The Indianapolis

If you saw Jaws or read it, you will remember the harrowing story Quint (Robert Shaw) tells of surviving the sinking of the cruiser Indianapolis.

It was on this date in 1945 that the ship, which had carried the Hiroshima atomic bomb and was out of communication, was torpedoed by the Japanese. According to the USS Indianapolis CA-35 web site:

At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later only 316 men were still alive.

The ship’s captain, the late Charles Butler McVay III, survived and was court-martialed and convicted of “hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag” despite overwhelming evidence that the Navy itself had placed the ship in harm’s way, despite testimony from the Japanese submarine commander that zigzagging would have made no difference, and despite that fact that, although over 350 navy ships were lost in combat in WWII, McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed. Materials declassified years later adds to the evidence that McVay was a scapegoat for the mistakes of others.

Shark attacks began with sunrise of the first day (July 30) and continued until the survivors were removed from the water almost five days later.

The Navy web site includes oral histories with Indianapolis Captain McVay and Japanese submarine Captain Hashimoto.

The site dedicated to the Indianapolis is perhaps the best source.

In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors (2001) by Doug Stanton is a book on the voyage, the sinking, the survivors and McVay’s court martial.


July 30th

Edd “Kookie Kookie lend me your comb” Byrnes is 81 today.

Buddy Guy is 78.

Buddy Guy is one of the titans of the blues, straddling traditional and modern forms, as well as musical generations. He’s worked with Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf, on one hand, and Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Rolling Stones, on the other. There are few notable blues figures that Guy hasn’t brushed up against. He was even an influence on Jimi Hendrix.

Buddy Guy Biography | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Oscar nominee (direction and co-writer, The Last Picture Show) Peter Bogdanovich is 75.

Paul Anka is 73. Anka is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, is 67.

Oscar best actor nominee Laurence Fishburne is 53.

Coach of the American men’s national soccer team, Jürgen Klinsmann is 50.

Lisa Kudrow is 51.

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank is 40.

Joe Nuxhall, the youngest player ever to appear in the major leagues, was born on this date in 1928. Nuxhall pitched 2/3rds of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds on June 10, 1944. He was 15 years, 316 days old. He gave up 5 runs, with 5 walks, 2 hits and a wild pitch. It was 1952 before he again appeared, but he pitched for 15 more seasons. Nuxhall was a longtime Reds broadcaster. He died in 2007.

The Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel was born on this date in 1890.

Casey Stengel’s distinguished 54-year professional career spanned the era from Christy Mathewson to Mickey Mantle. He batted .284 over 14 seasons in the majors and accounted for both Giant victories in the 1923 World Series by hitting home runs. It was as a colorful and successful manager, though, that he earned Hall of Fame recognition. His feat of guiding the Yankees to 10 pennants and seven world titles in a 12-year span ranks as one of the most remarkable managerial accomplishments of all time.

Baseball Hall of Fame

A few Casey-isms:

“Can’t anybody here play this game?”

“Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.”

“He’d (Yogi Berra) fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch.”

One of the most remarkable Americans, Henry Ford, was born on this date in 1863. The following is an excerpt from Mr. Ford’s New York Times obituary in 1947:

Renting a one-story brick shed in Detroit, Mr. Ford spent the year 1902 experimenting with two- cylinder and four-cylinder motors. By that time the public had become interested in the speed possibilities of the automobile, which was no longer regarded as a freak. To capitalize on this interest, he built two racing cars, the “999″ and the “Arrow,” each with a four-cylinder engine developing eighty horsepower. The “999,” with the celebrated Barney Oldfield at its wheel, won every race in which it was entered.

The resulting publicity helped Mr. Ford to organize the Ford Motor Company, which was capitalized at $100,000, although actually only $28,000 in stock was subscribed. From the beginning Mr. Ford held majority control of this company. In 1919 he and his son, Edsel, became its sole owners, when they bought out the minority stockholders for $70,000,000.

In 1903 the Ford Motor Company sold 1,708 two-cylinder, eight horsepower automobiles. …

With this material he began the new era of mass production. He concentrated on a single type of chassis, the celebrated Model T, and specified that “any customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it is black.” On Oct. 1, 1908, he began the production of Model T, which sold for $850. The next year he sold 10,600 cars of this model. Cheap and reliable, the car had a tremendous success. In seven years he built and sold 1,000,000 Fords; by 1925 he was producing them at the rate of almost 2,000,000 a year.

He established two cardinal economic policies during this tremendous expansion: the continued cutting of the cost of the product as improved methods of production made it possible, and the payment of higher wages to his employes. By 1926 the cost of the Model T had been cut to $310, although it was vastly superior to the 1908 model. In January, 1914, he established a minimum pay rate of $5 a day for an eight-hour day, thereby creating a national sensation. Up to that time the average wage throughout his works had been $2.40 a nine-hour day.

The entire obituary is really rather fascinating reading.

Douglas Brinkley’s Wheels for the World (2003) is considered a good biography of Ford and the Ford Motor Company.

Vladimir Zworykin was born in Murom, Russia, on this date in 1889. He came to the U.S. in 1919. Zworykin’s television transmitting and receiving method using cathode ray tubes, developed in the 1920s and early 1930s, ranks him as the prime inventor of television.


Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah)

… came under National Park Service administration on this date in 1965. It had been set aside in 1957.

May 10, 1869 the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory and forged the destiny of a nation. Golden Spike National Historic Site shares the stories of the people and settings that define the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad.

Golden Spike National Historic Site

Pictured, The Jupiter, one of the replica steam engines at Golden Spike NHS
NewMexiKen photo, 2005

July 29th

“Professor” Irwin Corey, The World’s Foremost Authority, is 100 today.

Ken Burns is 61.

William Powell was born on this date in 1892. He was nominated for three best actor Academy Awards — The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Life with Father (1947). Powell was Nick Charles and Myrna Loy was Nora Charles in the six Thin Man films.

250px Clara Bow 1927

The “It Girl” Clara Bow was born on this date in 1905. A huge star when movies didn’t talk, her career wound down quickly and unhappily after sound. As with many other silent film stars, it was a new medium that necessitated less physical acting, the reason they had become big stars to begin with. The clip is from It (1927).

Charlie Christian was born on this date in 1916. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 (the fifth group).

Charlie Christian elevated the guitar as a lead instrument on par with the saxophone and trumpet in jazz and popular music. His single-string technique established a solo style that was carried on by such contemporaries as T-Bone Walker and emulated by later disciples like B. B. King and Chuck Berry. Born in Bonham, Texas, on July 29th, 1919, and raised in Oklahoma City, Christian was influenced by country music and jazz, an odd hybrid of influences that can be heard in his recorded works, such as “Seven Come Eleven,” with the Benny Goodman Sextet. Unfortunately, his recording career lasted less than two years, as he was brought down in his prime by tuberculosis, dying on March 2, 1942, in New York. Though his life was short, his hornlike, single-note style, which capitalized on innovations in amplification technology, revolutionized and redefined the role of the electric guitar in popular music. The reverberations from Christian’s pioneering efforts have echoed down the decades, through Western swing, rockabilly and rock and roll to the present day.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer were married 33 years ago today.


If You Read This Story We Will Have to Kill You

First posted here nine years ago today. All true.


A CIA manager once told me about life under cover. He went by his regular name, lived in a regular neighborhood, etc., but as far as anyone knew he worked for the Navy. In fact, he told me, one time his car broke down and his neighbor insisted on giving him a ride to work at the Washington Navy Yard (in southeast Washington, D.C.). The neighbor kept insisting and he finally had to accept.

After being left off at the Navy Yard the CIA employee had to figure how to get back across the Potomac to Virginia to his “real” office. He was further away than when he started.

In other instances we were often amused when we held a meeting that included CIA or other “under cover” agency personnel. The sign-in sheet consisted of names like Cindy D., Bob L., Frank C., etc.

Lastly, my particular favorite under cover story. After visiting a “secret” location for business and being well treated, I composed a short thank you note to the man in charge. I addressed it to him by name. I ran the draft past my staff member who was liaison with that agency. The staff member came back, saying the note was great except that the man’s name was classified because he worked undercover. So we sent the thank you without the name.

His actual name was John Smith.


The 12th of July

Today is the birthday

… of Bill Cosby. He’s 77.

… of Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. She’s 71.

… of Gaius Julius Caesar, born on July 12th around 100 BCE (some say July 13th). Caesar was named for his father, Gaius Julius Caesar III, and he had two sisters, both named Julia. If Caesar was named for a caesarean section, it was an ancestor’s birth, not his. The explanation for the name that Julius Caesar himself seemed to favor was that it came from the Moorish word caesai for elephant.

Caesar, of course, died on March 15, 44 BCE. Caesar never said “Et tu, Brute?” That’s Shakespeare (though not original with him). Some contemporaries said Caesar did say “καὶ σύ, τέκνον,” Greek for “You too, child.” If he said it, it may have been intended as a curse (this will happen to you) as much as a feeling of abandonment by Brutus.

It was Julius Caesar who fixed the calendar at 365 days with a leap day every fourth year. His formula had to be tweaked in 1582 with three less leap years every 400 years, but it stands pretty much as Caesar established it, the Julian Calendar, in 46 BCE.

Henry David Thoreau was born on this date in 1817; George Eastman, the inventor of roll film, in 1854; George Washington Carver in 1864; Jean Hersholt in 1886 and Buckminster Fuller in 1895. Hersholt was in 140 films, most famously as Heidi’s grandfather with Shirley Temple. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named its service award for Hersholt, who was president of the Academy and longtime president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Oscar Hammerstein II was born on July 12th, 1895. Hammerstein won eight Tonys and two Oscars — for “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” and “It Might as Well Be Spring.”