On this day in 1915 in World War I history, Germany first makes large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.
Some three years later, my grandfather was hit with poison gas. He barely survived and lost a lung in the process.
The following is an excerpt from my script Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy, based on my grandfather’s World War I diary.
Both mustard and phosgene gases were used at Meuse-Argonne, one causing internal and external blisters. The other had soldiers coughing up pieces of their lungs.
The night of September 28th and 29th were the most disagreeable I had ever spent in my life.
It rained all night and a very cold wind blew. Shells were falling everywhere. As we were coming out of the trenches just east of Montfaucon we received orders to go in support of the 79th division just north of Bois de Montfaucon. We pulled over in a field to prepare supper. Jerry had a good observation and sent over lots of shells.
Some of the shells made a direct hit on a hospital nearby and some landed in the field where we were.
In her commentary my aunt wrote:
Although my father’s diary makes no note of it, this was the time he was gassed. I’m certain that he was wearing his gas mask, otherwise he would have had even more serious complications.
Still the masks were not too effective and were crudely made. They consisted of a pair of goggles with a nose cone attached from which protruded a hose that connected to a metal canister. The idea was to recycle the wearer’s own breath and since their oxygen was soon used up they sometimes had no recourse but to snatch the mask off and many of them were blinded, or even killed.
My grandfather survived, but thousands didn’t. Those who did survive had their live changed forever.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born on this day in 1882. He died in office on April 12, 1945, just weeks before World War II ended.
Roosevelt is remembered for many things, including an expansion of government through many of his programs. But he was also known for his fireside chats, a series of 28 evening radio addresses given between 1933 and 1944.
In those addresses he spoke about the Emergency Banking Act in response to the Banking Crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the progress of World War II.
In times of national despair and uncertainty, Roosevelt was the voice of assurance and comfort.
A list of the addresses with either the transcript or the audio, can be found at this link on Wikipedia.
Crater of a Zeppelin bomb in Paris, 1916
On this day in 1916, Germans first bombed the City of Paris from zeppelins.
The Zeppelin was an airship named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. They were first formulated in 1874.
During World War I, these German airships were operated by the Army and Navy. The missions flown against Paris killed 23 people and injured another 30. But the aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire and crashed during the return journey.
Modern Zeppelins are still in use today, but they’re not to be confused with Led Zeppelin.
The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
American five-star general and Field Marshall of the Philippine Army, Douglas MacArthur, was born on this day in 1880 (died 1964). MacArthur was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II.
For his defense of the Philippines, MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor. He officially accepted Japan’s surrender on 2 September 1945, aboard USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, and oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. As the effective ruler of Japan, he oversaw sweeping economic, political and social changes. He led the United Nations Command in the Korean War until he was removed from command by President Harry S. Truman on 11 April 1951.
The MacArthur Memorial is located in Norfolk, Virginia and is a memorial, museum, and research center about the life of General MacArthur.
All that is gold does not glitter.
The Lord of the Rings
On this day in 1848, James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill, in Coloma, California, leading to the California Gold Rush which would last until 1848.
The influx of gold revived the American economy and led to Califorinia becoming one of the few American states to go dirctly to statehood without first being a territory. Prospectors drew the gold from streams and riverbeds by panning.
Not all about the Gold Rush was cheery. Gold-seekers called “forty-niners” attacked and pushed whole indigenous societies off of their lands.
A few of the gold-seekers became wealthy, but many returned home with nothing more than what they started with.
American singer-songwriter, Ray Stevens, was born on this day in 1939.
In March, 1974, Stevens released the corny, but classic The Streak, which capitalized on the popular fad. The Streak was Stevens’ second number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the USA.
On this day in 1973 U.S. President Richard M. Nixon declared the end to the Vietnam War. The phrase was a variation of a 1968 campaign promise in which Nixon said “I pledge to you that we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.”
The treaty of the Paris Peace Accord specified that a cease fire would take place four days later.
On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. solider left Vietnam. Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops on April 30, 1975.