“There was a deep muffled roar; the ground in front of where I stood rose up, as if some giant had wakened from his sleep and was bursting his way through the earth’s crust, and then I saw huge columns of smoke and flames shoot hundreds of feet into the air, while masses of clay and stones, tons in weight, were hurled about like pebbles.”
~Rev. William Joseph Gabriel Doyle
Army Chaplains’ Department of the British Army
Messines Ridge, June 7, 1917
1776 – Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed to the Continental Congress a resolution calling for a Declaration of Independence.
“Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”
Congress as a whole was not yet ready to declare independence at that moment, because the delegates from some of the colonies, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, had not yet been authorized to vote for independence.
Voting on the first clause of Lee’s resolution was therefore postponed for three weeks while advocates of independence worked to build support in the colonial governments for the resolution.
The story will continue on June 10.
Bear with me, this is going to take a while.
On Christmas Eve 1914, a Christmas truce originated near Comines-Warneton, Belgium when a cease-fire was called to bury the dead between the lines (“no-man’s land”).
Some reports say German soldiers cheerily called “come over here” to their British counterparts, while others recall Germans placing small Christmas trees on top of their entrenchments on a frosty Christmas Eve. One British soldier compared the lit trees to “the footlights of a theater.”
A young Bavarian officer was one of many who shouted that a Christmas truce should be made, and that both sides should leave their trenches to approach the other. He recalled that the British eventually agreed, and that “a man came out of their trenches, and I on my side did the same. We shook hands a bit cautiously.”
They were joined by others and the next day was filled with intermittent visits in no-man’s land, where men found their enemies waiting peacefully.
Why am I telling you this?
Because 2 ½ years after that famous Christmas Truce, another event took place just five miles up the road from Comines-Warneton … in another Belgian town … Mesen.
Keep Reading (I told you this was going to take a while)…
1917 – The British 2nd Army, led by Gen. Herbert Plumer, scored a crushing (and explosive) victory over the German 4th Army at Messines Ridge in Belgian Mesen, West Flanders.
The evening before the attack, General Sir Charles Harington, Chief of Staff of the Second Army remarked to his staff, “Gentlemen, I don’t know whether we are going to make history tomorrow, but at any rate we shall change geography.”
They certainly did.
British forces put careful planning into the battle: for the previous 18 months, soldiers – including troops from Australia and Canada – had worked to place nearly 1 million pounds of explosives in 21 tunnels under the German positions.
The tunnels extended to 2,000 feet in length, and some were as much as 100 feet below the surface of the ridge, where the Germans had long since been entrenched.
The attack on Messines Ridge started with the tried and tested artillery assault. In the week leading up to the attack, over 2,200 artillery guns pounded German lines with as many as 3 million shells.
Starting at 3.10 a.m., the mines at Messines were fired within the space of 20 seconds. The joint explosion ranks among the largest non-nuclear explosions of all time and the sound of the blast (heard in London, 140 miles away) was considered at the time the loudest man-made noise in history.
10,000 German troops were instantly killed or buried alive.
The explosion at Spanbroekmolen crater (seen above in 1917 and again in 2017) was the result of 45 tons of explosives being placed in one tunnel beneath the ground. It left a hole 450 feet wide.
The crater has filled with water as a result of the high water table and the clay soil in the area, leaving a pond (Pool of Peace) 250 feet in diameter and 40 feet deep.
1937 – Legendary actress Jean Harlow died of acute kidney failure at the age of 26.
Harlow’s first major appearance was in 1930’s Hell’s Angels but she soon became a leading lady and one of the biggest stars in the world, starring in a string of hit films including Red Dust, Dinner At Eight, Reckless, and Suzy.
1939 – King George VI became the first British monarch to visit the United States when he and his wife, Elizabeth, crossed the Canadian-U.S. border to Niagara Falls, NY.
The royal couple subsequently visited New York City and Washington, D.C., where they called for a greater U.S. role in resolving the crisis in Europe.
A strong bond of friendship was forged between the King and President Franklin Roosevelt during the tour, which had major significance in the relations between the United States and the United Kingdom through the ensuing war years.
1965 – The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. The case involved a Connecticut law that prohibited any person from using “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception.” Estelle Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, had challenged the law.
By a vote of 7–2, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the “right to marital privacy,” establishing the basis for the right to privacy with respect to intimate practices.
1965 – Gen. William Westmoreland told President Lyndon B. Johnson that the Communist insurgency in South Vietnam could be defeated if an additional 44 battalions of U.S. combat troops were placed under his command.
Westmoreland’s request sparked a debate within the Johnson administration. Some officials in the White House, the State Department and the intelligence community opposed the request because, they said, it would entail a fundamental change in the American role in Vietnam.
Just so you know: On March 8, 1965, the first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam as 3,500 Marines landed at China Beach to defend the American air base at Da Nang. They joined 23,000 American military advisors already in Vietnam.
On July 28, Johnson approved Westmoreland’s request, increasing the U.S. military presence to 125,000 men. Monthly draft calls were doubled to 35,000. By year’s end U.S. troop levels in Vietnam reached 184,300.
Time magazine chose General William Westmoreland as 1965’s “Man of the Year”.
1982 – Priscilla Presley opened Graceland to the public. To date, the former home of Elvis Presley has drawn over 22 million visitors.
Graceland was designated a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006.
2008 – Sports journalist/broadcaster Jim McKay, host of ABC’s Wide World of Sports for most of its 37-year history, died from natural causes at the age of 86.
His introduction for Wide World – “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!” – has passed into American pop culture.
Wide World aside, Jim McKay is rightfully best remembered for his coverage of an international tragedy; an event which had people who were only slightly interested in sports watching with rapt attention.
While covering the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics for ABC, McKay took on the job of reporting the events live on his only scheduled day off during the Games. He was on air for fourteen hours without a break. After an unsuccessful rescue attempt of the Israeli athletes held hostage, McKay came on the air with this statement:
“When I was a kid my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.’ Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were 11 hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.”
2012 – Musician Bob Welch died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He was 66.
Welch had undergone spinal surgery three months earlier, but doctors told him that he would not fully recover. In a nine-page suicide note, he said he was in extreme pain and did not want his wife to have to care for an invalid.
Welch was a guitarist and vocalist for Fleetwood Mac from 1971 to 1974. After leaving the band, he had solo hits including Sentimental Lady and Ebony Eyes.
When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Welch was snubbed – despite the fact that he sang lead vocals, played guitar and wrote many of the songs on five of the band’s studio albums.
2015 – Actor Christopher Lee died of heart failure at the age of 93.
In a career spanning nearly 70 years, Lee was well known for portraying villains and became best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of horror films, a typecasting situation he always regretted.
His other film roles included the role of Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2019 RayLemire.com. / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.