History

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I have lived in Wyoming since I was three years old, and so sometimes it’s easy for me to forget some of the places that have great historical value, but they are not as well known as some of the other places, like Yellowstone National Park. Register Cliff is one such landmark that I don’t often think about, although I have been there, and it really is a cool place.

Register Cliff is a sandstone cliff, that is located on the Oregon Trail. The cliff is a soft, chalky, limestone wall rising more than 100 feet above the North Platte River. When my sisters and I were kids, our parents would take us on trips, and point out every (and I mean every) Oregon Trail marker that we passed. In Wyoming, that is a lot of markers. As the emigrants made their way on the Oregon Trail, searching for a better life in the west, they came upon this cliff and chiseled the names of their families on the soft stones of the cliff. It was one of the key checkpoint landmarks for parties heading west along the Platte River valley west of Fort John, Wyoming which allowed travelers to verify they were on the correct path up to South Pass and not moving into impassable mountain terrains. Geographically, it is on the eastern ascent of the Continental divide leading upward out of the great plains in the eastern part of Wyoming.

As more and more people “registered” on the cliff, word started to get around about this notable historic landmark. People quickly began to see the value of the cliff. Besides knowing that they were going the right direction, the emigrants realized that they were a part of history. Their names would forever be carved in the stone of the cliff, stating that they were among the brave people who moved to the west to settle the land.

The practice soon became the custom of the day, and the other northern Emigrant Trails that split off farther west such as the California Trail and Mormon Trail began to follow the custom too, inscribing their names on its rocks during the western migrations of the 19th century. It is estimated that 500,000 emigrants used these trails from 1843–1869. Unfortunately, up to one-tenth of the emigrants died along the way, usually due to disease and other hazards. Nevertheless, those who made it this far were forever known to those who stop by. Register Cliff is the easternmost of the three prominent emigrant “recording areas” located within Wyoming. The other two are Independence Rock and Names Hill. The site was where emigrants camped on their first night west of Fort Laramie. The property was donated by Henry Frederick to the state of Wyoming, to be preserved. Register Cliff was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

Animals have been used in most wars for different purposes. Some animals were messengers, like the carrier pigeon. Some were for warning, like the dog, which also served as a soldier in a fight situation. They are very loyal, and will do their best to save their master. These types of animals were to be expected to a degree, but during World War II, there was a certain cat, named Oscar, also known as Oskar, and ultimately known as Unsinkable Sam, because this cat managed not only to serve in both the Kriegsmarine, but also the Royal Navy. The cat’s original name is unknown, but the name “Oscar” was given by the crew of the British destroyer HMS Cossack, when that crew rescued him from the sea following the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. The name “Oscar” was given to the cat, and was derived from the International Code of Signals for the letter ‘O’ which is code for “Man Overboard” (the German spelling “Oskar” was sometimes used since he was a German cat). For Oscar to survive the sinking of the Bismarck was amazing, but it was not the end of his story.

As you know, war is a tough time to be on a ship. There is no guarantee that the ship will make it through the war, and if a ship goes down in a battle, it usually takes some, if not all of the crew with it. A cat would usually have little chance of survival on a ship that is sinking, but someone forgot to tell Oskar that. Oskar was a black and white patched cat. It is thought that he was originally owned by one of the crewman of the German battleship Bismarck and was on board the ship on May 18, 1941 when the ship set sail on Operation Rheinübung (German for Rhine Exercise). It was the Bismarck’s only mission. On May 27, 1941, the Bismarck was sunk after a fierce sea-battle. The sinking took with it most of the crew. Out of a crew of 2,100 men, only 115 from her crew survived…and one cat. Hours after the sinking, Oscar was found floating on a board and picked from the water by the British destroyer HMS Cossack.

The crew of the Cossack decided that since Oscar was used to being on a ship, he could just stay with them. So, Oscar “served” on board Cossack for the next few months as the ship carried out convoy escort duties in the Mediterranean Sea and north Atlantic Ocean. On October 24, 1941, Cossack was escorting a convoy from Gibraltar to Great Britain when she was severely damaged by a torpedo fired by the German submarine U-563. The surviving crew were transferred to the destroyer HMS Legion, and an attempt was made to tow the badly listing Cossack back to Gibraltar. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, and as it worsened, the task became impossible and had to be abandoned. On October 27, a day after the tow was slipped, Cossack sank to the west of Gibraltar. The initial explosion had blown off one third of the forward section of the ship, killing 159 of the crew, but Oscar survived, and was taken to Gibraltar. To say that a cat has nine lives is almost an understatement when it came to Oscar.

Following the sinking of Cossack, Oscar was given the nickname “Unsinkable Sam” and was soon transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which by coincidence was instrumental in the destruction of Bismarck, along with Cossack. This assignment was not going to prove safer for Sam, and one might begin to wonder if he should be given another shore assignment…for the sake of the ships. When the Ark Royal was returning from Malta on November 14, 1941, it too was torpedoed, this time by U-81. Again they attempted to tow Ark Royal to Gibraltar, but they were unable to stop the inflow of water, so the attempt was futile. The carrier rolled over and sank 30 miles from Gibraltar. The good news was that due to the slow rate of the sinking, all but one crew member were able to be evacuated, along with, of course, Unsinkable Sam. The survivors, including Sam, who had been found clinging to a floating plank by a Motor Launch and described as “angry but quite unharmed,” were transferred to HMS Lightning and the same HMS Legion which had also rescued the crew of Cossack. Legion would itself be sunk in 1942, and Lightning in 1943. The life of a ship in wartime was not a safe one.

After the third ship sank under Sam’s paws, it was decided that maybe he shouldn’t be on a ship, so he was transferred first to the offices of the Governor of Gibraltar and then sent back to the United Kingdom, where he saw out the remainder of the war living in a seaman’s home in Belfast called the “Home for Sailors.” I think Sam had earned his place there. Sam died in 1955. A pastel portrait of Sam, which was titled “Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat” by the artist Georgina Shaw-Baker is on display in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Of course, as with all war stories, some authorities question whether Oskar/Sam’s biography might be a “sea story,” because for example, there are pictures of two different cats identified as Oskar/Sam. It is my opinion that whether it is true or not, it lends a lighthearted note to the otherwise tragic stories of war, and therefore, I choose to believe it is true.

When the minerals in a mine run out, or become less valuable, the mine tends to close down. These days, they try to return the mine to it’s prior state, but then many mines these days are pit mines, or strip mines. I suppose it is easier to return them to their prior state when you only have to fill in the hole, and I’m not opposed to that process. It can make a beautiful place out of ground that has been ripped apart. In some cases, it looks better after the reclamation.

The Kennecott Mine, often spelled Kennicott, is an abandoned mining camp in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, which is now the Copper River Census Area in the state of Alaska. The mine was, at one time, the center of activity for several copper mines. Kennecott Mines was named after the Kennicott Glacier in the valley below. The geologist Oscar Rohn named the glacier after Robert Kennicott during the 1899 US Army Abercrombie Survey. A “clerical error” resulted in the substitution of an “e” for the “i,” supposedly by Stephen Birch himself. The mine is located northeast of Valdez, inside Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve. The camp and mines are now a National Historic Landmark District administered by the National Park Service. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. It’s status as a historical site, probably explains the good shape it is in. Many historical sites deteriorate badly before anyone realizes that they should be preserved as a part of history.

Two prospectors, “Tarantula” Jack Smith and Clarence L Warner, who were with a group of prospectors associated with the McClellan party in the summer of 1900, spotted “a green patch far above them in an improbable location for a grass-green meadow.” Upon inspection, the green turned out to be malachite, located with chalcocite…aka “copper glance,” and the location of the Bonanza claim. A few days later, Arthur Coe Spencer, US Geological Survey geologist also found chalcocite at the same location. It was the birth of a copper mine.

A mining engineer just out of school, named Stephen Birch was in Alaska looking for investment opportunities in minerals. He was young, but he came with the financial backing of the Havemeyer Family and another investor named James Ralph, from his days in New York. Birch spent the winter of 1901-1902 acquiring the “McClellan group’s interests” for the Alaska Copper Company of Birch, Havemeyer, Ralph and Schultz, later to become the Alaska Copper and Coal Company. He spent the summer of 1901, visiting the property and “spent months mapping and sampling.” He confirmed the Bonanza mine and surrounding deposits, were at the time, the richest known concentration of copper in the world.

Kennecott had five mines: Bonanza, Jumbo, Mother Lode, Erie, and Glacier. “Glacier, which is really an ore extension of the Bonanza, was an open-pit mine and was only mined during the summer. Bonanza and Jumbo were on Bonanza Ridge about 3 miles from Kennecott. The Mother Lode mine was located on the east side of the ridge from Kennecott. The Bonanza, Jumbo, Mother Lode and Erie mines were connected by tunnels. The Erie mine was perched on the northwest end of Bonanza Ridge overlooking Root Glacier about 3.7 miles up a glacial trail from Kennecott.” The copper ore was transported to Kennecott by way of the trams which head-ended at Bonanza and Jumbo. From Kennecott the ore was hauled mostly in 140-pound sacks on steel flat cars to Cordova, 196 rail miles away on the Copper River and Northwestern Railway (CRNW).

In 1925 a Kennecott geologist predicted that the end of the high-grade ore bodies was in sight. The mines days were numbered. The highest grades of ore were largely depleted by the early 1930s. The Glacier Mine closed in 1929, and the rest followed soon after. The last train left Kennecott on November 10, 1938. It was now a ghost town. Over a period of 20 years the population dropped from 494 in 1920 to 5 in 1940. Thankfully the historical value of this particular site was not lost, and is still there today.

When I think of a hurricane, I think of a tropical storm that escalates, and I suppose most of the time, that would be right, but it isn’t always the case. Sometimes hurricanes can develop in a more northern area, or as in the case of Hurricane Hazel on October 15, 1954 a strong hurricane somehow continues north as a hurricane after it hit first in a more southern area. Hurricane Hazel was a hurricane that struck the Carolina’s, and then and then moved into Ontario as a powerful extratropical storm…still of hurricane intensity, after that initial strike in the Carolinas.

The deadliest hurricane of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Hazel was also the second costliest, and the most intense hurricane of that year. The storm killed at least 469 people in Haiti before striking the United States as a Category 4 hurricane near the border between North and South Carolina. As Hazel ripped through Haiti, it destroyed 40% of the coffee trees and 50% of the cacao crop, which would drastically affected the economy for several years.

After causing 95 fatalities in the US, Hazel struck Canada as an extratropical storm, raising the death toll by 81 people, mostly in Toronto. When Hazel made landfall near Calabash, North Carolina, it destroyed most waterfront homes. Then as it screamed north along the Atlantic coast, Hazel affected Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York; as it lashed the area with gusts near 100 miles per hour and caused $281 million, which today would be $2720 million in damage. When it was over Pennsylvania, Hazel consolidated with a cold front and turned northwest towards Canada.

In addition to the fatalities, Hurricane Hazel brought with it flash flooding in Canada, which destroyed twenty bridges, killed 81 people, and left over 2,000 families homeless in Canada alone. In all, and including the strike in the Carolinas, where Hazel killed 95 people and caused almost $630 million ($6,100 million today) in damages, on top of over 500 other deaths and billions in damage in the US and Caribbean. No other recent natural disaster on Canadian soil has been so deadly. Floods killed 35 people on a single street in Toronto.

When it hit Ontario as an extratropical storm, rivers and streams in and around Toronto overflowed their banks, which caused severe flooding. As a result, many residential areas in the local floodplains, such as the Raymore Drive area, were subsequently converted to parkland. In Canada alone, over C$135 million (C$1.3 billion, 2021) of damage was incurred. The effects of Hazel were particularly unprecedented in Toronto due to a combination of heavy rainfall during the preceding weeks, a lack of experience in dealing with tropical storms, and the storm’s unexpected retention of power despite traveling 680 miles over land. The storm stalled over the Toronto area, and although it was now extratropical, it remained as powerful as a category 1 hurricane. To help with the cleanup, 800 members of the military were called in and a Hurricane Relief Fund was quickly established that distributed $5.1 million ($49.1 million today) in aid. The name Hazel was retired as a named storm, because of the high death toll.

We don’t often think of the United States having castles, but some do exist. Most are not considered true castles, but are rather country houses, follies, or other types of buildings built to give the appearance of a castle. In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose, or of such extravagant appearance that it transcends the range of usual garden buildings. Castles seem like almost ancient history items to most of us, and when it came to the United States, many people thought of the Old West and homestead type dwellings. Nevertheless, there are a few real castles here in the United States, even if we don’t have royalty here.

One such castle is Bannerman Castle in New York. The castle is located on Pollepel Island, about 50 miles north of New York City, on the Hudson River. The castle is in serious disrepair, but the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc is trying to shore up the buildings so they don’t deteriorate further. The analysis that has been done indicates that 5 out of the 7 buildings on the island could be shored up. The others are too far gone. The castle has a strange history, and I suppose some would debate it’s claim as a true castle. The castle was built by Frank Bannerman VI over a period of 17 years. The island’s buildings were personally designed by Bannerman without professional help from architects, engineers, or contractors. The island has buildings, docks, turrets, garden walls, and a moat in the style of old Scottish castles. That was his passion. He loved Scottish castles and built his castle with a Scottish flare. All of the buildings are elaborately decorated, from biblical quotations cast into all fireplace mantles, to a shield between the towers with a coat of arms, and a wreath of thistle leaves and flowers.

Bannerman’s family immigrated to America in 1854, when he was three. They settled in Brooklyn, New York, where his father established a business selling flags, rope, and other articles acquired at Navy auctions. He was a patriotic man, who joined the union army during the Civil War. At that time young Frank began running the business. He was 13 years old. When the Civil War ended, the US government auctioned off military goods by the ton, mostly to be scrapped for their metal. It was young Frank who saw the importance of these materials, and it was his wise purchases that earned him the moniker “Father of the Army-Navy Store.” He could see that much of what was being sold had a market value higher than scrap. Under the guidance of the younger Bannerman, the Bannerman family became the world’s largest buyer of surplus military equipment. By this time, their storeroom and showroom took up a full block at 501 Broadway. Bannerman made his store into a type of museum/store. It opened to the public in 1905. Of it, the New York Herald said, “No museum in the world exceeds it in the number of exhibits.”

Frank was very prosperous, and it was during a business trip to Ireland that he met his future wife, Helen Boyce. They had three children. At the close of the Spanish American War, Frank Bannerman purchased 90 percent of all captured goods in a sealed bid. After that, it became necessary to find a secure place to store their large quantity of very volatile black powder. His son, David saw Pollepel Island, in the Hudson, and Frank Bannerman purchased it in 1900. Following the purchase, the building of the castle began. Today, the island is owned by the state of New York, and at this time visits are prohibited until the buildings can be made safer.

When someone sacrifices their life to save the life of another, its big news for a while, but eventually only the one who was saved, and maybe their family, remember the name of that selfless hero. In 1887, sculptor, George Frederic Watts, who thought that loss of memory concerning these heroes was horribly sad and just plain wrong, proposed a memorial to honor these forgotten heroes.

The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice is a public monument in Postman’s Park in the City of London. Watts wanted the memorial to be ready in time to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Unfortunately, the project was not accepted at that time, but in 1898 Watts was approached by Henry Gamble, vicar of Saint Botolph’s Aldersgate church. Postman’s Park was built on the church’s former churchyard, and the church was trying to raise funds to secure its future. That was when Gamble heard about the memorial project inspired by Watts. Gamble felt that Watts’ proposed memorial would raise the profile of the park…make it more memorable. Because it was going to be an ever-evolving memorial, it was unveiled in an unfinished state in 1900. The memorial consisted of a 50-foot wooden loggia designed by Ernest George. A loggia is an architectural feature which is a covered exterior gallery or corridor usually on an upper level, or sometimes ground level. The loggia sheltered a wall with space for 120 ceramic memorial tiles to be designed and made by William De Morgan. At the unveiling, only four of the memorial tiles were in place.

Watts died in 1904, before his idea was really in it’s full glory. His widow, Mary Watts took over the running of the project. In 1906, after making 24 memorial tablets for the project, William De Morgan abandoned the ceramics business to become a novelist. It was a bit of a blow to the project. The only ceramics firm able to manufacture appropriate further tiles was Royal Doulton. Mary was dissatisfied with Royal Doulton’s designs, and preoccupied with the management of the Watts Gallery and Watts Mortuary Chapel in Compton, Surrey. Eventually, Mary Watts lost interest in the project. Work to complete it was sporadic and ceased altogether in 1931 with only 53 of the planned 120 tiles in place. I think it is very sad that such an amazing project was sidelined…for lack of interest!! Seriously, lack of interest!! Finally, in 2009, the Diocese of London consented to further additions to the memorial, and the first new tablet in 78 years was added. In my opinion, it’s about time.

As interest grew again, a mobile app was created in 2013. It was called The Everyday Heroes of Postman’s Park. Once again, interest wained…at least for the app, so it is now discontinued. The app provided a detailed account of the fifty-four incidents commemorated on the Memorial when a visitor scanned its plaque with a handheld device. Again, I find myself feeling sad that people can possible lose interest in the everyday heroes in our world. They are each amazing, and they should never be forgotten.

I read a story about training an elephant yesterday. It went like this, “As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. ‘Well,’ trainer said, ‘when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.’

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.”

The story made me think about the way Hitler was able to train a generation to follow him without question. He took the children away from their parents when they were young, basically telling the parents that the state knew what was best for the children, and the parents didn’t know enough about educating the children to do a good job. He set up the Hitler Youth organization in 1933 for educating and training male youth in principles. Of course, the principles Hitler had in mind were vastly different from any that the parents could imagine. Hitler’s ideas included racism, killing any “undesirables” among the population, and controlling the people with curfews and lockdowns…to name a few. Under the leadership of Baldur Benedikt von Schirach, the head of all German youth programs, the Hitler Youth included by 1935 almost 60 percent of German boys. On July 1, 1936, it became a state agency that all young “Aryan” Germans were expected to join. Upon reaching his 10th birthday, a German boy was registered and investigated especially for “racial purity” and, if qualified, inducted into the “German Young People.” At age 13 the youth became eligible for the Hitler Youth, from which he was graduated at age 18. Throughout these years he lived a life of dedication, fellowship, and Nazi conformity, generally with minimum parental guidance. From age 18 he was a member of and served in the state labor service and the armed forces until at least the age of 21.

Two leagues also existed for girls. The League of German Girls trained girls ages 14 to 18 for comradeship, domestic duties, and motherhood. “Young Girls” was an organization for girls ages 10 to 14. The girls were expected to have babies to build the Reich…provided they qualified as “racially pure,” of course.

In the tumultuous days we currently live in, parents need to be very involved in what our children are being taught. The current racially charged climate in our nation would only be exacerbated by teaching our children things like Critical Race Theory, because it is really the new Ku Klux Klan. Racism, against any nationality is simply wrong…there is no gray area. Our children need to be able to be proud of the race they are and the background they come from. Racism is unacceptable, against any race, and we, as parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents, need to kick the government out of our educational system, and get back to decent moral values. We need to stop the insanity in our schools, and teach our kids the true history of our nation. We must teach good values, and our children need to be taught to accept all races. We need to start with the kids, because they are the future leaders.

Heroes come from all walks of life, and you really never know who will become a hero and who won’t. In fact, I don’t think a hero even knows that the heroic in inside him, until the heroic is needed. Often the heroic comes from being faced with a situation that would require your life to save that of another. Such was the case for Maximilian Kolbe in 1941.

The Catholics didn’t really agree with the Jewish beliefs, and the Jews felt the same way about the Catholics beliefs, so when Hitler began rounding up the Jews, many Catholics and other religions, were quick to turn them over…it might have been to save their own lives, but they were handing them over to be killed, nevertheless…and they knew it. The non-Jews could pretend that everything was fine and the Jewish people who were taken, would be returned when things settled down, and maybe at first they truly thought that, but as time went by the truth was coming out. They now had a choice to make…a moral choice.

Kolbe was a Catholic priest during World War II. He saw what was going on with the Jewish people, when Hitler started rounding them up. Kolbe could read between the lines, as many people could in those horrific days, and he decided to help Jewish people escape the Nazis. Being a Catholic priest, he likely had more room that other people might have had. He started harboring Jewish people and hiding them from the Nazis, keeping them safe from the public and any harm that might be afflicted upon them. As with many people who harbored Jews, Kolbe was soon caught, and was sent to Auschwitz for sheltering Jewish people.

Auschwitz was one of the worst of Hitler’s torture chamber death camps, and it certainly proved to be just that for Kolbe. During his time at the horrid concentration camp, a prisoner escaped from the camp and as punishment, ten innocent prisoners had to starve to death in a hollow, concrete tube. One of the elected people started to cry and exclaimed that they had a wife and kids, so Kolbe spoke up and took his place so the man could be with this family. The prisoners were kept in the tube for the next two weeks. Most of them were already in a weakened and starved state, and so the prisoners inside the tube slowly began to die. Of the ten prisoners, Kolbe and three other men managed to survive the torturous tube. One would think that if they survived the tube, they would be considered strong enough to bring out and put back to work, but the remaining prisoners were brought out of the tube and killed by being injected with Carbolic Acid. When it was his turn to receive the injection, Kolbe didn’t fight like the rest of the men, but instead, he gave his arm to the prison guard and never once made a fuss over it. One might think that Kolbe was just done with the whole mess, and maybe that was true, but it would have made no difference for him to fight. The guards had decided, and his fighting the injection would make no difference. Maximilian Kolbe died on August 14, 1941. He was 47 years old.

It’s hard to picture a dentist as being a hero, but US Army Medic Ben Salomon, who was a dentist before he was drafted in to the US Army as a private in 1940, as World War II was in its early stages. Salomon was assigned, not to the medical units, but rather, to the infantry. It was in the infantry during rifle and pistol qualifications that Salomon was rated an Expert Marksman. He also had medical knowledge that could be used during battlefield surgery. Salomon was assigned to a unit as their medic. Being a medic in wartime means that you are doing the noble thing, a task which is not often recognized as anything special. I think was have all seen the television show, MASH, in which the position of Army Doctor is viewed as mostly safe, far from the front lines, and given to a little bit of hanky panky. It doesn’t often paint a picture of heroic actions, although, sometimes the doctors are heroic (Nevertheless, I don’t mean to say that all military doctors are like the doctors on MASH, who are, after all, playing a part.) Medics serve and protect like every other serviceman, but they sometimes see a lot more of war’s ugly side. These unit medics might saw torn apart friends, horrific injuries, and a lot of deaths. The men they served with every day were their friends, and while the medic was usually behind the unit in a tent, caring for the wounded, these were not strangers to them. They were friends and comrades in arms.

Just one month after Salomon’s promotion to captain, he experienced his first battle. Salomon volunteered to replace the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment’s field surgeon, who had been wounded. The unit was sent to Saipan to fight the Japanese forces. Little did Salomon know that this would be his only battle. When the unit landed in Saipan, they found immediately themselves in one of the most intense fights in the Pacific arena. Apparently this little island had been determined to be vital…no matter which side you were on. The Japanese army was not willing to concede the island and the US Army was adamant that they needed to take it. By the time Salomon’s unit arrived, the Japanese had taken the approach of advance and attack to their own deaths.

The tents for the field surgeons were located 50 yards behind the front, and it was there that Salomon worked to triage the severely wounded men. On July 6, 1944, the Japanese reached the trenches and Salomon’s position. Then on July 7th, the Japanese made it over the trenches and went straight to the medical tents. Inside, Salomon was treating wounded soldiers. He looked up and saw a Japanese soldier storm into the tent and bayonet one of the wounded and unarmed soldiers. Solomon acted instinctively. He grabbed an M1 rifle which was on a table close by and fired, killing the enemy soldier. For a medic, who never expected to need to fire his weapon, that situation must have come as a bit of a shock, but that soldier was not to be the only one Salomon killed that day. He turned back to the wounded soldiers, and then he saw two more enemy soldiers burst into the tent. There wasn’t much room in the tents, and they weren’t designed for hand to hand combat, but the tent soon became the battlefield, nevertheless. Salomon began swinging the rifle and clubbed the first soldier, then jamming the second with the butt of the weapon. Then, he shot one and bayoneted the other.

Immediately, four more Japanese soldiers made their way into the medical tent and tried to catch Salomon by surprise. One of the soldiers had a knife that Salomon kicked out of his hand before firing his rifle, killing one soldier and using his bayonet to kill another. By now, Salomon was out of bullets, so he picked up the knife and engaged with the two remaining enemy fighters. He killed one using the knife before head-butting the other, who was then shot by one of the patients in the tent. After dispatching the enemy soldiers, Salomon ordered his colleagues to evacuate the wounded. He would stay behind to hold off the enemy to give them the extra time they needed. As Captain Salomon loaded his rifle, the 30 wounded soldiers and orderlies in the tent started to retreat. The decision to stay and fight while the wounded were evacuated saved many lives, but Salomon was now in a battle that he had no hope of winning, much less living through. Ben Salomon made his last stand. He commandeered a heavy machine gun and was last seen firing at oncoming Japanese troops.

When the American troops were finally able to return to the area, they found Salomon’s body slumped over the machine gun, surrounded by the bodies of 98 Japanese soldiers. He had been shot 76 times and had 24 bayonet wounds on his body. Yes, Captain Salomon had died in the battle, but not before he killed 98 enemy soldiers, and the wounded soldiers and the medics with him had all managed to escape. Salomon was a serious force to be reckoned with, as the Japanese found out that day.

Medical personnel were considered ineligible for the Medal of Honor at that time, due to the terms of the Geneva Convention, so the request that he be awarded the medal was denied. After numerous other attempts over the years, Salomon’s bravery was finally recognized with the Medal of Honor in 2002, 58 years after his death.

Underground mining, as we all know is dangerous. It was even more dangerous in the 1800s, when the equipment used was much more primitive. Still, many mining companies have switched to open pit mining to avoid the possibility of a cave in. One of the most dangerous forms of underground mining was and still is coal mining. The distinct possibility of a build up of methane gas makes underground coal mining a deadly venture for many miners. Aside from breathing the deadly gas and coal dust, causing death, either instantaneously or later in life…from black lung, the danger of an explosion was always present.

One of the most dangerous parts of underground mining, was the miner’s inability to see, or rather the lanterns used to solve the problem of the miner’s inability to see. It’s pretty difficult to maneuver around in a mine, much less find ore, if you can’t see, and caves don’t generally have built in lights. Miners these days have battery powered lights on their hard hats, but those things didn’t exist in the 1800s. Most generally the miners carried a lantern, filled with heavy vegetable oil and using a wick that was unprotected, thus allowing it to ignite the methane or other flammable gasses, called firedamp or minedamp, lurking undetected in the mine.

The problem needed to be solved, and so several inventors began looking into just how to do that. Probably the best one, at that time, was the Davy lamp. It is a safety lamp designed specifically for use in flammable atmospheres. It was invented in 1815 by Sir Humphry Davy. They didn’t have light bulbs or batteries that could be used in the mines back then. The Davy Lamp consists of a wick lamp with the flame enclosed inside a mesh screen. The mesh screen kept the flame from escaping, thereby reducing the danger of explosions. The Davy Lamp also provided a test for the presence of gases. If flammable gas mixtures were present, the flame of the Davy lamp burned higher with a blue tinge. The lamps were equipped with a metal gauge to measure the height of the flame. When the lamp was placed close to the ground, it could detect gases, such as carbon dioxide, that are more dense than air and so could collect in depressions in the mine. If the lamp determined that the mine air was oxygen-poor (asphyxiant gas), the lamp flame would be extinguished, using a black damp or chokedamp. A methane-air flame is extinguished at about 17% oxygen content…which will still support life, so the lamp gave an early indication of a dangerous atmosphere, allowing the miners to get out before they died of asphyxiation.

Apparently, Davy’s invention was preceded by that of William Reid Clanny, an Irish doctor at Bishopwearmouth, who had read a paper to the Royal Society in May 1813. The Clanny lamp was more cumbersome, but it was successfully tested at Herrington Mill, and he won medals, from the Royal Society of Arts. Another lamp version was the lamp designed by engine-wright George Stephenson. His “Geordie Lamp” drew air in via tiny holes, through which the flames of the lamp could not pass. If you ask me, the metal plate, only allowing small pin points of light would not be a very illuminating. A month before Davy presented his design to the Royal Society, Stephenson supposedly demonstrated his own lamp to two witnesses by taking it down Killingworth Colliery and holding it in front of a fissure from which firedamp was issuing. Unfortunately for Stephenson, Davy beat him to the necessary people.

The first trial of a Davy lamp with a wire sieve was at Hebburn Colliery on January 9, 1816. Because of its success, Davy was awarded the society’s Rumford Medal. Davy’s lamp differed from Stephenson’s in that the flame was surrounded by a screen of gauze, whereas Stephenson’s prototype lamp had a perforated plate contained in a glass cylinder, which was a design mentioned in Davy’s Royal Society paper, as an alternative to his preferred solution. For his invention Davy was given £2,000 worth of silver. Stephenson, on the other hand, was accused of stealing the idea from Davy. His “Geordie Lamp” had not been demonstrated by Stephenson until after Davy had presented his paper at the Royal Society. While Stephenson was exonerated, Davy went to his grave insisting that he had tried to steal his idea.

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