Government Cover-ups – The FU-GO Balloon Bombs

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“What you don’t know, won’t hurt you.”

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” after the Japanese leveled a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, but while it is by far the best known, that day was not the only time a Japanese bomb took American lives on U.S. soil.

On May 5, 1945, a pregnant Sunday school teacher and five children from a small Oregon town called Bly were killed by a Japanese-built bomb that had floated across the ocean on a balloon.

The bombing campaign has been covered in recent years on film, radio, and by historian Ross Coen in his book “Fu-go” but never made major headlines at the time. As Coen notes, only a handful of Americans had any clue about the threat in 1945, even though the Japanese had quietly launched thousands of them.

The bombs were attached to paper-thin balloons propelled by the jet stream from Japan all the way to North America. Hundreds fell in various spots stretching from Alaska to Arizona, with the vast majority never causing any significant damage.

By the time the U.S. government caught wind of the campaign, they immediately sought to censor the news, professor Mike Sweeney explained to RadioLab, worried that Americans might panic. After a handful of findings inspired a few scattered reports from Newsweek and Time magazines, the U.S. Office of Censorship issued a press “blackout” — insisting that any news of the bombs had to be approved by the Army.

That is why Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five children had no reason to be concerned when they discovered one of the fallen undetonated bombs near Gearhart Mountain in Oregon. Although their exact reactions remain unknown, the bomb soon went off, killing all five kids and Mitchell. According to the History Channel, they were the only known American civilians killed in the continental United States during World War II.


Government Cover-ups

– The FU-GO Balloon Bombs

Bible Translator Handbook

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Missionaries Who Invented

Writing Systems to

Spread the Gospel

10. Ufilas and Gothic


Historians know that Ufilas was a preacher to the Goths in the 4th century, but we have little personal information about him.  Researchers believe that he was a descendent of Cappadocians captured by Goths and resettled in their territory.  The limits of the land of the Goths are still unknown as they were largely a nomadic people.  However, since Ufilas provided the tribe an alphabet, we can trace current Germanic languages back to their Gothic ancestor-tongue.

Prior to receiving this alphabet, the Goths, like many Northern European peoples, usedrunic writing.  Unfortunately, runic writing is ill suited for the propagation of complex ideas.  The Goths thus likely had difficulty grasping many of the doctrines taught by missionaries.

After the church consecrated Ufilas as bishop of the Goths, he wanted to reach both their hearts and minds.  Using his knowledge of Greek and Latin, he devised for them analphabet for their language.  Later, he translated most of the Bible into Gothic, although currently we only have the gospel accounts and a few other books of the Bible.  This Bible was Gothic’s first work of literature.  Interestingly, he served as an Arian (non-Trinitarian) bishop during this age of fierce theological debate about Christ’s nature, and this differing influence contributed to the Gothic (Germanic) peoples defining themselves apart from the Latin and Greek cultures.

9. Stephen of Perm and Old Permic


During the 14th century, when the Russian Orthodox Church sent Stephen to preach to the Komi people, he should’ve had it easy.  Although Stephen was ethnically Russian, he had been born among the Komi, who lived in the northeast of European Russia.  However, bad relations existed between the Komi and the Russian governments.  Culturally distinct from ethnic Russians, the Komi had to send tribute to the capitals Novgorod and Moscow.  They thus didn’t take kindly to Russian people or their customs.

Stephen believed that in order for the Komi people to accept Orthodox Christianity without resentment, they needed to retain aspects of their culture.  He decided to use the names of the local deities in order to introduce them to characters such as Almighty God, Jesus Christ, and Satan.  Furthermore, instead of forcing the people to use the Cyrillic alphabet of the Russians, he gave them an alphabet adapted from their mother tongue’s use of Tamga signs, but still modeled on Greek and Cyrillic characters.  Later, Stephen founded schools to teach the language and the new alphabet.  As a result, Old Permic lasted another three hundred years until Russian replaced it as the primary language of the Komi people.

8. Uyaquq and Yugtun


Most people familiar with inventors of writing systems have heard of Sequoyah, an illiterate Cherokee who invented an alphabet for his tribe.  Uyaquq, a late 19th century Alaskan Eskimo, wanted to accomplish the same thing as Sequoyah, as he wanted to spread the gospel more easily among his tribe.

Born into a family of shamans, Uyaquq converted to Christianity after his father had converted.  Although his father joined the Orthodox Church, he became a member of the Alaskan Monravian Church, and expressing his dedication to his new faith, he later became a missionary.  Impressed that English-speaking Monravians could quote scriptures using exactly the same words each time, he found out that the reason why was that they were reading texts.  He however failed to learn to read or write English properly.

After having a fantastic dream, he originally created a pictograph system, which is where images represented words.  Uyaquq was still not satisfied, and after coming in contact with missionary John Hinz, who encouraged him his linguistic work, he developed his system into an actual syllabary.  Later, another tribesman further developed the alphabet by creating different symbols, but he still used Uyaquq’s work as the base from which he worked.

7. James Evans and Objiwe and Cree


Prior to Uyaquq, there was another man impressed with the achievements of the self-taught Sequoyah.  This man—James Evans— came from an entirely different cultural background; he was an educated English-born Methodist, assigned to the Manitoba province of Canada, and he had the responsibility of teaching Native students, but not all of his students could read and write English.  He however knew multiple native languages, and he was particularly fluent in Objiwe.  He started to develop a complete writing script for the tribe, but he stopped when the students became confused as both English and his proposed Objiwe alphabet had the same script.  He thus decided to give them a more basic shorthand-based syllabary.

Learning from his previous mistakes in developing an alphabet, twenty years later, Evans tried his hand in giving the Cree people a writing system.  Because he was still having difficulty adapting a native language to the Latin alphabet, Evans decided to use the Objiwe syllbary that he had invented earlier to help with his work in Cree.  It was a success, and his first published work in Cree was a hymn, “Jesus My All to Heaven is Gone.”  His system was soon popular enough that nearly all the Cree community became literate.

6. Diedrich Hermann Westermann and Ewe


Very few Westerners have likely heard of language Ewe.  Even fewer probably know how to pronounce the word (Just a hint, it’s different from the word for a female sheep).  It’s a language in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Ghana, where the official language is English, and in Togo, where the official language is French. It is considered to be the national language or the language of the common people.

Westermann was man a devoted to the African people and to the study of African linguistics.  Sent in 1901 to the German colony Togo as a missionary, he developed a knack for learning multiple African languages, and he enjoyed discovering how they related linguistically.  For instance, he was the first person to group Bantu languages together and to see how they fit in the greater context of West African linguistics.  His primary work though was with Ewe, and he was able to compile multiple grammars and a Ewe dictionary.  Today, this dictionary (revised later in 1954) is still important in the field of African linguistics.

5. Samuel Ajayi Crowther and Yoruba


Samuel Crowther also served in Africa, and he led an even more eventful life than Westermann did.  Muslim slave traders first captured him when he was a thirteen-year old Yoruba boy, and during a significant period, slave traders bought and sold him five more times.  While being held on a slave ship one day, the British initiated an attack against the slave traders and liberated him.  Afterwards, he converted to Anglicanism under the influence of a missionary assigned to Africa—John Raban.

Later in England, the Anglican Church ordained him as the first African bishop.  Since he was an African native, they assigned him back to the continent, where he began his endeavors in ministering to his fellow Yoruba.  Earlier, Raban had written a few books about the Yoruba language, but there was still no Yoruba primer or dictionary available.  Crowther now knew what he must do.  Although there had been a previous translation of the Bible into Yoruba, many native speakers felt it was lacking.  Because Yoruba was comprised of many dialects, it was often hard for the speakers of the many dialects to understand each other.  Crowther thus decided to standardize those dialects into a single Yoruba language.  Having accomplished that, he then served as the chief contributor to a new translation of the Bible.  His efforts in uniting the Yoruba language led to the uniting of fragmented tribes into a single Yoruba people.

4. Alexandre de Rhodes and Quoc Ngu


Vietnamese wasn’t always written with a Latinized alphabet.  Prior to the 17th century, the Vietnamese used Chu-nom, which is a Chinese-based script.  The language still had many Chinese loanwords long after Vietnam developed its own national literature and made efforts to distinguish themselves from the more populous nation to the north.  If a person knows the history of Chinese-Vietnamese relations, he or she understands that the situation has rarely been convivial.  Vietnam was thus ready for a change in their written language.

In the early 17th century, Jesuit missionaries began arriving in Vietnam.  Before Alexandre de Rhodes arrived, there had been early efforts in compiling a Portuguese-Vietnamese dictionary. Rhodes however set the stage for the Vietnamese eventually adopting a new alphabet.  Rhodes was not even Portuguese, but French, and he used those previous Portuguese translation efforts to assist him in creating a Vietnamese dictionary.  He called the new Latin-based script Quoc Ngu.  Later efforts by missionaries in supporting the Quoc Ngu script helped convert many of the population to Catholicism, and by the 20th century, Chu-nom had all but fallen into disuse.

3. Sam Pollard and Miao


China was a large field for missionaries during the 19th century.  Not only is the landscape vast, but the country, particularly away from the population centers of the east, is composed of numerous tribes and languages.  One of these minority groups is the Miao or A-Hmao, who live in the Guizhou and Yunnan provinces to the south.

Before Pollard arrived in 1904, the A-Hmao used Chinese characters for their language—a language that they rarely wrote down.  When Pollard learned that the Han Chinese viewed the Miao people as barbarians, and saw their mistreatment firsthand, he sympathized with the ethnic group.  He realized that Chinese Bibles and hymnbooks would not help the A-Hmao.  He thus developed a Latinized set of symbols that would effectively represent the southeastern origin of the language.

It proved popular with the people; when the communists later wanted to replace Miao with a language system based on Mandarin, the tribe resisted.  Interestingly, the Miao writing system, despite its need for revisions over the years, is so embedded in their culture that some A-Hmao believe that their tribe invented the writing script, which then had become lost for years, but they then had “rediscovered” it with the help of Pollard.

2. James O. Fraser and Old Lisu/Fraser


James O. Fraser was another Englishman in the Yunnan province, but he served in it a few years later.  He directed his preaching toward the Lisu people—another minority situated along the Burma-Thai border.  During the initial years of missionary work, a fellow preacher, but of Karen descent, invented the basic form of the Old Lisu alphabet.  Although appreciating the work of his colleague, Fraser believed that there could be improvements in the system.

Fraser organized the system so that the writing went from left to right in horizontal lines.  Like some other Southeastern Asian languages, Lisu is tonal-based, so Fraser used punctuation indicate differing tones.  The alphabet itself consists of uppercase Latin characters.  In order to differentiate sounds, some of these characters are rotated 90 or 180 degrees.

Despite his depression and his uncertainty about his ministry near the end of his life, his efforts were largely successful as there are currently about 300,000 professed Lisu Christians in China, with unaccounted others in Thailand and Myanmar.  Even the Chinese government eventually recognized the writing system’s importance as they confirmed that it was the Lisu people’s official script in 1992.

1. Mesrop Mashtots and Armenian and Georgian


The history of Armenia is fascinating.  In 301 A.D., the small country became the first nation to declare itself Christian.  Situated between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia, it was constantly facing invasion by massive armies at the end of the 4th century.  It was during this chaotic climate that a bishop decided that Armenia needed a written alphabet.

With all the external strife occurring, why did Mesrop feel the need for an alphabet at the time?  Because the masses could not understand Greek or Syriac, the languages of the Armenian Church at the time, many of the people were falling away from the faith.  They needed a writing system in which the average person could read the scriptures.  Mesrop also believed that Armenia’s culture was about to be swallowed by foreign influences.  Many of the nobles were pro-Persian, while the Syriac-speaking clergy wanted to push the traditions of the Antioch Church on the Armenians.

Having received support for his initiative from the head of Armenian Church and given a mysterious set of letters composed in a defunct Armenian script from Bishop Daniel, Mesrop set out on his task.  Successful in creating a new alphabet, he went on a missionary tour of the Armenian countryside, and brought back many into the church.  Furthermore, although there is less information about the creation of the Georgian and Gargarean (dead North Caucasian) alphabets, historians credit him for inventing these alphabets due to the similarities between them and Armenian.

Bible Translator Handbook

Kumbhalgarh – The Great Wall of India?

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Kumbhalgarh Fort: the Great Wall of India?

Image result for kumbhalgarh fort
You’re probably familiar with China’s “great wall,” but did you know there’s another one in India?At almost 4,000 miles long, the Great Wall of China is so massive it can be seen from space. It also receives more than 10 million visitors a year. If you prefer smaller crowds and wandering off the beaten path, the Great Wall of India — the second longest in the world — might be for you.Even though it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Kumbhalgarh Fort in western India is virtually a secret to tourists and Indians alike. The 22-mile long wall, which protects a massive hilltop fort and houses 360 temples, took a century to build.

The hike to the fort is steep, but the views of the mountainous Rajasthan landscape are stunning — and something most people don’t see. There’s also a wildlife sanctuary for leopards, jackals and other animals near the fort.

Kumbhalgarh (wikipedia)

Kumbhalgarh Fort
Kumbhalmer, Kumbalgarh
The walls of the fort of Kumbhalgarh extend over 38 km, claimed to be the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China.

The walls of the fort of Kumbhalgarh extend over 38 km, claimed to be the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China.
Kumbhalgarh Fort is located in Rajasthan

Kumbhalgarh Fort
Kumbhalgarh Fort

Location in Rajasthan, India

Coordinates: 25.1475°N 73.5831°ECoordinates: 25.1475°N 73.5831°E
Country  India
State Rajasthan
District Rajsamand
Elevation 1,100 m (3,600 ft)
 • Official Hindi
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Vehicle registration RJ 30
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hill Forts of Rajasthan
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii
Reference 247
UNESCO region South Asia
Inscription history
Inscription 2013 (36th Session)

Kumbhalgarh Fort is a Mewar fortress in the Rajsamand Districtof Rajasthan state in western India. It is a World Heritage Siteincluded in Hill Forts of Rajasthan. Built during the course of the 15th century by Rana Kumbha and enlarged through the 19th century, Kumbhalgarh is also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, the great king and warrior of Mewar. Occupied until the late 19th century, the fort is now open to the public and is spectacularly lit for a few minutes each evening. Kumbalgarh is situated 82 km northwest of Udaipur by road. It is the most important fort inMewar after Chittaurgarh.

In 2013, at the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Kumbhalgarh Fort, along with 5 other forts of Rajasthan, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Siteunder the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan.


The massive gate of Kumbhalgarh fort, called the Ram Pol (Ram Gate). Built by Rana Kumbha in the 15th century on an unassailable hill, the fort fell only once, due to a shortage of water.

Built on a hilltop 1100 metres above sea level, the fort of Kumbhalgarh has perimeter walls that extend 36 kilometres, it is the second longest wall in the world.The frontal walls are fifteen feet thick. Kumbhalgarh has seven fortified gateways. There are over 360 temples within the fort, 300 ancient Jain and the restHindu. From the palace top, it is possible to see kilometers into theAravalli Range. The sand dunes of the Thar desert can be seen from the fort walls.

According to legend, in 1443, the Maharana of Kumbhalgarh, Rana Kumbha, was initially repeatedly unsuccessful in attempts to build the fort wall. A spiritual preceptor was consulted about the construction problems and advised the ruler that a voluntary human sacrifice would solve whatever was causing the impediment. The spiritual advisor advised building a temple where the head should fall and building the wall and the fort where the rest of his body lay. As can be expected, for some time no one volunteered, but one day, a pilgrim (some versions suggest a soldier, and some, that the spiritual preceptor and the pilgrim were one and the same) volunteered and was ritually decapitated. Today the main gate of the fortress, Hanuman Pol, contains a shrine and a temple to commemorate the great sacrifice.

According to popular folklore, Maharana Kumbha used to burn massive lamps that consumed fifty kilograms ofghee and a hundred kilograms of cotton to provide light for the farmers who worked during the nights in the valley.

Its wall is the second largest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China and is known as the Great Wall of India.

Kumbhalgarh – The Great Wall -of India?

The Beatles – Chart Toppers for Teeny Boppers

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The Beatles Snag the Top 5 Spots

on the Billboard Hot 100


On April 4, 1964, the Beatles, also known as “the Fab Four” or “the Mop Tops,” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart with songs in each of the top 5 positions!   This incredible display of rock music domination is a feat that had never matched before or even since for that matter.   Defying all precedence, the band also had an additional 7 hits in lower positions on the chart for a total of 12 top 100 hits at one time!  Not even Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself, ever achieved this.

The facts listed above should give an indication to everyone too young to remember “Beatlemania” what it was all about.

In the few short years the Beatles were active in the U.S. market (1964-1970), they managed to sell more records than any other band in history and to win 10 Grammys along the way.  With 20 #1 hits, they remain atop the record industry.  Strangely, initially Capitol Records had inexplicably refused to market them and hindered U.S. release of their European hits for over a year!

Overall, world-wide sales of Beatles recordings number nearly or perhaps even over 1 billion.  Numerous organizations have declared them the greatest band of all time, and their music is still heard today with greater frequency than that of any of their contemporaries.  Even as individual artists, John, Paul, George and Ringo went on to considerable success.
Oh, and the 5 records that topped the charts?  They were, in descending order, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”

Needless to say, you can find the Beatles safely inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, right where they belong.

The Beatles – Chart Toppers for Teeny Boppers

WABAC to the Gasoline Engine

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?


“Let’s go back to 1885 Germany and check out the 1st gasoline engine, Sherman My Boy.”

 Daimler Patents the Gasoline Engine


Fill ‘er up…

On April 3, 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler had his internal combustion engine that was fueled by gasoline patented, paving the way for the development of what would become the main type of automobile engine.

Where is the hood?

Only 5 years later, fellow German Rudolf Diesel patented the rugged engine that bears his name, and the second most prevalent automobile engine was born.

Even before Daimler and Diesel, other Germans had done pioneering work in regard to engines. Siegfried Marcus patented his version of the internal combustion engine in 1864 and later patented a type of magneto used in all subsequent gasoline engines.  Nikolaus Otto patented his “Otto Engine” in 1876, the first practical 4-stroke-cycle engine.  Karl Benz was granted a patent for his two-stroke engine in 1879 and, in 1886, received the first patent for an automobile.  And later, in 1929, Felix Wankel patented his first rotary engine and, in the 1950s, developed it into a useful engine, lighter, smoother and more powerful than conventional engines.  Unfortunately, emissions standards forced changes to the Wankel or rotary engine and kept it from taking a larger chunk of the automobile market.

Although Germans did not invent fuel injection, German engineers certainly developed it further for their aircraft engines during World War II and continued the trend with gasoline-driven cars after the war.

With premier manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz (Daimler-Benz), Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW (For some strange reason, I have run into many folks who think this abbreviation stands for “British Motor Works.”  It does not.  It stands for Bavarian Motor Works or, of course, the German equivalent.), German cars and engineering are generally the most respected and desired in the world.  Opel, another German automaker, has been in business since 1862 and building cars since 1899.  Today it is a subsidiary of General Motors and is designing and building cars that are sold under other GM nameplates such as Buick, Holden and Vauxhall.  The developer of high-speed highways (the autobahn), Germany needs cars capable of safely tripping along at high speeds with the handling to complement the power, and that is exactly what they produce.

Other countries also make powerful cars, and some of these cars even handle fairly well, but no other country makes cars with the panache of the German automakers.  You could buy a fancy Italian sports car for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but will it be as reliable as a Porsche?  Will it be as safe in an accident as a Mercedes?

Ok, I admit I “buy American”!

WABAC to the Gasoline Engine

Weather Winds of Change – WIF Historical Switcharoos

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When Weather Changes

the Course of History

Everyday weather has a tremendous impact on day to day life. While it generally tends to just slow down our commutes or affect our picnic plans, extreme weather can flip the tides of a war or bring a civilization to its knees. Mother Nature doesn’t take sides, and the world as we know it would look awfully different if not for her interventions.

10. The Kamikazes


The divine winds we’re talking about here aren’t the suicide pilots of WWII, but the powerful monsoons that shook Japan’s coast in the 13th century. Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, had taken the throne of the Mongol Empire, defeated southern China and united the country under the newly formed Yuan Dynasty. He then set his sights on the islands of Japan.

After several unanswered attempts to persuade the Japanese Emperor to surrender, Kublai amassed a large force and attacked. In 1274 he began his offensive with 40,000 men and 900 ships. Leaving the Korean peninsula, they arrived at the southern tip of the island of Kyushu and came face to face with 10,000 samurai. The Japanese bushido style of combat was utterly unsuited to fighting the Mongols, but a powerful typhoon struck the coast and destroyed the attackers’ fleet and most of the army.

Seven years later, Kublai Khan brought together an even larger force of 140,000 soldiers and 4400 vessels to take the islands once and for all. Mother Nature intervened again,wrecking all but a couple of hundred ships in a furious storm. The survivors were little match for the better prepared Japanese.

9. The Battle for Long Island


During the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington was leading 19,000 troops in the defense of New York City in the summer of 1776. After the British left Boston in March, they arrived at Staten Island and made their headquarters there in July. Over the following weeks their numbers bolstered to up to 40,000.

Not sure where they would attack first, Washington left half his forces in lower Manhattan and moved the rest to Brooklyn and Guam Heights on Long Island. On the 22nd of August, the British landed in Gravesend Bay. Thanks to loyalist informants, the attackers discovered an unprotected path through the Guam Heights that would take them right into the heart of the American forces. On the 27th, the British charged the defenders, who quickly realized their dire situation and began their retreat to Brooklyn.

Under the cover of darkness and with the help of some locals, the Americans managed to slip away unnoticed to Manhattan via the East River. The British, stationed only a few hundred yards away, were totally unaware because of a dense fog which settled on the bay in the early hours of that morning. Eyewitness accounts mention George Washington being among the last to retreat. If it wasn’t for that mist, chances are that General Washington would have been captured and the war would have taken a very different turn.

8. The Mayan Decline


The Mayan civilization was one of the most prominent Mesoamerican cultures. Existing as early as 1800 BC, they reached their peak around 800 AD. During this time they built over 40 cities and mastered mathematics, astronomy and calendar keeping. They also practiced agriculture, but in a slash-and-burn style that cultivated mostly corn, beans and squash.

After around 900 AD, little evidence of other advancements exist and most oftheir cities were abandoned. Historians are still unsure what happened, with some blaming civil unrest or warfare. More recent evidence points to long periods of drought brought on by heavy deforestation — since most of the Yucatan peninsula relied heavily on rain for its water supply, a drought can spell disaster and bring even the mighty Maya to their knees.

7. Attempts to Invade Russia


We think by now the Russians are accustomed to the idea that pretty much no one can invade their country. With the exception of the Mongols, who successfully conquered Russia in the beginning of the 13th century, no other force was able to do so thanks to the extremely harsh winters the region experiences almost every year.

The first to try was King Charles XII of Sweden in the winter of 1708-9 during “the Great Northern War.” He led a sizable force from Saxony to conquer Moscow, but was stopped in his tracks because of the losses sustained during one of the coldest winters in modern European history.

The same thing happened to Napoleon in 1812. Of his 600,000 men only about 100,000 managed to return to France, while the rest died of starvation or exposure to the elements. This defeat, inflicted in part by the Russians and in part by Mother Nature herself, changed the course of history.

Adolf Hitler apparently forgot the lessons taught by the aforementioned leaders,since he made the same mistake. In the winter of 1941, German forces trying to conquer Moscow and Stalingrad were all but wiped out by the bitter cold and constant attacks from the Soviets. This marked the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.

6. Donora Smog Disaster


In the late days of October 1948, disaster struck the town of Donora,Pennsylvania. A weather phenomenon known as “air inversion” hit the town due to a flux of cold air coming from the west. Located within a valley and surrounded by peaks towering some 400 feet, Donora offered the perfect conditions for an inversion.

The phenomenon on its own isn’t dangerous. It blocks warm air close to the ground, while cold air flows above and a thick mist is generated. But mixing this trapped warm air with pollutants from a zinc smelting plant, steel mills, a sulphuric acid plant, coal burning steam locomotives and river boats isdangerous. 20 people died and another 6000 became ill because the pollutants couldn’t escape into the upper atmosphere. The Donorans were unknowingly breathing in large amounts of sulfur dioxide, soluble sulphants and fluorides.

The events led to a settlement of $250,000 for the victims’ families and the steel mill closing nine years later. The companies that owned the plants never assumed responsibility for the disaster, claiming it was “an act of God.” Nevertheless, it sparked a nationwide response, leading to the enactment of theClean Air Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

5. Cold Weather and Witch Hunts


All throughout the Middle Ages, people were torturing and burning women at the stake in the belief that they were witches. Women and girls were accused when something out of the ordinary happened in a village, and accusations of witchcraft were also a good way to address personal disputes and rivalries.

Another possible motive involves the weather. Witch hunts took place in part between the 15th and 18th centuries, during which the sun was covered with multiple sun spots that created a time of colder weather known as a “little ice age.Young girls accused of controlling the weather provided the perfect scapegoats for crop failures. This could be a coincidence, but the pattern repeated itself during the Salem witch hunts, when another cold spell lasted from 1680 to 1730. Some diaries and sermons dating from that period offer further evidence that the weather was the main cause for the prosecutions. And it’s repeating itself again in Tanzania, when women are killed for witchcraft after too much or too little rain.

4. The Hindenburg


While it’s been long believed that the Hindenburg disaster was the cause of technical malfunction caused by an engine spark which ignited the highly flammable and possibly leaking hydrogen inside the zeppelin, some recent evidence may have proven otherwise. Leaving Germany, the Hindenburg began a three day journey towards New Jersey. After reaching its destination on May 6, 1937, the airship suddenly caught fire and plunged to the ground just when it was beginning landing operations. After just a couple of minutes and 36 casualties, the era of the blimp was over.

Other possible theories involve a lightning strike and even a saboteur’s bomb trying to destabilize the Nazi regime, but recent findings suggest that a storm theHindenburg flew past on its way to the States is to blame. When it came across this storm, the airship was charged with static electricity. When it started to land it was grounded, which produced a spark that ignited the excess hydrogen built up in the back of the ship.

3. The Evacuation of Dunkirk


During the early stages of World War II, when Axis forces were winning battle after battle on all fronts, a force of about 330,000 Allied soldiers found themselves trapped on the beaches of the English Channel near the town of Dunkirk. Bearing down on them were German forces looking to finish off the stranded French and British troops.

To make the situation even bleaker, an effective rescue was next to impossible since the German Air Force was far bigger than the Royal Air Force, meaning rescue ships would have simply been blown out of the water. Then, as Nazi tanks were only 20 miles away, what Winston Churchill called a “miracle of deliverance” appeared as if from nowhere. A freak storm cloud and heavy rain kept the German planes grounded, while to aid the Allies further Mother Nature brought along heavy mist and some of the calmest waters the English Channel had ever seen.

From May 26 to June 4, 1940, Operation Dynamo saw everyone from the military to locals with boats capable of traversing the Channel evacuate soldiers. As the last men were ferried to safety the weather cleared, leaving the Germans alone on the beach and the Allies alive to fight another day.

2. The Challenger Space Shuttle


73 seconds into her flight, the Challenger came apart on the morning of January 28, 1986. The initial launch date was set for the 22nd, but bad weather and technical difficulties pushed the date to the 28th. What at first baffled engineers and technicians working on the mission became clear when they saw the video recordings.

As the shuttle was taking off, hot gas was leaking due to a faulty O-ring made of rubber that was designed to keep a joint in the booster rocket sealed. The ring failed because of the low temperatures Florida was experiencing that morning. A recommendation was written to not launch in temperatures below 53 F, but the suggestion was ignored. January 28, 1986 is still the record holder for the lowest temperature in the area, with 26 degrees compared to an average of 50.

1. The French Revolution


The French Revolution was largely an economic and food related uprising. France, already burdened by the aid they offered the Americans in the Revolutionary War, was experiencing a series of droughts and other weather that lowered food production significantly.

The previously mentioned little ice age had more severe effects during the second half of the century, and together with an eight month volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1783 and some major temperature fluctuations brought on by a major El Nino event made crop yields plummet. This led to increased prices in food that French citizens couldn’t afford. A series of hailstorms that destroyed crops in 1788 made the situation even worse for the hungry populace, and the Revolution soon followed.

Weather Winds of Change

– WIF Historical Switcharoos

Radio Drama Remix

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Carl Amari to host ‘WGN Radio Theatre’

Carl Amari

A new weekly showcase for classic programs from radio’s golden age, hosted by veteran Chicago broadcaster Carl Amari, is coming to Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720.

Starting April 12, “The WGN Radio Theatre with Carl Amari” will follow “After Hours with Rick Kogan” and air from 11 p.m. Sundays to 2 a.m. Mondays. The new addition replaces the weekend show hosted by Patti Vasquez, who moves up to full-time on weekdays.

In addition to featuring classic radio drama and comedy, Amari will present live trivia and occasional newly produced content that celebrates “theater of the mind,” according to Todd Manley, vice president of programming and content at WGN.

WGN Radio Theatre

It’s a comeback of sorts for the 51-year-old host, producer and syndicator, who often appeared as a guest with legendary WGN late-night host Eddie Schwartz. Amari later hosted a radio adaptation of “The Twilight Zone” drama series that aired at midnight Saturdays on WGN.

From modest beginnings in the basement studio of his family’s Schiller Park home, Amari built an empire on old-time radio. His credits included creating and syndicating such series as “When Radio Was,” “Radio Movie Classics” and “Radio Super Heroes.” He sold his first company, Radio Spirits Inc., to Audio Book Club in 1998 for $12 million.

“I’ve been listening to WGN radio for over 40 years,” Amari said Wednesday. “As a fledgling broadcaster in my early 20s, ‘Chicago Eddie’ Schwartz often had me on his show, where I’d present classic radio episodes of ‘The Shadow,’ ‘Jack Benny,’ ‘Suspense,’ ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Inner Sanctum’ and many more.

“Sitting across from Eddie and watching him skillfully work the broadcast board while taking calls and interviewing guests, I dreamed that one day I might have my own show on WGN radio where I could present classics from the golden age of radio.  I couldn’t be more thrilled with this opportunity and I can’t wait to begin.”

1930–1960s: Widespread popularity

Perhaps America’s most famous radio drama broadcast is Orson WellesThe War of the Worlds, a 1938 version of the H. G. Wells novel, which convinced large numbers of listeners that an actual invasion from Mars was taking place. By the late 1930s, radio drama was widely popular in the United States (and also in other parts of the world). There were dozens of programs in many different genres, from mysteries and thrillers, to soap operas and comedies. Among American playwrights, screenwriters and novelists who got their start in radio drama are Rod Serling and Irwin Shaw.

 Rod Serling

Radio program written and performed inPhoenix, Arizona by children of Junior Artists Club (Federal Arts Program, 1935).

In Britain, however, during the 1930s BBC programming, tended to be more high brow, including the works of Shakespeare, Classical Greek drama, as well as the works of major modern playwrights, such as Checkov, Ibsen, Strindberg, and so forth. Novels and short stories were also frequently dramatised. In addition the plays of contemporary writers and original plays were produced, with, for example, a broadcast of T. S. Eliot’s famous verse play Murder in the Cathedral in 1936. By 1930 the BBC was producing “twice as many plays as London’s West End” and were producing over 400 plays a year by the mid-1940s.

Producers of radio drama soon became aware that adapting stage plays for radio did not always work, and that there was a need for plays that were specifically written for radio, and which recognized its potential as a distinct, and different medium, from the theatre. George Bernard Shaw’s plays, for example, were seen as readily adaptable.However, In a lead article in the BBC literary journal The Listener, of 14 August 1929, which discussed the broadcasting of twelve great plays, it was suggested that while the theatrical literature of the past should not be neglected the future lay mainly with plays written specifically for the microphone.

Initially the BBC resisted American-style ‘soap opera’, but eventually highly popular serials, like Dick Barton, Special Agent (1946–51), Mrs Dale’s Diary (1948–69) and The Archers (1950- ), were produced. The Archers is still running (July 2014), and is the world’s longest-running soap opera with a total of over 17,400 episodes.There had been some earlier serialized drama including, the six episode The Shadow of the Swastika (1939),Dorothy L. Sayers‘s The Man Born To Be King, in twelve episodes (1941), and Front Line Family (1941–48), which was broadcast to America as part of the effort to encourage the USA to enter the war. The show’s storylines depicted the trials and tribulations of a British family, the Robinsons, living through the war. This featured plots about rationing, family members missing in action and the Blitz. After the war in 1946 it was moved to the BBC’s Light Programme.

The BBC continued producing various kinds of drama, including docu-drama throughout World War II and amongst the writers they employed was the novelist James Hanley and poet Louis MacNeice, who in 1941 became an employee of the BBC. MacNeice’s work for the BBC initially involved writing and producing radio programmes intended to build support for the USA, and later Russia through cultural programmes emphasising links between the countries rather than outright propaganda. By the end of the war MacNeice had written well over sixty scripts for the BBC, including Christopher Columbus (1942), which starred Laurence Olivier, The Dark Tower (1946), and a six-part radio adaptation of Goethe‘s Faust (1949).

Following World War II the BBC reorganized its radio provision, introducing two new channels to supplement theBBC Home Service (itself the result of the fusion in September 1939 of the pre-war National and regional Programmes). These were the BBC Light Programme (dating from 29 July 1945 and a direct successor to the wartime General Forces Programme) and the BBC Third Programme (launched on 29 September 1946).

The Light Programme, while principally devoted to light entertainment and music, carried a fair share of drama, both single plays (generally, as the name of the station indicated, of a lighter nature) and serials. The Third, destined to become one of the leading cultural and intellectual forces in post-war Britain, specialized in heavier drama (as well as the serious music, talks, and other features which made up its content): long-form productions of both classical and modern/experimental dramatic works sometimes occupied the major part of its output on any given evening. The Home Service, meanwhile, continued to broadcast more “middle-brow” drama (one-off plays and serializations) on a daily basis.

The high-water mark for BBC radio drama was the 1950s and 1960s, and during this period many major British playwrights either effectively began their careers with the BBC, or had works adapted for radio. Most of playwrightCaryl Churchill‘s early experiences with professional drama production were as a radio playwright and, starting in 1962 with The Ants, there were nine productions with BBC radio drama up until 1973 when her stage work began to be recognised at the Royal Court TheatreJoe Orton‘s dramatic debut in 1963 was the radio play The Ruffian on the Stair, which was broadcast on 31 August 1964.

Tom Stoppard‘s “first professional production was in the fifteen-minute Just Before Midnight programme on BBC Radio, which showcased new dramatists”. John Mortimer made his radio debut as a dramatist in 1955, with his adaptation of his own novel Like Men Betrayed for the BBC Light Programme. However, he made his debut as an original playwright with The Dock Brief, starring Michael Hordern as a hapless barrister, first broadcast in 1957 onBBC Radio‘s Third Programme, later televised with the same cast, and subsequently presented in a double bill with What Shall We Tell Caroline? at the Lyric Hammersmith in April 1958, before transferring to the Garrick Theatre. Mortimer is most famous for Rumpole of the Bailey a British television series which starred Leo McKernas Horace Rumpole, an aging London barrister who defends any and all clients. It has been spun off into a series of short stories, novels, and radio programmes.

Giles Cooper was a pioneer in writing for radio, becoming prolific in both radio and television drama. His early successes included radio dramatisations of Charles Dickens‘s Oliver Twist, William Golding‘s Lord of the Fliesand John Wyndham‘s classic science fiction novel Day of the Triffids. He was also successful in the theatre. The first of his radio plays to make his reputation was Mathry Beacon (1956), which is about a small detachment of men and women still guarding a Top Secret “missile deflector” somewhere in Wales, years after the war has ended. Bill Naughton‘s rado play Alfie Elkins and his Little Life (1962) was first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 7 January 1962. In it Alfie, “[w]ith sublime amorality… swaggers and philosophises his way through” life. The action spans about two decades, from the beginning of World War II to the late 1950s. In 1964, Bill Naughton turned it into a stage play which was put on at London’s Mermaid Theatre. Later, he wrote the screenplay for a film version, “Alfie“, which starred Michael Caine.

Other notable radio dramatists included Henry Reed, Brendan Behan, Rhys Adrian, Alan Plater; Anthony Minghella, Alan Bleasdale and novelist Angela Carter. Novelist Susan Hill also wrote for BBC radio, from the early 1970s. Henry Reed was especially successful with the Hilda Tablet plays. Irish playwright Brendan Behan, author of The Quare Fellow (1954), was commissioned by the BBC to write a radio play The Big House (1956); prior to this he had written two plays Moving Outand A Garden Party for Irish radio.

Among the most famous works created for radio, are Dylan Thomas‘s Under Milk Wood (1954), Samuel Beckett‘sAll That Fall (1957), Harold Pinter‘s A Slight Ache (1959) and Robert Bolt‘s A Man for All Seasons (1954).[43]Samuel Beckett wrote a number of short radio plays in the 1950s and 1960s, and later for television. Beckett’s radio play Embers was first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 24 June 1959, and won the RAI prize at the Prix Italia awards later that year.[44]

Robert Bolt‘s writing career began with scripts for Children’s HourA Man for All Seasons was subsequently produced on television in 1957. Then in 1960 there was a highly successful stage production in London’s West End and on New York’s Broadway from late 1961. In addition there have been two film versions: in 1966 starringPaul Scofield and 1988 for television starring Charlton Heston.

While Alan Ayckbourn did not write for radio many of his stage plays were subsequently adapted for radio. Other significant adaptations included, dramatised readings of poet David Jones‘s In Parenthesis in 1946, and The Anathemata in 1953, for the BBC Third Programme, and novelist Wyndham Lewis‘s The Human Age (1955).Among contemporary novels that were dramatised was Stan Barstow‘s A Kind of Loving (1960) in 1964; there had been a film in 1962.

In Australia, as in most other developed countries, from the early years of the medium almost every radio network and station featured drama, serials and soap operas as staples of their programming and during the so-called “Golden Years” of radio, these were hugely popular. Many Australian serials and soapies were copies of American originals (e.g. the popular soap Portia Faces Life or the adventure series “Superman“, which featured future Australian TV star Leonard Teale in the title role), although these were typically locally produced and performed live to air, since the technology of the time did not permit high-quality pre-recording or duplication of programs for import or export.

In this period radio drama, serials and soap operas provided a fertile training ground and a steady source of employment for many actors, and this was particularly important because at this time the Australian theatre scene was in its infancy and opportunities were very limited. Many who trained in this medium (such as Peter Finch) subsequently became prominent both in Australia and overseas.

It has been noted that the producers of the popular 1960s Gerry Anderson TV series Thunderbirds were greatly impressed by the versatility of UK-based Australian actor Ray Barrett, who voiced many roles in Anderson’s TV productions. Thanks to his early experience on Australian live radio (where he often played English and American roles), Barrett was considered better than his English counterparts at providing a convincing “transatlantic” accent, and he could perform a wide range of character voices; he also impressed the Anderson team with his ability to quickly and easily switch from one voice/accent to another without the sound engineers having to stop the recording.

The effect of the introduction of television there in the late 1950s had the devastating same effect as it did in the USA and many other markets, and by the early 1960s Australian commercial radio had totally abandoned radio drama and related programming (including soapies, variety and comedy) in favour of music-based formats (such as Top 40) or talkback, and the once-flourishing Australia radio production industry vanished within a few years. One of the few companies to survive was the Melbourne-based Crawford Productions, which was able to make the successful transition into TV production.

Despite the complete abandonment of drama and related programming by the commercial radio sector, the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) maintained a long history of producing radio drama. One of its most famous and popular series was the daily 15-minute afternoon soap opera Blue Hills, which was written for its entire production history by dramatist Gwen Meredith. It featured many well-known Australian actresses and actors, ran continuously for 27 years, from 28 February 1949 to 30 September 1976, with a total of 5,795 episodes broadcast, and was at one time the world’s longest-running radio serial. It was preceded by an earlier Meredith serial The Lawsons, which featured many of the same themes and characters and itself ran for 1299 episodes.

In the 1960s and later, the ABC continued to produce many original Australian radio dramas, as well as works adapted from other media. In recent years original radio dramas and adapted works were commissioned from local dramatists and produced for the ABC’s Radio National network program Airplay, which ran from the late 1990s until early 2013. In late 2012 ABC management imposed budget cuts and axed a number of long-running arts programs, thereby ending the national broadcaster’s decades-long history of producing radio drama (as well as its equally long history of providing daily serialised book readings).

Radio Drama Remix