TDISH: From Cook to Hero

At the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II, on November 12, 1942, Mess Attendant First 727px-USS_Harmon_(DE-678).jpgClass Leonard Roy Harmon was aboard the USS San Francisco.  Harmon was an African-American and, when he enrolled in the navy in 1939, he was limited to being a mess officer due to his race.  (This policy would change for new recruits starting in 1942.)  On the first day of the battle, the San Francisco was struck by a crashing Japanese plane damaging the ship’s radar and communications systems.  On the following day, the bridge was strafed by gunfire from another plane, killing the majority of officers aboard the ship.  Harmon ran to the bridge and attempted to help the wounded off the ship despite continuous gunfire.  He succeeded in getting several of his shipmates to safety before being struck by a shot that he knew would kill him.  With his last moments, Leonard Harmon positioned his body to shield a less-gravely wounded man, saving the other sailor’s life.  In recognition of his valor, Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.  On top of this, the navy recognized just how remarkable Harmon’s actions were.  On August 31, 1943 a Buckley-class Destroyer Escort was commissioned named the USS Harmon in honor of the fallen cook.  The Harmon was the first ship in United States history to be named after an African American.

Featured Image. “Democracy In Action – Poster Depicting Leonard Roy Harmon.” By Charles Henry Alston, 1907-1977, Artist (NARA record: 3569253) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain.
Image 1. “USS Harmon.” By U.S. Navy –, Public Domain.
Source: Santoski, Teresa. “Daily TWiP – USS Harmon, the first Navy ship named after an African-American, is commissioned today in 1943.Nashua Telegraph. 31 August 2010.

TDISH: The Red Terror Begins

On August 30, 1918, a young Jewish Ukrainian revolutionary walked up to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin as he completed a speech at the Hammer and Sickle Factory in Moscow.  With her, the would-be assassin carried a gun.  Her name was Fanny Kaplan.  She was member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, a former ally of the Bolsheviks.  However, when Lenin came to power the SRs were soon abandoned and viewed their erstwhile friend with ever increasing hostility.  As she approached Lenin, Kaplan raised her piston and fired twice – severely wounding the Bolshevik leader.  Lenin, however, was not killed by the attack and Kaplan was quickly subdued by his bodyguards.  Her actions led to her quick execution, a mere four days later on September 3.  Upon recovering from injuries, Lenin used the attack as an excuse to eliminate his many political enemies.  The horrific Red Terror had begun.

Featured Image: “Fanny Kaplan.” By The original uploader was Boreali at German Wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons by Ireas using CommonsHelper., Public Domain.
Source: “1918: Fanya Kaplan, Lenin’s would-be assassin.”


TDISH: One-Man Stand

Early in the morning on August 29, 1991, on the quiet streets of Palermo, Sicily the owner of a local lingerie manufacturer was gunned down in cold blood.  Libero Grassi owned a business that employed about 100 people and was a pillar of the local community in Palermo.  As his business grew, Grassi came to the attention of local organized crime, the notorious Mafia.  The Sicilian Mob came knocking on Grassi’s door and demanded pizzo, protection money.  Paying this sum to avoid trouble with the Mafia had been the local tradition, but Grassi was having none of it.  He refused to pay.  Not only that, he made his struggle with the “nonexistent” organization public.  Grassi wrote to Italian newspapers about his experience and told the police about his encounters.  Not long after he started publicizing the shakedown, Grassi was killed by Salvatore Madonia, son of Mafia Boss Francesco Madonia, the head of the Resuttana family.  Both men were convicted in 2006 after Grassi’s death turned him into a hero in the anti-Mafia movement in Sicily and encouraged other business owners to stand up to the Mafia.

Featured Image: “Libero Grassi.” By unknown – Libero Grassi e Tano Grasso.
Source: Salerno, Vincenzo. “Remembering Libero Grassi.” Best of Sicily Magazine.



TDISH: 24 Hours and 18 Minutes

On August 28, 1957 at 8:54 PM, United States Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina rose to address the United States Senate.  Twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes alter, at 9:12 PM on August 29, the Senator relinquished the floor.  He had just completed the longest filibuster in US history. Senator Thurmond’s filibuster was an attempt to stop the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that was the bill being considered on that date.  So what does someone talk about for over 24 hours?  Here is a sample of what Senator Thurmond spoke about.

  • Thurmond read the voting laws of all 48 states (at the time) in their entirety.
  • Thurmond read the entire United States Criminal Code.
  • Thurmond read the Declaration of Independence.

At the end of his filibuster, Thurmond encouraged his colleagues to vote against the bill.  His filibuster did not have the hoped-for impact.  His long-winded opposition failed to chance a single vote and the Senate passed the bill.

Featured Image: “Strom Thurmond.” By Leffler, Warren K., photographer. – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Call number: LC-U9- 6571-17 [P&P] Digital id:ppmsca 19604, Public Domain.
Source: Hickey, Walter.”The Longest Filibuster In History Lasted More Than A Day — Here’s How It Went Down.” Business Insider. 6 March 2013.

TDISH: The Shortest War Ever

From about 9:00 AM to 9:40 AM on Thursday, August 27, 1896 the shortest international war in history took place as several ships of the British Royal Navy bombarded the tiny state of Kalid_bin_Barghash.jpgZanzibar one day after sudden death of its sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini.  Thuwaini was succeeded under somewhat dubious circumstances by his cousin Khalid bin Barghash.  The new Sultan Khalid’s rise to power enraged the British who had signed an unequal treaty with the small sultanate giving the British consul the authority to approve any new sultan that came to the throne.  The British authorities would veto Sutlan Khalid’s reign in a very emphatic way.

In the morning on the day after Sultan Hamad’s death British naval forces under Rear Admiral Harry Rawson issued an ultimatum for Khalid to stand down and when he received no response from the palace proceeded to bombard the defenses of HMS_Thrush.jpgZanzibar along with the royal palace.  Sultan Khalid’s brief reign ended as he sought refuge in the German consulate.  The British then put Hamud bin Muhammad on the throne since he was more amicable towards British interests.  The Anglo-Zanzibar War ended up with about 500 causalities on the side of the sultanate and with one British sailor suffering a minor injury.

Featured Image. “Damage to the Palace of Zanzibar.” By Richard Dorsey Mohun (1865-1915) – from zh wp 23:13 2005. Captmjc (Talk) . . 574×425 (94376), Public Domain.
Image 1: “Sultan Khalid bin Barghash.” By Unknown – (تاريخ الحكام والسلالات الحاكمة) arabic source, Public Domain.
Image 2: “HMS Thrush.” By William Frederick Mitchell –, Public Domain.

TDISH: A Casino Goes Boom!

On August 26, 1980, an IBM photocopier was delivered to the Harvey’s Resort and Casino in Stateline, Nevada on the shores of Lake Tahoe.  That’s it!

Just kidding. This was not ordinary photocopier – and it wasn’t actually ordered by Harvey’s Casino.  The copier delivered on that morning caused some confusion in the casino and after the deliverymen left, management inspected the unexpected machine.  Inside the machine, they found a note to the bomb squad saying that this was actually a non-defusable bomb with multiple fail-safes that would not even allow the machine to be moved further.  Casino management called in the police and the FBI bomb squad arrived and evacuated the building.  The bomb was among the biggest the FBI had ever seen in its long history.  The detailed ransom note demanded $3 million to be paid in unmarked $100 bills in exchange for the instructions about how to move the device so the authorities could do a controlled explosion.  Authorities x-rayed the machine and developed a plan of action, however their attempts to defuse the bomb failed causing a large explosion that caused extensive damage to the Harvey’s Casino.  Thankfully, no one was killed or even injured thanks to the earlier evacuation.  The creator of the bomb was soon discovered to be 59-year old John Birges, Sr. who had built the bomb out of anger at a massive gambling debt he had amassed at Harvey’s.  Birges was convicted and died in a Nevada prison in 1996.

Featured Image: “Harvey’s Bombing.” By Federal Bureau of Investigation –, Public Domain.
Source: “A Byte Out of History.” FBI.



TDISH: The Great Moon Hoax

On August 25, 1835, the New York Sun newspaper featured a seemingly benign headline that read “Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel, L.L.D.”  This article talked at length about a purported new invention made by respected astronomer John Herschel of an incredibly powerful telescope that allowed him to see the surface of the moon clearly and in great detail.  The problem with this story was that Herschel had made no such invention, in fact he played no part in the story and those that would follow over the next five days.  For the next 800px-1836_the-great-moon-hoax-new-inhabitants-of-the-moon.pngweek, the Sun ran stories that became more and more fantastical detailing amazing discoveries of not only life, but advanced civilization on the moon.  Days 2 and 3 detailed the animal and plant life purported to be on the moon – including a biped beaver that had master the art of fire.  Day 4 proved to be the high point of the hoax when the paper described what they called Vespertilio-homo or the “Bat-men” who inhabited the moon and had established a civilization and lived in a “universal state of amity.”

The elaborate story met with a mixed reception with many people believing the story, but many others being skeptical about the wild claims.  The owner of the Sun, Benjamin Day, was looking to increase his paper’s circulation and in that he succeeded wildly.  Despite increased readership, the hoax was exposed less than a week later when New York Herald journalist James Gordon Bennett disclosed the true author of the piece, Sun reporter Richard Adams Locke.  Locke and his boss, Day, denied their role in the hoax until 1836 when Locke finally caved and admitted to being the hoax’s author.

Featured Image: “The Ruby Amphitheatre.” By Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Public Domain.
Image 1: “Vespertilio-homo.”By Lock (?) Naples – The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats ISBN: 0465002579 page 228, Public Domain.
Source: “The Great Moon Hoax.” The Museum of Hoaxes.