Honoring the Memory of the Holocaust

H/T Town Hall.

Never Again!!

Monday, January 27 was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. If you didn’t know, you’re not alone. Those who lived through the terror and survived are all but gone now, taking with them the ability to say, “I was there, I saw, and I survived to bear witness so that it will happen never again.”

I too have seen. On my recent trip to the notorious death factory at Auschwitz, it was the numerous piles of children’s shoes that struck me the most. It’s something even the most stoic and jaded of men cannot view without being reduced to visible emotion, even tears.

More than any other of its haunting realities, the tens of thousands of children’s shoes, still in piles, still tied in pairs, presumably by attentive mothers who believed they would be returned to their children after the mandated shower to cleanse them of lice. They weren’t, as everyone knows, yet they remain behind to drive home the horrors of the Holocaust in a way that makes them the idiomatic representation of state-sponsored mass murder and genocide.

These shoes stand for the destruction of innocence. For the promise of life, cut short by ruthless, incalculable evil.

Our group came to Auschwitz to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris. With him were major faith leaders from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Malaysia, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Israel, and the United States.

We came to see firsthand where millions of innocent men, women, and children perished because the world was indifferent to their plight. Over eleven million people, six million Jews and seven million others including Jehovah’s Witness, Slavs, Roma, Africans, Muslims, homosexuals, the disabled and mentally ill, and Allied prisoners of war — the “Untermensch” (sub-humans) and “undesirables” were rounded up by the thousands from countries under Nazi rule. They were brought to places like Auschwitz to be systematically processed, cruelly exploited as slave labor, and then murdered with ruthless efficiency if starvation or illness did not take them first.

We visited to keep them alive in memory. We came to remember, and to once again promise, as the victors in the struggle against global tyranny promised to the memory of those who had been the victims of the Holocaust, “Never again.”

Sadly, this promise has not been kept. Perhaps because we do not make more out of Holocaust Remembrance Day. There is a deep resistance to the realities of the painful lessons it teaches. In my lifetime alone, the numbers of innocent civilian victims of state-sponsored murder are staggering. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia perpetuated the deaths of approximately 1.5 to 2 million people from 1975 to 1979. In 1994, over 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists in just about one hundred days. In Europe, over 55,000 civilians were killed in the war in the Balkans including the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnians mainly men and boys, in the town of Srebrenica.

In Myanmar, over ten thousand Rohingya civilians have been murdered by the Buddhist majority military forces. Thousands of women have been raped and over 740,000 have been driven out of their homes and into neighboring Bangladesh. Just last year, as part of an interfaith delegation, I visited these sprawling and squalid camps to interview victims first-hand, to learn of their plight and to call for international leadership in addressing the ongoing crisis.

As part of Communist China’s “people’s war on terror,” hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are currently being held in modern concentration camps. The death toll and massive human displacement, particularly of civilians, continues as a result of the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

And the world continues to struggle to find a solution to the decades-old conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and in the Kashmir region of India.

Closer to home, Americans of all faiths have increasingly found themselves under threat. The stabbing attacks on Hanukkah in New York, the shootings at the synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, not to mention the number of attacks of vandalism of mosques, synagogues, and Jewish gravesites have captured the nation’s attention. As have the various shootings at churches in South Carolina and in other places. Last month, two men were murdered and a third was injured in a shooting at another church in Texas. Alas, the profound lessons of the Holocaust appear elusive to newer generations.

At the end of our visit to Auschwitz, David Harris noted that while many during the Holocaust despairingly asked, “Where is God?” he prefers to ask, “Where was humanity?” It’s an apt question, then and now. As we weigh the somber lessons of the Holocaust going forward each year, I hope and pray His work may be our own as we continue to bring healing to our violent and broken world.

Suhail A. Khan serves on the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council of the American Jewish Committee and as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement.

Bessie Coleman, the Black Cherokee Female Pilot Who Made Aviation History

H/T Mental Floss.

R.I.P. Bessie Coleman January 26, 1892-April 30,1926.

Photo illustration by Riccardo Zagorodnez, Mental Floss. Plane/landscape, iStock via Getty Images. Portrait, New York Public Library // Public Domain
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY RICCARDO ZAGORODNEZ, MENTAL FLOSS. PLANE/LANDSCAPE, ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGES. PORTRAIT, NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY // PUBLIC DOMAIN

Early 20th century America didn’t offer many career paths to people like Bessie Coleman. It was a time when women were discouraged from working outside domestic spheres, and opportunities for women of African American and Native American descent were even more limited. When Coleman fell in love with the idea of flying planes, she knew that realizing her dream would be impossible in the United States—but instead of giving up, she moved to France to enroll in flight school. Less than a year later, she returned home as the first African American and the first Native American female pilot in aviation history.

A DETERMINED BEGINNING

Bessie Coleman was born to sharecroppers in Texas on January 26, 1892. She was one of 13 siblings, and like the rest of Coleman clan, she was expected to help pick cotton on the farm as soon as she was old enough. At 6 years old, she started walking to school: a one-room wooden shack located four miles from her house. Her classroom often lacked basic supplies like paper and pencils, and, like all schools in the region, it was segregated.

Despite less-than-ideal conditions, she excelled in class and continued her studies through high school. In 1901, her father, who was part black and part Cherokee, relocated to Native American territory in Oklahoma to escape discrimination in Texas, leaving Bessie and the rest of his family behind. She knew she couldn’t depend on her now single-parent family to contribute money toward her education, so to save for college, she went to work as a laundress.

After a year at the Colored Agricultural and Normal University—now Langston University—in Langston, Oklahoma, she dropped out when her tuition fund ran dry. Even though she was more educated than many women of the time, there were few opportunities for her in the South. At age 23, she followed her brothers to Chicago, which, though racially segregated, was slightly more welcoming to people of color than Texas had been. In Chicago, Coleman was able to mingle with influential figures in the African American community. She went to beauty school and became a manicurist in a local barbershop.

Chicago was also where she decided she wanted to learn how to fly.

DREAMS OF FLIGHT—AND FRANCE

Around the same time Coleman moved up north, World War I erupted in Europe. The conflict quickened the pace of technological advancement, including in aviation. For the first time in history, people around the world could watch fighter planes soar through the skies in newsreels and read about them in the papers. Coleman fell in love.

When her brother John returned home to Chicago after serving overseas, he gave her more material to fuel her daydreams. In addition to regaling her with war stories, he teased her about her new fantasy, claiming that French women were superior to local women because they were allowed to fly planes, something Bessie would never be able to do. He may have said the words in jest, but they held some truth: Female pilots were incredibly rare in the U.S. immediately following World War I, and black female pilots were nonexistent.

Coleman quickly learned that American flight instructors were intent on keeping things that way. Every aviation school she applied to rejected her on the basis of her race and gender.

Fortunately for Coleman, her brothers weren’t her only source of support in Chicago. After moving to the city, she met Robert Abbott, publisher of the historic black newspaper The Chicago Defender and one of the first African American millionaires. He echoed John’s idea that France was a much better place for aspiring female pilots, but instead of rubbing it in her face, he presented it as an opportunity. Abbott viewed France as one of the world’s most racially progressive nations, and he encouraged her to move there in pursuit of her pilot’s license.

Coleman didn’t need to be convinced. With her heart set on a new dream, she quit her job as a manicurist and accepted a better-paying role as the manager of a chili parlor to raise money for her trip abroad. At night she took French classes in the Chicago loop. Her hard work paid off, and with her savings and some financial assistance from Abbot and another black entrepreneur named Jesse Binga, she boarded a ship for France in November 1920.

THE FIRST BLACK AVIATRIX

Coleman was the only non-white person in her class at the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. Students were taught to fly using 27-foot-long biplanes that were known to stall in mid-air. One day, she even witnessed one of her classmates die in a crash. Describing the incident later on, she said, “It was a terrible shock to my nerves, but I never lost them.”

Despite the risks, she pressed on with lessons, and after seven months of training, she received her aviation license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. She became both the first African American woman and the first Native American woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license.

Coleman completed some extra flight lessons in Paris and then boarded a ship bound for the United States. American news outlets were instantly smitten with the 29-year-old pilot. The Associated Press reported on September 26, 1921 that “Today [Coleman] returned as a full-fledged aviatrix, said to be the first of her race.”

In the early 1920s, an aviatrix, or female aviator, was still a fairly new concept in America, and many of the most famous women flyers of the 20th century—like Laura Ingalls, Betty Skelton, and Amelia Earhart—had yet to enter the scene. Coleman’s persistence helped clear the path for the next generation of female pilots.

But her success in France didn’t mark the end of her battle with racism. Bessie needed more training to learn the airshow tricks she now hoped to do for a living, but even with her international pilot’s license and minor celebrity status since returning home, American flight schools still refused to teach her. Just a few months after landing in the U.S., Bessie went back to Europe—this time to Germany and the Netherlands as well as France to learn the barnstorming stunts that were quickly growing into one of the most popular forms of entertainment of the 1920s.

Upon her second homecoming in 1922, newspapers praised her once again, reporting that European aviators had dubbed her “one of the best flyers they had seen.” Finally, she would be able to show off her skills in her home country. Robert Abbott, the newspaperman who helped fund her dream, sponsored her first-ever American airshow at Curtiss Field, Long Island, on September 3, 1922. She spent the next few years touring the country, thrilling spectators by parachuting, wing-walking (moving atop the wings of her biplane mid-flight), and performing aerial figure-eights.

Coleman had become a real celebrity, and she tried to use her prominence to help black people. She gave speeches on aviation to predominantly black crowds and planned to open her own flight school for African American students. She only performed for desegregated audiences—the one notable exception being a show in Waxahachie, Texas, the town where she lived for most of her childhood. Event organizers planned to segregate black and white guests and have them use separate entrances. Coleman protested and threatened to cancel the exhibition unless a single entrance was set up for everyone. Officials eventually agreed, though audience members were still forced to sit on separate sides of the stadium once they entered.

Just when it seemed her career was reaching new heights, it was cut short by tragedy. On April 30, 1926, she was riding with her mechanic William Wills in Jacksonville, Florida, in preparation for a show scheduled for the next day, when a wrench left in the engine caused the plane to spin out of control. Coleman hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt, and she was tossed from the passenger seat at 3000 feet above the ground. She died at age 34.

Bessie Coleman never achieved the same level of name recognition as some of her peers, but the impact she left on aviation history is undeniable. Even if they’ve never heard her name, Chicagoans living near Lincoln Cemetery have likely heard the sounds of jets flying overhead on April 30. Every year on the anniversary of her death, black pilots honor Coleman by performing a flyover and dropping flowers on her grave.

For Sale: A Titanic Survivor’s Light-Up Cane

H/T Atlas Obscura.com.

A Titanic story I have never heard.

Ella White’s battery-powered crutch guided her lifeboat to safety in 1912—and is now at the center of a family feud.

ONE DARK NIGHT ON THE cold open ocean, Ella White steered 25 people to safety using only the light of her cane.

It was April 14, 1912, and as the Titanic began to fill with seawater, the wealthy widow paddled away on Lifeboat No. 8—the second boat to leave the sinking ship—along with 25 other passengers. White held her battery-operated cane aloft to illuminate the pitch-black, turning the lifeboat into a kind of floating lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. Eventually, the group was rescued by a nearby ship called the Carpathia.

This week, the electric beacon that lit the frigid North Atlantic on that fateful night will be up for sale at Guernsey’s Auction. But it’s a contested auction, to say the least.

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The RMS Titanic, departing Southampton, England. F.G.O. STUART/PUBLIC DOMAIN

Like many other survivors, White, then 55, boarded the Titanic as a first-class passenger. She was traveling with her companion, a 36-year-old piano teacher named Marie Grice Young, along with several exotic chickens from France that they planned to breed in their Westchester mansion. They’d been on vacation in Europe and had chosen to return to America on a ship called the RMS Titanic, which was about to make its maiden voyage, according to Guernsey’s listing.

White had injured her foot during her travels, but she’d acquired a rather snazzy cane to help her keep her balance. The enameled black cane looks pretty simple at first glance, but its amber-colored bakelite head—made from the world’s first synthetic plastic—held a tiny, battery-powered light. This technology may seem kitschy by today’s standards, but it was cutting-edge technology in 1912, a mere 33 years after Thomas Edison had invented the electric light bulb.

White was lying in bed on the Titanic that night when she felt an odd sensation, “as though we went over about a thousand marbles,” she later said in her Senate testimony. When she managed to reach Lifeboat No. 8, she found 22 women and four men—nowhere near the lifeboat’s capacity—already on board.

As the group began oaring toward a light in the distance, which likely indicated another ship, it soon became tragically clear that none of the men on the lifeboat knew how to row. These were dining-room stewards, not seamen. According to White, they’d “escaped under the pretense of being oarsmen.” White and the other women soon took over the task.

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Lifeboat No. 6, like White’s No. 8, carried far fewer passengers than it was meant to hold. NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION/PUBLIC DOMAIN

After about 45 minutes, the Lifeboat No. 8 crew turned back to see if they could rescue other survivors. The night was impossibly dark, and the passengers realized that they would have no way of spotting other lifeboats. “The lamp on the boat was absolutely worth nothing,” White said in her Senate testimony. “I had an electric cane—a cane with an electric light in it—and that was the only light we had.”

White’s cane shone far brighter than any of the lifeboats’ lamps, and she waved it around as Lifeboat No. 8 headed back toward the Titanic’s sinking hull, in search of survivors. Though the cane’s light may have caused more confusion than assistance for nearby boats, it helped White and her crewmates navigate safely back to the ship—just in time to watch it sink. We sat there for a long time, and we saw the ship go down, distinctly,” White said.

All 26 people on Lifeboat No. 8 survived. After the disaster, White and Young moved in together and shared a home in Westchester County for the next 30 years. When White died, she left Young the bulk of her estate, including the cane. Historians believe White and Holmes likely had a queer relationship, according to OutSmart Magazine.

“I don’t think my father understood that Ella and Marie Grice Young had a relationship that was more than just friends,” says White’s great-grandnephew John Hoving. “I didn’t put two and two together about their relationship until later in my life.”

After the shipwreck, Ella White and Marie Grice Young shared a luxury apartment in Westchester County's Briarcliff Lodge.
After the shipwreck, Ella White and Marie Grice Young shared a luxury apartment in Westchester County’s Briarcliff Lodge. BRIARCLIFF MANOR-SCARBOROUGH HISTORICAL SOCIETY/PUBLIC DOMAIN

After White’s death, her cane changed hands several times. Its recent emergence on the Guernsey block has stoked a feud between two cousins, each of whom claims ownership. It was put up for auction by its current owner, Brad Williams, a great-grandnephew of White’s who says he inherited it from his mother, who in turn got it from her mother, White’s niece Mildred Holmes.

But on July 4, Hoving challenged the auction, alleging that the cane was stolen nearly 50 years ago from his family’s umbrella stand in an Upper East Side apartment. He contends that Holmes gave the cane to his father, not his aunt.

“This cane was part of our family folklore,” Hoving says, “No one had flashlights back then, and my great-great aunt was is in this lifeboat with a bunch of guys who didn’t know how to row.”

The cane's amber-colored bakelite head would emit a beam of light.
The cane’s amber-colored bakelite head would emit a beam of light. COURTESY OF LIVEAUCTIONEERS.COM

Hoving remembers his father parading the cane around for family and friends, telling the epic story of how White managed to survive the Titanic’s sinking. By the early 1970s, the light had nearly stopped working, but the amber head of the cane still emitted a dim sort of glow.

Luckily for would-be bidders, Hoving, Williams, and Guernsey reached a preliminary agreement on July 15. White’s cane will proceed to auction on July 20 as a part of the lot “A Century at Sea.” It is expected to fetch as much as $500,000.

“The fact that this cane still exists is extraordinary,” Hoving says. “I hope it gets displayed somewhere so people can continue to hear the story behind it.”

 

Is the Electoral College Worth Keeping? [VIDEO]

H/T BarbWire.

Without the Electoral College, we would have Hillary Clinton as president instead of Donald Trump.

We need the Electoral College without it California New York and Illinois would dictate who would become president at the expense of the other 47 states. 

It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist No. 68, “the union of which was to be wished for.”

As discussions begin again on the next presidential election, the Electoral College debate has been rekindled. I find it necessary to get ahead of the curve and discuss the facts about the Electoral College and why our Founders created it.

In their infinite wisdom, the United States’ Founders created the Electoral College to ensure the STATES were fairly represented. Why should one or two densely populated areas speak for the whole of the nation?

Consider the following statistics:

  • There are roughly 3,100 counties in the United States.
  • Trump won approximately 2,600 of them.
  • Clinton won just under 500.
  • Trump’s county win covered about 84% of the geographic United States.
  • Clinton won 88 of the 100 largest counties.
  • Without these counties, she would have lost by 11.5 million votes. Even so, Clinton only garnered about 2.8 million popular votes more than Trump.

In other words, Clinton’s votes were very concentrated in only a few states whereas Trump’s votes came from a wide enough geographic area to win the Electoral College. Trump had 304 Electoral votes; Clinton had 227.

Here is a very quick civics lesson:

Article 4, Section 4, of the United States Constitution states:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

Nowhere in the Constitution does the word “DEMOCRACY” appear. It also appears nowhere in the Declaration of Independence.

In a Republic, the law is supreme, and all men, including its leaders, are subject to it.  The Law is objective, a fixed standard; it is what we call the “Rule of Law.” In a Republic, the minority has rights, which even the majority may not violate. In a Democracy, however, majority rule is absolute. This makes the law subjective and ever changing. It is what we would call the “Rule of Man.”

To select our president by a popular vote would be a purely democratic election. This election would favor only states with major population hubs, making the rest of the country irrelevant. The tyranny of the majority populace would dominate America, and minority population would never be assured protection from the majority.

The Electoral College was to be a wholly separate body for choosing the president. Developed at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it was a compromise among plans for a national popular vote and to have Congress choose the president. It also acts as a State check on Federal power, thus protecting smaller States.

Liberty and justice for all Americans is the goal of the Constitution, making the Electoral College both right and American.

And in the words of Alexander Hamilton:

“If the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”

It’s Israel’s 71st Birthday: Thank God And U.S. President Harry Truman

H/T The Lid.

Happy 71st Birthday Israel. Shalom.

israel-born-in-a-day-1-1200x630-e1557337833728

Beginning at sundown, Wednesday evening May 8th, 2019  Israel will celebrate the 71st anniversary (by the Hebrew calendar) of the modern state of Israel. On that day 71 years ago the world saw an actual miracle from God. After almost 1,900 years, the Jewish people, who never totally left the land given to them by the Lord, once again had political control of their country. Once again the Jewish people were able to establish a political and geographic nation-state for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland as Israel declared her independence.

There is a song Jews sing every Hanukkah called “Who can retell.” The lyrics of this song also applies to the birth of Israel 71 years ago. “Who can retell the things that befell us, Who can count them?, In every age, a hero or sage, Came to our aid.” For the birth of Israel in 1948, the hero who came to our aid was the American President, Harry S  Truman.

The Jewish State’s existence would have been very short-lived were it not for the strong will of President Harry S Truman, who became the first world leader to recognize Israel, and he did so over the objections of his a man who was considered at the time a national hero, Secretary of State George Marshall. At the time Marshall was much more popular with the American people than President Truman, who at that point was never elected to the Oval Office, he was the relatively unknown VP who took over when FDR passed away.

This president didn’t make his decisions because of politics, but like so many of Truman’s policies, he supported Israel because he thought it was the right thing to do. Of course, there were some who attributed Truman’s stance to something else

Based on the Democratic Party’s move away from support of the Jewish State over the past decade, it may be reasonable to believe that if  Harry Truman tried to overrule the popular Marshall today, the Democratic party of Barack Obama, Rep Omar and the Farrakhan supporting Congressional Black Caucus might try to impeach their own president. At the very least they would certainly vehemently object. The Democrats might even have tried to negate the UN Partition Plan, as most in the State Department recommended to Truman in 1948, but a move like that wasn’t Harry Truman’s style.

“What I am trying to do is make the whole world safe for Jews,” Harry Truman wrote as he agonized over his decision to recognize a Jewish state and end the British Mandate over Palestine,

Secretary of State George Marshall (Time’s 1947 Man of the Year) was an international hero who was just as opposed to the creation of Israel just as forcefully as Truman who had no voter base, was for it.

Clark M. Clifford, Special Counsel to President Truman, remembered the internal Truman administration fight regarding the recognition of the Jewish State, and the final discussion in the Oval Office. The meeting turned out to be a fierce battle with Clifford and the President on one side, Marshall and Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett on the other  Undersecretary of State Lovett first argued Truman was supporting Israel solely for political gain and he warned the President the move would lose more votes than it would gain.

When that didn’t work, Lovett tried another approach –the red scare (did he believe all of those Jews are commies?).

Clark Clifford who recommended that the president recognize the nascent state recalled the argument:

Mr. President, to recognize the Jewish state prematurely would be buying a pig in a poke. How do we know what kind of Jewish state will be set up? We have many reports from British and American intelligence agents that Soviets are sending Jews and Communist agents into Palestine from the Black Sea area.

Lovett read some of these intelligence reports to the group. Clifford said he found them ridiculous, and no evidence ever turned up to support them; in fact, Jews were fleeing communism throughout Eastern Europe at that very moment.”

 

When Lovett was done speaking it was the “hero” Marshall’s turn.  Clifford described the remarks:

I had noticed Marshall’s face reddening with suppressed anger as I talked. When I finished, he exploded: “Mr. President, I thought this meeting was called to consider an important and complicated problem in foreign policy. I don’t even know why Clifford is here. He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter.”

I would never forget President Truman’s characteristically simple reply: “Well, General, he’s here because I asked him to be here.”

Marshall, scarcely concealing his ire, shot back, “These considerations have nothing to do with the issue. I fear that the only reason Clifford is here is that he is pressing a political consideration with regard to this issue. I don’t think politics should play any part in this.”

Lovett chirped in by accusing Truman of only trying to get the Jewish vote (a charge that angered Truman to his dying day).

“It would be highly injurious to the United Nations to announce the recognition of the Jewish state even before it had come into existence and while the General Assembly is still considering the question. [At the time the UN was considering withdrawel of the partition plan]  Furthermore, such a move would be injurious to the prestige of the President. It is obviously designed to win the Jewish vote, but in my opinion, it would lose more votes than it would gain.” Lovett had finally brought to the surface the root cause of Marshall’s fury – his view that the position I presented was dictated by domestic political considera­tions, specifically a quest for Jewish votes.

 

Marshall piped in with a political threat:

He was still furious. Speaking with barely contained rage and more than a hint of self-righ­teousness, he made the mostremarkablethreat Clifford says he ever heard anyone make directly to a President:

“If you follow Clifford’s advice and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you.

Everyone in the room was stunned. Here was the indispensable symbol of continuity [from FDR] whom President Truman revered and needed, making a threat that, if it became public, could virtually seal the dissolution of the Truman Administration and send the Western Alliance, then in the process of creation, into disarray before it had been fully structured.

Marshall’s statement fell short of an explicit threat to resign, but it came very close.General Marshall’s position was grossly unfair.

But Truman’s mind was made up– he was going to do the right thing. At 4 p.m. Friday, May 14, 1948, just before the start of the Jewish Sabbath, David Ben Gurion read a 979-word declaration of independence in front of a small audience at the Tel Aviv Art Museum (see video below). He finished in his usual terse manner. “The state of Israel is established! The meeting is ended.” (see video below).

A few hours later, at midnight, British rule over Palestine lapsed–11 minutes later White House spokesman Charlie Ross announced U.S. recognition.

Israel 71

When Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Isaac Herzog, visited the White House after Israel’s independence declaration, he told Truman, “God put you in your mother’s womb so that you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel after 2000 years.”

In 1961 long after was out of office, Truman met with Israeli PM David Ben Gurion in NY. In writing about the meeting, Ben Gurion explained:

At our last meeting, after a very interesting talk, just before [the President] left me – it was in a New York hotel suite – I told him that as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our new state so quickly and his steadfast support since then had given him an immortal place in Jewish history.

As I said that, tears suddenly sprang to his eyes. And his eyes were still wet when he bade me goodbye. I had rarely seen anyone so moved. I tried to hold him for a few minutes until he had become more composed, for I recalled that the hotel corridors were full of waiting journalists and photographers. He left.

A little while later, I too had to go out, and a correspondent came to me to ask, “Why was President Truman in tears when he left you?” I believe that I know. These were the tears of a man who had been subjected to calumny and vilification, who had persisted against powerful forces within his own Administration determined to defeat him. These were the tears of a man who had fought ably and honorably for a humanitarian goal to which he was deeply committed. These were tears of thanksgiving that his God had seen fit to bless his labors with success.

Israel 71

Truman was a president who judged not whether things would make America popular in the Arab world, but whether it was the right thing for the US. The man from Independence, Mo. knew the best thing for America’s future was for to grab the moral leadership position of the entire world.

American didn’t have that for leadership during the eight years of Barack Obama but appears to have regained it under Donald Trump.

The last president from the party of Truman forgot the role of Harry Truman in the Creation of Israel. He was not a friend of Israel or the Jewish people.

In 2012 Truman’s party removed (and never replaced) provisions in their platform preventing Israel from being destroyed by an influx of Palestinian Muslims. They also removed and never replaced a plank promising not to deal with the terrorists of Hamas who just last weekend pummeled Israeli civilians with nearly 700 rockets until they renounced terrorism and recognized the Jewish State.  The Democrats shoved through an agreement with Iran that leaves the terrorist state less than five months away from attacking Israel with nuclear weapons, a deal that President Trump ended.  The party of Truman’s most recent nominating convention was an anti-Israel hate-fest, and they protected members of their caucus from condemnation after spewing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel words. Today, the political descendants of Harry Truman appease the extreme leftists who have gained control of the party by opposing the Jewish State. Today’s Democrat party which is controlled by anti-Israel leftists may have tried to impeach Truman if he decided to recognize the new state of Israel today, or maybe they would only try to “string him up.”

 

The War of the Stray Dog & Other Conflicts Started Over Ridiculous Reasons

H/T  War History OnLine.

You have to ask Why did these wars start in the first place?

Even if only looking very briefly at history it is evident that people have always been willing to make war.

Wars have been fought for various reasons, sometimes quite logical–money, power, religion, and territory–but at other times they have been based on ridiculous pretexts. Here are seven of the most ridiculous wars in history.

The War of the Stray Dog

The War of the Stray Dog is the name given to a 1925 conflict between Bulgaria and Greece. The first version of events suggests a Bulgarian soldier ran after his dog that had crossed the border into Greece and was subsequently shot by a Greek soldier.

According to the second version, on October 18, 1925, Bulgarian soldiers crossed the Greek border, killed a Greek sentry and captain, and then attacked the Greek outpost in Belasitsa.

In response, Greece sent its troops to Bulgaria and fighting began between the two countries. The Greeks made it clear that they were not interested in Bulgarian territory, but were instead demanding compensation. Meanwhile, war veterans and volunteers were called upon to resist the Greek soldiers.

Demir Kapia, where original incident took place.Photo: Спасимир CC BY-SA 4.0

Bulgaria also appealed to the League of Nations to resolve the dispute. According to contemporary newspaper reports, the town of Petrich was captured, although other sources refute this since the League of Nations ordered the fighting to stop several hours earlier than the town was reportedly taken.

The League of Nations ordered a ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Greek troops from Bulgarian territory. Greece was also required to pay Bulgaria £45,000 in damages. Both sides accepted the decision.

The Greek ambassador to France, Karapanos, during the discussions at the League of Nations over the Greco-Bulgarian conflict in 1925

The War of the Oaken Bucket

The War of the Oaken Bucket occurred in medieval Italy in 1325 between the rival city-states of Bologna and Modena. The catalyst for the conflict was that a group of Modenese soldiers sneaked into Bologna and stole an oak bucket that was used to extract water from a well in the center of the city.

The stolen bucket inside the Ghirlandina Tower. Photo: ALienLifeForm CC BY-SA 3.0

The bucket was the property of Bologna’s authorities and the theft was immediately reported to Modena. However, the Modenese ignored the request and kept the bucket for themselves. Such audacity outraged the Bolognese to such an extent that they sent a 32,000-strong army to Modena.

Depiction of a 14th-century fight between the Guelf and Ghibelline factions in Bologna, from the Croniche of Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca

The city of Modena only had 7,000 inhabitants, but that was seemingly sufficient to repel the attack and drive the Bolognese all the way to Bologna. Along the way, the Modenese also destroyed several castles and a sluice gate on the Reno River.

The Modenese staged a ceremony just outside Bologna’s city walls to taunt the city before going on to steal another bucket from a well outside a city gate.

Approximately 2,000 people died in this ridiculous and meaningless conflict. The bucket was never returned to Bologna.

Panoramic view of central Bologna.Photo: ilmungo CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pig War

On June 15, 1859 on the disputed San Juan Islands, an American farmer named Lyman Cutlar discovered a large black pig rummaging around his garden and eating his potatoes. This was not the first time it had happened, prompting an angry Cutlar to shoot the pig. The pig belonged to Irishman Charles Griffin who had a few more pigs he allowed to roam freely.

Large Black breed piglets.Photo: Keith Evans CC BY-SA 2.0

Cutlar offered Griffin $10 in compensation for the pig, but Griffin demanded $100. Outraged, Cutlar refused to pay anything and the British authorities threatened him with arrest. In response, Cutlar appealed to the American settlers for military protection.

A photograph of Bellue Vue Sheep Farm Sep 1859 on San Juan Island circa the Pig War

Cutlar’s killing of the pig was the catalyst for the conflict, although there were already underlying tensions due to the border dispute.

Watercolor of US Army building Roberts Redoubt on San Juan Island

American troops subsequently arrived on the island and met the British. The commanders on both sides ordered their men to defend themselves, but were instructed not to shoot first. The American and British soldiers insulted each other for several days, but no shots were fired.

British troops evacuate San Juan Island

When news of the incident reached London and Washington, officials took action to defuse this situation. During the negotiations the parties agreed to maintain joint occupation of San Juan until a final settlement was reached.

Water color of American Camp San Juan Island
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The border dispute was eventually settled in 1872.

Watercolor of Belle Vue sheep farm San Juan Island at time of Pig War

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War is recognized as one of the longest, albeit bloodless, wars in history. The war was “fought” from 1651 between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly, a part of the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, historians dispute whether the war actually existed.

The war has its origins in the English Civil War, during which the Royalist Navy ultimately retreated to the Isles of Scilly. The Netherlands supported the Parliamentarians and later suffered some merchant shipping losses at the hands of the Royalist Navy based in the Isles of Scilly.

The victory of the Parliamentarian New Model Army over the Royalist Army at the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645 marked the decisive turning point in the English Civil War.

Roy Duncan, the historian and Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, wrote a letter in 1985 to the Dutch Embassy in London. Duncan offered to get rid of the myth that the islands were still at war with the Netherlands. Embassy staff then confirmed that this was formally true. At the invitation of Duncan, the then Dutch Ambassador Jonkheer Rein Huydecoper arrived on the islands to sign a peace treaty.

Peace was officially declared on April 17, 1986 after 335 years of passive war. The Dutch Ambassador joked that it must have been horrifying for the Scilly residents “to know we could have attacked at any moment.”

Geological map of western Cornwall, with the Isles of Scilly (inset)

The Emu War

The Great Emu War was an operation by the Australian armed forces to exterminate emu birds in November and December 1932. The operation was prompted by a number of complaints from farmers about large quantities of emus attacking wheat crops in the Campion district of Western Australia.

Fallow caused by emus

Soldiers armed with machine guns were sent to destroy the birds, which gave the press the opportunity to call this incident “the Emu War.” The birds proved difficult to kill because they were very agile, even when badly injured.

The emu massacre did not resolve the problems and farmers again requested military assistance in 1934, 1943, and 1948, although the government rejected these later requests.

Australian soldier Ray Owen holds a deceased Emu during the Emu War.

In 1923 the Australian government created a reward system for killing emus. The system was continued and proved more effective than military intervention. In six months in 1934, 57,034 bounties were claimed.

Sir George Pearce, who ordered that the army cull the emu population. He was later referred to in Parliament as the “Minister of the Emu War” by Senator James Dunn.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear

The War of Jenkins’ Ear was a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that lasted between 1739 and 1742, and a kind of prologue to the pan-European confrontation of the War of the Austrian Succession that involved most European powers.

British operations in the Caribbean Sea during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.Photo: Frank Schulenburg CC BY-SA 3.0

British historian Thomas Carlyle suggested the ironic name in 1858 because a British merchant ship captain, Robert Jenkins, supposedly presented his severed ear to the British Parliament as evidence of Spanish violence against British navigators.

Public opinion in Britain was already ingrained due to other Spanish attacks on British ships, and the Jenkins episode served as a formal reason to start the war.

Thomas Carlyle in 1854

The Football War

The Football War (otherwise known as “the Soccer War” or “the 100 Hours War”) was a short military conflict between Honduras and El Salvador that lasted for four days from July 14 to July 18, 1969. According to the media, the war began due to the Honduran football team losing to El Salvador during a 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifier.

Honduran Air Force Vought F4U-5NL No. FAH-609 Corsair flown by Cap. Fernando Soto when he shot down three Salvadoran planes. Now on display at the Museo del Aire in Tegucigalpa.Photo: Bernardo Moncada CC BY-SA 3.0

 

However, the real causes of the war lie in El Salvador’s demographic problems and land reform issues in Honduras. In this context, a major factor for increased tensions between the two countries was the eviction of Salvadoran immigrants from Honduras.

Despite the transience of the conflict, several thousand people were killed on both sides.

As a side note, the Football War was the last conflict which saw piston-engined fighters engage each other.

Judge Rules that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee Statue in Charlottesville is a Protected Monument

H/T Godfather Politics.

The leftist snowflakes are going to get triggered by this ruling.

A judge in Virginia has ruled that the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson standing in Charlottesville are protected monuments that cannot be torn down by the city.

On Monday, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard Moore ruled that the Confederate statues are war memorials that are protected by a state law that prevents such memorials from being altered or destroyed, according to CBS 19.

Moore also noted that the City of Charlottesville does not have a legal right to tear the statues down.

In a nine-page ruling, Moore noted that the generals are depicted in their uniforms and riding horses associated with their service at war and so quality as war memorials.

“I believe that defendants have confused or conflated 1) what the statues are with 2) the intentions or motivations of some involved in erecting them, or the impact that they might have on some people and how they might make some people feel,” Moore wrote. “But that does not change what they are.”

The judge said that the status of the monuments is clear-cut and that “if the matter went to trial on this issue and a jury were to decide that they are not monuments or memorials to veterans of the civil war, I would have to set such verdict aside as unreasonable.”

The Virginia statute in question is § 15.2-1812, Memorials for war veterans.

Earlier this year, the Virginia House of Delegates nixed a bill that would allow cities to destroy Confederate monuments.

If HB 2377 had passed, it would have allowed municipalities to “remove or provide for the upkeep, maintenance, or contextualization of any monument or memorial for war veterans located in its public space, regardless of when erected.”

The entire question came about when the town of Charlottesville attempted to destroy the two Confederate monuments that have each stood for nearly 100 years in city parks.

The liberal city council decided it wanted no part of its deep Confederate history. But the plans sparked wide protests both for and against the monuments which grew into a larger protest that drew in dangerous members of the left-wing Antifa and White Nationalists that sparked a riot in 2017.

One of the First Ever Navy SEAL Forerunners, Celebrates his 94th Birthday

H/T War History OnLine.

Happy 94th birthday Bill Dawson.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson talks with Bill Dawson, the last surviving member of the very first Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU) during Navy appreciation night at Nationals Park. NCDUs were the precursor of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and today’s Navy SEALs. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

In April 2019, the last living member of the original Navy SEAL team, Bill Dawson, celebrated his 94th birthday.

Bill went to fight in the Pacific theater of operations in 1943, when he was just 17 years old, and he remained in that area until the Japanese surrendered in 1945. He was a member of the first team of men that formed the Naval Combat Demolition Units, which were the forerunners of today’s much-famed SEAL teams.

Dawson was not only engaged in dangerous work during the war, but he also continued his hazardous occupations in peacetime, serving the Washington, D.C. Fire Department for more than 20 years.

He celebrated his birthday surrounded by friends and four generations of his family, as both his granddaughter and his great-granddaughter were in attendance. Sherrie Soos, Dawson’s granddaughter, said that Dawson would chat for hours about his travels and the work he had done. He was very proud to have served his country.

U.S. Naval Combat Demolition insignia.

Many of his friends from the fire department were also there to help celebrate the auspicious day. Greg Turnell paid tribute to the service that Dawson had rendered to his country and quipped that his courage was not the only exciting thing about Dawson—the fact that he had collected a pension for 45 years was surprising, said Dawson’s old comrade.

Bill is not only a WWII veteran but also a published author. His book Before They Were SEALs They Were Frogs details the work done by this remarkable band of men.

A US Navy Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) team member enters the water from an inflatable boat while preparing for a stringline recovery operation. The raft is being towed by another boat.

The very first ancestors of what we today know as Navy SEALS were Scouts and Raiders, created in May 1942 at Fort Pierce in Florida. They were tasked with reconnoitering enemy beaches regarding things such as the gradient of the beach, the types and composition of the soil, and the defenses positioned on the beach. These brave men had no means of defending themselves; all they had to rely on was their stealth.

A year before D-Day, the military created Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU) that trained alongside the Raiders and Scouts at Fort Pierce.  They were led by Lieutenant Commander Draper Kaufman, who was an explosives expert.

Rear Admiral Draper L. Kauffman

The training of the NCDUs was different in that they were trained to clear the beaches of obstacles along what was known as the Atlantic Wall—the string of obstacles that stretched along the northern French coast and extended as far as Belgium and Holland.

The men that manned the NCDUs were volunteers drawn from the “Seabees,” or Construction Battalions (CBs), and these men were the “frogmen” of WWII. In popular fiction, they were portrayed as wearing swim trunks and having a knife strapped to their legs.

NCDU 45, lead by Ensign Karnowski CEC with 2 seabees and 3 sailors

The facts were somewhat different, as these men operated primarily from rubber boats and did not spend much time in the water. The teams trained by Kaufman wore traditional fatigues, boots, and steel helmets.

These teams boasted men in peak physical condition, but they were not trained swimmers, as they operated in shallow waters. The teams later deployed to the Pacific were closer to the popular image of frogmen, as they served in warmer waters. They wore fins and face masks while scouting Japanese-held islands.

U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Team 21 lands in Tokyo Bay

The image of these men wearing scuba gear is incorrect, as that type of equipment had not yet been invented. Scuba gear was developed by a French naval officer, Jacques Cousteau, in 1944, and was only used by the US military after WWII.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1972

The NCDU teams undertook the dangerous task of clearing the beaches for D-Day. At Omaha Beach sixteen teams were deployed, with each team comprising seven trained Navy personnel alongside five Army engineers. They were given the task of clearing a 50-foot wide corridor to the beach.

The casualties in these teams were heavy, with 31 men killed and 60 wounded out of a total of 175 men. In spite of these casualties, the teams managed to clear around a third of the obstacles on the first day before they were forced to retreat due to the rising tide.

It is not surprising that Bill Dawson was incredibly proud of his service with this unusual and exceptional group of sailors. He was there at the start of what is today an elite and extraordinary band of men.

Slugs of War Detecting Gas & Other Creatures Who Helped Win Wars

H/T War History OnLine.

A look at critters during wartime.

A military working dog accompanies U.S. Soldiers conducting an inspection of an Afghan Border Police checkpoint near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border

Mice and canaries also deserve credit for saving many lives during the First World War. These creatures were used to detect poisonous fumes in underground tunnels.

There are many moving stories of how animals helped in wars. During both the First and Second World wars, many dogs were called up for action. They played important roles such as rescuing, tracking, guarding, and other duties.

Carrier pigeons are well known for delivering secret messages. And of course, horses played an important role in cavalries since ancient times. But there were many other animals who contributed their services and even their lives to war efforts.

The variety of different species is much greater than many people realize. Some of these joined regiments as working animals, others as mascots. Many undertook both roles by doing practical work as well as providing some comfort and keeping up soldiers’ morale.

Dispatching of a message by carrier pigeon within the Swiss Army during World War I. Photo: Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, CH-BAR#E27#1000/721#14095#4508* / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Working animals

Camels

Camels were frequently employed in desert terrain which would have been difficult for horses, because camels had the advantage of being able to travel long distances with little water. In the 20th century, these animals played an important role in the First World War, replacing horses in the desert for carrying both loads and riders.

The officer most known for riding a camel must have been T. E. Lawrence, immortalized as “Lawrence of Arabia,” who led an Arab offensive against the Turks in the years just before the outbreak of the First World War.

Lawrence at Aqaba, 1917

During WWI, the Imperial Camel Corps was a camel-mounted infantry force that operated in the Middle Eastern and African deserts. The Corps played an important role in campaigns such as Palestine and Sinai during the war. As the war progressed, the role of mounted infantry declined due to the nature of the fighting, and camels were used more for carrying loads.

Mules, donkeys, oxen, and even elephants also provided an alternative to horses for carrying equipment and heavy lifting.

A posed photograph of Australian, British, New Zealand and Indian Camel Corps troopers

Mice, Canaries and Slugs

Mice and canaries also deserve credit for saving many lives during the First World War. These creatures were used to detect poisonous fumes in underground tunnels.

Part of the Allies’ strategy was to build networks of tunnels under the trenches to reach the German front, which they would then attack from below by filling the tunnel with explosives. However, after the explosions had taken place, the tunnels would be filled with dangerous gases. Soldiers could not enter the tunnels until the gas had cleared.

To check if it was safe to enter the tunnels, mice or canaries would be sent in to test the air quality. If the animal was overwhelmed by the fumes it would pass out. Fortunately, they would often be revived and were able to continue carrying out their important service.

British soldiers with rescued canaries, France, during World War I.

Even slugs could play a part in detecting gases. These creatures were particularly sensitive to mustard gas, which posed a real danger for soldiers in the trenches. The slug would respond by closing up its breathing holes and compressing its body.

Slugs were more sensitive to the gas than humans, so they detected it before the soldiers did. When the soldiers saw the slug behaving in this way, they knew it was time to put on their gas masks.

German soldiers with gas masks, 1915.Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R52907 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Cats

Cats also earned their place by keeping mice, rats, and other vermin in check. The conditions in the trenches created a breeding ground for rats and in some areas, cats were kept and trained to catch the rats which threatened to make the already appallingly unhealthy environment even worse.

Cats were of course also common on naval ships during the world wars, as they had been for previous centuries. Mice and rats were a particular problem on ships. They could not only eat or contaminate the limited food rations held on board but could also be a danger by gnawing through ropes and wires.

Pooli, cat who served aboard a United States attack transport during World War II celebrates 15th birthday.1959

Pets and Mascots

As well as working animals, a large number and variety of animals became mascots. Dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and even monkeys could be found traveling along with soldiers. Some of them were even kitted out with their own uniforms.

Mascots were considered lucky and soldiers, particularly in the First World War, were known to be superstitious. Many soldiers would have found the presence of a lucky mascot reassuring. Animals also helped to keep up the soldiers’ morale and would have provided a comforting presence amid the brutality of war.

Tank Corp’s mascot, ‘Stunter’, and his officer, France, during World War I.

Mascots were often small animals like dogs and cats. Those who did not have a working role often had to be smuggled in. But there were also some more unexpected species including bears, baboons and foxes.

During the Second World War, a Polish regiment adopted a bear cub as a mascot. The Syrian brown bear turned out to be remarkably tame and seemed to enjoy wrestling and play fighting with the men. They named him Wojtek, and once full grown he was over six feet tall and weighed around 250 pounds.

Wojtek sits in front of a soldier.

When the Polish II Corps was sent to Italy the bear went with them and was formally enlisted as a member of the unit. He was given the rank of private and was even given his own number. Once in the front line, he contributed to the effort by carrying heavy items like shells and boxes of ammunition.

Troops of the Polish 22 Transport Artillery Company (Army Service Corps, 2nd Polish Corps) watch as one of their comrades play wrestles with Wojtek (Voytek) their mascot bear during their service in the Middle East.

Like Wojtek, Jackie the baboon started his army career as a pet but soon made himself useful. He was found wandering on a farm in South Africa and was adopted by the owner of the farm. When he enlisted, he brought the baboon along, which turned out to be a good move.

Jackie earned his place in the unit because his hearing and eyesight were superior to those of humans. This meant that he could sense enemy movements before the soldiers did. He would warn the soldiers by making a noise or pulling on their clothing

Corporal Jackie the baboon injured as a soldier in the South African army.

Meanwhile, a “flying fox” joined the Royal Air Force. The fox cub was found in France and adopted as a mascot. The fox even appeared to enjoy flying and was photographed accompanying an airman during a flight.

The roles that animals played in wars is now also commemorated during some veteran events. In Britain, some people wear a purple poppy to honor animal veterans along with the traditional red poppy.

And although horses and dogs are most often in people’s thoughts, it is good to also remember the important work done by other creatures such as camels, canaries, and even slugs.

You Have to Survive First: Caterpillar Club The Club That No One Wants to Join

H/T War History OnLine.

The Catapiller Club is a club I do not think I would want to join.

A membership certificate of the Caterpillar Club.Photo: JHvW CC BY-SA 3.0

While many clubs might difficult to join, not many have such unusual requirements for membership as the “Caterpillar Club.”

It has been described as the club that no one wants to join. And those who become members do so, quite literally, by accident. All you need to do is successfully bail out of a damaged airplane using a parachute.

The club began in 1922 after Harold Harris successfully bailed out of a damaged aircraft using a parachute made by the Irvin Airchute Company of Canada. The company marked the occasion by sending Harris a gold pin.

Harris wasn’t actually the first person whose life had been saved by a parachute. That honor should go to William O’Connor, a pilot who landed on McCook Field, an air station near Dayton, Ohio on August 24, 1920.

Although there is a reference to this event in an early brochure for the Irvin Airchute Co, his fall received little publicity.

Facing a certain crash, Harris bailed out of the stricken aircraft, landing in a backyard grape arbor at a house at 335 Troy St., suffering only bruises on his legs and hand from fighting with the control stick.

Previously, parachutes could not be opened once the pilot was out of the plane. When a plane was spinning due to damage, the parachute could not be put into operation.

Irvin, a former stunt man, devised the first free-fall parachute which allowed you to jump and then pull the chord. He tested the device out on himself in 1919. Having landed with only a broken ankle, Irvin considered the trial to be a success.

Leslie Leroy Irvin made the first premeditated free-fall parachute jump in 1919.

Freefall parachutes were a relatively new concept at the time, and they had been met with skepticism. Some people thought they would be useless as there would not be time to put the parachute into operation.

Much depended on the pilot’s training and fast action to get the parachute open before he lost too much altitude. But the successful bailout by Harris proved that these parachutes could indeed save lives.

Irvin’s company was keen to promote this new piece of equipment. It promised to send a card and a gold pin to anyone whose life was saved by one of the company’s parachutes.

The pin was in the shape of a golden caterpillar. The eyes were originally made of rubies, although these were later replaced with red garnet.

A pin from a parachute company, possibly Switlik or Standard Parachute. This style is common in catalogs and auctions of military memorabilia.

The choice of design was a way of acknowledging the important role of the caterpillar who spun the silk used to make the parachutes. The club’s motto is “Life depends on a silken thread.”

Shortly after Harris’s bailout, two newspaper reporters from the Drayton Herald suggested he should start a club as they realized that, in time, there would be more people receiving the gold caterpillar pin.

Irvin’s company, not surprisingly, thought this was a great idea. After all, it provided good publicity while also celebrating lives saved by the parachute.

And so, the Caterpillar Club was hatched and grew quickly. By 1928, the club had 87 members. Unsurprisingly, the war brought a large increase in numbers so that, by the end of the war, membership had risen to around 34,000.

Membership certificate issued 1957.Photo: JHvW CC BY-SA 3.0

Although fewer pins are given out these days, membership is currently believed to be around 100,000.

It was not long before other parachute manufactures such as The Switlik Parachute Company caught on to the idea and started up similar initiatives. Switlik also used a caterpillar pin, but one that was black and silver.

Today, membership is open to anyone, anywhere in the world, who has used a parachute to jump to safety from a disabled aircraft, regardless of the manufacture of the chute.

The Caterpillar Club distinction awarded to Mieczysław Halicki in 1934.Photo: Jacek Halicki CC BY-SA 3.0

Some Notable Members

Although fame and fortune won’t help you buy your way into this exclusive club, it does have some famous members.

Bram Van der Stok was a Dutch fighter pilot who became famous in 1944 for tunneling his way out of the notorious Stalag Luft III prison camp. The story was the basis of the famous film The Great Escape although Van der Stok had little use for a parachute on that occasion.

Former President George Bush was one of the Switlik caterpillars. His life was saved thanks to a Switlik parachute he used to bail out of a plane on September 2, 1944.

Bush in his Grumman TBM Avenger aboard USS San Jacinto in 1944

As the first person to fly an airplane across the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh was no stranger to aeronautical innovations. Lindbergh’s membership dates back to before he made his famous flight.

He is also a four times member of the club. He had to bail out once while testing a plane and again during a practice flight. He made two more emergency jumps during night time flights while working as an airmail pilot.

Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. Louis before his Paris flight

The astronaut John Glenn was also a member, as was the aviation pioneer Major James Harold (Jimmy) Doolittle.

John Glenn sitting in the cockpit of a jet aircraft at the U.S. Navy Test Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, 1954.

The first woman to join the club was Irene McFarland. Unlike most other early members who had a military background, McFarland was a stunt flyer with an aerial circus.

While flying in a show over Cincinnati on June 28, 1925, MacFarland had to bail out. Her first parachute actually failed to open but, fortunately, her back up parachute worked. She landed safely and became the first female member of the club.

In general, men greatly outnumber women in the club due to the large numbers who gained their membership in the course of their military service.

Laminated membership card to the Caterpillar Club. It was awarded to airmen who saved their lives by parachuting out of an aircraft by the Irvin Air Chute Company. Photo:Dmercado CC BY-SA 3.0

The youngest person to achieve membership is Scottish teenager, Ruari Tait. Aged only 12 at the time, Ruari and his father were forced to bail out of their glider when it was hit by another glider while flying over Aberdeenshire in 2014.

Thanks to their parachutes, they both came down safely while the other pilot managed to fly his damaged glider back to the glider club base. The boy was clearly not put off by his experience and went on to become a qualified solo glider pilot at the age of 14.

The Club today

Today, there are still branches of the Caterpillar Club in Britain, Canada, and the USA. The local branches play an important role in helping caterpillars keep in touch with each other, share news, and also arrange reunions from time to time.