Monthly Archives: July 2012

Obama Likely Relative of First Documented Enslaved African in Colonial America

Following article was written by Amy Binham for ABCNews.com, July 31, 2012:

The United States’ first African-American president is likely a descendent of the first documented enslaved African in colonial America, researchers at Ancestry.com said today.

“I don’t even know the words to describe it,” Anastasia Harman, the lead family historian for Provo, Utah-based Ancestry.com, said. “It’s amazing. It’s seemingly unbelievable, but the research strongly suggests that this is the only possibility.”

President Obama is the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, a black man who came to America in the 1600s as an indentured servant and was enslaved for life in 1640 after trying to escape his servitude, according to a two-year Ancestry.com study of thousands of records from colonial Virginia.

Although Obama’s father was a black man from Kenya, his ties to slavery stem instead from his white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, Harman said. The enslaved, black Punch had children with a free white woman. Because their mother was free, Punch’s mixed-race kids were born free and went on to become “prominent” land owners in Virginia, Harman said.

The Ancestry.com historian said Obama’s family tree is one of the “most fascinating” on which she has ever worked because it is “dynamic” and stretches across at least three continents.

While few records remain about Obama’s father’s side of the family, his mother’s side ranges “from prominent land owners to people fleeing the Irish potato famine to indentured servants,” Harman said.

Obama’s Republican rival Mitt Romney, on the other hand, can trace the majority of his family tree to one country: England. His great-great grandfather, Miles Romney, was a carpenter from Preston, England, where he and his wife, Elizabeth, were converted by Mormon missionaries and then came to the United States in the early 1800s.

Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, can also trace her family tree back to the United Kingdom. Her grandfather was a coalminer from Wales.

In an interview last week in London, CNN’s Piers Morgan asked Romney whether his U.K. ancestry made him “feel partly English?”

“Well, I’m married to a girl from Wales,” Romney said. “And I’m a guy from Great Britain so I’m — I feel like this is home, too, I guess.”

After his family line hopped the pond to America, Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, became the first of Romney’s ancestors to practice polygamy, having four wives and 30 children.

Obama also has polygamy in his family history. His dad, Barack Obama Sr., descended from the Luo tribe in Kenya where polygamy was common. Obama’s grandfather had at least four wives and his great-grandfather had five, the Washington Post’s David Maraniss reported.

But while polygamy persists in both presidential contenders’ pasts, Harman said, only Obama’s ancestors have yet been traced back to slavery. Besides his tie to the enslaved Punch, Obama’s family tree included slave owners, as well.

Obama’s great-great-great-great grandfather George Washington Overall owned two slaves, a Baltimore Sun study found, based on 1850 census records.

First lady Michelle Obama also has slaves in her ancestry. Her great-great-great-grandmother Melvinia was a slave on a 200-acre farm in South Carolina that grew wheat, cotton and corn, according to a study first published by the New York Times.

Melvinia had a son with a white man in Georgia after being sold to his farm. That son grew up free and was Michelle Obama’s great-great grandfather.

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WWII Nuclear Weapon Development Sites to become National Parks?

Darryl Fears for The Washington Post, July 28, 2012:

Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory was such a well-kept secret during World War II that most Americans still don’t know that it sits off one of busiest highways in the South.

Every year, streams of vacationers whiz by the complex that enriched uranium for America’s first atomic bomb project. It’s on the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — the most-visited U.S. national park. And every year, right about this time, the city of Oak Ridge, just west of Knoxville on Interstate 40, holds a Secret City Festival, crying out to potential tourists.

“They don’t even know we’re here,” said Katy Brown, president of the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

But a spotlight might shine soon on the Oak Ridge lab and two other largely forgotten Manhattan Project sites as the nation marks the 70th anniversary of the general order that established the world-shaking atomic research and development program.

The Obama administration is supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress that would designate sites in Oak Ridge; Hanford, Wash.; and Los Alamos, N.M., as national parks.

The designations would make possible wider exposure of the aging laboratories, which altered history — and, some say, darkened it.

The Hanford site produced plutonium. The Oak Ridge site enriched uranium. And workers in Los Alamos used those materials to assemble the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs dropped on Japan, forcing the Japanese surrender and ending the war. About 200,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki perished.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation called the creation and use of the atomic bomb “the single most significant event of the 20th century’’ in advocating the preservation of buildings once scheduled for demolition.

The president of the Japanese American Association of New York is not as nostalgic. Any commemoration of the sites, Gary S. Moriwaki said, should educate visitors “on the devastating effects of the bombs dropped” on Japan.

“One should reflect on the words of J. Robert Oppenheimer: ‘I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,’ ” Moriwaki said. Oppenheimer, a physicist, guided the project at Los Alamos and has been called the father of the atomic bomb.

Today, thousands of scientists work in those labs on unrelated research, developing pioneering technologies used for Mars exploration, chemotherapy, whole-body X-ray scanning at airports, high-speed computers and biotechnology. This work is a legacy of the brilliant scientists who worked at the sites during World War II, Energy Department officials said.

“You can’t deny the impact nuclear weapons have had,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in nuclear policy. Zenko said preserving the Manhattan Project sites makes sense. “It’s a part of American history that most people forget.”

Manhattan Project

America’s race with Nazi Germany to develop the first atomic bomb received its code name, the Manhattan Project, in late 1941. The establishment of the Manhattan Engineering District followed in August 1942.

Also in 1942, the Hanford reservation, along the Columbia River in eastern Washington, was selected to produce plutonium. The Oak Ridge and Los Alamos labs were established in 1943. In all, 125,000 people worked on the project at those sites and in Manhattan, but only about 1,000 knew the exact purpose of the work. About 32,000 people work at the two labs and Hanford now.

The labs and Hanford all have some nuclear-waste contamination, and they are undergoing cleanups involving up to 30,000 workers employed under multibillion-dollar contracts, said David G. Huizenga, senior adviser for environmental management at the Energy Department.

In Washington state, workers have nearly completed cleaning up a 220-square-mile area along the Columbia River, an Energy spokeswoman said. In Tennessee, workers are cleaning more than a third of the 52-square-mile site, focusing on parts of its three main campuses that worked with uranium. In New Mexico, workers are digging up 55-gallon drums, placing them in larger containers with better seals and burying them 21 feet underground.

Huizenga said he is certain that tourists can safely visit any Manhattan Project site. “Tours will steer well clear of contaminated areas. You would have to be directly digging up the waste to be at risk of being exposed by it,” he said.

Concerns about waste is one reason the government originally frowned on the idea of preserving buildings at Los Alamos and the other two sites. Among the notable structures are Oak Ridge’s mile-long K-25 building, one of the largest in the world during the war. Los Alamos still has the modest house that was once home to Oppenheimer. And there are historic sites that housed reactors and assembly plants, buildings that by the mid-1990s were falling apart.

“They were all to be destroyed,” said Cynthia C. Kelly, president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, which worked to preserve them. “It was just kind of a quick and not very careful thinking of whether these were valuable properties.”

That thinking changed in 1997, when a team from the federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation visited and team members were impressed by what they saw. Later the National Park Service recommended the establishment of parks at the sites that “could expand and enhance . . . public understanding of this nationally significant story in 20th century American history.’’

A park designation bill by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is slowly working its way through committee. Companion legislation by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) is awaiting a vote by the full House, possibly next week.

‘It’s very nostalgic’

As a national park, Oak Ridge could easily top the roughly 1,500 visitors a year who tour the site now, said Brown, of the city visitors bureau. Tours are conducted by the Energy Department five days a week from June to September.

Brown has ridden the tour bus that boards at the nearby American Museum of Science and Energy and passes through the tall laboratory fence. The lab’s graphite reactor, she said, is an awesome sight.

“It’s really cool. It’s very nostalgic,” she said.

The tour included an old control room, where a logbook encased in glass recorded the time when the reactor first went critical, about 5 a.m. Nov. 4, 1943.

At the program’s peak, 75,000 people worked on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge. Sixty cents of every dollar for the project was spent there.

Brown said she wants more Americans to take the tour. She wants to grab some of the tourists who speed by on their way to Dollywood or the Smoky Mountains.

“We’re an ideal location to tell this story because people are driving past us all the time,” she said. “This would allow us to do more with what we have. Perhaps we could run it year-round.”

At Los Alamos National Laboratory,there are no tours currently, a spokeswoman said. Kelly, of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, said she hopes a park designation will open the site to tours that would include garagelike buildings where the bombs were assembled and Oppenheimer’s old house, a small cottage where a woman has lived since 1951.

The woman, 93, signed the house over to the Los Alamos Historical Society with the understanding that she could live there as long as she chose, Kelly said.

“When I first met her, she said, ‘You must come see the house,’ ” Kelly recalled. “She said, ‘I haven’t changed a thing.’ ”

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Poland Unearths Stalinist WWII Burials in Warsaw Cemetery

From the BBC, July 25, 2012:

One was Witold Pilecki, an anti-Nazi guerrilla who infiltrated the Auschwitz death camp in 1940 and told the Western Allies about German atrocities there.

Gen Emil Fieldorf was another member of Poland’s Home Army executed by the post-war communist regime.

Poland is trying to trace victims of Stalinism from the years 1944-1956.

The effort at the Powazki military cemetery is being driven by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, Polish media report. The digging is scheduled to continue until late August.

Research into the archives suggests that as many as 284 people were buried at the site in unmarked graves, by the communist secret police.

Many of the victims were active in the Polish underground forces who resisted the Nazis and were then targeted by the Soviet-backed communists, who saw them as a potential threat.

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Female WWII Vet Seeks Out Navy Waves

Article by Bryon Saxton for Standard.net, July 23, 2012:

BRIGHAM CITY — World War II veteran LoRae Unger arrived at a New York state Navy WAVES boot camp just months before the German army surrendered to the Allied Forces.

“I just got into uniform when the Nazis gave up. I guess I scared them,” said the 87-year-old Unger, who on April 15, 1944, her 20th birthday — the day she became eligible — enlisted in the United States Navy WAVES.

The California native, who came to live in Brigham City through marriage and a business she and her late husband had established there, served in the Navy for about 18 months. She was sworn in by then-U.S. President Harry S. Truman.

Most of Unger’s time was spent at Naval Air Station Banana River, north of Satellite Beach, Fla., before she was formally discharged in 1946.

“They didn’t put us overseas,” she said of the women who joined the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).

At Banana River, Unger said, she served as an instructor for combat crews stationed there.

“I showed films. That was about it,” said Unger, one of about 100 women among 10,000 men stationed at the base at the time.

The films trained combat crews on how to identify various ships and planes the crews might come in contact with, Unger said.

But before her days of operating a film projector at Banana River, the Brigham City resident was part of a singing platoon during her stay at Hunter College in New York, where Navy WAVES attended boot camp.

Hunter College, now known as Lehman College, was in the Bronx. During the war it was commandeered by the Navy to serve as its WAVES boot camp. There, about 2,000 women every six weeks would attend the camp to receive basic military training.

It was during her stay there, Unger said, that she became part of a platoon that performed throughout the New York area in an effort to raise money for war bonds. She said she can still recall singing in New York’s Times Square at a war bond rally.

“World War II female veterans are rare,” said Terry Schow, director of the Utah Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

There are about 30 living female World War II veterans in the state of Utah, said Gina Painter, Women Veterans Program Manager with the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System.

It was out of a love for her country, Unger said, that she served in the military. She hopes sharing her story will put her in touch with other women who may have served during the same period.

So many of the World War II veterans are dying, Unger said, and she has lived such an interesting life, she would like to share her experiences with others.

“I was 16 when the war started on Dec. 7, 1941. I’ll never forget that day,” Unger said of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “It was frightening. We lived in California, and we had blackouts.”

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was one of the biggest reasons she eventually enlisted in the Navy, said Unger, who was doing defense work on radar systems when she eventually joined the WAVES.

“I was just a kid when it started,” she said of the war.

“Those boys that were going over (to fly) were just kids,” said Unger, who married twice after the war.

Her second husband, Cody Unger, an Army Air Force veteran, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

“I love the nation,” Unger said, “and it is kind of upsetting what is happening to it.”

Unger said that to make this nation great, its leaders need to live more in accordance with the Ten Commandments, and the public needs to take a greater interest in voting.

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WWII British Airplane Found in Egyptian Western Desert

From Ahram Online, July 24, 2012:

A British World War II-era airplane that was found in Egypt’s Western Desert earlier this year – after having been lost for seven decades – is now on its way to Egypt’s Al-Alamein Museum.

The military museum in Al-Alamein first opened its doors in 1956 to serve as a memorial for soldiers that fell in the bloody Battle of Al-Alamein, which took place between British and German forces in 1942.

The airplane, a Kittyhawk P-40, had belonged to the British Royal Air force.

The 70-year-old plane was discovered in May when a worker at a Polish petroleum company stumbled across it by accident.

Magdi Selim, head of domestic tourism at Egypt’s Tourism Authority, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website on Tuesday that transport of the airplane to the museum would likely be filmed by media outlets and subsequently aired on Egyptian television.

Selim expressed hope that the discovery would have a positive impact on Egypt’s tourism sector – which has struggled since last year’s Tahrir Square uprising – especially in Egypt’s Western Desert.

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Russia Criticizes Latvia over WWII Comment

From rt.com, July 24, 2012:

Moscow has labeled Latvian President Andris Berzins’s statements that there were no winners in the Second World War “blasphemous.”

“Claims that there were no winners in WWII are bewildering,” Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich stated.

Such rhetoric, he noted, runs counter historic reality and is a “blasphemy” against Soviet people and their allies in the Anti-Hitler coalition, “who liberated the world from fascism.”

Earlier in July, Berzins came up with the initiative of reconciliation between former Waffen-SS fighters and Anti-Nazi veterans and addressed both with a letter.

According to the Latvian leader, the reconciliation is only possible “if we agree that” it was the “criminal” Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany that led to WWII, which the Latvian people were “mercilessly” drawn into.

“There were no winners in that war. It was the biggest crime against humanity ever,” the letter read, as cited by Delfi.lv news portal.

Berzins underlined, though, that that he was not attempting to impose the reconciliation on veterans artificially. Neither was he trying to rewrite history.

Moscow said it certainly took note of the Latvian leader’s “conciliatory initiative.”

“Yet again we have to draw the Latvian authorities’ attention to the destructive nature of attempts to review the results of WWII, as well as of the Nuremberg Trials which condemned the SS (Schutzstaffel) as a criminal organization,” Lukashevich told reporters.

Russia expects Berzins’ statements to receive appropriate assessment from Latvia’s partners in the EU, at international institutions and veteran organizations, the diplomat added.

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The Titanic

The following was written by historians @ history4everyone.wordpress.com

April 14, 2007, marked the 95th anniversary of the sinking of the luxury liner, RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Titanic, approximately 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, with its 2,200 passengers and crew members. At 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912, at a speed of about about 23 or 24 miles per hour, the Titanic grazed the tip of a massive iceberg. It took less than three hours for the luxury liner, once pronounced as ‘unsinkable,’ to descend 2 1/2 miles to the Atlantic Ocean’s floor. At least 1500 people on board went down with the ship and only 335 bodies (roughly 20%) of those unfortunates were ever recovered. The Titanic’s sudden demise on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York in the icy waters of the north Atlantic in 1912 stunned the world. The tragic event continues to capture the imagination of contemporaries through film portrayals, scholarly books and, with the discovery of Titanic’s resting place in 1985, artifacts from the grand liner.

Perhaps it is difficult for us living in the 21st century to understand the appeal and importance of luxury liner travel as represented by the Titanic and similar ships in the early twentieth century. Transatlantic commercial airplane travel didn’t exist until 1939 with the first non-stop Atlantic crossing. Mass air travel didn’t become feasible until after the Second World War and the development of the jet propulsion engine. Thus, in the early 20th century, ships were the primary means of venturing across the “Pond.” In contrast to the early 19th-century cramped, dimly-lit, slow-moving, and unpleasantly smelling vessels that carried cargo across the Ocean, the Titanic offered both speed and luxurious surroundings to paying customers in an age in which more people were beginning to reap the economic and technological benefits of industrialization as well as enjoy more leisure time.

The Titanic was constructed amidst the escalating naval race between Great Britain and Germany and imperial rivalries among European nations. Great Britain had ruled the seas for centuries and intended to maintain its preeminence by building larger and sturdier ships suitable for both military and commercial use. The Cunard and White Star shipping companies competed with each other for the honor of building the best and fastest luxury liner. Owned by White Star (which had been purchased by the American billionaire J.P. Morgan’s International Mercantile Marine consortium), the Titanic was built at the shipyards of Harland and Wolff of Belfast, Ireland, over the course of two years (March 1909 and May 1911). It took, however, nearly an additional year for its engines, boilers, interiors, galleys and navigation equipment to be installed. When completed in 1912, the Titanic boasted a double-bottom and sixteen watertight compartments. Theoretically, the watertight doors in the bulkheads were to close automatically (operated by an electric switch on the bridge) in case of an emergency, thereby creating the mystique of an unsinkable ship. With a length of 882.5 feet and weighing over 46,000 tons, the Titanic was certainly a leviathan.

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic began its maiden and final voyage from Southampton docks in southern England. The huge displacement of water caused by the luxury liner as it was being towed by tugboats out of port nearly caused a collision with another smaller vessel, the New York, which was moored nearby. Only at the last moment was one of the tugboats able to prevent an accident. Was this a bad omen? That night the luxury liner reached Cherbourg, France, where an additional 142 first class, 30 second-class, and 102 third-class passengers boarded. The last port of call before her Atlantic crossing was Queenstown, Ireland, where 123 more passengers alighted on the morning of April 11. At that point the Titanic counted roughly 1320 passengers and 915 crew. According to the Mersy Inquiry, responsible for probing the luxury liner disaster, 1316 passengers were on board, 325 of whom were in first class, 285 in second class, and 706 in third class. Many of the first class passengers were wealthy, prominent Americans, among them millionaires John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus (owners of W.H. Macy’s department store), Denver millionaire Margaret “Molly” Brown (later known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”), American painter, Frank D. Millet, and Major Archibold Butt, President Taft’s military aide. British businessman and Managing Director of the White Star, J. Bruce Ismay, was also on board and one of the relative few who survived the tragedy. Both financier and railway magnate John Pierpont Morgan and chocolate magnate Milton Hershey had planned to make the journey but cancelled their reservations. British and European sightseers and immigrants hoping to start a new life in America accounted for the remainder in second and third classes. The Titanic, under the command of Captain Edward J. Smith, was scheduled to arrive in New York harbor on April 15.

For three days the Titanic, aided by clear and relatively calm weather, proceeded toward its U.S. destination at an uninterrupted pace of over twenty-two knots. Indications that possible trouble lay ahead began to surface the morning of April 14. On at least eight different occasions Titanic’s wireless operator received warnings from other ships in the North Atlantic encountering “large belts of ice.” These icebergs had broken off from Greenland as a result of a mild winter and had floated into the shipping lanes. The information warning about the presence of icebergs along her route was passed along to Captain Smith, save for one, sent by the German steamer Amerika at 1:45 PM. Sometime thereafter the ship’s wireless suddenly stopped working until early evening . By the time the problem was fixed, what turned out to be the most critical warning was never delivered to the Captain.

Early Sunday evening, April 14, the outdoor temperatures fell ominously to almost 32 degrees, driving all passengers who had ventured out on deck back inside the liner. The temperature decline likely was an indication of the icy waters that lay beyond. The Titanic steamed ahead under a moonless, clear sky. The sea resembled smooth plate glass. So placid were the Atlantic waters that they offered little assistance to crew members in the crow’s nests, looking for waves that generally broke around an iceberg’s base. By 11:30 PM most passengers had adjourned to their cabins for bed. The still of the night was interrupted only by a few diehard card players who remained in the first class smoking area and some crew members setting the tables for Monday morning breakfast.

Just ten minutes later, at 11:40 PM, one of the crew in the crow’s nest, spotting what appeared to be an iceberg, rang the bell three times to alert the bridge. Responding to the urgent call, the First Officer ordered the helmsman to make a hard turn to prevent the ship’s stern from hitting the protruding iceberg, but it was too little, too late. The iceberg grazed the luxury liner, tearing the iron rivet heads that fastened its steel shell plates and admitting water below the waterline. Although the watertight doors were activated, sealing the 16 compartments, the collision already had sent water into the first six, flooding them. The fact that watertight bulkheads did not extend completely upwards meant that the ship was now vulnerable. Ice from the iceberg fell onto the forward decks. At the moment of impact, the Titanic was at 41 degrees 46’ N, Longitude 50 degrees 14’ W. The closest seaport was Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The ship’s collision went unnoticed by many passengers, especially on the upper decks, most of whom remained in their cabins. Others in third class cabins forward on the lower decks, closer to the point of impact, were awakened by a kind of grating or ripping sound, and found water about them. A few curious passengers went up on deck to investigate, only to find ice on the deck. Some of these even began to toss the pieces of ice around as if playing a game of football, completely unaware of the seriousness of the situation. When J. Bruce Ismay heard the noise from the ship’s encounter with the iceberg, he immediately rushed out of his cabin to question Captain Smith. That the Titanic was seriously damaged, Smith told him, was without doubt.

It was not until 12:05 AM on April 15, twenty-five minutes after the initial impact, that Captain Smith ordered the crew to uncover the ship’s lifeboats and send a distress call. Lacking a public address system, the ship depended upon its crew to knock on the doors of all passengers to inform them of the incident and insist on evacuation. Even with the urgent (if polite) appeal to come up on deck and put on their lifejackets, many people still could not believe that the mighty Titanic was in trouble. To make matters worse, communicating about the ship’s impending doom was complicated by the fact that some immigrants in third class did not understand English. Even sadder was the existence of gates restraining passengers in third class, a regulation required by U.S. immigration. Fear of and unfamiliarity with other cultures forced the crew to keep the third class passengers below until they received word for them to be allowed on deck. Only when the ship began to list did reality begin to set in.

By 12:20 AM the ship’s crew began loading passengers onto twenty lifeboats, that could accommodate roughly 50% of its passengers. This ridiculously small number of lifeboats for over 2,000 passengers, however, legally complied with British regulations that vessels over 10,000 tons carry at least 16 lifeboats. Worse yet, the lifeboats were not filled to capacity. For example, the first lifeboat carried only 27 passengers, women and children, although it had a capacity of 65. In placing passengers onto the lifeboats, the crew adhered to the unwritten rule of the sea — “women and children first.” Between 12:40 and 2:05 AM eighteen lifeboats were launched.

At 1 AM the ship shot off its distress rockets, sparking panic among the remaining passengers, who now realized that the ship was indeed sinking with them on it. Third class passengers, unfortunately, were less likely to survive, thanks to the gates and tardiness with which crew members attempted to “herd” them up to the lifeboats. By 1:45 AM the Titanic’s bow was underwater, and the ship was listing severely. The impending doom evoked curious reactions among the passengers. Perhaps realizing the futility of it all, a few men continued to play bridge, despite a precipitously slanting card table. Some men, however, placed the lives of other passengers before their own by assisting them into the lifeboats and then throwing overboard assorted furniture that could float to be used as rafts. As valiant as the efforts by individual passengers and crew members were, nothing short of a miracle could halt the demise of the Titanic. Between 2:10 and 2:15 AM the luxury liner’s stern rose out of the water to an upright angle and its bridge dipped under the water, resulting in calamitous crashing of furniture, plates, pianos, and the like. Unable to withstand the pressure, the massive boilers finally tore away from their foundations, crashing through the bulkhead and causing booms to resonate through the doomer liner. As the lights flickered for the last time and with passengers still clinging desperately to railings and decks and still others jumping into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, the Titanic disappeared from sight into its watery grave.

Fifteen hundred people, most of them wearing lifejackets, went down with the ship. While some were crushed when the ship sank, others simply drowned or fell victim to hypothermia as water temperature was below freezing. 705 people in the lifeboats were rescued by the Carpathia, owned by Cunard Line, which had received the Titanic’s distress call and arrived at the scene around 4 AM. Worried about encountering more icebergs, the Carpathia’s captain, Arthur H. Rostron, charted a course south to New York instead of to Halifax, Nova Scotia, which was the closest major seaport. Three ships, the Mackay-Bennett, Minia, and Montmagny, dispatched from Halifax, and the Algerine from Saint John’s Newfoundland, recovered only 335 bodies from the 1500 Titanic victims (roughly 1 in 5). Among the fortunate (and more promient) few who survived were Margaret (“The Unsinkable Molly”) Brown, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon (a British landowner) and his wife, Lady Lucy Christiana, and J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman and managing director of White Star. Captain Smith, however, went down with his ship.

Interested in reading about some new revelations about the Titanic? Try:

Jennifer Hooper McCarty & Tim Foecke, What Really Sank the Titanic: New Forensic Discoveries (Citadel, 2008)
Brad Matsen, Titanic’s Last Secrets: The Further Adventures of Shadow Divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler (Twelve, 2008)

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