Category: History (Page 1 of 3)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”

In April 1963, King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, after he defied a state court’s injunction and led a march of black protesters without a permit, urging an Easter boycott of white-owned stores. A statement published in The Birmingham News, written by eight moderate white clergymen, criticized the march and other demonstrations.

This prompted King to write a lengthy response, begun in the margins of the newspaper. He smuggled it out with the help of his lawyer, and the nearly 7,000 words were transcribed. The eloquent call for “constructive, nonviolent tension” to force an end to unjust laws became a landmark document of the civil-rights movement. The letter was printed in part or in full by several publications, including the New York PostLiberation magazine, The New Leader, and The Christian Century.

The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism, and it says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. Responding to being referred to as an “outsider”, King writes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

The full letter is included after the break.

Continue reading

USS Hamner (DD-718)

The USS Hamner (DD-718) was a Gearing-class destroyer (a fast, maneuverable long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and to defend them against smaller short-range attackers).  It served in the United States Navy during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The ship was named after Henry Rawlings Hamner. He had been born on March 13, 1922 in London, England. Appointed to the United States Naval Academy from Virginia, he graduated and gained his commission in June of 1942. Hamner served to fit out and commission several new ships during the war, in addition to serving in the 12th Naval District and at Norfolk, Virginia. He was appointed lieutenant in July 1944. Lieutenant Hamner died 6 April 1945 aboard USS Howorth (DD-592), when the ship was crashed by a Japanese kamikaze attack off Okinawa.

Hamner launched on November 24, 1945 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Port Newark, New Jersey. The destroyer spent nine months operating with Destroyer Division 111 out of various Chinese and Japanese ports before returning to the States for six months of training operations. Hamner followed this pattern of cruises until hostilities began in Korea on June 24, 1950.

Deployed in the Far East at the time, Hamner sailed to the Korean coast and began shore bombardment of Communist positions and supply lines. After participating in the evacuation of Yongdok and the defense of Pohang Dong, Hamner joined Task Force 77 for the amphibious operations against Inchon on September 15, 1950.

After operating along the Korean coast to screen aircraft carriers whose planes were pounding Communist troops, Hamner returned to the States in March of 1951. She was back on line in October of that same year and continued to patrol waters surrounding the peninsula with various task forces and bombardment groups, effectively damaging and checking the enemy. In March 1952 she spent five weeks on shore bombardment off the east coast of Korea near Kojo. Returning to the States in May 1952, Hamner resumed her duties along the Korean coast on 2 January 1953, remaining there on the bombline, at the siege of Wonsan Harbor, and on Formosa patrol until the Korean Armistice Agreement of July 1953.

Hamner returned to the Western Pacific every year thereafter visiting ports in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Australia. The destroyer made many good-will visits to Asian ports and engaged in exercises and Formosa patrol. She arrived off Taiwan for six weeks duty with the Taiwan Patrol Force at the end of 1958, just after another flareup of the Quemoy-Matsu crisis. When not deployed in the Pacific, Hamner trained out of San Diego, California.

Entering the San Francisco Ship Yard in January 1962, she underwent a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) overhaul designed to add 10 to 20 years to her operating efficiency. Fitted with a new superstructure and the Navy’s most modern electronic equipment, Hamner left the shipyard on December 5, 1962 and sailed for her 13th WestPac cruise on May 18, 1963. During this cruise she was part of the ready amphibious group in South Vietnam coastal waters in September.

Hamner returned to San Diego the following November. She operated along the West Coast throughout 1964 and sailed again for the Orient in early 1965. In May she sailed North to cover Seabee landings at Chu Lai. “Operation Market Time” began five days later and on the 20th Hamner shelled Communist positions in South Vietnam in the first scheduled shore bombardment by the U.S. Nayy since the Korean War. Thereafter she screened Coral Sea, bombarded the Trung Phan area on 25 June, and covered the landing of Marines from Iwo Jima (LPH-2) at Qui Nhon on July 1. Two weeks later the destroyer sailed home, reaching San Francisco on the 26th.

Overhaul at Hunter’s Point and operations off the West Coast occupied the next year. Hamner got underway for her 14th WestPac deployment on July, 2 1966. Late in the month she bombarded South Vietnam. Following patrol duty, she steamed up the Lòng Tàu River to shell the Rung Sat Special Zone.

Hamner joined TG 77.6 as plane guard for Oriskany (CVA-34) on October 1 and continued this duty until receiving an emergency call from the carrier at 0730 on the 26th — “I am on fire.” Maneuvering alongside, Hamner sprayed cooling water on the charred and buckled bulkheads until this threat had gone then escorted her to Subic Bay for repairs.

Returning to the gunline off Vietnam on November 6, the destroyer spent two weeks in Operation Traffic Cop, shelling the junks that were bringing arms and supplies to the Viet Cong. Within a fortnight, Hamner had destroyed 67 craft. On November 14 & 19. shore batteries fired on Hamner and John R. Craig (DD-885). Although several rounds sprayed the destroyers with shrapnel, neither ship was damaged. On each occasion the American ships moved outside range of the enemy guns and bombarded the shore batteries. Leaving the gunline on 20 November, a month and a day later, Hamner reached San Diego.

After spending several years on Swan Island in Portland, Oregon as a vessel used for Naval and Marine reserve training, she was decommissioned in the 1970s and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in October 1979. She was sold to Taiwan in December 1980 and renamed ROCS Yun Yang. She was reclassified as a guided-missile destroyer (DDG-927). Yun Yang was decommissioned in December 2003. She was sunk by Hai Hu (SS-794) as target practice off Ping Tung on September 6, 2005.

The End Of “The Great War”

100 years ago today, Allied leaders and German officials signed the Armistice that brought an end to four and a half years of fighting on the Western Front. While not a surrender, the Armistice represented a complete defeat for Germany, which had been seeking a ceasefire since its military situation had become hopeless in late September of 1918.

The German delegation, under Secretary of State and peace advocate Matthias Erzberger, arrived in a forest clearing near the north French town of Compiegne on November 8th with the intention of winning some concessions. However, as discussions took place in the private railway carriage of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch, there were no negotiations. When Erzberger was told that the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, had abdicated, Erzberger was instructed by Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg to sign the armistice on the Allied’s terms.

The Armistice was signed at 5am on the morning of November 11th, and it went into effect at 11am the same day. Its terms included the removal of German troops from occupied territories, the surrender of the German’s U-boat fleet, the surrender of all German cannons, planes and machine guns, and the immediate release of all Allied prisoners.

There were 2,738 deaths during the last morning of the war. The last British soldier to die was 40-year-old George Ellison, who was shot at 9.30am on the outskirts of Mons in Belgium. He fell less than four miles from where John Parr – the first British casualty – had been killed on August 21, 1914. The two are buried in the same cemetery with their graves facing each other.

According to one corporal at the Front, German soldiers climbed out of their trenches at 11am, bowed, and walked away. Exhausted Allied soldiers could barely bring themselves to celebrate the end of 52 long months of fighting, but in the towns and cities of the victorious nations, people were dancing in the streets at the news that the war was at its end.

After the signing of the Armistice, Erzberger was branded a traitor by the Germans. Two former navy offices assassinated him while walking in the Black Forest in August 1921.

Marshal Foch’s railway carriage spend much of the next decade on display in Paris before returning to the Compiegne clearing in 1927. Adolf Hitler received the French surrender in the same carriage in June 1940. The carriage was later taken to Berlin and burnt down by retreating SS forces in 1945.

The History Of Labor Day

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887 four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1884, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

More than a century after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

In 1887, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado were among the first states to approve state legal holidays. Then other states joined in to create their own state Labor Days.  In response to a groundswell of support for a national holiday celebrating the nation’s workers, Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to the 53rd Congress to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year. It was approved on June 28, 1894.

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