This Day in History – September 7th – 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.




1776 – 1st submarine attack.

An American submersible, the Turtle, attempted to sink a British warship, the HMS Eagle. Designed by David Bushnell, the eight foot long wooden craft was piloted by Ezra Lee. Unnoticed by British seamen, Lee guided the Turtle underneath the 64 gun frigate where he tried to attach a mine. However, due to metal sheathing covering the wooden hull he was unable to drill holes and the attack failed. The mine floated away and later exploded harmlessly. Because the Turtle was difficult to pilot it was never a successful weapon, but it did signal the beginning of submarine warfare.

I was stationed aboard the USS Jason at the San Diego harbor. As a radioman I had clearance to handle classified information. One day, for reasons I don’t remember, I was ordered to hand deliver a pouch of secret information to another ship in the harbor, a submarine. I was told I had to deliver it personally to the captain of the sub. It was welcome relief, instead of being stuck in the radio shack, I got to stroll across the base on a sunny day, plus I kind of got to feel like a spy. I had read in the Bluejackets Manual that it was permissible to salute with the left hand if the right was otherwise occupied. So I amused myself by carrying the pouch in my right hand and saluting any officers I met with my left. I enjoyed their puzzled expressions.

I boarded the sub and informed the watch of my mission. Someone was assigned to lead me through the sub to the captain’s wardroom. This was an old diesel powered submarine, not a nuclear one. The spaces were much more crowded and cramped than ever shown in a movie. There were stacks of batteries everywhere. Meeting someone in a passageway, we both had to turn sideways to pass. A creeping claustrophobia made me happy I was on a surface ship. The captain and two other officers were in a wardroom that was so small they were almost touching as they sat. As the captain perused the information I gave him, the sub suddenly shuddered.

One of the other officers casually said, “Well, we’re underway. I guess you’re coming along.”

The look of alarm that crossed my face gave them great amusement. I was so relieved when I realized it was a joke I didn’t even mind being the butt. Chalk one up on the officers side of the ledger. Whatever it took for Ezra Lee to get in the Turtle, I do not possess it.


1972 – U.S. sprinters Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett controversial protest at summer Olympics.

After winning the Gold and Silver in the 400 meter sprint, the two African-Americans stood casually on the podium during the playing of the national anthem. One was barefoot, the other thoughtfully stroking his chin and they did not face the flag. As with Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 games, and currently Colin Kaepernick, their actions produced outrage. The United States Olympic Committee promptly banned them and they were not allowed to compete in the 4X400 meter relay. The rationale for their banning as stated by one committee member. “Well, they insulted the American flag.” Years later, Collett stated, “I love America. I just don’t think it’s lived up to its promise. I’m not anti-American at all. To suggest otherwise is to not understand the struggles of blacks in America at the time.”

The flag and all it stands for is so dear. The fact that what it stands for doesn’t apply equally to all segments of America can be overlooked. What can’t be overlooked is when that segment calls attention to that inequality through protest.


1980 – Oakland Athletics pitchers record 78th complete game.

For the season Oakland pitchers completed 94 games. In comparison, in 2018 all the major leagues teams combined had only 42 complete games. The Minnesota Twins do not have one complete game yet this year. Games also run almost an hour longer than they did in 1980.

I miss the baseball of old.



1860 – Anna Moses. AKA Grandma Moses.

Artist. A farm wife, Moses was interested in art her whole life. She satisfied her creative urge with embroidery until arthritis forced her to quit. She took up painting at age 78, at first using old house paint, scraps of canvas, and whatever other supplies she found lying about. Moses became a very successful artist, producing over 1,500 canvasses and gaining national acclaim. She lived to be 101.

Success after her 7th decade, hmmm, maybe there still is hope.


1923 – Peter Lawford.

Actor. British born, Lawford lived his entire adult life in the United States. Although born into an aristocratic existence, he was forced to struggle early in life. His family was traveling in the U.S. at the onset of WWII and their assets were frozen in England. Lawford, then 16, had been trained in the arts and dramatics as a child. He worked as a parking lot attendant, saving enough money to go to Hollywood where he was a theater usher until he started getting film roles. Although he had a successful career as an actor, he is just as well known for being JFK’s brother-in-law, and also as a member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

President Kennedy, traveling to California, was scheduled to stay at Sinatra’s house. Bobby Kennedy objected because of Sinatra’s reported connections to organized crime, and JFK stayed elsewhere. Sinatra, having made elaborate preparations, was enraged. He took it out on Lawford, thinking he should have done more to intercede on his behalf. The friendship ended and Lawford was out of the Rat Pack. After years of substance abuse, Lawford died in 1984 at age 61.

He was one of the first people to be famous for being famous.


1924 – Daniel Inouye.

United States Senator. Japanese-American, Inouye was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. After Americans of Japanese descent were allowed to join the military, he joined the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team as a 1st lieutenant. Fighting in Italy, he won the Medal of Honor, was severely wounded and lost his right arm. After the war he returned to Hawaii, went to college on the G.I. bill, received a law degree and entered politics. In 58 years he never lost an election.

During the Iran-Contra hearings in the 1980s, Inouye chaired the special committee investigating the covert operation. He criticized those involved, including Oliver North, by saying, “[There exists] a shadowy Government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself.” He stood for openness and honesty in government and understood that no one stood above the law.

Someone in government who respects the law? Always a novel concept in Washington and never more so than today.



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 (Grandma Moses stamp) – Oldrich / – “UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1969: post stamp printed in USA (US) shows painting July Fourth by Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses); American folklore; Scott 1370 A792 6c.”

grandma moses - us postage stamp - crica 1969 - oldrich - shutterstock

* Grandma Moses (video) – CBS Sunday Morning /

* Peter Lawford (video) – A&E, Biography & Marmar /

* Sen. Daniel Inouye (video) – PBS NewsHour /

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



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