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Today in History with a Twist: November 5, 2013

Vatican Bombed!

     1943 - A Fascist Italian bomber dropped five bombs, four of which detonated, on the Vatican.  At the time it was believed the bombing was an accident because up until this time both sides had respected the Vatican's neutrality.  Despite the Italian Government having signed an armistice with the Allies two months earlier, Germany still controlled Rome.  The bomber belonged to the puppet government set up in northern Italy by the Germans called the Italian Social Republic.  In 2010 documents were found that showed that the attack was deliberate.  They were trying to knock out the Vatican's radio station which the Nazis believed was passing information to the Allies, they weren't.  The bomber missed its target. - The Italian Fascists couldn't even beat the Vatican.

      Another failed bombing occurred in London.  Today is Guy Fawkes Day!  Guy Fawkes Day is an annual celebration commemorating the foil of the Gunpowder Plot in England on November 5, 1605.  This plot was a conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London and to kill King James I.  Fawkes became involved in the small group of rebels and was valued for his experience in the military and his knowledge about explosives.  After the plot was discovered, the conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, were tortured, hanged, and drawn and quartered.  Guy Fawkes Day celebrates the king's escape from assassination.  Today, it is still a popular holiday in the United Kingdom, as well as other current and former British territories including New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Newfoundland, Australia, Bermuda, and other Caribbean islands. People celebrate Guy Fawkes Day by lighting fireworks and bonfires.  Several traditional rhymes such as the “bonfire cry” often accompany the fanfare.  Take part in the festivities today and celebrate Guy Fawkes Day! (

     1937 - Adolf Hitler hosted a secret meeting where he revealed his plans for acquiring "Lebensraum" ("living space") for the German people.  The term Lebensraum in this sense was coined by Friedrich Ratzel in 1901, and was used as a slogan in Germany referring to the unification of the country and the acquisition of colonies, based on the English and French models, and the westward expansion of the United States.  Ratzel believed that the development of a people was primarily influenced by their geographical situation and that a people that successfully adapted to one location would proceed naturally to another.  This expansion to fill available space, he claimed, was a natural and necessary feature of any healthy species.  Ratzel believed that Germany had reached the limits of Eastward expansion in East Prussia and the Baltic countries.  He thought further expansion should be through the addition of colonies.  German leaders though would revert to using the theory to justify eastward expansion.  Documents from World War One show that one of Germany's war aims was to gain control large portions of Polish territory.  Hitler took it a giant step further wanting make all of Eastern Europe to the Urals a part of the 'Greater Reich'. - There were just too many Russians who weren't too partial to that idea.

     1757 - Frederick the Great defeated the allied armies of France and the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Rossbach during Seven Years' War.  The battle is considered one of the classics in military history.  Frederick attacks a force twice his size inflicting over 10,000 casualties on his enemies while his forces suffered only about 500 casualties. - I like talking about battles where I have walked the field.

     1925 - Secret agent Sidney Reilly, the first "super-spy" of the 20th century, is executed by the OGPU, the secret police of the Soviet Union.  He worked primarily for the British but is said to have provided information to several other countries.  It is claimed that he provided information to the Japanese that allowed them to decisively defeat the Russians at Port Arthur.  Ian Fleming based James Bond on Reilly and his exploits. - Some guys have all the fun.

     2009 - US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan murders 13 and wounds 29 at Fort Hood, Texas in the deadliest mass shooting at a US military installation. - Workplace violence!?!

     2007 - China's first lunar satellite, Chang'e 1 goes into orbit around the Moon. - First were hitching rides from the Russians are the Chinese next?

Today we celebrate the birthdays of:

     1885 - Will Durant - American historian (d. 1981) - Anybody read all eleven volumes?

     1910 - John Hackett - Australian-born British soldier, painter, university administrator, author and in later life, respected and sought-after commentator (d. 1997) - During his military training he completed a thesis in history with focus on the crusades and the early Middle Ages, particularly Saladin’s campaign in the Third Crusade, for which he was awarded a Bachelor of Letters.  He also qualified as an interpreter in French, German and Italian, studied Arabic, and eventually became fluent in ten languages.

     Hackett fought with the British Army in the Second World War Syria-Lebanon campaign, where he was wounded and as a result of his actions was awarded the Military Cross.  During his recovery in Palestine he met Margaret Fena, the Austrian widow of a German.  Despite the difficulties involved, he persisted and eventually gained permission from the authorities; they married in Jerusalem in 1942.

     In the North African campaign he commanded C Squadron of the 8th Hussars (his parent unit) and was wounded again when his Stuart tank was hit during the battles for Sidi Rezegh airfield.  He was severely burnt when escaping the stricken vehicle.  He received his first Distinguished Service Order for this event.  Whilst recuperating at GHQ in Cairo he was instrumental in the formation of the Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service and Popski's Private Army.

     In 1944, Hackett raised and commanded the 4th Parachute Brigade for the Allied assault on Arnhem, in Operation Market Garden.  In the battle at Arnhem Brigadier Hackett was severely wounded in the stomach, was captured and taken to the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Arnhem.  A German doctor at the hospital wanted to administer a lethal injection to Hackett, because he thought that the case was hopeless.  However he was operated on by Alexander Lipmann-Kessel, who with superb surgery managed to save the brigadier's life.  After a period of recuperation, he managed to escape with the help of the Dutch underground.

     In 1978, Sir John wrote a novel, The Third World War: August 1985, which was a fictionalized scenario of the Third World War based on a Soviet Army invasion of West Germany in 1985.  It was followed in 1982 by The Third World War:  The Untold Story, which elaborated on the original, including more detail from a Soviet perspective.  The American author Max Brooks has cited Hackett's work as one source of inspiration for the latter's World War Z novel. - Zombies everywhere these days!

     1911 - Roy Rogers - American singer, guitarist, and actor (Sons of the Pioneers) (d. 1998) - Loved the Roy Rogers show when I was a kid, but... He had Trigger STUFFED!

To learn more about the above topics check out the following items from the Library's collection:

Amazon Says: For years, the policies of the Catholic Church during the rise and terribly destructive rule of the Nazis have been controversial. Pope Pius XII has been attacked as "Hitler's more...
Amazon Says: For years, the policies of the Catholic Church during the rise and terribly destructive rule of the Nazis have been controversial. Pope Pius XII has been attacked as "Hitler's Pope," an anti-Semitic enabler who refused to condemn Nazism, much less urge Catholics to resist the German regime. The Church has been accused of standing by while the Nazis steadily revealed their evil designs. Yet all such arguments have been based only on sketchy evidence. The Vatican has kept its internal workings secret and locked away from scrutiny.Until now. In February 2003, the Vatican opened its archives for the crucial years of the Nazi consolidation of power, up until 1939. Peter Godman, thanks to his long experience in Vatican sources and his reputation as an impartial, non-Catholic historian of the Church, was one of the first scholars to explore the new documents. The story they tell is revelatory and surprising and forces a major revision of the history of the 1930s. It is a story that reveals the innermost workings of the Vatican, an institution far more fractured than monolithic, one that allowed legalism to trump moral outrage.Godman's narrative is doubly shocking: At first, the Church planned to condemn Nazism as heretical, and drafted several variations of its charges in the mid-1930s. However, as Mussolini drew close to Hitler, and Pope Pius XI grew more concerned about communism than fascism, the charge was reduced to a denunciation only of bolshevism. The Church abandoned its moral attack on the Nazis and retreated to diplomacy, complaining about treaty violations and delivering weak protests while the horrors of religious persecution mounted. As Godman demonstrates, the policiesof Pius XII were all determined by his predecessor, Pius XI. The Church was misled not so much by "Hitler's Pope" as by a tragic miscalculation and a special relationship with the Italian government. Mussolini toyed with the Church, even proposing that Hitler be excommunicated. Yet in the end, when presented with further evidence of Nazi depredations, Pius XI could only comment, "Kindly God, who has allowed all this to happen at present, undoubtedly has His purpose."Reproducing the key Church documents in full and quoting verbatim conversations between Pius XI and his bishops, "Hitler and the Vatican" is the most extraordinary look inside the secretive Vatican ever written. less...

Amazon Says: “Raises complex and urgent issues.”—Booklist, starred review How Wall Street, Chinese billionaires, oil sheiks, and agribusiness are buying up huge tracts of land in more...
Amazon Says: “Raises complex and urgent issues.”—Booklist, starred review How Wall Street, Chinese billionaires, oil sheiks, and agribusiness are buying up huge tracts of land in a hungry, crowded world.An unprecedented land grab is taking place around the world. Fearing future food shortages or eager to profit from them, the world’s wealthiest and most acquisitive countries, corporations, and individuals have been buying and leasing vast tracts of land around the world. The scale is astounding: parcels the size of small countries are being gobbled up across the plains of Africa, the paddy fields of Southeast Asia, the jungles of South America, and the prairies of Eastern Europe. Veteran science writer Fred Pearce spent a year circling the globe to find out who was doing the buying, whose land was being taken over, and what the effect of these massive land deals seems to be.   The Land Grabbers is a first-of-its-kind exposé that reveals the scale and the human costs of the land grab, one of the most profound ethical, environmental, and economic issues facing the globalized world in the twenty-first century. The corporations, speculators, and governments scooping up land cheap in the developing world claim that industrial-scale farming will help local economies. But Pearce’s research reveals a far more troubling reality. While some mega-farms are ethically run, all too often poor farmers and cattle herders are evicted from ancestral lands or cut off from water sources. The good jobs promised by foreign capitalists and home governments alike fail to materialize. Hungry nations are being forced to export their food to the wealthy, and corporate potentates run fiefdoms oblivious to the country beyond their fences.   Pearce’s story is populated with larger-than-life characters, from financier George Soros and industry tycoon Richard Branson, to Gulf state sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, British barons, and Burmese generals. We discover why Goldman Sachs is buying up the Chinese poultry industry, what Lord Rothschild and a legendary 1970s asset-stripper are doing in the backwoods of Brazil, and what plans a Saudi oil billionaire has for Ethiopia. Along the way, Pearce introduces us to the people who actually live on, and live off of, the supposedly “empty” land that is being grabbed, from Cambodian peasants, victimized first by the Khmer Rouge and now by crony capitalism, to African pastoralists confined to ever-smaller tracts.    Over the next few decades, land grabbing may matter more, to more of the planet’s people, than even climate change. It will affect who eats and who does not, who gets richer and who gets poorer, and whether agrarian societies can exist outside corporate control. It is the new battle over who owns the planet. less...

Amazon Says: Examines humanity's ongoing efforts to explore the universe, focusing on the various national, multinational, and private endeavors that are currently underway while also noti more...
Amazon Says: Examines humanity's ongoing efforts to explore the universe, focusing on the various national, multinational, and private endeavors that are currently underway while also noting some of the more significant triumphs and tragedies of the Space Age. less...

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