There is good that comes from science, and there is bad too, unfortunately. Things like weapons of warfare would most likely fall into the bad that comes from science. Still, weapons are necessary, and maybe it isn’t the weapon that is bad, but rather the user. Wernher von Braun was a rocket scientist in Hitler’s Germany. His job was to build bigger and more dangerous weapons. The V-2 missile was the culmination of von Braun’s work so far. On October 3, 1942, von Braun tested the V-2 missile. The missile was fired successfully from Peenemunde, as island off Germany’s Baltic coast. It traveled 118 miles in that test; and later, in evil weapon style, it proved extraordinarily deadly in the war. The V-2 missile was the precursor to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) of the postwar era.
German scientists, led by von Braun, had been working on the development of these long-range missiles since the 1930s. I don’t know if von Braun was doing this work by choice, which would make him very likely as evil as the weapons of destruction he made, or whether, like so many of the German people under Hitler’s evil rule, he simply had no say in the matter. Whatever the case may be, von Braun was good at what he did. The science, which clearly must have fascinated him, was a work to which he was well suited. He understood it. He knew how to make it do hat he wanted it to do, and become what he wanted it to become…or, at least what he was told to make it become. Still, it took time to perfect. Three trial launches had already failed. The fourth in the series, known as A-4, finally saw the V-2, a 12-ton rocket capable of carrying a one-ton warhead, successfully launched. I wonder just how much pressure was on von Braun at that fourth launch attempt. Could it have cost him his life, or his freedom, if he did not successfully create this weapon that Hitler wanted so badly.
The V-2 was unique in several ways. First, it was virtually impossible to intercept, making it a serious threat to anyone it was aimed at. Upon launching, the missile rises six miles straight up. Then, it proceeds on an arced course, cutting off its own fuel according to the range desired. The missile then tips over and falls on its target-at a speed of almost 4,000 miles per hour. That would make it extremely difficult to blow up in flight, since hitting something moving at that speed would take serious accuracy, and heat seeking missiles were not developed yet. The missile hits with such force that it burrows itself several feet into the ground before exploding. In addition, the missile had the potential of flying a distance of 200 miles, and the launch pads were portable, making them impossible to detect before firing.
September 6, 1944 became the first real use of the V-2, when two missiles were fired at Paris. On September 8, two more were fired at England, which would be followed by more than 1,100 more during the next six months. More than 2,700 British citizens died because of the rocket attacks. After the war, both the United States and the Soviet Union captured samples of the rockets for reproduction. They also captured the scientists responsible for their creation. Following the war, von Braun was secretly moved to the United States, along with about 1,600 other German scientists, engineers, and technicians, as part of Operation Paperclip. He worked for the United States Army on an intermediate-range ballistic missile program, and he developed the rockets that launched the United States’ first space satellite Explorer 1.
His group was assimilated into NASA, where he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V super heavy-lift launch vehicle that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. He also advocated for a human mission to Mars. In 1967, von Braun was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and in 1975, he received the National Medal of Science. Von Braun died on June 16, 1977 of pancreatic cancer in Alexandria, Virginia at age 65. He was buried at the Ivy Hill Cemetery. His gravestone quotes Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (KJV).
It seems there is always talk of the Third World War coming, and what might set it off. Most people hope that it stays all talk, because the weapons that are available these days could potentially wipe the human race off the planet, or at the very least, wipe whole nations off the map. Sometimes I wonder how we have avoided it so far, considering all the hate in the world today. Somehow our world leaders have held it off…for now. Nevertheless, there have been times when we have come very close to the last straw that would bring World War III. For 16 hours, between October 27 and October 28, 1961, at the height of the Cold War, US and Soviet tanks faced each other in divided Berlin in an action that brought the two superpowers closer to kicking off a third world war than in any other cold-war confrontation, with the exception of the Cuban missile crisis one year later. It was a very heated time in history.
Washington and its British and French allies had failed to stop the Russians from building the Berlin Wall in August of 1961. By October, East German officials began to deny US diplomats the unhindered access to East Berlin that they were required to allow as part of the agreement with Moscow on the postwar occupation of Germany. Then, on 22 October, E Allan Lightner Jr, the senior US diplomat in West Berlin, was stopped by East German border guards on his way to the state opera house in East Berlin. The East Germans demanded to see his passport, which he insisted only Soviet officials had the right to check. The situation grew more heated with this exchange. Lightner was forced to turn back.
General Clay, who was an American hero of the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift was sent by Washington to deal with the Russians after the erection of the Berlin Wall. He gave orders that the next American diplomat entering East Berlin be escorted by armed US army military police in jeeps. The maneuver succeeded, but the East Germans continued to attempt to assert their claim to control western allied officials entering East Berlin. Never one to suffer defeat easily, Clay ordered American M48 tanks to head for Checkpoint Charlie. There they stood, some 80 yards from the border, noisily racing their engines and sending plumes of black smoke into the night air. Alarmed by the apparent threat, Moscow, with the approval of the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, sent an equal number of Russian T55 tanks rumbling to face down the Americans. They too ground to a halt some 80 yards from the East/West Berlin border and, as with the US tanks they faced, stayed there for 16 hours.
American officials were becoming more and more alarmed by the potential consequences. General Clay was quickly reminded by Washington that Berlin was not so “vital” an interest to be worth risking a conflict with Moscow. President Kennedy approved the opening of a back channel with the Kremlin in order to defuse the situation that had blown up. As a result, the Soviets pulled back one of their T55s from the eastern side of the border at Friedrichstrasse and minutes later an American M48 also left the scene. That was how it went until all the tanks were withdrawn. General Clay’s reputation among West Berliners rose, but not so much his warrior capabilities as far as the united States was concerned. Khrushchev had been equally uninterested in risking a battle over Berlin. In return for Kennedy’s assurance that the west had no designs on East Berlin, the Soviet leader tacitly recognised that allied officials and military personnel would have unimpeded access to the East German capital. From that point on, the western allies freely dispatched diplomats and military personnel to attend the opera and theater in East Berlin. Soviet diplomats, too, attended functions in West Berlin and sent Volga limousines packed with Soviet military police on patrol to West Berlin. The elaborate routine served to prove that the Four Power status of the city was intact. It was faithfully observed until the Wall fell in 1990. they weren’t as eager to start World War III as they thoughts they were.
When I think about secrets, nothing very sinister comes to my mind, but when it comes to national or world secrets, maybe we should think a little differently. Of course, not every world or national secret is sinister, but some can be pretty odd. I don’t claim to be privy to any current national security secrets, but I’m finding out some from the past. There were some secrets that most people don’t know about, and some that almost seemed like science fiction. In 1959, the United States used to have a small underground city in the North Pole called Camp Century. It looked a lot like the rebel base on Hoth, which is the sixth planet in the remote system of the same name, and was the site of the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base, as Star Wars fans would already know. Hoth is a world of snow and ice, surrounded by numerous moons, and home to deadly creatures like the Wampanoag…a cross between a polar bear and a Sasquatch, in looks anyway. Of course, that isn’t what Camp Century really was.
When Camp Century began its life, it was as a scientific outpost located hundreds of feet beneath a Greenland iceberg. From the surface, it looked like nothing more than an ominous snow-covered pyramid. But below, it was gigantic. The base was powered by an underground nuclear reactor, and at one point, is said to have housed a staff of 200. It was a self-contained city, complete with a gym, a chapel, a library, hobby shops and even a movie theater. I wonder what kinds of movies they watched…movies about the outside world, and in summer no doubt. The plan was for scientific experiments to be conducted there, but as sometimes happens, the military decided it could be better used as a base for their own experiments…namely blowing things up. I suppose they assumed that there was little chance of anyone getting hurt, because of the remoteness of the base. The best kept secrets exist here, and I don’t think I have a big problem with that. So, to recap: The United States had a 200-person nuclear-powered outpost located beneath the ice of the North Pole, where one of their primary objectives was to drill as deep into the unforgiving, ancient ice as possible. Now, that sounds scary.
The military took over in about 1960 and converted Camp Century into a giant ice-bound missile silo. Called Project Iceworm, the goal was to store approximately 600 nuclear missiles in the base, giving the United States a nice, secret little nuclear facility right next to Soviet Russia. Luckily for Russia, technical problems led to the whole mission being scrapped, because maintaining the tunnels was a constant chore. Every month, 120 tons of ice had to be removed to maintain the tunnels. The whole site collapsed within the that decade. Apparently, they worked harder at keeping the tunnels cleared, than at any experiment, or missile setup that they did.
The unites States Department of Defense told the Danish government that the “official purpose” of Camp Century was to test various construction techniques under Arctic conditions, explore practical problems with a semi-mobile nuclear reactor, as well as supporting scientific experiments on the icecap. The process involved cutting a total of 21 trenches and covering them with arched roofs, within which prefabricated buildings were erected. With a total length of 1.9 mi, these tunnels contained a basically a small town, the total population of which was around 200. From 1960 until 1963 the electricity supply was provided by means of the world’s first mobile/portable nuclear reactor, designated PM-2A and designed by Alco for the United States Army. Water was supplied by melting glaciers and tested to determine whether germs such as the plague were present. Once it was cleared, they were able to use it. Nevertheless, fraught with trouble from the start, it proved a better idea to close it down.
Who shot first? We will never know, but on December 29, 1890, that first shot started a massacre. What lead up to that fateful day? For all of his 27 years, Black Elk’s had watched as the way of life of the Lakota Sioux on the Great Plains was taken away. Black Elk was a medicine man, who witnessed years of broken treaties. He watched as the white men “came in like a river” when gold was discovered in the Dakota Territory’s Black Hills in 1874. He was there two years later when Custer and his men were annihilated at Little Big Horn. He saw the Lakota’s traditional hunting grounds evaporate as white men decimated the native buffalo population. The Lakota, who once roamed as free as the bison on the Great Plains, were now mostly confined to government reservations.
Life for the Sioux was very bleak during the winter of 1890. Then came a glimmer of hope with the new Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which preached that Native Americans had been confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Leaders promised that the buffalo would return, relatives would be resurrected and the white man would be cast away if the Native Americans performed a ritual “ghost dance.” Such a ritual was seriously scary for the “white man.” The settlers grew increasingly alarmed and worried that an uprising was coming. “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy,” telegrammed a frightened government agent stationed on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to the commissioner of Indian affairs on November 15, 1890. “We need protection and we need it now.”
General Nelson Miles arrived with 5,000 troops as part of the Seventh Cavalry, which was Custer’s old command. He ordered the arrest of several Sioux leaders. When Indian police tried to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was mistakenly believed to have been joining the Ghost Dancers, the noted Sioux leader was killed in the melee. Then, on December 28, the cavalry caught up with Chief Big Foot, who was leading a band of upwards of 350 people to join Chief Red Cloud, near the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. The American forces arrested Big Foot, who was too ill with pneumonia to sit up, let alone walk, and positioned their Hotchkiss guns on a rise overlooking the Lakota camp. As a bugle blared the following morning, December 29, American soldiers mounted their horses and surrounded the Native American camp. A medicine man who started to perform the ghost dance cried out, “Do not fear but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us.” He implored the heavens to scatter the soldiers like the dust he threw into the air.
The cavalry went teepee to teepee seizing axes, rifles and other weapons. As the soldiers attempted to confiscate a weapon they spotted under the blanket of a deaf man, who could not hear their orders, a gunshot suddenly rang out. It was not clear which side shot first, but within seconds the American soldiers launched a hail of bullets from rifles, revolvers and rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns into the teepees. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Lakota offered meek resistance. Big Foot was shot where he lay on the ground. Boys who had been happily playing leapfrog were mowed down. In just a matter of minutes, at least 150 Lakota Sioux Indians were killed along with 25 American soldiers. Half the victims were women and children. The soldiers might have thought they were being attacked…it’s hard to say. Nevertheless, that first shot brought about a massacre.
When you think of Indian arrowheads, you usually think of the Old West or the cowboys and Indians. You think of the battles the Indians had over broken treaties and the influx of settlers into the west. That’s what you think of, but that isn’t what my nephew, Steve Moore thinks of…at least that’s not the only thing he thinks about. For Steve, thoughts of arrowheads bring thoughts of obsidian.
You might think that is strange, but Steve has learned the ancient art of flintknap. It all started with his love of wall climbing. He learned to make the hand and foot holds for wall climbing. Then, he started thinking about flintknap. Flintknap is the art of making arrowheads and other weapons from rocks, like obsidian. Steve started with pieces of broken glass, and later graduated to rocks, and even bone. He and a friend named Scott, made a trip to Oregon and brought back a truck load of obsidian, and Steve taught Scott and another friend, Jay how to flintknap. Steve, made some amazing tools to knap with.
Through the years, Steve got out of the flintknapping hobby for a time…twelve years or so, but has recently picked it up again. Flintknapping is a great hobby to engage in while sitting around the campfire or the fireplace in the evenings. Steve made two arrowheads each weekend these past two weekends. His wife, my niece, Machelle told me that when you are flintknapping, you have to learn how not to bleed. If Steve gets that talent accomplished, I know several people who would like to know the trick to it.
Steve likes obsidian the best, because it creates beautiful shine and color to the arrowheads and other weapons. The rainbow obsidian is one of Steve and Machelle’s favorites because of the beautiful colors it contains. The orange of the pumpkin obsidian is also stunning. When I looked at the pictures that Machelle sent me of Steve’s work, it felt like I was looking at jewels. The arrowheads sparkle and shine, almost like diamonds. I was stunned to find that Steve had such a talent, but then it’s pretty typical of Steve not to blow his own horn. That just isn’t his style, so I guess I’ll just do it for him, because as far as I’m concerned, Steve has an amazing talent. These arrowheads and weapons, while functional if they ever needed ammunition, are so much more than that. They are absolutely beautiful. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!