This Week in History
1945 — United Nations Charter signed. Fifty countries originally signed the charter and as of 2022 one hundred ninety-three countries are members. The charter became effective on October 24th, 1945. From enwikipedia.org: “The UN Charter mandates the UN and its member states to maintain international peace and security, uphold international law, achieve “higher standards of living” for their citizens, address “economic, social, health, and related problems”, and promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”
Noble idea and while the results haven’t been as lofty as the charter’s language, I believe the world is safer with the UN than without. I just wish the UN was able to convince nations to discontinue their competitive defense spending in order to achieve “higher standards of living” for their citizens.
1959 — St. Lawrence Seaway officially opens. President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II presided over the ceremony. The seaway extends 2,500 miles from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Duluth, Minnesota. A series of locks, five in Canada and two in the U.S. were necessary to lift ships to 246 feet above sea level. In addition to the locks there was also a system of canals and dredged waterways. Since its opening billions of tons of cargo has been transported through the seaway.
I have a passing fancy to sail the length of the St. Lawrence Seaway. But then thinking about the Edmund Fitzgerald, not when the gales of November are blowing.
1968 — Iwo Jima returned to Japan. The island, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in WWII, was returned as a sign of political goodwill to the U.S.’s one time enemy, now ally. The island no longer served any strategic importance and the return stipulated U.S. veterans could visit for sentimental reasons. In contrast, Russia still retains control over the territories it received from Japan at the end of the war.
Russia wanting more territory, who would’ve thought.
1892 — Pearl Buck. Writer. Buck grew up in China, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries. She was bilingual and even had a Chinese name, Zai Zhenzhu. Buck wrote that she lived in two worlds, “one a “small, white, clean Presbyterian world of my parents”, and the other the “big, loving merry not-too-clean Chinese world.” She learned Chinese from her playmates and was upset at the racist attitudes of other whites in China. She read voraciously as a child, especially Charles Dickens, and it was then she decided to become a writer. College educated in the U.S., after which she elected to return to China as a missionary herself. At this point she married, John Buck, and began writing. While in China Buck survived two crisis’s. The first was the Boxer Rebellion when she was a child and the family had to flee to Shanghai for safety. The second was in 1927 during the Nanking Incident when Communist, Nationalist and warlords were all fighting for control. This time a Chinese family hid them in a hut for a day before American gunboats rescued them. (This seems like a scene from the movie “The Sand Pebbles” with Steve McQueen and Candice Bergen.)
During this time she wrote “The Good Earth” which became the best-selling novel in the U.S. in 1931 and earned her the Pulitzer Prize. In 1938 Buck won the Nobel Prize for Literature for her depiction of peasant life in China. She left China in 1934 never to return although that wasn’t her intention at the time. Buck was forced from the board of the Presbyterian Church when she gave a speech arguing against the need for foreign missionaries in China. She said missionaries were too often arrogant and ignorant of China. She also wrote a book critical of what she called the Communist tyranny in China and for that was labeled an “American cultural imperialist.” When President Nixon made his famous visit to China in 1972 she was not allowed to accompany him. In addition to her writing she was a political activist in raising awareness about racism, sex discrimination and the adoption of Asian war children, who previously had been deemed “unadoptable.” Buck passed away at age 80 in 1973.
A famous writer I have not yet read.
1904 — Peter Lorre. Actor. Born in Hungary Lorre began acting on stage in Vienna, then moved to Germany where his film career began to flourish. Jewish, he fled Germany when Hitler came to power. He continued to pursue an acting career, first in London, then Hollywood. Frustrated with the roles he was getting, mostly in B-pictures, he got a break in 1941 when John Huston cast him in “The Maltese Falcon,” with Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet. Those three teamed up again in “Casablanca.” Huston said of Lorre: “He had that clear combination of braininess and real innocence, and sophistication… He’s always doing two things at the same time, thinking one thing and saying something else.” Lorre had a long career as a character actor, often type cast in “creepy” roles. In 1964 he suffered a stroke and passed away at age 59.
I can not recall the title but I once saw a documentary about Jewish artists in Germany in the 1930s, those who fled and those who mistakenly thought their position would protect them. Lorre made the wise choice and left. He worked hard to erase his German accent and came up with that distinct speaking style that aided his career.
1905 — Jan Louis Doornik. Dutch resistance fighter. In Belgium when Holland was invaded by Germany, Doornik traveled to France where he joined the Free French Forces. Evacuated to London, he volunteered for assignment in occupied France. From September, 1940 to February, 1941 he gathered information on German defense installations. Then he was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. The court however sent a letter to Hitler recommending a pardon and praising his courage. The letter was ignored and on August 29, 1941, Doornik and two of his comrades were executed by firing squad.
The war in Ukraine is raging as I post the blog entry. No doubt there are countless versions of Ukrainian Doorniks making the same sacrifice trying to save their country from an evil, dictatorial madman.