battle road sign - american revolution - Joseph Sohm - Shutterstock

This Day in History – April 19 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… APRIL 19

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1775 – The Shot Heard Around the World.

On the morning of April 19th, at Lexington, Massachusetts, American Minutemen and British Redcoats faced off. No one knows which side fired the first shot, but it was, and still is, the shot heard around the world.

Too bad time travel as a spectator isn’t possible. I’d love to witness what took place that momentous day.

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1989 – Explosion aboard USS Iowa.

Gun turret #2 blew up aboard the WWII era battleship, killing 47 sailors. Under President Ronald Reagan, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman decided to restore the U.S. Navy to some of its former glory. Four old battleships, the USS Iowa among them, were brought out of the mothball fleet and refitted. There is some controversy over whether the gun turret was fully operational and the crew properly trained. The ship’s captain had earlier reassigned one million dollars designated for turret repairs to the ship’s power plant.

The ship was off the coast of Puerto Rico when during a training exercise to fire the sixteen inch guns, the turret exploded. And as is so often the case in the military and our government, the coverup immediately began. Instead of focusing on facts like the powder being used was left over from the Korean War forty years earlier, and was designed to be used with 1,900 pound shells, not the 2,700 pound shells being used in the exercise, the Navy instead sought to lay blame on a single fire control technician. It was suggested that he was a homosexual, unhappy in a failing relationship with another sailor, and had committed suicide, taking 46 shipmates with him. Efforts were made to prove this theory rather than investigating other possible causes. In fact, one of the surviving sailors being interviewed by investigators warned another witness to be careful because the admiral seemed to have an agenda. The result of the investigation was that it was an intentional act of suicidal sabotage.

These findings were challenged. A Congressional hearing cast more doubt on them. While the probable cause was either operational error from an ill-trained crew or mechanical/material failure, subsequent investigations were inconclusive. Finally acknowledging that the true cause will probably never be known, the Navy expressed its regret to the family of the sailor originally blamed.

There are so many things “off” in this incident I don’t know if I can cover them all. First, bringing the battleships out of mothballs. I had been in the Navy 25 years earlier, and even then it was known that the days of huge ships battling it out at sea were over. Battleships had been of marginal value even during the 2nd World War. But then as now, there’s no limit to defense spending, even when there is no value added. Defense contractors keep fattening their wallets, though, which is a powerful component of the formula.

Next, just as water runs downhill, blame in the military tends to go in the same direction. It’s certainly more convenient to go after someone in the enlisted ranks than ruin the career of an officer. Although a junior officer, if available, serves that purpose almost as well. And then adding homosexuality to the mix is like hitting an exacta. Cause and effect, bingo, with a political agenda served! Lastly, offering regret to the family of the falsely blamed sailor, rather than an apology.

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1995 – Oklahoma City bombing.

Anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh left a truck laden with explosives in front of a federal building. The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day care center, and injured 650 more. The attack was timed to coincide with the 2nd year anniversary of the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. McVeigh was captured, tried, and executed for his crime.

As horrible as this incident was, what would have been its impact if the bomber had been a terrorist from the Middle East? Or someone other than a white man?

Side note to this story. McVeigh was immediately in custody but there was a search for his accomplices. Polices sketches were released and one day in St. Paul, a police officer thought I bore a certain resemblance to John Doe #2. She pulled me over and cautiously approached my car from behind, hand on her gun butt. It was one of the few times in life I benefited from being small. John Doe #2 was described as being over six feet tall, while I come in south of five and a half feet. She explained why she had stopped me, and later I checked out the sketch. I could see the resemblance and for a while I was on edge, but I didn’t get stopped again.

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Birthdays:

1926 – Kim Bok-dong.

She was what was called a “comfort woman,” forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during WWII. From Wikipedia.org: “Her experiences evoked in her a feminist consciousness and led her to become a strong activist, advocating the end of war-time sexual violence, anti-imperialism, workers’ rights, and inter-Korean reconciliation.” She demanded from the Japanese government that they issue a state-level apology, reparations, and a correction of Japanese history.

Kim Bok-Dong died in January, 2019 at the age of ninety-two. Her last word was a swear word directed at the Japanese government.

Appropriately so.

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I am going to change directions and end this post on a both less depressing, and less important note.

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1960 – Frank Viola.

Professional baseball player. He pitched for the Minnesota Twins and the New York Mets. He was the winning pitcher for the Twins in the 7th game of the 1987 World Series. That victory set off a raucous celebration on the downtown streets of Minneapolis.

I was there, celebrating with thousands of other happy Minnesotans. Minnesota Twins theme today. See next entry.

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1983 – Joe Mauer.

Professional baseball player. Mauer played for the Minnesota Twins his entire fifteen-year major league career. He was selected as an All-Star six times, won three Gold Gloves and three batting titles, and was the league’s most valuable player in 2009. He is the only catcher to have won the batting title three times. If elected to the Hall of Fame, he would be the fourth player from the city of St. Paul, Minnesota to achieve that honor. The other three are Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and Dave Winfield.

Due to injuries that limited his career, I’m afraid Mauer’s numbers will not get him elected. I’ve watched him many times, and when he was healthy he played the game to near perfection.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers:

Sources:

Wikipedia.org

History.com

MLB.com

OnThisDay.com

WeAreTheMighty.com

We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image  – “The Battle Road” (Image) – Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com – “Sign for ‘The Battle Road’ for April 19, 1775 in historic Concord/Lexington area where US Revolutionary War started.”

* “Schoolhouse Rock!: America – The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” (Video) – Disney Educational Productions / YouTube.com

* Frank Viola (Broadcast) – MLB / YouTube.com

Joe Mauer (Video) – Made The Cut / YouTube.com

“Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon)” – Courtesy of SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

* December 5

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 15

December 16

December 18 

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 28

* December 30

* January 3

January 4

January 6

January 7

January 10

* January 11

* January 14

January 15

January 16

January 19

January 21

January 22

January 24

January 25

January 29

January 30

February 1

February 3 

February 5

February 6

* February 9

* February 10

* February 11

February 14

February 15

February 18

February 20

February 21

February 24

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 3

March 6

March 9

March 10

March 12

* March 14

March 16

March 17

March 19

March 20

March 21

March 23

March 26

March 27

March 29

March 31

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 7

April 11

* April 12

April 13

* April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 19

November 20

November 23

November 28

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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