"Johnnie Phelps, a woman sergeant in the army, thought, “There was a tolerance for lesbianism if they needed you. The battalion I was in was probably about ninety-seven percent lesbian.” Sergeant Phelps worked for General Eisenhower. Four decades after Eisenhower had defeated the Axis powers, Phelps recalled an extraordinary event. One day, the general told her, “I’m giving you an order to ferret those lesbians out. We’re going to get rid of them.”" [via (via TheWhelk)] [more inside]
Today, June 5, would be the 70th anniversary of D-Day if not for the last-minute prognostication of British meteorologist James Stagg. The planners of the Normandy landings originally designated June 5, 1944 as D-Day, basing their decision on a favorable combination of tide patterns and a full moon, which would help with pilot visibility. On the evening of June 4, however, Royal Air Force meteorologist Captain James Stagg met with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower with a dire last-minute warning: a large storm brewing just north of Scotland would bring heavy winds, turbulent seas, and thick cloud cover over the English Channel. Ike's decision to change the invasion to June 6, on the advice of a lone meteorologist practicing an emergent and unreliable science, may have been the turning point of the war. Historian John Ross, author of The Forecast for D-Day and the Weatherman Behind Ike’s Greatest Gamble, contends, "Had Ike listened to his countrymen's predictions and launched D-day on June 5, it would have failed with catastrophic consequences for the Western Allies and world history."
"Untold History of the United States challenges the basic narrative of the U.S. history that most Americans have been taught.... [Such history] is consoling; it is comforting. But it only tells a small part of the story." Instead of clips of modern people pondering the past, Oliver Stone's ten-part series relies heavily on archival footage and clips from old Hollywood films, with narration by Stone. Towards the end, he gets into the assassination of JFK, "but that should not detract from a series that sets out to be a counterweight to the patriotic cheerleading and myth-making." [more inside]
A recent great pull from White House photographer Pete Souza shows Bush and Obama seeming to not just tolerate but actually enjoy each other's company. This is nothing new, however. Not only have Presidents always still been just as human as anyone else, but they occasionally cross the aisle to have close relationships that can be not only shocking, but endearing - including Barbara Bush referring to Bill Clinton as their "adopted son." Ridiculous conspiracy theories abound, but a simpler explanation may serve: that even the most partisan of politicans have more in common with each other than they would like us to believe - a common background, and often, common professions.
"It would have been the Queen’s Speech to end them all. At midday on Friday 4 March 1983, the monarch was due to address the nation to announce that Britain was at war and – due to the “deadly power of abused technology” – a nuclear conflict was at hand." But it was only part of Wintex-Cimex 83, a large-scale annual NATO war game. This is just one example of speeches that were written in case of the worst, but never given. [more inside]
Perhaps slightly obscurred by its charmingly primitive web design, my new favorite website is a fantastic reference resource for delving into American speeches that have changed history as well as discovering new amazing ones. [more inside]
Khrushchev Tours America - His shoe banging incident at the UN and the the Kitchen Debates with Nixon are well known but less attention has been given to the time Nikita Khrushchev went to Hollywood. He met Marilyn Monroe and other film luminaries but he was denied a trip to Disneyland (previously). [more inside]
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War. Then, they made a documentary. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD, the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels. You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
Although they admit a mutual fondness for a good burger and fries now and then, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama try to emphasize healthy eating at the White House. In 2009, the White House had its first vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II victory garden. This is quite a change to the meal President Eisenhower sat down to a little more than 50 years ago at the USDA's Beltsville Research Station. Eisenhower's own method of cooking a steak was not on the menu, as the showcase meal featured 22 “new and improved” foods, including modified milk containing increased nonfat milk solids and decreased butter, dehydrofrozen peas, orange juice reconstituted from a dehydrated powder, beef and pork grown with newly discovered hormones and antibiotics added, and “butter prepared, presumably, by the usual methods.” Our national conversation about food goes on and the White House will likely continue be at the center of it. Hopefully, we don’t end up with President Garfield's last meal as a White House canteen staple [recipe, including tip on getting rid of the “troublesome little bones.”] Bon Appetit!
One nation under God. The "bold conservative" GOP Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia is intent upon removing a vexing comma from that phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, which was amended in 1954 when President Eisenhower was moved by a sermon by one Reverend George M. Docherty on the need to defend America from the "militantly atheistic communism that has already enslaved 800 million of the peoples of the earth, and now menaces the rest of the free world."
The 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy — Take a 28 year old future U.S. President on a two month long, 3,251 mile, transcontinental road trip (where relatively few have gone before). Wait while he shoulders a little responsibility, add some autobahn^ envy, and 37 years later he signs into law over 40,000 miles of the National Defense Highway System (later renamed: it recently passed 50 years of growth.) About his favorite domestic program, Ike said, "More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America. ...Its impact on the American economy - the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up - was beyond calculation." More documents, logs, and first-hand reports from the 1919 convoy here.
Miles Davis? Kanye West? The Beatles? Oh... you mean Muzak? Ike played it in the West Wing, NASA used it to soothe astronauts' anxiety. But it's not just your daddy's elevator music anymore.
The Trick Behind the Trick? A great piece about the subtle and ongoing dismantling of democracy in America by the Bush Administration. What's so sad about this ongoing disaster is that there are no Republicans willing to stand up for liberty, when the last great speech by a President on our present danger was given by Eisenhower.