hamilcar stamp - solodov aleksei - shutterstock - feature - thjs one

This Day in History – March 10 – 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.




241 BC – Battle of Aegates Islands.

This was the final naval battle between Carthage and the Roman Empire during the 1st Punic War. The two great powers had been fighting for control of Sicily and Corsica for over twenty years. Carthaginian forces were besieged on Sicily and a fleet was sent from North Africa to resupply them. A Roman fleet intercepted them. Carthage was a naval power while Rome’s strength was its army. However, Rome had devised a new tactic, a boarding device called the corvus. Up to that point naval battles consisted of oar-propelled boats ramming and sinking their counterparts. Carthage, with its bigger and more powerful ships, was usually successful. The corvus was a boarding bridge that dropped down from a Roman ship and attached itself to the opposing ship allowing marines and sailors to rush across and engage in hand-to-hand killing.

The Roman fleet was successful; Carthage sued for peace and was forced to give up its Mediterranean holdings. This wasn’t the end of it however, for two more Punic wars followed in the next century. The second involved Hannibal, elephants and the Alps, and the third resulted in a Roman victory after which Carthage ceased to exist.

I’m glad I wasn’t a sailor in the days when a corvus was being used. I was more comfortable in an era of weapons of mass destruction than in an era of weapons of individual destruction. Guess I would rather go out in a loud boom than at the point of a sharp object.


1783 – Last naval battle of the Revolutionary War.

The USS Alliance, captained by John Barry, was escorting another ship carrying a load of silver dollars from Havana to Philadelphia for the Continental Congress. Off the coast of Cape Canaveral they encountered two English ships. The Alliance, a thirty-two gun frigate, took the fight to the British and chased them off. The silver was safely delivered to Philadelphia. Ironically the battle took place five weeks after the Treaty of Paris had ended the war and America had gained its independence. Word traveled slowly in those days.

Don’t think I would have wanted to be a sailor in the days of sailing ships either. I’ve climbed part way up the rigging of a tall ship once, with a safety harness. Climbing to the top, in a storm…no way.


1945 – Firebombing of Tokyo.

It has been called the single most deadly air raid in history. The civilian death toll was higher than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Death toll estimates vary, but it is fairly certain that well over 100,000, most of them civilians, died in the raid. B-52s, carrying incendiary bombs, sortied from the Mariana Islands. The Air Force, understanding they were targeting civilian areas, told the aircrews that if they were hit, try to come down over water rather than land because they could expect no mercy from the Japanese populace. 243 American airmen lost their lives, losses the Air Force high command considered acceptable.

Sorry for the gruesome content of today’s post. History in general, and March 10th in particular, does seem to have a lot of that.



1897 – Robert Meier.

German soldier in both WWI and WWII. Meier was the last living German veteran of WWI when he died at age 109 in 2007. He fought in the trenches in the first war and was captured by the Russians and spent two years as a prisoner of war in the second. Meier said his time as a POW took a lot out of him and otherwise he would have been in even better shape. Married with two children Meier lost his wife in 1967 and lived on his own until age 108. In 2006 he had a touching meeting with England’s oldest WWI survivor, where the two former enemies of ninety years earlier shook hands and embraced.

Despite being on the wrong side of history twice, Meier comes off as being a decent, amiable man. Unlike many participants, he, at least on the surface, seemed to have left the killing fields behind. Almost on its own, a theme seems to be developing for today’s post. War, bloodshed, suffering, mass death. Yet those at the most base level, those doing the killing and dying are not the cause of this unhappiness. Those poor souls rowing the boats at Aegates Islands, those sailors who died in a battle that took place after the Revolutionary War was over, those tens of thousands of Japanese civilians and those “mere” 243 airmen in the firebombing of Tokyo are victims, and like Robert Meier, participants, but not makers of war. That role is reserved for those with the superior reasoning power to justify its need, someone somewhere safe, and not an active participant in war’s reality.

Read on for a continuation of this theme.


1918 – Günther Rall.

German WWII fighter pilot and air ace. Operating mostly on the Eastern Front, Rall shot down a total of 275 planes during the war. In just one month, October, 1943, he shot down 40 Russian planes. Rall survived the war and in the 1950s became part of the newly formed German Air Force as part of NATO. He was not a Nazi and claimed to know nothing of concentration camps or German atrocities. His wife, Hertha, whom he rarely saw during the war, had Jewish sympathies and helped smuggle Jews out of Nazi held territories.

I sometimes try to offer something funny or quirky; however, March 10th offered no such possibilities. The last entry of today’s post emphasizes that point.


1957 – Osama bin Laden.

Terrorist and founder of al-Qaeda. A product of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family, he abandoned college in 1979 to join the Mujahedeen fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. He was effective in procuring money and arms for the fighters there. Banished from Saudi Arabia, bin Laden was a stateless person when he declared war on the United States, culminating with the 9/11 attacks.

From Wikipedia: “A major component of bin Laden’s ideology was the concept that civilians from enemy countries, including women and children, were legitimate targets for jihadists to kill. Bin Laden’s overall strategy for achieving his goals against much larger enemies such as the Soviet Union and United States was to lure them into a long war of attrition in Muslim countries, attracting large numbers of jihadists who would never surrender. He believed this would lead to economic collapse of the enemy countries, by ‘bleeding’ them dry.”

Osama bin Laden was killed at a compound hideaway in Pakistan by a Navy Seal team on May 2nd, 2011.

He fits well into today’s theme of indiscriminate killing justified on political, nationalistic, or religious reasoning. At least we had Hertha Rall.



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 – Solodov Aleksei / Shutterstock.com – “ A postmark printed in Tunisia, shows Hamilcar Barca, coin (about 260-220 BC), circa 1967.”

From Wikipedia: “Hamilcar Barca or Barcas (c. 275–228 BC) was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of HannibalHasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair.

“Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily from 247 BC to 241 BC, during the latter stages of the First Punic War. He kept his army intact and led a successful guerrilla war against the Romans in Sicily. Hamilcar retired to Carthage after the peace treaty in 241 BC, following the defeat of Carthage. When the Mercenary War burst out in 240 BC, Hamilcar was recalled to command and was instrumental in concluding that conflict successfully. Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian expedition to Spain in 237 BC, and for eight years expanded the territory of Carthage in Spain before dying in battle in 228 BC. He may have been responsible for creating the strategy which his son Hannibal implemented in the Second Punic War to bring the Roman Republic close to defeat.”

hamilcar stamp - Solodov Aleksei - shutterstock - embed


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



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