This day through the past 150 years, recent history really, has witnessed a number of significant events. Starting with one major international event and four domestic events. The international event, this day, in 1886, witnessed a German patent being awarded to Karl Benz, a German engineer, for a three-wheeled, gasoline-powered vehicle — the “Motorwagen.” This was the first true automobile in the world. It did not really catch on until Benz’ wife made a 65 mile trip to visit her mother using the Motorwagen. She only had to stop at the Apotheke (Pharmacy) for fuel. She also had to visit a boot maker to put leather linings on the brakes, the first relining of a car’s brakes!
This initial model was enhanced to a four-wheeled vehicle once Benz worked out a steering mechanism for the front wheels. The luxury nameplate automobile, Mercedes–Benz, emerged from this humble motorized vehicle. Benz’ invention demonstrated that motorized transportation was feasible. As a result of this original vehicle, we now have paved highways, including the Autobahns in Germany and the Interstate Highway System in the United States. These highways have tied together a nation’s cities and expedited the mobility of the population. The use of the refined gasoline helped to revolutionize industry just like steam power did earlier; both power sources drove the industrial revolution. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like today if were were still traveling by horse and buggy!
An event that bridged the international and domestic scenes took place in 2002. President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, labeled North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as the “Axis of Evil,” the main source of international terrorism. This was partially a response to the al-Qaeda-sponsored attack on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in suburban Washington, D.C. After the end of the Cold War ushered in by the efforts of President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev in the early 1980s much of the major conflicts between the Soviets and the NATO were eliminated; this was not the end of world tensions since small terrorists groups sprung up to push for their own agendas. The major fear was that some of the rogue states, such as those identified by President George W. Bush, would gain access to nuclear devices and use them against the west. This “Axis of Evil” was thought to be a conduit for such access, especially since North Korea was known to have nuclear capability. It was feared that Iraq and Iran would gain that capability as well. In fact, one of the major arguments used by the junior Bush’s Administration to gain U.N. sanctions to invade Iraq in 2002 was just that — Iraq was thought to have WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). The U.S., with only minor support of a few of our European allies, invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq on the pretense of searching for and destroying these al-Qaeda forces and WMD. But the underlying goal was to establish democratic republics in these Islamic countries WHETHER THE POPULATION WANTED IT OR NOT!
Getting back to the domestic front, this day was significant for two other events — the establishment of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 and launch in 1941 of the last U.S. battleship, the USS Missouri. This is the day, in 1936, when the Baseball Writer’s Association of America named the first five American baseball legends to be inducted into the new Professional Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to be opened in 1939. This Hall of Fame would be built in Cooperstown, New York. The first five inductees were — Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Matheson and Walter Johnson. These great players would lead a host of others over the years. Induction into the Hall of Fame was the goal of every player who took the field for a Major League team; it would also be the dream of every 10 or 11-year-old who took up ball, bat, and glove to play on their first Peewee League team. It became the “Mecca” or “Jerusalem” of any serious baseball fan. If they didn’t get there in actuality, it became an important item on their personal “bucket list.” Over the years, a wing was added to honor the women who played in the All-American Professional Women’s Baseball League during World War II. A wing was also establish to honor those great players in the Negro leagues before Jackie Robinson was able to bridge that color barrier in 1947. Visiting this Hall of Fame became the American youth’s quest for the “Holy Grail.”
The other major event of significance on the home front was the launching, in 1941, of the last Battleship, The USS Missouri, for the U.S. Navy. Prior to World War II naval power had been the key to victory in any international history. During the days of the English fight against the Spanish Armada through the War of 1812, naval power were enforced by the large ships with several different gun decks and large number of canons, the “Ships of the Line.” At the end of the 19th century, England built the HMS Dreadnought, a large battleship that was equipped with many high-bore guns that could send their projectiles for 20 or more miles against opposing navies. No longer would the ships of one navy line up in a straight line sail past each other and firing their canons against the opposing lines of naval ships. As the two rows passed each other, firing their canons into their opposing number as they passed. This was something like two boxers standing toe to toe and hitting each other.
The HMS Dreadnought introduced a new style of naval battle in which these mighty ships would fire at enemy forces, either in the sea or on land, and they move on to the next ship. In World War II we remember the super-Battleships like the SMS Bismarck and SMS Prinz Eugen (Germany), the HMS Hood & HMS Prince of Wales (Britain), the Yamato (Japan) and the USS Missouri, USS Iowa, & USS Arizona (United States). Sea battles between these floating weapon fortifications would take place over the horizon with the enemy out of the line of sight! But this was the end of the line for these large battle wagons as World War II would prove the power of Naval Aviation; a flight of planes from a sea-based Aircraft carrier would be able to sink even the largest of these battleships. They would continue to serve in the bombardment of landing beaches, especially in the Pacific theatre of operations. But they were no longer the power houses of the seas. The “Mighty Mo” would have the honor of hosting the delegations from the Japanese and Allied nations during the surrender ceremonies that ended World War II. RIP, dear battleships, you served your country well and were the king of the mountain for so many decades; may you always be remembered for your heroics.
Finally, we remember that haunting poem that was published on this day in 1845, “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe would go on to write such short stories as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Cask of Amontillado," and, of course, "The Pit and the Pendulum". He was the first American writer to try to make a living at only publishing his works. But the poem, “The Raven,” appeared in the New York Evening Mirror and brought Poe immediate popularity. His writings helped promote the science fiction genre which had been started by the works of Jules Verne in France. He was criticized by many of the more important thinkers and writers of the 19th century such as William Butler Yeats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Aldous Huxley. Most of the recent generations of our generations probably remember his works through their adaptation to the movie screen by that directing genius, Alfred Hitchcock.
So today is marked by influences in transportation, sea power, and sports remembrances. That simple motor-driven vehicle created and patented by Karl Benz on this day in 1886 triggered a number of technologies that have culminated in the hybrid and electric cars of today. Many of the advances of the automobile were incorporated into the huge battleships, such as the USS Missouri that was launched in 1941; while these battleships would be antiquated by the aircraft carrier and naval aviation, the “Mighty Mo” would serve us well during World War II. The American male’s hearts are uplifted by their identification with the great men and their memorabilia housed in the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame; these are the men that we have patterned our play after and pictured ourselves as a Willie Mays or Sandy Koufax as we played our hearts out. And the events of 911 were exploited to identify the post-Cold War terrorists as being supported by that triumvirate of countries identified by George W. Bush as the “Axis of Evil”; unfortunately their presumed tie-in with al-Qaeda and 911 led to a Vietnam-type of war in Iraq and Afghanistan with the intent to establish a democracy upon a people who may not be ready for it or even desirability of it. Hopefully, we will have the wisdom to avoid such intervention for the wrong reasons in the future.
We now will proceed to examine some of the events that are associated with day in history... GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
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