Due to Lack of Interest, World War III was Canceled

If you’re 35 years old or more, you remember those fear-filled times of the Cold War era, how we expected some incident would turn the Cold War into a hot war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  When do you think the two superpowers came closest to duking it out (or should I say “nuking it out”)?  Was it during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962?  Was it with a war involving proxies of the superpowers, like in Korea or Vietnam?

Early this year I learned that one of World War II’s biggest heroes, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, had a plan to launch World War III between VE Day and VJ Day; in other words, he wanted to start it before World War II was over!  Anyway, I did a little homework and composed a new section for Chapter 17 of my European history papers, to cover this crisis.  Here is what I wrote, it now begins the chapter:

The wartime partnership between the USSR and the other Allied nations had always been an uneasy one. Britain and the United States remembered Joseph Stalin’s prewar behavior, and were always suspicious of Soviet secrecy; they gave detailed data on strategy and weapons to Moscow, but got little information in return. Stalin didn’t trust the West either, and expected the USSR to become the target of a capitalist invasion once the Axis was out of the way. Thus, when an Allied victory became a certainty, East-West relations started unraveling. As early as the Tehran conference (September 1943), Winston Churchill confided to one of his staff that he considered Germany already finished; "the real problem now is Russia." At the February 1945 Yalta Conference, Stalin promised to allow free governments in the nations Soviet troops entered, but afterwards did not do so. On April 1, 1945, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a telegram to Stalin protesting the violation of Yalta pledges.

That was all Roosevelt did because of his death eleven days later. In London, Churchill was growing alarmed because as the war wound down, the USSR was much stronger, and the British Empire was weaker, than he had expected. The Red Army had already occupied seven East European countries and part of Austria, so Churchill thought the American decision to leave all of Germany east of the Elbe River to the Red Army was a mistake. He could also see what was happening in Poland, where all of the current Polish leaders and partisans were communists; the rest had just disappeared. Obviously, Stalin had his own view on what the postwar world should look like, and it was a different view from that of Roosevelt and Churchill. All this prompted Churchill to send a long message of protest to Stalin in May, which concluded with this comment:

"There is not much comfort in looking into a future where you and the countries you dominate . . . are all on one side, and those who rally to the English-speaking nations . . . are on the other . . . their quarrel would tear the world to pieces."

Meanwhile, Churchill ordered Britain’s generals to prepare for the next war, immediately after World War II; they should now consider ways to "impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire" to secure "a square deal for Poland." This meant at a minimum, preemptive strikes on Red Army units in Germany and Poland, and a possible grand offensive to drive the Russians back to the USSR. July 1, 1945 was picked as the earliest date for the operation to begin.

The plan was called "Operation Unthinkable," and that turned out to be an appropriate name, for only Churchill thought it had any chance of succeeding. This was because the Soviets had a tremendous military advantage in Europe. In 1945 the Red Army numbered 11 million men, a 4:1 advantage over the troops of the Western Allies (the United States, Britain, France and Canada); Russian tanks also outnumbered Western tanks by 2 to 1, and to top it off, the Russians had more warplanes. To help even the odds, Churchill proposed re-arming 100,000 captured German soldiers, and enlisting them in a new pro-Western army; four Polish divisions were also available. In addition, Churchill knew the United States was researching nuclear weapons, and he figured that using them against the Soviet Union would give the Western Allies the firepower they needed to win.

Reality killed the plan before it got off the ground. To start with, Soviet spies informed Stalin that Churchill was up to something, and Stalin alerted his top general, Marshal Georgi Zhukov, so there was no way the attack could take the Soviets by surprise, like Hitler’s attack from four years earlier. Second, the British Chiefs of Staff told Churchill that they thought the numbers against them were too great to overcome, and they didn’t think the Germans, full of memories of eastern front battles like Stalingrad, would be willing to fight the Russians again. Third, on the other side of the world the United States was fighting the battle of Okinawa, and with a possible invasion of Japan coming up, the Americans didn’t want to keep their troops in Europe. As for the nukes, the Americans ended up building three atomic bombs; one was used for the July 16 test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, and the other two were dropped on Japan to make the Japanese surrender without invading their home islands. If any of those bombs had been used against the USSR instead, the end of the Pacific War would have come much later than it did.

Fourth, the Western generals had their doubts that even atomic bombs dropped on cities like Moscow would stop the Soviets. After all, the Red Army had taken everything the Germans had thrown at it, and like the Incredible Hulk, it came back stronger and more enraged than before. And if the Allies had to invade the USSR to teach the Russians a lesson, they would be up against Russia’s formidable natural defenses: winter, wide rivers that are only easy to cross when frozen over, and almost endless tracts of land, much of it mud. Nobody could guarantee that the Allies would fare better against those defenses than Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon, and Hitler had done.

In all likelihood, if Operation Unthinkable had been launched, the Soviets would have taken their blows until they got a chance to inflict a crushing defeat on the Allies, and then they would charge across the European Continent, at least as far as France. The English Channel would stop them from invading the British Isles, but they could still hit Britain’s cities with fearsome bomber and rocket attacks. When the new US president, Harry Truman, heard about the plan, he made it clear that he would not allow American forces to take part in a new war against the Soviet Union. Without the Yanks on his side, even Churchill realized the plan was doomed to fail, and not long after that, he was voted out of office and replaced with a less hawkish prime minister, Clement Atlee. Operation Unthinkable was declared a military secret and filed away; it did not become common knowledge until it was declassified in 1998.

Throughout the period covered by this chapter, people feared that a politician or general would do something that would cause a devastating war between the world’s capitalist and communist nations, and that would be the end of Western civilization. Especially if nuclear weapons were used. Well, now we know there was a plan for World War III at the start, but it was immediately rejected as unwinnable, leaving bad East-West feelings that would last throughout the Cold War era.

Back in 1898, when Churchill was a young army officer and a colleague of his was fatally wounded, he said, "War, disguise it as you may, is but a dirty, shoddy business which only a fool would undertake." Nearly half a century later, those same words would apply to himself. He was one of the first to see that nothing good would come from the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, but now it would be the job of others to do something about it.

Source:  http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/europe/eu17.html#Unthinkable

Published in: on October 12, 2015 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two Slave Revolts

As you can see from the previous entry, I am still finding tidbits of information for my Latin American history papers that are too good to ignore, stuff that should have gone in when I composed the manuscripts between 2010 and 2014, but I am only learning about them now.  Well, better late than never, as the saying goes.  And now that these items are in the documents, if I do a major rewrite at a later date, they will not be forgotten or left out unintentionally.  This time I learned about two slave revolts from Latin America’s colonial history, and would you believe that one of them succeeded?  One of the ongoing trends of history I have noticed is that when slaves spontaneously revolt, they are almost always doomed to fail.  It doesn’t matter where or when the site of the rebellion is; chances are the master’s guards or troops have better weapons, and better training.  Until now, the only successful slave revolts I could think of were the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt (of course they had God on their side!), and Toussaint L’Overture’s revolt that created the nation of Haiti.

Anyway, the only decent place I could find for the first revolt was in footnote #52 of Chapter 2.  Here is how it reads now:

One group of slaves in Mexico gained their freedom even before the Spanish Empire stopped growing. In 1570 a slave named Gaspar Yanga launched an uprising at a sugarcane plantation near Veracruz; he and the escaped slaves who followed him fled inland, and founded a community in the mountains, naming it San Lorenzo de los Negros. Because of the community’s isolation, they were able to live unmolested for nearly forty years, and other escaped slaves came to join them. During this time, they made ends meet either by farming, or by raiding the Spanish supply convoys traveling between Veracruz and Mexico City. In 1609 the viceroy of New Spain dispatched 550 soldiers to stop the raids and secure this area. Opposing them was a roughly equal-sized force, of which only 100 had guns, but they knew the local terrain far better than the Spaniards did. As a result, the Spaniards burned the town, but they could not catch the blacks who fled into the countryside. After years of this stalemate, the Spaniards agreed to negotiate, and in 1618 they signed a treaty, which allowed the first free black community in the Americas to exist with Yanga’s family in charge of it, provided it returned any escaped slaves who went there in the future. The town was rebuilt in 1630, under the name of San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo; today it is called simply Yanga.

The other revolt occurred in Jamaica in 1831, so that puts it right at the beginning of the period covered by Chapter 4.  Since I don’t have anything else to say about Jamaica during this period, I put the revolt in the section covering the nearest British colony, Belize.  This story does not have a happy ending, but we now believe it hastened the end of slavery in the British Empire, so some good came out of it.  Also, I heard once that the reggae song “96 Degrees in the Shade,” by Third World, is about a failed revolt on Jamaica before independence came came; perhaps it is this one.  I have added it to the narrative as follows:

At the beginning of this period, Jamaica saw the worst revolt in the history of the British West Indies. Today it is often called the Baptist War because the leader, Samuel Sharpe, was both a slave and a Baptist pastor; alternate names include the Christmas Rebellion and the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt. At first the slaves, encouraged by the Abolitionist movement in the mother country, staged a peaceful protest; on Christmas Day of 1831, 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 slaves went on strike, promising they would not return to work until they were given freedom and a working wage of "half the going wage rate." It did not stay peaceful for long, though. Rumors that the British would break the strike with armed men prompted the slaves to burn and loot their plantations, and because the strike had turned into a rebellion, soldiers were called in to restore order, meaning the rumors had come true. On January 4, 1832, ten days after the uprising had started, it was over. An estimated 207 slaves and 14 whites were killed, while property damage was estimated at more than £1.1 million (probably £54 million today, or $82 million). The aftermath was even bloodier, as more than 300 slaves, including Sharpe, were hanged. Some of the executions were for trivial crimes; we have reports that one execution was the penalty for stealing a pig, another for stealing a cow. Though the revolt was a failure, it is now credited with speeding up the emancipation process, by convincing the British that they could not keep their slaves in chains forever. One year later, slavery was formally abolished in Great Britain, and the process of freeing the slaves in the colonies soon followed.

Published in: on October 7, 2015 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The Real Zorro Was a Woman

Also, she lived in the middle of Mexico, not California, and her preferred blade was a machete, rather than an epee or rapier.  Aside from that, I think the similarities outweigh the differences, so this story is an example of how closely truth can mirror fiction.

Anyway, I heard this a few months ago, while working on the project in my previous message.  Since it happened right after the Franco-Mexican War, which I wrote about in 2012, I added it to that section, in Chapter 4 of my Latin American history series.  It goes like this:

Before we move on to the next section, there is one more story that Mexicans like to tell. Leonarda Emilia (1842-73) was a young woman from the state of Querétaro, and during the recent war, she fell in love with a French soldier. Unlike the rest of the French, this soldier chose to stay in Mexico; we don’t know whether it was for Leonarda or because he believed in the cause of Emperor Maximilian. Consequently he was also captured and sentenced to death. Leonarda sent letters pleading that her boyfriend be spared, but he was shot anyway.

To get revenge, Leonarda turned herself into a female bandit, La Carambada, meaning "The Amazing Lady." The name was fitting, because she was great at riding horses, and could use a pistol and a machete effectively. In this way she became the leader of an outlaw band, and went on a crime spree from 1870 to 1873, mainly robbing travelers in Querétaro and Guanajuato, but also killing corrupt officials, and shooting at government troops when she got the opportunity. A ballad composed about La Carambada later on claimed that like Robin Hood, she stole from the rich and gave to the poor. And while her uniform of choice was baggy men’s clothing, she liked to flash her breasts at her male victims after robbing them, so they would know they had been bested by a woman. In the macho culture of nineteenth-century Latin America, that really hurt. Finally, there is a rumor that she poisoned both President Juarez and Querétaro Governor Benito Zenea.

We can ignore the poisoning bit, because Juarez was already in poor health from a stroke he had nearly two years before his death, while Zenea lived until 1875, two years after the game ended for La Carambada. As for her, she was caught in a shootout; hit by five bullets, she was then taken to a hospital for the official autopsy. When it discovered that La Carambada was not dead yet, a priest was brought in, and she confessed her story before dying from the gunshot wounds. However, the priest did not do anything with the story after writing it down, probably because as I said above, this was a macho culture. If the padre had lived more recently, you know he would have tried turning the story into a novel or a movie script.  And the movie would probably have Catherine Zeta-Jones in the leading role, instead of Antonio Banderas.

Published in: on October 1, 2015 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 3: Pulled Into the Modern World

Five months after uploading Chapter 1, the third chapter of my South Pacific history series has gone up on the site.  Called “Pulled Into the Modern World,” it covers the history of the region from 1781 to 1914 A.D.  Now that the Pacific Ocean has been mapped out, we see merchants and hunters come into the region to make a profit, and missionaries convert most of the native population to Christianity.  After them came the diplomats and armed forces of Europe and and the United States, to carve up the Pacific into colonies, the way the colonial powers had already partitioned Africa and much of Asia a few years earlier.  In the case of Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, this also was a time when white immigrants colonized the land, and eventually displaced the natives.  Finally at the end of this period, we see Australia and New Zealand become independent members of the British Commonwealth, the first step toward the creation of independent nations elsewhere in this region.

I must admit that once I threw in what I found from my research, this chapter grew to be much larger than I expected.  I didn’t realize until I got into the writing, how many stories needed to be told about the exploration of the Australian outback, or how long the Maori resisted the white invasion of New Zealand.  While this chapter isn’t as long as some of the chapters I wrote in the past few years, for North and South America, it is certainly longer than the first two chapters in the South Pacific series.  Those chapters I uploaded in one piece, while I divided Chapter 3 into four parts to make it easier to manage.  Therefore you now have the full story of how the Pacific islands, which had been isolated for most of history, became fully connected to the world community; except for a few spots like New Guinea, they won’t be primitive backwaters when I write about them in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

But enough talking.  Click on one of the purple links labeled Parts I through IV to read the latest addition to The Xenophile Historian’s story of mankind:


Chapter 3: Pulled Into the Modern World

1781 to 1914
Part I

Botany Bay

Mutiny on the Bounty

New Holland Becomes Australia

The Impact of Western Contact

  The Traders and Whalers

  The Missionaries

Unrest In the Islands


  The Society Islands


Kamehameha the Great

Australia Developing

The Last of the Tasmanians

Part II

Britain Claims New Zealand

The Tahitian Kingdom

A French Foothold on New Caledonia

The Maori Wars

  The Wairau Massacre, the Bay of Islands War, and the Wellington/Whanganui Battles

  The Taranaki Wars


The Kingdom of Hawaii

  Kamehameha II

  Kamehameha III

  Kamehameha IV

  Kamehameha V

  William Lunalilo and David Kalakaua

There’s Gold Down Under . . .

. . . And in New Zealand, Too

Part III

Tonga: The Restored Monarchy

Cakobau Unites and Delivers Fiji to Britain

The Unification and Division of Samoa

Taming the Outback

  Ludwig Leichhardt

  Edmund Kennedy

  The Gregory Brothers

  The Burke and Wills Expedition

  John Stuart

  And the Rest

  The Bush Culture

Part IV

Dividing What’s Left

Hawaii, USA

America’s Imperialist Adventure

Australia: Six Colonies = One Commonwealth

New Zealand Follows a Different Drummer

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Ten Signs That You Are Middle-Aged



Published in: on September 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Back to Windows 7–And Glad of it!

For those who did not read my previous message, a week ago I took the big step a lot of people have been doing recently, and upgraded my computer from Windows 7 to Windows 10.  What a disaster that was!  The new software did not work, because it could not access the Internet.  While the computer ran somewhat smoother than it did on Windows 7 + umpteen clunky updates, I lost more than I gained.  Some of my favorite programs no longer worked, Windows 10 doesn’t like my default browser (Opera), and every time I loaded a Microsoft Office 2010 program, Windows tried to reinstall it.  Office 2010!  You’d think that Windows would be compatible with another program from the same company that is less than ten years old, right?

So on Wednesday I tried to roll the computer back to Windows 7, like Windows 10 said I could do during the first thirty days.  No such luck.  After more hours on the phone with technical support, we decided to use my emergency backup DVDs and re-format the hard drive.  For those of you not familiar with computer terminology, this means I erased all the files my computer has accumulated since I bought it, five years ago.  Everything.  Therefore when I got done, my computer was exactly the same as it was back in August 2010; if it could talk, it would probably be waking up now and saying, "What an awful dream!"

Of course a lot of the files cleared off were accumulated junk, so overall it is now running better.  Almost as good as when it was new, in fact.  Since Wednesday I have been re-configuring everything for my purposes, deciding what programs and files to put back on (all the documents, pictures, etc. that I considered important were saved to external hard drives).  This morning, for example, I got the scanner to work again, so the main item left to fix is the Pogoplug device, which makes one of my hard drives part of the so-called Internet “Cloud.”

Overall, I’d say that someday Windows 10 will work right for users, but for now it is not ready for public consumption.  And I’m not going to wait until Microsoft gets the bugs out of it; I already lost half a week of my life, dealing with it as is.

Published in: on August 24, 2015 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Windows 10–Don’t Make the Switch Yet

In a follow-up to last month’s news, my brother Chris found free cemetery space for both of our parents.  It turns out there is a fairly new (opened 2009) veteran’s cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida, the Jacksonville National Cemetery.  Because Dad was in the Navy during the Korean War years, it costs nothing to put Mom and Dad’s urns there.  Therefore last Friday, Chris took the urns to the cemetery, bringing the family closure on that issue.

The other reason why we settled on Jacksonville is location – both Chris and my daughter Lindy can get there in about three hours of driving.  In Kentucky there is a military cemetery about 25 miles south of us, called Camp Nelson, but most of the other burials there go back to the Civil War era, and it won’t be a convenient visit for anyone in my family, if Leive and I move out of Kentucky.

I have been looking forward to having a computer that runs Windows 10 because the PC I have now is five years old, and after all the updates it has taken for Windows 7, it is quite slow and cumbersome.  Therefore, I accepted the offer Microsoft announced a couple months ago for a free upgrade.  Last Sunday I received a message saying it was my turn to download Windows 10.  After letting my computer download and install updates for all of Sunday, it turned out the updates I got were for Windows 7, probably irrelevant.  Then the Windows 10 material came in on Monday.  So what did my computer get?

Well, so far the upgrade experience has turned out to be a waste of time. None of the new software can access the Internet, making the Store and the Edge browser useless. In addition it is incompatible with the old browser that still works (Opera), the new music player is ugly and buggy compared with Windows Media Player, the weather app insists that I am in Washington, DC, and so far I have found out that three of my programs no longer work.  One of them is the webpage editor that I have used since 1999, so to continue writing material for my websites, I’ll have to install and learn to use a new HTML editor.

The only advantage I have seen is that aside from a few required restarts, my computer no longer locks up or crashes.  Still, it may not be worth all the other trouble.  Last night I was up past 1 AM with technical support, trying to get the Internet connection problem fixed.  If I can’t solve this soon, I’m going back to Windows 7.  And if I need to buy a new computer this year, I’ll look for one that still has Windows 7 on it.

Published in: on August 18, 2015 at 8:05 pm  Comments (1)  

The South Sea Bubble

Nearly four years ago, I posted a message about the Darien Scheme, an unsuccessful attempt by Scotland to colonize Panama (see my message from August 29, 2011).  Then yesterday I read an article listing the worst investments of all time, and it reminded me that until now I have not written about one which was distantly tied in with Latin American history – the 1720 South Sea Bubble.  The action took place in London, England, but it involved trade with Latin America, and the person who thought up the Darien Scheme may have thought this one up, too, so I am adding this to the section on Darien, in Chapter 3 of my Latin American HistoryHere is how the new addition (not the band called the New Edition!) will read:


Meanwhile, the European wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries taught the British that it was safer to take colonies overseas, especially small islands, than it was to occupy a territory on the Continent. Limiting their landholdings on the European mainland meant they could sit out the frequent conflicts there, if they chose to do so.  Overseas colonies could also be more profitable, if defended and managed right. Accordingly, in the Treaty of Utrecht, one of the things the British asked for, and got, was the French half of the island of St. Kitts. They also won the right to sell up to 4,800 slaves and 500 tons of cargo per year in the Spanish colonies, something they probably considered more important than the land they gained.

The British wanted trading rights because wars are expensive, and they had run up some big debts during the War of the Spanish Succession. By 1711 the national debt was estimated at £9 million; the government staged lotteries and sold tickets to citizens looking for a chance to win prizes, but this only raised a fraction of the money needed to pay down the debt. Then the idea came up of floating a company that would assume at least part of the debt. In return this company, called the South Sea Company, would be given the right to trade in Latin America and the Caribbean, once the Spanish colonies opened up to non-Spanish merchants. The government would also give the company an annual annuity, worth 6 percent of the debt it took on, and this annuity was distributed to the shareholders as a dividend. We don’t know who thought of the South Sea Company first; some historians think it was Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe; others think it was William Paterson, the same fellow who gave us the Darien Scheme. If it was Paterson, this shows us that Great Britain did not learn anything from Scotland’s experience in Panama.

The trade rights granted by the Treaty of Utrecht were much less than what the South Sea Company had expected, meaning its ability to make a profit legally would be limited. Nevertheless, many saw great potential in Latin America, and persuaded themselves that the company was another Dutch West India Company; once Latin American colonists tried British-made products, the profits would pour in. When the company issued its first shares of stock, investors bought them eagerly. The first voyage by a company ship in 1717 only brought a moderate return, but then King George I became governor of the company in the following year, boosting investor confidence again. By 1720 the company was doing so well that it offered to take over the entire national debt, and Parliament accepted the proposal.

What Parliament did not realize was that the company was experiencing its first cash flow problem; it did not have enough money to pay the Christmas 1719 dividend, and it informed shareholders that payment would be delayed twelve months. Since it would take too long to get the money by expanding trade, Company executives tried bidding up the value of their stock. In January 1720, company shares were trading at £128, and had not changed much for a while. Back then one pound (£1) was worth about $400 in today’s dollars, so if you do the math, you will see why the stock wasn’t selling very fast.

When the company executives told wild stories about the wealth of the lands beyond the "South Sea," how Latin America was loaded with gold and silver that the company would eventually bring to Europe, this caused a buying frenzy, now called the South Sea Bubble, that drove up the value of the stock, to £175 in February, £330 in March, £550 at the end of May, and at the peak in August, around £1,000 a share. Politicians were offered a chance to buy shares at pre-bubble prices, allowing them to make a profit when they sold the shares later. The big bubble also led to the appearance of little bubbles, as swindlers went to investors who missed out on the company stock and offered them absurd get-rich-quick schemes that were limited only by imagination. The proposals put forth by these "companies" ranged from making better soap, to importing walnut trees from Virginia, to cannon that fired square cannonballs. Probably the cleverest and craziest proposal got investors to put down money "for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage; but nobody to know what it is."

Well, what goes up must come down. When those running the South Sea Company realized that their personal shares were worth many times as much as the company itself, they sold their stock, hoping that if they kept this move secret, the company would continue to do all right without them. Instead, word of them cutting and running got out, a panic selling replaced the frenzied buying, and share prices instantly collapsed; prices fell to £175 by the end of September, and £124 by December. Those who got in after the bubble started swelling were financially ruined when the bubble burst, especially those who had borrowed money to purchase shares. Among the losers was the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton, who lost £20,000 (worth probably $8 million today) and remarked, "I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men."

The House of Commons conducted an investigation in 1721, which found plenty of deceit and corruption; at least three government ministers had taken bribes from the company. The prosecution of those officials and the company managers followed. The South Sea Company stayed in business until 1853, but its stock was given to two real moneymakers, the Bank of England and the British East India Company, and it sold most of its rights to the Spanish government in 1750. Finally, the British government outlawed the issuing of stock certificates, and that law stayed on the books until 1825.

Source:  http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/latinam/la03a.html#Darien

Published in: on August 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mt. Pelée Kills St. Pierre

Back in 2013, when I composed Chapter 5 of the Latin American history project for The Xenophile Historian, I forgot to write about the disaster that struck Martinique in 1902.  Then when I remembered it recently, there wasn’t an appropriate place in the chapter to add it, even among the footnotes.  Therefore I just created a new section early in the chapter for it.  Here is how it reads:


While the Americans were turning Cuba loose, the worst volcanic disaster of the twentieth century struck in the Caribbean, on the French-ruled island of Martinique. Mt. Pelée, the volcano on the north side of Martinique, had shown it was active by erupting in the past, but those were minor eruptions, not big enough to prevent the nearby building of Martinique’s largest town, St. Pierre. When more minor eruptions and earthquakes occurred in early 1902, the island government told everyone St. Pierre was safe, and urged the residents to stay so they could vote in the elections scheduled for May 11; the governor even sent troops to the road going between St. Pierre and Fort-de-France, to turn back refugees trying to escape to the latter town. The election never happened, because the big eruption came on May 8, 1902; a pyroclastic flow (a large black cloud of superheated gas, ash and rock) rolled straight down the mountain at more than 100 miles per hour, destroying every building in St. Pierre in just one minute. A second eruption on May 20 wiped out what was left, including the two thousand rescue workers who had arrived by that time. St. Pierre has not recovered since then; whereas the population was an estimated 28,000-30,000 right before the May 8 eruption, the community on that spot today has only 4,544 people (2004 census).

Quite a few Romans managed to flee from the famous first-century eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, but Mt. Pelée’s first major eruption left only two survivors. One, a young shoemaker named Léon Compere-Léandre, was badly burned in his house, but because he was in better-than-average health, managed to run out of town and stay alive. The other was a prison inmate, Ludger Sylbaris (Louis-Auguste Cyparis in some texts), who had been put in solitary confinement for getting into a barfight or street brawl the night before the big eruption. His poorly ventilated cell was the only real underground shelter in town, and that saved his life, though he suffered burns as well. Four days later, rescuers heard him crying for help, and got him out of the ruined prison. Sylbaris was subsequently pardoned and went on to join the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, becoming the first black man to star in that show, as "the man who lived through Doomsday."


Source:  http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/latinam/la05a.html#Martinique

Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  

In Memory of Charles Burton Kimball

Chuck Kimball

June 3, 1933 – July 11, 2015

My father passed away around 6:20 AM Saturday.  The whole family knew it would happen soon, and we are relieved that his long time of suffering is finally ended.  Of course it still hurts, though.  May we meet again on the other side.

Mr. Kimball’s departure marks the end of an era for my family.  Except for a few uncles and aunts, the generations preceding Leive and I are now gone.  I will always be thankful for all that he did to help the rest of us (I don’t think I can list all the ways), for teaching his kids the difference between right and wrong, and directing us down the straight & narrow path.  We’ll also cherish the memories of fond times.  One comes to mind now:  when I was ten years old, he took me to Cape Canaveral so I could see the Apollo 11 rocket on the launching pad, one month before it went to the moon.

Currently we are planning to hold a memorial service here in Kentucky next Thursday, and since most of the people he knew are in central Florida, we’ll hold another service there at a later date (not yet specified).  My brother wrote the obituary that will be appearing this week in The Lexington Herald-Leader and The Orlando Sentinel.  I’ll share a draft of it here because it gives his life story in better words than I could write:


Mr. Charles “Chuck” Kimball passed away on July 11, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky, at the age of 82 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was a resident of Winter Park, Florida, for 46 years.

Mr. Kimball was born in Fair Lawn New Jersey, in 1933. Working at both a veterinarian and gas station in his youth, he developed both a love and care for animals, and a skill at auto repair; both of which he would practice his entire life. Upon graduating high school, he joined the Navy and served during the Korean War. Afterwards, he attended California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he met his wife Linda. He graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and was also the founding President of the Central California Chapter of the American Rocket Society, and made the front page of the Los Angeles Times by launching his own rocket before Sputnik was launched. He was a pioneer in US rockets and flight simulators, and an aerospace engineer for 43 years. He worked various jobs in rocket testing and design; aircraft and helicopter maintenance and training. He worked for Igor Sikorski and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of President Johnson’s fleet of ten helicopters. He also studied law at the University of Washington in Seattle.

In 1966 he moved Winter Park, Florida, and would work the next 30 years for the Naval Training and Equipment Center, retiring in 1997. He was in charge of procurement and design for aircraft training devices and flight simulators to train Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Army pilots. He built flight training devices for the US Navy all over the world, including the “Top Gun” Naval flight school in Miramar, California. He had a number of patents including the “Air Cushion Proprioceptive Motion System” of a flight simulator on an air motion system.

Chuck earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Rollins College, which led him to be a founding partner in Micrad Electronics in Orlando in 1970, where he sold and repaired microwave ovens; one of the first to do so in the country at the time.

During many years, Chuck and his wife Linda volunteered at church and for numerous charitable organizations, and were loved and admired by many. Chuck was an officer for Wycliffe Associates’ Orlando Chapter, and a volunteer for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Chuck and Linda were last active at Community United Methodist Church in Casselberry through many of the community projects that the church did. Chuck’s declining health required much attention, so in 2012, he moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to be under the care of his son and daughter-in-law. He is survived by two sons, a daughter, a grand-daughter, and great-grand-daughter.

Chuck was fair and honest to all, and always kind. He would like to be remembered as a born-again spirit-filled Christian, who loved the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a fine husband, father, & grandfather.


Published in: on July 12, 2015 at 11:20 pm  Comments (2)  

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