How 260 Tons of Thanksgiving Leftovers Gave Birth to an Industry

H/T Smithsonian Magazine.

A look back on the invention of the TVdinner.

The birth of the TV dinner started with a mistake

Had my hyperkinetic mother been inclined to meditate, her mantra would have consisted of two brand names: Birds Eye and Swanson. Mom was a working woman in the early 1950s, when that was far from the norm and, in suburban New Jersey, at least, not encouraged. For the record, my mother worked for my father at his real estate office in Westfield. Dad was a handsome man admired by women, and I have long suspected that part of her job was to keep an eye on him. But whatever her motives, she put in her days at the office and then came home to cook for the family, a necessary but unloved chore. So when Birds Eye presented her with frozen peas, she took it as a personal favor and did her best to serve the handy little cryogenic miracles at least five times a week. And when C.A. Swanson & Sons introduced the TV dinner in 1954, relieving mom of responsibility for the entire meal (except for the My-T-Fine tapioca pudding she favored for dessert), she must have thought the world a mighty fine place indeed.

If convenience was the mother of my mother’s contentment, the mother of the TV dinner was that old serial procreator, necessity. In 1953, someone at Swanson colossally miscalculated the level of the American appetite for Thanksgiving turkey, leaving the company with some 260 tons of frozen birds sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. Enter the father of invention, Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas, a visionary inspired by the trays of pre-prepared food served on airlines. Ordering 5,000 aluminum trays, concocting a straightforward meal of turkey with corn-bread dressing and gravy, peas and sweet potatoes (both topped with a pat of butter), and recruiting an assembly line of women with spatulas and ice-cream scoops, Thomas and Swanson launched the TV dinner at a price of 98 cents (those are Eisenhower-era cents, of course). The company’s grave doubts that the initial order would sell proved to be another miscalculation, though a much happier one for Swanson; in the first full year of production, 1954, ten million turkey dinners were sold.

The original marketing campaign for TV dinners was, if you will allow me, tray chic. A typical magazine ad showed a stylish woman wearing a smart green suit, a pert feathered hat and black gloves taking a TV dinner out of a grocery bag. In the background sits her smiling husband, in a tan suit and bow tie, comfortably reading his newspaper. The copy line for this bit of Ozzie and Harriet heaven reads: “I’m late—but dinner won’t be.”

My mother, every bit as well turned out as Madison Avenue’s version of the happy housewife, didn’t serve TV dinners every night, of course—the shame factor for failing to provide home cooking was considerably higher then than it is today. But she was quick to see in this manna from Swanson a magic that made it more pleasing to her children (though perhaps not to my father) than a meatloaf or roast chicken done from scratch. At the risk of trying to read the mind of the kid I was at the time, I suspect that the orderliness of the three precisely separated servings contrasted with the general turmoil of growing up, or the specific chaos of my bedroom. And in a culture where packaging is paramount, the idea that a complete meal could be contained in one slim, stackable container appealed mightily to the American yearning for simplicity, economy and efficiency.

But beyond those obvious attractions, Swanson’s brave new product was aided immeasurably by its synergy with another increasingly powerful package, the television set. TV had already made inroads on the Norman Rockwell sanctity of the dinner hour. After all, once the day at school was discussed (reluctantly) by the kids, and the day at work was described (wearily) by father, and the weather and the state of the world were exhausted as subjects, the temptation arose, even in those more conversational days, to let the tube take over.

As home entertainment shifted from the piano (once a ubiquitous and nearly essential home accessory) to the big wooden box with its small flickering screen, the idea of watching—instead of listening to—programs at home seemed transformative, a tipping point into a changed world. Swanson’s marketers clearly realized that this was a medium you could tie your message to; after all, the company had not tried to market Radio Dinners. The idea of pre-prepared meals, heated up at the last moment, seemed to fit right in with the spontaneous excitement of gathering around the screen to watch Milton Berle, Jack Benny and a couple of endearing hand puppets, Kukla and Ollie, along with their human friend, Fran.

Much has changed since then. Having invented the form, Swanson, now owned by Pinnacle Foods in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, retains only 10 percent of the annual $1.2 billion frozen dinner market. With the advent of microwave ovens, the aluminum tray was replaced by paper. And way back in 1962, Swanson dropped the “TV” from its product label. But those of us who were there at the beginning, when meals and Uncle Miltie fatefully merged, will always think of TV dinners as one of the great hits of television’s early years.

Beto’s Back, Along with His Gun Ban

H/T AmmoLand.

Robert Francis O’Rourke does not stand a snowball’s chance becoming the Governor of Texas.

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Everyone’s least favorite adrift office-seeker is back in the national spotlight. On November 15, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke announced his candidacy for Texas governor. Should the work-shy politico secure the Democratic nomination, it would likely set up a 2022 showdown with two-term Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R). In 2018, the perennial candidate failed in an attempt to unseat U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). In 2019, Beto ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and dropped out before securing a single delegate.

Gun owners are most familiar with Beto for his flamboyant support for gun confiscation.

During the September 12, 2019, Democratic debate, Beto was asked about his proposal to confiscate commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. Beto responded in part by saying, “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15!” The Beto campaign would go on to sell t-shirts with the anti-gun slogan.

Less than a week later, Beto reiterated his call for gun confiscation on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time. During an interview, Chris Cuomo asked Beto, “All right, so let’s state the proposition. Are you, in fact, in favor of gun confiscation?” Beto responded with “Yes.”

In addition to confiscating commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, Beto has endorsed all manner of other gun restrictions.

In September 2019, Beto demanded that banks and other financial services providers stop doing business with firms that manufacture commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. Moreover, Beto demanded that these financial institutions prevent the prospective gun purchasers from using their own credit or money to purchase lawful products. Specifically, Beto commanded,

Banks and credit card companies must:
1Refuse to take part in the sale of assault weapons.
2. Stop processing transactions for gun sales online & at gun shows without background checks.
3. Stop doing business with gun & ammo manufacturers who produce or sell assault weapons

Illustrating how out of step Beto is with the Lone Star State, in June, Texas lawmakers enacted S.B.19. The law is aimed at preventing financial institutions from discriminating against companies that produce products that help Americans exercise their Second Amendment rights. Specifically, the law prohibits governmental entities from contracting with financial institutions that discriminate against “a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, supplier, or retailer,” a sport shooting range, or a firearm trade association.

Beto was also the only presidential candidate to endorse the gun control “Peace Plan” put forth by David Hogg and his associates at March for Our Lives. The plan’s tenets included, “reexamine the District of Columbia v. Heller interpretation of the Second Amendment,” annual gun licensing, a federal ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines, and “a reduction of our domestic firearm stock by at least 30%.”

The two-time failure hasn’t backed off his gun confiscation stance since announcing his gubernatorial bid. Speaking with the Texas Tribune for an item to coincide with his campaign announcement, Beto stated, “I think most of us also understand that we should not have military-style weapons used against our fellow Texans.” The candidate also criticized recent changes to Texas law that respect the rights of law-abiding Texans to carry a firearm for self-defense without having to acquire government permission.

In addition to Beto’s seeming desire to extend his political losing streak, some might also be confused by how Beto has the time to run for office. After all, voters were promised that Beto would have an important role in tackling guns for the Biden administration.

At a March 2, 2020 campaign rally in Dallas, Beto endorsed Biden for president. Sharing the stage with his former rival, Biden stated, “I want to make something clear. I’m going to guarantee you this is not the last you’ll see of this guy.” Biden went on say, “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort. I’m counting on ya.”

Following the campaign event, Biden and Beto went to local burger chain Whataburger, where the septuagenarian continued to heap praise on Beto’s anti-gun advocacy. Speaking about Beto and gun control, Biden stated, “This guy changed the face of what we’re dealing with regarding guns, assault weapons… and I just want to warn [Beto’s wife] that if I win I’m coming for him.”

Of course, Biden never came for him. That could reasonably be chalked up to the befuddled president’s waning memory. It might also be the case that given the strong opposition to Biden’s radical ATF Director nominee, gun control lobbyist David Chipman, posting an even more toxic figure to an administration post would have proved even more untenable.

Going forward, NRA-ILA will continue to follow Beto’s splashy but shallow political career. Moreover, NRA-ILA will work to inform Texans as to the perennial candidate’s history of support for radical gun control, lest they be made to suffer this egotist’s tenure.

Letter Writer Clueless About Gun Rights

H/T Bearing Arms.

It is frightening how many people clueless when it comes to guns and gun rights.

When our Founding Fathers penned the Bill of Rights, they didn’t intend for them to be all-encompassing. Instead, they preserved a handful of key rights with the belief that those would preserve the rest.


However, it seems many people don’t seem to understand much about rights.

Take this letter to the editor:

Regarding the Nov. 19 article on ”Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty of all charges,” I strongly disagree with this acquittal, as I firmly believe that when you bring a gun into a public space, then it means you intend to commit premeditated murder.

I am so tired of gun owners claiming they have infinite rights, and it is time to infringe on their rights. Owning a gun is not a part of your body like in reproductive rights, sexual orientation, gender identity, skin color, ethnicity, age, or disability, and therefore does not deserve the same legal protections. I agree with former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who said we need to repeal the Second Amendment so we can enact more gun-control laws and sue gun sellers and manufacturers. Holding gun owners accountable begins with barring anyone under the age of 21 from accessing a gun, just like we bar those under 21 from purchasing alcohol.

Wow.

I notice the author is very into the idea of things that make up an individual, things like reproduction, sexual orientation, gender identity, and so on. It’s funny that the letter writer would value these things, believing them worth certain legal protections, all while believing that the individual’s right to protect themself isn’t nearly as important.


The author, a woman, is very much against the idea of privately-owned firearms and believes that gun owners somehow need to be held accountable for the actions of others, even though we haven’t done anything wrong. This is collective punishment, in essence, where you punish an individual for the actions of another.

Communists and other totalitarian regimes are really big on this sort of thing.

Here in the United States, we’re not. Take Loudon County, Virginia, for example. The schools are at the heart of a firestorm because of a sexual assault case. In that case, a transgender female teen sexually assaulted a female student. If we were to apply the author’s “logic” across the board, we’d punish other transgender students for the actions of this one. We’d treat all of them with the same level of suspicion as we would this student.

I somehow doubt she actually would want that.

See, what she doesn’t understand about rights is that they apply equally and any infringement on one right is used to justify infringement on another. If you start treating all gun owners as if they’re criminals, then don’t be surprised when other groups begin to be treated as if they’re all criminals as well.


Of course, the author would object to that. She’d claim that guns are different, that they’re dangerous, but dangerous is relative. Ideas like communism have killed over 100 million people throughout the 20th century. Accidental shootings by firearms don’t even make up a fraction as much over that same timespan. Hell, even the American murder rate pales by comparison. Is communism so dangerous that free speech should be restricted so as to stop the spread?

She’d likely say no, but that’s just the point. Gun rights are no different than any other rights. She can agree with a former Supreme Court justice if she wants, but invoking his name as if that lends any gravitas to her argument ignores that the Second Amendment is part of our Constitution and unless she thinks she can rally two-thirds of the states to her away of thinking, she might as well just grow up.

7 Fascinating Facts About the Sun

H/T Mental Floss.

These are some interesting facts about the Sun. 

Isaac Asimov described the solar system as the sun, Jupiter, and debris. He wasn’t wrong—the sun is 99.8 percent of the mass of the solar system. But what is the giant ball of fire in the sky? How does it behave and what mysteries remain? In 2017, Mental Floss spoke to Angelos Vourlidas, an astrophysicist and the supervisor of the Solar Section at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, to learn what scientists know about the sun—and a few things they don’t.

A coronal mass ejection from the sun
A coronal mass ejection from the sun
NASA GODDARD // PUBLIC DOMAIN

1. THE SUN IS A GIANT NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR.

The sun is so incomprehensibly big that it’s almost pointless to bother trying to imagine its size. Our star is about 860,000 miles across. It’s so big that 1.3 million Earths could fit inside it. The sun is 4.5 billion years old, and should last for another 6.5 billion years. When it faces the final curtain, it will not go supernova, however, as it lacks the mass for such an end. Rather, the sun will grow to a red giant—destroying the Earth in the process (if we last that long, which we won’t)—and then contract to become a white dwarf.

The sun is 74 percent hydrogen and 25 percent helium, with a few other elements thrown in for flavor, and every second, nuclear reactions at its core fuse hundreds of millions of tons of hydrogen into hundreds of millions of tons of helium, releasing the heat and light that we love so very much.

2. THE SUN HAS A GALACTIC-SCALE ORBIT.

The sun rotates, though not quite the same way as a terrestrial planet like Earth. Like the gas and ice giants, the sun’s equator and poles complete their rotations at different times. It takes the sun’s equator 24 days to complete a rotation. Its poles poke along and rotate every 35 days. Meanwhile, the sun actually has its own orbit. Moving at 450,000 miles per hour, the sun is in orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy, making a full loop every 230 million years.

3. THE SUN IS HOT IN STRANGE WAYS.

The solar corona as captured every two hours for four days. Red is cool (~80,000°F), while yellow is hot (~2,800,000°F).ANGELOS VOURLIDAS, JHU/APL

The sun’s temperatures leave astrophysicists puzzled. At its core, it reaches a staggering 27,000,000°F. Its surface is a frosty 10,000°F, which, as NASA notes, is still hot enough to make diamonds boil. Here’s the weird part, though. Once you get into the higher parts of the sun’s corona, temperatures again rise to 3,500,000°F. Why? Nobody knows!

4. THE SUN HAS AN ATMOSPHERE—AND EARTH IS INSIDE IT.

If you saw the total solar eclipse in 2017, you saw the sun turn black, ringed by a shimmering white corona. That halo was part of the sun’s atmosphere. And it’s a lot bigger than that. In fact, Earth is inside the sun’s atmosphere. “It basically goes as far away as Jupiter,” Vourlidas told Mental Floss that year. The sun is a semi-chaotic system. Every 100 years or so, the sun seems to go into a small “sleep,” and for two or three decades, its activity is reduced. When it wakes, it becomes much more active and violent. Scientists aren’t sure why that is. Presently, we’re in one of those solar lulls.

5. THE IRON IN YOUR BLOOD COMES FROM THE SUN’S SIBLINGS.

The sun lacks a solid core. At 27,000,000°F, it’s all plasma down there. “That’s where most of the heavy elements like iron and uranium are created—at the cores of stars,” Vourlidas said. “When the stars explode, they are released into space. Planets form out of that debris, and that’s where we get the same iron in our blood and the carbon in our cells. They were made in some star.” Not ours, obviously, but a star that exploded in our neighborhood before our sun was born. Other elements created from the cores of stars include gold, silver, and plutonium. That is what Carl Sagan meant when he said that we are children of the stars.

6. THE HOLY GRAIL OF SUN SCIENCE IS UNDERSTANDING ERUPTIONS.

The ability to predict solar storms is the holy grail for astrophysicists who study the sun. During a coronal mass ejection, a billion tons of plasma material can be blown from the sun at millions of miles per hour. The eruptions carry around 300 petawatts of energy—that’s 50,000 times the amount of energy that humans use in a single year. As the structures travel from the sun, they expand, and when they hit Earth, a percentage of their energy is imparted. Those impacts can create havoc. Spacecraft are affected, airliners receive surges of x-rays, and the energy grid can be disrupted—one day perhaps catastrophically so. “Our models say it can happen every 200 years,” Vourlidas said, “but the sun doesn’t know about our models.”

The last such strike on Earth is believed to have occurred in 1859. The telegraph system collapsed, but the effect on society was minimal overall. (The widespread use of electric lighting and the first power grids were still decades away.) If Earth were to sustain a similar such destructive event today, the effects might be devastating. “It is the most violent phenomenon in our solar system,” Vourlidas explained. “We need to know when such an amount of plasma has left the sun, whether it will hit Earth, and how hard it is going to slap us.” Such foresight would allow spacecraft to power down sensitive instruments and power grids to switch off where necessary, among other things.

7. A SOLAR PROBE IS MAKING HUMANITY’S FIRST VISIT TO A STAR.

Wind moving off the sun in visible light. If you were in a spaceship and didn’t melt, that’s what you would see. The zooming effect simulates what an imager on the Parker Solar Probe sees.ANGELOS VOURLIDAS, JHU/APL

In 2018, NASA launched the Applied Physics Laboratory’s Parker Solar Probe to “kiss” the sun. It’s traveling to within 4 million miles of our star—the closest we’ve ever come—and will study the corona and the solar wind. Before the probe’s launch, “The only way we [understood] that system [was] by seeing what the properties of the wind [were] at Earth, and then trying to extrapolate back toward the sun,” Vourlidas said. The Parker Solar Probe is measuring the sun’s wind—”how fast it is, how dense, what is the magnetic field—across multiple locations as it orbits the sun.” Once scientists get those measurements in full, theorists will attempt to devise new models of the solar wind, and ultimately help better predict solar storms and space weather events.

Your Grocery Store Apple Could Be a Year Old But That’s OK

H/T How Stuff Works.

I learned a little more about apples and how long some of them are stored.

There’s nothing like biting into a crisp, juicy apple to evoke the spirit of autumn. Though today they’re available year-round in many parts of the world, apples were once strictly a fall-time treat, and they remain one of the cornerstones of seasonal cooking in the U.S.

If you live in the United States, your apples probably didn’t travel too far to reach you. Only 5 percent of the apples sold in the U.S. are imported; the rest are grown domestically in temperate states like Washington, New York and Michigan.

But the apples in grocery store bins are usually not sold when they’re harvested. Instead, they might have been in storage for up to a year. Unless you take a trip to your local orchard, how do you know whether the apples you’re buying are actually fresh? And if they’re not, does that matter?

One Bad Apple

Picture yourself walking down the aisle of your local grocery store, strolling past piles upon piles of shiny round apples. How do you know which ones to buy? Start by looking at the surrounding apples.

“Apples are a climacteric fruit, meaning the fruits continue to develop and ripen after they are removed from the tree,” says Jessica Cooperstone, a food scientist at The Ohio State University, by email.

Apples and their ilk are highly sensitive to ethylene, the chemical compound that causes fruits to convert starchy cellulose into sugars (otherwise known as ripening). As they ripen, apples release more ethylene, which leads the fruit around them to ripen faster as well. In this way, one bad apple actually can spoil the whole bunch. Other climacteric fruits include bananas and avocados, while non-climacteric fruits include things like strawberries and cherries.

Since ethylene is pretty much a universal chemical signal for “ripe” in climacteric plants, it will even help ripen fruit across species. (You can harness its power for yourself: Try putting a hard avocado in the same bowl as an apple and see how much quicker the avocado ripens.)

Apple-harvesting season is very short (about two months in the fall), so in order to extend their lives after picking, apples are usually treated with a gaseous compound called 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) that blocks ethylene.

That’s not all. “By modifying the environment that apples are stored in (mostly by modifying oxygen, carbon dioxide and ethylene and keeping apples cool), certain varieties of apples can be stored up to one year,” says Cooperstone. “This is a really impressive feat of post-harvest storage technology, and most of this development happened in the first part of the 20th century.”

It’s called Controlled Atmosphere storage. When apples are exposed to less oxygen and more carbon dioxide than what’s found in the air, they in a sense “go to sleep” and don’t finish the ripening process. So, these apples won’t spoil. The exact combination of gases and temperature will vary with the type of apple.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the types of apples that can handle this process — like Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Red Delicious — are the ones you are most likely to encounter in a mass-market grocery store. But not every apple is equally storeable. Some fragile-skinned types, like Cortland, Jonagold and Crispin, should be eaten soon after they are picked. Otherwise, they might become too soft and mealy for non-cooking applications. Of course, these days science can step in to create new types of more resilient fruit.

“Apple producers are always looking to develop new varieties that keep their fresh characteristics for as long as possible,” Cooperstone says. For example, the RubyFrost apple, which was developed by Cornell University especially for wintertime consumption. These hybrids — a cross between Braeburn and Autumn Crisp — are bred to reach peak sweetness in mid to late January, months after they’re harvested.

While some new types of apple, like the RubyFrost, are the product of careful selective breeding, others are the result of more direct genetic engineering. Arctic Apples, which are genetically modified to resist browning, became one of the first GMO fruits to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

There isn’t a way to tell when an apple was picked just by looking at it in a grocery store. And in some ways, it doesn’t matter. But you still want to make sure the apples you buy will be tasty and ripe. In general, a ripe apple is red or yellow. But some red varieties will be red even if not yet ripe. Touch might be a better bet. The apple should be firm but not hard (press it with your thumb) and not have bruises, according to the University of Wiconsin-Extension.

Once you bring them home, store the apples in a cool, dry place, like your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. But even non-crunchy apples have uses. “If I’ve kept apples for a long time and find they’re shriveling enough that I don’t want to eat them fresh, I will use them in a cooked application,” says Cooperstone, like oatmeal or a pie.

A slightly wrinkly apple may not look as pretty as a freshly picked one, but both are totally safe to eat. In the days before refrigeration, drying apples was a standard way to store up food for the winter.

While wrinkled or even bruised apples can still make for good eating, you definitely want to avoid apples that have mold growing on them or that have begun to ooze liquid. Your chances of getting food poisoning from an apple are slim, but not zero, so it’s important to wash your apples before you chow down as well.

Once your apples are out of storage and thoroughly cleaned, it’s time for some good old-fashioned fall cooking. From caramel to crumble to cider and cake, the possibilities are all delicious.

This RAF Tail Gunner Jumped From A Burning Plane Without A Parachute And Only Twisted His Knee

H/T War History OnLine.

God was surely looking out for Nicholas Alkemade that night.

On a cold March night in 1944, a British airman jumped out of a Lancaster bomber at an altitude of 18,000 feet. His aircraft was crippled and he was forced to jump. This doesn’t seem too unusual among the thousands of airmen who found themselves in similar situations during WWII, but this particular crewman’s story was unique. He jumped without a parachute.

After falling for over a minute, Nicholas Alkemade survived the landing with just a broken leg. The story of his survival has been spoken about ever since.

Nicholas Alkemade

Alkemade was born in North Walsham, Norfolk on December 10, 1922. Before the war, he worked a humble job as a market gardener in Loughborough, but after the war broke out he joined the RAF. When he completed his training he was assigned to No. 115 Squadron as a rear gunner on an Avro Lancaster bomber, which he and his fellow crewmembers named “Werewolf.”

Werewolf

Werewolf had completed 14 missions when it departed for Berlin on March 24, 1944. The aircraft left RAF Witchford in Cambridgeshire with her crew of seven just before 7 pm.

The aircraft successfully completed the trip to Berlin and started the long journey home, but bad timing would soon cause a catastrophe. The group of returning bombers were battered by strong northern winds and were pushed south. As a result, the aircraft ended up flying over the heavily defended Ruhr.

While over Germany, Werewolf came under attack from a German Ju 88 night fighter. Cannon and machinegun fire from the Ju 88 battered the Lancaster’s starboard side and started a fire that ran almost the entire length of the aircraft.

The perspex surrounding Alkemade’s turret was blown off and he was blasted by the ice-cold air rushing past the bomber.

After a brief wrestle with the stricken aircraft, the pilot, James Newman, gave the order to bail out. This was no easy task for Alkemade though, as the Lancaster’s rear turret was too small to accommodate a gunner and his parachute. Alkemade would have to enter the rear section of the Lancaster and grab it; essentially an impossible situation for a bomber rapidly falling out the sky.

When he opened the turret doors he was faced with a fiery inferno in the fuselage that prevented him from reaching his parachute, which was burning anyway. His own uniform began to burn, so he closed the turret doors. This brief moment of safety was interrupted when the turret’s hydraulic fluid caught alight, spraying him with liquid fire.

Alkemade now only had two choices: stay in the aircraft or jump. Both guaranteed death. He chose to jump.

No parachute, no problem

Alkemade later described what went through his head:

“I had the choice of staying with the aircraft or jumping out. If I stayed I would be burned to death – my clothes were already well alight and my face and hands burnt, though at the time I scarcely noticed the pain owing to my high state of excitement…I decided to jump and end it all as quick and clean as I could. I rotated the turret to starboard, and, not even bothering to take off my helmet and intercom, did a back flip out into the night. It was very quiet, the only sound being the drumming of aircraft engines in the distance, and no sensation of falling at all. I felt suspended in space. Regrets at not getting home were my chief thoughts, and I did think once that it didn’t seem very strange to be going to die in a few seconds – none of the parade of my past or anything else like that.”

Burnt, descending at a speed of 120 mph and expecting death, Alkemade lost consciousness at some point during the fall.

But miraculously, Alkemade awoke three hours later in a pile of snow. Above him were the stars glistening in the frigid night. He lit a cigarette and checked himself over, realizing that apart from a twisted knee, some bruises, and the burns he received in Werewolf, he had survived the fall completely unscathed. Not bad for a 3.4-mile fall.

He had landed on a pile of snow about 18 inches thick in a small fir forest. This was an amazing stroke of luck, as the group of trees had protected the snow from the sun. Only around 20 feet away was clear ground with no snow. The fir tree branches also helped to slow down his descent.

Nevertheless, Alkemade was still injured and couldn’t walk so he bravely gave a blast of his whistle and hoped help would come his way. He was soon found by some German civilians who got him medical treatment.

Naturally, the Gestapo arrived and interrogated the British airman, who they suspected of being a spy since he had no parachute. He insisted that he had fallen without one, but understandably they refused to believe him. He told the Gestapo to find his parachute harness near where he landed. This would prove that no parachute had been used while attached to it. They found the harness and the wreckage of the bomber, which still held the remains of his parachute.

Afterward, Alkemade became a minor celebrity in the prisoner of war camps he was held in. He survived the war and returned to civilian life, working at a chemical plant. While here he was involved in a number of extremely close calls.

Instead of dying on impact with German soil, Nicholas Alkemade passed away in June 1987.

Why Don’t We Eat Turkey Eggs?

H/T Mental Floss.

I never gave much thought to why we do not eat turkey eggs.

I quess that cost is a reason we do not eat duck eggs.

Though we typically associate turkey with Thanksgiving, it’s a popular dish year-round and is the fourth most-consumed meat in the U.S. behind chicken, beef, and pork. Despite this, turkey eggs are missing from the shelves of supermarkets and even specialty grocery stores. But that apparently has nothing to do with their edibility. They reportedly taste just as good as chicken eggs—or even better, according to some people—but the eggs laid by this all-American bird are impractical to produce.

According to Modern Farmer, selling turkey eggs isn’t economically feasible for most farmers already raising the birds for slaughter. Mature female turkeys lay a maximum of two eggs per week. Compare that to chickens and ducks, which produce roughly one egg a day. Because turkeys live longer than chickens, they take more time to reach egg-laying age: about 7 months instead of 5. These big birds also need more space and feed to live on a farm than their smaller relatives. Factor in the time and resources required to produce them and turkey eggs end up costing upwards of $3 each, or nearly double the average price of a carton of one dozen chicken eggs.

Plenty of luxury food items sell for more than $3, but are turkey eggs worth the extravagant cost? People who have sampled the product say they taste similar to the much cheaper chicken egg, which means the answer is probably not. The biggest difference between the two eggs is the size. Turkey eggs are slightly larger; they also have a harder shell and thicker membrane.

According to some connoisseurs, turkey eggs do offer a few advantages over their more affordable counterparts. Their yolks are reportedly richer and creamier, making them ideal for sauces. Victorian-era celebrity chef Alexis Soyer claimed they were also better for baking than chicken eggs.

If you’re interested in trying turkey eggs for yourself, they’re not impossible to find. Ask your local turkey farm if they sell their birds’ eggs. They could be the perfect accompaniment to the breakfast of Thanksgiving leftovers you eat on Friday morning.

Celebrities During WWII: The Hollywood Victory Committee

H/T War  Hisrory OnLine.

Celebrities today I doubt if many or any of the would do what the 1940’s Celeberties did in their efforts to sell bonds anf help America win a war.

For many, the start of World War II meant yet another conflict that would affect everyday life. The vast majority of Americans didn’t want to get involved, and many businesses feared losing money from European markets, Hollywood included. For the most part, movie studios didn’t want to alienate the new German administration – that is, until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

From then on, support for the war effort skyrocketed and everyone banded together to fight America’s enemies.

Creation of the Hollywood Victory Committee
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt approached Hollywood‘s most influential figures and asked them to get involved in the war effort. He called upon them to push the sale of war bonds, explain new government policies and raise compliance with rationing programs.

Clark Gable sitting before a microphone
Clark Gable sitting before a microphone
Clark Gable urging the purchase of War Bonds in support of the 3rd War Loan Drive program, England, 1943. (Photo Credit: PhotoQuest / Getty Images)
Roosevelt’s request prompted the Screen Actors Guild to create the Hollywood Victory Committee, a way for performers to promote the war effort and increase the morale of troops both in America and overseas.

The committee’s first chairmen was actor Clark Gable, who not only encouraged his fellow celebrities to get involved, but to actively join the military. He led by example and enlisted, along with the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan. Other chairmen included George Murphy, James Cagney and Sam Levene.

Hattie McDaniel standing with members of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee

Hattie McDaniel standing with members of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee
Hattie McDaniel was the chairman of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Academy Award-winning actress Hattie McDaniel was the chairman of the Negro Division, which provided entertainment for those troops in American hospitals and stationed at the country’s many military bases.

Thousands of events held over the course of its existence
Between January 1942 and August 1945, the Hollywood Victory Committee organized events both within the US and overseas. Many of its stars appeared in shows put on by the USO, with many travelling to the British Isles to entertain troops with musical and variety performances.

Radio broadcasts were an integral part of the committee’s initiatives, as they granted the ability to reach millions of people with ease. As such, many stars were recruited to record messages promoting the purchase of war bonds and raising funds for charity.

Lana Turner standing beside a large sign featuring a thermometer
Lana Turner standing beside a large sign featuring a thermometer
Lana Turner promoting the sale of war bonds. (Photo Credit: Virgil Apger / Getty Images)
The committee also encouraged movie theaters to get involved in the war effort. Many became collection centers for items needing to be recycled – primarily scrap metal – with celebrities often leading these drives. Actress Rita Hayworth, for example, went as far as to donate the front and back bumpers of her car to prompt others to give what they could.

Theaters also became blood donation centers, with members of the committee making public donations. Some establishments even offered free admission to those who donated.

Group of movie stars standing in front of a theater stage

Group of movie stars standing in front of a theater stage
Stars holding a pageant with the Hollywood Victory Caravan troupe in St. Paul. (Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society / Getty Images)
It’s estimated that within the nearly four years it ran, the Hollywood Victory Committee held 56,037 free appearances over 7,700 events, including 120 overseas tours. Its stars covered five million miles in their effort to entertain troops and encourage support for the war effort.

Poster promoting the Hollywood Victory Caravan

Hollywood Victory Caravan
One of the committee’s most notable successes was the Hollywood Victory Caravan, which ran for two weeks in the spring of 1942. It aimed to raise money for the Army and Navy Relief Society, and involved two dozen movie stars coming together to ride the rails and perform shows along the way.

Members of the Hollywood Victory Caravan standing under a sign advertising the event

Poster promoting the Hollywood Victory Caravan
Hollywood Victory Caravan promotional poster. (Photo Credit: LMPC / Getty Images)
Inspiration for the caravan came from the all-star war bond show held at New York City‘s Madison Square Garden on March 10, 1942. To ensure the two-week journey could occur, the Santa Fe Railroad donated a special train with 14 railcars, which had on-board rehearsal facilities, including ten musicians, two pianos and two portable dance floors.

The train set off from Los Angeles on April 26, 1942, where it traveled to Washington, D.C. for the White House Tea Party. From there, it hit Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Dallas and Houston. Those aboard included Bob Hope, Carey Grant, Bing Crosby, Olivia de Havilland, Desi Arnaz and Merle Oberon, among others.

The shows lasted approximately three and a half hours, and consisted of variety-type performances. Each star was given a brief role, with Bob Hope and Carey Grant sharing the role of master-of-ceremonies. In total, the endeavor netted over $700,000.

Members of the Hollywood Victory Caravan standing under a sign advertising the event

Members of the Hollywood Victory Caravan standing under a sign advertising the event
Members of the Hollywood Victory Caravan. (Photo Credit: Gene Lester / Getty Images)
Upon its completion, each performer was presented with an engraved press book of newspaper stories from each city and a commemorative photo album. In 1945, Paramount Pictures teamed up with the War Finance Committee and the Department of the Treasury to produce a short film based on the traveling show, in which many of the performances were featured.

L-4 Grasshopper Pilot Charles Carpenter Was A German Tank’s Worst Nightmare

H/T War History OnLine.

To say the least that L-4 Grasshopper Pilot Charles Carpenter was a brave and maybe a little wackie would be an understatment.

There are few pilots as decorated as Lieutenant Colonel Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter. After joining the Army in 1942, he went on to become one of the most fearsome Tank Aces in the European Theater, causing the Germans to rethink their position on the L-4 Grasshopper and its capabilities in battle.

Sent to serve in the European Theater

Charles Carpenter enlisted in the US Army in 1942 for flight training. After being commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was sent to France in 1944, where he was assigned to General George Patton‘s 4th Armored Division. He was tasked with being an artillery spotter and assigned to an L-4 Grasshopper – better known by its civilian name, the Piper J-3 Cub.

Charles Carpenter standing in front of his L-4 Grasshopper
Charles Carpenter with his L-4 Grasshopper. (Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

While the L-4 was perfect for low-level, low-speed reconnaissance missions, it wasn’t a fighter plane. It only had room for two people, and was almost identical to the civilian Cub, aside from the fact that rear windows and plexiglass skylights were installed for added visibility. While it was able to hit a top speed of 85 MPH, its small size meant its occupations and on-board equipment exceeded its weight limits.

Comfortable with his role at first, Carpenter soon craved a more active role – and it wasn’t long until he found it. While scouting for advanced landing fields near Avranches, France, he came across a US unit pinned down by German soldiers. Carpenter immediately jumped atop a .50-caliber machine gun, fired at the enemy units and rescued his comrades.

General George Patton standing in military uniform
General George Patton, 1944. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

He then ordered the troops to follow him into the German-occupied town, despite not being their commander. While the US forces were able to capture it within minutes, the engagement was not without error. In the midst of the fighting, Carpenter ordered a tank to fire at what he thought was an enemy vehicle. However, it turned out to belong to the US, and he was immediately arrested and threatened with a court-marshal.

Thankfully for him, his actions impressed General Patton, who awarded him a Silver Star and reportedly said Carpenter was “the kind of fighting man I want in my Army.”

The man of many nicknames

Inspired by other L-4 pilots, Charles Carpenter eventually installed six M1A1 bazookas to the wing struts of his aircraft. With the aid of an ordnance tech and a crew chief, the launchers were wired into the cockpit, allowing them to fired by flipping electrical switches. Each could fire a single rocket-propelled grenade capable of penetrating three inches of armor plating.

His first notable accomplishment in the air came during the Battle of Arracourt on September 20, 1944, a counteroffensive launched by the German 5th Panzer Army in response to US advances in France. During the fighting, Carpenter used his bazookas to take out a German armored vehicle, along with four tanks.

L-4 Grasshopper parked on the grass
L-4 Grasshopper. (Photo Credit: Michael Cole / Getty Images)

After upgrading his launchers to the M9 platform, Carpenter gained the ability to fire M6A3 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds. This opened up a new world of possibilities for the pilot, who used his flying skills to dive directly at enemy tanks and open fire just 100 meters above the ground, before pulling straight up and getting out of the way of return fire.

Carpenter’s exploits included destroying a German column advancing toward Allied troops, before landing and taking six enemy soldiers prisoner with a rifle he found on the ground, as well as flying three combat sorties during an engagement with German soldiers. This latter fight resulted in him not only breaking up the attack but destroying two tanks in the process.

His exploits gained him fame in the United States

Charles Carpenter’s actions in Europe gained him notoriety back home. His actions were covered in a host of publications, including the Associated PressStars and StripesLiberty magazine, Popular Science and the New York Sun. They also afforded him many nicknames: “Bazooka Charlie,” the “Mad Major” and the “Lucky Major.”

He gave many interviews to the press, which not only generated support for troops serving in Europe but also lent themselves to the legend that was Charles Carpenter. Speaking with a reporter, he once said that his idea of fighting a war was to “attack, attack, and then attack again,” and in another interview expanded on this, saying, “Some people around here think I’m nuts, but I just believe that if we’re going to fight a war, we have to get on with it sixty minutes an hour and twenty-four hours a day.”

Newspaper clipping about Charles Carpenter's military exploits
Newspaper clipping from October 3, 1944. (Photo Credit: Lawrence Journal-World / Google News)

He also credited his actions as being the reason why the German Army changed its opinion of the L-4, from a plane not worthy of attention to one needing to be shot down. “Word must be getting around to watch out for Cubs with bazookas on them,” he once told Stars and Stripes. “Every time I show up now they shoot with everything they have. They never used to bother Cubs. Bazookas must be bothering them a bit.”

Retirement from the Army

In 1945, Charles Carpenter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and given a prognosis of no more than two years. As such, he was honorably discharged from the Army. During his service, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and along with his Silver Star was awarded a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and an Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Carpenter was officially credited with destroying or disabling six German tanks, two of which were the fearsome Tiger Tank, and several armored vehicles, making him a Tank Ace. However, it’s believed his unofficial total is much higher.

Newspaper clipping featuring Charles Carpenter's image
Newspaper clipping from October 11, 1944. (Photo Credit: The Deseret News / Google News)

In civilian life, Carpenter returned to his pre-war career as a history teacher in Urbana, Illinois. During the summer, he ran a boys’ camp in the Ozarks, focusing on teaching outdoor skills and building character. In 1966, he passed away from Hodgkin’s disease, defying the odds given to him by medical professionals and leaving behind a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

Simon the Cat Received A Military Honor After Suffering Injuries During the Yangtze Incident

H/T War History OnLine.

Simon the only cat to be awarded the Dicken Medal it is the animals version of the Victorian Medal.

From March 1948 to November 1949, the British frigate HMS Amethyst was accompanied by a friendly cat named Simon. The crew of the ship took an immediate liking to Simon and looked after him as one of their own. Simon was injured during the Amethyst Incident and was not expected to live. But he survived the ordeal and was awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross: the Dicken Medal.

Simon

Simon the Cat
(Original Caption): While the men of the “Yangtse Incident” have been receiving a hero’s welcome home, Simon, the ship’s cat of HMS Amethyst and winner of the Dickin Medal… (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Simon’s journey with Amethyst started in March of 1948 when he was found wandering around a Hong Kong dockyard by ordinary seaman George Hickinbottom. The cat was about one year old, underweight and sickly, but Hickinbottom thought he was the perfect tool to eradicate the rats aboard HMS Amethyst.

The 17-year-old Hickinbottom smuggled the cat onto the ship and kept him in his cabin. He was given the name Simon and quickly became popular among Amethyst’s crew, even the captain took a liking to him.

Simon’s presence raised morale and he was appreciated for his work on the lower decks catching rats. He had a cheeky side too, often leaving dead rats and mice in the crew’s beds as “presents.” He would also curl up in the captain’s hat.

Simon was so popular that when the then-commander, Ian Griffiths, was replaced by Lieutenant Commander Bernard Skinner, the ship kept the cat.

The Amethyst Incident

HMS Amethyst
HMS Amethyst, after action on the Yangtze River, 20th April 1949. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

In April 1949 Amethyst made her way up the Yangtze River from Shanghai on what was Skinner’s first mission while in command of the ship. Her destination was Nanking, where she would relieve HMS Consort of her duties. At the time China was embroiled in a civil war between Mao Tse Tung’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the ruling nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. Britain had not taken a side in the conflict, so Amethyst’s journey up the Yangtze was expected to be safe.

By the morning of April 20, she was still over 50 miles from Nanking. Suddenly, Amethyst was rocked by shellfire from a Chinese PLA field gun battery on the northern bank of the river. The ship was peppered with shells and battered by explosions.

One of the first rounds hit the captain’s cabin, which fatally wounded Captain Skinner. But during the attack Simon the friendly cat became a casualty too, receiving severe wounds.

The casualties totaled 19 dead and 27 wounded. Amethyst took shelter further up the river and negations began for the release of the ship.

At the time of the attack, Simon was likely curled up in the captain’s cabin. A shell tore a foot-wide hole in the ship, sending four pieces of shrapnel into Simon’s body and burning his face and whiskers. He either fled or was thrown by the explosion, and was found a few days later.

Simon the Cat and a war medal
(Original Caption) While the men of the “Yangtse Incident” have been receiving a hero’s welcome home, Simon, the ship’s cat of HMS Amethyst and winner of the Dickin Medal – the animals Victoria Cross – has been resting at the Hackbridge Quarantine Kennels in Surrey. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

He was rushed to the sickbay and treated for his wounds like any other crew member would be. Medical officer Michael Fearnley proceeded to remove the shrapnel embedded in Simon’s legs and back and stitched him up. His burns were treated too. However, Fearnley doubted he would survive the night.

But survive Simon did, sending much of his recovery time in the sickbay with his fellow crew and helping improve morale.

Simon the hero

Simon The Cat Medal
The Dickin Medal was awarded to Simon the Cat (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Amethyst remained on the Yangtze river for the next 100 days, with every attempt to move being met by Chinese shell fire. During this time the conditions on the ship deteriorated and food supplies ran dangerously low. Throughout this low period, Simon continued his morale and rat-catching duties, helping to keep down their ever-growing population.

On July 20, the ship’s new captain, Lieutenant Commander John Kerans, made a break for it under the cover of darkness. He managed to sail the ship 104 miles to open sea without any issues. Once he linked up with other Royal Navy ships, Kerans sent a message in typical British fashion: “Have rejoined the fleet south of Woo Sung. No damage or casualties. God save the King.”

After the incident, the crew was hailed as heroes, in particular, Simon. He immediately became an international celebrity and was captured in photographs and newsreels alongside his shipmates by the press. Letters from all over the world written to Simon came in. There were so many letters that a dedicated “cat officer” was tasked with sorting through it all.

The PDSA put Simon in for the Dicken Medal, the highest award for animals. It was to be presented to him in December 1949 after the crew had returned to England.

The crew reached England in November, and, like all animals returning from war, Simon was placed in a six-month quarantine.

Sadly, he would not survive.

Shortly after being placed in quarantine, he contracted a virus that his body, weakened by his war wounds, was unable to fight off. Despite desperate attempts by medical staff, Simon passed away on November 28, 1949.

Simon the Cat Tombstone
Simon the cat’s grave. (Photo by Cate Gillon / Getty Images)

Today, Simon remains the only cat to have ever received the Dicken Medal.