Category Archives: tdih

December 18, 2012, 10:35 am

A Medal of Honor

(Originally from 2009.  Worth a republish today)

On this day in history, Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye, a Japanese-American from Hawaii, led his platoon into action near San Terenzo, Italy.scr_20005191a_hr.jpg Inouye, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, had left his medical studies to enlist in 1943, rising to the rank of Sergeant and then getting a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. The war in Europe would end within the month, but the Germans were still defending their remnant of Italy fiercely. That day…but let Inouye describe the action:

We jumped off at first light. E Company’s objective was Colle Musatello, a high and heavily defended ridge. All three rifle platoons were to be deployed, two moving up in a frontal attack, with my platoon skirting the left flank and coming in from the side. Whichever platoon reached the heights first was to secure them against…

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July 3, 2012, 8:21 pm

The Rock of Erin

No power of the enemy could move the center and left of the [69th Pennsylvania] regiment, which clung to its position with unflinching tenacity, keeping up a deadly and unremitted fire, the men at times clubbing their muskets to beat back the foe, who seemed determined to cross the wall.[1]

On this day in history, 149 years ago and perhaps a bit earlier than this post’s time, the high tide of the Confederacy crested–at least partly–on the Rock of Erin, and fell back.

The brave men, living and dead, indeed.

[1] Samuel P[enniman] Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. (Harrisburg: B. Singerly, state printer, 1869), 703.


December 1, 2011, 7:25 pm

A Global Great Society.

[Editor's Note: Bob Reinhardt, a PhD candidate in our department, submitted this TDIH before the late unpleasantness on our campus. He then asked if I would hold off on posting for a bit. Well, a bit has passed, and it's time to talk about smallpox. Really, though, when isn't it the right time to talk about smallpox? Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose. Anyway, thanks, Bob, for doing this.]

23 November

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared all-out war on a universally despised enemy. The announcement didn’t concern Vietnam — Johnson had escalated that police action months before — nor poverty, against which the US had allegedly been fighting an “unconditional war.” This particular declaration targeted a different enemy, older and perhaps more loathsome than any ideological or socioeconomic affliction: smallpox. As the White House Press Release explained, the US…

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December 8, 2010, 11:55 am

Thirty years? Really?

February 16, 2010, 9:00 am

Meat is Murder at 25

The Smiths’ second album released 25 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Some reflections from younger musicians here. And here’s Rusholme Ruffians.

I think the album holds up pretty well. There’s lots of good playing and the lyrics are twee but funny enough to age all right. “Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen– this means you really love me.” Verdict: nothing to be ashamed of!

(Would that were true of all the music I was rocking out to at the time; Martin Gore, I’m looking at you. Warning: may cause seizures.)

February 12, 2010, 12:27 pm

“Look – I couldn’t eat another thing. I’m absolutely stuffed. Bugger off.”

Today we remember the hapless epicure Adolf Frederick I, a twig from the Holstein family tree who reigned as King of Sweden from 1751 until his death in on this date in 1771. His two decades on the throne were significant only to the extent that he presided helplessly over the decline of the Swedish kingdom.

As sovereign, Frederick I was almost completely powerless and functioned more or less as an ornament while the riksdag managed the affairs of state, which included Sweden’s commitment to the Seven Years’ War — the first truly global war in human history, provoked by a poisonous mixture of European internal politics and colonialism.  Sweden’s contribution to the struggle consisted mainly of throwing a series of tiny, scrofulous armies into the field against Frederick II of Prussia.  The Prussian ruler was so unimpressed with the Swedish effort that when hostilities ended in …

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December 28, 2009, 1:51 pm

Rest in peace without victory.

Let’s start a tdih by turning over our pixels to the first couple paragraphs of John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s new biography Woodrow Wilson:

Each year, in the morning on December 28, a military honor guard carrying the American flag presents a wreath that bears the words “The President.” Accompanying the honor guard are members of the clergy, who carry a cross and say a prayer. The clergy are present because the wreath-laying ceremony takes place in front of a tomb in the Washington National Cathedral. Since teh day is only a week after the winter solstice, the low angle of the morning sun causes bright colors from the stained glass windows to play across the floor of the alcove where the tomb is located, over the stone sarcophagus, and on the words carved on the walls. The alcove contains two flags, the Stars and Stripes and the orange and black-shielded ensign of Princeton University. The …

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December 23, 2009, 1:00 am

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in storage

This is a guest post by our friend andrew, over by the wayside. Many thanks!

(Image from W.H. Michael, The Declaration of Independence, Washington, 1904)

On this day in 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were taken out of their exhibit cases at the Library of Congress, carefully wrapped in acid-free and neutral packing materials, and placed inside a bronze container designed especially to carry them. When the packing was complete, the “top of the container was screwed tight over a cork gasket and locked with padlocks on each side.”*

The documents remained in this state for the next few days, until the Attorney General ruled on December 26th that the Librarian of Congress could “without further authority from the Congress or the President take such action as he deems necessary for the proper protection and preservation of these documents.” At which point the…

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November 11, 2009, 5:34 am

Bawl Allegiance

wilfred_owen_family.jpgOn this day in 1918, Susan Owen (center in picture) received word that her son, Wilfred, had been killed the previous week while fighting with his unit in the Battle of the Sambre. She thus might have read the words of his death while listening to the bells of the town church peal the news of the Armistice that ended World War I. Peace had come for Britain, if not perhaps for her.

She likely feared such a telegram. Wilfred’s letters to her rarely tried to conceal the situation at the front. One, from 1917, said that:

I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these last 4 days. I have suffered seventh hell. I have not been at the front.

I have been in front of it.

I held an advanced post, that is, a ‘dug-out’ in the middle of No Man’s Land.

Those fifty hours were the agony of my happy life.

Every ten minutes on Sunday afternoon seemed an hour.

I nearly broke down and let…

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November 10, 2009, 7:56 pm

40 is the new 20.

Happy Birthday Sesame Street! And many more! For a wonderful series of posts marking the occasion, see here, here, here, and here. Also, if you’d like to share your favorite Sesame Street moment(s) in the comments, with or without links, that would be lovely. And finally, yes, I know the above clip isn’t exactly celebratory (and that we’ve talked about it here before), but for me it represents the essence of the show. Put another way: it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.

November 10, 2009, 4:10 pm

The cost of freedom.

On this day in 1989, once everyone stopped patting themselves on the back for bringing down the Berlin Wall, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney lamented what East German freedom would do to defense contractors in the pages of the Wall Street Journal:


October 10, 2009, 8:46 am

Sunshine and blood.

On this day in 1933, about 350 farm workers gathered in the small central California town of Pixley to listen to Pat Chambers, a 33-year-old Irish-American Communist union organizer.  Chambers’s union, the Cannery and Agricultural Workers International Union, was coordinating the largest farmworker strike in U.S. history up to that point: a walkout by 20,000 mostly Mexican cotton pickers up and down the Central Valley to protest wages as low as ten cents an hour.

The young organizer, who was still recovering from a broken jaw he suffered from a vigilante attack in a recent strike, stood on a truck bed, urging the workers to remain non-violent, but to protect themselves if they were attacked. As Chambers spoke, a caravan of cars and trucks filled with forty growers roared into town and pulled up behind them.  The men spilled out of the cars, brandishing pistols, rifles, and shotguns….

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September 8, 2009, 8:57 am

Looking forward.

On this day in 1974, Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon an unconditional pardon for all federal crimes that he had “committed or may have committed or taken part in” while serving as president. Ford justified his decision, as you can see above, in several ways: Nixon and his family had already suffered enough; Nixon’s trial wouldn’t begin for months or years, and might not be fair even then; the country would remain bitterly divided throughout the intervening period; Ford had the power to act, his conscience told him that he should, and so he did.

Nixon greeted the news by noting that he was “wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate.” Ford, meanwhile, having announced the defining act of his presidency, traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, where he played a round of golf at the Burning Tree…

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September 3, 2009, 12:23 am

“the peace and tranquility of this state”

In the wake of George Wallace’s June 1963 “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” — when the recalcitrant governor made good on his campaign pledge to “Stand Up for Alabama” by attempting to block two black students from enrolling at the state’s flagship university — Wallace began entertaining dreams of greater glory. Unlike certain young, recently-elected, revanchist governors in our own historical moment, George Wallace believed he would be better positioned for a run at the presidency if he were actually sitting in office at the time of the campaign; with 1968 in mind, he asked the Alabama legislature to amend the state constitution so that he might win a second term in 1966. While he waited — fruitlessly, as it would happen — Wallace began considering an intra-party challenge to John Kennedy. (He would eventually announce his intentions in Dallas in November 1963, not far …

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September 1, 2009, 3:46 pm

Fall Weiß

highres_30018917 copy.jpgOn this day in 1939, the German Army invaded Poland. Operation Fall Weiß (Case White), as it was code-named, sent more than 60 German divisions storming into Poland. It came a day after the Gleiwitz incident, one part of Operation Himmler. The latter had German troops dressed in Polish uniforms attacking German emplacements along the border in order to give a casus belli. At Gleiwitz, for example, an SS unit so dressed attacked a German radio transmitter and then retreated, leaving behind dead bodies also dressed in Polish uniforms. The bodies–those of concentration camp inmates–were called Konserve, or “Canned Goods.”

Operation Himmler served as the official German pretext for the invasion of Poland. Needless to say, the invasion was actually long-planned, and came at the end of a whole series of aggressive moves by the Nazi government, including the remilitarization of the…

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