Happy Thanksgiving

Home To Thanksgiving, Currier & Ives, 1867
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id# pga 00780)

Thanksgiving was not an official national holiday until 1863. A letter from a 74-year magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, inspired President Abraham Lincoln to create a national holiday. She wrote in 1863 that we needed to have a national day of Thanksgiving so that everyone could celebrate it on the same day. At the time Thanksgiving was celebrated by the various states but not on the same date. She wanted President Lincoln to make it a national day so it would become a permanent part of “American custom and institution.”

According to Abraham Lincoln Online , other presidents had ignored such requests. Lincoln decided to act on her request and directed a proclamation be drawn up. On 3 October 1863, President Lincoln’s proclamation that establishes Thanksgiving as a national day was issued. It sets aside the last Thursday of November as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Secretary of State William Seward actually drafted the proclamation which Lincoln signed. Thanksgiving became a national holiday and was celebrated on that date until 1939. President Roosevelt in 1939, 1940 and 1941 changed it to the third Thursday (to extend the Christmas season) causing considerable controversy. A joint resolution of Congress in 1941 resolved it by decreeing Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

Lincoln’s proclamation was written during the American Civil War, a terrible time in U.S. history. Today we forget why this day was made a national holiday. It was to thank God for the blessings of liberty but also to ask his help. In our politically correct times, this proclamation is not always read in full or edited. So here is the original proclamation. Read it and understand why Lincoln thought a national day of Thanksgiving was needed for the United States of America.


Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
A. Lincoln

 Victorian Traditions/Shutterstock.com

Remembering Britannic

HMHS Britannic seen during World War I.
Image:public domain

On 21 November 1916, HMHS Britannic was sunk by mine near the island of Kea in the Aegean Sea. The ship sank in 55 minutes and 1,035 people were rescued, only 30 perished. Britannic was the third and last ship of the Olympic class liners built by White Star Line. The other two were Olympic and Titanic. Britannic was launched in February 1914. Many design changes were made prior to launch due to lessons learned from Titanic. Those changes were:

  • Double hull along the engine and boiler rooms raising six of the watertight bulkheads up to B deck.
  • More powerful turbine installed due to increase in hull width.
  • Watertight compartments were enhanced so that the ship can stay afloat with six compartments flooded.
  • Motorized davits to launch six lifeboats (only five out of eight were installed before war service). Manual operated davits were used for the remaining lifeboats. The new design also allowed all lifeboats to be launched even if the ship was listing. There were 55 lifeboats with capacity for 75 each so that 3,600 people could be carried.

When World War I broke out, the ship had to be retrofitted as a hospital ship. Most of the furnishings were stored in a warehouse to be placed back aboard after the war. The Britannic began service as a hospital ship on 12 December 1915. She was sent to the Aegean Sea to bring back sick and wounded soldiers. Her first tour of service was ended on 6 June 1916 and she was sent back to Belfast to be refitted back as a passenger liner. As this was underway, the ship was again recalled to military service on 26 August 1916 and was sent back to the Mediterranean Sea.

On the morning of 21 November 1916, the Britannic under the command of Captain Alfred Barnett was steaming into the Kea Channel when at 8:12 am a loud explosion shook the ship. The explosion, unknown at the time whether it was a torpedo or mine, damaged the first four watertight compartments and rapidly filled with water. Water was also flowing into the boiler room. Captain Bartlett ordered the watertight doors closed, sent a distress call, and ordered the lifeboats be prepared. Unfortunately, while they could send messages, damage to the antenna wires meant they could not hear the responses back from ships responding to their SOS.  Britannic was reaching her flooding limit and open portholes (opened by nurses to ventilate wards) were bringing more water in as well.

As the ship was still moving, Bartlett did not order lifeboats be lowered but two lifeboats were lowered anyway. They were sucked into the ships propellor and torn to bits killing everyone in those two lifeboats. Bartlett ordered the ship stopped to assess the damage. The ship was listing so badly that the gantry davits were inoperable. Thinking the sinking had slowed, he ordered the engines back on to try and beach the ship. The flooding increased as more water was coming in aided by the open portholes the nurses had opened to air out their wards early in the morning. Bartlett ordered the engines stopped and to abandon ship. She would sink at 9:07 am, 55 minutes after the explosion. Thankfully the water temperature was high (70 F), they had more lifeboats than Titanic, and rescue came less than two hours. Nearby fisherman were able to help and at 10:00 am, the HMS Scourge arrived and later the HMS Heroic and later the HMS Foxhound.

1,035 survived. Of the 30 lost, only five were buried as their bodies were not recovered. Memorials in Thessaloniki and London honor those lives lost. Survivors were housed on the warships and the nurses and officers were put into hotels. Most survivors were sent home, and some arrived in time for Christmas. Speculation about whether it was a torpedo or a mine was resolved when it was learned that a German submarine (SM U-73) had planted mines in the Kea Channel in October 1916. The loss of two Olympic class ships was a major blow to White Star Line. They would get, as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, the German ocean liner Bismarck (renamed Majestic), which replaced Britannic. They also got Columbus which was named Homeric.

Britannic has been largely forgotten except when news of expeditions were made to the wreck site over the years. The wreck itself was bought by noted author Simon Mills, who has written two books on the ship. An expedition in September 2003 located by sonar mine anchors confirming German records of U-73 that Britannic was sunk by a single mine. The expedition found several watertight doors open making it likely the mine strike was during a watch change on the ship. One notable survivor was Violet Jessop. She had been on Olympic as stewardess when it collided with the HMS Hawke, aboard Titanic in the same capacity when it sank, and then aboard Britannic as a stewardess with the Red Cross.

Sources:
Britannica
Thoughtco.com
Wikipedia

,

Nuremberg Trials Started Today in 1945

Nuremberg Trials. Defendants in their dock, circa 1945-1946.
(in front row, from left to right): Hermann Göring, Rudolf Heß, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel
(in second row, from left to right): Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel)
Public Domain (Wikipedia)

In the aftermath of World War II, there was debate about how to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and especially the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels were already dead by suicide. Churchill had the simplest approach of wanting to simply execute them but it was decided that tribunal would be a better method. The tribunal would reveal to the world the extent of the crimes upon humanity the persons were responsible for.

The concept of an international tribunal was novel and had never been done before. Then again, no nation had before committed to full scale extermination of whole peoples as the Nazi’s had tried to do. An international tribunal composed of representatives from Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States was formed. Defendants faced charges that varied from war crimes to crimes against humanity. Twenty- four were indicted along with six Nazi organizations such as the Gestapo that were also determined to be criminal. One was declared medically unfit to stand trial and another committed suicide before the trial began.

Each defendant was allowed to choose their own lawyers. They all pled not guilty and either argued that the crimes they committed were declared crimes after the London Charter (meaning ex post facto) or that they were applying harsh standards as they were the victors. The trials would last under October 1946 when verdicts were handed down. Twelve were sentenced to death and others got prison terms. Hermann Goering committed suicide the night before he was to be executed.

Sources:


Titanic News: Titanic Inquiry and Museum to Buy Titanic Era Steamship

 

Sketch of J. Bruce Ismay giving testimony before U.S. Senate Titanic inquiry.
Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Did the Official 1912 Titanic Investigations Go Far Enough? (History.com 18 Nov 2020)

Fortunately, for the sake of history, government officials in both the United States and Great Britain moved aggressively to find out what had happened and why. Their inquiries, beginning on April 19 and May 2 respectively, put on record much of what the world now knows about the disaster—that the ship was traveling too fast for the icy conditions, that its design made it more vulnerable to sinking than anyone realized, that it was carrying far too few lifeboats for the people onboard and much more.

Kingston’s Marine Museum In Talks To Acquire Titanic-Era Steamship (Global News, 18 Nov 2020)

Kingston’s Marine Museum of the Great Lakes is charting a new course for the future with an ambitious fundraising campaign and a Titanic-era steamship in its sights. Chris West, chair of the museum’s board of directors, revealed to Global News for the first time that the museum is in “very close talks” to acquire the more than century-old SS Keewatin, an Edwardian passenger steamship, to become its flagship exhibit.


Remembering History: The Gettysburg Address

Photo: Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id# cph.3a53289)

On 19 November 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered what would be the most memorable speech given by a president in U.S. history. He was attending the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery (now called Gettysburg National Cemetery) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Four and a half months prior the Battle of Gettysburg had taken place resulting in a major victory for the Union armies. The casualties to both sides were considerable. It also had the highest number of Confederate and Union generals who died in battle as well.

Edward Everett, the best orator of the time, delivered a two hour speech preceding Lincoln’s. When Lincoln spoke, it was only for a few minutes. His speech was only 271 words long after the long speech of Everett’s, so it could have been easily forgotten. People attending gave different accounts of how it was received. Some said a dignified silence, others polite applause. Edward Everett thought it was well done and said so to Lincoln in a letter. Once the text got out to the general public, Democrat leaning newspapers derided it while Republican ones praised. The Times of London thought it a ludicrous speech.

Yet this speech would become famous. It would become oft quoted and praised by many as time went on. Far from being ludicrous, as the Times of London thought it was, it became a standard for other orators to try and emulate. And his eloquent words: “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth,” are still stirring to this day.

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
19 November 1863

Sources:
Abraham Lincoln Online
Britannica
Wikipedia


Update: Pastor Harper Letter Auctioned Off

Reverend John Harper
Source: Wikipedia (via Encyclopedia-titanica.org)
Public Domain

The Irish Post reported that the Pastor Harper letter, penned before the ship left Cobh, was auctioned off for $55,803 (£42,000) by Henry Aldridge & Son. The name of the person who won was not revealed. The contents of the letter are as follows:

My Dear Brother Young,

I am penning you this line just before we get to Queenstown to assure you that I have not forgotten you and especially all your kindness while we were north.

I intended sending on Mrs Pratt’s train fares just before I left but in the rush, which was exceptional having had 11 or 12 services for the week-end, I was unable to get it done.

I will send it on from Chicago. We had a great season of blessing during the last few days in Walworth.

I don’t know how I am to thank dear Aunty Mary and yourself for all your kindness. The Lord will repay you for it all. Trust things are going well at Paisley Road. The warriors are with me here and are doing well so far on the journey.

Very kindest love, your loving auld Pastor, John Harper.

Source:

Titanic Letter From Hero Pastor Who Sacrificed His Life To Save Others Sells For £42,000 (17 Nov 2020. Irish Post)


The Heidi Debacle

Program cover from the 11/17/68 game between the Jets and Raiders.
Public Domain (published without copyright notice).

On 17 November 1968 the New York Jets were playing against the Raiders in their hometown of Oakland. With just 1:05 minutes left in the game, the Jets had the lead 32-29. Due to a lot of incompletions, penalties and other things, the game was going to exceed the three hour timeslot that NBC had set aside for the game. With 65 seconds to go, fans eagerly awaited the outcome of the game. The two teams were considered the most powerful of the American Football League and people were anxious for the outcome. And it would not disappoint with two touchdowns by Oakland to win the game. An exciting moment except for one thing: the tv audience never saw it.

Just as people were ready to see the end at 7 pm eastern, NBC switched to a heavily promoted movie Heidi. Timex had purchased the advertising rights for the entire time slot and so many were expecting it to start around that time. In fact, they got calls from worried parents about Heidi and when it would start once the game was over. For the football fans, it was an outrage. Instead of seeing the end of a great game, you got the story of Heidi. You can guess what happened next. NBC was flooded with calls from football fans complaining about what the network did.

NBC had thought going into that weekend the game would be over at three hours and there would be no conflict. Dick Cline was the supervisor at Broadcast Operations in New York at the time. He had been told beforehand to start Heidi at 7 pm no matter what. As the appointed time approached, he got no call to delay and keep showing the game. It would turn out later that NBC executives did make a decision to stay with the game. Just one problem though-they could not get through to him since all the phone lines to NBC was overwhelmed with calls. Those calls, before the game ended, were from parents concerned Heidi would not start on time. Then when Heidi came on, angry football fans called. The switchboard became overloaded and no one could get through for quite a while. Cline would not be fired or suffer from it but got a lot of ribbing over it (and plenty of jokes about broken Timex watches).

Needless to say, it created an important rule for broadcasting live football games: Never leave a pro football game again in a participating team’s market until the clock hits zero for. That is why today they will pull away only for timeouts, halftime, and other things where the clock will be stopped for a short time. The NFL would put into the contract that networks had to show games to completion in the road team’s television market. Other sports leagues would follow that as well in their own contracts with networks.

And, of course, it would become forever known as the Heidi Debacle that is still talked about today by football fans. You can also guess that behind the scenes there were some uncomfortable conversations between network executives, the football league, and probably a few politicians as well.

Sources:
TV viewers become outraged as football game is cut off to air “Heidi” (History.com)
Heidi Bowl: It’s been 50 years since Jets-Raiders TV debacle (Newsday)
Heidi Game (Wikipedia)

Remembering History: Himmler Orders Roma To Concentration Camps

Heinrich Himmler, 1942
German Federal Archives (via Wikimedia Commons)

On 15 November 1943, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler made public an order that Roma (also called Romani) people were to be treated the same as Jews and sent to concentration camps. When the Nazi’s came to power in 1933, they focused on German Jews. The Nuremberg Laws of 14 November 1935 did not mention Roma. At the time there were an estimated 26,000 Roma in Germany.

A month later though they were defined as aliens and enemies of the people. The result of this was to put Roma into special camps starting in 1936 and to classify them under Nazi racial policies. Roma fell into two broad categories: inferior and asocial. Some Roma had Aryan blood while others had mixed blood under these doctrines.

Like Jews they were stripped of their citizenship. Until the deportation to concentration camps, they were kept in municipal internment camps usually outside of cities. Disagreement within the Nazi’s on how to deal with Roma was an issue. Some wanted deportation of all Roma to concentration camps. Himmler wanted to keep those with Aryan blood. However he decided in 1943 to begin deportations of Roma to concentration camps like Dachau and Auschwitz where they would be killed.

There are differing numbers on how many Roma were killed by Nazi Germany (and its puppet states or allies). It is believed to be between 220,000-277,000 of the approximate 700,000 Roman in Europe. The US Holocaust Memorial Center believes it between 220,000-500,000. Like the Jews, Roma were subjected to medical experimentation  such as by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele of Auschwitz. Those experiments included putting people in pressure chambers, freezing them, changing eye color, and other brutal surgeries.

Aftermath

Sadly the persecution of the Roma was not recognized after the war ended. However as it became more widely known, recognition has started being made and comparing the Roma Genocide to the Shoah experienced by the Jews. In 1982 West Germany officially recognized it but prior to that memorial had been erected in the Polish village Szczurowa to commemorating the massacre that took place there. A Gypsy Caravan Memorial also travels between the main remembrance sights in Poland as well. In 2007 Romanian President Traian Basescu publicly apologized for his nations role in the Roma Genocide. He also ordered it be taught in schools as well. Other commemorations have taken place as well.

Sources:
The Persecution of the Romani by the Nazis (Jstor Daily)
Persecution of Roma (Gypsies) in Prewar Germany, 1933–1939 (Holocaust Encyclopedia)
Romani Genocide (Wikipedia)

,,

For your Friday: Chris de Burgh

Chris de Burgh has had a successful musical career with hits like “Lady in Red.” His 1982 album The Getaway featured a song that became classic called “Don’t Pay the Ferryman.” That same album had many other great songs such as this one-“Where Peaceful Waters Flow.” As we close out Friday, this seems like a nice song to bring the week to a close. Enjoy.

,