Vasa is a beautiful Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. For a warship, the ship was anything but plain. It was a very ornate, which is odd for a warship…at least as we see them today. The ship was built on the orders of the King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus as part of the military expansion he initiated in a war with Poland-Lithuania, which took place between 1621–1629. Vasa was constructed at the navy yard in Stockholm under a contract with private entrepreneurs in 1626–1627. The ship was armed primarily with bronze cannon cast in Stockholm specifically for the ship. The king had her richly decorated as a symbol of his ambitions for Sweden and for himself. When she was done…she was not only stunningly beautiful, but she was also one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. All that was great, but Vasa was also dangerously unstable, with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. That fact didn’t faze the king, who despite the lack of stability, of which he was informed, ordered Vasa to sea.

Vasa’s maiden voyage was an exciting moment for everyone in the area. On August 10, 1628, she set sail from the Stockholm navy yard and after encountering a wind that was barely stronger than a breeze, she sank after sailing roughly 1,400 yards. Seriously, that has to be the shortest maiden voyage on record…for all time. Vasa quickly fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannon were salvaged in the 17th century, which is odd, because they knew where she was and if they were able to pull the cannon up, why would they not take anything else. Nevertheless, she sat there until she was once again located in the late 1950s in a busy shipping area in Stockholm harbor. Amazingly, the ship was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961. She was temporarily housed in a museum called Wasavarvet (“The Vasa Shipyard”) until 1988, when she was moved permanently to the Vasa Museum in the Royal National City Park in Stockholm. Today, the ship is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions. Since her recovery and placement in 1961, over 35 million visitors have seen the ship. Vasa has become a widely recognized symbol of the Swedish Empire…something I’m not sure I would like if I were the king, because while she is beautiful, she is unstable, and what leader would want “a lack of stability” to be part of their nation’s symbol.

It is said that the order to sail was the result of a combination of factors. The king, who was leading the army in Poland at the time of her maiden voyage, was impatient to see her take up her station as flagship of the reserve squadron at Älvsnabben in the Stockholm Archipelago, being the biggest one. Unfortunately, the king’s subordinates lacked the political courage to openly discuss the ship’s problems or to push to have the maiden voyage postponed. Of course, there was an inquiry by the Swedish Privy Council to find out who was responsible for the disaster. Nevertheless, in the end, no one was punished.

When the recovery crew went in to bring Vasa and her contents to the surface once again in 1961, they found thousands of artifacts, among them many items of clothing, weapons, cannon, tools, coins, cutlery, food, drink and six of the ten sails. Marine archaeologists also found the remains of at least 15 people in and around Vasa’s hull. The artifacts and the ship herself have provided scholars with invaluable insights into details of naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques, and everyday life in early 17th-century Sweden. Without question, Vasa is the world’s best preserved 17th century ship. The wreck of Vasa continually undergoes monitoring and further research on how to preserve her.

My aunt, Deloris “Dee” Johnson was always so sweet and kind. She loved to laugh, and to make people laugh. She and my mom, Collene Spencer were sisters, and they were close. I think it was probably because they were so much alike. Both of them tried to bring happiness into the day of those around them. If that meant they acted silly, then they acted silly. They were really both “crowd pleasers,” but my mom was the younger of the two, so she learned it from her older sister, I’m sure.

Aunt Dee was one of the kindest people you would ever want to meet. She never said a harsh word to anyone, and even her voice had a soothing way about it. Her tone was soft and soothing, and she had a smile to match. Aunt Dee loved to show her siblings new things. Once she and my mom got into a big coat, and let the wind take them for a ride…well, a run, but it made them feel free as birds. Aunt Dee was always taking the kids out for adventures. She loved the outdoors and had a great imagination, so she could entertain the younger children, and the adventures were always lots of fun. Aunt Dee taught her younger siblings how to dance, a dance she learned in school, and she also bought the family a piano. I don’t know if any of them learned to play it, but the grandkids sure enjoyed pounding on it whenever we were there.

Aunt Dee and my mom got together at our house quite often as adults, and we all loved it when she came over. It was such a treat to have her visit. She never got annoyed with us, Mom’s five rambunctious daughters…whether we were at our house, or at hers. I remember spending the night at her house at least once. I was supposed to be spending the night with my cousin Elmer, but while I didn’t realize it, that was not really proper, so I had to sleep with my cousin Darla. While I loved Darla too, she was not the one I had intended to spend the night with. Oh well…the mind of a child. Aunt Dee didn’t say I couldn’t stay, she just explained that girls and boys didn’t sleep in the same bed. So, I could stay, but in Darla’s bed. It all worked out, and we had a great time, as I recall. Nevertheless, it was an event that I have never forgotten. Just like my sweet Aunt Dee is someone I will never forget, and I can’t wait to see again. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much.

After years of being oppressed, starved, beaten, murdered, and used for experimentation, the Jewish people decided that it was their right to avenge their dead. The Nuremburg Trials were supposed to do all that, but so many of the Nazis had fled the country to escape the sentences they deserved, and once out of the country, it was almost impossible to get them back to face those sentences. In the late 1940s, under Juan Domingo Peron’s leadership (October 17, 1945 to July 1, 1974), the government secretly allowed entry of a number of war criminals fleeing Europe after Nazi Germany’s collapse, as part of the infamous ratlines. The number of Nazi fugitives that fled to Argentina surpassed 300, and included notorious war criminals such as Erich Priebke, Martin Bormann, Joseph Mengele, Eduard Roschmann, Josef Schwammberger, Walter Kutschmann, Otto Skorzeny and Holocaust administrator Adolf Eichmann, among others. In May 1960, Eichmann was kidnapped in Argentina by the Israeli Mossad and brought to trial in Israel. He was executed in 1962. At the time, Argentina condemned the Israeli government for abducting Eichmann, leading to a diplomatic spat between the nations.

There was a financial incentive for Argentina to accept these war criminals, and they needed to provide a safe haven for them. Wealthy Germans and Argentine businessmen of German descent were willing to pay the way for escaping Nazis. The initial plan of the fleeing Nazis was to regroup, lay low for a while, and then come back with a vengeance. The Holocaust years had been very profitable for the Nazis. Nazi leaders had plundered untold millions from the Jews they murdered and some of that money accompanied them to Argentina…meaning the Argentine economy was helped by the war criminals…another incentive to help them hide out.

Some of the smarter Nazi officers and collaborators saw the writing on the wall as early as 1943 and began hiding gold, money, valuables, paintings, and more. They often moved their plunder to Switzerland. Ante Pavelic and his cabal of close advisors had several chests full of gold, jewelry, and art they had stolen from their Jewish and Serbian victims. These riches eased their passage to Argentina considerably. Disappearing, even in 1945 was not an easy matter, but if one had money, it was far more possible. The war criminals even paid off British officers to let them through Allied lines…a treasonous act for which those British officers should have also been prosecuted and hung. Sometimes the corruption in government and military entities, even those who are supposed to be on the side of good, is absolutely astounding.

After the World War II, and the release of the surviving Jews, the Nuremburg Trials convicted these evil monsters, but many of them were gone before their sentence could be carried out. Enter the Nokmim, a group of Jewish men, also referred to as The Avengers or the Jewish Avengers. These men were a Jewish partisan militia, formed by Abba Kovner and his lieutenants Vitka Kempner and Rozka Korczak from the surviving remnants of the United Partisan Organization (Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye), which operated in Lithuania under Soviet command. Elements of the Nokmim collaborated with veterans of the Jewish brigade in British Palestine to form a new organization called Nakam, a group of assassins that targeted Nazi war criminals with the aim of avenging the Holocaust. The name comes from the phrase (Dam Yehudi Nakam – “Jewish Blood Will Be Avenged”) (the acronym DIN means “judgement”).

The Nakam (“vengeance”) Group was the most extremist group. They numbered around 60 Jews who were former Partisans, as well as other Jews who survived the Holocaust. This group was not about to let these men get away with all the atrocities they put their Jewish captives through, and then just walk away without punishment…not if they could help it. The group arrived in Germany after the war in order to conduct more complicated and fatal vengeance operations. Their ultimate purpose was to carry out an operation that would cause a broad international response…a warning, if you will, to anyone who might consider trying to harm Jews again, as the Nazis had. They needed to show the world that they would never be treated in such a way again. They would fight back…every time. Notables among the Hanakam group were Abba Kovner, Yitzhak Avidav, and Bezalel Michaeli. The group attempted a couple of mass poisonings, the first of the water supplies of Munich, Berlin, Weimar, Nuremberg and Hamburg, which failed when the poison had to be thrown overboard on a ship when Kovner was discovered to be carrying forges documents. The other attempt was with 3,000 loaves of bread painted with diluted arsenic, headed for 15,000 German POWs from the Langwasser internment camp near Nuremberg. The camp was under US authority. On April 23, 1946, it was reported that 2,283 German prisoners of war had fallen ill from poisoning, with 207 hospitalized and seriously ill. According to Harmatz, 300 to 400 Germans died. He said this “was nothing compared with what we really wanted to do.” A 2016 report by the Associated Press countered that the operation ultimately caused no known deaths, despite documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Archives and Records Administration stating the arsenic found in the bakery was enough to kill approximately 60,000 persons. Apparently, the arsenic was spread too thin to be lethal.

It’s hard to say just how much information is correct and how much is incorrect. I suppose it depends on who is reporting, and how accurately they want to report what they have. Propaganda in any war runs rampant, so we will likely never know. Records can and do go missing, especially when someone wants to disprove their enemies. Whether so many people died by poisoning or not, the Nokmim and the spin-off Nakam brought vengeance on many of the Nazis who would have escaped justice without them.

The New World (later the United States of America) was a pretty rough place in 1710. Great Britain owned a small portion of the whole of the New World, and the rest was often vied for against the French and other nations. That year, the mayor of Albany, New York, Pieter Schuyler, arranged a meeting between Queen Anne and five Indian Kings who wanted to request her aid, militarily. The Four Indian Kings or Four Kings of the New World were three Mohawk chiefs from one of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and a Mahican of the Algonquian peoples. Five chiefs set out on the journey, but one died in mid-Atlantic. The three Mohawk Kings were Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow of the Bear Clan, called King of Maquas, with the Christian name Peter Brant (grandfather of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant); Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row of the Wolf Clan, called King of Canajoharie (“Great Boiling Pot”), or John of Canajoharie; and Tee Yee Ho Ga Row, meaning “Double Life”, of the Wolf Clan, also called Hendrick Tejonihokarawa or King Hendrick. The Mahican chief was Etow Oh Koam of the Turtle Clan, mistakenly identified in his portrait as Emperor of the Six Nations. The Algonquian-speaking Mahican people were not part of the Iroquois Confederacy.

When the kings arrived in London, they were treated like diplomats. They were transported through the streets of the city in Royal carriages and received by Queen Anne at the Court of Saint James Palace. They visited the Tower of London and Saint Paul’s Cathedral as well, and they got to tour and do things all over London to honor their visit. They watched a review of the Guards in Hyde Park, visited the Banqueting House and Chapel at Whitehall, and they were taken on the Queen’s barge to Greenwich Hospital and the Woolwich Arsenal, where they heard a saluting cannonade. They listened to sermons in the city’s churches. They were guests of honor at a dinner hosted by the Board of Trade and were privately entertained by William Penn at the Taverne du Diable at Charing Cross. They attended a performance of Powell’s Marionettes at Punch’s Theater; a presentation of Macbeth where they got to sit on the stage. I’m sure the people of the city were quite curious about these “wild men” who had come to their city. Their clothing was so different from the sophisticated garb that was normally seen gracing the royal carriages. Still, the Indians were probably wearing their finest clothing too, and in the New World, it was probably top of the line. The queen wanted to commemorate the diplomatic visit, so the Crown commissioned Jan Verelst to paint the portraits of the Four Kings. These paintings hung in Kensington Palace until 1977, when Queen Elizabeth II had them relocated to the National Archives of Canada. She unveiled them in Ottawa.

The four kings were quite a spectacle in London, they were all described in a contemporary pamphlet as being in shape, muscular and within an inch or two of being six feet tall. Their complexions were described as being brown and their hair long and black.” Their visages are very awful and majestick, and their features regular enough, though something of the austere and sullen.” Their faces are covered in art, probably meant to inspire terror during battle. They are described as polite, they will not refuse any drink or food that is offered to them. They loved English beef more than any other kind of food offered to them. The people of London also described them as healthy. “Their health is good, as is proper for primitives; they know no gout, dropsy, gravel, or fevers.”

While I’m sure the big city was awe inspiring for the Kings, they were really there on a mission…to requesting military aid for defense against the French, and the chiefs to ask for missionaries to offset the influence of French Jesuits, who had converted numerous Mohawk to Catholicism. When they met with Queen Anne the court was mourning for the death of the Prince of Denmark, so the four Indian Kings were dressed in all black attire when they met with her. Their address to her was read, they asked for military assistance and missionaries to lead them to “true religion.” After the reading, the chiefs presented the queen with several belts of wampum to signify their meeting. In return for the gifts of the wampum, the queen gave them a set of communion plates, with the royal cipher and coat of arms, for a future Mohawk chapel. (These are now divided between the Mohawk reservations at Brantford, Ontario, and Tyendinaga, near Kingston.) The Archbishop of Canterbury gave each of the chiefs a Bible bound in Turkey-red leather. When she heard their request, Queen Anne informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Tenison. They authorized a mission, and Mayor Schuyler had a chapel built the next year at Fort Hunter (located near the Mohawk “Lower Castle” village) along the Mohawk River. The queen also engaged the four men in conversation through their interpreter, Peter Schuyler’s brother, John. Queen Anne was very generous to the Kings and their people, sending a gift of a silver Communion set and a reed organ. The Mohawk village known as the “Lower Castle” became mostly Christianized village in the early 18th century, unlike the “Upper Castle” at Canajoharie further upriver, where there was no mission founded until 1769, when William Johnson, British agent to the Iroquois, built the Indian Castle Church, which still stands today.

During their visit to London, the Kings were lodged at The Crown and Cushion, in King Street, Covent Garden. Here they slept on beds for the first time and became accustomed to them. Thomas Arne was their host, he was an inn keep and an upholsterer, he was very kind and considerate to his visitors. Because of this, the Indians renamed him Cataraqui in a Mohawk christening ceremony. Cataraqui was the fort that has now become the city of Kingston, Ontario. I’m sure that they really missed those beds when they returned to the New World in May of 1710.

Having a baby is normally a blessed event, but it is also important to be having the baby with the right person. I know that sound like something that is between the man and the woman, and it’s nobody’s business but their own, and I would agree with you on that. However, during World War II, the Nazi regime was so hated that the nations they terrorized didn’t want anything to do with them…so much so that French women having babies with German soldiers were punished by shaving their heads bald and parading them through town. This was done so that everyone would know they betrayed their country, and so they had.

The Nazi regime was set on creating “the perfect race,” in their opinion anyway. They wanted everyone to be light skinned, blond haired, and blue eyed, and those who weren’t had to prove their genetic lines. The Nazis even went so far as to set up places that women (of the right bloodlines) were sent to have their children, conceived with German soldiers. Then, the plan was that they would give their children up for adoption by a Nazi couple who was having trouble conceiving. It was Hitler’s way of preserving the “right” bloodline. Many times, if the woman changed her mind, and wanted to keep the baby, but refused to marry the soldier, their babies were taken from the by force, even if it meant taking their lives. Some of these women were in it for the money and had no intention of keeping their babies. They were a simply a “Nazi Baby Machine.”

Once it was discovered that these women were doing this, they were marked as traitors. Often their own families disowned them. These women might not even be having babies with the Nazi soldiers, just having relations with them. The soldiers saw nothing wrong with hooking up with these women to ply them for information. It was an act of treason on the part of the women. They shouldn’t have allowed themselves to become involved with the Nazi soldiers, because they just had to know that was wrong. Treason is such a dark side of war. Still, there are many dark sides to war, and in most cases, it is the innocent and oppressed that suffer.

The French resistance brought out another dark side to the war, and it was rather brutal, but they felt like it was justified. Looking at it now, I think the beating part was the probably brutal, but maybe still have been justified. Basically, the French Resistance, when women were caught in a physical relationship with a Nazi, shaved their heads, beat the women who had been charged with collaborating with the enemy, and then paraded them around town as a form of punishment. The punishment was followed by harassing the women, with no repercussion for the beatings, head shavings, or the harassing. In France, a woman’s long hair is supposed to be seductive, so shaving their heads, was a way to make them look undesirable. The practice dates back to Biblical times. It was a common punishment for adultery. During the 20th century, it was reintroduced as a means to ridicule women who had physical relationships with the enemy or were prostitutes. The French Resistance took a page from Bible times, and so it came to pass that during World War II, this act of humiliation was repeated on French women accused of collaborating with the German soldiers. Apart from shaving their heads, they were paraded in the streets, marked with black ink, and even stripped half-naked. At least 20,000 women have been documented to have had their heads shaved. I’m not a proponent of violence, but traitors need to be punished, and after something like that, I would think these women would think twice before getting involved with the Nazi soldiers. and any woman who hadn’t done so, would think twice before even considering such a heinous act.

Whenever a ship sinks, it takes with it a lot of gear, personal effects, and sometimes treasures. These days, they send in the submarines, or rather the mini submarines to salvage whatever they can, find out what caused the sinking, and sometimes to aid in raising the ship to the surface. In times past, when a ship went down, it could easily be lost forever, or at least until more modern times when they could finally find it again.

When the Vasa, an amazingly beautiful Swedish warship that sank on its maiden voyage, 1400 yards into its voyage sat in the harbor for years. The did manage to get the cannon from it right away, but everything else sat underwater until the 1950s, when they had a better way to salvage it. When the world’s first completely covered underwater diving suit was invented around 1715, it consisted of an airtight oak barrel. The suit was used mainly for salvage operations of shipwrecks. I wonder what they could have done with Vasa using that. Vasa wasn’t in dangerously deep water, and could have been accessed easily today, but they just didn’t have the equipment.

The cross between a diving bell and standard diving dress is rather interesting. I wonder if the barrel design John Lethbridge used in 1715 was seriously difficult to move in. It reminds me a of a comical space suit, but I guess it served its purpose. However odd it is, it was the first underwater diving suit, and it is currently located in the Cité de la Mer, a maritime museum in Cherbourg, France.

Lethbridge came up with the idea for his diving suit while working for the East India Company as a salvager. The barrel was airtight, so the diver was protected and safe. The barrel was six feet in length, and the diver had little control of it once it was lowered into the water. The diver had to lay flat on his stomach once the barrel. The barrel had two airtight holes on the sides for the diver’s hands and a hole with glass in the front for use as the diver’s viewing window. During trials, Lethbridge demonstrated that the suit enabled divers to stay 12 fathoms (a unit of length equal to six feet) underwater for at least 30 minutes at a time. That was hard for me to figure out, until I read that once the diver comes out of the water after 30 minutes, the crew pumped fresh air into the suit through a vent using bellows. At the same time, the used air was let out through another vent. Then, with the fact that the barrel was airtight, the diver was good for another 30 minutes. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much further along than salvage operations had been before it. The suit, while odd and very primitive was an immediate success. It was used mostly to retrieve material from shipwrecks. During Lethbridge’s first salvage…the maiden voyage of the diving suit, as it were, Lethbridge recovered 25 chests of silver and 65 cannons! I would call that a definite success.

My brother-in-law, Brian Cratty has been my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely’s partner since July 25, 2011, and theirs has been really a wonderful relationship. They love doing the same things, like skiing, hiking, bicycling, snowshoeing, and hanging out at their cabin on Casper Mountain. They met at Wyoming Medical Center, where they both worked…she as a labor and delivery nurse, and he as a life flight pilot. Brian is retired now, and Jennifer soon will be, so their real adventures are coming up very quickly.

Brian has been there for Jenifer in so many ways. He has been there for the low points in her life like when her parents passed away; and he has been there for the high points, like hiking Mount Elbert’s 14,473-foot summit. You don’t get more “lows and highs” than that. Through every part of their relationship, Brian has been there to love and support Jennifer, and the rest of the family too. We have all grown to love him very much, and look to him as a brother, uncle, grandpa, and dad.

With their birthdays being so close together, Jennifer took this past week off, and the two of them made a trip to Colorado to have some fun…probably skiing, since Colorado had some new snow last week. They really do quite a bit of outdoor activities in Colorado, and I can understand why, because the Rocky Mountains have lots to do…for this fun loving, outdoor couple, even more to do than most people. While traveling is fun, I still think that their favorite place to be is on Casper Mountain at their cabin. It was pretty rustic when they bought it from a friend who, for health reasons, was unable to go there again, and moved to a warmer climate. When they bought it, the cabin was little more than a glorified tent. The interior needed lots of work. Brian and Jennifer have worked really hard to make it into the getaway they want, and I can say that it looks a lot better now. The land around it is much better too, and when they are at the cabin, they are close to some of the trails they love. Brian is probably more of a bicycler than Jennifer is, even though she loves to ride too. He will ride for hours on the mountain trails. Sometimes when the rest of the family are hiking, they cross paths with Brian on his bicycle.

Brian is a licensed pilot, and I sometimes wonder if he misses that part of his life. I know he could fly planes for people if he wanted to, but that would put him on someone else’s timeline again, and that is something most of us retired people don’t want to do. So, Brian spends his time doing the things he loves, and that suits him just fine. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In a time of world chaos, one thing stands out…Jesus. We all need Jesus. It’s hard to believe that a sinless man would be willing to carry the sins of the world. None of us could or would do that. We would most likely fear death too much…at least at such a young age. It is believed that Jesus was about 33 years old. Most of us would feel like we had too much to live for at that age, and yet, Jesus endured the scourging, the “trial” that was nothing more than a lynch mob, and the horrible suffocating death on the cross, because He saw joy set before Him…JOY, how could that be? How could Jesus see the torture and death that was coming to Him as joy, because mankind could still come to Heaven…that was His joy.

He saw the joy of a world that could be back in right standing with God. Something we could never have achieved on our own. This world was in a seriously horrible place…even more so than the chaos we are in right now. The wages of sin is death, and we had all sinned. It was going to take the death of a man to pay for the sins of the world, but that man had to be sin-free. In the beginning, a sinless man sinned, thereby giving away his birthright of eternal life. So that meant either all mankind had to die and go to Hell, or a sinless man had to die to pay the price for all of us. Enter Jesus, and thank God He was willing to pay that price for us.

That was what Jesus did for us when He went to the cross on Good Friday. I don’t know if many of you really know what scourging is, but let me tell you. The Romans were famous for their horrific types of torture. The “whip” they used to beat (scourge) Jesus usually had nails or pieces of metal or glass attached to them. The purpose of these things being attached to the whips tails was to rip the flesh off of the victim. By the time they were done, internal organs were often visible. Then they took Jesus, after making Him carry His own cross, and nailed Him to that cross. The way they nailed Him to the cross meant that He had to push up with His feet to be able to get air into His lungs. The more tired the victim became, the less they would be able to raise themselves up so they could breathe. It was a matter of slow suffocation. That was what Jesus endured to give us the opportunity to have eternal life again. Nevertheless, it was and is still our choice. I just can’t imagine how anyone could choose not to receive that totally free gift of God. I know I will not refuse that gift.

After being in the grave for three days, Jesus arose from the dead triumphant with the victory, and the keys to the kingdom, which He gave back to us. We can have it all…because He lives. He is risen!! He is alive!! And because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow, no matter how ugly this world looks today. Victory is mine!! Heaven belongs to me!! I am free, because Jesus paid the price for me…and for you too…should you choose to receive. Praise God…Jesus is risen!! Happy Resurrection Day everyone!!

There are all kinds of records, but some are just stranger than others. Switzerland actually holds a strange record…for attacking its neighbor, Liechtenstein. This is particularly odd in that Switzerland is a neutral nation…very opposed to war!! In fact, Switzerland is the longest standing neutral nation in the world and has not taken part in a “war” since 1505. Its official stance of non-involvement had been decided during The Congress of Vienna in 1815, in which major European leaders met to discuss the nature of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. Nevertheless, they do have an army.

Diplomatic and economic relations between Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been good. In fact, you could say relations were very good, with Switzerland accepting the role of safeguarding the interests of its tiny next-door neighbor. Liechtenstein has an embassy in Bern, Switzerland, and Switzerland is accredited to Liechtenstein from its Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern and maintains an honorary consulate in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The two countries also share an open border, mostly along the Rhine, but also in the Rätikon range of the Alps, between the Fläscherberg and the Naafkopf.

With all that “good will” between the nations, you would never expect conflict, but apparently, Switzerland has attacked Liechtenstein three times in 30 years. Of course, it was by mistake each time! How does that happen? Nevertheless, it did. The first time was probably the only “aggressive” accident of the bunch. On December 5, 1985, during an artillery exercise, the Swiss Army had launched munitions in the middle a winter storm. The wind took the munitions way off course, into the Bannwald Forest of Liechtenstein, and started a forest fire. No one was injured and the Liechtenstein government was very angry. Switzerland had to pay a heavy penalty for the environmental damage caused. The second attack took place on October 13, 1992. The Swiss Army received orders to set up an observation post in Treisenberg. They followed the orders and marched to Treisenberg. What they didn’t realize was that Treisenberg lies within the territory of Liechtenstein. They marched into Treisenberg with rifles and only later realized that they were in Liechtenstein. The last attack was on March 1, 2007. A group of Swiss Army infantry soldiers was in training when the weather took a bad turn. There was heavy rainfall, and the soldiers were not carrying any GPS or compass. Eventually, they ended up in Liechtenstein! Switzerland apologized to the Liechtenstein government for the intrusion, yet again.

Thankfully these “accidental” attacks were not of a deadly nature. They were really more a “comedy of errors” than an attack. Thankfully, the people of Liechtenstein saw the “attacks” for what they were, and tended to care for their “intruders,” rather than fight back. Of course, that would have been difficult too, since Liechtenstein does not have an army of their own, and so depended on the “protection” of their neighbors…when they didn’t accidentally attack them.

The Olympics…the dream of every serious athlete. While most of us will never get there, but many of us love to watch the best of the best athletes vie for the world title of Olympic Gold. These athletes would do just about anything to win. The men’s marathon in the 1904 Olympic Games was no exception.

This race might have been the strangest race in history…going forward or backward. Only a few of the runners had any experience in running a race…much less a marathon, and the others were…well, “oddities” to say the least. That marathon was more of a comedy show than a serious race. The runners consisted of ten Greeks who had never run a marathon. Two of these belonged to the Tsuana tribe of South Africa and arrived barefoot to the race, and one competitor was a Cuban mailman who wore street clothing to the race. These days, they would almost be laughed off the track. I can just hear the shocked voices throughout the crowd at that race.

If you thought the apparel was odd…well hold on to your horses, because the “level of strange” is just getting started. The first to complete the race was American runner named Fred Lorz. Apparently, Lorz had dropped out of the race after nine miles and then hitch-hiked in a car. When the car broke down at the 19th mile, he jogged to the finish line. He was disqualified and banned from the competition for life. Sounds fair to me. The second to arrive, and the champion with Lorz disqualification, was Thomas Hicks. Ten miles from the finish line, he had almost given up, but his trainers urged him to continue. Still, it was an enormous struggle. He was given several doses of strychnine, a common rat poison, to help get him to the end of the race…WHAT!! When he reached the stadium, his trainers and supporters carried him to the finish line! It’s a wonder their “energy boost” didn’t kill him!! Even though he got the gold medal that time, he never ran professionally again. A Cuban postman named Andarín Carvajal, ran the race in street clothes. To top it off, he had not eaten in 40 hours. Before a race!! Are you kidding me!! He got hungry and took a detour into an apple orchard during the race. He ate some rotten apples that gave him stomach cramps. Despite falling ill, he managed to finish in the fourth place!! Where were all the other racers, while he was taking his dinner break? If you ask me, this had to be the strangest marathon ever. It was almost like they were making it up as they went along.

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