The men attempted to shoot their way into the house from the front door of Blair House. A gun battle ensued on and around the front steps with White House police officers and Secret Service agents. President Truman was awakened in an upstairs bedroom by the sound of gunfire. He rushed to the window, but a guard shouted at him to take cover.
When the dust cleared, three White House policemen were injured, Torresola was killed, and Collazo was wounded. Private Leslie Coffelt, who fired the bullet that killed Torresola, died later that day from his wounds. His badge is displayed in his honor in the Blair House security office.
Collazo’s wife Rosa was arrested by the FBI for conspiracy charges and spent 8 months in jail. Upon her release she helped gather 100,000 signatures in an effort to save her husband from the electric chair. In 1952, Collazo was sentenced to death, but President Truman commuted his sentence to life imprisonment to be carried out at Leavenworth. On September 6, 1979, after spending 29 years in jail, President Jimmy Carter commuted his sentence. Upon their return to Puerto Rico, they were received as heroes by the different independence groups. Oscar and Rosa Collazo eventually were divorced. Rosa Collazo died in May 1988. On February 21, 1994, Oscar Collazo died of a stroke, having passed his 80th birthday by just over a month. The guns used by Collazo and Torresola in the assassination attempt are on display at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.
Ivy Mike was the codename given to the first test of a thermonuclear device, in which part of the explosive yield comes from nuclear fusion. It was detonated on November 1, 1952 by the United States on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean. It was the first successful test of the hydrogen bomb. The yield of the device was 10.4 megatons. The 62-ton “Mike” device was essentially a building that resembled a factory rather than a weapon.
The entire Mike device (including cryogenic equipment) weighed 82 short tons (73.8 metric tonnes), and was housed in a large corrugated-aluminium building called a “shot cab” which was set up on the Pacific island of Elugelab, part of the Enewetak atoll. In total, 9,350 military and 2,300 civilian personnel were involved in the Mike shot.
I created a youtube video describing step-by-step how to subscribe to History Podcast using iTunes. Now, I understand that not everyone uses iTunes and I intend to address other ways of subscribing/listening to the podcast in future posts, but since most people 90% listen via iTunes we are going to cover this way first. Please let me know how you listen to the podcast in the comments below.
I’m starting a new book today. I won it on a giveaway from the History Book Club. If you would like to read along with me here is the reading schedule I will be following. I’m starting the week one reading a little early today. As with all books, when I start reading I first read the outer cover.
In describing Washington: “…a long dead, white make, slave-owning aristocrat of the 18th century…” William Eskridge Jr. author of A Republic of Statutes and descent of George Eskridge the godfather of George Washington
“…prepare to be shocked, amazed and educated.” Hon. Michael W. McConnell, Stanford Law professor, director of Stanford constitutional Law Center and former federal judge
Not bad huh? Sounds like good reading. That last one I like a lot. I might have to steal it!
Listen to the Author Introduce the Book
Another great way to be introduced to this book is to let the author doing the talking. In the podcast New Books in History the host interviews authors about their new books. Thats just what happened with Logan Beirne.
Watch Beirne discuss his book with William Eskridge Jr. on C-SPAN’s Book TV.
After I read the front and back cover I move on to the inside cover, since this is a hardcover book, and I see the overview of the book. As I read, how this book will go over just how Washington made the rules of war up as he went along, I wonder if he will discuss Nathan Hale the brave young captain that stepped forward to be America’s first spy. I’m learning a little bit about him while I write the September newsletter. If you are not already subscribed, its free and you can sign up on the top right of this page.
Lastly I take a look at the inside back cover which introduces us to the author and gives us his background. As you would guess Beirne’s background is chalked full of awards and prestigious universities. But I found the last paragraph the most interesting:
Logan’s passion for the Revolution is in his blood-he is the directly descended from Revolutionary War patriots and his family tree includes the “Fathers of the Constitution,” James Madison. Some of Washington’s papers were discovered in a storage chest belonging to one of Logan’s ancestors.
I didn’t have high hopes Enemies: A History of the FBI, I thought it would be dry based on its topic and thickness. However, I really like how the book was laid out, covering an era at a time and what was going on in the nation and how the FBI reacted to it. It made the book very easy to follow and a nice read. While I was not very excited about the story, it was not the first book I picked up when I had time to read, it was well written. It did have some fairly excited parts for me like when discussing spies especially. I wish there would have been more discussed about spies as that is very interesting to me. However, I realize that this would have left the book astray of its intended topic.
I learned a lot about the history of the FBI so the book succeeded in its goal. I had no idea that Hoover was such a large part of the agency. For the first 2/3 of the book I felt like I was reading his biography.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the FBI. I now feel I have a better understanding of one of our nations super secret agencies.
On April 16, 1947 at around 8am people noticed a red glow from the ship Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City in Texas City, Texas. The Grandcamp was originally called the SS Benjamin R. Curtis, named for the American attorney and US Supreme Court Justice. It went into service in 1942 and served in World War II. After the war the ship was decommissioned. In a cold war, gesture the ship was given to the French Line, a shipping company established during 1861 as an attempt to revive the French merchant marine.
The ship’s cargo was Ammonium nitrate, a chemical frequently used as fertilizer. I spread some on my lawn this weekend actually. It is also used as an ingredient in explosives. Ammonium nitrate is a very common cargo.
About 600 feet away the High Flyer was was docked. Its cargo also consisted of ammonium nitrate. 961 tons of it. Not to mention 1,800 tons of sulfur. To make all this worse, the two ships were adjacent to a warehouse which stored more fertilizer. All of this was on its way to farmers in Europe.
At 8am the red glow from the cargo hold on the Grandcamp was noticed and they began to try to put out the fire. All attempts failed.
Just before 9am the captain ordered the hold steamed. A common method used to try to put out the fire while not damaging the cargo. The hold began to expand because of the pressure from the steam. Meanwhile, crowds began to gather at what they thought was a safe distance. They noted to each other that the water around the ship was boiling. And when water splashed up against the hull it immediately turned to steam and evaporated.
At 9:12 am the cargo detonated. Sending a massive 15 foot wave out into the ocean from the port. The blast leveled almost 100 buildings on the shore. The explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant on shore and it also ignited refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront. It was a gigantic explosion, which hurled the Grandcamps anchor 1.6 miles into the city. Creating a 10 foot deep crater. The blast shored off the wings of a sightseeing plane flying overhead and launched bales of flaming twine from the Grandcamps deck into the air.
10 miles from the explosion people in Galveston, Texas were thrown to their knees from the blast and in Houston, Texas, 40 miles from the explosion windows were shattered. The blast was felt as far as Louisiana, 100 miles from the blast. The grandcamp ship did not fair well either. Most of its 6,350 tons of steel were blown into the air with its cargo. Some at supersonic speeds. All of the crew that were aboard the Grandcamp died and many of those around the ship were either blown instantly to bits or burned alive. The official death toll was 567, which is believed to be underestimated. All but one of the Texas City volunteer firefighters, who were fighting the fire survived the explosion.
The High Flyer’s cargo was set afire from the blast on the Grandcamp and after 15 hours of fighting that fire and trying to move the ship away unsuccessfully, the High Flyer also exploded. That explosion killed two more and completely demolished the SS Wilson B. Keene docked nearby. One of the High Flyer’s propellers was blown a mile inland. It is now part of a memorial park, and sits near the anchor of the Grandcamp. The propeller is cracked in several places, and one of the blades has a large piece missing from it, a mute testament to the destruction that took place that day.
This disaster is widely considered to be the worst industrial accident in US history. The estimated property damage in 1947 dollars was 100 million, which in current dollars would equate to around 1.04 billion. It is believed that there were at least 468 deaths and 5,000 injured. Around 2,000 people were left homeless.
Hundreds of lawsuits were filed in the aftermath of the disaster under the recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). On April 13, 1950, the district court found the United States responsible for a litany of negligent acts of omission and commission by 168 named agencies and their representatives in the manufacture, packaging, and labeling of ammonium nitrate, further compounded by errors in transport, storage, loading, fire prevention, and fire suppression, all of which led to the explosions.
On June 10, 1952, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision, finding that the United States maintained the right to exercise its own “discretion” in vital national matters. On June 8, 1953, the US Supreme Court upheld that decision.
This will be a quick post to tell you about the great book group I found on goodreads.com. It is for people who like to read history books. Every month the book group reads different books. You can choose to participate in all group reads or just in the ones that are reading books you are interested in.
The best part is the free books. Ever once and a while the group leader will receive free books from publishers. Around 30 copies are usually sent to him. He then ask who would be willing to read the book and participate in the group discussion online. If you agree you are put in the running to receive the book. No shipping fees, nothing. Just a free book with the understanding that you will participate in the discussion once it begins. I did this already once for Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. It was a great read and the discussion was wonderful.
If this sounds like something you would like to do head on over to Goodreads History Book Club. Joining Goodreads is free and joining the history book club is free. Right now the free book that we are all reading is Enemies: A History of the FBI. It is not too late to join in the discussion on this book if you want to pick up the book yourself and join in the conversation. Everyone is welcome.
On July 9, we start reading Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. You still have plenty of time to pick this one up. There are also other book readings going on in this group at the same time. So, have a look around and see if there is anything you are interested in. The Catherine read has already maxed out on the free books available, but join the group now so you don’t miss out on the next free book group read.
If you start reading the FBI or Catherine book as part of the online group read, please let me know on the goodreads discussion boards. I’d like to know if some history podcast listeners are out there. I will be reading the books right along with you.
I recently read Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff. This was a great history book. It has all the things I look for in a history book. Zuckoff is not a historian but a journalist so he tells a story. It is not a dry retelling of facts in chronological order. The book is about an obscure military base that is very remote. I love obscure history, I hate re-reading what I already know about with just a few new facts thrown in here and there, or worse yet someone else’s “new” observations.
Zuckoff writes in a way that is very readable especially for those with no interest in history. There is action, adventure and drama in this great book. It all happens during WWII but there is very little about the war in this book, it all about a small group of people stranded after a plane crash. I don’t want to say anything more because this book is very much worth your time if you decide to read it. I really enjoyed this book and I think any reader of this site will too. If you have read it please let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Happy reading!
For a long time I have wanted to write a post about what I do to produce a podcast. For episode 119 The Thirty Years War I first did a lot of research. I read about the war on wikipedia, then I searched the Internet for other sources. I found Hank’s History Hour episode on the religious wars, and I found Nathan Barber’s website. I listened to what Mr. Barber had on his website and I read the materials he had there. Then I started writing long hand, 10 pages. I also stopped at my local library to see what they had as far as books. I borrowed The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy and Eyewitness Accounts of the Thirty Years War 1618-48. I took a couple of tid-bits from the latter book, but the first book is huge and I just thumbed through it.
Then it was time to start recording. Easier said then done though. There are a few problems to recording. First finding the time to have a quiet house. For those who don’t know I have a little girl that is currently 2 and a half. If you know two and a half year-olds, then you know they are not a quiet group. Secondly, my microphone is packed up and at my in-laws home, since we have been trying to move for a year now, with no luck. The housing market in Southern California is less than ideal. So I had to record on the built in microphone on my laptop.
I went back and started using Audacity to record my podcast with. It is free and easy to use. After recording I use another program to normalize the audio so it is not too quiet or too loud anywhere. That software is called levelator. Then I import back into Audacity for finishing touches, like adding the intro music. After which I usually add the tags to the podcast using iTunes, but I think I forgot to do that this last time, so you may notice that.
Then it is already to go and I upload to Libsyn. After they have it, it is time to update my rss feed for the podcast and post the accompanying blog article. Thats it. Well, thats it for the audio portion of the podcast. For the Thirty Years War I also did a video, a PDF history guide and a timeline. I haven’t always done all these “extras”. I probably won’t continue to do them either. I didn’t get any feedback on any of the extras and I received very little feedback on the actual audio podcast.
There it is. If there are any questions just post them in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!
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