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Did you know John F. Kennedy was the recipient of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography?

Marcos Hernandez An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek

The Pulitzer Prize is generally regarded as the most prestigious prize in journalism. There are currently 21 categories which are awarded the Pulitzer, ranging from photography to music. 

There were 14 Pulitzers awarded in 1957, less categories than the current number because of the introducton of new categories for online content. That year, the Pulitzer for biography was awarded to John F. Kennedy, at the time a Massachusetts Senator. His work, Profiles in Courage, is a series of short biographies about eight Senators who did what they though was right despite suffering criticism and losses of popularity as a result.  

The list of men profiled in the biography include John Quincy Adams, Sam Houston, and Robert Taft (son of former President William Taft).

There were rumors about the actual authorship of the biographies. ABC reported that a ghostwriter, Kennedy’s speechwriter Ted Sorensen, actually wrote the entirety of the book but when Kennedy’s lawyers showed up at ABC the network issued a retraction and an apology. 

 The Kennedy Library is home to Kennedy’s handwritten notes, showing his contribution to the work. It is now accepted that Kennedy and Sorensen co-wrote Profiles in Courage.

Did you know there was a secret room built on the rock of Gibraltar for men to stay voluntarily confined for up to seven years?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Operation Tracer was a World War II Allied military operation designed as a backup plan in case Gibraltar fell into Axis hands. 

A room was built as an observation post from which enemy movement could be reported to the United Kingdom. The room included views of both the Bay of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea. 

The volunteers included an executive officer, two physicians, and three wireless operators. The original plan was for a one year stay but provisions for up to seven were provided for the men. 

In August 1943, once it was evident there would be no need for the Operation, the secret room was blocked off and the provisions were removed.

A documentary about the excavation of the secret room, released in 2012, is called Operation Tracer – Stay Behind Cave

Did you know President Eisenhower hit a hole in one just months before he was confined to hospital?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

To say President Eisenhower was obsessed with golf would be an understatement. He played close to 800 rounds while in office, an average of 100 rounds per year since he served two terms. His prolific golfing helped turn the sport from an elitist pasttime to one for average Americans.

He left the presidency in 1961 and continued to play in his retirement. In February 1968, in Palm Springs, California, Eisenhower hit his first hole in one on a 104 yard par 3. 

In April 1968, just a few months after his once in a lifetime shot, he suffered heart attack and was admitted to Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC. After suffering three more heart attacks while recovering he died in March 1969 having never left the hospital again. 

Did you know President Eisenhower quit smoking cold turkey after smoking 4 packs a day?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Eisenhower picked up smoking during his time at West Point and by the end of World War II was up to smoking 4 packs a day.

In 1949 he decided to quit and began by trying to remove cigarettes and ashtrays from the spaces he occupied. When this didn’t work he went the opposite direction. He surrounded himself with temptation.

His pockets were stuffed with cigarettes and he made it a practice to offer one to every person who came into his office but never touched one himself. Each time he was able to resist he felt a feeling of accomplishment and superiority (since he was able to resist while the person smoking was dependent on the tobacco) which allowed him to give up the addiction for good.

Did you know one of the greatest friendly fire tragedies of WWII occurred during the first airborne military offensive of the United States Army?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Operation Husky was the codename given to the Allied invasion of Sicily and was the first operation to use troops dropped into battle by parachute. 

Before the majority of the paratroopers could be dropped onto Sicilian soil one of the Allied ships on the coast began to fire on the transport plane formation. The other Allied ships in the vicinity joined in and forced the troops to jump from their planes far from their intended drop zones. 

Twenty-three planes were destroyed and the friendly fire accounted for almost 400 casualties, with 81 paratroopers killed.

After such a shaky start the invasion of Sicily was ultimately a success and, after six weeks of fighting, Allied powers took control of the island on August 17, 1943.

Did you know 1.5 million people died during the siege of Leningrad?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

The siege of Leningrad occurred during World War II. It lasted from September 8, 1941 until January 27, 1944, a total time of 872 days. The 1.5 million lives lost include both civilian and military casualties. It is one of the longest and deadliest sieges in human history.

Operation Barbarossa was the codename given to the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler’s order to his generals for the operation was “Leningrad first, the Donbass second, Moscow third.” (Donbass is a term for a region in eastern Ukraine/southwestern Russia)

Hitler’s intention was to destroy the city and it’s population. The option of surrender was never on the table since the German’s had no desire to solve the logistical problems of how to feed and relocate so many people. 

During the winter of 1941-1942, the ration of “bread” was 125 grams. The bread was over half sawdust. This led to reports of cannibalism among the starving inhabitants of the city.

Before the siege of Leningrad the population of the city was 3.5 million. By the end of the siege only 700,000 people were left (the difference between lives lost and those remaining were evacuated.)

The city of Leningrad became Saint Petersburg in October, 1991.

Did you know France wasn’t always part of the Allied powers during World War II?

Marcos Hernandez Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

The government of France signed an armistice with Germany and relocated the seat of government to the city of Vichy in 1940, leaving the northern part of France (including the capital city of Paris) to German forces. This French State is known in history as Vichy France and included territory in Morocco and Algeria. The movie Casablanca takes place during this time, the Nazi’s serving as the ultimate symbol of evil and oppression.

The French North African territories were officially Nazi controlled but rumors of mixed loyalties were circulated and the Allied powers believed these people could be convinced to support the allied cause. 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower planned an amphibious invasion of French North Africa, Operation Torch. Up to this point the Soviet Union had been adamant about the Allied Powers opening a second war front against the German Army and this was the initial engagement which saw the Germans being attacked from both sides. 

Local French resistance was instrumental in the capture of Algiers. 

The lessons learned during Operation Torch served Eisenhower well during his most famous amphibious landing, Operation Overlord– better known as D-Day, or the Invasion of Normandy.

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.