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Did you know German General Erwin Rommel chose suicide over disgrace?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

General Rommel was also known as the Desert Fox for his actions in North Africa (Egypt and Libya) between 1941-1943. He is regarded as one the greatest military commanders of all time and his reputation is bolstered by the fact he waged a “clean” war. (“Clean” is used because of his alleged apolitical attitude towards Nazism and chivalrous nature of the North African campaign)

Rommel was highly decorated in World War I and wrote a book on military tactics just before World War II began. This resulted in him being a national hero in the eyes of the German public.

A plot which implicated Rommel in the assassination of Hitler came to light in July of 1944. Rather than execute him publicly Hitler gave him an ultimatum, fearing the public backlash. Rommel was forced to choose between committing suicide or facing a trial which would result in his disgrace, execution, and could potentially affect his family. Rommel chose suicide and died from a cyanide pill in October 1944. 

Did you know the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 involved almost half the US Army?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

The Louisiana Maneuvers were a series of Army exercises designed to prepare Army officials for large scale engagements during World Ward II. General George C. Marshall said “I want the mistakes made down in Louisiana, not over in Europe.”

At the time, the Louisiana Maneuvers were the largest ever conducted on American soil and involved nearly five hundred thousand men.

Among the Army officers who participated in these exercises were future President Dwight Eisenhower and future General George Patton.

The men were divided into two equal armies, red and blue, and the commanding officers were given directions during two separate phases of the exercise. In the first phase both red and blue were given offensive missions: to take control of the river separating the two armies. In the second phase the red army was tasked with defending Shreveport while the blue army was tasked with seizing the city. The blue Armored Division, led by Patton, made a wide sweep from the west and was able to flank the city and defeat the red army. This action led to the emergence of Patton as one of the Army’s rising stars.

Did you know American General Sheridan renamed his war horse because of a poem?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

The horse’s original named was Rienzi and served with Sheridan during the Civil War. 

Phillip Sheridan, nicknamed “Little Phil” because of his height, rode the horse through the majority of the war. In 1864 Sheridan rode Rienzi from Winchester, Virginia to Cedar Creek, Virginia to stop a surprise attack by the Confederates. This victory prompted poet Thomas Buchanan Read to write Sheridan’s Ride, a poem which made Little Phil famous. The poem’s refrain “Winchester, twenty miles away,” is the reason Rienzi was renamed Winchester.

Little Phil would go on to become the Army’s commanding General in the 1880’s. On his desk he kept a horseshoe from Winchester, his lucky charm, which he used as a paperweight. Winchester’s body is on display at the Museum of American History but the horseshoe has gone missing.

Did you know the Obama family visited the same castle where members of Black Bart’s crew were sentenced to death?

Marcos Hernandez Uncategorized

The Cape Coast Castle in Cape Coast, Ghana has been standing for centuries. Originally built as a trading post, the castle gained prominence during the slave trade and became a hub of activity for European businessmen.

The stark white living quarters above ground stand over dark dungeons designed to hold up to one thousand slaves. These dungeons were the last thing the slaves saw in Africa before boarding ships bound for the Americas.

The Obama family visited Cape Coast Castle in 2009 after Michelle had traced her lineage to a 6 year old slave on a South Carolina plantation. The “country” her ancestor came from is uncertain but since the castle was such a large part of the slave trade it is a likely place of origin.

Centuries earlier, after Black Bart, the most succesful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, died in a battle with the British Royal navy, the rest of his crew were taken to Cape Coast Castle and 54 of them were sentenced to death. The amazing thing about the battle in which Black Bart died is that he was only one of three men killed. His success as a pirate was well-known and some locals thought him invincible so his death came as a shock. 

Did you know a branch of philosophy tries to analyze the underlying structure of speech?

Marcos Hernandez Conversations with Tyler, Rebecca Kukla

Speech Act Theory is the study of not only the transfer of information through spoken words but also associated actions.

Examples of the theory are assertions and imperatives. Assertions are the direct transfer of information while an imperative tries to issue an obligation for action, to do something. An example of an assertion would be “is there salt?” implying the listener to provide salt.

In an interview, philosopher Rebecca Kukla uses Speech Act Theory to jusitfy the use of profanity in every day speech. “You can take the curse words out, but then you have lessened the performative and pragmatic power of our language.”

An unique example of an imperative (issuing obligation) is something called a performative, when the spoken word accomplishes the task. For example, “I nominate __ for President.” The statement completes the action as the statement is spoken. 

Did you know a town in Ehiopia is home to eleven churches carved from solid rock?

Marcos Hernandez Uncategorized

Called monolithic churches, all eleven are located in a town called Lalibela.

The largest and most popular church is the Church of Saint George. The roof of the church is level with the surrounding ground. Workers had to cut down through one large piece of rock in order to create the outer structure then carve out windows and the massive interior. Steps are carved into the surrounding ground in order to get to the entrance of the church, the full height of the buliding below ground level.

Lalibela is named after Zagwe king Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who reigned from 1181-1221. There is dispute among scholars that construction of all eleven churches could have been completed before Lalibela’s reign ended and the belief is that construction continued after his death.

The eleven churches were named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978.

Did you know Puerto Rican pro-independence activists tried to assassinate President Harry Truman?

Marcos Hernandez Truman by David McCullough

The incident occurred in 1950. Truman was living at Blair House, across the street from the White House, while the White House was undergoing renovations. 

Truman was upstairs asleep when the two attackers approached the temporary living quarters. One of the men, Collazo, shot a Secret Service agent, the noise of which prompted the rest of the men assigned to protect Truman to rush outside and kill Collazo on the entrance steps. 

Meanwhile the other attacker, Torresola, went to a guard booth in the corner. He shot and mortally wounded officer Leslie Coffelt after taking the guard by surprise. Torresola then made his way to his partner at the entrance to Blair House.

Truman woke up and looked out the window to see what the commotion was all about. He was ordered to get away from the window. 

At this point an injured Coffelt, without much longer to live, propped himself against the guard booth and shot Torresola above the ear from thirty feet away.

Coffelt died within hours from the injuries he sustained. He is the only secret Service member to be killed while defending a President.

Did you know the last third party candidate to win a state in the U.S. presidential election was George Wallace in 1968?

Marcos Hernandez Truman by David McCullough

George Wallace ran for president as part of the American Independent Party and won 5 states, all in the south. (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia)

The presidential election of 1968 was eventually won by Republican Richard Nixon.

In the 1948 presidential election, the election which saw Harry Truman elected president despite his predicted defeat, Strom Thurmond won 4 states as a member of the States’ Rights Democratic Party (known as the Dixiecrats). All 4 of these states were in the south as well. (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina)

Did you know President Truman ended a railroad workers strike by threatening to draft them into the army?

Marcos Hernandez Truman by David McCullough

Soon after Japan surrendered in 1945, workers from petroleum, coal, lumber, truck drivers, and machinists all went on strike. Labor unions in the United States had agreed not to strike while the country was in the midst of WWII. 

Coal miners, led by labor giant John L. Lewis, went on strike in May 1946 followed soon by railroad workers. 

The railroad strike hit the country hard. Travelers were stranded and the transport of food immediately stopped. 

President Truman couldn’t believe the abrupt change in attitude by the members of his country. Less than a year before, the entire nation was working together to win the war and he felt they were being selfish with their demands for higher wages and better working conditions so soon. 

The railroad workers rejected the President’s offer of an 18 cent wage increase on the basis that a change in working conditions was also required.

In response, President Truman ordered the US Army to take control of the railroads in order to prevent the country from grinding to a halt. Then, in order to get the railroads running again, he was going to ask Congress for the power to draft the strikers into the Army. 

With the threat of the draft fast appraoching, Lewis and the unions accepted the President’s terms at the last minute. President Truman was informed of the acceptance of the settlement during his speech to Congress. “Word has just been received that the rail strike has been settled on terms proposed by the President.”

Did you know the Nazi’s hid stolen art in salt mines during World Ward II?

Marcos Hernandez Truman by David McCullough

The recovered artifacts included works by Michelangelo and Manet.

The Nazi’s mainly used two salt mines, the Altaussee and the Merkers, to stash not only their huge stores of stolen art but also large amounts of precious metal. Gold bullion, both domestic and foreign gold currencies, silver bars and coins, and platinum were all recovered by allied forces marching through Europe.

The men responsible for collecting, indentifying, and cataloguing these treasure troves were known as “The Monuments Men.” The men and women of this group were made up of historians and museum personnel, some of which went on to work at the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

After the war, President Truman would go to the National Gallery of art to view artwork recoverd by Americans in the salt mine whenever he needed step away from the constant demands of his position.