cadet at the Naval Academy. As you can see, it has his thumbprint on the back. I carry this as a reminder of my mission in the memory of a man who ended his own life in 1968. I carry this dog tag to remind me that only in the United States can one person make a difference no matter what the age. I carry this dog tag to remind me of the privilege and responsibility that I have to carry forward the torch of honor passed to me by the men of the USS Indianapolis”.

The heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis set out on its secret mission on July 16, 1945, under the command of Captain Charles Butler McVay, III.  She was delivering “Little Boy” to the Pacific island of Tinian, the atomic bomb which would later be dropped on Hiroshima.

USS_Indianapolis_at_Mare_IslandIndianapolis made her delivery on July 26, arriving at Guam two days later and then heading for Leyte to take part in the planned invasion of Japan. She was expected to arrive on the 31st.

Japanese submarine I-58, Captain Mochitsura Hashimoto commanding, fired a spread of six torpedoes at the cruiser, two striking Indianapolis’ starboard bow at fourteen minutes past midnight on Monday, July 30. The damage was massive. Within 12 minutes she had rolled over, gone straight up by the stern, and sunk beneath the waves.

About 300 of Indianapolis’ 1,196-member crew were killed outright, leaving almost 900 treading water. Many had no life jackets and there were few life boats.  There had been too little time.Indianapolis Sub

For four days they treaded water, alone in open ocean, hoping for the rescue that did not come.   Shark attacks began on the first day, and didn’t let up for the entire time they were in the water. Kapok life vests became waterlogged and sank after 48 hours, becoming worse than useless.

Exhaustion, hypothermia, and severe sunburn took their toll as the days went by. Some went insane and began to attack shipmates.  Others found the thirst so unbearable that they drank seawater, setting off a biological chain reaction which killed them in a matter of hours.

Some simply swam away, following some hallucination that only they could see. Through it all, random individuals would suddenly rise up screaming from the ocean, and then disappear from sight, as the sharks claimed another victim.

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Caribbean Reef sharks circling the sailors in reenactment scene after USS Indianapolis had been sunk by Japanese submarine. As seen on OCEAN OF FEAR: WORST SHARK ATTACK EVER.

At Naval Command, there was confusion about where Indianapolis was to report when it arrived.  When the cruiser failed to arrive on the 31st, there was no report of the non-arrival.  Perhaps worst, a message which could have clarified Indianapolis’ expected arrival on Monday came through garbled, and there was no request to repeat it.

As it was, only the barest of chances led to Indianapolis’ survivors being located at all.   Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn, pilot of a Ventura scout-bomber, had lost the weight from a navigational antenna wire.  Belly-crawling through the fuselage to fix the thrashing antenna, Gwinn noticed an oil slick.  Back in the cockpit, he dropped down to have a better look.  Only then did he spot men floating in open ocean.

Lieutenant R. Adrian Marks and his PBY Catalina amphibious patrol aircraft were the first on the scene.  Horrified to see sharks actually attacking the men below, Marks landed his flying boat at sea.   The last Indianapolis survivor was plucked from the ocean Friday afternoon, half dead after almost five days in the water.  Of the 900 or so who survived the sinking, only 317 remained alive at the end of the ordeal.

The Navy had committed multiple errors, from denying McVay’s requested escort to informing him that his route was safe, even when the surface operations officer knew at least two Japanese submarines operated within the area.  No Matter.  A capital ship had been lost and someone was going to pay.  A hastily convened court of inquiry was held in Guam on August 13, leading to Captain McVay’s court-martial.

No less a figure than Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) and Admiral Raymond Spruance, for whom the Indianapolis had served as 5th Fleet flagship, opposed the court-martial, believing McVay to be guilty of an error in judgement at worst, not gross negligence. Naval authorities in Washington saw things differently, particularly Navy Secretary James Forrestal and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King.

Captain McVay’s orders were to “zigzag” at discretion, a naval maneuver most effective at avoiding torpedoes already in the water.   No Navy directives in effect at that time or since have so much as recommended, let alone ordered, zigzagging at night or in poor visibility.

Prosecutors flew I-58 commander Hashimoto in to testify at the court-martial, but he swore that zigzagging would have made no difference.  The Japanese Commander even became part of a later effort to exonerate McVay, but to no avail. Charles Butler McVay III was convicted of “hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag”, his career ruined.

Captain Charles Butler McVay, III
Captain Charles Butler McVay, III

McVay had wide support among Indianapolis’ survivors, but opinion was by no means unanimous. Many family members held him personally responsible for the death of loved ones.  Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays would come and go.  There was almost always hate mail from some family member. One Christmas missive read “Merry Christmas! Our family’s holiday would be a lot merrier if you hadn’t killed my son”.

As the years went by, McVay began to question himself.  In time, he came to feel the weight of the Indianapolis’ dead, a soul crushing burden from which there was no escape.  On November 6, 1968, Charles McVay took a seat on his front porch in Litchfield Connecticut, took out his Navy revolver, and killed himself.  He was cremated, his ashes scattered at sea.

The ULTRA code-breaking system which revealed I-58’s presence on Indianapolis’ course, would not be declassified until the early 90s.

Afterward:

Hunter Alan Scott was 11 and living in Pensacola when he saw the movie “Jaws”, in 1996. He was fascinated by the movie’s brief mention of Indianapolis’ shark attacks.  The next year, he created his 8th grade “National History Day” project on USS Indianapolis’ sinking.

The boy interviewed nearly 150 survivors and reviewed 800 documents.  The more he read, the more he became convinced that Captain McVay was innocent of the charges for which he’d been convicted.

Scott’s National History Day project went up to the state finals, only to be rejected because he used the wrong type of notebook to organize the material.

He couldn’t let it end there. Scott began to attend Indianapolis survivors’ reunions, at their invitation, and helped to gain a commitment in 1997 from then-Representative Joe Scarborough that he would introduce a bill in Congress to exonerate McVay the following year.

Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire joined Scarborough in a joint resolution of Congress.  Hunter Scott and several Indianapolis survivors were invited to testify before Senator John Warner and the Senate Armed Services committee on September 14, 1999.

Holding a dog tag in his hand, Scott testified “This is Captain McVay’s dog tag from when he was a cadet at the Naval Academy. As you can see, it has his thumbprint on the back. I carry this as a reminder of my mission in the memory of a man who ended his own life in 1968. I carry this dog tag to remind me that only in the United States can one person make a difference no matter what the age. I carry this dog tag to remind me of the privilege and responsibility that I have to carry forward the torch of honor passed to me by the men of the USS Indianapolis”.

The United States Congress passed a resolution in 2000, signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 30, exonerating Charles Butler McVay, III of the charges which had led to his court martial, humiliation and suicide.

The record cannot not be expunged – Congress has rules against even considering bills which alter military records.  Yet Captain McVay had been exonerated, something that the Indianapolis survivors had tried for years to accomplish, without success.  Until the intervention of a 12-year-old boy.

The last word on the whole episode belongs to Captain Hashimoto, who wrote the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1999 on behalf of Captain McVay.  “Our peoples have forgiven each other for that terrible war and its consequences“, wrote the former submarine commander, now a Shinto Priest.  “Perhaps it is time your peoples forgave Captain McVay for the humiliation of his unjust conviction“.

July 29, 1967 USS Forrestal

With trained firefighters now dead or incapacitated, hundreds of sailors and marines fought for hours to bring the fire under control.   Flare-ups would continue inside the ship until 4:00 the next morning.

The Super Carrier USS Forrestal departed Norfolk, Virginia in June 1967, with a crew of 552 officers and 4,988 enlisted men. Sailing around the horn of Africa, Forrestal stopped briefly at Leyte Pier in the Philippines, before sailing on to “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin, arriving on July 25.

Before the cruise, damage control firefighting teams were shown training films of navy ordnance tests, demonstrating how a 1,000lb bomb could be directly exposed to a jet fuel fire for a full 10 minutes. These tests were conducted using the new Mark 83 bomb, featuring a thicker, heat resistant wall, and “H6” explosive, designed to burn off at high temperatures.  Like a huge sparkler.

A-7E_VA-25_dropping_bombs_over_Vietnam_c1970
US Navy A-7 Corsair drops a load of Mark 83 bombs; Photograph by USN – Official U.S. Navy photograph from the USS Ranger (CVA-61) 1970-71 Cruise Book., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18491727

Along with the Mark 83s, the ordnance resupply had included 16 AN-M65A1 “fat boy” bombs, WWII surplus intended to be used on the second bombing runs of the 29th.  These were thinner skinned than the newer ordnance, armed with 20+ year-old “Composition B” explosive.  Already far more sensitive to heat and shock than newer ordnance, composition B becomes more so as the explosive ages.  The stuff becomes more powerful as well, up to 50%, by weight.

These older bombs were way past their “sell-by” date, having spent the better part of the last 30 years in the heat and humidity of the Philippine jungle.  Ordnance officers wanted nothing to do with the Fat Boys.  They were rusting and leaking paraffin, their packaging rotted.  Some had production dates as early as 1935.

Handlers were wary of these old weapons, fearing they might go off spontaneously during catapult launch. Someone suggested that they be immediately jettisoned. Captain John Beling was informed of these concerns, and demanded that Diamond Head, their supply ship, take them back and exchange them for newer ordnance.  The reply was that there were no more.   Combat operations were using Mark 83s up faster than new ones could be procured. Fat boys were all that was available.

At 10:50am local time, July 29, preparations were underway for the second strike of the day.

Today, John McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer has brought the Senator from Arizona to prominence in the evening news.  Fifty years ago today, Lieutenant Commander John McCain was in the cockpit of an A-4 Skyhawk. Next to him was Lieutenant Commander Fred D. White in his own A-4.

An electrical malfunction fired a 5″ Zuni rocket across the flight deck and into White’s fuel tank. The rocket’s safety mechanism prevented it from exploding, but the A-4’s torn fuel tank was spewing flaming jet fuel onto the deck. Other fuel tanks soon overheated and exploded, adding to the conflagration as McCain scrambled down the nose of the aircraft and across the refueling probe.

USS_Forrestal_fire_RA-5Cs_burning_1967

Damage Control Team #8 sprang into action immediately, as Chief Gerald Farrier spotted one of the Fat Boys turning cherry red in the flames. Without benefit of protective clothing, Farrier held his PKP fire extinguisher on the 1,000lb bomb, hoping to keep it cool enough to prevent its cooking off as his team brought the conflagration under control.

Firefighters were confident that their ten-minute window would hold as they fought the flames, but composition B explosives proved as unstable as the ordnance people had feared.  The bomb went off in just over a minute, killing Farrier instantly and virtually the entire firefighting team, along with Fred White, who was a split second behind McCain.

USS_Forrestal_explosion_29_July_1967
By Official U.S. Navy Photograph – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID USN 1124794

The Mark 83 bombs performed as designed, but eight of the old thousand-pounders went off in the next few seconds, triggering the sympathetic detonation of at least one 500 pounder. The port quarter of the Forrestal ceased to exist as huge holes were torn in the flight deck, flaming jet fuel draining into the aircraft hangar and the living quarters below.

Gary Childs, my uncle, was in his cabin when the fire broke out, leaving just before his quarters were engulfed in flames.  With trained firefighters now dead or incapacitated, he and hundreds of sailors and marines fought for hours to bring the fire under control.   Flare-ups continued inside the ship until 4:00am on the 30th.

vietnam-memorial

Panel 24E of the Vietnam Memorial contains the names of 134 crewmen who died in the  conflagration. Eighteen of those found their final rest at Arlington National Cemetery.  Another 161 were seriously wounded. Not including the aircraft, damage to the USS Forrestal exceeded $72 million.  Equivalent to over $415 million today.

July 28, 1957 Broken Arrow

Since 1950, there have been 32 Broken Arrow incidents.  As of this date, six nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.

At one time, the C-124 was the world’s largest military transport aircraft.  Weighing in at 175,000lbs with a wingspan of 175ft, four 3,500 horsepower Pratt & Whitney propeller engines drive the air frame along at a stately cruising speed of 246 mph.  Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft called the aircraft “Globemaster”.  Airmen called the plane “Old Shaky”.

c124c_pettersen

The Air Force C-124 Globemaster transport left its base in Delaware on July 28, 1957, on a routine flight to Europe. On board were a crew of seven, three nuclear bombs, and one nuclear core. The flight would routinely have taken 10-12 hours.  This trip was destined to be anything but routine.Mk6

Exactly what went wrong remains a mystery, due to the sensitive nature of the cargo. Two engines had to be shut down shortly into the mission, and the aircraft turned back.  The nearest suitable airfield was the Naval Air Station in Atlantic City, but that was too far. Even at maximum RPMs, the best the remaining two engines could do was slow the massive aircraft’s descent into the sea.

sans_titre11An emergency landing on open ocean is not an option with such a large aircraft.  It would have broken up on impact with the probable loss of all hands.   Descending rapidly, the crew would have jettisoned everything they could lay hands on, to reduce weight.  Non-essential equipment would have gone first, then excess fuel, but it wasn’t enough.  With only 2,500ft and losing altitude, there was no choice left but to jettison those atomic bombs.

At 3,000lbs apiece, two of the three bombs were enough to do the job, and the C-124 made it safely to Atlantic City.  What became of those two atomic bombs remains a mystery.  Most likely, they lie at the bottom of the ocean, 100 miles off New Jersey.

The United States Department of Defense has a term for accidents involving nuclear weapons, warheads or components, which do not involve the immediate risk of nuclear war.  Such incidents are called “Broken Arrows”.Image2

Broken Arrows include accidental or unexplained nuclear or non-nuclear detonation of an atomic weapon, the loss of such a weapon with or without its carrying vehicle, and the release of nuclear radiation resulting in public hazard, whether actual or potential.

Since 1950, there have been 32 Broken Arrow incidents.  As of this date, six nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.

If you’re interested, a handy “Nuclear Folly Locator” appears at the link below, based on Rudolph Herzog’s “A Short History of Nuclear Folly”.  It makes for some very comforting reading.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1gYCdyVCF3mhfJwX4c5xdBnc-Y8Q&usp=sharing

July 27, 1940 Bugs Bunny

A Utah celery grower once offered a lifetime supply of their product to everyone at the studio, if they switched Bugs over to a celery diet.  But carrots it was.  For fifty years, production had to stop as Mel Blanc, the real-life voice of Bugs Bunny, stopped to spit out the raw carrot he ate to make the sound of his character eating a carrot.

The earliest version of the Bugs Bunny cartoon character had something of his later personality, though he was smaller, with a voice sounded more like Woody Woodpecker.  He first appeared in “Porky’s Hare Hunt”, released on April 30, 1938, a little white wisecracking rabbit, entering the scene with the odd expression “Jiggers, fellers”.  Hare Hunt was the first to introduce the Elmer Fudd character, and first to use the Groucho Marx line, “Of course you realize, this means war!”

According to his 1990 “biography”, Bugs Bunny was born in Brooklyn New York on July 27, 1940, in a warren under Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  A Utah celery grower once offered a lifetime supply of their product to everyone at the studio, if they switched Bugs over to a celery diet.  But carrots it was.  For fifty years, production had to stop as Mel Blanc, the real-life voice of Bugs Bunny, stopped to spit out the raw carrot he ate to make the sound of his character eating a carrot.

Bugs evolution“A Wild Hare”, directed by Tex Avery and released on this day in 1940, was the first recognizable Bugs Bunny cartoon.  For the first time Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny are cast as hunter and tormentor, the first time Mel Blanc used that trademark Flatbush accent, and the first in which Bugs uses his catchphrase, “Ehhh, What’s up, Doc?” A Wild Hare was a huge success in theaters, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film and ensuring Bugs Bunny’s future as a stock character.

AWildHareIn 1941, “Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt” became the second Bugs Bunny cartoon to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film.  It didn’t win the award, and Bugs later made fun of the award in “What’s Cookin’ Doc?”.  In 1944 he demands a recount, claiming to be the victim of “sa-bo-TAH-gee”.

Bugs Bunny was receiving star billing by World War II, helping to make Warner Bros. the most profitable cartoon studio in America.   He appeared along with Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd in a 1942 US war bond commercial, going toe to toe with a group of Japanese soldiers in “Bunny Nips the Nips” in 1944.  The cartoon was later pulled due to the racially stereotypical manner in which it treated the Japanese.  Bugs went to “Joimany” to face off against Göring and Hitler in “Herr Meets Hare” in 1945, the first time he “musta made a wrong toin at Albaquoique”.

Bugs even showed up in rival studio Paramount Pictures’ “Jasper goes hunting”, once.  He popped out of his rabbit hole and said “What’s up Doc”, realizing his mistake only when he hears the orchestra play the wrong theme. “Hey, I’m in the wrong picture!” he says, and there he went, down the rabbit hole.Thats all folks

It was usually Porky Pig who brought Looney Tunes films to a close, with his trademark “Uh-b-dee, uh-b-dee, uh-b-dee, that’s all, folks!”, but Bugs replaced him at the end of “Hare Tonic” and “Baseball Bugs”.  He busted out of a drum, same as Porky, munching on a carrot and saying in that Brooklyn accent, “And that’s the end!”.

Bugs Bunny has appeared in more films, both short and feature length, than any other cartoon character in history.  He’s the ninth most portrayed film personality in the world.

Here ends this day’s Today in History.  Now, “shhh.  Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.  Huh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh”.

July 26, 1887 Esperanto

As of July 2016, Google Translate supports 103 languages and serves over 200 million people daily.    Esperanto became number 64 on February 22, 2012.

Leyzer Leyvi Zamenhov lived in the late 19th century in the Russian town of Białystok, in what is now part of Poland.

Zamenhov was part of the Yiddish speaking majority, living side by side with Poles, Belarusians, Russians, Germans, Lipka Tatars and others.  Relations between these groups was anything but harmonious, and Zamenhov became frustrated with the many quarrels that sprang up among the groups.

Primera_edición_de_esperantoAs the son of a German language teacher, Zamenhof was fluent in many languages, including Russian, German, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Yiddish and English.  He was reasonably proficient in Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian, as well. Zamenhof came to believe that poor relations between Białystok’s many minorities stemmed from the lack of a common language, so he set out to create an “auxiliary language” – an international second language that would help people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds communicate with one another.

Writing under the pseudonym “Doktoro Esperanto”, Zamenhov published the “Unua Libro” describing his new language on July 26, 1887.

His goal was to create an easily learned, politically neutral language transcending nationality, fostering peace and international understanding between people with different regional and/or national languages.

Esperanto alphabetThe Esperanto alphabet includes 28 letters. There are 23 consonants, 5 cardinal vowels, and 2 semivowels which combine with vowels to form 6 diphthongs. Esperanto words are derived by stringing together prefixes, roots, and suffixes. The process is regular, so that people can create new words as they speak and still be understood.

The original core vocabulary included 900 such roots, which are combined in a regular manner so that they might be better used by international speakers.

For example, the adjective “BONA” means “GOOD”. The suffix “UL” indicates a person having a given trait, and “O” designates the ending of a noun. Therefore, the Esperanto word “BONULO” translates as “A good person”.  The title of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 movie “The Godfather”, translates as “La Baptopatro”.  “Esperanto” itself translates as “one who hopes”.

Some useful English words and phrases along with their Esperanto translation and the International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions, include:

 ○ Do you speak Esperanto? Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton? [ˈtʃu vi pa.ˈro.las ˌes.pe.ˈran.ton]
 ○ Thank you. Dankon [ˈdan.kon]
 ○ You’re welcome. Ne dankinde [ˌne.dan.ˈkin.de]
 ○ One beer, please. Unu bieron, mi petas [ˈu.nu bi.ˈe.ron, mi ˈpe.tas]
 ○ Where is the toilet? Kie estas la necesejo? [ˈki.e ˈes.tas ˈla ˌne.tse.ˈse.jo]

As of July 2016, Google Translate supports 103 languages and serves over 200 million people daily.    Esperanto became number 64 on February 22, 2012.

July 25, 1944 V2

When Wernher von Braun showed Adolf Hitler the launch of the V2 on color film, Hitler jumped from his seat and shook Braun’s hand with excitement. “This is the decisive weapon of the war. Humanity will never be able to endure it,” Hitler exclaimed. “If I had this weapon in 1939 we would not be at war now.”

V-1_cutaway
V! “Doodlebug”

In the early years of WWII, Nazi Germany fired 10,000 V1″Doodlebug” rockets at England, killing over 6,000 Londoners by 1943. The subsonic V1 was an effective terror weapon, but the “low and slow” trajectory and short range of the weapon lacked the strategic power to end the war in the Nazi’s favor.

The V2 was different.  It was the dawn of the ballistic missile era, and Nazi Germany was first off the starting line.

The Peenemünde Aggregat A4 V2 was an early predecessor of the Cruise Missile, delivering a 2,148-pound payload over a 236 mile range at 5 times the speed of sound. You could hear the V1 “Buzz Bomb” coming and seek shelter.  Not so the V2.  Victims of the V2 didn’t know they were under attack until the weapon had exploded.

When Wernher von Braun showed Adolf Hitler color film of the launch of a V2, Hitler jumped from his seat and shook Braun’s hand with excitement. “This is the decisive weapon of the war. Humanity will never be able to endure it,” Der Fuhrer exclaimed. “If I had this weapon in 1939 we would not be at war now!”

V2 diagram
V2 Diagram

About that, Hitler may have been right.  The Allies were anxious to get their hands on one.  In early 1944, they had their chance. A V2 crashed onto a muddy bank of the River Bug, in Nazi occupied Poland. The Polish underground had been waiting for such a situation, and quickly descended on the rocket, covering it with brush. Desperate to retrieve the missile, the Germans conducted a week-long aerial and ground search, but failed find the weapon under its camouflage.

After the search came to an end, partisans returned to the site. This time they brought four Polish scientists who carefully disassembled the weapon, packing the pieces in barrels. The parts were then shipped to a barn in Holowczyce, just a few miles away.

The allied effort to retrieve the stolen missile, code named “Most III”, got underway on this day in 1944, when Royal New Zealand Air Force 1st Lieutenant Stanley George Culliford landed his Dakota C47 in the early morning darkness, at a secret air strip near Tarnow.

They loaded the rocket chassis and several technical experts on board, but it was too much weight.  The overloaded C47 couldn’t move on the wet, muddy field.  The port-side wheel was stuck fast in the mud.  Everything had to be offloaded, Polish partisans working desperately to free the aircraft as dawn approached. They stuffed the wheel track with straw, and then laid boards in the trench.  Nothing worked.V2 in flight

Co-pilot Kazimierz “Paddy” Szrajer thought the parking brake must be stuck, so they cut the hydraulic lines supplying the brake. That didn’t work, either. In the end, partisans were frantically digging trenches under the aircraft’s main wheel. There were two failed attempts to take off.  Culliford was considering blowing up the plane and burning all the evidence, but agreed to one last attempt. The aircraft lumbered off the ground on the third try. The headlights of Nazi vehicles could be seen in the darkness as the last of the Polish partisans scattered into the night.

There would be 5 hours of unarmed, unescorted flight over Nazi territory, and an emergency landing with no brakes, before the V2 rocket components finally made it to England.

Today, few remember their names.  We are left only to imagine a world in which Nazi Germany remained in sole possession, of the game changing weapons of World War Two.