History Monday #74

A crisis 90 miles from the U.S. makes history today

Russia is affecting the election; we need to take action against them. No, this isn’t sentiments ripped from today’s headlines, it’s sentiments from Cold War actors. Today we look at the origins of a pivotal few weeks in American v. Communist relations in today’s #HistoryMonday.

McNamara and Kennedy.jpg
Pres. John F. Kennedy & Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara discussing the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba

On this day in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis begins. The crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to what many thoughts would be the climax of Cold War aggression. Reconnaissance photos taken by a U-2 spy plane showed Soviet-made medium-range missiles in Cuba. These missiles were now placed 90 miles from the American coastline, and if equipped with nuclear warheads, could reach many major American cities.

Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union over Cuba first came to the fore during the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Those tensions grew in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. Cuban refugees with U.S. training attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro and the Communist forces but were unsuccessful in these efforts. Castro fearing a reprisal from the United States, sought to augment the military assistance from the Soviet Union. Cuba received over 20,000 Soviet advisors in the next year. Additionally, Russia placed missiles and strategic bombers on the island to threaten U.S. forces. Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev decided that ratcheting up the threat to the U.S. was necessary to appease his hardliners and deter further intervention by the United States. Khrushchev was already worried about his ability to be elected and remain in power in the USSR.  American missiles with nuclear capabilities of their own were already placed in Turkey and Italy which led to resentment from Khrushchev and the Soviets. Placing the missiles in Cuba was seen by the Soviets as being a reciprocal effort towards America.

Not surprisingly, Americans were angered by the missile sites in Cuba. Hawkish factions in the legislature and the press demanded Pres. Kennedy take swift action against Cuba and the USSR for this bellicose action so near America.

Pres. Kennedy was unsure which option to choose and started EXCOMM (Executive Committee of the National Security Council) to give him some options: Do nothing, Attack, Diplomatic overtures, or Blockade. Each had strengths and weaknesses which Pres. Kennedy weighed out before deciding to blockade the Caribbean Island and prevent more Soviet shipments from arriving.

fast forward

Eventually, the blockade proved effective in backing down the Soviets. Communications between the two nations eventually arrived at a compromise that allowed each to save some face. Soviets removed the missiles from Cuba while the U.S. would remove the missiles in Turkey. This agreement by the United States was only agreed on with the stipulation that the removal remain covertly. Pres. Kennedy was worried that removing these deterrents to the Soviets would impact the U.S. Election and his administration.

Cuban-American relations were relaxed in the final portions of Pres. Obama’s tenure, including much of the Cuban embargo. Travel to the Caribbean nation has been more permissible in the last several years but there are still challenges. The shift of power from Fidel Castro to his brother, Raúl began much a thawing of the Cold War tensions between the countries. Fidel’s subsequent death also led to further lessening of tensions between the countries.

Of course, tensions between Russia, Turkey, and the United States are currently in a state of concern for all parties involved. Rather than worrying about Cuba, Syria is the proxy nation being torn apart by the tug-of-war between the more powerful nations. Time will tell whether diplomatic efforts come to bear, and everyone settles down.

Should the U.S. take more provocative actions towards Cuba and the Soviet Union when photos of missiles were discovered?


History Monday #62

A sad and historical day in the Vietnam War

Many of us who’ve visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial find the names of soldiers we know from back home or for Vietnam veterans, those who they served with that were not as fortunate as the one reading the names. Yet, little is known about the first two names on the black granite wall. Their deaths serve as the basis for today’s #HistoryMonday entry.

On this day in 1959, Viet Cong guerrillas struck a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) compound in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The attack was executed by the Viet Cong at a mess hall where a handful of soldiers were watching a movie.  While Master Sgt Chester Ovnand was changing the reel on the projector, he turned on the interior lights and the guerrillas fired their weapons into the space. M/Sgt. Ovnand was struck by several rounds from the weapons. Struggling to the stairs, M/Sgt. Ovnand was able to turn on the exterior flood lights before succumbing to his injuries . When the exterior flood lights were fully illuminated, Major Dale Buis, got up from his crawling position behind the kitchen doors and attempted to rush a guerilla, but was mortally wounded in his attempt. Maj. Buis’s strategy did startle the attacker, who in his hesitation failed to dispose of an activated explosive and killed the attacker. In addition to Maj. Buis and M/Sgt. Ovnand, Two South Vietnamese guards that were on duty that night were also killed. Along with, Maj. Buis and M/Sgt. Ovnand, a Captain Howard Boston was injured but survived the attack.

fast forward

Maj. Buis and M/Sgt. Ovnand are recognized as the first American service members to die in the Vietnam War at the hands of the Viet Cong/NVA forces. Maj. Buis was buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

Maj. Buis was the first name listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and M/Sgt. Ovnand was the second name listed on the wall for years. Eventually through pressure on the Department of Defense, Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon Jr. was added as the first casualty of the Vietnam War in 1999. Although, Tech. Sgt. Fitzgibbon’s death was actually an act of military fratricide or “friendly fire.”

These men would account for the ~58,000 acknowledged and confirmed fatalities in the conflict that spanned two decades. Lieutenant Colonel Albert Peter Dewey predates all three men when he was killed in a mistaken ambush in the closing efforts of World War II by Viet Minh troops in 1945.

The high numbers of American deaths in connection to the Vietnam war is one that our country no doubt has considered in military efforts following event to this day. While we memorialize and honor our dead as we should, advisors hope to reduce the casualties by preventing unnecessary intervention in foreign lands.

For a comprehensive search of the Vietnam Veterans memorial, you can visit:


History Monday #59

A burglary that would eventually lead to a Congressional investigation

“I always wanted to do a B&E.” Dane Cook tells a story in one of his early standup routines about being a criminal and wanting to commit the crime of breaking and entering, but realizes he just wants to kick down doors. Today’s #HistoryMonday may have inspired him and others desiring to break-in to houses and businesses.

Watergate Burglars from Left to Right: James W. McCord, Virgilio Gonzalez, Frank Sturgis,  Eugenio R. Martinez, and Bernard Barker

On this day in 1972, five men — Virgilio Gonzalez, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis are arrested and charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. These arrests happened at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. where the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had many offices for the 1972 Presidential Election. Contrary to the apocryphal story that Forrest Gump spotted the burglars and called the front desk, the burglary was discovered by a Watergate security guard named Frank Wills.  Wills noticed tape covering the latches on some of the doors leading from the underground parking garage to the offices, allowing the doors to close but stay unlocked. The guard removed the tape thinking nothing of it. When he returned a brief time later, new tape was again on the doors. Wills realized this was suspicious and called the police who arrested the men.

Early in the year, in January, G. Gordon Liddy, Finance Counsel for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP) presented his plan to infiltrate and spy on the Democratic Party to CRP’s Acting Chairman Jeb Stuart Magruder, Attorney General John Mitchell, and Presidential Counsel John Dean.

In May, the CRP Security Coordinator and one of the burglars, James McCord approved and ordered a plan to break into DNC headquarters to gather critical information in order to guarantee a reelection victory. The burglars began to break into the Watergate on May 28 to place electronic surveillance devices.

fast forward

As the five men were arrested and questioned, it was determined as early as June 19, 1972 there were some connections to Republican Party fundraising. By September it was evident that John Mitchell had an account to fund clandestine activities for CRP surrogates and actors in political warfare.

Thanks to investigative reporting from Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, it became clear that Pres. Nixon not only had knowledge of the burglary attempts but also had encouraged the burglaries.

Just barely two years later on July 29 and 30, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, charging that Nixon had misused his powers to violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, obstructed justice, and defied Judiciary Committee subpoenas. As information about Pres. Nixon’s complicity and knowledge became more evident, he resigned rather than being impeached.

Besides the obvious historic effect of causing Pres. Nixon to be the only President to resign the office, the Watergate scandal had other impacts as well. Some of those impacts are still felt even to this day.

While noting the stalemate his predecessors had left in Vietnam, Pres. Nixon’s resignation put the Vietnamization efforts into question and expedited the American Exodus from the Asian nation and its military involvement therein.

Most importantly, the Watergate scandal caused distrust of the President and his staff. It also called into question for the citizenry whether the President can or should be above the law. The scandal also showed the polarization between the political parties and the lengths they might go to. Worth noting, the investigative reporting based on facts made available rather than speculation and opinion-making can keep government officials honest when they commit dishonest act.

Many are convinced the current administration has similarities to the Nixon administration. Of course, Congressional lawmakers are following the same idea and pushing for impeachment hearings. So far, there is hardly any facts that have met the burden of proof for impeachment yet. Time will tell if Pres. Trump is more a Nixonian or Reaganite Republican. If I was a gambling man, I’d say he will be his own kind of Republican.

What do you know/remember of the Watergate scandal?

History Monday #55

Levi’s original jeans receive a patent to be made by the original people on this date

One of the most ubiquitous pieces of clothing got its start today thanks to two enterprising individuals in the Western United States. So be sure to thank the parties responsible as you read today’s #HistoryMonday offering.

two hanged blue stonewash and blue jeans
Photo by Mica Asato on Pexels.com

On this day in 1873, the U.S. Patent Office grants a patent for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings” to two Jewish entrepreneurs— Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis. The duo had an agreement to develop work pants reinforced with metal rivets. These work pants would go on to become what we know as jeans.

Levi Strauss

Levi Strauss had already found success In San Francisco after starting a dry goods company twenty years prior. Strauss had moved from New York to San Francisco shortly after the California Gold Rush and statehood era to provide for railroad workers and miners. As Strass became successful, he was able to contribute philanthropically to other Jewish emigrants in San Francisco and other nearby cities.

Jacob Davis

Jacob Davis, a tailor in Reno, Nevada, was one of Levi Strauss’ regular customers.  Davis proposed a solution to Strauss in 1872 making durable work pants by installing metal rivets at the corners of the pockets and the base of the button fly. Davis lacked the capital to apply for the patent himself and suggested that he and Strauss should form a working partnership to apply for the patent.

Strauss and Davis experimented with several materials before settling on what Strauss termed ‘denim’ as a marketing strategy. Among the materials were cotton duck (think Carhartt material) and canvas. Some early critics believed the denim was actually canvas dyed blue. While true denim is imported from Nimes, Frances the denim Levi’s used was produced in America.

fast forward

While jean material had existed and been in use before Levi Strauss & Jacob Davis, the construction and mass-production efforts allowed Levi Strauss & Company to become a widely known brand today. Originally a material created in Genoa, Italy the material soon became popular in Western fashion houses. The durable construction of the work pants made possible by Davis was instrumental in earning favor with cowboys, miners, and other blue-collar workers.

As more Americans began wearing the ‘XX’ model pants as a fashion statement rather than useful attire they eventually became a bestseller. Eventually this model would re-christened Brand 501 and the company grew even more, offering other attire besides the trademark jeans. The boon in popularity spiked after World War II, and with the popularity of James Dean wearing Levi’s jeans in Rebel Without a Cause. Other film and television offerings celebrating beat and motorcyclists would also add to the popularity.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?

History Monday #46

Today in history, an example of the dangers with the Church and State working in concert

I wanted to fire up the wayback machine to look at an event in the midst of medieval history today. I’ll confess, much of my historical knowledge pertains to events post 16th Century. So, I will admit I had to study up on this event for #HistoryMonday.
Jacques de Molay (1243-1314)
Just over 7 centuries ago on 18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney had their criminal sentence carried out. These two men along with other leaders of the Order of Knights Templar were judged guilty for heresy by leaders of the Catholic Church and King Philip IV of France. Both men were Masters with the Order, shortened oftentimes to Templars. Jacques de Molay was not only a Master for a specific region but Grand Master of the Order. Geoffri de Charney was the regional Master of the Order in Normandy.
King Philip had de Molay, et al. arrested in France seven years prior on Friday 13 October 1307. This date is said to be one of the origins of Friday the 13th. Among the charges of arrest were idolatry and renunciation of Christ. Additional charges included improper consecration of the Eucharist and promotion of fornication by de Molay and other Templars. Philip had an ally in Pope Clement V who questioned de Molay and his men for the charges leveled against them. 
Philip had kidnapped Pope Boniface VIII some years earlier and charged Boniface with similar charges of heresy. The kidnapping of Boniface caused his death soon after. Boniface was replaced by Benedict XI who died very early into his papal reign. After Benedict’s death, cardinals elected Clement to pope and convinced by Philip to move the papal residences and of course power to Avignon, France.
Clement was an early supporter and a puppet as Pope for Philip (Yes, I know that’s a lengthy alliteration). Despite his loyalty to Philip, Clement tried to remain unbiased and wanted to give de Molay and the Templars a fair trial, but still disbanded the Order thanks to pressure from Philip. Given the severity of charges and related to heresy, de Molay and other Templars received sentences of death by burning at the stake. Two other Templars, Hugues de Peraud and Godefroi de Gonneville accepted life imprisonment.
The Templar leaders had been pressure to confess to the alleged crimes by French cardinals acting on behalf of King Philip. Pope Clement had no choice but abiding by the sentence against de Molay and the others. Eventually, de Molay and the other Templars recanted of their confessions, admitting they had confessed under duress. Pope Clement had absolved the Templars in 1308 of their alleged crimes and restored sacramental privilege to them in a document known as the Chinon Parchment. However, this parchment was ignored and hidden until 2001 and the sentence carried out according to King Philip’s wishes.
The tragedy of King Philip’s desire to arrest and punish the Templars including de Molay stems from an inability to pay his debt to the Templars for their military assistance in his war with the English. Philip hoped to disband the Order and absorb their funds into the nation’s treasury.
fast forward
There don’t seem to be immediate effects of the dissolution of the Order of the Knights Templar and de Molay’s execution. Several effects for the major actors in this event would lead to a long-lasting papal dynasty in France and Anglo-Franco wars for the next several decades.
Common Symbol of the Knights Templar
Most of the effects were realized within Freemasonry. By some accounts as early as 1780, a new Knights Templar Order convened in Ireland and began a fraternal relationship with Freemasons in the United Grand Lodge of England. As Freemasonry grew, the Knights Templar became an appendant body within the Order and promotes Christian virtue as Freemasons continue instruction in the Order.
In more recent times, in 1929 a similar pathway was created within Freemasonry to commemorate de Molay’s legacy. DeMolay International is an appendant body for boys aged 12 to 21 interested in joining a regular Masonic Lodge but are not old enough in some jurisdictions for initiation. Similar efforts exist with Freemasons for young girls known as Job’s Daughters. Freemasons also encourage adult female membership in the Order of the Eastern Star. These auxiliaries of Masonic Lodges are a means to include whole families within Freemasonry.

History Monday #44

Hi-Ho-the-dairy-o the POTUS stands alone

“Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of his White House had a big block of cheese.” This statement uttered by Leo McGarry in Season 1 of The West Wing promises a new initiative the White House would be pursuing, but it’s also a good lead-in to today’s #HistoryMonday.
Supporters of Pres. Andrew Jackson eating from a large wheel of cheese during an inauguration open house
On this day in 1829, Pres. Andrew Jackson during his inauguration continued a tradition begun by Pres. Thomas Jefferson and hosted an open house at the White House. After his swearing-in ceremony and address to Congress, President Jackson returned to the White House to welcome an enthusiastic crowd of more than 20,000 supporters. To mark the occasion, a large wheel of cheese was delivered to the White House. A large wheel of cheese was previously sent to the White House during Pres. Jefferson’s inauguration. Pres. Jackson and his supporters enjoyed competition, so the wheel of cheese at Pres. Jackson’s inauguration dwarfed the cheese of Pres. Jefferson. Besides the cheese, several large tubs of whiskey, wine, and cider were present. Not surprisingly, the cheese was consumed by all the guests in two hours.
Pres. Jackson could be termed a populist president who aligned himself to the whims of the people. The rise of the Populist Party would be in its heyday some sixty to seventy years after Pres. Jackson. Following a populist strategy, Pres. Jackson encouraged visitors to the White House, opening his doors to those who wanted to bend his ear about their concerns.
fast forward
This practice of an open house at the White House after presidential inaugurations stopped in the late 19th Century due to concerns over assassination attempts. Pres. Jackson’s inauguration open house was notorious thanks to guests destroying the furnishings and serving ware but harming the President is even worse.
The end of the open house celebration opened the door for the inauguration parade as well as the inauguration balls that include only invited guests who have passed several layers of security clearance to come in contact with the president.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, The West Wing honored this practice in Season 1. They would again continue the practice during Season 2. Both episodes included the senior staff members meeting with special interest groups and individuals who may get overlooked by politicians. These two episodes served as the basis for Pres. Obama’s own Big Block of Cheese Day in 2014 and 2015. Senior officials for Pres. Obama allowed users on various social media platforms to ask them pertinent questions that may have previously been overlooked. So for as much as I take issue with Pres. Obama’s practices, as a fan of The West Wing I will give him credit for this.
Have you ever heard of Big Block of Cheese Day?

History Monday #42

The saddest day in NASCAR is the topic of #HistoryMonday.

It’s the start of a new week, and thankfully for many sports fans like me the start of a new season. As the NFL season ended a few weeks ago and MLB hasn’t started, at least NASCAR began yesterday. What’s remarkable about NASCAR, is that their biggest and most hyped race begins the season at Daytona International Speedway with the Daytona 500. It’s that race and a tragic ending that is the focus of today’s #HistoryMonday.
Nearly two decades ago, in 2001 in the closing lap of the race a multi-car crash cost the life of one of the sport’s most popular drivers—Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Multi-car crashes at Daytona are not uncommon with these crashes being labeled ‘The Big One’ due to the fact that the cars are packed and sometimes involve a quarter to a third of the field. Yesterday’s running featured several ‘Big One’ crashes as drivers were attempting to improve their positions.
The last lap was being led by Michael Waltrip, driver of the no. 15 car owned by Earnhardt was leading the race followed by the number 8 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr in a second car owned by Earnhardt, Sr. and in third, the owner of said cars trying to hold off the rest of the field and help insure that the rest of the field might not reach them and place in the top three positions as owner and driver.
As Earnhardt, Sr. in his No. 3 Chevrolet ran in the middle lane of the pack Sterling Marlin in the No. 40 Dodge, moved from behind Earnhardt to the lower lane of the track. Close by, Rusty Wallace drove his No. 2 Penske Racing Ford behind Earnhardt, and Ken Schrader ran in the outside lane driving the No. 36 Pontiac. as the field headed into turn 4, Marlin came into contact with the left rear on Earnhardt’s car, causing the No. 3 to slide off the track’s steep banking onto the flat apron. Trying to correct at speed, Earnhardt sharply turned it up the track toward the outside retaining wall. Although it briefly looked as if he was going to avoid hitting the retaining wall, Earnhardt went right into Schrader’s path and Schrader rammed into him behind the passenger door causing Earnhardt’s car to snap, rapidly changing its angle toward the wall. As Schrader came into contact, Earnhardt crashed into the wall nose-first at an estimated speed of 155–160 mph. Both cars slid down the steep banking off the track and into the infield grass.
Impact of Earnhardt’s car with the wall
Per NASCAR rules after a crash, Earnhardt was extricated from his car and was transported by ambulance to the nearby Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 5:16pm EST, reportedly surrounded by his wife Teresa, his team owner and closest friend Richard Childress, and his son Earnhardt, Jr. The official announcement of Earnhardt’s death was made at about 7:00pm EST by NASCAR president Mike Helton.
fast forward
Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in 2001 was the 4th NASCAR driver to die in 9 months and drew much attention to NASCAR’s safety efforts and how this crash caused his death in light of his previous crashes. Earnhardt previously suffered a gruesome crash in the 1997 Daytona 500. The car he was driving flipped upside down on the backstretch. By a miracle, he was able to escape serious injury in this running of the Daytona 500.
After Earnhardt’s death, NASCAR began an intensive focus on safety that has seen the organization mandate the use of Head-And-Neck-Safety (HANS) restraints, oversee the installation of SAFER barriers at oval tracks, set rigorous new inspection rules for seats and seat-belts, develop a roof-hatch escape system, and the Car of Tomorrow—which eventually led to the development of a next-generation race car built with extra driver safety in mind. Since Earnhardt’s death, no Cup series driver has died during competition even in the midst of other crashes. In particular, the SAFER barrier uses foam padding and tension-springs between concrete panels surrounding the track has reduced serious injury. This innovative approach to creating a barrier allows the car to distribute momentum and causes the wall to absorb the energy rather than remaining in the car.
Besides the safety innovations, Earnhardt’s legacy was even further enhanced posthumously. While Earnhardt was already famous and well-regarded by the fans, the memorial efforts have established a near-canonization of him. Additionally, Earnhardt’s son became as legendary as his father. Since fans of the elder Earnhardt were unable to cheer for him, they transferred their fandom upon his progeny. Other fans shifted allegiance to the driver tabbed to replace Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing—Kevin Harvick.
While NASCAR does not retire car numbers like the other Big 3 sports, the No. 3 was retired for several years by Richard Childress Racing until 2013 when team owner Richard Childress’s grandson Austin Dillon was announced to be driving the No. 3.
Earnhardt’s death also resulted in two feature motion pictures detailing his life. The first was a 2004 made-for-tv movie entitled 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story produced by ESPN. This featured Barry Pepper playing Earnhardt. The second was a 2007 documentary entitled Dale and narrated by Paul Newman. This film featured archived footage and interviews from fellow drivers about Earnhardt.
Earnhardt’s legacy can still be seen at the racetrack with throwback paint schemes. Several Richard Childress Racing entries have featured paint schemes resembling historical paint schemes driven by Earnhardt. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also has ran throwback schemes to honor his late father and even his late grandfather.
What do you remember of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and his career in NASCAR?

History Monday #37

Take today’s #HistoryMonday to heart thanks to an event happening just over five decades ago.

“I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

Ezekiel 36:26

These prophetic words spoken by YHWH through Ezekiel are a promise to the Jewish people in anticipation that they might love in a manner pleasing to YHWH. Even a cursory glance would indicate that this promise of a new heart is meant symbolically, but for one man in today’s #HistoryMonday these words were a literal promise.

On this day in 1967, medical experts at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa were able to perform the first successful human heart transplant. A previous attempt using a chimpanzee’s heart in a human three years earlier had proven unsuccessful. The proof of concept of heart transplant had been proven with dogs a decade earlier, but the 1967 transplant is the first human-human heart transplant.

The recipient of the heart was Louis Washkansky, a Jewish immigrant and grocer in Cape Town. Washkansky’s health had declined substantially as he approached middle age. Among his medically known issues were diabetes and heart disease. Complications from these health issues had caused him to suffer three heart attacks, which eventually led to congestive heart failure.

A 25-year old named Denise Darvall was seriously injured in a car accident by a drunk driver the day prior along with her mother. Her mother was pronounced deceased at the scene. Doctors had attempted to resuscitate Denise but realized she was brain dead and was only being kept alive by artificial means. Upon realizing that there would be no hope of Denise surviving without life support, the doctors convinced the girl’s father to give permission to end the life support and allow her heart to be transplanted to Washkansky. The elder Darvall took only a few minutes to make his decision and agreeing that his daughter was generous and would likely have made the decision herself if able.

None of this procedure would be possible without the head of Experimental Surgery at the hospital— Dr. Christiaan Barnard. Barnard, a native South African had come to prominence as a doctor for his efforts with gastrointestinal medicine. He would learn more about cardiothoracic medicine during a tenure in the United States in 1955 and returned to South Africa and Groote Schuur Hospital in 1958 when he was tasked with leading the Department of Experimental Surgery.

Sadly, Washkansky would only live eighteen days after the transplant. This is attributable to the numerous immunosuppressants to prevent rejection of the heart by his immune system. During the eighteen days, he was able to regain consciousness and converse with his wife. The drugs given to him to prevent rejection had compromised his immune system which led to him contracting pneumonia which would be ruled as the cause of death

fast forward

Although Washkansky would not survive long after the transplant, it is considered successful due to the fact machines were not responsible for his survival. A second transplant recipient the next year would survive for nineteen months and be sent home. By the end of 1968, nearly 100 successful heart transplants would be performed.

Going forward, anti-rejection drugs were developed in the decades following and made transplantation more viable. Dr. Barnard continued to perform heart transplants. Just a decade later, many patients were living up to five years post-operation.

  • Dr. Barnard was also integral in assisting or directing surgeries for heart patients that also include diagnosing and correcting Tetralogy of Fallot. For what it’s worth, I mention that particular heart defect as it is essentially the same congenital heart defect that I was born with. Much of the treatment for this defect are reparative surgeries to the patient’s heart and are not usually remedied by transplant (a solution others often inquire about and I have to dismiss).

Successful heart transplant surgery continues to be performed today, but finding appropriate donors is extremely difficult. The decision to end life-saving efforts for Denise Darvall was not without controversy since the standard of determining vitality did not allow for patients who were brain dead but had other healthy organs. Generous people are encouraged to declare their future intentions on their driver’s licenses and communicate the same to their families and attorneys in order to expedite their wishes post mortem.

History Monday #36

Though the odds weren’t great, a new college would be founded after all on this day.

Ave Maria, adiuva nos inventus est collegium. No, St. Elizabeth never told this to the Virgin Mary and most Roman Catholics don’t actually pray this prayer on a regular basis, but it’s at least likely that a handful prayed this prayer for the new college they were planning to found and we look back on that college’s founding in today’s #HistoryMonday.

Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C. | First President of the University of Notre Dame du Lac

On this day in 1842, Father Edward Sorin and seven brothers both of Irish and French descent and belonging to the order of the Holy Cross arrived in South Bend, Indiana to establish a college. The establishment of the college was blessed by the Bishop of the Vincennes diocese, Célestine Guynemer de la Hailandière. Bishop Hailandière was hopeful that a college in his diocese could expand the Catholic presence in the state of Indiana. With Bishop Hailandière’s blessing and encouragement to instruct the faithful, Fr. Sorin named the new school in the name of Mary and a nearby lake—University of Notre Dame du Lac.

Early seal of the University (1876-1901)

The University began life as an all-male school for primary and secondary education. As it grew beyond the original buildings, it received an official charter as a college by the Indiana General Assembly in January of 1844.

The original campus was comprised of only three buildings: a log chapel, the priest’s house, and a shed. At the time of the college’s founding, most of South Bend was mostly frontier and predominated by Protestant believers. Eventually, more buildings were constructed as the college also served as a missional outpost to the local Potawatomi tribe and a church for the local parish.

fast forward

Notre Dame rose to greater prominence with their football team in the early 20th Century. Led by James L. Morrison and Jesse Harper, the Fighting Irish would gain attention to their use of the forward pass as part of the offensive strategy. One of Harper’s star talents, Knute Rockne would take over and become the team’s winningest coach. Thanks to their success on the gridiron, several primary and secondary schools would choose their fight song with appropriate words to the tune of “Victory March” the university’s fight song. (My own high school being one such school).

Notre Dame Fighting Irish logo.svg

Notre Dame has also garnered attention for its commitment to quality undergraduate and graduate programs including law, business, and religion among others. Even student athletes have often been tasked with maintaining high academic standards during their college careers.

Current seal of the University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame is also integral as a Catholic institution. While at times this has drawn negative attention, including the 1988 Notre Dame v. University of Miami (FL) football game dubbed the “Catholics v. Convicts” game. Outside of this event, strong anti-Catholic skirmishes have also happened off the football field. In particular, Ku Klux Klansmen have had negative involvement with faculty, students, and other officials at Notre Dame. Luckily, as the KKK’s influence waned in Indiana, the near-violent conflicts subsided. The Catholic influence is still felt at the university as an overwhelming majority of the student body identifying as Christian, and in particular as Catholic. Mass is celebrated over 100 times each week, and each residence hall on campus has a chapel located in the building for a total of 57 chapels on campus. While the student body is by majority Catholic, there are faith organizations including Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), Orthodox Christian Fellowship, Jewish Club, Muslim Student Association, as well as others. Notre Dame is likely one of the top symbols of the Catholic world outside the Vatican.

Notre Dame has also been the object of reference in television and film. Pres. Josiah Bartlett in The West Wing is an alumnus of Notre Dame with degrees in economics from the university, Pres. Ronald Reagan played star halfback George Gipp in the Knute Rockne biopic, and of course Sean Astin starred as Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger in the eponymous film Rudy.

Admittedly, I grew up being a fan of Notre Dame football and the university itself. However, as my secondary education continued, my academic efforts languished, and I realized that the University of Notre Dame might not be where I’d complete my post-secondary education. That, and the climate of Northern Indiana helped seal the deal.

What connections do you make with the University of Notre Dame?

History Monday #34

The Doorway to New York and America closes and new windows had to open.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The New Colossus | Emma Lazarus

This poem commemorating the Statue of Liberty contains the familiar closing stanzas most are familiar with in regard to our immigration policy.  An important site near the Statue is the subject of today’s #HistoryMonday.

Ellis island view.jpg

On this day in 1954, The immigrant processing center on Ellis Island was closed and would remain closed for three decades until renovation efforts were begun to commemorate its significance.

The immigration center was built on January 2, 1892.  Ellis Island had been designated as America’s first federal immigration center by President Benjamin Harrison two years earlier. Before 1890, each state was tasked with the responsibility of vetting and determine eligibility for legal immigrant status. Annie Moore, a 15-year-old from Ireland, became the first person to pass through the newly opened immigration center.

Contrary to popular opinion, not all immigrants who sailed into New York had to go through Ellis Island. First- and second-class passengers were evaluated on board the ships and were directed with their paperwork to customs at the piers where they disembarked. Third class passengers were transported to Ellis Island, for medical and legal inspections to ensure they didn’t have a contagious disease or some condition that would make them a burden to the government. Only two percent of all immigrants were denied entrance into the U.S. Much of the rejection was fueled by scientific beliefs of the time we know as eugenics. These beliefs and practices of promoting the healthiest population were championed by Progressives like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and eventually the Nazi party in Germany.

Immigration to Ellis Island peaked between 1892 and 1924 and additional buildings were constructed to handle the massive influx of immigrants. During the busiest year of operation, 1907, over 1 million people were processed at Ellis Island.

Oddly enough, much of the records provided to the Ellis Island Immigration center were not necessarily provided by the governments of the immigrants’ former homelands. The initial paperwork for the application was not official paperwork from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration, but by the steamship passenger manifests.

As America’s isolationist approach to World War I grew, immigration declined, and Ellis Island was used as a detention center for suspected enemies. Following the war, Congress passed quota laws and the Immigration Act of 1924, which sharply reduced the number of newcomers allowed into the country and also enabled immigrants to be processed at U.S. consulates abroad. After 1924, Ellis Island switched from a processing center to serving other purposes, such as a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants, a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War II and a Coast Guard training center. In November 1954, the last detainee, a Norwegian merchant seaman, was released and Ellis Island officially closed.

fast forward

Beginning in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a $160 million renovation, the largest historic restoration project in U.S. history. In September 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened to the public and today is visited by almost 2 million people each year. The museum was incorporated into a joint National Monument with Liberty Island by Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1965. A year later they would be organized as a National Historic District a year later.

We’ve seen the expansion of more federal immigration processing centers since the closing of Ellis Island in 1954. Additionally, the government organizations in charge of processing the immigration claims have thankfully abandoned much of the eugenic disqualifiers and the information submitted is generally provided by foreign authorities in the applicants’ homelands.

We’ve seen Pres. Trump and other Presidents over the last few decades question our immigration process. I could understand the outrage over immigrants being processed based on passenger lists   submitted by a Central American version of Carnival® cruise lines. While we are a nation of immigrants, there will always be some sort of evaluation system for those hoping to enter our country. The process should not be onerous, but it should include at least some due diligence. Obviously there has been a shift in attitudes about how our nation handles immigration in the last few decades, many immigrants were detained on Ellis Island for evidence of criminal activity in their origin countries and others remained in the Ellis Island Hospital to quarantine them from spreading contagious diseases.

The dedication of Ellis Island as a museum is significant for celebrating the process of immigration to our country. Nearly 40 percent of Americans can trace their roots to Ellis Island even today. My father attempted to verify this when we visited Ellis Island in 2003 but wasn’t able to find the records. Likely, this is due to much of the history being anecdotal and not necessarily official. For what it’s worth, my father’s paternal roots of immigration are well researched and exist from the Colonial Era of America. My mother’s maternal roots are similar and exist before the Colonial Era as well. Sadly, her paternal roots end with her great-grandfather and nothing else has been able to be proven. Maybe Ancestry.com or 23AndMe might shed some light on the missing heritage.

Do you have proof of your ancestors being processed at Ellis Island?