Remembering History: Battle of Puebla Shows Mexicans Can Defeat a European Power (5 May 1862)

Battle of Puebla 5 May1862
1870
Located at Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones, Mexico
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On 5 May 1862 Mexican troops defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla. The victory, while not a major one for the French Mexican War of 1861-1867, was an important morale booster for Mexico.

Background

In 1861 Benito Juarez became president of Mexico. Mexico at time was facing a several financial crises. Mexico had taken out loans from British, French, and Spanish creditors. Due to the inability to pay the mounting debt, Juarez declared a 2-year moratorium on interest loan payments. This brought condemnation from Britain, France, and Spain due to this unilateral action. Both Britain and Spain would initially support French intervention in Mexico. Due to the American Civil War, the United States was unable to do anything.

A Spanish fleet sailed into the port of Veracruz on 14 December 1861 and took possession of it and later the city. French and British forces arrived on 7 January 1862. Spanish General Juan Prim issued a manifesto on 10 January to make it clear they had no come to conquer but to have negotiations with the Mexican government over their claims of damages. These claims were presented on 14 January 1862 to the government I Mexico City. After some back and forth over having the foreign forces leave Vera Cruz, it was decided to hold a conference in Orizaba. The agreement that was signed on 23 January formally recognized the Juarez government and Mexican sovereignty.

Talks broke down on 9 April 1862 as it became clear the French were interested in invading Mexico rather than resolving the debt issue. The British decided to not support the French and told Mexico of its intent to leave. This lead for an agreement between Mexico and the United Kingdom (and Spain as well) over the debt issue. The British and Spanish would leave. The Mexican government made it clear that if the French continued, it would lead to war. French Emperor Napoleon III (a nephew of the famous Napoleon) saw this as an opportunity to carve out an empire in Mexico.

As had happened in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, there were many Mexicans who sided with France. Napoleon III, like Napoleon, was seen as bringing much needed changes to their country. The French issued a proclamation on 16 April 1862 inviting Mexicans to join them in establishing a new government.  Mexican general Juan Almonte, who had served as foreign minister under the conservative government, was brought back by French and assured the Mexican people of the benevolent French intentions. The French thought the war would be brief and defeated small Mexico forces at Escamela and then capturing Orizaba. With 6,000 troops, French General de Lorencez reasonably believed he would easily defeat Mexican forces. Juarez had been forced into exile in late 1861when French troops had landed. Now operating out of the north, he assembled faithful soldiers and sent them to Puebla. General Almonte used the time to consolidate the Mexican pro French supporters and got some major cities to join him like Orizaba and Veracruz. Former officers of the Mexican Army, now aligned with France, joined as well.

Juarez had ordered the fortification of Puebla forcing the French forces trying and failing to capture the forts Loreto and Guadalupe situated on top of the hills overlooking the city of Puebla. Lorencez went up against a smaller force of Mexicans that comprised between 2,000-5,000 that managed to stave off the larger and more powerful French army. The French were better armed with long rifles that were better than the muskets the Mexicans had. Many French soldiers, thinking it was going to be nothing more than a quick fight, did not bother to get their weapons ready to go. The French started the morning with loud bugle cries and bayonet drills to intimidate the city. After a full day of warfare, which included three failed uphill attacks on the forts, Lorencez was forced to retreat to Orizaba. The victory was a huge morale booster for the smaller Mexican forces and Mexico in general. The battle was just one of many during the war, that would rage till 1867. But the day is celebrated in Mexico because a mouse had defeated a roaring lion called France.

Aftermath

French forces retreated and regrouped after the battle. When word of the defeat reached Napoleon III, he dismissed Lorencez and ordered more troops to Mexico. The French would win the second Battle of Puebla in 1863 and then capturing Mexico City forcing Juarez into retreat into more remote northern parts of Mexico. The Second Empire of Mexico would be proclaimed. Napoleon tapped the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian to be Emperor of Mexico. Supporters of the Mexican Republic would continue to wage war as guerilla bands much like those that had formed in Spain to fight the French who had invaded and conquered the country. The Empire of Mexico was recognized by the European powers but crucially not by the United States. Since it was embroiled in its war with the Confederates States of America, it did not formally oppose it.

Once the war was over though, U.S. policy changed significantly by recognizing the government of Benito Juarez as legitimate over that of the Empire of Mexico. Napoleon III had thought America would come out weak in the end, but instead the North won the war, and the union was restored. This left Napoleon III with a significant problem. While the U.S. was not aiding Juarez directly (though it was indirectly), it was made very clear that the Empire of Mexico was not welcome, and that France should get out. Not wanting to face war with the United States, he began withdrawing troops in 1866. Maximillian had limited support and while liberal on many causes, he did not have the widespread support he needed to stay in power. As French troops began to depart, he declined to abdicate and leave with the French. He was captured with two of his generals by Republican forces and executed by firing squad on 19 June 1867. The short-lived Empire of Mexico was at an end.

Sources:

—. “Battle of Puebla | Mexican Victory, Cinco De Mayo, Zaragoza.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Apr. 2024, www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Puebla.\

—. “Outnumbered Mexican Army Defeats French at Battle of Puebla.” HISTORY, 4 May 2024, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/cinco-de-mayo.

“Napoleon III.” Biography, 22 Feb. 2024, www.biography.com/political-figures/napoleon-iii.

—. “Battle of Puebla.” Wikipedia, 5 May 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Puebla.

—. Second Mexican Empire – Wikipedia. 5 May 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Mexican_Empire.

Forgotten History: U.S. Starts Building Panama Canal (4 May 1905)

View from a unidentified sailing ship during a storm at Cape Horn
Circa 1854-1954 (no exact date exists)
Source: National Library of Australia
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

For hundreds of years sailors who made the long trek from Europe to the Pacific Ocean had a dream. A dream of one day being able to sail straight across rather than all the way down to the tip of South America where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. Cape Horn, so named by a Dutch captain in 1615, was a major point shipping point where trade ships plied between Europe and Asia. If you wanted to get to China, Japan, or shipping ports on the Pacific western coast (South America up to Alaska), this was the preferred route for many merchant and military vessels. However, the convergence of both oceans at that area also led to it being a treacherous path at times due to fierce storms that really put the skills of a mariner to a test. Many a ship has sunk in those waters and many explorers saw their fleets thinned out in that area.

The building of the transatlantic railway helped reduce the need to ship freight and passengers somewhat but not enough. A land route through the Isthmus of Panama was possible though it had its own perils as well. You had to walk from the one coast to the other through a jungle. The Spanish established Panama on the Pacific and the Nombre de Dios on the Atlantic connected by 49 mile (80 km) simple jungle path. The path was simple and not built for moving cargo but moving people (mostly soldiers) from one coast to the other. People who choose this route over taking a ship faced a hot climate, insects that carried malaria, and other surprises that were not for the faint of heart. A railroad was constructed (at heavy cost) to move people and freight but that still left ships making the dangerous route. Hence the dream of a canal was born. Building it was another matter.

The French Try and Fail

Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894) photographed by Nadar
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

After building the Suez Canal in 1869, the French government thought it could do the same in connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Sitting in their comfortable rooms back in France, they perceived no difficulty. Hence the first problem-not fully sending an expedition to completely survey and determine exactly how such a canal would need to be built. In 1876, La Société internationale du Canal interocéanique was created to create the Panama Canal. It obtained an exclusive concession from the Colombian government to build the canal in Panama. The concession was to last for 15 years and then the canal would revert to Columbia. Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had headed up the Suez Canal project, was put in charge. Having his name attached made it easier to attract investors to the company.  Lesseps though, was not an engineer and did not fully comprehend how much different it would be to build this canal. A canal through the desert was easy to what they found in Panama.

In order to make a canal feasible, you had to have a way to accommodate the fact that its lowest level, it would still be 360 feat above sea level at the lowest crossing point. Lesseps initially proposed a sea level canal but it would require enormous excavation of rock. And the rock was not very stable either. And then there was the problem of the rivers that would cross the canal creating in certain times of the year creating currents that would danger shipping. So the Chagres would have to be diverted to avoid this problem, which added more complexity to an already complex building project. Then there was the problem of tropical diseases of which both malaria and yellow fever were the worst. It was not understood how they were transmitted, but mosquitoes were prevalent and not understand as the transmitter of such diseases.

An international body headed up by Lesseps started in 1879 in Paris. The Congress for Study of an Interoceanic Canal brought together 136 delegates from 26 countries but only 42 were engineers. Others were a variety of people interested in the project and so it was mostly a fundraising event and to make legitimate the Lessep idea was (drawn from plans made by Lucien Bonaparte-Wyse and Armand Réclus) of a sea level canal that would be as easy to complete as the Suez Canal. Ultimately only 19 engineers would approve the plan but except for one, had never been to Central America. It was originally projected to cost $214 million, then revised down to $168 million. For reasons never explained, Lesseps reduced the estimate twice down to $120 million and that it would take six years to build.

 Oops, we need to start over!

 Construction began on 1 January 1881 with digging at Culebra on 22 January. A huge labor force was needed and a lot of them came from African-Caribbean workers from the West Indies. There was no shortage of experienced engineers needed but, as in the case of the workers, disease made it hard to retain them. And once word got out that the fever canal was not a good place to work in, it became harder to find engineers willing to put their health at risk. The death toll from 1881-1889 is estimated to be over 22.000 but is likely higher.

Then in 1885 another shock hit. The sea level canal was not possible to build owing to the fact that there was no way to remedy the elevation difference between where the lowest point is still 360 feet above sea level. It became obvious that only a lock canal plan would work. Lesseps was not convinced but ultimately engineering studies proved it was the only practical way to achieve this. It was finally adopted in 1887 but the scandal caused by the engineering problems, financial problems, the mortality rates rising, and worse frequent floods and mudslides indicated this project was in peril. While work on the new plan continued, it would end on 15 May 1889 when the company went bankrupt. The canal was about two-fifths done and over $234 million had been spent.

And it got worse back in France where investigations into how this ended so badly. An official commission was ordered by the French parliament. Worse were some were blaming Jews who speculated on the project. Despite all of this, the French government decided to keep it going, if nothing else to recoup expenses and show the world it could complete the canal. A new company was formed to finish the canal (Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama). A new concession was obtained from Colombia and work started up again this time with the plan of a two level, lock based canal. However, they ran into a wholly different problem than before as the United States was getting involved and was going to build a canal through Nicaragua instead. This made the French canal through Panama useless, and the company started looking for a buyer with deep pockets. And they found one. The United States bought it up and a whole new ballgame had begun.

The U.S. Builds the Canal

The French had negotiated a concession with the Columbian government, but the U.S. found it difficult. The U.S. bought the French company and land. A treaty was signed in 1903 (Hay-Herran Treaty) that gave the U.S. the rights to build in Panama. Unfortunately, the Colombia senate did not ratify the treaty. This left the U.S. with a company and land in Panama but no rights to build the canal. Now the area in Panama was inhabited by native people who had tried in the past to gain independence from Columbia but not able to pull it off. An early attempt to recognize Panama independence in 1903 was rejected by Columbia. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt made it known that if the natives did seek independence, the U.S. would support it.

Photograph of the USS Nashville (PG-7) at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 8 January 1898
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On 3 November 1903, a revolt took place with the natives proclaiming their independence from Colombia. The USS Nashville had been stationed there to prevent any Colombian interference. The result was the new Panama government gave the U.S. complete control of the Panama Canal Zone and through a signed treaty gave the new country 10 million, the right of the US to administer and defend the canal and split the fees for canal use.

It was on 4 May 1905, formally called Acquisition Day, the project became official, and construction would commence. It was completed in 1914. The 52-mile canal now connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans without having to sail down to Cape Horn and into the Pacific. Commercial traffic would increase as more cargo and passenger ships could easily move between the two oceans. The 10-mile Panama Canal Zone would grow and become more important as a result. Today only the supersized ships must make the trip down to Cape Horn as they are too big for the Panama Canal.

Panama Canal (1923)
Original Source: Historical Atlas” by William R. Shepherd, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Today the Panama Canal is recognized as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, many Panamanians wanted to revisit the original treaty and gain more control of the canal. In a 1977 treaty signed by President Jimmy Carter and Panama leader Omar Torrijos, it was agreed that the Panama Canal Authority would be turned over to Panama in 1999.

Buy David McCullough’s excellent Path Between The Seas:The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Sources:

Panama Canal: History, Definition & Canal Zone – HISTORY. “Panama Canal: History, Definition and Canal Zone – HISTORY.” HISTORY, 6 Sept. 2022, www.history.com/topics/landmarks/panama-canal.

Worthington, William E., et al. “Panama Canal | Definition, History, Treaty, Map, Locks, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 May 2024, www.britannica.com/topic/Panama-Canal.

“Isthmus of Panama – on Historic Routes.” On Historic Routes, 27 Mar. 2021, on-historic-routes.com/featured-routes/isthmus-of-panama.

—. “Cape Horn.” Wikipedia, 3 May 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Horn#.

Welcome to May

May, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1412-1416)
Limbourg brothers (fl. 1402–1416)
Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

May is the fifth month on the current Gregorian and the old Julian calendar. It is named for the Greek goddess Maia. On the old Roman calendar, this was the third month. May has 31 days. The full moon in May is sometimes called the Flower Moon since many flowers bloom during this month.

Bouquet of beautiful red roses
Davidjose365, May 2015
Wikimedia Commons

May is commonly associated with spring in the Northern Hemisphere but autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. As the bridge month between spring and summer, the month has some days of hot and cold depending on location. There is an old expression that says “Warm January, cool May” that sometimes is accurate. In more olden times, when you sealed up the home for winter, it is now time to open the windows and let the warm spring air in! Spring cleaning was (and still is) a time to clean out the home after a long cold winter and freshen it up. If you ever saw the television show The Beverly Hillbillies, granny would have everything put outside so she could thoroughly and completely clean their mansion.

A sure sign spring is here is when lambs appear.
Spring Lamb In The Sunshine
Photo: Tanya Hall/publicdomainpictures.net

Spring is the time that plants begin to grow, and many festivals and celebrations have grown up around it. The ancient Romans had several of them during May and many Europeans today have events during the month. Late May is often considered the beginnings of the summer season in many places. The May symbols are the emerald (birthstone), along with Lilly of the Valley and Hawthorn as the birth flowers.

For more information

“The Month of May 2024: Holidays, Fun Facts, Folklore.” Almanac.com, 1 May 2024, www.almanac.com/content/month-may-holidays-fun-facts-folklore.

The Month of May. www.timeanddate.com/calendar/months/may.html.

—. “May.” Wikipedia, 2 May 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May.

Researchers: Titan Submersible Implosion Likely Due to Shape and Metal

Titan (submersible)
Becky Kagan Schott, OceanGate

The sudden implosion of the Titan submersible has led to many theories as to how it happened. According to researchers at the University of Houston, the most likely reason was the shape and the metal used.

According to NewsNation, a paper submitted to Proceedings of the National Academy of Science indicates after studying simulations of the implosion that shape and metal were likely the key reasons for the implosion. Submarines, which are spherical, are designed to evenly distribute the pressure throughout the ship. Submersibles are designed the same way but are much smaller and often go to depths where most submarines cannot go. Titan though was not spherical but cylindrical in design and held passengers. The news report indicates that the scientists say a cylinder shape would work but any imperfection in the metal would lead to uneven pressure distribution. Titan was made of carbon fiber and titanium. Unlike steel, carbon fiber is more subject to wear and tear that would allow for this type of catastrophe.

An official investigation is still ongoing and likely will not issue a report until the end of this year.

Source:

Whiteside, Steph. “Titan Submersible Likely Imploded Due to Shape, Carbon Fiber: Scientists.” NewsNation, 2 May 2024, www.newsnationnow.com/travel/missing-titanic-tourist-submarine/titan-imploded-shape-material-scientists.

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Uproar on Titanic Memorabilia Auctions

Image: Henry Aldridge & Son/PA Media/dpa

As you will recall, the gold watch that John Jacob Astor had on him when he died was put up for auction and sold for $1.175 million. The Titanic Memorial Lighthouse group posted online (Twitter and probably elsewhere) that they hoped the buyer would put it up for display and not keep it in a private collection.

“We are increasingly uneasy with the auctioning of recovered Titanic family artifacts. We hope John Jacob Astor’s watch now finds its way to a museum and not into the hands of a private collector never to be seen again.” (Titanic Lighthouse Memorial)

Others on the Internet chimed in agreeing with and going further. Some did not understand that such items are not from the Titanic wreck itself and thought salvage laws apply. They do not, of course, since these items were not brought up from the wreck. The auction house, Henry Aldridge & Son, which handles a lot of these auctions, were surprised by the pushback. For their part, they do point out that in many cases the purchaser does elect to put it on public display at a Titanic exhibition or museum. Of course, some may not do that and just add it to their Titanic collection. Both sides have a valid viewpoint.

RMS Titanic beginning sea trials, April 2, 1912.
Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#306 RG 306)

On one hand, we would like such memorabilia connected to Titanic put on public display. In this case, the watch is made of 14 carat gold, which makes it extremely up there with a Faberge egg in terms of its uniqueness. The other hand is that these items were held in private hands and not part of any public collection (meaning formerly owned by a museum etc.) so we cannot compel a private citizen who purchases such items to put them on display. I know one collector of music who loans out his collection to museums and gets a nice tax break because of it. Hopefully the person who purchased this watch will loan it out to museums. One does not see a 14-carat gold watch every day.

Note: The violin case that held Wallace Hartley’s violin was auctioned off at the same time. It was sold for £290,000 ($361,955). Titanic Memorial Lighthouse has posted this message on Twitter about it:

“As the world’s largest group of Titanic descendants we ask the new owners of Bandleader Wallace Hartley’s valise to reunite it with his violin currently at Titanic Belfast. These unique artifacts must be publicly displayed for future generations to study and enjoy.”

 

Sources:

Khosla, Alanah. “Auction House Hits Back in Row Over Sale of Gold Pocket Watch Recovered From the Body of the Richest…” Mail Online, 30 Apr. 2024, www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-13359381/Auction-house-hits-row-sale-gold-pocket-watch-recovered-body-richest-man-Titanic-1million-fans-claim-museum.html.

Save Titanic Memorial Lighthouse [@TitanicNewYork] BREAKING NEWS! Titanic Bandleader Wallace Hartley’s Violin Case sells for £290,000 / $362,000 in an ‘Internet Bid’. Twitter. https://x.com/TitanicNewYork/status/1784246136691171687

Watch Found on John Jacob Astor’s Body Sold For Astronomical Sum at Auction

Image: Henry Aldridge & Son/PA Media/dpa

The gold pocket watch that was recovered from the body of John Jacob Astor, who died on Titanic, was sold at auction for $1,146 million (£1,175 million) to an American buyer (name unknown). The gold watch was found on his body, along with a diamond ring, cufflinks, and British and American currency, and was turned over to his family. The watch was completely restored and worn by his son. The 14-carat gold Waltham watch had a starting bid of $60,000 and was originally thought to sell between £100,000-150,000. Auctioned off by H. Aldridge & Sons in Devizes, Wiltshire on 27 April, it broke the record of $1.1 million for Wallace Hartley’s violin sold years ago by the same auction house.

“The prices fetched by the Titanic memorabilia at the sale were “absolutely incredible,” auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said. “They reflect not only the importance of the artefacts themselves and their rarity but they also show the enduring appeal and fascination with the Titanic story,” he said.

 Sources

Welle, Deutsche. “Titanic Passenger’s Gold Watch Auctioned for Record Price.” dw.com, 28 Apr. 2024, www.dw.com/en/titanic-passengers-gold-watch-auctioned-for-record-price/a-68939475.

Reporter, Guardian Staff. “Gold Pocket Watch of Richest Man on Titanic Fetches Record-breaking £1.2m.” The Guardian, 27 Apr. 2024, www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/apr/27/gold-pocket-watch-of-richest-man-on-titanic-fetches-record-breaking-12m.

Remembering History: Hitler Commits Suicide;War in Europe Nearly Over (30 April 1945)

U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes announcing Hitler’s death
2 May 1945
Original source: U.S. Army
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler–the leader and founder of the 1,000 Reich–committed suicide with his wife Eva Braun in the underground bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery. It would lead to the end of the war in Europe on 8 May 1945 when Germany unconditionally surrendered to Allied powers.

Since the defeat of German forces in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, it had become increasingly apparent that Allied forces had turned the tide. Germany had been pushed out of North Africa at this point, faced Allied armies in Italy, and of course on 6 June 1944 the Allied invasion of Europe had occurred. An attempt on his life was unsuccessful in July 1944 (he was saved when the briefcase with the explosive was pushed under a heavy table) but resulted in imprisonment and executions for many who were involved. Field Marshal Rommel was forced to commit suicide rather than a public court martial.

Hitler had become more erratic, and many were concerned with his mental state. After withdrawing to the underground bunker in January 1945, he met with Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels. By 22 April 1945 though he realized the war had been lost with Soviet troops now in Berlin. On 23 April, Goering seeing that Hitler was encircled in Berlin, tried to take over as his presumed successor. Hitler stripped him of his powers and orders his arrest (this was futile since Goering surrendered himself to American forces). Himmler also had hopes of succeeding Hitler. In April, he was negotiating through a Swedish diplomat and with the Americans. When Hitler learned of this, he was stripped of his powers and his arrest ordered. Himmler tried to escape posing as an ordinary soldier but was caught and arrested. He committed suicide by taking poison.

By the end of April most of his aides and lieutenants (with some exceptions such as General Krebs) had deserted him with only Goebbels and Martin Bormann staying along. Albert Speer had declined to carry out Hitler’s orders to carry out a scorched earth policy in Berlin. Believing Germany had been unworthy of his genius and allowed themselves to be defeated, he decided to commit suicide. He married his long-time mistress Eva Braun in the early hours of 29 April 1945. He then dictated his last will and political testament that justified what he had done.  The will itself is quite short while the separate political testament that laid out a defense of his life and work, as well as appointing those who would lead the German government after his death.

In the afternoon of 30 April 1945, Hitler pointed a gun to his head (though he may have taken poison as well) and committed suicide while Eva took poison. Their bodies were burned, in accordance with his instructions, in the Chancellery garden. Goebbels transmitted a message to Admiral Karl Doenitz that Hitler had died and appointed him Reich President. Six hours later Goebbels and his wife committed suicide after poisoning their six children with cyanide.

Hitler’s death was broadcast on 1 May 1945 by Hamburg Radio. On 2 May 1945, German troops in Italy surrendered (it was signed on 29 April 1945) and Berlin surrendered to Russian Marshal Georgi Zhukov. More surrenders of German forces would follow. German forces in Denmark, the Netherlands, and northwestern Germany surrendered to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery on 4 April 1945 (effective the next day). The German Ninth and Twelve armies surrendered to U.S. forces.

Sources:

Books

Snyder, Lewis: Encyclopedia of The Third Reich, Marlowe & Company, New York, 1976

Internet

“Adolf Hitler | Biography, Rise to Power, History, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Apr. 2024, www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler/World-War-II.

Sullivan, Missy. “Adolf Hitler Commits Suicide in His Underground Bunker.” HISTORY, 29 Apr. 2024, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/adolf-hitler-commits-suicide.

Chen, C. Peter. “World War II Database: Your WW2 History Reference Destination.” WW2DB, ww2db.com.

 

Remembering History: Mussolini Caught Fleeing Italy and Executed (28 March 1945)

Benito Mussolini
Public Domain

Attempting to flee Italy into Austria dressed in a Luftwaffe coat and hat, the deposed dictator of Italy–Il Duce–Benito Mussolini was caught by partisans along with his mistress Clara Petacci. The partisans executed him and Petacci, transported their bodies to Milan, and hung them upside down so that everyone (especially his supporters) could see he was dead. He ruled Italy from 1925-1943, when he was deposed and subsequently imprisoned. He was rescued by Hitler’s forces and made the puppet leader of the Italian Social Republic in northern Italy. With German troops in retreat, he hoped to avoid being captured by either British or American forces. Pictures of his body being hung upside down in Piazzale Loreto in Milan would be spread to prove that Il Duce was no more.

Sources:

Sullivan, Missy. “Benito Mussolini Executed.” HISTORY, 26 Apr. 2024, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/benito-mussolini-executed.

“Benito Mussolini.” Biography, 21 Feb. 2024, www.biography.com/political-figures/benito-mussolini.

KateL. “Death of the Duce, Benito Mussolini.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, 27 Apr. 2020, www.nationalww2museum.org/death-of-benito-mussolini.

Recent Titanic News

[This is a curated list of news stories. If you see a news story we should cover here, send email to editor@titanicnewschannel.com]

“The Titanic’s Other Casualties | Holy Cow! History.” Lompoc Record, 20 Apr. 2024, lompocrecord.com/opinion/columnists/the-titanic-s-other-casualties-holy-cow-history/article_139171a2-904a-5670-9d43-73dfbf00d555.html.

Let’s start with what we know for sure. At least three dogs escaped in lifeboats: two Pomeranians and one Pekingese show champion, Sun Yat Sen. Their escape was a big deal because, with so many passengers and so little space in the lifeboats, crew members refused to let animals go with their owners. It’s believed all three owners spared their beloved pooches by smuggling them inside their cabins because they were so small, later hiding them inside thick winter coats as they fled the ship.

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“‘Rare’ Footage of Titanic Shipwreck Released for First Time: See Into Chief Officer’s Cabin and More.” Yahoo.com, People, 16 Apr. 2024, ca.news.yahoo.com/rare-footage-titanic-shipwreck-released-184318760.html.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has just released never-before-seen video of the wreck on YouTube to celebrate the 25th anniversary of James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic. The “rare, uncut footage” includes nearly 90 minutes of images from the July 1986 voyage that, according to Today, helped inspire the award-winning movie.

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Grover, Jamie. “Remembering the Somerset Passengers on Board the Titanic.” Somerset County Gazette, 21 Apr. 2024, www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/24258613.remembering-somerset-passengers-board-titanic.

Among those on board was 26-year-old Marion Wright, from Yeovil, who survived the disaster. She eventually arrived in New York and was reunited with her fiancé.  Marion said: “I don’t think I shall ever want to cross the ocean again just yet. It has been sad losing all I had, wedding presents and everything I had worked so hard at, but they’re nothing in comparison to all the lives lost.” The couple married and successfully ran a farm in Oregon.

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D’Arcy, Sharon Dolan, and Sharon Dolan D’Arcy. “West Clare Connection to Famous Titanic Bugler.” The Clare Champion, 18 Apr. 2024, clarechampion.ie/west-clare-connection-to-famous-titanic-bugler.

The young 25-year-old man tragically died when the ocean liner struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912. A mere three months previously, he had married a Kilrush woman called Mary Meaney at St Gregory’s Catholic Church in Wandsworth. Local historian and county Tyrone native, Geoff Simmons had put out an appeal in March via local Clare media and social media for descendants of Mary Meaney’s to attend the unveiling of an historic blue plaque in Percy’s honour at his former home at 26, Lessingham Avenue on April 14, the eve of the anniversary of the ship’s sinking. Mr Simmons had hoped The Cliffs of Doneen would be sung on the day in recognition of Mary and the Clare connection.

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Alam, Zoheb. “Titanic Survivor Revealed He Continued to Have Nightmares About the Tragedy for Over 65 Years.” https://www.good.is, 20 Apr. 2024, www.good.is/titanic-survivor-revealed-he-continued-to-have-nightmares-about-the-tragedy-for-over-65-years.

One of the survivors, Frank Prentice, shared his experience and recalled how he survived the sinking ship but continued to have nightmares about it. His interview was recorded by BBC in 1979 for their documentary series “The Great Liners” and has been shared on YouTube. Since the tragedy, he had held on to a keepsake that was a vivid reminder of the tragedy. It was the watch he wore that night that remained frozen in time and had stopped at exactly 02:20 AM after lasting for a couple of minutes in the freezing water. During the BBC interview, he was asked whether talking about the Titanic bothered him and he replied, “I shall probably dream about it tonight; have another nightmare.”

You can view his BBC interview on YouTube by clicking here.

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“The Titanic Disaster Was Predicted in an 1898 Novel With ‘eerie’ Foretelling.” Irish Star, 19 Apr. 2024, www.irishstar.com/news/us-news/titanic-disaster-predicted-1898-novel-32628706.

A novel released in 1898 eerily foretold the sinking of the Titanic, with multiple parallels between a fictitious sinking in the book and the infamous Titanic disaster. “The Wreck of the Titan Or, Futility” was authored by the American writer, Morgan Robertson. In his book, the Titan sank off Newfoundland Banks, around 1,000 miles off the coast of New York. Coincidentally, it had hit an iceberg and, in a similar fashion to the Titanic, and the accident occurred in mid-April on an otherwise calm night at sea.

Editor’s note: As the article notes, there are some striking similarities to the actual tragedy of 1912. There are some crucial differences though. Unlike what happened to Titanic, the fictional Titan was not in calm seas. In fact, according to the story, it was a hard choppy sea and fog as well that made it hard to sea. Like Titanic, the lookouts could not see the iceberg until too late. However, it hits the berg directly and this is what Robertson wrote of the collision:

“But in five seconds the bow of Titan began to lift, and ahead, and on either hand, could be seen, a field of ice which arose in an incline to a hundred feet high in her track. But a low beach, possibly formed by the recent overturning of the berg, received the Titan, and with her keel cutting the ice like steel runner of an iceboat, and great weight resting on the starboard bilge, she rose out of the sea, higher and higher-until the propellers in the stern were half exposed-then meeting an easy spiral rise in the ice under her port bow, she heeled, overbalanced, and crashed down on her side to starboard.”

That is quite a scene if you picture it in your head! Robertson, like many authors, latched on to a great kernel of a story when he speculated on huge ships like his fictional Titan hitting an iceberg. Other great authors have done the same as well. It should be noted another Robertson story foretold of a Japanese attack on the United States as well. There was a greater loss of life in his story as they only had 24 lifeboats (the bare minimum) lashed to the upper deck (and hard to use since the ship was inclined) but to minimize other safety costs put cork jackets in passenger and crew cabin.

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Cummings, Denis. “A Look at the Titanic Second Class Survivors.” www.findingdulcinea.com, 19 Apr. 2024, www.findingdulcinea.com/titanic-second-class-survivors.

As a fervent admirer of history with a penchant for uncovering forgotten tales, the stories of resilience and survival especially captivate me. Among such narratives, the epic tale of the Titanic stands out not just for its unfortunate demise but for the human spirits that persevered.  In this article, I’m thrilled to shine a light on those extraordinary individuals – the Titanic second class passengers who managed to survive this monumental tragedy.

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Felton, James. “Iceberg That Sank the Titanic May Be Shown in Unearthed Photo From 1912.” IFLScience, 18 Apr. 2024, www.iflscience.com/iceberg-that-sank-the-titanic-may-be-shown-in-unearthed-photo-from-1912-73865.

A rediscovered photo captured two days after the Titanic sank is going on auction this month. The photo, taken by undertaker John Snow Jr, may show the iceberg that sank the ship on its maiden voyage 112 years ago on April 14. When the Titanic sank 640 kilometers (400 miles) off Newfoundland, Canada, over 1,500 of the passengers, of which there were over 2,200, died – many by drowning or immersion hypothermia. John Snow Jr was chief embalmer of funeral directors John Snow & Co and was summoned to the wreck of the Titanic to help collect some, but not all, of the bodies for burial.

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 “Titanic Secrets Revealed: Number of Lifeboats Reduced to Give First Class Passengers a Better View.” Sarajevo Times, 17 Apr. 2024, sarajevotimes.com/titanic-secrets-revealed-number-of-lifeboats-reduced-to-give-first-class-passengers-a-better-view.

His video showcases all 10 of Titanic’s decks, including the boat deck at the very top. Part of the reason for the lack of lifeboats was also because designers didn’t want to overcrowd the ship’s deck and obstruct the view of the Atlantic for first-class passengers. Another interesting fact is that Titanic actually had two grand staircases, both restricted to first-class passengers only. The far larger and grander one was the front grand staircase, adorned with a wall panel of carved oak with a clock in the center, also the setting where Jack and Rose meet in James Cameron’s 1997 film hit.

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 “How Many First Class Passengers Died on the Titanic?” www.findingdulcinea.com, 18 Apr. 2024, www.findingdulcinea.com/first-class-passengers-died-on-the-titanic.

Are you curious about the tragic fate of the Titanic’s elite? My passion for history has always drawn me towards unraveling stories from the past, and today, I’m here to share with you a piece of history that still captures our imagination over a century later.We often hear about the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage, but who exactly were those first-class passengers who lost their lives in one of history’s most infamous maritime disasters? Let’s explore together and uncover how many first class passengers died on the Titanic.

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Mawson, Brandon. “A Look at Two Cumbrians Who Lost Their Lives on the Titanic.” News and Star, 18 Apr. 2024, www.newsandstar.co.uk/features/24257172.look-two-cumbrians-lost-lives-titanic.

Two men in particular, Jonathon Shepherd and his mentor Joseph Bell, were some of the Cumbrians who lost their lives on the ship. Jonathon was born in Whitehaven in 1880 and Joseph was originally from Farlam, near Brampton. 

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Fraga, Kaleena. “Edward John Smith, the Captain of the RMS Titanic.” All That’s Interesting, 18 Apr. 2024, allthatsinteresting.com/titanic-captain-edward-smith.

On the Olympic, Smith was involved in the worst catastrophe of his career (until he became captain of the Titanic). In September 1911, the Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight. Though Smith was reportedly not directing the ship at the time, the Royal Navy protested that the Olympic had caused the collision by taking an abrupt turn. White Star Line vehemently disagreed but ended up having to pay high legal fees.

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Jonathan. “Titanic: Fact Vs. Fiction – Debunking Common Myths About the Disaster.” Anglotopia, 17 Apr. 2024, anglotopia.net/british-history/titanic/titanic-fact-vs-fiction-debunking-common-myths-about-the-disaster.

The sinking of the RMS Titanic has captured the imagination of people worldwide for over a century, spawning countless myths and misconceptions about the events that transpired on that fateful night in April 1912. While the Titanic disaster remains one of the most well-documented maritime tragedies in history, numerous myths and inaccuracies have persisted over the years. Here, we debunk ten common myths surrounding the Titanic and separate fact from fiction.

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O’Rourke, Connor. “Extraordinary Story of Titanic’s Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightroller.” IrishCentral.com, 17 Apr. 2024, www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/titanic-charles-herbert-lightoller.

In the following years, he joined the Royal Navy and helped with the naval efforts during WWI and eventually became a full commander at the end of 1918. Remarkably, even in his old age, he had commanded one of many civilian ships in 1940 that helped rescue over 338,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk during the Second World War.

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Ratliff, Melissa. “WATCH: How Was the Sinking of the RMS Titanic Reported Locally?” https://www.mysuncoast.com, 16 Apr. 2024, www.mysuncoast.com/2024/04/16/watch-how-was-sinking-rms-titanic-reported-locally.

It took days for information to be distributed to sources and some of the information that got out was completely incorrect. By the time the news began trickling down to major newspapers in Florida, there were different accounts of everything. On April 15, 1912, the evening edition of the Tampa Daily Times reported that the ship was afloat and all passengers had been rescued. This was eventually retracted and corrected in subsequent editions.

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Knudsen, Cory. “So Minnesota: Deephaven Couple Were Passengers on Titanic.” KSTP.com 5 Eyewitness News, 16 Apr. 2024, kstp.com/kstp-news/top-news/so-minnesota-deephaven-couple-were-passengers-on-titanic.

Monday marks the 112th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Walter Douglas and his wife Mahala from Minnesota were passengers on the ship. The Douglas family’s wealth came from starting the Quaker Oats Company and Douglas Starch Company. “His peers dubbed him a captain of industry,” said Liz Vandam with the Lake Minnetonka Historical Society. “They considered him to be a man of great integrity.” By the beginning of 1912, Walter Douglas retired and construction of the family’s palatial mansion in Deephaven overlooking Lake Minnetonka was complete.

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Burgess, Madison, and Jonathan Chadwick. “Inside the Remaining Mysteries Surrounding the Titanic – From What Happened to the Passengers To…” Mail Online, 15 Apr. 2024, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13309119/remaining-mysteries-titanic-happened-passengers-iceberg-caused-tragedy.html.

One theory suggests that a freak weather event created the phenomenon, which possibly both obscured the iceberg until it was too late and hindered communication with a nearby ship. Historian and broadcaster Tim Maltin claims the Titanic’s crew fell victim to a thermal inversion, which is caused by a band of cold air forcing itself underneath a band of warmer air, the Times reports. He believes that the cold current in the North Atlantic Ocean called Labrador pushed this cold air beneath the warm Gulf Stream, creating a mirage.

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Chadwick, Jonathan. “See Inside the Titanic Like NEVER Before: Incredible Video Reveals a Cross Section of the Doomed…” Mail Online, 14 Apr. 2024, www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-13288299/Titanic-Incredible-video-cross-section-doomed-liner.html.

But the scale and the glory of RMS Titanic can be admired once more, thanks to a detailed digital cross section of the stunning luxury liner.  Posted to YouTube by US animator Jared Owen, it shows Titanic from every angle, exactly as it appeared just before it set sail from Southampton 112 years ago.  The video may prove helpful to Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, who has promised to recreate the famous ship at an estimated cost of £1 billion.  ‘Titanic II’, to be ready by 2027, will closely mimic the original ship’s specifications, while including modern 21st navigation and safety systems.

You can view the video on YouTube by clicking here.

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Winston, Alex. “The Lives of Jews Who Boarded the Titanic.” The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com, 14 Apr. 2024, www.jpost.com/diaspora/article-796496.

Some 69 of the passengers on board the Titanic were known to be Jewish, and their stories and experiences are some of the most interesting and heart-wrenching of the whole saga.

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Watch “‘Titanic: The Official Cookbook’ Author Demonstrates ‘Blue Moon’ Cocktail.” ABC7 Chicago, 11 Apr. 2024, abc7chicago.com/titanic-the-official-cookbook-veronica-hinke-recipes-recipe/14646456.

There were several events happening around the Chicagoland area to commemorate that day. Author Veronica Hinke, author of “Titanic: The Official Cookbook” stopped by ABC 7 Eyewitness news to talk about her book and demonstrate one of the 40 timeless recipes for every occasion.

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Jones, Alec. “Five Ways ‘Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition’ Makes You Feel Like You’re Actually on the Ship.” Concrete Playground, 11 Apr. 2024, concreteplayground.com/melbourne/arts-entertainment/five-ways-the-titanic-the-artefact-exhibition-makes-you-feel-like-on-the-ship.

A more engaging way to learn this tragic story is to Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition, an incredibly detailed exhibition that studies the vessel, its crew, the passengers and takes visitors through a memorable journey through the events of that fateful night. But how does it do that and why is it worth your time? Let’s set sail to find out.

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Bromovsky, Lettice. “Is This the Iceberg That Sank the Titanic? Newly-unearthed Photo Provides Fascinating Clue to 1912…” Mail Online, 10 Apr. 2024, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13293371/Titanic-photo-fascinating-clue-1912-tragedy-killed.html.

A newly unearthed photo of the iceberg that may have sunk the Titanic has come to light 112 years after the disaster. The black and white image was captured by an undertaker working on the body recovery ship that arrived on the wreck site in the aftermath of the sinking. It is now coming up for sale at Henry Aldridge & Son Auctioneers of Devizes, Wiltshire, for an estimated price of £4,000 to £7,000.  It shows a large glacier oddly shaped like an elephant above the surface of the north Atlantic.It was taken two days after the luxury liner struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank killing 1,522 people.

The auction will take place on 27 April 2024 at 9:00 am UK time. Information about how to bid can be found here.

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Small, Alonzo. “Titanic: The Exhibition at Old Orchard Extended Due to Popular Demand.” WGN9, 10 Apr. 2024, wgntv.com/news/trending/titanic-the-exhibition-at-old-orchard-extended-due-to-popular-demand.

On the 112th anniversary of the ship’s departure, Exhibition producer Imagine Exhibitions announced that, due to popular demand, they would extend the immersive experience through July 7. A Titanic-inspired afternoon tea experience has also been added, which “promises to transport visitors back in time, blending culinary delights with the rich tapestry of Titanic’s story.” Titanic Afternoon Tea begins on April 28. A new combination ticket will also be available, which grants access to both Titanic: The Exhibition and Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.

 Information on dates, times, and prices can be found here.

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Hickey, Kate. “Titanic Hero Irishman Thomas Andrews Epitomized Bravery as Ship Went Down.” IrishCentral.com, 10 Apr. 2024, www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/thomas-andrews-titanic-hero.

Andrews had been overruled on two key issues when the ship was being designed. He wanted to double the number of lifeboats to 64 and wanted a double hull built extending up to the B deck which would certainly have prevented the disaster. After he died on 15th April 1912, his father received a telegram from his mother’s cousin, who had spoken with survivors in New York, seeing news of Andrews. The telegram was read aloud by Andrews Sr. to the staff of their home in Comber: “Interview Titanic’s officers. All unanimous that Andrews heroic unto death, thinking only safety others. Extend heartfelt sympathy to all.”

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“How New York City Grieved the Titanic – Ephemeral New York.” Ephemeral New York, ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/tag/how-new-york-city-grieved-the-titanic. (8 April 2024)

For the next 55 years, as ship traffic decreased in New York Harbor and South Street’s fortunes turned, the Titanic memorial with its time ball stayed in service on the roof. In 1968, the Seaman’s Institute moved to a new headquarters on State Street. The top of the Titanic Memorial was given to the South Street Seaport Museum. But it wasn’t until 1976 when the memorial lighthouse went up on a triangular corner at Pearl and Fulton Streets (now known as Titanic Memorial Park), held in place by a concrete podium. The time ball is also gone; it’s been replaced by an ornamental sphere.

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Molony, Senan. “Faces of the Titanic: William Burke, Irish Hero Who Saved a Woman’sLife.” IrishCentral.com, 8 Apr. 2024, www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/titanic-william-burke-irish-hero.amp.

This is an extract from the book “The Irish Aboard the Titanic” by Senan Molony which tells the tales of the people who were on board the night the ship went down. This book gives those people a voice. In it are stories of agony, luck, self-sacrifice, dramatic escapes, and heroes left behind.

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Barnes, Freya. “Leather Case for Violin Used on the Titanic to Reassure Passengers as the Ship Sank Is Set to Sell…” Mail Online, 5 Apr. 2024, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13277023/leather-case-violin-titanic-sale-auction.html.

A leather case that protected the violin played by the bandmaster on the Titanic as the ship sank is tipped to sell for £120,000 at auction. Wallace Hartley and his orchestral band famously played on to reassure the passengers as the 1912 disaster unfolded around them. Wallace went down with the ship but not before he put his wooden violin back in its valise bag which he strapped to himself – possibly for buoyancy – using the long handles.

The auction will take place on 27 April 2024 at 9:00 am UK time. Information about how to bid can be found here.

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“112-Year-Old Elaborate Menu of Titanic Is Viral, Internet Reacts.” NDTV.com, www.ndtv.com/offbeat/112-year-old-elaborate-menu-of-titanic-is-viral-internet-reacts-5374994. (4 April 2024)

A popular page on X named Fascinating has released the elaborate menu served onboard the Titanic. The page posted two slides that included pictures of the original menu cards for the first and third-class passengers of the Titanic. The original menu card exudes an enchanting aura, offering various dining options from luncheon and buffet to breakfast, catering to first and third-class passengers. The post soon went viral on X.  “Third class’s menu looked good to me,” a user commented.

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Knoxville News Sentinel. “Pigeon Forge’s Titanic Museum Attraction Buys Panel at Center of ‘Titanic’ Controversy.” Knoxville News Sentinel, 2 Apr. 2024, www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/2024/04/02/pigeon-forge-museum-buys-panel-at-heart-of-titanic-controversy/73177923007.

Speculation will likely continue forever on whether Jack would, in fact, have fit on the “door” with Rose and survived the sinking of the Titanic. But any possible conspiracy theories over who, exactly, shelled out more than half a million dollars during a March auction for the iconic wood panel from the eponymous film can now be laid to rest. The “door” that featured prominently in the Oscar-winning blockbuster “Titanic” was purchased by Titanic Museum Attraction, which has locations in Pigeon Forge and Branson, Mo. According to the museum, it will become part of one of the largest permanent collections of Titanic artifacts anywhere.

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Titanic, historic ship, and general history news.