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June 6, 1944

6 Jun

The Normandy Landings were the first operations of the Allied Powers’ invasion of Normandy, also known as Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord, during World War II. D-Day for the operation, postponed 24 hours, became June 6, 1944, H-Hour was 6:30 am.

 

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have
striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The
hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on
other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war
machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of
Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well
equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of
1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats,
in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their
strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home
Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions
of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to
Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in
battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great
and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

 

And now, the best speech ever written. Period.

 

General George S Patton on June 5, 1944

 

 

Be seated.

Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit.

Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle.

You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else.

Third, you are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight.

When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards.

Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.

You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are.

The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared.

Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it takes an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood. Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base. Americans pride themselves on being He Men and they ARE He Men.

Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so. They are not supermen.

All through your Army careers, you men have bitched about what you call ‘chicken shit drilling’. That, like everything else in this Army, has a definite purpose. That purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into every soldier. I don’t give a fuck for a man who’s not always on his toes. You men are veterans or you wouldn’t be here. You are ready for what’s to come. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If you’re not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-asshole-bitch is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit!

There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily, all because one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did.

An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure horse shit. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about fucking! We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we’re going up against. By God, I do.

My men don’t surrender, and I don’t want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if you are hit, you can still fight back That’s not just bull shit either. The kind of man that I want in my command is just like the lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Luger against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with one hand, and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German before they knew what the hell was coming off. And, all of that time, this man had a bullet through a lung. There was a real man!

All of the real heroes are not storybook combat fighters, either. Every single man in this Army plays a vital role. Don’t ever let up. Don’t ever think that your job is unimportant. Every man has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain.

What if every truck driver suddenly decided that he didn’t like the whine of those shells overhead, turned yellow, and jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could say, ‘Hell, they won’t miss me, just one man in thousands.’ But, what if every man thought that way? Where in the hell would we be now? What would our country, our loved ones, our homes, even the world, be like?

No, Goddamnit, Americans don’t think like that. Every man does his job. Every man serves the whole. Every department, every unit, is important in the vast scheme of this war.

The ordnance men are needed to supply the guns and machinery of war to keep us rolling. The Quartermaster is needed to bring up food and clothes because where we are going there isn’t a hell of a lot to steal. Every last man on K.P. has a job to do, even the one who heats our water to keep us from getting the ‘G.I. Shits’.

Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy fighting beside him. We don’t want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a nation of brave men.

One of the bravest men that I ever saw was a fellow on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of a furious fire fight in Tunisia. I stopped and asked what the hell he was doing up there at a time like that. He answered, ‘Fixing the wire, Sir.’ I asked, ‘Isn’t that a little unhealthy right about now?’ He answered, ‘Yes Sir, but the Goddamned wire has to be fixed.’ I asked, ‘Don’t those planes strafing the road bother you?’ And he answered, ‘No, Sir, but you sure as hell do!’ Now, there was a real man. A real soldier. There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty might appear at the time, no matter how great the odds.

And you should have seen those trucks on the rode to Tunisia. Those drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they rolled over those son-of-a-bitching roads, never stopping, never faltering from their course, with shells bursting all around them all of the time. We got through on good old American guts. Many of those men drove for over forty consecutive hours. These men weren’t combat men, but they were soldiers with a job to do. They did it, and in one hell of a way they did it. They were part of a team. Without team effort, without them, the fight would have been lost. All of the links in the chain pulled together and the chain became unbreakable.

Don’t forget, you men don’t know that I’m here. No mention of that fact is to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell happened to me. I’m not supposed to be commanding this Army. I’m not even supposed to be here in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the Goddamned Germans. Some day I want to see them raise up on their piss-soaked hind legs and howl, ‘Jesus Christ, it’s the Goddamned Third Army again and that son-of-a-fucking-bitch Patton’. We want to get the hell over there.’ The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit.

Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!

When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him eventually. The hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don’t dig foxholes. I don’t want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don’t give the enemy time to dig one either. We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever will have.

We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun cock suckers by the bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!

I don’t want to get any messages saying, ‘I am holding my position.’ We are not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit through a tin horn!

From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don’t give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder WE push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.

There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’ No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!'”

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“Nothing to be gained by trying to get away” – BBC’s 70s script to be read in case of nuclear war

3 Mar

Creepy.

This doc is from the 1970s.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03_10_08nuclearattack.pdf

BBC TRANSCRIPT TO BE USED IN WAKE OF NUCLEAR ATTACK
This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.
Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger.
If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.
Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.
Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don’t waste it.
Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.
If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The “all clear” message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.
Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it  is safe to come out or you hear the “all clear” on the sirens.
Here are the main points again:
Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for 14 days or more.
We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours’ time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

The world’s last WWI veteran – It’s only in history books now

7 Feb

 

 

This is Harry Patch, he was born June 17th 1898 and he died July 25th 2009 at the age of 111.

Harry was the last living man to have fought in the trenches in the First World War, the last living man to have been wounded during WW1, the last living man to have fired a gun in WW1…..

92 years before his death, on his 19th birthday Harry was in the trenches in France and was later badly wounded by artillery fire during the Battle of Passchendaele where over 500,000 died over a period of less than 4 months. The shelling was so intense that it is estimated there were over 1,000,000 shell holes to a square mile.

 

 

 

This is the village of Passchendaele before and after the battle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are Harry’s own words about what he experienced:

A rude awakening
 
I had a brother who was a regular soldier. He was in Africa when the war broke out. He was a sergeant major in the Royal Engineers, who fought and was wounded at Mons. And they kept him in England after that, as an instructor. He never went back and he used to tell me what the trenches were like. I didn’t want to go. I knew what I was going to. A lot of people didn’t and when they got to France they had a rude awakening.
 
The trenches were about six feet deep, about three feet wide – mud, water, a duckboard if you were lucky. You slept on the firing step, if you could, shells bursting all around you. Filthy.
 
 
Infected by lice
 
From the time I went to France – the second week in June 1917 – until I left 23rd December 1917, injured by shellfire, I never had a bath. I never had any clean clothes. And when we got to Rouen on the way home they took every stitch of clothing off us: vest, shirt, pants, everything and they burnt it all. It was the only way to get rid of the lice. For each lousy louse, he had his own particular bite, and his own itch and he’d drive you mad. We used to turn our vests inside out to get a little relief. And you’d go down all the seams, if you dared show a light, with a candle, and burn them out. And those little devils who’d laid their eggs in the seam, you’d turn your vest inside out and tomorrow you’d be just as lousy as you were today. And that was the trenches.
 
 
Fighting for their lives
 
You daren’t show above otherwise a sniper would have you. You used to look between the fire and apertures and all you could see was a couple of stray dogs out there, fighting over a biscuit that they’d found. They were fighting for their lives. And the thought came to me – well, there they are, two animals out there fighting over dog biscuit, the same as we get to live. They were fighting for their lives. I said, ‘We are two civilised nations – British and German – and what were we doing? We were in a lousy, dirty trench fighting for our lives? For what? For eighteen pence a flipping day.’
 
 
Life in the trenches
 
You got tots of rum.There were many a man who didn’t like rum, didn’t drink it. It used to warm you up. Life in the trenches, well…can you imagine now, going out from this room along the corridor and there is a trench dug across the lawn. Six feet deep and three feet wide. There is water and mud in the bottom. You sit on a trench at the side to sleep, don’t matter whether it is wet, fine, hot or cold. Four days you are there and you got to stick it. That was the conditions.
 
If any man tells you he went into the front line and he wasn’t scared – he’s a liar. You were scared from the moment you got there. You never knew. I mean, in the trench you were all right. If you kept down, a sniper couldn’t get you. But you never knew if the artillery had a shell that burst above you and you caught the shrapnel. That was it.
 
 
Shell shock
 
You were in that trench. That was your front line. You had to keep an eye on the German front line. You daren’t leave. No. I suppose if you left, and some of them did, they were shot as cowards. That is another thing with shell shock – I never saw anyone with it, never experienced it – but it seemed you stood at the bottom of the ladder and you just could not move. Shellshock took all the nervous power out of you.
An officer would come down and very often shoot them as a coward. That man was no more a coward than you or I. He just could not move. That’s shell shock. Towards the end of war they recognised it as an illness. The early part of the war – they didn’t. If you were there you were shot. And that was it. And there’s a good many men who were shot for cowardice and they are asking now … that verdict be taken away. They were not cowards.
 
 
Sleep in the trenches
 
Rats as big as cats. Anything they could gnaw, they would – to live. If you didn’t watch it, they’d gnaw your shoe laces. Anything leather, they would nibble that. As you went to sleep, you would cover your face with a blanket and you could hear the damn things run over you.
 
As you to sat on the firing step, you could have a doze. Not much more. Half-past seven in the morning, stand-to and you’d have an inspection. Last thing at night, you’d have an inspection. You had to sleep in between.
 
 
No Man’s Land
 
Probably you’d hear something in No Man’s Land. It might have been a working party. You reported it. The officer would have a look through his field glasses. If it was any good and it wasn’t British, give them a burst. Number One would give them a shot or two out of the Lewis gun, and after firing that Lewis gun from one aperture, we would always move down the trench. This was because, if it was spotted by a German observer there, the range was sent back to their artillery. Staying put was an invitation for half a dozen rockets. If you stayed where you were, you chanced it.
 
 
Going ‘over the top’
 
Never forget it. We crawled, couldn’t stand up – a sniper would have you. I came across a Cornishman, he must have been from ‘A’ or ‘B’ companies who were the assault companies when we went over. ‘C’ and ‘D’, we were support. I came across a Cornishman, he was ripped from his shoulder to his waist – shrapnel.
Now a bullet wound is clean, shrapnel will tear you all to pieces. He was laying there in a pool of blood. As we got to him, he said, ‘Shoot me.’ He was beyond all human aid. Before we would pull out the revolver to shoot him, he died. I was with him in the last seconds of his life. hen he went from this life, to whatever is beyond.
 
Now what I saw in the way of sights at Passchendaele and at Pilkem – the wounded lying about asking you for help – we didn’t have the knowledge, the equipment or the time to spend with them. I lost all my faith in the Church of England.
 
And when that fellah died, he just said one word: ‘Mother.’ It wasn’t a cry of despair. It was a cry or surprise and joy. I think – although I wasn’t allowed to see her – I am sure his mother was in the next world to welcome him. And he knew it. I was just allowed to see that much and no more. And from that day until today – and now I’m nearly 106 years old – I shall always remember that cry and I shall always remember that death is not the end.
 
You’ve got a memory. You’ve got a brain about the size of a tea cup. I’ve got a memory that goes back for 80 or 90 years and I think that memory goes on with you when you die. And that’s my opinion. Death is not the end.
 
 
Shooting to kill
 
I never knew Bob [Harry’s friend and gunner] to use that [Lewis] gun to kill. If he used that gun at all, it was about two feet off the ground and he would wound them in the legs. He wouldn’t kill them if he could help it.
[A German soldier] came to me with a rifle and a fixed bayonet. He had no ammunition, otherwise he could have shot us. He came towards us. I had to bring him down. First of all, I shot him in the right shoulder. He dropped the rifle and the bayonet. He came on. His idea, I suppose, was to kick the gun if he could into the mud, so making it useless. But anyway, he came on and for our own safety, I had to bring him down. I couldn’t kill him. He was a man I didn’t know. I didn’t know his language. I couldn’t talk to him. I shot him above the ankle, above the knee. He said something to me in German. God knows what it was. But for him the war was over.
 
He would be picked up by a stretcher bearer. He would have his wounds treated. He would be put into a prisoner-of-war camp. At the end of the war, he would go back to his family. Now, six weeks after that, a fellow countryman of his pulled the lever of the gun that fired the rocket that killed my three mates, and wounded me. If I had met that German soldier after my three mates had been killed, I’d have no trouble at all in killing him.
 
 
Losing friends
 
The night we caught it, we were in the front line and we were going back. We had taken the German front line, the German support line and we were coming back from the German support through the German old front line. We had to cross what was the old No Man’s Land. It was crossing there that a rocket burst amongst us. It killed my three mates, it wounded me. We were on open ground.
 
September 22nd, half-past ten at night. That’s when I lost them. That’s my Remembrance Day. Armistice Day, you remember the thousands of others who died. For what? For nothing. And today you would never get another trench warfare. Never. Today, you got the internal combustion engine, the one like you drive your car and improvement on that. It’s entitled a man to fly, and today a trench is no good. He simply goes down the trench with his machine gun – that’s it. You’ll never get another trench war.
 
 
Being wounded
 
You didn’t know you were hit. You never heard the bullet or the shell that hit you. All I can remember was a flash, I went down, blew me down. I suppose I had enough sense, I saw the blood, I had a field dressing on. I must have passed out. How long I lay there I don’t know.
 
Next thing I found I was in a dressing station. The field bandage had gone, the wound had been cleaned and a clean bandage on it. Around about it was a disinfectant of some sort, to keep the blinking lice away from the blood.
 
I lay there all the next day and the doctor came to me. ‘You can see the shrapnel – it must have been a ricochet.’ It was just buried in. He said to me, ‘Would you like me to take that out?’ I said, ‘How long will you be?’ He said, ‘Before you answer yes. With no anaesthetic in the camp at all, we’d used it on all the people more seriously wounded than you are.’ He said, ‘If I take that shrapnel out it will be as you are now.’ Pain from it was terrific. I said, ‘Alright carry on.’ Four fellahs held me down, one on each arm, one on each leg, and I can feel the cut of that scalpel now as he went through and pulled it out.
 
The doctor came to me some hours later. He said, ‘You want this shrapnel as a souvenir?’ I said, ‘Throw it away,’ and I never saw it again. I met his son, who was also a doctor, at Buckingham Palace eighty years later. He told me that if the shrapnel was a quarter inch deeper, it would have cut a main artery and that was it.
 
 
Going home
 
The fellah in the next bed said to me, ‘If he writes anything in that book on the table, a green book, you’re for Blighty.’ Well I didn’t believe him, and then some hours later somebody came in, they called my name, my number. I was out on the Red Cross truck down to Rouen … And there we had a bath, got rid of the lice, they burnt our clothing. We could see the hospital ship. We were out on the hospital ship, but never sailed that night. There was a rumour of a submarine in the Channel. We sailed the next night and came to Southampton. I think if I had gone to the field dressing main station, I don’t think I ever would [have sailed]. It was the fact that it was the advanced dressing station and they wanted the beds. Get rid of him.
 
 
Mutiny
 
‘E’ company were about a thousand strong. We had an officer we didn’t like. He used to take us out route marches. We didn’t like it. That afternoon he wanted the ‘E’ company on parade for bayonet practice. The war had been over for months. The sergeant major opened the door. Somebody threw a boot at him. He went back, reported it.
 
The officer came and they told him flat that they weren’t going out on parade. Well, he went back to the company office and about thirty of the men followed him and they asked for him. He came out, he pulled his revolver out and he clicked the hammer back. Nobody said anything. We had all been on the range. I was on fatigue that morning so I wasn’t on parade. Nobody said anything.
 
They all went back to their huts and they rounded up what ammunition they could and went back and they asked for the officer again. He was a captain, risen from the ranks. He came out and he clicked the hammer back on his revolver. He said, ‘The first man who says he is not going on parade, I’ll shoot him.’ No sooner had he said that, when thirty bolts went back and somebody shouted, ‘Now shoot you bugger if you like.’ He threw the revolver down, disappeared. We were all run up for a mutiny.
 
We had a brigadier come over from the mainland to hear the officer’s side of it. Then he said, ‘I want to hear the men.’ Twenty or thirty of the men went behind a screen and they told him. They said, ‘We don’t want bayonet practice. We’ve had the real bloody thing. Some of us are wounded by bayonets.’ The outcome was that there were no parades except just to clear the camp, just fatigues. The officer was moved to a different command. We never saw him again. It’s a damn good job we didn’t.
 
 
The price of war
 
It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T’isn’t worth it … the First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row. That’s what caused it. The Second World War – Hitler wanted to govern Europe, nothing to it. I would have taken the Kaiser, his son, Hitler and the people on his side … and bloody shot them. Out the way and saved millions of lives. T’isn’t worth it.
 
 
Breaking the silence

Opposite my bedroom there is a window and there is a light over the top. Now [when the staff go into that room] they put the light on. If I was half asleep – the light coming on was the flash of a bomb. That flash brought it all back. For eighty years I’ve never watched a war film, I never spoke of it, not to my wife. For six years, I’ve been here [in the nursing home]. Six years it’s been nothing but World War One. As I say, World War One is history, it isn’t news. Forget it.

 
 
And here is Harry upon his return to the battlefield at age 109:

 

 

from:  MarkNH @ ar15.com

“To my old master…” – A Letter From a Former Slave

2 Feb

 

http://www.readersupportednews.org/news-section2/316-20/9746-a-letter-from-a-former-slave

 

Random history for the week. The last line is greatness.

 

 

A Letter From a Former Slave
By Letters of Note
01 February 12

In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan – who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family – responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).

 

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy, – the folks call her Mrs. Anderson, – and the children – Milly, Jane, and Grundy – go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve – and die, if it come to that – than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

 

The New French Hacker-Artist Underground

30 Jan

Awesome story about a group of rogue art and history restorers in the Parisian underground.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The New French Hacker-Artist Underground
 
By Jon Lackman Email Author

 

Photography: UX

A mysterious band of hacker-artists is prowling the network of tunnels below Paris,
secretly refurbishing the city’s neglected treasures.
Photo: UX

 

Thirty years ago, in the dead of night, a group of six Parisian teenagers pulled off what would prove to be a fateful theft. They met up at a small cafè near the Eiffel Tower to review their plans—again—before heading out into the dark. Lifting a grate from the street, they descended a ladder to a tunnel, an unlit concrete passageway carrying a cable off into the void. They followed the cable to its source: the basement of the ministry of telecommunications. Horizontal bars blocked their way, but the skinny teens all managed to wedge themselves through and ascend to the building’s ground floor. There they found three key rings in the security office and a logbook indicating that the guards were on their rounds.

But the guards were nowhere to be seen. The six interlopers combed the building for hours, encountering no one, until they found what they were looking for at the bottom of a desk drawer—maps of the ministry’s citywide network of tunnels. They took one copy of each map, then returned the keys to the security office. Heaving the ministry’s grand front door ajar, they peeked outside; no police, no passersby, no problem. They exited onto the empty Avenue de Sègur and walked home as the sun rose. The mission had been so easy that one of the youths, Natacha, seriously asked herself if she had dreamed it. No, she concluded: “In a dream, it would have been more complicated.”

This stealthy undertaking was not an act of robbery or espionage but rather a crucial operation in what would become an association called UX, for “Urban eXperiment.” UX is sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde—confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new—its only audience is itself. More surprising still, its work is often radically conservative, intemperate in its devotion to the old. Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of “restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.” The group claims to have conducted 15 such covert restorations, often in centuries-old spaces, all over Paris.

What has made much of this work possible is UX’s mastery, established 30 years ago and refined since, of the city’s network of underground passageways—hundreds of miles of interconnected telecom, electricity, and water tunnels, sewers, catacombs, subways, and centuries-old quarries. Like computer hackers who crack digital networks and surreptitiously take control of key machines, members of UX carry out clandestine missions throughout Paris’ supposedly secure underground tunnels and rooms. The group routinely uses the tunnels to access restoration sites and stage film festivals, for example, in the disused basements of government buildings.

UX’s most sensational caper (to be revealed so far, at least) was completed in 2006. A cadre spent months infiltrating the Pantheon, the grand structure in Paris that houses the remains of France’s most cherished citizens. Eight restorers built their own secret workshop in a storeroom, which they wired for electricity and Internet access and outfitted with armchairs, tools, a fridge, and a hot plate. During the course of a year, they painstakingly restored the Pantheon’s 19th- century clock, which had not chimed since the 1960s. Those in the neighborhood must have been shocked to hear the clock sound for the first time in decades: the hour, the half hour, the quarter hour.

Eight years ago, the French government didn’t know UX existed. When their exploits first trickled out into the press, the group’s members were deemed by some to be dangerous outlaws, thieves, even potential inspiration for terrorists. Still, a few officials can’t conceal their admiration. Mention UX to Sylvie Gautron of the Paris police—her specialty is monitoring the city’s old quarries—and she breaks into a wide smile. In an era when ubiquitous GPS and microprecise mapping threaten to squeeze all the mystery from our great world cities, UX seems to know, and indeed to own, a whole other, deeper, hidden layer of Paris. It claims the entire city, above- and belowground, as its canvas; its members say they can access every last government building, every narrow telecom tunnel. Does Gautron believe this? “It’s possible,” she says. “Everything they do is very intense.”

 

It is not at all hard to steal a Picasso, Lazar Kunstmann tells me. One of UX’s early members and the group’s unofficial spokesman, Kunstmann—the name is almost certainly a pseudonym, given its superhero-like German meaning, “Art-man”—is fortyish, bald, black-clad, warm, and witty. We’re sitting in the back room of a student cafè, downing espressos and discussing the spectacular theft in May 2010 of 100 million euros’ worth of paintings from the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. He disputes the contention of a police spokesperson that this was a sophisticated operation. According to an article published in Le Monde, a solitary individual unscrewed a window frame at 3:50 am, cut a padlock from a gate, and strode through the galleries lifting one work each by Lèger, Braque, Matisse, Modigliani, and Picasso. “The thief was perfectly informed,” the officer told the newspaper. If he hadn’t known the window had a vibration detector, he would’ve just broken it. If he hadn’t known the alarm and part of the security system were broken, he wouldn’t have wandered throughout the museum. If he hadn’t known the schedule of night rounds, he wouldn’t have arrived in the middle of the longest quiet period.

Impressive, right? No, Kunstmann says. “He ascertained that nothing was working,” Kunstmann sighs, knowing full well the shoddy security of the museum in question. “The exterior is full of graffiti artists, the homeless, and crack smokers,” he goes on. This would have made it easy for the thief to blend in and surreptitiously watch the windows all night, observing how the guards circulated.

 

 

Photo: UX

UX members restored the Pantheon’s 19th-century clock.
Photo: UX

 

A serious thief, Kunstmann says, would have taken an entirely different approach. In the same building, a sprawling and grand old structure called the Palais de Tokyo, is a restaurant that stays open until midnight. An intelligent thief would order a coffee there and then wander off through the building. “Lots of things have alarms,” Kunstmann goes on. “But you try to set them off and they don’t sound! Why? Because they don’t get turned on until 2 am.” (The museum claims that the alarms work 24 hours a day.) Moreover, there are whole stretches of wall where all that separates the museum from the rest of the building is a flimsy drywall partition. “You just—” Kunstmann makes a punching motion with his hand. “If the guy had been at all professional, that’s what he would have done.”

UX has made a study of museum security, in keeping with its concern for Paris’ vulnerable treasures—a concern not always shared by the city’s major cultural institutions. Once, after a UX member discovered appalling security lapses in a major museum, she wrote a memo detailing them—and left it, in the middle of the night, on the desk of the security director. Rather than fix the problems, the director went to the police, demanding they press charges against the perpetrators. (The police declined, though they did tell UX to cool it.) Kunstmann feels sure that nothing has changed since the break-in at the Museum of Modern Art; the security remains just as subpar as ever, he says.

Kunstmann has a gloomy view of contemporary civilization, and in his eyes this affair illustrates many of its worst faults—its fatalism, complacency, ignorance, parochialism, and negligence. French officials, he says, bother to protect and restore only the patrimony adored by millions—the Louvre, for example. Lesser-known sites are neglected, and if they happen to be out of public view—underground, say—they disintegrate totally, even when all that’s needed is a hundred-dollar leak repair. UX tends the black sheep: the odd, the unloved, the forgotten artifacts of French civilization.

It’s difficult, though, to give an accounting of just how extensive those labors of love have been: The group cherishes its secrecy, and its known successes have been revealed only inadvertently. The public learned of the group’s underground cinema after a member’s bitter ex-girlfriend told the police. Reporters caught wind of the Pantheon operation because UX members erred in supposing they could safely invite the building’s director to maintain his newly fixed clock (more on that later). In general, UX sees communicating with outsiders as perilous and unrewarding. Kunstmann does tell me a story from a recent job, but even that is shrouded in misdirection. Some members had just infiltrated a public building when they noticed kids horsing around on the scaffolding at a construction site across the street, climbing through open windows, and doing dangerous stunts on the roof. Pretending to be a neighbor, one member phoned the foreman to warn him but was chagrined at the response: “Instead of saying, ‘Thanks, I guess I’ll close the windows,’ the guy says, ‘What the fuck do I care?’”

 

Photograph: UX

They also hosted an underground art show featuring replicas of paintings stolen in a 2010 heist.
Photo: UX

 

An outsider might wonder whether the teens who founded UX were really so different from those thrill seekers across the street today. Would they rat out their former selves? But when UX members risk arrest, they do so with a rigorous, almost scientific attitude toward the various crafts they aim to preserve and extend. Their approach is to explore and experiment all through the city. Based on members’ interests, UX has developed a cellular structure, with subgroups specializing in cartography, infiltration, tunneling, masonry, internal communications, archiving, restoration, and cultural programming. Its 100-odd members are free to change roles and are given access to all tools at the group’s disposal. There is no manifesto, no charter, no bylaws—save that all members preserve its secrecy. Membership is by invitation only; when the group notices people already engaged in UX-like activities, it initiates a discussion about joining forces. While there is no membership fee, members contribute what they can to projects.

I can’t help but ask: Did UX steal the paintings from the Museum of Modern Art? Wouldn’t that be the perfect way to alert the French to the appalling job their government does protecting national treasures? Kunstmann denies it with a convincing curtness. “That,” he says, “is not our style.”

The first experiment by UX, in September 1981, was an accidental one. A Parisian middle schooler named Andrei was trying to impress a couple of older classmates, boasting that he and his friend Peter often snuck into places and were about to hit the Pantheon, an enormous former church that towers over the fifth arrondissement. Andrei got in so deep with his boast that to save face he had to follow through—with his new friends in tow. Like Claudia and Jamie in that famous children’s book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, they hid out inside the building until it closed. Their nocturnal occupation turned out to be shockingly easy—they encountered no guards or alarms—and the experience electrified them. They thought: What else could we do?

Kunstmann, a classmate of Andrei and Peter’s, joined the group early on. They quickly branched out from mere infiltration. Obtaining the tunnel maps from the ministry of telecommunications and other sources greatly expanded their access. Many Parisian buildings connect to these passages through their basements, which are as badly secured as the tunnels themselves. Most officials, Kunstmann says, act as if they believe in this absurd principle: Tunnel access is forbidden, thus people don’t go there. This, he adds sardonically, is “a flawless conclusion—and what’s more, a very practical one, because if people don’t go there, then it’s unnecessary to do more than lock the entrances.”

 

 

Photograph: UX

The unauthorized cinema that UX built beneath the Palais De Chaillot.
Photo: UX

 

It wasn’t until I went down into the tunnels myself—which is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to 60 euros, though explorers rarely get caught—that I understood why French officials are so complacent. Finding an unlocked entrance, without UX’s know-how, required a 45-minute walk from the nearest subway. UX has access to dry and spacious tunnel networks, but the more easily entered ones that I traveled that day were often tiny and half-flooded. By the time I’d retraced my steps, I was exhausted, filthy, and bleeding all over from scrapes.

In some places, UX has been able to create covert connections between networks, using (among other tricks) an invention they call the rolling basin. This is a passage in the bottom of a tunnel that appears to be a grate with water under it; in fact, both grate and water are part of a movable tray on rollers. Voilè0—a trapdoor to another tunnel in a different network. The tray itself is made of concrete, so even if someone raps it with a stick, it sounds solid. Kunstmann says UX has a certain weakness for such contrivances but will never possess enough time and cash to build them as extensively as he’d like. “If tomorrow everyone in UX became billionaires, we’d set dues at a billion euros,” he jokes. (But, he adds, “we’ll never be billionaires, because we’re working as little as possible so we can spend as much time as possible on UX.”)

So what does the group do with all this access? Among other things, it has mounted numerous clandestine theater productions and film festivals. On a typical festival evening, they screen at least two films that they feel share a nonobvious yet provocative connection. They don’t explain the connection, leaving it up to the audience to try to discover it. One summer, the group mounted a film festival devoted to the theme of “urban deserts”—the forgotten and underutilized spaces in a city. They naturally decided the ideal venue for such a festival would be in just such an abandoned site. They chose a room beneath the Palais de Chaillot they’d long known of and enjoyed unlimited access to. The building was then home to Paris’ famous Cinèmathèque Franèaise, making it doubly appropriate. They set up a bar, a dining room, a series of salons, and a small screening room that accommodated 20 viewers, and they held festivals there every summer for years. “Every neighborhood cinema should look like that,” Kunstmann says.

The restoration of the Pantheon clock was carried out by a UX subgroup called Untergunther, whose members are devoted specifically to restoration. The Pantheon was a particularly resonant choice of site, since it’s where UX began, and the group had surreptitiously screened films, exhibited art, and mounted plays there. During one such event in 2005, UX cofounder Jean-Baptiste Viot (one of the few members who uses his real name) took a close look at the building’s defunct Wagner clock—an engineering marvel from the 19th century that replaced an earlier timepiece. (Records indicate the building had a clock as far back as 1790.)

Viot had admired the Wagner ever since he first visited the building. He had meanwhile become a professional horologist working for the elite firm Breguet. That September, Viot persuaded seven other UX members to join him in repairing the clock. They’d been contemplating the project for years, but now it seemed urgent: Oxidation had so crippled the works that they would soon become impossible to fix without re-creating, rather than restoring, almost every part. “That wouldn’t be a restored clock, but a facsimile,” Kunstmann says. As the project began, it took on an almost mystical significance for the team. Paris, as they saw it, was the center of France and was once the center of Western civilization; the Latin Quarter was Paris’ historic intellectual center; the Pantheon stands in the Latin Quarter and is dedicated to the great men of French history, many of whose remains are housed within; and in its interior lay a clock, beating like a heart, until it suddenly was silenced. Untergunther wanted to restart the heart of the world. The eight shifted all their free time to the project.

They first established a workshop high up in the building, just below its dome, on a floor where no one (including guards) ever went anymore—”a sort of floating space,” as Kunstmann describes the room, punctuated by narrow slits for windows. “It looked down on all of Paris from a height of 15 stories. From the outside it resembled a kind of flying saucer; from the inside, a bunker.” The workshop was outfitted with eight overstuffed armchairs, a table, bookshelves, a minibar, and red velvet drapes to moderate the ambient temperature. “Every element had been conceived to fold up into wooden crates, like the ones visible throughout the monument,” Kunstmann says. In the dead of night, they climbed endless stairs, hauling up the lumber, drills, saws, clock repair equipment, and everything else required. They updated the workshop’s outdated electrical wiring. They spent 4,000 euros on materials, in all, out of their own pockets. On the terrace outside they set up a vegetable garden.

 

 

Photo: UX

A mechanism that UX uses to pick locks.
Photo: UX

 

Like at the Museum of Modern Art, where a thief made off with millions in precious art with shocking ease, security at the Pantheon was slipshod. “No one, neither police nor passersby, worried over people entering and leaving the Pantheon by the front door,” Kunstmann says. Nevertheless, the eight equipped themselves with official-looking fake badges. Each had a photograph, a microchip, a hologram of the monument, and a barcode that was “totally useless but impressive,” Kunstmann says. Only very rarely did passing policemen ask questions. At most, it went something like this:

“You’re working at night? Can we see your badges?”

“Here.”

“OK, thanks.”

Once the workshop was complete and thoroughly cleaned, the eight got to work. The first step was to understand how the clock had gotten so degraded—”a sort of autopsy,” Kunstmann says. What they discovered looked like sabotage. It appeared that someone, presumably a Pantheon employee tired of winding the clock once a week, had bludgeoned the escape wheel with an iron bar.

They brought the clock’s mechanism up to the workshop. Viot trained the group in clock repair. First, they cleaned it with what’s called the clockmaker’s bath. This started with 3 liters of water carried up from the public bathrooms on the ground floor. To that was added 500 grams of soft, highly soluble soap, 25 centiliters of ammonia, and 1 tablespoon of oxalic acid—all mixed at a temperature of more than 280 degrees Fahrenheit. With this solution, the group scrubbed and polished every surface. Then they repaired the mechanism’s glass cabinet, replaced broken pulleys and cables, and re-created from scratch the sabotaged escape wheel (a toothed wheel that manages the clock’s rotation) and missing parts like the pendulum bob.

As soon as it was done, in late summer 2006, UX told the Pantheon about the successful operation. They figured the administration would happily take credit for the restoration itself and that the staff would take over the job of maintaining the clock. They notified the director, Bernard Jeannot, by phone, then offered to elaborate in person. Four of them came—two men and two women, including Kunstmann and the restoration group’s leader, a woman in her forties who works as a photographer—and were startled when Jeannot refused to believe their story. They were even more shocked when, after they showed him their workshop (“I think I need to sit down,” he murmured), the administration later decided to sue UX, at one point seeking up to a year of jail time and 48,300 euros in damages. Jeannot’s then-deputy, Pascal Monnet, is now the Pantheon’s director, and he has gone so far as to hire a clockmaker to restore the clock to its previous condition by resabotaging it. But the clockmaker refused to do more than disengage a part—the escape wheel, the very part that had been sabotaged the first time. UX slipped in shortly thereafter to take the wheel into its own possession, for safekeeping, in the hope that someday a more enlightened administration will welcome its return.

Meanwhile, the government lost its lawsuit. It filed another, which it also lost. There is no law in France, it turns out, against the improvement of clocks. In court, one prosecutor characterized her own government’s charges against Untergunther as “stupid.” But the clock is still immobile today, its hands frozen at 10:51.

The members of UX are not rebels, subversives, guerrillas, or freedom fighters, let alone terrorists. They didn’t repair the clock to embarrass the state, nor do they entertain dreams of overthrowing it. Everything they do is intended for their own consumption; indeed, if they can be accused of anything, it’s narcissism. The group is partly responsible for the fact that it is misunderstood. Its members acknowledge that most of its external communications are intended as misdirection—a way to discourage public officials or others from meddling in its operations. They try to hide themselves within the larger mass of Parisians who venture into the city’s recesses simply as partiers or tourists.

Why do they care about these places? Kunstmann answers this question with questions of his own. “Do you have plants in your home?” he asks impatiently. “Do you water them every day? Why do you water them? Because,” he goes on, “otherwise they’re ratty little dead things.” That’s why these forgotten cultural icons are important—”because we have access to them, we see them.” Their goal, he says, isn’t necessarily to make all these things function once again. “If we restore a bomb shelter, we’re certainly not hoping for new bombardments so people can go use it again. If we restore an early 20th-century subway station, we don’t imagine Electricitè de France will ask us to transform 200,000 volts to 20,000. No, we just want to get as close as possible to a functioning state.”

UX has a simple reason for keeping the sites a secret even after it has finished restoring them: The same anonymity that originally deprived them of caretakers “is paradoxically what’s going to protect them afterward” from looters and graffiti, Kunstmann says. They know they’ll never get to the vast majority of interesting sites that need restoration. Yet, “despite all that, the satisfaction of knowing that some, maybe a tiny fraction, won’t disappear because we’ll have been able to restore them is an extremely great satisfaction.”

I ask him to elaborate on their choice of projects. “We can say very little,” he replies, “because to describe the sites even a bit can give away their location.” That said, one site is “belowground, in the south of Paris, not very far from here. It was discovered relatively recently but elicited very strong interest. It totally contradicts the history of the building above it. In examining what’s belowground, one notices that it doesn’t correspond to the information one can obtain about the history of the site. It’s history in reverse, in a way; the site was dedicated to an activity, structures were placed there, but in fact the site had been dedicated to this activity for quite a long time.”

Walking across the Latin Quarter alone on a balmy evening, I try to guess what site Kunstmann is describing, and the city transforms before my eyes, below my feet. Did counterfeiters once operate out of the basement of the Paris Mint? Was the Saint-Sulpice church founded on the site of an underground pagan temple? Suddenly, all of Paris seems ripe with possibility: Every keyhole a peephole, every tunnel a passageway, every darkened building a theater.

But it’s also clear that UX retains its love affair with its first and best canvas, the Pantheon. While this story was closing, a colleague needed to reach Kunstmann about a fact-checking question. Kunstmann had told her to call “any time,” so even though it was 1 am in Paris, she rang. When he picked up the phone, he was panting—from moving a couch, he said. She asked her question: When the clock had stopped chiming after the repair, what time remained frozen on its face? As it happened, Kunstmann was in the Pantheon at that very moment. “Hold on,” he said. “I’ll look.”

Hugh Glass – survival is a hell of an instinct

22 Jan

Think you’re tough?

Get this…

Hugh Glass (c. 1780 – 1833) was an American fur trapper and frontiersman noted for his exploits in the American West during the first third of 19th century.

Glass’s most famous adventure began in 1822, when he responded to an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Adviser, placed by General William Ashley, which called for a corps of 100 men to “ascend the river Missouri” as part of a fur trading venture. These men would later be known as Ashley’s Hundred.

Near the forks of the Grand River in present-day Perkins County, in August 1823, while scouting alone for game for the expedition’s larder, Glass surprised a Grizzly mother bear with her two cubs. Before he could fire his rifle, the bear charged, picked him up, and threw him to the ground. Glass got up, grappled for his knife, and fought back, stabbing the animal repeatedly as the grizzly raked him time and again with her claws.

Glass managed to kill the bear with help from his trapping partners, Fitzgerald and Bridger, but was left badly mauled and unable to walk. When Glass lost consciousness, Henry became convinced the man would not survive his injuries.

Henry asked for two volunteers to stay with Glass until he died, and then bury him. Bridger (then 17 years old) and Fitzgerald stepped forward, and as the rest of the party moved on, began digging his grave. Later claiming that they were interrupted in the task by an attack by “Arikaree” Indians, the pair grabbed Glass’s rifle, knife, and other equipment, and took flight.

Bridger and Fitzgerald reported to Henry — wrongly it turned out — that Glass had died.

Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness. He did so only to find himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment, suffering from a broken leg, the cuts on his back exposing bare ribs, and all his wounds festering. Glass lay mutilated and lame more than 200 mi (320 km) from the nearest settlement at Fort Kiowa on the Missouri River.

In one of the more remarkable treks known to history, Glass set his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling. To prevent gangrene, Glass laid his wounded back on a rotting log and let the maggots eat the dead flesh.

Deciding that following the Grand River would be too dangerous because of hostile Native Americans, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River. It took him six weeks to reach it.

Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf, and feast on the meat. Reaching the Cheyenne, he fashioned a crude raft and floated down the river, navigating using the prominent Thunder Butte landmark. Aided by friendly natives who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover the exposed wounds, Glass eventually reached the safety of Fort Kiowa.

After a long recuperation, Glass set out to track down and avenge himself against Bridger and Fitzgerald. When he found Bridger, on the Yellowstone near the mouth of the Bighorn River, Glass spared him, purportedly because of Bridger’s youth. When he found Fitzgerald, and discovered that Fitzgerald had joined the United States Army, Glass purportedly restrained himself because the consequence of killing a U.S. soldier was death. However, he did recover his lost rifle.

A monument to Glass now stands near the site of his mauling on the southern shore of Shadehill Reservoir on the forks of the Grand River.

Auto-appendectomy. Think you have the balls?

10 Dec

Never. You will NEVER be this hardcore. Just stop trying.

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/339/dec15_1/b4965

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report

The ship Ob, with the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition on board, sailed from Leningrad on 5 November 1960. After 36 days at sea she decanted part of the expedition onto the ice shelf on the Princess Astrid Coast. Their task was to build a new Antarctic polar base inland at Schirmacher Oasis and overwinter there. After nine weeks, on 18 February 1961, the new base, called Novolazarevskaya, was opened.

They finished just in time. The polar winter was already descending, bringing months of darkness, snowstorms, and extreme frosts. The sea had frozen over. The ship had sailed and would not be back for a year. Contact with the outside world was no longer possible. Through the long winter the 12 residents of Novolazarevskaya would have only themselves to rely on.

One of the expedition’s members was the 27 year old Leningrad surgeon Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov. He had interrupted a promising scholarly career and left on the expedition shortly before he was due to defend his dissertation on new methods of operating on cancer of the oesophagus. In the Antarctic he was first and foremost the team’s doctor, although he also served as the meteorologist and the driver of their terrain vehicle.

29 April 1961
After several weeks Rogozov fell ill. He noticed symptoms of weakness, malaise, nausea, and, later, pain in the upper part of his abdomen, which shifted to the right lower quadrant. His body temperature rose to 37.5°C.1 2 Rogozov wrote in his diary:

“It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer’s only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist’s chair.”

As a surgeon Rogozov had no difficulty diagnosing acute appendicitis. In this situation, however, it was a cruel trick of fate. He knew that if he was to survive he had to undergo an operation. But he was in the frontier conditions of a newly founded Antarctic colony on the brink of the polar night. Transportation was impossible. Flying was out of the question, because of the snowstorms. And there was one further problem: he was the only physician on the base.


30 April

All the available conservative treatment was applied (antibiotics, local cooling), but the patient’s general condition was getting worse: his body temperature rose, vomiting became more frequent.

“I did not sleep at all last night. It hurts like the devil! A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals. Still no obvious symptoms that perforation is imminent, but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me . . . This is it . . . I have to think through the only possible way out: to operate on myself . . . It’s almost impossible . . . but I can’t just fold my arms and give up.

“18.30. I’ve never felt so awful in my entire life. The building is shaking like a small toy in the storm. The guys have found out. They keep coming by to calm me down. And I’m upset with myself—I’ve spoiled everyone’s holiday. Tomorrow is May Day. And now everyone’s running around, preparing the autoclave. We have to sterilise the bedding, because we’re going to operate.

“20.30. I’m getting worse. I’ve told the guys. Now they’ll start taking everything we don’t need out of the room.”

Preparation for the operation
Following Rogozov’s instructions, the team members assembled an improvised operating theatre. They moved everything out of Rogozov’s room, leaving only his bed, two tables, and a table lamp. The aerologists Fedor Kabot and Robert Pyzhov flooded the room thoroughly with ultraviolet lighting and sterilised the bed linen and instruments.

As well as Rogozov, the meteorologist Alexandr Artemev, the mechanic Zinovy Teplinsky, and the station director, Vladislav Gerbovich, were selected to undergo a sterile wash. Rogozov explained how the operation would proceed and assigned them tasks: Artemev would hand him instruments; Teplinsky would hold the mirror and adjust the lighting with the table lamp; Gerbovich was there in reserve, in case nausea overcame either of the assistants. In the event that Rogozov lost consciousness, he instructed his team how to inject him with drugs using the syringes he had prepared and how to provide artificial ventilation. Then he gave Artemev and Teplinsky a surgical wash himself, disinfected their hands, and put on their rubber gloves for them.

When the preparations were complete Rogozov scrubbed and positioned himself. He chose a semi-reclining position, with his right hip slightly elevated and the lower half of the body elevated at an angle of 30°. Then he disinfected and dressed the operating area. He anticipated needing to use his sense of touch to guide him and thus decided to work without gloves.

The operation
The operation began at 2 am local time. Rogozov first infiltrated the layers of abdominal wall with 20 ml of 0.5% procaine, using several injections. After 15 minutes he made a 10-12 cm incision. The visibility in the depth of the wound was not ideal; sometimes he had to raise his head to obtain a better view or to use the mirror, but for the most part he worked by feel. After 30-40 minutes Rogozov started to take short breaks because of general weakness and vertigo. Finally he removed the severely affected appendix. He applied antibiotics in the peritoneal cavity and closed the wound. The operation itself lasted an hour and 45 minutes. Partway through, Gerbovich called in Yuri Vereshchagin to take photographs of the operation.

Gerbovich wrote in his diary that night:
“When Rogozov had made the incision and was manipulating his own innards as he removed the appendix, his intestine gurgled, which was highly unpleasant for us; it made one want to turn away, flee, not look—but I kept my head and stayed. Artemev and Teplinsky also held their places, although it later turned out they had both gone quite dizzy and were close to fainting . . . Rogozov himself was calm and focused on his work, but sweat was running down his face and he frequently asked Teplinsky to wipe his forehead . . . The operation ended at 4 am local time. By the end, Rogozov was very pale and obviously tired, but he finished everything off.”

After the operation
Afterwards Rogozov showed his assistants how to wash and put away the instruments and other materials. Once everything was complete, he took sleeping tablets and lay down for a rest. The next day his temperature was 38.1°C; he described his condition as “moderately poor” but overall he felt better. He continued taking antibiotics. After four days his excretory function came back to normal and signs of localised peritonitis disappeared. After five days his temperature was normal; after a week he removed the stitches. Within two weeks he was able to return to his normal duties and to his diary.

8 May 1961
“I didn’t permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth. In the event that I lost consciousness, I’d given Sasha Artemev a syringe and shown him how to give me an injection. I chose a position half sitting. I explained to Zinovy Teplinsky how to hold the mirror. My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them: they stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves. I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn’t notice anything else.

“I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders—after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time—I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them . . . I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and . . .

“At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix . . .

“And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.”

Leaving Antarctica
More than a year later the Novolazarevskaya team left Antarctica, and on 29 May 1962 their ship docked at Leningrad harbour. The next day Rogozov returned to his work at the clinic. Shortly thereafter he successfully defended his dissertation. He worked and taught in the Department of General Surgery of the First Leningrad Medical Institute. He never returned to the Antarctic and died in St Petersburg, as Leningrad had by then become, on 21 September 2000.

The boundary of the humanly possible
There are some references to auto-appendectomies in the literature. The earliest one was possibly that performed by Dr Kane in 1921 (although the operation was completed by his assistants). We know that Rogozov had not heard about it before he performed his operation.

Rogozov’s self operation was probably the first such successful act undertaken in the wilderness, out of hospital settings, with no possibility of outside help, and without any other medical professional around. It remains an example of determination and the human will for life. In later years Rogozov himself rejected all glorification of his deed. When thoughts like these were put to him, he usually answered with a smile and the words: “A job like any other, a life like any other.”

Drag racing pioneers or suicidal nutjobs?

21 Nov

This is basically a tribute to the crazy bastards who risked life and limb for that last bit of speed… and were willing to play with untold amounts of self-igniting, super toxic, incredibly unstable and deadly rocket fuel to get it.

Warning: It’s long, and I won’t Cliff’s Notes it.

Hydrazine was first used as a rocket fuel during WWII for the Messerschmitt ME163B. Hydrazine is also used as a low-power monopropellant for the maneuvering thrusters of spacecraft, and the space shuttle’s auxiliary power unit.

I’ve been doing some entertaining reading this morning. Mostly about the early days of drag racing… and more specifically, the use of hydrazine as a fuel additive. It all started when I came across a thread about a guy who found a 20lt drum of hyrdazine in the shop of a local drag racer who passed away.

He got responses like this:

THIS SHIT WILL KILL YOU !
Labratory Mice get Cancer just thinking about Shit like this.

and

DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH THIS STUFF!It is HIGHLY TOXIC! It is of the family of fuels that are known as.”oxygen scavengers” their latent heat value increases dramatically in the presence of oxygen.DO NOT BREATHE it in!It is very corrosive to non-ferrous metals when combined with water.It was banned in the 60’s from drag racing because some people were mixing it with nitromethane and getting a crude and very unstable form of nitroglycerine!I think Chris Karamesines still holds the “altitude record” for lofting a GMC blower when an engine he was running with a nitro/hydrazine mix exploded.I think it’s still used as an ingredient in liquid-fueled rocket engines.BAD NEWS SHIT!

and

The MSDS sheets read like a horror movie (sidenote: the racer who had the barrel stashed away… died of cancer )

Well that piqued my interest, so I did some more searching.

I’ll quote the stories word for word. Maybe they’ll be as entertaining to someone else as they were to me:

First an article, then some personal accounts.

Hydrazine
The Doomsday weapon of the sixties

By Steve Reasbeck

Alton, Illinois, Sunday, April 4, 1960; on a typical spring Sunday in the Midwest – cool, crisp, and clear. The local drag strip is hosting a match race between one of the heaviest hitters of the day, Chris Karamesines Chicago based slingshot, powered by what was becoming the standard powerplant of fuel racing, the 392 Chrysler Hemi. The nickname for the hemi headed engines that were production equipment in big Chryslers was Chizlers, and the Golden Greek had named his state of the art slingshot after the engine itself.

On this particular Sunday, the Golden Greek’s Chrysler was ready to go in a manner that was a bit unprecedented. When the car was push started; many knowledgeable and seasoned watchers noted that the engine sounded a bit different – the cackle a bit louder, crisper. Don Maynard, the exceptionally sharp crew chief of the Chi-town star, appeared to have really done his homework.

The Greek left in the manner typical of dragsters of the day, the two rear tires throwing off a rooster tail plume of smoke. However, the car started to pull at mid range – hard –much harder than ever before. After a brief period of silence, the announcer read off the timers’ reading to the crowd – 8.82 @ 204.50 – a good 30 mph faster than the typical time of the day. The Greek did not back up the astounding mph that day, and did not in the immediate years afterward. However, a 199 mph clocking in Kansas a couple of weeks later indicated again that the Chizler had indeed come upon something.

What was the difference this time? Over the years, dark accusations and less than complimentary statements were made concerning the driver, the facility, and the pass itself. A hoax, it was called a PR stunt. Maybe…but, then again, maybe it was not.

The Greek had a secret that day and it was a dangerous, volatile secret. It was the same secret that would launch the USA’s Titan Rockets into space to put mankind into space orbit. The secret that the Soviet Union would use to power their ballistic missiles designed to thwart the threat of US aircraft. That secret was Hydrazine. Over the years, Hydrazine would prove to be the additive to use to put one’s name on the map, to make the “1320 news” as one of the players. It would also prove to be one of the most dangerous products that one could run, and would result in the destruction of equipment, and the injury of competitors

Hydrazine, technically named anhydrous hydrazine (N2H4) is basically designed as an oxygen-scavenging agent, and is primarily used in rocket technology. It has the aroma of ammonia, but is clear and colorless – and is extremely caustic. If absorbed through the skin, it would make one extremely ill, and in NASA environments one must use protective clothing to work with it. Its oxygen scavenging capabilities were so powerful that it was generally used at only 10cc per one gallon of nitro.

A monopropellant, (which means that it does not require an oxidizer to be a propellant) it uses a catalyst for ignition. It is typically used on spacecraft thrusters to adjust attitude and trajectory. Used also in liquid fueled rockets, often mixed with “hypergolic” fuels such as nitric acid, it requires no ignition source and combusts spontaneously. Nitromethane is also a “hypergolic” fuel, which is where its use in fuel dragsters came in.

Jim Miller, a Texas based Super Stock racer who has an extensive background with Hydrazine through both his military and NASA careers, states that it’s use in an internal combustion fuel motor is a bad combination.

“Since nitro (CH3NO2) carries oxygen with it already, and hydrazine needs that oxygen it makes for a bad combination. That would make a ready made bomb mixed in the right proportions.”

A 70’s era crew chief once told Miller that he set a record with only 2% hydrazine mixed with 90% nitro and 8% methanol.

Although relatively stable to store and transport, its reaction with other chemicals were unknown and could be extremely dangerous. A spokesman for one of the nation’s largest producers, appalled that hot rodders were messing with it in internal combustion engines, commented, “There is no way to pinpoint every phase of the reaction between hydrazine and nitromethane”, and went on to state it could easily “result in unexplainable engine explosions. You have got to remember that hydrazine can burst into flame when merely spilled on iron oxide (rusted metal)!”

Its use had been with drag racing since the early years. Not used until the use of hot fuels began early hot rodders in Southern California soon figured out that hot fuels would increase the performance of their early dragsters.

Miller added, “I would not think it would mix well with gasoline.”

Some were involved with the fledgling space program out at Edwards Air Force base, and soon they discovered that this magic elixir might indeed make their already developed out flatheads push the envelope just a bit more. Among early users were Jack Chrisman, as well as carburetor and fuel injection pioneer Holly Hedrich. What they found was that Hydrazine would push the flatties to about 380 horsepower, up about 90 from a state of the art, fully prepped nitro powered flattie. The down side, however, is that they generally only lasted for one or two nitro runs, and then became instant junk. The main webs and rods had a tendency to blow apart, taking everything else with them. As a result, its use was pretty much shelved after this sobering discovery.

The quest for speed, though, is addictive, so the success of the use of Hydrazine would prove too tempting. This would cause racers to tempt fate and use it to get those big numbers that would launch them into the record books. The Ramchargers 65 altered wheelbase Dodge cracked the eight-second barrier for the first time at Cecil County Maryland in the summer of 65, thus becoming the first stock bodied car into the eights. When driver Jim Thornton tripped the timers at 8.91, the Moon tank had been topped off with a dose of Hydrazine mixed in with the alcohol/nitro.

In 1967, Ed Schartman’s flip top Roy Steffey Enterprises Comet dominated the Indy Nationals, clocking a jaw dropping 8.28 on the FC final. Crew Chief Roy Steffey’s secret – you guessed it – Hydrazine. Along with the record setting performances, though, was continuing carnage. The Cleveland based SCS Comet was the last widely known use of hydrazine, however, and although

it was used off and on in years to come its use began to wane.

As the technology of the sport progressed, it became apparent that the engines were at the point where the good old nitromethane/methanol mix was capable of producing enough usable horsepower to make the cars run quick and fast. The technology was developing in other areas, and it was simply getting to the point where it was not a cost-effective option.

Every sport and every endeavor grows through innovation. Drag racing was and is no exception. However, one only needs to spend some time with some of the true pioneers of our sport to realize the extent of innovation attempted, and its subsequent cost in both dollars as well as physical injury. However, the use of Hydrazine propelled early racers to phenomenal performances, which resulted in big headlines throughout the racing world. Those early 200 mph times, however controversial, helped develop the quarter mile into a major motorsport, so perhaps it is just another reminder of the debt that today’s competitors owe those that came before.

PS. As you read the personal accounts, think about this. These days, this is what it takes to handle this stuff.

Operators in scape suits make adjustments to the monitoring equipment in preparation for the hydrazine fueling activities for the Herschel spacecraft.

And now for some personal accounts from guys that were there.

Hat’s off to these fucking crazy sonsofbitches.

One of my Viper brothers, the late and sorely missed, John Hogan, used to work for Chris Karamazines, the Golden Greek. This was way back in the sixties, I know if we say we remember the sixties we weren’t really there, whatever. The Greek used to try every and anything to go faster and quicker. One of the craziest things was using hydrazine as an exciter and oxigenator for Nitro. John said he used to have to keep the 8oz of hydrazine in a box full of ice, covered with a towel. The Greek would do his burn out and after he backed up John would open the fuel tank and add the stuff while they took off the throttle stop and switched the pump to the high side. As soon as the pump picked the mixed potion up the engine started heaving and barking and making a hellacious noise. Started throwing big GREEN flames in the air. Then the green light would go on and the car would launch like nothing ever seen before. The deal was that they had to run the whole tank out or it would become hypergolic and blow a crater in the track. So they idled the car back down the return road until the tank was used up. Of course NHRA got wind of this shit and banned hydrazine in competition. Those were the days. The saying went something like: “If the ground is shakin; and the flames are green, he must be using that Hydrazine.” And that’s the inspiration for my calling my chili the Hydrazine Flash!

quote:

Once upon a time in the south……yea, some of us used Hydrazine….

Every now and then we would add a drop or two……kept it in a vinegar bottle in the glove compartment of our push truck…..

One of our “competitors” insisted that we give him some of our “special sauce”…we did, along with instructions……”DO NOT PUT IT ALL IN AT ONE TIME”…….he did not heed our warnings……heard this horrible sound…a certain hemi, with the front wheels sitting up on the trailer, just started up…something was definately going on there……looked over and saw him running around the car, pulling wires off, it still ran…..sounded like 10,000 rpms…..then the crank blew out on the ground……..we left.

That stuff was hell on parts, but was good for a while. I tried some in an old panhead…..big mistake.

quote:

“Wait, I’m old….I remember….I think!! If it’s burnin’ green–It’s hydrazine. One night at the “beach” I noticed a jr fueler(remember REAL jr fuel–850 lbs & the whole can) runnin’ kinda green. They came back to the pits to cool it down where the hoses and mud were. They parked it and walked away to get some hot-dogs or something. About 5 minutes later there was a loud explosion, and the cylinder heads had blown OFF the SBC and were just layin’ in the cool-down area.ANHYRDOUS ‘ZINE…exciting and unpredictable!I’m a professional….Don’t try this at home!!”

Shows what a crazy thing it really was…

quote:

I used to hang with a lot of heavy hitters from the 60’s that had top fuel dragsters. Most of them never messed with hydrazine. It was added to the tank in very small quantities right before the run. If it was allowed to remain in the tank or fuel system after the run; it began to gel and turned into a Class A explosive. If you tried to fire the car after it sat for awhile there was a possibility that the engine would explode similar to hydraulicing a motor. There was at least one pit death and some injuries that resulted from this.

quote:

Well, I have CRS real bad, but I do remember one story from Indy “68 or “69 about when nobody wanted to admit they used it.
I had reunited with Walton/Anderson for a few races and went to help. As anyone who ran the stuff knew, there was a story that anything over 5% of the stuff would turn the mix to a class A explosive within 20 minutes! Nobody knew if it was true or not, but did NOT want to find out!
I think I remember 65 T/F cars shooting for 32 spots. In the first three pair, there were oildowns, they didn’t do as good of a job as today, and were pretty quick clean ups but were almost 25 minutes behind from when the session started.
When the next pair BOTH blew up and oiled both lanes, Walton and I looked at each other and panicked ! Off came the nose, out came the tank and main line and a rush over to the grass area to dump it. While it was draining, I looked up to see about six or eight other guys also draining theirs.

quote:

Hydrazine it what the Germans powererd the Me 163 Comet with. They occasionaly blew up in flight as they flew through turbulence. Unstable shit.
These planes killed more than 50% of their pilots, they never lost one to enemy action.

quote:

A great friend of mine who passed away last year, James “Boston” Smith had some good hydrazine stories. He grew up traveling during the summers with Ezra Boggs and the Moby Dick funny car team in the 60’s and 70’s. Pretty good summer vacations for young kid. The original funny car summer.
Part of his job was pulling the drain plug on the fuel tank when the car got back to the pits when they were running a special fuel mix. Drain it into the ground and purge the system with methanol. According to his tales, every second counted. Said you could tell someone was running hydrazine when they’re car would “mysteriously” blow up in the pits after a run, or on the way back. If you knew someone was running the stuff, you took your time staging. One day he commented to me how he was another victim of hydrazine cancer. Apparently the stuff is extremely carcinogenic.
Here’s to all those who can’t be here, a round for the house

quote:

I have a good friend “dick belfattii- The Shadow” who was one of the original “greek fleet” fuel cars in the early 60’s. he played with hydrozine in his fuel car anlong with buddies karamasinis & don maynard and later payed a heffty price for it ,burned the skin off his legs after his engine exploded at a match race in York pa. that explosion made him a team owner and he had bobby vodnick do the driving after that. see the pics of the engine after the explosion (nitro/alky/hydrozine) dick said the hydrozine was good for about 10 mph on the top end (if you got the mix right?)

quote:

I once saw a sbc top fuel motor blow the valve covers and oil pan off the still running motor while staging(back when they push started toward the starting line and crossed over). Hydrazine was the accepted reason and it was later banned. Lots of unbanned stuff is found while trying to gain “maximum competitive advantage” and later made illegal. If you have not crowded the line on the rules, you have never raced sucessfully

quote:

Hydrazine however – nasty nasty stuff.

I heard that at nationals one year everyone was running ‘zine and there was a LOT of engine explosions. And after the third one everyone was running back to the pits and dumping their tank onto the grass before the stuff got too unstable and blew up the car!

I also heard of one digger that was sitting there after they drained the tank not running, and suddenly the engine blew one of the cylinder heads and blower right off of it because of the hydrazine laced nitro left in the injector lines and cylinders from cutting the mag while it was running.

If you ever look at some of those old color night photos of the md 60’s fuelers, some of them are blasting out green flames! Thats hydrazine!

“If the ground is a-shaken, and the flames are green, they is-a runnin’ that hydrazine!”

A few more…

quote:

Just a word of advice…if you get something on your hands and can immediatly taste it in your mouth….you have just screwed up big time.

Just make sure you have a will and your family is provided for

quote:

What do you get when you mix Nitromethane and Hydrazine?

Burned pistons. Cylinder heads that clear the grandstands. Vaporized superchargers. In other words, carnage.

If you use it quick, you get gobs of power. If you let it sit more than 5 or 10 minutes, you get a class III explosive that will detonate if you sneeze to hard…

quote:

It’s really not too surprising that when you take a nitrated(oxygen bearing)fuel and mix it with an,”oxygen scavenger”(a fuel whose latent heat value rises dramatically in the presence of oxygen),you are essentially left with a very crude(and unstable)form of nitroglycerin.You get about the same result mixing potassium permanganate and red fuming nitric acid although if you pour one into the other the wrong way it explodes.Bad mojo.

quote:

Hydrazine is extremely nasty shit. It is what is used in the space shuttle’s attitude control thrusters.

It’s a mono-propellant, which to the layman means it can go boom all by itself, no second reactant needed

It’s also highly carcinogenic.

It’s clear and smells like ammonia. Don’t ask how I know.

quote:

From what i hear it killed a lot of engines at the drags too untill it was banned. Stories of engine blocks falling in half. Another story relayed to me was of maybe tom senter or one of the early flathead pioneers running a stock flatmotor on it it made amazing HP for about 30seconds
then let go

quote:

There were a couple of deaths in the pits, I heard. NHRA won’t talk about it though. Liability issues, I guess. I remember a Jr Fueler the blew the heads off in the pits at Lions.

quote:

I think they’re STILL trying to clean up some stuff like that that they spilled around here back during the space race in the early 50’s…

quote:

Not positive, but I THINK it was Sneeky Pete who found out the hard way-
that it’s so highly oxygenated that it will burn back up the fuel line like a fuse and make your Moon tank into a car bomb.

quote:

I had access to hydrazine in the 50’s when I worked at Boeing.
I can tell you, It REALLY makes a flathead go fast.

(the post-it note is from David Freiburger to Gray Baskerville). Rumored to be a hydrazine related “failure”

From an article called “Great Race: 1969 US Nationals”

During the hey-day of N2H4 fun.

Contributing to the fun of watching what were essentially full-size street car look-alikes snake down the track to low seven-second, 200-mph times was the reliability of the automatic-transmission-equipped Funny Cars. Mixed in with the Top Fuel dragsters’ great times were more destroyed engines, superchargers, and centrifugal clutches — the result of hydrazine in the nitromethane and the fatiguing heat generated by the still new centrifugal-clutch technology — than any previous NHRA national event in memory.

If you can find this issue, there’s a piece in it called “A Look at Hydrazine.”

Can you imagine if they tried printing that today?

Ford Model T repair prices in 1928

7 Nov

in 1928:

Median cost of a new home – $4,250
Average yearly salary – $1,490
Men’s worsted wool suit – $21.50
Rawlings Junior baseball glove – $3
Women’s leather handbag – $2.98
Bayer aspirin tablets – $.98
Tea – $.75/pound
Sliced ham – $.57/pound
Ivory soap, 12 cakes – $.43
Cheese – $.39/pound
Wrigley’s Spearmint gum – $.39
First-class stamp – $.02

Dissolve My Nobel Prize! Fast! (A True Story)

19 Oct

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/10/03/140815154/dissolve-my-nobel-prize-fast-a-true-story?f=5500502&ft=1

 

Dissolve My Nobel Prize! Fast! (A True Story)

by

 

 

It’s 1940. The Nazis have taken Copenhagen. They are literally marching through the streets, and physicist Niels Bohr has just hours, maybe minutes, to make two Nobel Prize medals disappear.

These medals are made of 23-karat gold. They are heavy to handle, and being shiny and inscribed, they are noticeable. The Nazis have declared no gold shall leave Germany, but two Nobel laureates, one of Jewish descent, the other an opponent of the National Socialists, have quietly sent their medals to Bohr’s Institute of Theoretical Physics, for protection. Their act is probably a capital offense — if the Gestapo can find the evidence.

 

Inconveniently, that evidence was now sitting in Bohr’s building, clearly inscribed “Von Laue” (for Max von Laue, winner of the 1914 Prize for Physics) and “Franck” (for James Franck, the physics winner in 1925) — like two death warrants. Bohr’s institute had attracted and protected Jewish scientists for years. The Nazis knew that, and Niels Bohr knew (now that Denmark was suddenly part of the Reich) that he was a target. He had no idea what to do.

How To Get Rid of A Nobel Prize Medal

On the day the Nazis came to Copenhagen, a Hungarian chemist named Georgy de Hevesy (he would one day win a Nobel of his own) was working in Bohr’s lab. He wrote later, “I suggested that we should bury the medal(s),” but Bohr thought no, the Germans would dig up the grounds, the garden, search everywhere in the building. Too dangerous.

So Hevesy’s thoughts turned to chemistry. Maybe he could make the medals disappear. He took the first one, he says, and “I decided to dissolve it. While the invading forces marched in the streets of Copenhagen, I was busy dissolving Laue’s and also James Franck’s medals.”

This was not an obvious solution, since gold is a very stable element, doesn’t tarnish, doesn’t mix, and doesn’t dissolve in anything — except for one particular chemical emulsifier, called “aqua regia,” a mixture of three parts hydrochloric acid and one part nitric acid.

As you can see in this video from the University of Nottingham, dissolving gold is a slow business. The narrator (who looks like he was cast by Mel Brooks, but is presumably, the real deal) explains that nitric acid loosens the gold atoms, after which hydrochloric acid moves in, using its chloride ions to surround and transform the gold. While the video shows the reaction in sped-up form, remember, in 1940, they weren’t dissolving little bits of gold. Hevesy’s beaker contained two hulking gold medals …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwnKU89CCdI

 

It must have been an excruciating afternoon. De Hevesy, in his autobiography, says because gold is “exceedingly unreactive and difficult to dissolve,” it was slow going, but as the minutes ticked down, both medals were reduced to a colorless solution that turned faintly peach and then bright orange. By the time the Nazis arrived, both awards had liquefied inside a flask that was then stashed on a high laboratory shelf. Then, says science writer (and Radiolab contributor) Sam Kean, in his book The Disappearing Spoon:

…When the Nazis ransacked Bohr’s institute, they scoured the building for loot or evidence of wrongdoing but left the beaker of orange aqua regia untouched. Hevesy was forced to flee to Stockholm in 1943, but when he returned to his battered laboratory after V-E Day, he found the innocuous beaker undisturbed on a shelf.

Georgy de Hevesy

 

Back in Denmark, de Hevesy did a remarkable thing. He reversed the chemistry, precipitated out the gold and then, around January, 1950, sent the raw metal back to the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. The Nobel Foundation then recast the prizes using the original gold and re-presented them to Mr. Laue and Mr. Franck in 1952. Professor Frank, we know, got his re-coined medal at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, on January 31, 1952.

Niels Bohr also had a Nobel medal, but he’d put his up for auction on March 12, 1940, to raise money for Finnish Relief. The winning bid was anonymous, but later, Mr. Anonymous gave Bohr’s medal to the Danish Historical Museum of Fredrikborg, where it can be seen today.

Three winners, three medals — each of them sold or dissolved, then replaced. In wartime, it seems, Nobel medals get around

 

 

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