This Day in History
1942 — Battle of Midway ends. Six months after their successful sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy’s next target was the American occupied island of Midway. As a feint they had landed troops on the island of Attu in the Aleutian chain. Their hope was to draw the American navy away. Due to America having broken the Japanese code that deception did not work. Two fleets sailed toward Midway for a rendezvous with death. This was one of the first major sea battle fought by air, with the surface ships of the opposing forces never engaging. The Japanese task force included four aircraft carries while the American had three. The Japanese attacked Midway and destroyed defense installations and a number of aircraft. However an American scout plane, through an opening in the clouds, found the Japanese fleet. America attacked with waves of torpedo and dive bombers. Due to rearmament confusion the Japanese were caught with more planes aboard the ships rather than in the air. The battle started poorly for the Americans when the first flight of torpedo bombers was decimated. Sixteen of the seventeen planes were shot down. These were slow, antiquated planes that were replaced with faster models after this battle. Of those pilots shot down only one survived. He watched the Battle of Midway unfold as he bobbed in the ocean in his lifejacket. The dive bombers were more successful. The battle started on the 4th and ended on the 7th in a total American victory. The Japanese lost all four aircraft carriers sunk while the Americans lost one, the USS Yorktown. The plane tally was 320 lost for Japan, 150 for America. In addition the Japanese suffered somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 men killed, including an admiral and many irreplaceable pilots. The U.S. suffered 317 killed in action.
Before Midway Japan had a vastly superior naval force with its sights on invading Hawaii and then attacking the American mainland. Midway changed all of that, and along with Guadalcanal was the turning point in the Pacific War.
As a boy I was transfixed watching “Victory at Sea” on television, including the stirring Battle of Midway. One of the reasons I spent three years wearing a white hat.
1977 — Anita Bryant forces repeal ordinance. Dade County, Florida had passed a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Angered by the ordinance, and referring to homosexuals as “human garbage,” Bryant, a pop singer and former Miss Oklahoma, led a campaign to repeal it. She was successful and it was voted down on June 7th. Bryant took pride in “saving our children.”
Nothing much ever changes in Florida, does it? Thirty-five years separated the Battle of Midway from Dade County, Florida. One represented America at its best, the other, well… Funny thing is, bases on statistics, several hundred of the sailors in the American task force that day in the Pacific were human garbage.
2012 — Bus falls into ravine in LaPaz, Bolivia. 16 killed, 32 injured.
2013 — Bus catches fire in Xiamen, China. 42 killed, 30 injured.
2013 — Bus plunges off mountain road in Himachel Pradesh, India. 18 killed and 40 injured.
I have it on good authority that psychics around the world were warning people to stay away from buses on June 7th. Equal good authority informs me they do that every day.
1878 — Beau Brummel. English trendsetter. Brummel had a total disregard for men’s fashion of his era. Until then men had worn bright colors; Brummel arguably affected male fashion for the next 200 years. He was a “dandy” as opposed to being a “fop.” A fop was someone who was overly concerned with his appearance and clothes. According to esquire.com: “A dandy could be found apathetically lounging on doorjambs at parties, smoking a cigarette and doing an excellent and studied performance of cynical carelessness. Brummel made an art of pretentious dishevelment. In fact, it allegedly took him hours to be so artfully and pretentiously disheveled.” Friends with a future king of English, George IV, he was accomplished at putting other people down with his wry cruelty. Brummel elevated his own social status by mocking others.
I’ve heard his name but never knew what he stood for. Sad that the reputation of a do-nothing phony could last so long, and sadder yet, to this day there are those who emulate him.
1843 — Susan Blow. Educator. Blow is credited with opening the first public kindergarten in the United States. (Now I know who to blame.) Her early kindergarten classes were described as being more playful and cheerful than usual classrooms. Blow never married and devoted her life to education. A strange twist and no commentary upon her, but Blow’s grandfather was a slaveholder and the man who owned Dred Scott. Dred Scott sued for his freedom and the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution was not meant to include people of African descent.
This opens the door for any number of snarky comments on my part but I think I’ll just say Blow spent a lifetime atoning for her grandfather.
1975 — Allen Iverson. Basketball player. Playing mostly for the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers, Iverson was Rookie of the year in 1997, an 11 time All-Star and the NBA’s MVP in 2001. At 6 feet tall, small in the NBA, Iverson was an aggressive presence in the land of the giants. In his own words, “I feared so many other things off the court, but nothing on the court.” Born to a 15 year old single mother, abandoned by his father, Iverson’s early live was a struggle. His escape was sports and in high school he excelled at both basketball and football. However that was marred by an altercation at a bowling alley in Hampton, Virginia. A shouting match led to a fight, a black versus white fight. Police were called and only the black participants, including Iverson, were arrested. Despite a videotape showing him leaving shortly before the fight, the 17 year old Iverson was tried as an adult and convicted of a felony. He served 4 months before the governor granted his clemency and the Court of Appeals eventually overturned the conviction because of insufficient evidence. Iverson played 2 years at Georgetown University before leaving for the NBA. Legal issues and brushes with the law continued to follow Iverson during his NBA career and afterwards.
Whatever anybody may think of him, he was the most fearless basketball player I’ve ever seen. Driving against players a foot taller and hundred pounds heavier, his body was bounced around as if in a pinball machine, he never backed off. There is an excellent documentary film about him titled “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson.”