This Day in History – March 7 – 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.




1814 – Battle of Craonne.

This was a battle that took place between France’s Napoleonic army and the allied armies of Russia and Prussia. Napoleon had suffered an earlier defeat and been pushed back into France, and the battle was fought 56 miles northeast of Paris. His army decimated, Napoleon imposed new conscription laws. Many young men escaped into the forests and mountains to avoid this fate. Some of the new soldiers were called the Marie-Louise, after Napoleon’s second wife, because they were too young to be able to grow a beard. Given the condition of the army, most commanders would have gone into a defensive mode. Not Napoleon; he chose to attack. This is from describing Napoleon’s behavior: “It was typical of how all megalomaniacs behave, never admitting defeat no matter how many corpses they leave behind in their wake.” The battle raged all day and when it ended both sides claimed victory. The allies because with fewer men on the field of battle, they inflicted heavy casualties and managed to retreat with all their artillery and supplies intact. The French because they pushed the allies back. It was a bloody battle with the allies suffering 5,000 casualties and the French 8,000 including eight generals. 

And what did it prove, other than feeding the needs of the militarily-minded and leaving thousands of corpses in its wake?


1932 – Ford Hunger March.

It is also called the Ford Massacre. The Depression had left thousands of unemployed auto workers in the Detroit area. A hunger march was planned, starting in Detroit and ending at a Ford plant in Dearborn. The marchers, 3,000 to 5,000 strong, had a long list of demands for Henry Ford, including the right to unionize and an end to racial discrimination in hiring practices. One of the signs being carried read “Tax the Rich and Feed the Poor.” The day was cold and blustery as the marchers reached the Dearborn city limits and were met by police and Ford security guards. Tear gas was fired, marchers were hit with clubs, and then a police officer fired his gun into the crowd. The unarmed marchers responded by throwing stones. More gunfire ensued, including from Ford security guards, and five marchers were killed and twenty-two wounded. Twenty-five police officers were injured. The media sided with law enforcement and printed stories fabricated by the police on how the violence started. But Frank Murphy, the mayor of Detroit, called the head of Ford’s security forces “an inhumane brute” and Henry Ford a “terrible man.” The march did, however, ignite a movement that culminated nine years later when Henry Ford signed a collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers Union. Frank Murphy went on to become Governor of Michigan and later was appointed as a justice to the Supreme Court by President Franklin Roosevelt. 

Tax the Rich and Feed the Poor. I mean, really, there must be a law against that kind of thinking, right?


1945 – Bridge at Remagen.

The German Army was in retreat, the Allies in pursuit. However, Germany still had a main line of defense in the Rhine River and they were in the process of destroying all the bridges crossing the river. The river averaged 1,300 feet wide, deep with a swift current, leaving the Allies only dangerous amphibious crossings to continue their advance. Fifteen miles south of Bonn was the town of Remagen and on the morning of the 7th, advancing American forces were amazed to see the bridge still standing. The German commander was trying to save as many of his troops as possible before blowing it. Tanks and infantry were ordered forward where they encountered heavy resistance in the town. After the last Germans crossed they blew the west end of the bridge, not destroying it, but making it impassable for tanks. A second charge failed to detonate and a third one, in the center of the bridge seemed to lift the bridge off its foundation, but it settled back in place intact. American Lt. Karl Timmerman, who happened to have been born in Frankfurt, Germany, led his men across the bridge. Sergeant Alexander Drabik was credited as the first Allied soldier to set foot on the east bank of the Rhine. The bridge did collapse ten days later, but not before thousands of troops and vehicles had already poured across, hastening the collapse of Nazi Germany.

Historians will never run out of dramatic stories about World War Two.



1866 – Paul Ernst.

German writer. Ernst was in turn a theologian, Marxist, anti-Marxist, philosopher and writer of essays, short stories and novels. He wrote a novel titled “The Narrow Road to Happiness.”

Nice title. I couldn’t find much on the man but I included him because of his last name. My mother’s maiden name was Ernst. Maybe there is some ancestral connection and that’s where my writing genes originate.


1925 – Rene Gagnon, Sr.

Flag raiser on Iwo Jima. At least that’s what everybody thought for many years. Advances in technology have revealed Gagnon was not one of the flag raisers. The actual identity of the men has been in doubt and questioned for years. Gagnon had a significant role in the event; he just wasn’t in the photo. There were two flag raisings on Mount Suribachi, one with a small flag, and then a second with a large one that produced the iconic photo. Gagnon was a runner and he brought the first flag down from the mountain to preserve it and returned carrying the second and larger flag. The photo was an instant sensation and the Marine Corps ordered the three surviving flag raisers back to the states for a bond tour to raise money for the war effort. The other three flag raisers had already been killed in action. Gagnon was Hollywood handsome and perfect for a bond tour. His son, Rene Gagnon, Jr. believed his father was just being a good Marine, following orders and then in the following years could not say anything. A second flag raiser, Navy Corpsman John Bradley, was also misidentified. He had participated in the first flag raising and his son thinks his father always believed that’s when the photo was taken. These two men and the third, Native American Ira Hayes, were used and exploited through no fault of their own. Gagnon died of a heart attack at age 54 and Hayes of alcoholism as a young man. 

Anybody who was on that island more than did their duty. Now, years later, some feel the need to…what, question their integrity, their reputation? Maybe those revealing new information feel they are doing their duty, but I don’t see it.


1942 – Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner.

Evangelist. Born in International Falls, Minnesota, Messner and her first husband, Jim Bakker, co-founded the PTL Club on television. She stood out among mainstream evangelists with her glamorous clothes, elaborate makeup, and compassionate moral views. She supported both the LGBT community and AIDS sufferers during that epidemic. The couple lived an opulent lifestyle until their TV church collapsed when Jim Bakker went to prison on fraud and conspiracy charges. She remarried and for eleven years had a very public batter with cancer, appearing on the Larry King Show a number of times to discuss her disease, before dying in 2007.

I find those who get filthy rich by hypocritically passing on God’s word to be… oh, all kinds of profane adjectives come to mind, in addition to some saying about a camel and the eye of a needle. I have to say however, of all of them, Tammy Faye took a few steps back in my direction. 



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 (“Narrow Path”) – Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

* The Bridge at Remagen (video) – British Army Documentaries /

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