April 23, 1014 – King Brian Of Ireland Murdered By Vikings
Brian Boru, the high king of Ireland, is assassinated by a group of retreating Norsemen shortly after his Irish forces defeated them.
Unlike previous high kings of Ireland, Brian resisted the rule of Ireland’s Norse invaders, and after further conquests his rule was acknowledged. As his power increased, relations with the Norsemen on the Irish coast grew increasingly strained. In 1013, Sitric, king of the Dublin Norse, formed an alliance against Brian, featuring Viking warriors from Ireland, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, and Iceland, as well as soldiers of Brian’s native Irish enemies.
On April 23, 1014, Good Friday, forces under Brian’s son Murchad met and annihilated the Viking coalition at the Battle of Clontarf, near Dublin. After the battle, a small group of Norsemen, flying from their defeat, stumbled on Brian’s tent, overcame his bodyguards, and murdered the elderly king. Victory at Clontarf broke Norse power in Ireland forever, but Ireland largely fell into anarchy after the death of Brian.
In fairness, the Vikings were most likely acting upon Smite a Ginger Day.
Bob’s not the only one who can brag about a Big Boy. Meet locomotive #4014.
In its prime, a massive steam locomotive known as Big Boy No. 4014 was a moving eruption of smoke and vapor, a 6,300-horsepower brute dragging heavy freight trains over the mountains of Wyoming and Utah.
It’s been silent for half a century, pushed aside by more efficient diesels, but now it’s coming back to life. The Union Pacific Railroad is embarking on a yearslong restoration project that will put No. 4014 back to work pulling special excursion trains.
The American Locomotive Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., built 25 of the monsters to Union Pacific’s specifications between 1941 and 1944, and they became legendary. They were the largest steam locomotives ever to work the rugged terrain of the American West, and by most standards the largest anywhere in the world, said Gordon McCulloh, a meticulous historian of Union Pacific steam power. (H/T – Robert B.)
If and when I retire, I always wanted to be a train engineer. Just ridin’ the rails, with a powerful locomotive between your legs… oh wait, I’ve said too much.
April 9th, 1940 – Germany Invades Norway
During World War II, Nazi Germany invades neutral Norway, surprising the Norwegian and British defenders of the country and capturing several strategic points along the Norwegian coast. During the invasion’s preliminary phase, Norwegian Fascists under Vidkun Quisling acted as a so-called fifth column for the German invaders, seizing Norway’s nerve centers, spreading false rumors, and occupying military bases and other locations. In June, Norway fell to the Nazis.
Quisling was made head of a puppet government but was vigorously opposed by the Norwegian resistance, the most effective resistance movement in all of Nazi-occupied Europe. After the German surrender in May 1945, he was arrested, convicted of high treason, and shot. From his name comes the word quisling, meaning “traitor” in several languages.
Before the invasion, Hitler quipped, “We zip in, we pick ‘em up, we zip right out again. We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Norway. It’s like going into Wisconsin.”
April 2, 1941 – Rommel Recaptures Libya
Early Italian successes in East Africa, which included occupying parts of Sudan, Kenya, and British Somaliland, were soon reversed after British offensives, led by British Field Marshall Archibald Wavell, resulted in heavy Italian casualties and forced the Italians to retreat into Libya. But Axis control of the area was salvaged by the appearance of Rommel and the Afrika Korps, sent to East Africa by the German High Command to bail their Italian ally out.
On the verge of capturing Tripoli, the Libyan capital, Britain’s forces were suddenly depleted when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill transferred British troops to Greece. Seizing the opportunity of a weakened British force, Rommel struck quickly, despite orders to remain still for two months. With 50 tanks and two fresh Italian divisions, Rommel forced the British to begin a retreat into Egypt.
Say what you want about Washington, Andrew Jackson, or Patton; all things being equal, I’d take Rommel every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Not exactly Philadelphia’s finest hour.
March 26, 1987 – Torture Chamber Uncovered In Philadelphia
Responding to a 911 call, police raid the Philadelphia home of Gary Heidnik and find an appalling crime scene. In the basement of Heidnik’s dilapidated house is a veritable torture chamber where three naked women were found chained to a sewer pipe. A fourth woman, Josefina Rivera, had escaped and called police.
Six women were kidnapped and held in Heidnik’s dungeon. All were raped and tortured while the others were forced to watch. He killed one of the women by putting her in the pit, filling it with water and putting a live electrical wire into the water. Another of the women was killed when Heidnik let her starve to death while chained to the wall. In perhaps the most grisly and horrid episode of the entire incident, Heidnik dismembered one of his victims, cooking parts of her body and feeding it to his other captives. The women who were found alive recovered after being treated for dehydration and malnutrition.
Heidnik was one the inspirations for the Buffalo Bill character in Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs.
Heidnik was executed in 1999. He should have been summarily executed when they found the bodies.
There were a few good choices to choose today, but this one interested me the most. Enjoy.
March 19, 1916 – The First U.S. Air Combat Mission Begins
On this day in 1916, the First Aero Squadron, organized in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, flies a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops who, six days earlier, had invaded Mexico on President Woodrow Wilson’s orders to capture Mexican revolutionary Francisco Pancho Villa dead or alive…
…Despite numerous mechanical and navigational problems, the American fliers flew hundreds of missions for [Brigadier General John] Pershing and gained important experience that would later benefit the pilots over the battlefields of Europe. However, during the 11-month mission, U.S. forces failed to capture the elusive revolutionary, and Mexican resentment over U.S. intrusion into their territory led to a diplomatic crisis.
Looking for a hero? Look no further than General “Black Jack” Pershing.
March Against Tax On Salt – 12th March, 1930
Mahatma Gandhi and his followers begin a 200 mile march to the salt beds of Jalalpur to campaign against British tax on salt beginning the fight for Indian independence from Great Britain. What must also be remembered is he was 61 years old at the time and marched over 200 miles in a peaceful march as a form of protest.
Say what you want about Gandhi, but a tax on salt is one of the few things I’d march for. I put that crap on everything!
Today is the 244th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, but I thought, considering recent events in the Ukraine, this post was more apropos. March 5, 1953 – Joseph Stalin Dies.
Like his right-wing counterpart, Hitler, who was born in Austria, Joseph Stalin was not a native of the country he ruled with an iron fist. Isoeb Dzhugashvili was born in 1889 in Georgia, then part of the old Russian empire. The son of a drunk who beat him mercilessly and a pious washerwoman mother, Stalin learned Russian, which he spoke with a heavy accent all his life, in an Orthodox Church-run school. While studying to be a priest at Tiflis Theological Seminary, he began secretly reading Karl Marx and other left-wing revolutionary thinkers.
…Stalin did not mellow with age; he prosecuted a reign of terror, purges, executions, exiles to the Gulag Archipelago, and persecution in the postwar USSR, suppressing all dissent and anything that smacked of foreign, especially Western European, influence. To the great relief of many, he died of a massive heart attack on March 5, 1953. He is remembered to this day as the man who helped save his nation from Nazi domination—and as the mass murderer of the century, having overseen the deaths of between 8 million and 10 million of his own people.
People choose not to believe it, but Hitler was a piker compared to Stalin. Iron Joe was arguably the worst mass murderer in human history.
Funny thing about Russia, though; one dictator dies, and another one springs up immediately afterward… like a weed.
February 26, 1935 – Hitler organizes Luftwaffe
On February 26, 1935, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs a secret decree authorizing the founding of the Reich Luftwaffe as a third German military service to join the Reich army and navy. In the same decree, Hitler appointed Hermann Goering, a German air hero from World War I and high-ranking Nazi, as commander in chief of the new German air force.
The Luftwaffe was to be uncamouflaged step-by-step so as not to alarm foreign governments, and the size and composition of Luftwaffe units were to remain secret as before. However, in March 1935, Britain announced it was strengthening its Royal Air Force (RAF), and Hitler, not to be outdone, revealed his Luftwaffe, which was rapidly growing into a formidable air force.
The German air fleet grew dramatically, and the new German fighter–the Me-109–was far more sophisticated than its counterparts in Britain, France, or Russia. The Me-109 was bloodied during the Spanish Civil War; Luftwaffe pilots received combat training as they tried out new aerial attack formations on Spanish towns such as Guernica, which suffered more than 1,000 killed during a brutal bombing by the Luftwaffe in April 1937.
German planes were as good as their tanks. Thank God the German war machine was run by an incompetent, or a lot of countries would be sprechen Deutsch now.
Every time I hear some liberal extol the virtues of FDR, I harken back to the kinder, gentler concentration camps.
February 19. 1942 – FDR Signs Executive Order 9066.
On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066. The document ordered the removal of resident enemy aliens from parts of the West vaguely identified as military areas.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, Roosevelt came under increasing pressure by military and political advisors to address the nation’s fears of further Japanese attack or sabotage, particularly on the West Coast, where naval ports, commercial shipping and agriculture were most vulnerable.
Roosevelt delegated enforcement of 9066 to the War Department, telling Secretary of War Henry Stimson to be as reasonable as possible in executing the order. Attorney General Francis Biddle recalled Roosevelt’s grim determination to do whatever he thought was necessary to win the war. Biddle observed that Roosevelt was [not] much concerned with the gravity or implications of issuing an order that essentially contradicted the Bill of Rights.
A Democrat president contradicting the Bill of Rights. Who woulda thunk it? The link mentions the order affected Italian and German-Americans, but the Japanese-Americans were most affected. Ya think? That’s because Asian-Americans are easier to pick out of a crowd, and this order was inherently racist in nature.