From Freezing Artic Waters to Steaming Jungle Rice Paddies

During the sixteenth century, Italian inventor Leonardo Da Vinci made drawings of an ornithopter flying machine.  Some experts say this inspired the modern day helicopter. In 1784, a year after the first successful ascent in a hot air balloon, French inventors Launoy and Bienvenue created a toy with a rotary-wing that could lift and fly.  This may have been inspired by the “Chinese Top” principle and proved the concept of helicopter flight.  In 1863, the French writer Ponton D’Amecourt was the first person to coin the term “helicopter” from the two words “helico” for spiral and “pter” for wings.

The very first piloted helicopter was invented by Paul Cornu in 1907; however, his design was not successful. French inventor, Etienne Oehmichen built and flew a helicopter about a half mile in 1924. Another early helicopter that flew for a decent distance was the German Focke-Wulf Fw 61.  The inventor of that machine is unknown. 

The Piasecki Helicopter Corporation was founded in 1940 by Frank Piasecki as the P-V Engineering Forum. The PV-2 was the second helicopter flown in the United States (after Sikorsky’s VS-300), and was designed and flown by Frank Piasecki in 1943. 

The company was a designer and manufacturer of helicopters.  It was located in Philadelphia, PA and Morton, PA, in the late 1940s and the 1950s.  Piasecki Helicopter was renamed Vertol Corporation in early 1956.  Vertol was acquired by Boeing in 1960 and renamed Boeing Vertol. 

Piasecki Helicopter designed and sold to the United States Navy a series of tandem rotor helicopters, starting with the HRP-1 of 1944. The HRP-1 was nicknamed the “flying banana” because of the upward angle of the aft fuselage that ensured the large rotors did not strike each other in flight. The name would later be applied to other Piasecki helicopters of similar design, including the H-21. 

The USS Core was commissioned during World War Two as an aircraft carrier.  On June 27, 1943 she transitioned from a training carrier and sortied as the center of Task Group 21.12, a hunter-killer group.  Such groups provided cover for the movement of convoys and made a great contribution towards winning the Battle of the Atlantic.  The innovation represented by their formation was a striking development in antisubmarine warfare.  In 1945 as the war in the Atlantic was winding down, the Core was transferred to the Pacific Theater. 

Piasecki’s company first became known as Piasecki Helicopter in 1946. 

In 1949, Piasecki proposed the YH-21A Workhorse to the United States Air Force, which was an improved, all-metal derivative of the HRP-1.  After its maiden flight in April 1952, the USAF ordered 32 H-21A SAR models and 163 of the more powerful H-21B assault transport variant. With its improved capabilities, the H-21B could carry 22 fully equipped infantrymen, or 12 stretchers, plus space for two medical attendants, in a medivac role. With its Arctic winter capabilities, the H-21A and H-21B were put into service by both the USAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force to maintain and service Distant Early Warning radar installations. 

On 24 August 1954, with the assistance of inflight refueling provided by a U.S. Army U-1A Otter, an H-21C known as Amblin’ Annie became the first helicopter to cross the United States nonstop.

In June of 1955 the Core was redesignated as a helicopter escort carrier (CVHE-13). 

The uprated 1425 hp Wright engine used in the H-21B was also used in subsequent variants sold to both the U.S. Army (as the H-21C Shawnee) and the military forces of several other nations. In 1962, the H-21 was redesignated the CH-21 in U.S. Army service.  The CH-21 was used for Artic rescue because of its excellent low temperature performance. 

In July of 1958 the USS Core was redesignated as a utility carrier (CVU-13).  In May of 1959 the Core was again redesignated, this time as an aviation transport (T-AKV-41).  On December 11, 1961, the USS Core docked in the Port of Saigon to unload 33 Vertol H-21 Shawnee helicopters. Also on board were 400 U.S. soldiers from the 57th Transport Company from Fort Lewis, and the 8th and 9th Transport Companies from Fort Bragg, who would operate and maintain the helicopter fleet. 

The relatively slow CH-21 was hampered by vulnerable cables and fuel lines.  It was rumored that it was so susceptible to small arms fire that a CH-21 had been downed by a Viet Cong spear.

On February 4, 1962 the first United States Helicopter was shot down during the Vietnam War. The helicopter which was shot down was one of fifteen helicopters that were ferrying South Vietnamese Army troops into an area of the Mekong Delta near the village of Hong My for a battle.  That helicopter had arrived in South Vietnam on the ferry carrier USS Core a few months earlier.  The crew was assigned to airlift Vietnamese Army troops into combat. 

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What a Difference Six Days Makes

By William “Doc Halliday

Actually the difference was less than 141 hours, but as they say, who’s counting?  The more important difference was not the time but the temperature.  The event was originally scheduled to take place at 14:42 on January 22, but with various delays, it did not occur until 11:38 on January 28, 140 hours and 56 minutes later. 

During that time delay a cold front that had been expected two days earlier, moved into the area.  It brought some of the coldest weather in the area’s history.  Overnight the temperature in the area plunged to 18 degrees Fahrenheit, with the wind chill hitting ten degrees below zero.  Had the event taken place when it was originally scheduled, the temperature would have been in the normal range and would not have been a factor. 

Do you know who Richard Feynman was?  Richard Phillips Feynman was a theoretical physicist.  He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965, sharing it with two other individuals.  Mr. Feynman had worked on the atomic bomb during World War Two in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos where he was a Group Leader. 

Feynman was an ardent proponent of bringing physics to the general population through both books and lectures, especially a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”.   He also published his undergraduate lectures, “The Feynman Lectures on Physics” in three volumes. 

But perhaps you and most Americans know him best for the important role on the Rogers Commission.  During a televised hearing, Feynman demonstrated that the material used in certain O-rings became less resilient in cold weather.  He did this by compressing a sample of the material in a clamp and immersing it in ice-cold water. 

Or, perhaps you are more familiar with the name of Sharon Corrigan, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts almost 30 years after Mr. Feynman was born.  As she matured, Sharon began using her middle name of Christa, and when she married in 1970, she adopted her husband’s last name.  That same year she accepted her first teaching position in Maryland after graduating from college in her hometown. 

In 1984, using the name Christa McAuliffe, she applied for the Teacher in Space Project, and by 1985 had been selected as one of the ten finalists.  On July 19, 1985 she was selected to be the first teacher in space.  She would be one of seven members of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger scheduled to lift off at 14:42 on January 22, 1986 on the 25th Space Shuttle mission. 

With the various delays that I mentioned earlier, that liftoff did not occur until 11:38 on January 28, 1986.  The delay of almost six full days proved disastrous as the cold front rolled in to Cape Canaveral bringing freezing temperatures with it. 

That morning there were hundreds of icicles, some two feet long, over the craft, and a crew was sent out to dislodge them.  The walkways and guardrails were also covered in ice.  By 11 AM the temperature had warmed up to 36 degrees, but that was still 15 degrees colder than any previous shuttle launch. 

One minute into the flight, the shuttle – at 35-thousand feet – hit a speed of Mach-1.5. Then, seconds later, something unusual was noticed.  The contrail thickened; it seemed to balloon out a bit.  Then one, just one, solid rocket booster came corkscrewing out of the cloud.  Seconds later, a second solid rocket booster can be seen.  At 73 seconds into the flight the Space Shuttle Challenger appears to explode.  There is no chance for the astronauts to escape during the initial two minutes of flight. 

Crowds of spectators on the beaches below are stunned at what they have seen; and then they are horrified.  There is shock and disbelief in the television audiences around the country and the world; particularly in Christa McAuliffe’s high school in Concord, New Hampshire.  Debris continues to fall from the sky for an hour after the explosion. 

That night, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation, and used words from a great poem; “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.  It is one of my favorites.  Those words he used were “and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God”. 

It was more than a month before the remains of the seven astronauts were pulled from the ocean.  They were found about 15 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral and 100 feet underwater.   

Mr. Feynman was a member of the Rogers Commission which ultimately determined that the disaster of the Challenger was caused by the primary O-ring not properly sealing in unusually cold weather at Cape Canaveral in Florida. 

January 28th, is the anniversary of the Challenger disaster.  Did you watch it live on television? 

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Sabine Pass

By William “Doc” Halliday

Sabine Lake is a 90,000 acre salt water estuary formed by the confluence of the Neches and Sabine Rivers.  Sabine Pass is the natural outlet of Sabine Lake into the Gulf of Mexico.  It borders Cameron Parish, Louisiana and Jefferson County, Texas.  The former city of Sabine Pass, Texas is now a suburb of Port Arthur, Texas. 

The Confederacy constructed a major fort there in 1861. The principal Confederate defense force at Sabine Pass during the early months of the war had been Spaight’s Texas Battalion.  In the early morning hours of September 25, 1862, Union forces under the command of Acting Master Frederick Crocker attempted to enter Sabine Pass.  As Crocker and his forces made their way through the inland passage towards Beaumont, the Confederates attacked.

When the Union squadron approached Fort Sabine, Crocker ordered his ships to begin an artillery bombardment of the enemy position. Confederate forces numbering thirty infantry and artillerists manning their artillery, additionally supported by thirty cavalrymen, were unable to effectively return fire as the outdated guns were unable to reach the Union fleet. The commanding officer, Major Josephus S. Irvine (CSA), ordered his artillery spiked and then retreated during the night.  Without a significant military presence, the town of Sabine Pass, surrendered the following day.  This became known as the First Battle of Sabine Pass.  On October 8, 1862, Galveston, Texas was captured.  At that point, the Union controlled much of the Texas coast.

In November of 1862, Confederate General John Bankhead Magruder came to Texas with the intention of altering the direction of the war in this area. Magruder was an early Confederate hero in Virginia, and was assigned the difficult task of expelling the Union forces from Sabine Pass and Galveston.  Another unit, Capt. F. H. Odlums’ Co. F, of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery, was sent to Sabine Pass in December of 1862. 

Magruder’s efforts were soon successful. He recaptured Galveston Island on January 1, 1863 and then turned his attention to Sabine Pass.  The two units manned artillery aboard two old gunboats referred to as cottonclads.  The gunboats were the Uncle Ben and Josiah Belle, which the Confederates used to break the blockade on Jan. 21, 1863, by chasing two Union sail ships, the Morning Light and Velocity, for 30 miles at sea and capturing them during a battle.

The decks of the two Rebel ships were stacked with cotton bales. Riflemen were placed behind the bales and the ships steamed towards the two Union ships, the Morning Light and the Velocity. Some of the riflemen became seasick and had to be removed, but the voyage continued. The Confederates chased the Union ships into open water, and the sharpshooters injured many Union gunners. Both Union ships soon surrendered. Magruder’s victory reopened the Texas coast for Confederate shipping. 

January 21, is the anniversary of the recapture of Sabine Pass, Texas, and the opening of that important port for the Confederacy when two Confederate ships drove away and captured the two Union ships. 

The Union intended to recapture Sabine Pass.  They planned revenge by capturing Sabine Pass, Beaumont, and Orange. They hoped to capture all the cotton and ships in port, as well as to burn railroad bridges and ferries on the rivers. Then they planned to attack Houston along the railroad to the west of Beaumont, and then starve Galveston Island into submission.  However, the effort was thwarted when less than 50 Confederates inside the fort there held off a much larger Union force.

After that embarrassment to the Federal forces, Union Gen. Benjamin Butler of New Orleans was determined to capture Sabine Pass by sea, but he had to await the seizure of Vicksburg before enough shallow draft gunboats were available. About Aug. 1, 1863, Gen. Butler began massing four gunboats and 19 troop transports at New Orleans in preparation for the battle. 

About 6:00 am on the morning of September 8, 1863, a Union flotilla of four gunboats and seven troop transports steamed into Sabine Pass and up the Sabine River with the intention of reducing Fort Griffin and landing troops to begin occupying Texas. As the gunboats approached Fort Griffin, they came under precise fire from just six cannons. The Confederate gunners at Fort Griffin had been sent there as a punishment. To break the day-to-day tedium, the gunners trained firing artillery at range markers placed in the river. Confederate engineers drove marker posts in the oyster reefs 1,200 yards distant from the fort to mark the guns’ maximum range, and during the month of August, Lt. Dowling used a sunken schooner as a target as he sharpened his artillerymen’s gunnery prowess to the peak of perfection.

Their practice paid off. Fort Griffin’s small force of 47 men, under command of Lt. Richard W. Dowling, forced the Union flotilla to retire, and captured the gunboat Clifton and about 350 prisoners. Further Union operations in the area ceased for about a month. The heroics at Fort Griffin—47 men stopping a Union expedition—inspired other Confederate fighters.

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A different Education

By William “Doc” Halliday

Maria was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy.  Because of her father’s work, the family relocated first to Florence in 1873, and then to Rome in 1875.  In 1876 Maria entered a public elementary school.  It was said that her work was not particularly noteworthy.  Maria continued her formal education by entering a secondary technical school, Regia Scuola Tecnica Michelangelo Buonarroti.  After graduation in 1886, Maria continued her education at the technical institute Regio Istituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci.  She did well in the sciences and especially in mathematics.  By the time Maria graduated in 1890 at the age of 20 with a certificate in physics–mathematics, she had decided to study medicine.  It was an unlikely pursuit for a woman, considering the cultural norms at the time. 

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is a study in contradictions: analytical and intuitive, careful and audacious, playful and determined. Critics note his extraordinary ability to learn from others one hallmark of the early education he was given. 

Maria enrolled in the University of Rome in 1890, in a degree course in natural sciences, passing examinations in botany, zoology, experimental physics, histology, anatomy, and general and organic chemistry, and earning her diploma di licenza in 1892. This degree, along with additional studies in Italian and Latin, qualified her for entrance into the medical program at that University in 1893.  Maria won an academic prize in her first year, and in 1895 obtained a position as a hospital assistant, gaining early clinical experience. In her last two years she studied psychiatry and pediatrics.  Maria worked in the pediatric consulting room and emergency service, becoming an expert in pediatric medicine. Maria graduated from the University of Rome in 1896 as a doctor of medicine. Her thesis was published in 1897 in the journal Policlinico. She obtained employment as an assistant at the University hospital, and started a private practice. 

Joshua Bell is the Grammy award-winning violinist and subject of a Pulitzer prize-winning media story.  He is thoughtful about the role his music plays in society. In a cultural experiment turned Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post story, it is Bell’s humility, not his virtuosity, that most inspires. In suspending his fame to explore the true meaning of his work, Bell exhibits the best thinking espoused in his early education by Maria’s principles. 

After graduating from the University of Rome in 1896, Maria continued her research at the University’s psychiatric clinic, and in 1897 she was accepted as a voluntary assistant there. As part of her work, she visited asylums in Rome where she observed children with mental disabilities.  These observations were essential to her future educational work. Maria was intrigued with Marc Gaspard Itard’s ideas.  She created a far more specific and organized system for applying them to the everyday education of children with disabilities. 

David Blaine is an illusionist and magician.  He was a four-year old student of Maria’s methods when he fell in love with magic. Today he’s called “the modern day Houdini” by The New York Times, which says, “He’s taken a craft that’s been around for hundreds of years and done something unique and fresh with it… [His magic] “operates on an uncommonly personal level.” 

Maria left the Orthophrenic School as well as her private practice in 1901.  In 1902 she enrolled in the philosophy degree course at the University of Rome. (Philosophy at the time included much of what we now consider psychology.) She also pursued independent study in anthropology and educational philosophy, conducted observations and experimental research in elementary schools, and revisited the work of Itard and Seguin, translating their books into handwritten Italian. During this time she began to consider adapting her methods of educating mentally disabled children to mainstream education. 

One hundred and twelve years ago, on January 6, 1907, Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House—in Rome.  She subsequently traveled the world and wrote extensively about her approach to education, attracting many devotees. The Montessori Method of education is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world, and to develop their maximum potential. There are now more than 22,000 Montessori schools in at least 110 countries worldwide. 

Others who have been educated by the Montessori method include; Julia Child, George Clooney, John and Joan Cusack, Peter Druker, Dakota Fanning, Anne Frank, Katharine Graham, Helen Hunt, Helen Keller, Beyonce Knowles, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Taylor Swift, and Will Wright. 

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The Dissenter

By William ‘Doc” Halliday

Have you ever been the lone dissenting voter?  Perhaps in a small organization you belong to you refused to vote along with the majority.  I have certainly been in that position.  The votes I was involved in were less than a couple of dozen votes against my single vote.  Today I will write about a vote of 470 to 1,although it was broken into two separate votes. 

In 1880, Jeannette Pickering Rankin was born into a successful ranching family in Montana.  Her father ran the ranch while her mother taught elementary school.  Jeannette graduated from the University of Montana in 1902 with a B. S. degree.  Over the next eight years she bounced around searching for a career that would gratify her. Even with a college degree she apprenticed as a seamstress and studied the design of furniture.  Jeannette did teach school for a short time and then became a social worker.  She studied at the New York School of Philanthropy in 1908 in order to qualify for social work, and practiced in both Montana and Washington State for a short time. 

Jeannette didn’t like that either, so she quit and enrolled in the University of Washington.  While she was a student she became associated with the 1910 campaign for women’s suffrage in that state which was ultimately successful.  This was a turning point in her life. Jeannette worked in the suffrage movement, and this led to her career as a social reformer and pacifist. 

She returned to Montana for Christmas of 1910.  The next month a suffrage amendment was introduced in that state’s legislature.  Jeannette formed the Montana franchise of a national PAC and organized to passage of the suffrage amendment.  Despite her efforts, the amendment failed.  However, the effort galvanized her career search; she was hooked on politics! 

Miss Rankin became involved in the national suffrage movement and was a field secretary for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  With the substantial help of this national organization she was able to have the suffrage amendment passed by the Montana legislature in 1914.  In 1906 she ran for a seat in the United States Congress from Montana.  Her brother Wellington financed and managed her campaign with the help of the Republican Party.  She was well known from her suffrage efforts and won the election by campaigning for national woman suffrage, prohibition, child welfare reform, tariff revision and other issues.  Jeannette took her seat in the House of Representatives on April 2, 1917, and less than a week later took part in a historic vote. 

During her term she worked for and supported what would be considered women’s issues.  One of these was independent citizenship.  This was an issue because a 1907 federal law stripped citizenship from American women who married aliens.  In 1917 she supported the miners against the Anaconda Copper Company.   Montana was largely controlled by that company and it retaliated.  She had been elected

in 1916 to an at-large seat with votes from the citizens of the entire state.  Anaconda had the state divided into separate congressional districts and gerrymandered Rankin’s district so that it was devastatingly a Democratic district. 

Realizing that she would lose are-election bid, she ran for the Senate instead.  She lost in the Republican primary.  Still determined she ran as a third-party candidate but was probably embarrassed at the results. 

In 1924, Rankin bought a small farm in Georgia where shelived a rustic existence without electricity or plumbing.  She did make frequent speeches around the country but was mostly unnoticed. 

In 1940 she again ran for Congress from Montana and was elected.  On December 7,1941 the Japanese attacked United States forces at Pearl Harbor.  Seventy-seven years ago, on December 8, 1941 President Roosevelt asked Congress for a Declaration of War against Japan.  The vote was 82 – 0 in the Senate.  In the House of Representatives, Jeannette was the lone dissenter, and the vote was 388 – 1.  The historic vote I referred to earlier in 1917 was her vote against declaring war in World War One.  She was the only person to have voted against war in 1917 and 1941.  She believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese attack.

Photo is courtesy of stlouis.cbslocal.com

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MY JOURNAL FROM 911

911memories

By Ron Munden

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, I wrote in my journal each day. These were my thoughts in 2001.

I wrote this story on the 5th anniversary of 9/11. I now look back at it each time the calendar approaches that date. At the time I wrote the journal entries I was living just outside of San Francisco.

As the 5th anniversary of 9/11 approached, I pulled my journal for 2001. It refreshed my memories about what I was thinking right after the attack. Here is what I read:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001
The Day the U.S. was Attack

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