This Day in History – August 20th – 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.




Three military stories today from the frivolous to the heroic. 


1908 – Great White Fleet arrives in Sydney, Australia.

The U.S. fleet consisted of 16 battleships with their hulls painted white. It was sent on a worldwide peaceful cruise to spread goodwill and demonstrate America’s naval power. They sailed 45,000 miles in 14 months. When the fleet sailed into Sydney harbor, a crowd of 500,00 was there to greet it. Given that Sydney’s population was 600,000 at the time, it was an impressive display. The welcome was so warm that 221 U.S. sailors deserted their ships and stayed in Australia. 

Well, the stated intent of the cruise was to spread goodwill so you might say they were just doing their patriotic duty.


1940 – Famous speech by Winston Churchill.

In a speech to Parliament Churchill paid tribute to the pilots of the Royal Air Force by saying, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” This took place during the historic Battle of Britain when the undermanned RAF was battling against the onslaught of Hermann Goering’s Luftwaffe. Churchill received a prolonged cheer after he spoke that line.

Winnie always did have a way with words. 


2015 – West Point Academy pillow fight.

Contrived to build camaraderie among first year cadets, the event got out of hand and turned bloody. Pillow cases with hard objects placed inside were used, as well as elbows and fists, with cadets being knocked to the ground from behind. Upper class men cheered them on from their dorm windows. A broken nose, fractured cheekbone, and concussions were part of the thirty injuries reported. West Point officials have since suspended this annual event. 

Hard objects intentionally placed inside the cases for a pillow fight? If either sadism or masochoism is your thing the military would seem to have a place for you. 



1833 – Benjamin Harrison.

23rd president of the United States. Harrison came from a family committed to politics, being the grandson of the 9th president and great-grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He raised a regiment and served as a colonel during the Civil War. The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed while he was president, and Harrison helped create the national forest system. He also tried to pass legislation that would protect the civil and voting rights of African-Americans. Less enlightened on Native American issues, his policy was to push assimilation into white culture and the massacre at Wounded Knee took place on his watch. Six states were added to the Union, and Hawaii was annexed during his administration. Harrison is ranked in the lower half of American presidents.

Placing regulations on corporations and advocating for African-Americans, no wonder he has a low ranking. Joking aside, I’m not sure why he is ranked so low. Seems like he accomplished some significant things, and like most presidents, dropped the ball on others. 


1923 – Jim Reeves.

Country Western Hall of Fame singer. Reeves was one of the pioneers of the Nashville Sound, a smoother version of country music than the barroom honky-tonk style. He was said to have brought country music to urban areas, as well as overseas. He was one of the first country stars to tour in Europe, and he was a big hit in South Africa. At the height of his success he died in a crash of his private plane in 1964. His records continued to be released after his death and his wife, Mary, said, “Jim Reeves my husband is gone; Jim Reeves the artist lives on.” 

“He’ll Have to Go” is one of his best songs. As a teenager I worked on my uncle’s diary farm. At milking time we always had a radio playing in the barn, tuned to KDUZ, a country station. It competed with the rhythmic pumping sounds of the milking machines. Rock and roll had taken over the radio airwaves and I was frustrated at having to listen to country while I worked. My uncle, Fritz, said the cows didn’t like rock music, it made them nervous and they gave less milk. I couldn’t argue that country music, especially Jim Reeves, was more soothing. Although I preferred the more popular rock, those days did instill in me an appreciation for good country music. Cows are a peaceful, placid animal, and while it is not impossible, they seldom inflict injury. A cow can’t really be hurried into giving milk so the pace was even, not stressful, and the low music added to that effect. A note on my uncle. He was one of the more boisterous, exuberant men on the planet. He worked with a loud energy, some of the time at an actual run. However in the cow barn he slowed his pace, as I said, cows can’t be rushed. Uncle Fritz is long since passed but whenever I hear “He’ll Have to Go,” I’m taken back to his memory, a McLeod County diary farm, and those peaceful days of milking cows.


1935 – Ron Paul.

Politician. Paul was a House Representative from Texas and a three time presidential candidate, once as a Libertarian and twice as a Republican. Some of his positions included eliminating Social Security because he believed it was unconstitutional, wanting to sell Federal land to private parties, not believing that global warming threatened civilization, not believing access to health care is a right, opposition of government funding of medical research, and wanting to abolish the Food and Drug Administration. Stating that our military spending has grown way out of control, he wanted to close numerous military bases overseas. Paul also wanted to eliminate the VA, believing veterans should get private care. He also was for legalizing marijuana, and he voted against the war in Iraq.

That’s a partial list of Paul’s positions. I can find a few I could support but not most, like selling Yellowstone National Park to developers or eliminating the VA. I go to the VA and it is the best health care I’ve ever received. Rather than eliminating or privatizing it, I think the whole country should have a universal health care system modeled after it. 



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



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 – Gentleman Jim Reeves album (photo) – Sony Music Entertainment

* Churchill Speech (video) – JKAA /

* Benjamin Harrison (post-presidency recording) – SlickRickNixon /

* Jim Reeves (video) – manbehindthescreen /

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