All posts by Mark Taylor

Today is the feast of Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy)

Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)
Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and eye disorders and her feast day used to coincide with the Winter Solstice which is the day often celebrated as a festival of light in many places. Many stories and legends have become associated with her but research has failed to substantiate many of them. It is known she lived in Sicily early in the fourth century and was persecuted and executed for her faith. One story that is likely true is that she was denounced as a Christian by a suitor after she turned him down because of her faith. She faced torture and death for her beliefs. Because it is believed she was blinded during Roman torture, she is the patron saint of the blind.

Her feast day is celebrated in Scandinavian countries as a festival of light during the long winter night. A young girl in a white dress and red sash carries palms and wears a wreath of candles on head. Special rolls or cookies are made for the day and often handed out to the elderly. It is also celebrated in parts of Italy particularly in Sicily and in many places of the world today. There are many churches dedicated to her and the island of Santa Lucia in the Caribbean is named for her.

Further Information:

St. Lucy’s Feast Day: Celebrate with Lights and Sweets!

Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day-“A Date Which Will Live In Infamy”

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

On this date in 1941, Japan launched a carrier based strike on U.S. military forces based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Their strategy was to use this attack to convince the country and its leaders that war with Japan would be futile. They achieved tactical surprise as no warning of an attack had yet been received. While decryption of their codes had revealed their intent, the warning did not reach Pearl Harbor until after the attack had begun. The Japanese legation in Washington did not deliver their government’s official response to a recent diplomatic exchange until after the attack due to problems in transcribing the message. The attack began at 07:55 local time (12:55 p.m. eastern standard time). It was early afternoon when President Roosevelt was notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the attack. There was some doubt among some staff as to the validity of the report but President Roosevelt believed it. And subsequent reports would show it was true. Radio was soon reporting on it as well and the entire nation soon learned of the shocking event that had taken place in the faraway location.

The purpose of the attack was to seriously cripple the U.S. naval and air operations (both the Navy and Army Air Corps). The surprise was effective and sank or crippled numerous American ships. However the jewels of the fleet were the aircraft carriers and they were not there. And the Japanese had no idea where they were. After conducting the first two strikes, a third strike was considered to more completely wipe out the storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities. Captain Minoru Genda,who helped in the planning,argued for invasion to maximize American losses. Admiral Nagumo decided to retire because of deteriorating weather, the unknown location of the American carriers, the long turnaround time required for a third strike that would allow American forces to gather and counterattack, and the fact the Nagumo’s strike force was at the extreme limit of logistical support. They were low on fuel and another strike would require them to travel at reduced speeds to conserve fuel. So he headed home. Much later Admiral Yamamoto, who supported the decision at the time, would in retrospect say it was a mistake since it allowed the U.S. to come back quickly.

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)

Most of those who died at Pearl were sailors aboard the ships that were damaged or sunk. Of the 2,008 sailors killed, 1,177 were killed when the forward magazine on the USS Arizona exploded. Eighteen ships were sunk, beached, or run aground. 188 aircraft (mostly Army Air Corps) destroyed, 159 damaged. Most of the planes were destroyed on the ground. Only eight pilots got airborne and did attack Japanese aircraft but only one was shot down. Some pilots were killed or shot down later by friendly fire. Five inbound planes from USS Enterprise were shot down. The Navy lost 24 of its PBY planes. Additional casualties came from when Japanese attacked barracks. 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Since the U.S. was not at war, they are all classified as non-combatants. The Japanese lost 55 airmen, nine submariners and one captured. They lost 29 planes in battle and 74 were damaged by antiaircraft fire.

Most Americans were enjoying a pleasant Sunday. Secretary of State Cordell Hull met with the Japanese ambassador around 2:30 p.m., just when the first reports were coming in about the attack. Popular Sunday afternoon radio shows were interrupted with the stunning news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. From coast to coast, Americans were riveted to their radios listening to the latest updates. Lines of volunteers began forming outside military recruitment centers. The isolationist sentiment was ushered to the rear while most of the nation united against the Japanese. On 8 November before a joint session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signing Declaration of War Against Japan 8 Dec 1941
National Archives and Records Administration

And a hour later Congress officially declared war on Japan. Far from causing the U.S. to cower, it brought Americans together like never before. Hitler’s decision to join with Japan on 11 Dec was somewhat of a surprise-to his German High Command! They had not planned with war with the U.S. so soon and now they faced a two front war with an highly industrialized power against them. Mussolini foolishly committed Italy to the war with the U.S. as well. For Japan they had control of the Pacific until June 1942. That is when the U.S. Navy engaged the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. At the end of the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk to our one (the Yorktown). It was a shocking loss to the Japanese (and one they kept secret for as long as possible). The Doolittle Raid had convinced them to take on the American Navy directly. They did and lost spectacularly. And it shifted the balance of power in the Pacific. Admiral Yamamoto had been correct in his assessment of how the war with America would go:“I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years.”

Yamamoto would not survive the war. President Roosevelt ordered that he be taken care of for his part in planning the Pearl Harbor attack. Thanks to the work of U.S. Naval Intelligence that had broken Japanese codes (code named Magic), his travel plans to the South Pacific in April, 1943 were learned. Orders were given and select pilots were used to target a very important high officer but were not told who it was. On 18 April 1943, a squadron of Lockheed P-38’s were assigned to intercept and bring down his transport being escorted by Japanese zeroes. There were two Japanese transports. After a dogfight with the Zeroes and transports, the transport with Yamamoto’s plane crashed into the jungle north of Buin, Papua New Guinea. Japanese search parties found his body, thrown from the aircraft and under a tree. He had two .50 caliber bullet wounds, one in his left shoulder and the other that had exited through his right eye. The true manner of his death was hidden from the Japanese public and not revealed until long after the war had ended. He was cremated, given a state funeral, and given posthumous titles and awards. Today the place where his plane crashed is a tourist attraction.

For more information:
Home of Heroes
Pearl Harbor Remembered
The History Place
Pearl Harbor Attack(Naval Heritage & History Command)
Battleship USS Arizona History


Today is the Feast of St.Nicholas:The Real Santa Claus

St. Nicholas by Jaroslav Cermak (1831-1878)
Public Domain

St. Nick is often used as another name for Santa Claus but in truth Nicholas is the original. Born in the third century a.d., Nicholas became well known for his charity to children and others. He was imprisoned by the Romans and beaten. He never renounced his faith. Later when released when Constantine became emperor, he continued his life serving God and his faith. He lived to be a very old man dying on 6 December 343. Stories of his charity to children and others spread and long after his death people still revered him with churches built in his name. Stories of miracles attributed to him emerged as well.

The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches all have his feast day on their calendars (those using the Julian calendar celebrate it on 19  St_ NicholasDecember). The Roman Catholic Church did not strip him of being a saint. Until 1968, every saint had a feast day that had to be celebrated in every diocese. What they did was make certain feast days optional and allow each diocese to decide whether to celebrate it or not. St. Nicholas is an optional feast day so it is up to the diocese to decide.

Stories of a mythical gift giver (often from pagan beliefs like forest elves that leave presents for nice kids) became popular in many European countries and were imported to the U.S. Various aspects from German, Dutch, and English were blended to create the character–the commercial character–of Santa Claus. There is no connection between St. Nicholas and the modern day character that lives in the North Pole, has flying reindeer, and elves to make toys. Santa Claus is a purely secular and even by some standards a pagan creation with no connection to St.Nicholas or Christianity. Remember that when someone says Santa Claus ought to be banned because is based on a religious figure.

For further information about St.Nicholas, go to Saint Nicholas Center.

By the way, there is a resurgence in celebrating the feast day. Usually children get treats (in stockings or boots) and often kicks off the Christmas season.

So what do you think– Santa Claus or St. Nicholas?

Titanic Conspiracy Theories-History.com looks at the 3 Craziest

JP Morgan, 1917, Manhattan War Bond Parade
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress)

Anyone who has studied Titanic will eventually come upon a variety of conspiracy theories to explain what happened that fateful night in 1912. Becky Little over at History.com has put together the top three of the craziest in an article reviewing these theories. The top ones are:

1. JP Morgan planned the disaster to kill off Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus and Benjamin Guggenheim.

2. Titanic was switched with Olympic and never sank.

3. A Mummy’s curse doomed the Titanic

I had not heard of the first one but it connects to the one concerning the Illuminati and Jesuits conspiring to bring about the Titanic disaster. The Titanic switch theory keeps getting dusted off every decade or so but easily disproved since the wreck found clearly is of Titanic and not Olympic. As for the mummy curse, well it is pretty much debunked now but it too occasionally gets new life on the Internet as well. I pretty much stick with the theory that Marvin the Martian was testing out his new ray weapon at the time.

Source: The Craziest Titanic Conspiracy Theories, Explained (History.com,28 Nov 2018)

Survives Titanic But Is On Another Ship Disaster plus Titanic VR Coming Soon

RMS Empress of Ireland 1908
Photo:Public Domain (Library and Archives Canada / PA-116389)

1. First Titanic, then Empress: an Irish Man’s Lucky Escapes
There are those that survive not one but two major disasters in their lifetime. Such is the case with William Clark of Greenore, County Louth, Ireland. He was reportedly in the Boer War. In 1912 he signed on as a fireman on Titanic and listed Southampton as his home. He was one of the few fireman to survive Titanic and was in lifeboat 15.

How he escaped he does not know. He was caught in the swirl of waters as the vessel plunged down – dragged down into the ocean depths with the crippled leviathan as she sank to her last resting place. Even then his abnormal luck did not desert him. He never thought to come up again, but the force of the boiler explosion lifted him and rushed him up to the surface. He struck out vigorously; was pulled aboard one of the boats, and came home to tell the tale.

Then in 1914 he was a fireman on Empress of Ireland when tragedy would strike there as well. On 29 May 1914, the ship collided with the Norwegian coal freighter Storstad in the Saint Louis River at Pointe-au-Père, Quebec. Unlike Titanic which took over two hours to sink, Empress of Ireland would sink quickly resulting in over 1,000 deaths. Clark escaped but his description shows how harrowing it was:

His lifeboat station was No. 5, and somehow or other he got there, but he cannot remember how she was launched. His mind is a blank concerning some of those awful moments spent on the canting decks of the doomed liner. They had to crawl on hands and knees on the sloping hull in order to get the boat clear, and then their best chance of escape was to plunge into the water in the hope of being able to scramble aboard. Clark was drawn under several times before he got into the boat, and afterwards, he said, they were able to pull about sixty men into her.

Clark would remark later that if there was any luck in the sea, he had it all. He surely did to survive two major ship disasters and live to tell the tale.
Sources:
1. First Titanic, then Empress: an Irish Man’s Lucky Escapes (Irish Times,27 Nov 18)
2. WILLIAM CLARK : FLIRTING WITH DEATH(Encyclopedia Titanica)

2.Irish firm’s virtual reality Titanic trip to launch on PlayStation (Irish Times, 15 Nov 2018)
Irish firm VR Education’s virtual reality trip on the Titanic is set for launch on Sony’s PlayStation later this month. Titanic VR puts players aboard the doomed vessel the night it hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912. It will be available from November 22nd. The Titanic experience has already been launched on PC, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality. But the company said it expects the PlayStation VR version to drive sales, replicating the experience of its Apollo 11 VR showcase.

Here They Come! Black Friday (US)

Black Friday Shopping Photo: Public Domain
Black Friday Shopping
Photo: Public Domain

Today is called Black Friday or as it used to be known, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is not an official public holiday though many government employees and a select number of private companies do take the day off. Schools are generally out as well so a lot of kids from grade school to college have the day off. The day after Thanksgiving has been a major retail event for decades. And the term “Black Friday” likely came from such overwhelming numbers of people and vehicles filling the streets, sidewalks, and malls on this particular day.

Until fairly recently most retail stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day. Only a limited number of stores, often grocery and 24 hour restaurant or retail operations, would be open. Usually stores would open around 6:00am the next day but a few years ago some big retailers like Target started opening up at first late at night but now open at 6 pm. It has not been without controversy as workers get a limited Thanksgiving with their families. Most retailers if they are wise will pay extra for the inconvenience but they are not required to. Federal law does not mandate extra pay if you work on a holiday or on weekends. Overtime pay for most non-exempt (meaning hourly workers)is only legally required once you exceed 40 hours,

The sheer masses of people trying to get into stores or malls creates hazardous situations. People being stomped on or worse have occurred. Criminals like to take advantage of the situation to rob shoppers, stores, or break into cars. It bears remembering that if you leave anything visible in the car such as backpacks, bags, GPS devices and mobile phones that it may trigger a smash and grab. This has become quite an problem in San Francisco when tourists leave such gadgets plainly visible in their car.

Black Friday is often used to measure consumer spending for the upcoming Christmas season. Merchants use the data from the sales made to forecast what the projected seasonal earnings will be. If modest or low, it tells them the rest of the season will be lackluster unless they step up their marketing. If sales are booming, then retailers are looking forward to a prosperous Christmas season.

Of course if you want to avoid the whole Black Friday mess and have access to the internet, you can shop from the comfort of your home. Why stand outside a store for hours when you can order the very product you want, often with the same discount, when you can do it at home? That is something likely to get stronger if the present trends hold up which is why there is now a Cyber Monday.