Today is Labor Day (U.S.)

Labor Day Postage Stamp (1956)
United States Post Office
Public Domain

Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. It became a federal holiday in 1894 to celebrate workers and their achievements. It has also become the unofficial end of summer as schools have reopened and summer vacations have ended. As a federal holiday, all federal offices are closed as are banks and the stock market. All states celebrate it as well so state, county, and city offices are closed as well. Nearly all professional offices are closed and most construction workers have the day off as well. Retail and fast food employees do not get the day off except in areas where due to the holiday they get virtually no business.

Update for 2020: As you are aware, many areas of the country are still not open due to Covid-19. Many restaurants, beauty salons and barbershops, nail saloons, other retail and professional services are still unable to be open or have limited operations. We should take the time this Labor Day to give thanks to all their labors they have done for us in the past. And pray that soon the orders will be lifted to allow people to return to work again.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Have a nice Labor Day everyone!

REMEMBERING HISTORY: September 1 and 2: Germany Invades Poland; Titanic Found; Japan Formally Surrenders Ending WW II

Hitler attends a Wehrmacht victory parade in Warsaw on 5 October 1939
Public Domain

On 1 September 1939, German forces using the pretext they were acting in self-defense against Poland, invaded. The German infantry was not fully mechanized but had Panzers and fast-moving artillery that included truck mounted artillery. The German strategy was to quickly concentrate forces and encircle an enemy quickly. Thanks to the relatively flat terrain of Poland, it made it easy to move mobile infantry about.

The invasion came one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August. This non-aggression pact meant neither side could assist the enemy of the other. A secret protocol to the agreement defined German and Soviet spheres in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. This protocol would not be proved until the Nuremberg Trials. So, when Germany invaded, Poland was already split with defined borders between the two countries.

With this pact, Poland signed defense agreements with Britain and France. Talks between those powers and Germany did take place and the invasion was held up until they were concluded. Hitler did not believe they would declare war, and if they did would be willing to compromise after the invasion of Poland. Germany wanted the restoration of Danzig (in Polish Gdansk) as a free city (it had a large German population), the Polish Corridor, and the safeguarding of Germans in Poland. Germany demanded that a Polish representative with the power to sign such an agreement be present. The British, remembering what happened before when Czechoslovakia was forced to capitulate to the Germans, did not like that demand. When the Polish representative met with Ribbentrop on 31 Aug, he was dismissed when he had no power to sign. The Germans then claimed that Poland had rejected their demands and Hitler ordered the invasion for 1 September.

The Germans were better prepared for war than the Polish. They had higher numbers of troops and had air superiority. Poland had older fighters while the bombers were more modern. They waited too late to upgrade so newer fighters and bombers would not be there when the Germany invaded. Poland had two armor brigades and its 7TP light tank was better armed than the German Panzer. But they only had 140 of those and 88 tanks they imported from Britain and France. The Polish Navy was a small fleet with destroyers, submarines and support vessels. Most of the surface vessels escaped and joined the British Royal Navy. Submarines did engage German shipping in the Baltic Sea but it was not successful. Polish merchant ships that did escape or elsewhere would join the allies and take part in wartime convoys.

By 3 October both German and Soviet forces had secured their spheres ending the Second Polish Republic. Both German and Soviet governments quickly took control of their territories, organizing and annexing, and setting up regional controls. Government and military leaders who did escape would form a military force in support of the Polish government-in-exile. In response to the invasion of Poland, Britain and France formally declared war on Germany on 3 September but little else (France did invade the Saar but quickly withdrew).

Titanic Found

Titanic Wreck Bow
Image: Public Domain (NOAA-http://www.gc.noaa.gov/images/gcil/ATT00561.jpg)

On 1 September 1985 history was made in the early morning hours. A combined expedition of Woods Hole Institute and the French national oceanographic agency IFREMER would locate the wreck of Titanic lying approximately 12,500 feet south-southeast off the coast of Newfoundland. Using a remote controlled deep-sea vehicle Argo equipped with sonar and cameras, it was towed by Knorr over the area. Robert Ballard of Woods Hole Institute had used this system to locate the sunken submarines Scorpion and Thresher. An earlier attempt by the French ship to locate by sonar had failed. So now he was focusing on finding a debris field, similar to how he found those submarines. Finally after a week of searching, at 12:48 am on Sunday, 1 September 1985 pieces of debris began to appear on Knorr’s screens. It brought both cheers and a somber moment of remembering Titanic’s sinking. The boiler found was identical to pictures from 1911. The next day the main part of the wreck was found showing Titanic had split in two.

Japan Surrenders

Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945: Representatives of the Empire of Japan on board USS Missouri (BB-63) during the surrender ceremonies.
Army Signal Corps, Public Domain

On the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese formally surrendered ending World War II. By this time Japan was no longer the military power it once was. The Battle of Midway in June 1942 had been the turning point when four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk. Since then Japanese control over its captured territories were pushed back under massive effort of U.S. and Allied forces. By the summer of 1945, and with the capture of Okinawa, Japan was being blockaded and being bombed often. Plans for the invasion of Japan had been drawn up. After the bloody experience of capturing territory such as on Iwa Jima, it was expected to be a difficult invasion that would cost a lot of allied lives. However, the dropping of two atomic weapons on Japan in August on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed things dramatically.

Members of the Japanese War Council and Emperor Hirohito favored accepting the peace terms; some objected and acted to stop a surrender. On 15 Aug a coup was attempted against Prime Minister Suzuki, but it was crushed. At noon that day, and for the first time in Japanese history, Emperor Hirohito addressed the nation by radio. “We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” The US and the allies accepted the surrender.

MONDAY TITANIC NEWS

Titanic lost: Belfast Telegraph front page 16 April 1912
Source: Belfast Telegraph

Titanic: One of History’s Greatest Scoops Landed by Belfast Telegraph (Belfast Telegraph 28 Aug 2020)

Even over a hundred years ago, the Belfast Telegraph was first with the news. In 1912 the newspaper reported the sinking of the Titanic on the same day that the liner went down in the north Atlantic — an amazing feat for the time. The Tele was the first newspaper in Europe to report the collision with an iceberg, after a telegram was sent to the newsroom alerting it of the disaster in what remains the earliest documented notification of the disaster.

REMEMBERING HISTORY: KRAKATOA ERUPTION CAUSES MASSIVE DEATHS

The eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena. Report of the Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society (London, Trubner & Co., 1888)
Public Domain

On 20 May 1883, Krakatau(Krakatoa)–a small volcanic island west of Sumatra in Indonesia–came alive with an eruption noticed by a passing German warship. Other eruptions would be noticed by commercial liners and those living on nearby islands for the next two months. Then on 26 Aug an enormous blast took place that destroyed nearly two-thirds of the island. Pyroclastic flows and huge tsunamis would sweep over nearby islands and coastlines. But the worst came the following morning, At 05:30 am four eruptions would took place with the resulting sound heard over 3,000 miles away. Ash was propelled fifty miles into the air and would circulate around the globe creating colorful sunsets but also lowering temperatures worldwide by several degrees.

36,000 deaths resulted from the eruption and 31,000 were from the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The highest waves were 120 feet high when they washed over neighboring islands stripping them of people and vegetation. Pyroclastic flows that stretched as far as 40 miles claimed about 4,500.

The Krakatau eruption of 1883 is considered one of the most violent volcanic activities in modern times and even recorded history. However volcanic activity continues in that area. In 1927, a submarine lava dome was detected in the area that had been destroyed by the eruption in 1883. A new island volcano began to emerge spewing ash. Other islands also started appearing as well but eroded away by the sea. Ultimately a fourth one appeared in August 1930 and was able to last. It was named Anak Krakatau and continues to grow taller each year. It is an active volcano and seemed similar to Stromboli in its eruptions. However more recent eruptions have resulted in volcanologists to warning people to keep a safe distance away. And more ominous is that a large lava dome is growing in its crater. Signs point to one day a very explosive event occurring at this volcano.

REMEMBERING HISTORY: Vesuvius ERUPTS BURYING POMPEII

Vesuvius from Portici by Joseph Wright of Derby(1734–1797) Image:Public Domain

It was just around noon on 24 August 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted with a massive 10 mile mushroom cloud sent into the stratosphere. Ash and pumice would rain down on the area for over twelve hours. People who did not flee would face something much worse when a pyroclastic flow would sweep down killing everyone in its path. The choking cloud suffocated everyone even rescuers.

The Bay of Naples where Mt. Vesuvius is located was known for trade and luxury. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were near the mountain and had a fairly high standard of living. There was even a small resort town named Stabiae. The mountain was not seen as a problem as no major eruption had occurred in Roman history. Tremors had already been felt before that terrible day as excavations indicate they were repairing streets and underground plumbing. However they had no idea the tremors were connected with the nearby mountain.

Pliny The Younger, staying west across the Bay of Naples, recorded what he saw in two letters he sent to Tacitus. Sadly his uncle, Pliny the Elder, would perish when he went over in his boats to Stabiae. Pliny wrote the eruption lasted eighteen hours with Pompeii buried under 14-17 feet of ash and pumice. Herculaneum was buried under 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Except for some who returned to reclaim what they had lost, the entire area was left buried and abandoned.

Significant excavations beginning in 1927 on have revealed much of what life must have been like before the destruction. More somber were the finding of some 2,000 bodies. Volcanic ash hardened and preserved the outlines of their bodies. Once the flesh had gone, the outline remained but filled in with plaster revealed those final moments of their lives. And it was not pleasant at all.

Bay of Naples today with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. The densely populated city of Naples lies nearby. Public Domain

Vesuvius is still an active volcano. Its last major eruption was in March 1944  and destroyed several small villages with lava. The eruption was seen from Naples and damaged (thanks to hot ash and other things)or destroyed up to 88 B-25 medium bombers based in Terzigno, Italy. The volcano is kept under constant watch to prevent anything on the scale of the eruption of 79 AD to the people who live under its shadow.

MEMORIAL TO HEROES OF THE MARINE ENGINE ROOM

Memorial to Titanic Engine Room Heroes Liverpool, England Public Domain (Wikipedia)

This granite memorial is located on St. Nicholas Place, Pier Head, Liverpool, England. Constructed in 1916 by Sir William Gascombe John, its original purpose is to commemorate the 32 engineers who perished on Titanic. With the heavy loss of life in World War I, the monument was also for all maritime engine room fatalities. During World War II, the monument was damaged by shrapnel from bombs that were dropped nearby (still visible today).

The monument is 48 feet tall and shaped as an obelisk on a square pedestal. The east and west side have carved life-size sculptures of stokers and engineers. According to Historic England, the monument is a registered historic monument. Also, its design had influence on future war memorials.

The memorial had a considerable influence upon the design of post 1919 war memorials, particularly in respect of the portrayal of the ordinary man or woman, rather than of members of social or military elites. It is thought to be one of the most artistically significant memorials to the Titanic disaster on either side of the Atlantic.

Historical Note: There is a disconnect between what was believed happened and what did happen regarding the engineers. During the British Inquiry into the disaster, it was learned that all of the engineers had been instructed to leave and went topside in the hopes of surviving the disaster. There simply was nothing further than could be done. They did not die at their posts, as is often claimed. They were ordered to go topside and they did. Neither Boxhall nor Lightoller saw them but it is clear from testimony they went up. Lord Mersey choose not to mention this in his report leaving the impression that the engineers had all died at their posts. Some did not survive but they did not stay down in the bowls of the ship until the end.

A Last Bright Shining Lie
Senan Molony, Encyclopedia Titanica

Sources:

Irish Hero who saved titanic passengers honored with plaque;Mauritius ecological disaster

Irish Hero Who Saved At Least 50 Lives On The Titanic Is Honoured In Cork (Irish Post, 18 Aug 20)

As the ship began to sink, Mr Foley and his fellow crewmen took charge of Lifeboat 4, guiding dozens of women and children to safety as they awaited rescue, which eventually came in the form of the RMS Carpathia. An estimated 1,500 people died in the disaster, but every woman and child who were guided on to the lifeboat by Mr Jack Foley survived. The plaque to commemorate the native Youghal man was unveiled in the town over the weekend by Mayor Mary Linehan Foley, with Jack Foley’s great-grandnephew Don Mulcahy, and great-great-grandniece Sarah present at the ceremony.

Tanker Breaks In Two, Leaving “Titanic Job” To Clean Oil From Mauritius Coast (CBS,17 Aug 2020)

A ship that has leaked more than 1,000 tons of oil in pristine waters off the coast of Mauritius has split in two. The bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the southeastern coast of Mauritius on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later, threatening a protected marine park boasting mangrove forests and endangered species.Mauritius declared an environmental emergency and salvage crews raced against the clock to pump the remaining 3,000 tons of oil off the stricken vessel.

Commentary on Titanic news and other related items.