rafer johnson - equatorial guinea stamp - Lefteris Papaulakis - Shutterstock - Feature a

This Day in History – August 18th – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


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.




1940 – “Hardest Day”.

More aircraft were lost on this day than any other day during the Battle of Britain. Germany, in their plan to invade England, needed to destroy the Royal Air Force. The Germans underestimated the strength of the RAF, believing it had only 300 serviceable planes while the actual number was almost three times that. Both high and low level bombers swooped in on British airfields, intending to destroy the planes on the ground. They were partially successful before British pilots scrambled to meet them. By the end of the day England had lost sixty-eight aircraft and Germany sixty-nine. Although a numerical standoff, England prevented Germany from achieving its goal of destroying the airfields. The Battle of Britain continued into September but August 18th was the hardest day.

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”


1976 – Korean Axe Murder Incident.

There was no clear demarcation line between North and South Korea at the time. An eight-hundred meter wide zone where soldiers from both sides sometimes mingled. The mingling included taunting, spitting, shoving and games of chicken. The American were instructed not to show fear and restricted from drawing their weapons unless their lives were threatened.

The incident began over a poplar tree. Its branches impeded a clear military view from the south and by a pre-arranged agreement, a group of South Korean enlisted men, led by two American officers, went to trim it. A North Korean force appeared and ordered them to stop, saying the tree was untouchable because it had been planted by the Great Leader, Kim II Sung. The order was ignored. With axes and knives the North Korean group attacked and killed the two American officers, Capt. Arthur Bonifas and Lt. Mark Barrett. It is believed Kim II Sung himself ordered the attack and analysis suggest it was as if he wanted to provoke war. President Gerald Ford responded with Operation Paul Bunyan, a mighty show of combined military force by America and South Korea. It worked, North Korea backed down.

Then the issue was a poplar tree, now it’s launching missiles. Not to worry though, with our deference to, and admiration of, the new Great Leader, there is no such thing as a provocation.


2000 – Federal jury rules in favor of Environmental Protection Agency whistleblower Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.

The EPA was found guilty of violating her civil rights regarding sex and race and also creating a hostile work environment. She had earlier exposed a mining company that was harming the environment and was first ignored, and then retaliated against, by the agency. The No Fear Act of 2002, which protects employees, was a result of her actions.

If Coleman-Adebayo endured a hostile workplace at the EPA in 2000, it’s a good thing she’s not around for the current dismantling of that agency.



1930 – Liviu Librescu.

Romanian-American scientist and engineer. As a child, along with his Jewish family, Librescu was deported to a concentration camp in Romania during WWII. A Holocaust survivor, he studied aerospace engineering under the communist system after the war. His career as a scientist stalled however because of his refusal to swear allegiance to the Communist Party. After years of delay his request to emigrate to Israel was finally allowed. He was a professor at a university in Israel from 1978 to 1986 before he came to the United States to teach at Virginia Tech. He was teaching there on April 16th, 2007, when a gunman opened fire. Thirty-two people were murdered, including Professor Librescu. He held the door to his classroom shut, allowing all of his students to escape except one, before he was killed.

What cruel irony. To escape the insanity of Hitler’s evil only to fall victim to America’s well-funded and insistent madness.


1935 – Rafer Johnson.

Olympic gold medal winner. Johnson competed in the decathlon and had won the silver medal in the 1956 Olympics. He was the co-favorite in the 1960 Olympics, along with C.K. Yang of Taiwan. They both went to UCLA, trained together, and were friends. They went into the final event, the 1,500 meter run, nearly tied. Yang was a stronger distance runner but that day Johnson ran the best 1,500 of his life and garnered enough points to win the gold. At the end of the race both men were so exhausted they could barely stand and hung onto one another for support.

When I was a kid weekly magazines ruled the print media. Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post and more. Great photographs and great stories. I remember one of them, Life or Look, featured a story about Rafer Johnson. It included photos of him and Yang training together for the Olympics. An African-American man and an Asian man friends. The article and photos had a profound effect on me at the time.

There was more to Johnson than just being an athlete. He was active in Robert Kennedy’s campaign for president, he promoted the Special Olympics in Southern California, and he was also friends with Kirk Douglas who got him a role in the movie “Spartacus.” He had to turn it down however because it jeopardized his amateur standings for the Olympics. That role eventually went to Woody Strode.


1943 – Martin Mull.

Actor and musician. As a musician Mull performed satirical songs and opened for such acts as Randy Newman, Frank Zappa and Billy Joel. His first and most notable acting rolls were in “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and its spinoff, “Fernwood 2 Night.” Mull is also a painter and has had solo exhibits.

I don’t know if they would hold up if I saw any episodes of “Fernwood 2 Night” again, but at the time I thought they were hilarious.



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.



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








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

*  Lead-In Image – Rafer Johnson (stamp) – Lefteris Papaulakis / Shutterstock.com – “EQUATORIAL GUINEA – CIRCA 1972: A stamp printed in Equatorial Guinea from the “Olympic Games, Munich” issue shows Rafer Lewis Johnson and Statue Of Bavaria.”

rafer johnson - equatorial guinea stamp - Lefteris Papaulakis - Shutterstock - Embed

* 1960 Decathlon (video) – 805Bruin / Youtube.com

* Fernwood 2 Night (video) – LONGLIVEROCKTHEWHO / Youtube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com



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