Remembering When Bermuda Was an Onion Island

H/T Atlas Obscura.

I can remember my grandmother baking Bermuda Onions.

Mark Twain once called the allium the “pride and joy of Bermuda.”

An Ode to the Charleston Chew

H/T Wide Open Eats.com.

What’s your favorite nostalgic candy bar? Maybe it’s the Clark Bar or the Zero Bar. Maybe you’re a fan of the GooGoo Cluster. Or maybe your favorite is the chewy flavored nougat with a chocolate coating known as the Charleston Chew. This popular candy bar is almost a hundred years old, and while you might have to look a little harder to find it, the Charleston Chew is still around and still a great candy bar.

The Charleston Chew was made and sold by the Fox-Cross Candy Company. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, that invention was a confection. Donley Cross – the Cross in the Fox-Cross Candy Company – was a Shakespearean stage actor in San Francisco. During a performance, he fell off the stage and injured his back enough that he wasn’t able to keep acting.

Cross created the candy company with Charlie Fox in 1920, and in 1922 they introduced the Charleston Chew. The first version of this candy bar was chewy vanilla nougat covered in a milk chocolate coating. The candy bar was named after the Charleston, a popular dance at the time. (Remember the dance where George and Mary fall into the covered swimming pool in “It’s a Wonderful Life”? That’s the Charleston.)

In 1957, Nathan Sloane, who started his candy career as a candy distributor at age 16, bought the Fox-Cross Candy Company. Sloane added the chocolate and strawberry flavors, but he was also responsible for one of the things for which the candy bar is best known.

Some candy bars are good when they’re frozen. Sloane, leaning into the relatively new refrigeration and freezer availability in individual homes, promoted the idea of freezing Charleston Chew candy bars to turn the chewy nougat into a crunchy texture. Turning the candy bar crunchy wasn’t just about the taste; it was also fun. Fans loved getting the “Charleston Crack” by smacking the candy bars on a hard surface to create bite-size pieces.

In 1980, Sloane sold his company to Nabisco. Warner-Lambert bought the Charleston Chew from Nabisco is 1988, and then sold the brand to Tootsie Roll Industries in 1993. In 1998, the company introduced Charleston Mini Chews, bite-sized versions of the original candy bar.

The candy bar is made with corn syrup, sugar, palm kernel oil, nonfat dry milk, cocoa, lactose, milk protein concentrate, egg albumen, artificial flavor, lecithin and salt.

You can buy the regular size candy bars and the mini Charleston Chews still today.

How the Sundae Got its Name & the Origin of the Banana Split

H/T Food 52.com.

In honor of where we came from (that is, our mothers), we’re exploring the origins of some of our favorite foods and drinks. Today: the banana split.

Certain things we take for granted: the break of dawn, for instance. Baseball. Banana splits. You know, those decadent desserts of multiple scoops of ice cream wedged between halves of a sweet banana and topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, nuts, and cherries.

A relatively recent innovation, the banana split owes a debt to Chester Platt, a druggist in the university town of Ithaca, New York who’s widely credited with inventing sundaes—of which the banana split is a variation.

In 1892, Platt “poured some cherry syrup over [ice cream] and placed that iconic cherry on that dessert,” Michael Turback, the author of A Month of Sundaes and The Banana Split Book, explained to me on the phone. Pouring syrups on ice cream wasn’t entirely new (Thomas Jefferson used to pour maple syrup over top, Turback said), but the cherry on top—and the new name—was the clincher. Platt called it the Sunday since that was the day he invented it, but church representatives felt that it was in insulting to God’s day, so the spelling was changed.

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“Students came from all over to Cornell and they spread the word about sundaes,” Turback said. “So, by 1904, anybody who ran an ice cream shop or a drug store where they sold ice cream would be selling sundaes.”

“Anybody,” as Turback suggests, included one David “Doc” Strickler. In 1904, he was a 23-year-old University of Pittsburgh student and apprentice pharmacist at Tassell’s Pharmacy, about 286 miles southwest of Ithaca, in a prototypical American burb called Latrobe, Pennsylvania (also the original home of Rolling Rock lager). At work he made frozen desserts which he enjoyed, as he later told a reporter, because “it was a fun job and a great opportunity to meet girls.”

As the story goes, one day Strickler was challenged by a young customer to make something “different.” Among the ingredients before him was the banana, a new import on the American fruit scene.

“He had this genius to create this banana split sundae,” Turback said. It was culinary opulence: Chocolate syrup oozing down a scoop of chocolate ice cream, strawberry syrup draped across the strawberry scoop, and pineapple adorning the vanilla. There was whipped cream. There was, of course, a cherry.

Strickler wasn’t the only one to come up with this kind of dessert. In the years just after his innovation, dessert makers in Wilmington, Ohio and Boston came up with their own takes on the banana split, sometimes claiming credit for being the first to do so. In Wilmington, in fact, there’s an annual fundraising festival anchored in this myth. The claims are largely discounted, Turback said, and the mantle of inventor belongs uniquely to Strickler.

Strickler, though, was not the only one working at Tassell’s. There was also a young clerk who “eventually went to school at Penn, in Philadelphia, and when he got there he got another job at a soda fountain and he said, ‘We make these,’ and they started making banana splits in Philly.”

“If you take a straight line from Latrobe to Philadelphia, it goes on to Atlantic City,” Turback went on. “Atlantic City was, at that time, America’s vacation spot, the most famous resort in the country. So, the banana split made its way to Atlantic City and people from all over enjoyed and that’s where the national reputation for banana split exploded.”

PHOTO BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ

Turback estimates it took about five to ten years for the split to get to the shore, and a handful more to make its way into popular culture. Like when Stan asks for a banana split in a Laurel and Hardy short from 1929. Or when Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers eat them up in a film of theirs.

It was surely a ripe time for such a dessert. After 1929, in the Depression era, there were few splurges people allowed themselves. Among them were movies and an ice cream treat, since a whole dinner out would be too extravagant.

But, as Turback, pointed out, the fortunes of the banana split waned by the 1950s. It had to compete with chains like Carvell and Dairy Queen whose soft serve was not conducive to use in a sundae. In time, too, ice cream flavors started including sundae elements—nuts and bits of chocolate, for instance—mixed right into it, obviating the need for toppings.

That doesn’t mean banana splits are altogether extinct. Hardly. They’re on menus from coast to coast (Morganstern’s in New York, for example, serves an $18 King Kong Banana Split with sesame caramel, pineapple, and Luxardo cherries). Rather, it means that tastes change—even when it comes to frozen desserts.

Those Plastic COVID-19 Barriers in Stores Probably Aren’t Helping Anyone

H/T Mental Floss.

I only have this to say about it Duh!

In an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19, many stores and public-facing businesses have opted to install plastic barriers separating employees from customers. By one estimate, more than $750 million has been spent on these Plexiglas-type products. The premise is that the physical separation may help reduce viral particles from being communicated from one party to another.

According to a recent report in The New York Times, that may not be the case.

In speaking with experts, the Times asserts that instead of blocking particles, the barriers may simply be redirecting them to other work colleagues on one side of the barrier—or, worse, reducing ventilation in the space, which is a key component of helping mitigate viral spread indoors.

In the case of a school classroom, which may have barriers for each seat, the problem can be amplified. “If you have a forest of barriers in a classroom, it’s going to interfere with proper ventilation of that room,” Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, told the Times. “Everybody’s aerosols are going to be trapped and stuck there and building up, and they will end up spreading beyond your own desk.”

What limited research exists on barrier effectiveness generally indicates only limited benefit. A plastic shield will almost certainly stop a larger particle from a cough or sneeze from ending up on a person’s face, but smaller aerosols expelled during a conversation may instead drift, moving over the barrier (which rarely extends to ceiling height) where it can hang in the air and remain a potential source of infection.

Benefits are noticeable when the barrier is more substantial—think a doctor’s office reception partition, a bank, or a bus driver enclosed in a space. But partial barriers installed without regard to the effects of airflow or ventilation may not be doing the job.

Should you be concerned about plastic barriers increasing your risk of illness? Not necessarily. Vaccination, masking, and social distancing remain the most effective ways to manage possible exposures. A limited time spent near a barrier is not likely to significantly impact those odds, though employees who spend hours in that situation and without proper airflow in the building might not find themselves in ideal circumstances.

[h/t The New York Times]

Civil War Air Balloons, Existed And Had Their Own Corp

H/T War History OnLine.

How many people are aware of this historical fact?

An air balloon and gunfire is not something you’d usually want to mix together, but the Union Army certainly did so with respectable results during the American Civil War. They were operated by the Balloon Corps, which used them as primitive platforms for forward observers and reconnaissance. At the time, the Union Army did not fully capitalize on the potential tactical advantages offered by the balloons, but their use improved the construction and operation of balloons and paved the way for later, full-fledged aerial reconnaissance.

 

At the time of the American Civil War, a formal air corps was still nearly 50 years away, and even the concept of a pilot was not yet commonplace. The novel idea of using balloons on the battlefield was pushed by Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, a highly educated and respected scientist and inventor.

US President Abraham Lincoln also saw the balloons’ potential, giving the idea credibility.

This was not the first time balloons had been used for military purposes though, as the French had already utilized balloons during the French Revolutionary Wars 70 years before.

Thaddeus S. C. Lowe

Thaddeus Lowe Aeronaut
Thaddeus Lowe, Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps. (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Before the Civil War began in 1861, Lowe had been busy making preparations for a transatlantic crossing by balloon. When war broke out, he offered his vast knowledge on lighter than aircraft to the government.

As the government had never dealt with such a technology, they decided all related activities should be combined together into a dedicated unit to be lead by someone with plenty of experience in the field.

Lowe’s knowledge and research were well respected among the scientific community, so he was the government’s first choice for “Chief Aeronaut”.

He was invited to Washington D.C. to perform a display in a balloon for President Lincoln. Lowe and his balloon rose to a height of 500 ft, where he then described his view in a telegraph to the President. After this impressive display, Lowe was selected to lead the Balloon Corps as Chief Aeronaut.

Balloon Corps

Intrepid Balloon
Intrepid being cross-inflated from Constitution in a spur-of-the-moment attempt to get the larger balloon in the air to overlook the imminent Battle of Seven Pines (Photo credit: Mathew Brady – War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer)

By the end of 1961, the Balloon Corps was up and running.

A balloon could provide an exceptional vantage point from which to observe enemy forces, but they saw little action, mostly floating above the Eastern Theater of the war. Their use was decided by the general in command, many of whom did not consider the balloons as particularly important.

The Balloon Corps operated a total of seven balloons of various sizes. The larger balloons, like the Intrepid and the Union, could contain 32,000 cubic feet of lifting gas, which was supplied by hydrogen generators. They could carry up to five people but needed a considerable amount of time to inflate and take flight.

The smallest types could only carry a single man but were much quicker to prepare.

While in the air, an observer in a balloon could see the entire battlefield, and report information to the ground below via telegraph messages. In 1861, Lowe manned a balloon near Washington D.C. to direct artillery fire on an enemy position. Using flags, he signaled adjustments to the artillery until their rounds were landing with great accuracy.

Things didn’t always go to plan, however, as Union General Fitz John Porter would find out in the most terrifying way.

Porter, who recognized the value of the balloons, joined Lowe to experience the novel reconnaissance platform. When balloons were operated, they were always tethered to the ground to prevent them from drifting away.

On this particular ride, Porter chose to use a single tethering rope to speed up the ascent, rather than the three or four suggested by Lowe. Because of this, the lone rope snapped and the balloon drifted silently over Confederate lines below.

A few shots were fired toward the balloon, but the men kept their cool and actually managed to draw up some sketches of enemy positions. Thankfully, the balloon eventually drifted back to Union lines.

The end of the Balloon Corps

View of balloon ascension. Prof. Thaddeus Lowe observing the Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks from his balloon “Intrepid” on the north side of the Chickahominy. (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
View of balloon ascension. Prof. Thaddeus Lowe observing the Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks from his balloon “Intrepid” on the north side of the Chickahominy. (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

In mid-1862, Lowe contracted malaria in the swampy conditions of the Civil War and was forced to rest while he recovered. Upon his return, he discovered all of his equipment and resources for operating balloons had been given back to the Army.

After a pay dispute and falling out of favor with the Union Army, Lowe resigned from the Balloon Corps in May 1863. Control of the Corps was given to the Allen brothers, but they were unable to lead the unit as effectively as Lowe.

Before the end of 1863, the Balloon Corps was no more.

The Women Who Decoded German Enigma At Bletchley Park

H/T War History OnLine.

We owe these code breakers more than we could ever repay.

The work done at Buckinghamshire’s Bletchley Park is credited with shortening World War II by between two and four years. The UK’s greatest minds worked tirelessly to decrypt the German Enigma Code and those from other Axis powers. What many are not aware of is that the majority of those doing this critical job were women.

Bletchley Park’s top secret mission

Bletchley Park’s mission was once one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Breaking the German Enigma Code and Lorenz ciphers played a key role in the UK’s fight against Germany. It helped the Allies score war-changing wins in Europe – and later the Pacific – giving them a necessary edge against the Nazis.

Exterior of Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park, 1926. (Photo Credit: Evening Standard / Getty Images)

Those chosen to work at Bletchley Park often had no idea what they were signing up for. The hiring process was secretive, and each new hire was made to sign the Official Secrets Act (1939). Only when they arrived in Buckinghamshire did they learn their task was to decipher the code the Nazis believed was unbreakable.

The project was run by the Government Code and Cypher School. Everyone had their own duties, which were performed in huts throughout the sprawling estate. They used new technology, such as the Bombe machine, to break the codes, and it’s estimated 10,000 personnel were working at Bletchley Park and its outstations by January 1945.

Women working with Typex machines
Photo Credit: Bletchley Park Trust / Getty Images

The work done at Bletchley Park was kept classified until 1974, meaning workers couldn’t tell their loved ones of their wartime feats. By the time the files were declassified, many had passed away never seeing their hard work and dedication recognized.

Women played a key role

While the most well-known codebreakers at Bletchley Park were Alan Turing and Stuart Milner-Barry, the vast majority of those working there were women. With much of the country’s men fighting in Europe, the GC&CS needed to expand recruitment.

Women writing on paper at a table
Photo Credit: UK Government / Wikimedia Commons

Approximately 75 percent of those working at Bletchley Park by the end of the war were women. They were largely university educated and from families of high social standing, but later grew to include crossword enthusiasts, mathematicians and linguists.

While women were first charged with performing clerical duties, their mandate was later expanded to include the codebreaking typical done by male cryptanalysts. They were soon operating the Bombe machines and Colossus computers, considered the most important of auxiliary work. While many of their male colleagues initially believed them incapable, they soon proved themselves to be up for the task.

Two WRENS working on a Colossus computer
WRENS working at a Colossus computer. (Photo Credit: Bletchley Park Trust / Getty Images)

There have been many efforts to commemorate the women who worked at Bletchley Park. Unfortunately, the task has been made difficult by the fact a complete list of workers was never produced. This means the current roster has been compiled by friends, family, veterans, and other sources.

Alisa Maxwell

Alisa Maxwell had initially planned to join the Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) when she was approached by the Foreign Office to interview for an unspecified job. She was sent to work as a temporary assistant at Bletchley Park, and just two weeks later was assigned to Hut 6, where she worked in the Block D machine room.

Alisa Maxwell sitting at a table with a book
Alisa Maxwell. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Maxwell was responsible for compiling information obtained by other huts and inputting them into the Bombe machine. Her most significant accomplishment came on May 7, 1945. While working alongside Intelligence Corps member Asa Briggs, her station received an uncoded message from Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler’s successor and President of Germany, announcing the country’s unconditional surrender.

Helene Aldwinckle

Helene Aldwinckle was recommended by Aberdeen University Principal William Hamilton Fyte, in part due to her memory and interest in languages. She was selected by Stuart Milner-Barry to become a permanent Foreign Office Civil Servant and sent to Bletchley Park in the summer of 1942.

She was initially placed in Registration Room 1 (RR1) and tasked with training American service personnel. When that work was complete, she was transferred to the Quiet Room (QR) in Hut 6 to decipher the Enigma codes. Her work with Americans came in handy, as it allowed her to work on longer, more complicated encryption problems, including the identification of Enigma radio signals and networks.

Women sitting at desks
Photo Credit: Bletchley Park Trust / Getty Images

Aldwinckle stayed at Bletchley Park after the war to help write up the history of Hut 6. However, she was forced to leave in 1945, due to a Foreign Office policy stating women could not stay employed after marriage. Just a few months earlier, she’d wed Royal Air Force lieutenant John Aldwinckle.

Jane Fawcett

Jane Fawcett joined Bletchley Park in 1940, after being interviewed by Stuart Milner-Barry. She was known as one of the “Debs of Bletchley Park,” due to her family’s status. She was assigned to Hut 6, a decoding room made up solely of women. There, she and her colleagues received daily Enigma keys, which they typed into their Typex machines to determine if they were recognizable German.

Memorial stone for Edward and Jane Fawcett
Memorial for Jane Fawcett and her husband, Edward. (Photo Credit: AndyScott / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Through her work, she was able to help decode a message regarding the position of the German battleship, Bismarck. She and the team learned it was sailing to France, allowing the Royal Navy to attack and sink it on May 27, 1941. This is widely considered the first significant victory for the codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Margaret Rock

Margaret Rock joined Bletchley Park on April 15, 1940, where she worked for Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair, the Head of the GC&CS and the Secret Intelligence Service. Her education – specifically her math skills – enabled her to decode German Enigma alongside some of the best, including Alfred Dillwyn “Dilly” Knox, the Chief Cryptographer of the GC&CS.

Margaret Rock
Margaret Rock. (Photo Credit: Kerry Howard / YouTube)

While working with Knox, Rock became the most senior cryptographer, specializing in German and Russian codebreaking. Her biggest accomplishment came when she and her team decoded a message that gave the British forces the advantage when it came to planning the D-Day attacks.

Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey is widely considered one of the leading codebreakers of Bletchley Park. Initially stationed at one of its outstations in London, she was later transferred to the Buckinghamshire estate, where she worked as an assistant to Dilly Knox.

Batey quickly adapted to her new work environment and became familiar with the different styles of individual enemy operators. In late March 1941, she was working on Italian Naval Enigma when she deciphered a message, leading to the discovery that the Italians were planning to attack the Royal Navy supply convoy off the coast of Greece. The subsequent combat became known as the Battle of Cape Matapan.

In December 1941, she broke a message between Belgrade and Berlin that enabled the team to break the Abwehr Enigma. She later broke another, the GGG. It contained messages confirming the Nazis were falling for the Double-Cross intelligence being passed on by double agents.

6 Inventions That Transformed Housework

H/T History.com.

Six life changing inventions.

Electric appliances large and small promised reduced drudgery.
 

The phrase “industrial innovation” conjures images of 3-D printing or robots working on a factory assembly line. But while most people take washers and refrigerators for granted today, a century ago, these machines revolutionized people’s daily lives.

The introduction of running water and electricity set the stage for sweeping social and cultural changes by making possible labor-saving devices to tackle routine household chores. Electric home appliances eliminated the need for cooking over a fireplace or a coal-fired stove or devoting a full day every week cleaning garments. Such machines gave women, in particular, more time for endeavors outside the home—from paying work to higher education to leisure activities. In doing so, they helped bolster a growing middle class.

Here’s how six game-changing household inventions came into being.

READ MORE: These Women Taught Depression-Era Americans to Use Electricity

The Refrigerator: Stay Alive; Chill Your Food

In the early 20th century, food poisoning was on the rise in the U.S. Food was traveling further from farms to stores and homes, and more of it was being contaminated, causing everything from botulism to typhoid. Throughout the 19th century, reducing food spoilage involved harvesting and storing blocks of ice that were used in everything from shipping containers to household “ice boxes.” But ice consumption had reached unsustainable levels, and the sources of that ice were increasingly polluted by industry.

Engineers found ways to use compressed gasses as artificial refrigerants on a commercial scale, but it was Alfred Mellowes in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who devised the first compact refrigerator in 1915 for home use. William Durant, then-president of General Motors, bought the fledgling company, which had been struggling to keep up with orders. His team refined the design and began assembling the new Frigidaire on an assembly line in Detroit.

WATCH: Full episodes of The Machines That Built America online now and tune in for all-new episodes Sundays at 9/8c.

The Dishwasher: No More Chipped Teacups

Demonstration of a new dishwasher c. 1921

 

Demonstration of an early dishwasher c. 1921

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images

Fed up with devoting hours to hand-washing her family’s fine china after dinner parties, Josephine Cochran (sometimes known as Cochrane) invented the first commercially successful dishwasher. “If no one else is going to invent (it), I’ll do it myself,” resolved the recent widow. She received her first patent for her device—which relied on water pressure rather than on scrubbers—in 1886, after using her initials rather than her full name on the application to disguise her gender. Cochran turned to mechanic George Butters for help building a prototype in a shed adjoining her family home, in Shelbyville, Illinois. In 1893, the Garis-Cochran dish washing machine won an award at the World’s Fair in Chicago, with judges praising it for “the best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work.” By 1898, Cochran had opened her own factory; with models costing upward of $300, most clients were hotels and restaurants.

In the 1920s, ads described the devices as “the electric dishwasher for fine homes” that would allow affluent households “to keep the best class of servants.” But price kept them out of reach for most American families until after World War II.

The Washing Machine: Killing Off ‘Wash Day’

At the dawn of the 20th century, most women could expect to devote an entire day to washing (and drying) their families’ clothes by hand, using big pots of boiling water and a scrub board. A lucky woman might own a wringer, operated with a hand crank, to remove excess water before hanging clothes on a line to dry. But getting through an entire load usually entailed hours of intensive labor.

Then came Frederick Maytag, a partner in a farm equipment business. In 1907, he was looking for new products to sell that would help the company ride out agriculture’s big cyclical swings. Maytag devised a hand-cranked washing machine, designed to lighten farm wives’ burden. By 1911, he had found a way to use either electricity or gasoline to power the new invention. The “Gyrofoam,” the first washing machine to use an agitator to clean the clothes in an aluminum tub, debuted in 1922. The modern clothes dryer (an appliance powered by electricity rather than a ventilation device that relied on open fires to dry clothes) arrived soon after.

The Vacuum Cleaner: The Pillowcase Solution

Brooms and carpet-beaters just didn’t get the job done. “The accumulation of dust and dirt in dwelling-houses in a source of great annoyance to all good housekeepers,” wrote Ives McGaffey in his 1869 patent application for a carpet sweeper that relied on a hand-operated crank to create suction. Next-generation vacuums were designed to run on gasoline, and were so large that many were pulled down the street by horse-drawn carriages; one called “Puffing Billy” even cleaned Westminster Abbey ahead of the coronation of Edward VII in 1911. The modern vacuum cleaner, which used electricity-driven suction, was the brainchild of Ohio department store janitor James Murray Spangler, who turned to ordinary household items (using a pillowcase as the first vacuum bag) to design an efficient machine. When Spangler’s cousin and her husband, Susan and William Hoover, bought the patent from the cash-strapped inventor in 1908, a household appliance brand name was born.

The Electric Iron: Bye Bye, Scorch Marks

Vignettes depicting the modern way of housekeeping, the electric way. Undated illustration.

 

Undated advertisement with vignettes depicting the modern, electric way of housekeeping. 

Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images

The arduous chore of heating and reheating heavy irons on a stove or over a fire to smooth out wrinkled clothes could take even more time than washing them. No wonder, then, that myriad inventors scrambled to devise a more efficient—and less sweaty—way, using electricity. Henry W. Seely of New York filed the first patent for an electric iron in 1882; within a decade, new innovations made it possible for the users to control the heat level and largely eliminate unsightly scorch marks. Black dressmaker and inventor Sarah Boone found a way to make the new invention even more handy, devising the prototype for today’s ironing board and becoming, in 1892, one of the first Black women to obtain a patent.

The Electric Mixer: Egg Beating Made Easy

Anyone who has tried to knead bread or whisk egg whites by hand knows how taxing these tasks can be, and how much time and effort can be saved by using an electric mixer. Little wonder, then, that myriad inventive minds set about finding some kind of solution to this drudgery beginning nearly two centuries ago. Hand-operated egg beaters could speed up the process of, say, blending sugar, milk and egg white to create icing for a cake, and Black inventor Willie Johnson took it a step further in 1884 by designing a device powered by an arrangement of gears, pulleys and beaters. Home electrification made possible Rufus M. Eastman’s pioneering electric mixer. By early in the 20th century, the standing mixer had become one of the most popular household innovations; the wives of executives at KitchenAid gave their husbands’ appliances trial runs in their own homes and raved about them. In the 1930s, movie star Ginger Rogers was spotted lining up to obtain one of the must-have gizmos.

 

 

The Story Behind Ejector Seats And The Man Who Pioneered The Industry

H/T War History OnLine.

The invention of the ejection seat is one of the biggest milestones for aviation safety in the history of flight. Before ejection seats, exiting an aircraft in an emergency was a hazardous ordeal, requiring crew members to literally leap free of their doomed machine. Factors like injuries, g forces, or being trapped meant successfully escaping from an inoperative aircraft was difficult. One of the pioneers in designing ejection seats was James Martin, who today has been estimated to have saved over 7,500 lives.

Ejection seats

Martin-Baker Ejection Seats
This spectacular escape is a through-canopy test of a Martin-Baker ejection seat from the cockpit section of an Alpha jet aircraft. The ‘airman’ is actually a dummy crew member equipped with a telemetry package to record loads sustained.  (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Simply put, an ejection seat is a system designed to remove a person from an aircraft in an emergency. One of the main aims is to launch the person clear of the aircraft itself to avoid collisions.

How this is achieved varies between designs, but most systems launch a crew member’s seat out of an aircraft with explosives or a rocket motor. A less common approach is to launch one or even multiple crew members out in a self-contained escape capsule. These are suited for aircraft that operate at extreme speeds or altitudes, where a conventional ejection seat would leave the crew exposed to the harsh conditions outside.

Once free from the aircraft, a parachute is usually deployed.

Before ejection seats were standardized, the process of bailing from an incapacitated aircraft was extremely dangerous. It was easy to get equipment snagged while climbing out, or impact a part of the aircraft after leaping free. Additionally, if a pilot was under high g forces or was too injured they may be unable to pull themselves out. At low altitudes, pilots often did not have enough time to bail out before their aircraft hit the ground.

The basic idea of a system that can remove a pilot from an aircraft had been around for almost as long as the aircraft itself. The concept greatly matured during WWII, but it was James Martin’s contributions to aircraft safety systems that would truly cement the ejection seat as a staple of aircraft design.

James Martin

Ejection Seat
Wearing full flying equipment, Herbert H. Jenkins, of Okehampton Devon, Sales Administrator of British Oxygen Aviation Services (Harlow). He is pictured in a Martin-Baker aircraft ejector seat to which is attached a piece of emergency oxygen equipment designed to look after flyers breathing until warmer and less rarefied air has been reached after ejecting from aircraft in difficulties. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Martin was born in Crossgar, County Down in Ireland on 11 September 1893. An engineer, he established the Martin-Baker aircraft manufacturing company with friend and pilot Valentine Baker, in 1934. Baker was an experienced pilot and would become the test pilot for the pair’s creations.

During a test flight for their third aircraft design, the Martin-Baker MB 3, the engine seized, forcing Baker to bring it back down to land. During the emergency landing, the MB 3 collided with a tree, killing Baker.

The death of Martin’s friend deeply affected him. He was so troubled by Baker’s death that he reorganized the company to focus purely on aircraft safety systems.

His first foray into ejection seats began in the 1930s, making him one of the earliest pioneers of the device. During WWII his investigations concluded that the best method of powering the seat was via explosives. Others at the time were experimenting with springs and compressed air.

2nd April 1949: A cadet pilot on the Martin-Baker ‘ejection-seat trainer’. Original Publication: Picture Post – 4744 – Are We Getting The Airforce We Need – pub. 1949 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
2nd April 1949: A cadet pilot on the Martin-Baker ‘ejection-seat trainer’. Original Publication: Picture Post – 4744 – Are We Getting The Airforce We Need – pub. 1949 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

One of the biggest hurdles in the development of the ejection seat was determining the number of g forces the human body could safely handle while traveling straight up. A Martin-Baker employee, Bernard Lynch, participated in repeated tests of increasing speed until he felt a high amount of discomfort.

On 24 July 1946 Lynch performed the company’s first live test out of an aircraft, a Gloster Meteor, at 320 mph and 8,000 ft. The test was a success.

Ejection Seat from Aircraft
A close-up of a Martin-Baker ejection seat, supplied to the air forces of 68 nations by the firm of Higher Denham, near Uxbridge. After ejection, the airman is let down by parachute. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Although other ejection seats were developed or in development by other nations before Martin’s, as he designed his, which set the standard for the modern ejection seat, without knowing about the others, the invention of the device is often attributed to him.

Since then, Martin-Baker ejection seats, and ejection seats in general, became more popular until they were found in almost every military aircraft possible. Improvements and changes have been made over the years, including adding the ability to eject from a stationary aircraft on the ground.

Martin-Baker estimate that their systems have saved over 7,500 lives. People who have ejected from their aircraft in a Martin-Baker ejection seat are welcomed into the company’s “Ejection Tie Club” and are given a lapel pin and tie.

Martin passed away in 1981 but was awarded two honorary doctorates, an OBE, and a Knighthood. The Martin-Baker company is still one of the world’s leading manufacturers of ejection seats and is now run by Martin’s two sons.

Remains Found In B-17 Wreckage Identified As Missing WWII Pilot

H/T War History OnLine.

 The ability to Rest In Peace has finally happened for 2nd Lieutenant Ernest N. Vienneau.

The remains of United States Army Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Ernest N. Vienneau have officially been identified. The news follows a joint-recovery mission by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and agencies in Croatia to recover the missing pilot’s body.

 
Military portrait of Ernest N. Vienneau
US Army Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Ernest N. Vienneau. (Photo Credit: DPAA)

Vienneau joined the US Army Air Force in Maine and was assigned to the 340th Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, based out of Amendola, Italy. At the time of his death on November 6, 1944, the 25-year-old was conducting a bombing mission over Maribor, Yugoslavia, now present-day Slovenia.

During the mission, the B-17 Flying Fortress Vienneau had been co-piloting was hit with heavy anti-aircraft fire. A piece of flak penetrated the bomber’s cockpit, striking the 2nd lieutenant’s head and mortally wounding him.

As crew members treated Vienneau, the B-17’s pilot attempted to fly it back to base, but found it was too damaged to make the journey. As such, he was forced to ditch the aircraft in the Adriatic Sea, off the coast of Vis Island, Croatia. While the 10 surviving crew members escaped and were rescued by locals, Vienneau’s body was not able to be recovered from the rapidly-sinking plane.

B-17 Flying Fortress in the air
B-17 Flying Fortress. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

During the mid-to-late 1990s, the area believed to be the wreckage of the B-17 became a popular diving site. In 2005, an analyst with the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), the predecessor to the DPAA, received information about the wreck, but definitive proof that it was indeed Vienneau’s aircraft could not be ascertained at the time.

The DPAA partnered with Lone Wolf Productions in 2017 to document the underwater excavation of a B-24 Liberator off Vis Island. When the excavation became hampered by weather, the team relocated the Croatian Navy ship to conduct a short investigative dive on the assumed site of the downed B-17. Enough evidence was collected to enable an underwater recovery effort.

News story about Ernest N. Vienneau
Photo Credit: DPAA

Between September and October 2020, personnel with the DPAA, the University of Zadar, Lund University, the Croatian military and the Croatian Conservation Institute worked to recover Vienneau’s remains. Once found, they were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for analysis.

Through the use of dental records and anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence, the DPAA was able to identify the remains on April 16, 2021.

Ernest N. Vienneau standing outside in his military uniform
Photo Credit: DPAA

Vienneau’s remains will be buried in his hometown of Millinocket, Maine on October 9, 2021. A rosette will be placed next to his name on Tablets of the Missing at Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, to indicate he has been accounted for.

Lunge Mine’s Were A Terrifying Japanese Weapon That Claimed The Lives Of Its Users

H/T War History OnLine.

The Japanese solider was a fanatic.

During WWII, Japan was famous for its suicidal attacks against its enemies. Although to many this may seem strange, Japan understood the overwhelming odds they faced and concluded that traditional warfare was not enough to stop the US. Also, Japanese military culture regarded self-sacrifices in combat as an honorable end that ensured a heroic legacy. These attacks were carried out in various different ways. One piece of equipment used towards the end of WWII was the lunge mine, which would be used in a suicidal attack against enemy tanks.

Suicide attacks

Lunge Mine Real Use
Viet Minh soldier Nguyen Van Thieng holding a lunge mine at Hàng Đậu Street on December 1946. (Photo Credit: Musée Annam / Wikipedia)

Suicide attacks were seen as a costly but effective way to hamper the enemy, after all, a single Japanese aircraft laden with bombs could sink a US aircraft carrier. Japanese Special Attack Units that specialized in their own unique forms of attacks were set up.

The most famous Japanese suicide missions were kamikaze attacks. Kamikaze pilots used their aircraft, which was usually filled with explosives, as human-guided missiles. When successful, kamikaze attacks were extremely effective, but the aircraft were usually destroyed before reaching their target or the pilot was killed by the hail of anti-aircraft fire.

To begin with, conventional Japanese aircraft were used in kamikaze attacks, but as the practice matured, dedicated aircraft were designed, like the rocket-powered Ohka.

Suicidal attacks were used on the ground too, as seen with banzai charges, which saw swarms of Japanese troops rush enemy positions when defeat seemed inevitable. Naturally, these ended in devastating losses for both sides.

Other types of suicide attacks used boats, manned torpedoes, and midget submarines.

As mentioned, dying in combat was regarded as a heroic and honorable death. This idea was heavily reinforced and romanticized by wartime propaganda.

The lunge mine

Lunge Mine Schematic
From a US Department of Defense catalog of enemy ordnance materials of World War II (Public Domain)

Compared to their European counterparts, Japan often lacked powerful anti-tank weaponry during the war. To make up for this, tactics and equipment were created to help infantry deal with the threat of enemy tanks.

One method was with the lunge mine, a 2-meter long pole tipped with an explosive charge. These weapons were first encountered by the US in 1944 when Japan was becoming increasingly desperate.

The wooden pole made up the physical bulk of the lunge mine and served as the handle. At the end, a shaped explosive charge (essentially a HEAT charge, similar to the Panzerfaust) was located in a conical metal housing. The flat base of the housing had three metal legs welded to it. The legs kept the charge at the optimum distance from the armor for maximum penetration.

In total the lunge mine weighed 6.5 kg and contained 3 kg of explosives.

The wooden handle slid into the metal housing via a tube. The handle was stopped from sliding further into the housing by a safety pin. Once the safety pin had been removed, the pole was free to slide into the explosive housing, triggering the detonator.

To use the device, a soldier would remove the safety pin and charge at a tank, explosive tip first. The soldier, carrying the device with two hands, would slam the explosive flush against the target, causing the handle to slide into the housing and trigger the detonator. The explosion would kill the user, and hopefully destroy the tank.

Despite its rather primitive appearance and operation, the lunge mine, when used correctly, was surprisingly capable. It could penetrate 150mm of armor at 90º, easily enough to blast through the 38mm side armor of the M4 Sherman.

Japanese forces versus tanks

The lunge mine was used as a part of Japan’s wider set of tactics against armored vehicles. This involved luring or waiting until a tank is in a vulnerable position, launching an attack to scatter the tank’s infantry support, and then moving in to destroy it.

Simply knocking the tracks off a tank to disable it was usually enough, as the Japanese learned the crew would quickly flee with the hopes of recovering it later. This may be achieved with anti-tank guns if available, or with weapons like the lunge mine and makeshift devices.

Like the lunge mine, most of these improvised methods involved suicide.

Sometimes a soldier would run at a tank with an explosive vest, climbing onto or under the vehicle before detonating the device. To ensure the vehicle was disabled, another technique was to dive under the tank’s tracks while wearing an explosive vest.

A more devastating attack involved a Japanese soldier sitting in a foxhole in the path of an enemy tank. Between his knees would lie an aircraft bomb, which he would trigger when the tank was directly overhead.

Success or failure?

US reports on encounters with the lunge mine indicate it was a rather unsuccessful weapon. When a soldier managed to place the device on a tank it was extremely effective, but they were usually killed before this happened. Like many other suicidal tactics employed by the Japanese during WWII, their psychological effect was much greater than their strategic impact.