This Day in History for April 7: Japanese Battleship Yamato Sunk (1945)

Japanese Battleship Yamato Sunk (1945)

Yamato (大和) was the lead ship of her class of battleships built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) shortly before World War II. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 in) Type 94 main guns, which were the largest guns ever mounted on a warship.

Named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, Yamato was designed to counter the numerically superior battleship fleet of the United States, Japan’s main rival in the Pacific. She was laid down in 1937 and formally commissioned a week after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941. Throughout 1942, she served as the flagship of the Combined Fleet, and in June 1942 Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto directed the fleet from her bridge during the Battle of Midway, a disastrous defeat for Japan. Musashi took over as the Combined Fleet flagship in early 1943, and Yamato spent the rest of the year, and much of 1944, moving between the major Japanese naval bases of Truk and Kure in response to American threats. Although present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, she played no part in the battle.

The only time Yamato fired her main guns at enemy surface targets was in October 1944, when she was sent to engage American forces invading the Philippines during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On the verge of success, the Japanese force turned back, believing they were engaging an entire US carrier fleet rather than a light escort carrier group that was all which stood between the battleship and vulnerable troop transports.

During 1944, the balance of naval power in the Pacific decisively turned against Japan, and by early 1945, its fleet was much depleted and badly hobbled by critical fuel shortages in the home islands. In a desperate attempt to slow the Allied advance, Yamato was dispatched on a one-way mission to Okinawa in April 1945, with orders to beach herself and fight until destroyed protecting the island. The task force was spotted south of Kyushu by US submarines and aircraft, and on 7 April 1945 she was sunk by American carrier-based bombers and torpedo bombers with the loss of most of her crew.

Design and construction

During the 1930s the Japanese government adopted an ultranationalist militancy with a view to greatly expand the Japanese Empire.[1] Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1934, renouncing its treaty obligations.[2] After withdrawing from the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited the size and power of capital ships, the Imperial Japanese Navy began their design of the new Yamato class of heavy battleships. Their planners recognized Japan would be unable to compete with the output of U.S. naval shipyards should war break out, so the 70,000 ton[3] vessels of the Yamato class were designed to be capable of engaging multiple enemy battleships at the same time.[4][5]

The keel of Yamato, the lead ship of the class,[6] was laid down at the Kure Naval Arsenal, Hiroshima, on 4 November 1937, in a dockyard that had to be adapted to accommodate her enormous hull.[7][8] The dock was deepened by one meter, and gantry cranes capable of lifting up to 350 tonnes were installed.[7][9] Extreme secrecy was maintained throughout construction,[7][10] a canopy even being erected over part of the drydock to screen the ship from view.[11]Yamato was launched on 8 August 1940, with Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Miyazato Shutoku in command.[12] A great effort was made in Japan to ensure that the ships were built in extreme secrecy to prevent American intelligence officials from learning of their existence and specifications.[7][10]


Yamatos main battery consisted of nine 46 cm (18.1 in) 45 Caliber Type 94 naval guns—the largest caliber of naval artillery ever fitted to a warship,[14] although the shells were not as heavy as those fired by the British 18-inch naval guns of World War I. Each gun was 21.13 metres (69.3 ft) long, weighed 147.3 metric tons (162.4 short tons), and was capable of firing high-explosive or armor-piercing shells 42 kilometres (26 mi).[15] Her secondary battery comprised twelve 155-millimetre (6.1 in) guns mounted in four triple turrets (one forward, one aft, two midships), and twelve 127-millimetre (5.0 in) guns in six twin mounts (three on each side amidships). These turrets had been taken off the Mogami-class cruisers when those vessels were converted to a main armament of 20.3-centimetre (8.0 in) guns. In addition, Yamato carried twenty-four 25-millimetre (0.98 in) anti-aircraft guns, primarily mounted amidships.[14] When refitted in 1944 and 1945 for naval engagements in the South Pacific,[16] the secondary battery configuration was changed to six 155 mm guns and twenty-four 127 mm guns, and the number of 25 mm anti-aircraft guns was increased to 162.[17]


Trials and initial operations

During October or November 1941 Yamato underwent sea trials, reaching her maximum possible speed of 27.4 knots (50.7 km/h; 31.5 mph).[12][N 1] As war loomed, priority was given to accelerating military construction. On 16 December, months ahead of schedule, the battleship was formally commissioned at Kure, in a ceremony more austere than usual, as the Japanese were still intent on concealing the ship’s characteristics.[12] The same day, under Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Gihachi Takayanagi, she joined fellow battleships Nagato and Mutsu in the 1st Battleship Division.[19]

On 12 February 1942, Yamato became the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s Combined Fleet.[12][18] A veteran of Japan’s crushing victory over Russia at the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War, the Pearl Harbor victor was planning a decisive engagement with the United States Navy at Midway Island. After participating in war games Yamato departed Hiroshima Bay on 27 May for duty with Yamamoto’s main battleship group.[12][20] US codebreakers were aware of Yamamoto’s intentions and the Battle of Midway proved disastrous for Japan’s carrier force, with four fleet carriers and 332 aircraft lost.[12]Yamamoto exercised overall command from Yamatos bridge,[20] but his battle plan had widely dispersed his forces to lure the Americans into a trap, and the battleship group was too far away to take part in the engagement.[12] On 5 June, Yamamoto ordered the remaining ships to return to Japan, so Yamato withdrew with the main battleship force to Hashirajima, before making her way back to Kure.[18][19]

Yamato left Kure for Truk on 17 August 1942.[21][N 2] After 11 days at sea, she was sighted by the American submarine USS Flying Fish, which fired four torpedoes, all of which missed; Yamato arrived safely at Truk later that day.[18][21][N 3] She remained there throughout the Guadalcanal Campaign because of a lack of 46 cm ammunition suitable for shore bombardment, uncharted seas around Guadalcanal, and her high fuel consumption.[12][16] Before the year’s end, Captain (later Rear Admiral) Chiaki Matsuda was assigned to command Yamato.[21]

On 11 February 1943, Yamato was replaced by her sister ship Musashi as flagship of the Combined Fleet.[12] The battleship spent only a single day away from Truk between her arrival in August 1942 and her departure on 8 May 1943.[12][22] On that day, she set sail for Yokosuka and from there for Kure, arriving on 14 May.[12][22] She spent nine days in dry dock for inspection and general repairs,[21] and after sailing to Japan’s western Inland Sea she was again dry-docked in late July for significant refitting and upgrades. On 16 August, Yamato began her return to Truk, where she joined a large task force formed in response to American raids on the Tarawa and Makin atolls.[21] She sortied in late September with Nagato, three carriers, and smaller warships to intercept US Task Force 15, and again a month later with six battleships, three carriers, and eleven cruisers. Intelligence had reported that the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor was nearly empty of ships,[12] which the Japanese interpreted to mean that an American naval force would strike at Wake Island.[12] But there were no radar contacts for six days, and the fleet returned to Truk, arriving on 26 October.[12]

Yamato escorted Transport Operation BO-1 from Truk to Yokosuka during 12–17 December.[22] Subsequently, because of their extensive storage capacity and thick armor protection, Yamato and Musashi were pressed into service as transport vessels.[23] On 25 December, while ferrying troops and equipment—which were wanted as reinforcements for the garrisons at Kavieng and the Admiralty Islands—from Yokosuka to Truk, Yamato and her task group were intercepted by the American submarine Skate about 180 miles (290 km) out at sea.[12][24] Skate fired a spread of four torpedoes at Yamato; one struck the battleship’s starboard side toward the stern.[12] A hole 5 metres (16 ft) below the top of her anti-torpedo bulge and measuring some 25 metres (82 ft) across was ripped open in the hull, and a joint between the upper and lower armored belts failed, causing the rear turret’s upper magazine to flood.[13] Yamatotook on about 3,000 tons of water,[13][24] but reached Truk later that day. The repair ship Akashi effected temporary repairs,[21] and Yamato departed on 10 January for Kure.[24]

On 16 January 1944, Yamato arrived at Kure for repairs of the torpedo damage and was dry-docked until 3 February.[21] During this time, armor plate sloped at 45° was fitted in the area of damage to her hull. It had been proposed that 5,000 long tons (5,100 t) of steel be used to bolster the ship’s defense against flooding from torpedo hits outside the armored citadel, but this was rejected out of hand because the additional weight would have increased Yamatos displacement and draft too much.[13] While Yamato was dry-docked, Captain Nobuei Morishita—former captain of the battleship Haruna—assumed command.[21] On 25 February, Yamato and Musashi were reassigned from the 1st Battleship Division to the Second Fleet.

Yamato was again dry-docked at Kure for further upgrades to all her radar and anti-aircraft systems from 25 February to 18 March 1944.[21] Each of the two beam-mounted 6.1 inch (155-mm) triple turrets was removed and replaced by three pairs of 5-inch (127-mm) AA guns in double mounts. In addition, 8 triple and 26 single 25mm AA mounts were added, increasing the total number of 127 mm and 25 mm anti-aircraft guns to 24 and 162, respectively.[17] Shelters were also added on the upper deck for the increased AA crews. A Type 13 air search and Type 22, Mod 4, surface search/gunnery control radar were installed, and the main mast was altered. Her radar suite was also upgraded to include infrared identification systems and aircraft search and gunnery control radars.[21] She left the dry dock on 18 March and went through several trials beginning on 11 April.[24] Yamato left Kure on 21 April and embarked soldiers and materiel the following day at Okinoshima for a mission to Manila, reaching the Philippines on 28 April.[13] She then moved on to Malaya to join Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s Mobile Fleet at Lingga;[21] this force arrived at Tawi Tawi on 14 May.[21] Read More….


This Day in History, April 6th: US Planes Embark on First Successful Aerial Circumnavigation Attempt (1924)

US Planes Embark on First Successful Aerial Circumnavigation Attempt (1924)

In the early 1920s several countries were vying to be the first to fly around the world. The British had made one unsuccessful around-the-world air flight attempt in 1922. The following year, a French team had tried; the Italians, Portuguese, and British also announced plans for a world-circling flight.[1] In the spring of 1923, the U.S. Army Air Service became interested in having a squadron of military aircraft undertake a round-the-world flight. It assigned a group of officers in the War Department planning group, the job of finding a suitable aircraft and planning the mission.[2]

The War Department instructed the Air Service to look at both the Fokker T-2 transport and the Davis-Douglas Cloudster to see if either would be suitable and to acquire examples for testing.[N 1] Although deemed satisfactory, the planning group considered other U.S. Air Service military aircraft both in service and production, with a view that a dedicated design that could be fitted with interchangeable landing gear, wheeled and pontoons for water landings, would be preferable.[4]

When the head of Davis-Douglas, Donald Douglas, was asked for information on the Davis-Douglas Cloudster, he instead submitted data on a modified DT-2,[5] a torpedo bomber that Douglas had built for the U.S. Navy in 1921 and 1922. The DT-2 had proven to be a sturdy aircraft that could accommodate interchangeable wheeled and pontoon landing gear. Since the aircraft was an existing model, Douglas stated that a new aircraft, which he named the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC), could be delivered within 45 days after a contract was awarded. The Air Service agreed and sent Lieutenant Erik Henning Nelson (1888–1970), a member of the planning group, to California to work out the details with Douglas. [N 2][1]

Douglas, assisted by Jack Northrop,[7] began to modify a DT-2 to suit the circumnavigation requirements.[4] The main modification involved its fuel capacity.[8] All the internal bomb carrying structures were removed with additional fuel tanks added to the wings and fuselage fuel tanks enlarged in the aircraft. The total fuel capacity went from 115 gallons (435 liters) to 644 gallons (2,438 liters).[4]

Lieutenant Nelson took the Douglas proposal to Washington where Major General Mason M. Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, approved it on 1 August 1923. The War Department awarded an initial contract to Douglas for the construction of a single prototype.[9] The prototype met all expectations, and a contract was awarded for four more production aircraft and spare parts.[10] The last DWC was delivered on 11 March 1924. The spare parts included 15 extra Liberty engines, 14 extra sets of pontoons, and enough replacement airframe parts for two more aircraft.[9] These spare parts were sent ahead to locations along the route around the world the aircraft planned to follow.[11]

Douglas World Cruiser aircraft and crew

  • Seattle (No. 1): Maj. Frederick L. Martin (1882–1956), pilot and flight commander, and SSgt. Alva L. Harvey (1900–1992), flight mechanic
  • Chicago (No. 2): Lt. Lowell H. Smith (1892–1945), pilot, subsequent flight commander, and 1st Lt. Leslie P. Arnold (1893–1961), co-pilot
  • Boston (No. 3)/Boston II (prototype): 1st Lt. Leigh P. Wade (1897–1991), pilot, and SSgt. Henry H. Ogden (1900–1986), flight mechanic
  • New Orleans (No. 4): Lt. Erik H. Nelson (1888–1970), pilot, and Lt. John Harding Jr. (c.1897–1968), co-pilot[5]

The pilots trained in meteorology and navigation at Langley Field in Virginia, where they also practiced in the prototype. The crews then practiced on the production aircraft in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Team circumnavigation

Four aircraft, SeattleChicagoBoston, and New Orleans, left Santa Monica, California, on 4 April 1924, for Sand Point, Washington, near Seattle, Washington, the official start of the journey.[N 3]

On 6 April 1924,[14] they left Seattle for Alaska. After reaching Prince Rupert Island, the lead aircraft Seattle, flown by Maj. Frederick Martin with SSgt. Alva Harvey (the only fully qualified mechanic in the flight), needed repairs and remained behind. When it was repaired, the crew attempted to catch up with the other three aircraft, but on 30 April, Seattle crashed in dense fog into a mountainside near Port Moller, Alaska on the Alaska Peninsula. The crew survived and were picked up on 10 May, but the aircraft was destroyed.[15]

The three remaining aircraft continued, with Chicago flown by Lt. Smith and 1st Lt. Arnold, assuming the lead. [N 4] Taking off from the Aleutian Islands, the flight traveled across the North Pacific archipelago. Avoiding the Soviet Union, which had not given permission for the expedition to cross into their airspace,[4] they crossed Japan, Korea, the coast of China, Hong Kong, French Indochina, Thailand, Burma, and India, and proceeded into the Middle East and then Europe.[6]

During the mission, due to a broken connecting rod, the Chicago was forced to land in a lagoon off the Gulf of Tonkin in French Indochina (now Vietnam). The aircraft was considered a novelty in this region of the world, so missionary priests supplied the pilots with food and wine and locals climbed aboard the pontoons to see the biplane. The other flyers searching for the Chicago by boat found the crew sitting on the wing in the early morning hours. Three paddle powered sampans with local crews towed the aircraft for 10 hours, and 25 miles (40 km), to the city of Hue, where repairs were effected. “[T]he fastest – and undoubtedly the first – engine change that had ever been made in Indochina.”[16] Misfortune was again to strike the Chicago as later in the mission, while inspecting the aircraft in Calcutta, Smith slipped and broke a rib but insisted on completing the mission.[17]

The flight arrived in Paris on Bastille Day, 14 July. From Paris the aircraft flew to London and on to the north of England in order to prepare for the Atlantic Ocean crossing.[13]

On 3 August 1924, while flying across the Atlantic, Boston was forced down. The Chicago was able to contact a navy destroyer and dropped a note about the troubled aircraft, tied to the Chicago’s only life preserver.[16] While being towed by the U.S. Navy light cruiserUSS Richmond, which had picked up the crew, the Boston capsized and sank.

The Chicago with Lt. Lowell Smith and 1st Lt. Leslie Arnold still in the lead, and the New Orleans, with Lt. Erik Nelson and Lt. Jack Harding, continued and crossed the Atlantic via Iceland and Greenland and reached Canada.[18] The original prototype, now named Boston II, reunited with the Boston’s crew, Lt. Leigh Wade (pilot) and SSgt. Henry Ogden,[9] met them in Pictou, Nova Scotia, and the three aircraft flew on to Washington DC.[19] After a hero’s welcome in the capital, the three Douglas World Cruisers flew to the West Coast, on a multi-city tour, stopping briefly in Santa Monica and finally landing in Seattle on 28 September 1924.[14]

The trip had taken 175 days, and covered 27,553 miles (44,342 km).[1] The Douglas Aircraft Company adopted the motto, “First Around the World – First the World Around”.[N 5] The American team had greatly increased their chances of success by using several aircraft and pre-positioning large caches of fuel, spare parts, and other support equipment along the route. At prearranged way points, the World Flight’s aircraft had their engines changed five times and new wings fitted twice.[6]


The flight traveled largely from East to West, beginning in the United States in April 1924 and returning to its start point in September. It flew northwest to Alaska across northern-Pacific islands to Japan and then south-Asia, across to Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.


At the request of the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. War Department transferred ownership of the Chicago to the museum for display. It made its last flight from Dayton, Ohioto Washington, D.C. on 25 September 1925. It was almost immediately put on display in the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. In 1974, the Chicago was restored under the direction of Walter Roderick,[22] and transferred to the new National Air and Space Museum building for display in their Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight exhibition gallery.[1]

Beginning in 1957, the New Orleans was displayed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.[23] The aircraft was on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and was returned in 2005.[24] Since February 2012, the New Orleans is a part of the exhibits at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, California.[25]

The wreckage of the Seattle was recovered and is now on display in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.[26] The original Boston sank in the North Atlantic, and it is thought that the only surviving piece of the original prototype, the Boston II, is the aircraft data plate, now in a private collection, and a scrap of fuselage skin, in the collection of the Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum in Poplar Grove, Illinois.[27]

The best in flight Mackay Trophy for 1924 was awarded to Lowell Smith, Leslie Arnold, Leigh Wade, Erik Nelson and Henry Ogden.[28] Later, Major Martin was in command of Army aviation units in Hawaii at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His mechanic Alva Harvey was commissioned and commanded heavy bomb groups duringWorld War II. Lt. Nelson rose to the rank of colonel and became one of General Henry Arnold‘s chief trouble-shooters on the development and operational deployment of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

Cross-equator circumnavigation

The first aerial circumnavigation of the world that involved the crossing of the equator twice was made using a single aircraft, the Southern Cross, a Fokker F.VIIb/3m trimotor monoplane.[29]

Cross-equator flight

After completing the first trans-Pacific crossing on 9 June 1928, flying from Oakland, California to Brisbane, AustraliaCharles Kingsford Smithand Charles Ulm spent several months making other long-distance flights across Australia and to New Zealand. They decided to use their trans-Pacific flight as the first leg of a globe-circling flight.[30] They flew the Southern Cross to England in June 1929, then across the Atlantic and North America, returning to Oakland where their trans-Pacific flight had begun.[31]

Before Kingsford Smith’s death in 1935, he donated the Southern Cross to the Commonwealth of Australia, for display in a museum.[32] The aircraft is preserved in a special glass ‘hangar‘ memorial on Airport Drive, near the International Terminal at Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia.




  1. ^ During 1922–1923, the Fokker T-2 was used by the U.S. Army to set a series of long distance and endurance records.[3]
  2. ^ Lt. Nelson was eventually assigned to the World Flight as the pilot of DWC #4.[6]
  3. ^ The aircraft names were chosen to represent “the four corners of the United States.”[12] The individual aircraft were formally christened with waters from their namesake cities, prior to departure from Seattle where Boeing Company technicians configured the aircraft for the long over-water portion of the flight, by exchanging wheels for pontoon floats.[13]
  4. ^ One of the Army’s best aviators, 1st. Lieutenant Lowell H. Smith, was named to pilot the Chicago and was permitted to choose his own co-pilot, 1st Lt. Leslie P. Arnold, who would double as a flight mechanic.[14]
  5. ^ The Douglas logo evolved into an aircraft, a rocket, and a globe and was adopted by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation following the merger of Douglas and the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1967, and then became the basis of the logo of the Boeing Company following its acquisition of McDonnell Douglas in 1997.[20]


  1. Jump up to:a b c d “Collections: Douglas World Cruiser Chicago – Long Description.” National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  2. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p. 548.
  3. ^ “Fine American Duration Flight.” Flight, 19 October 1922, p. 615.
  4. Jump up to:a b c d Rumerman, Judy. “The Douglas World Cruiser – Around the World in 175 Days.” U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, 2003. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  5. Jump up to:a b “First to fly around the world.” Did You Retrieved: 7 July 2012 .
  6. Jump up to:a b c Mackworth-Praed 1990, p. 235.
  7. ^ Boyne 1982, p. 80.
  8. ^ Yenne 2003, p. 48.
  9. Jump up to:a b c “Douglas DT-2 World Cruiser.” Aviation Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  10. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 75.
  11. ^ Bryan 1979, p. 122.
  12. ^ Stoff 2000, p. 21.
  13. Jump up to:a b “Douglas World Cruiser Transport.” Archived 25 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Boeing. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  14. Jump up to:a b c “First round-the-world flight.” National Museum of the United States Air Force, 8 July 2009. Retrieved: 14 July 2017.
  15. ^ “South Hangar: Douglas World Cruiser ‘Seattle’.” Archived 22 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  16. Jump up to:a b Roberts, Chuck. “Magellans of the sky: lessons learned from the epic 1924 around the world flight are visible in today’s Air Force, but the memory of those who made it possible have faded with the years. (A Centennial of Flight Special Feature).” Airman(subscription required), 1 July 2003. Retrieved: 20 July 2012.
  17. ^ Wendell 1999/2000, pp. 339–372, 356–366.
  18. ^ Haber 1995, pp. 72–73.
  19. ^ “Fliers At Seattle End World Flight of 27,000 Miles.” The New York Times, 28 September 1924, p. 1. Retrieved: 29 July 2012.
  20. ^ “Trademarks and Copyrights: Boeing logo.” Archived 21 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Boeing Trademark Management Group, Boeing. Retrieved: 5 July 2012.
  21. ^ “Round-the-World Flights: 1st Round-the-World Flight.” Wingnet, Wilmington Philatelic Society. Retrieved: 29 July 2012.
  22. ^ Boyne 1982, p. 18.
  23. ^ Ogden 1986, p. 168.
  24. ^ “Exhibits.” Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Retrieved: 5 July 2012.
  25. ^ “Exhibits & Features.” Archived 11 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine Museum of Flying, Santa Monica Airport, 2012. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  26. ^ “South Hangar: Douglas World Cruiser ‘Seattle’.” Archived 22 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. Retrieved: 5 July 2012.
  27. ^ “Featured Artifact: Fabric from the Boston II Douglas World Cruiser.” Archived 1 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum. Retrieved: 5 July 2012.
  28. ^ “Mackay 1920-1929 Recipients – NAA: National Aeronautic Association”
  29. Jump up to:a b Sherman, Stephen. “Charles Kingsford Smith: First to Fly Across the Pacific.”, 16 April 2012. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  30. ^ Cross 1972, p. 71.
  31. ^ Cross 1972, p. 74.
  32. ^ “RAAF Fokker F.VIIB Southern Cross VH-USU.” ADF Aircraft Serials. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.


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Today in History for April 2nd: CN Tower Becomes World’s Tallest Free-Standing Structure (1975)

CN Tower Becomes World’s Tallest Free-Standing Structure (1975)

Defining the Toronto skyline at 553.33m (1,815ft5in), the CN Tower is Canada’s most recognizable and celebrated icon. The CN Tower is an internationally renowned architectural triumph, an engineering Wonder of the Modern World, world-class entertainment and dining destination and a must see for anyone visiting Toronto. Each year, over 1.5 million people visit Canada’s National Tower to take in the breathtaking views and enjoy all the CN Tower has to offer.

After 40 months of construction, the CN Tower was opened to the public on June 26, 1976 and it was well on its way to becoming the country’s most celebrated landmark. It is the centre of telecommunications for Toronto serving over 16 Canadian television and FM radio stations, the workplace of over 500 people throughout the year, and an internationally renowned tourism destination.

Although the CN Tower inspires a sense of pride and inspiration for Canadians and a sense of awe for foreign tourists, its origins are rooted in practicality. The 1960s ushered in an unprecedented construction boom in Toronto transforming a skyline characterized by relatively low buildings into one dotted with skyscrapers. These buildings caused serious communications problems for existing transmission towers, which were simply not high enough to broadcast over the new buildings. Signals bounced off the buildings creating poor television and radio reception for residents. With its microwave receptors at 338 m (1,109 ft.) and at the 553.33m (1,815 ft., 5 inches) antenna, the CN Tower swiftly solved the communications problems with room to spare and as a result, people living in the Toronto area now enjoy some of the clearest reception in North America.

The CN Tower was built in 1976 by Canadian National who wanted to demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry by building a tower taller than any other in the world. Building the CN Tower was a vast and ambitious project that involved 1,537 workers who worked 24 hours a day, five days a week for 40 months to completion.

Tower construction crews moved in on February 6, 1973, and started to remove over 56 metric tonnes of earth and shale for the foundation. Once the foundation was ready, work began on the CN Tower’s 335 m (1,100ft.) concrete shaft, a hexagonal core with three curved support arms. This involved pouring concrete into a massive mold or “slipform”. As the concrete hardened, the slipform, supported by a ring of climbing jacks powered by hydraulic pressure, moved upwards, gradually decreasing in size to produce the CN Tower’s gracefully tapered contour.

Eight months later, the CN Tower’s concrete shaft was the tallest structure in Toronto and by February 1974, it was the tallest in Canada. In August 1974, work began on the seven-story tower sphere that would eventually house the observation decks and revolving restaurant. The CN Tower approached completion in March 1975, when Olga,  the giant Sikorsky helicopter flew into the city to lift the 44 pieces of the antenna into place. The CN Tower was finished on April 2, 1975, and opened to the public June 26, 1976.

When the 44th and final piece of the CN Tower’s antenna was bolted into place April 2, 1975, the CN Tower joined the ranks of 17 other great structures that had previously held the title of World’s Tallest Free-Standing Structure, a record the Tower would hold for an incredible 34+ years. Ross McWhirter, editor of the Guinness Book of World Records, was on hand to record the milestone for history and since then, the CN Tower has received numerous mentions in the famous book including most recently the World’s Highest Wine Cellar.

In 1995, the CN Tower was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Canada’s Wonder of the World shares this designation with the Empire State Building, the Chunnel under the English Channel, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Itaipu Dam on the Brazil/Paraguay border, the Panama Canal, and the North Sea Protection Works off the European coast.

Since the CN Tower opened, Canadians and tourists from around the world have made the trip to Toronto to celebrate this marvel of engineering. Besides serving as a telecommunications hub, the CN Tower provides a wide range of unique attractions, exhibits and food and beverage venues.

Over the years, millions of dollars has been invested in expanding and revitalizing the CN Tower to continue to provide visitors with a world class experience:

  • In 1986 the world’s first flight simulator ride experience, Tour of the Universe, was launched at the CN Tower.
  • In 1998 a base expansion project added 75,000 square feet of attractions and shopping at the Base of the Tower including a theatre and gift shop.
  • For over three decades, the CN Tower continues to remain a critical telecommunications link adapting over the years to the incredible advances of the last decades by providing a cell site for wireless voice and data transmissions as well as for radio and television broadcasts.
  • 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower following extensive renovations and remodeling, re-opened to critical acclaim in 1995 with a newly appointed Chef’s team who would ensure the quality of the cuisine was every bit as spectacular as the view. Over the years, ongoing upgrades to the restaurant included the addition in 1997 of a state of the art 9,000 bottle wine cellar. Located at 351m, the Cellar was designated the World’s Highest Wine Cellar by Guinness in 2006 and continues to provide guests with one of the most extensive selections in the Toronto area. For over a decade 360 has been winning awards for its cuisine, wine and ambiance and become a popular fine-dining and special event destination for Torontonians, dignitaries, celebrities and tourists alike.
  • To meet the demands of growing numbers of visitors to the Tower, in 1996 two additional elevators were installed at the CN Tower for a total six glass fronted elevators taking visitors to the top along one of the longest elevator hoistways on the planet.
  • In 2002 the CN Tower underwent a dramatic upgrade when the Radome was replaced (white, donut shaped, Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric protecting the Tower’s microwave equipment at the base of the main pod).
  • The CN Tower is always upgrading its security through investments in new equipment and training. In 2002, the CN Tower initiated an award winning new training program as well as introducing a state-of the art, non-contact security archway at the entrance. The CN Tower has been a technological leader since it was first built in 1976 and technology advancements and security advancements are important to ensuring the safety and security of visitors and staff. The new system complements systems the CN Tower has always had including 24 hour 7 day a week internal and external security.
  • In 2006 the CN Tower added new meeting and event space at the base to meet the growing demand for at this unique Toronto event venue, presenting 1,100 sq. ft. of flexible space adjacent to the CN Tower’s 140-seat Maple Leaf Cinema. The new meeting rooms, Aspen, Birch and Cedar are fully equipped for audiovisual presentations and a variety of room layouts can accommodate up to 90 people for meetings, breakout sessions, working lunches, and more. Full food and beverage services is available in-room, or guests can head skyward where pre- and post-meeting meals and receptions can be enjoyed in the award-winning 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower.
  • On June 28, 2007. With the installation of innovative programmable LED exterior lighting, the CN Tower now literally lights up the Toronto skyline each night vividly illuminating the structure elegantly in red and white. This new technology features 1,330 LED fixtures that are both energy efficient and cost effective to maintain- using 60% less energy that the conventionally lit Tower of 10 years ago. The system’s full capabilities are demonstrated during a spectacular light show at the top of every hour each night.
  • Lifting off April 9, 2008, the CN Tower introduced North America’s first and the world’s highest glass floor paneled elevator. One of the Tower’s six glass-fronted elevators was recently enhanced to present a thrilling new perspective on the view 346m (1,136 feet) straight down. A portion of the elevator floor now features two glass panels which when combined represent almost 0.6m2 (6 ft2) of floor space. Traveling at a speed of 22km/15mph, the Tower’s six glass-fronted elevators rocket guests to the top of its glass-fronted elevator shaft – 346m/1136ft in 58 seconds, earning the distinction as the World’s #1 elevator ride. In 2007 the CN Tower and 360 Restaurant achieved 12 awards which included the Tower’s elevator ride listed #1 on the World’s Top 10 Elevator Rides in National Geographic’s JOURNEYS OF A LIFETIME: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips.
  • 2010 – A state of the art high definition 3D theatre is the newest addition to the lineup of thrilling experiences at the CN Tower. The upgraded Maple Leaf Cinema is now one of the most technically advanced venues in the country for public and private screenings or presentations. This state of the art theatre is fully equipped with leading edge high definition digital cinema technology projection and sound systems including the latest in high definition 3D.
  • 2011 – The first of its kind in North America, EdgeWalk is the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a 5 ft (1.5 m) wide ledge encircling the top of the CN Tower’s main pod, 356m, (1168 ft, 116 stories) above the ground. This adrenalin-fueled experience allows thrill seekers to walk the edge of one of the world’s greatest man-made wonders.  Adventure lovers walk “hands-free” in groups of six, while attached to an overhead safety rail via a trolley and harness system. Trained EdgeWalk guides encourage visitors to push their personal limits, allowing those who dare to lean back over Toronto, with nothing but air beneath them. Everyone who meets the stipulated requirements will be welcome to experience these breathtaking open-air views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.  Every aspect of EdgeWalk, from design, to build, to attraction logistics and operation has been developed with the utmost safety and security in mind. The entire experience will run 1.5 hours, with the walk itself lasting approximately 30 minutes.



CN Tower

This Day In History for March 23: Constantinople Becomes Istanbul (1930)

Constantinople Becomes Istanbul (1930)

On this day in 1930, a law was enacted in Turkey, according to which the city of Constantinople was renamed Istanbul.

Namely, that city had many names throughout history. The Ancient Greeks called the settlement located at that spot Byzantion (Βυζάντιον), while the Romans called it Byzantium.

Later, the name Constantinople (after the Roman emperor Constantine, who transferred the capital from Rome to there) became dominant.

That name stuck for most of the Middle Ages, i. e. during the time of the Byzantine Empire.

It is interesting that the Ottomans did not prefer the name Istanbul after they conquered the city.

Namely, the name Kostantiniyye, a variant of Constantinople, was dominant during the Ottoman period.

In Slavic languages, the city was called Carigrad or Tsarigrad (City of the Emperor), while the Vikings called it Mikligarðr (The Big City).

Today, Istanbul is one of the cities which had among the highest number of names throughout history.

The current Turkish government often insists on the name Istanbul instead of the older names which were used or are still in use in foreign countries.



This Day in History for March 27: The Tenerife Disaster (1977)

The Tenerife Disaster (1977)

On March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 passenger jets, KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736, collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport), on the Spanish island of Tenerife, Canary Islands,[1][2] killing 583 people, making it the deadliest accident in aviation history.

A terrorist incident at Gran Canaria Airport had caused many flights to be diverted to Los Rodeos, including the two aircraft involved in the accident. The airport quickly became congested with parked airplanes blocking the only taxiway and forcing departing aircraft to taxi on the runway instead. Patches of thick fog were drifting across the airfield, so that the aircraft and control tower were unable to see one another.[1][2]

The collision occurred when the KLM airliner initiated its takeoff run while the Pan Am airliner, shrouded in fog, was still on the runway and about to turn off onto the taxiway. The impact and resulting fire killed everyone on board KLM 4805 and most of the occupants of Pan Am 1736, with only 61 survivors in the front section of the aircraft.[1][2]

The subsequent investigation by Spanish authorities concluded that the primary cause of the accident was the KLM captain’s decision to take off in the mistaken belief that a takeoff clearance from air traffic control (ATC) had been issued.[3] Dutch investigators placed a greater emphasis on mutual misunderstanding in radio communications between the KLM crew and ATC,[4] but ultimately KLM admitted that their crew was responsible for the accident and the airline agreed to financially compensate the relatives of all of the victims.[5]

The disaster had a lasting influence on the industry, highlighting in particular the vital importance of using standardized phraseology in radio communications. Cockpit procedures were also reviewed, contributing to the establishment of crew resource management as a fundamental part of airline pilots’ training.[6]

Flight history

Tenerife was an unscheduled stop for both flights. Their destination was Gran Canaria International Airport (also known as Las Palmas Airport or Gando Airport), serving Las Palmas on the nearby island of Gran Canaria. Both islands are part of the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Morocco.

KLM Flight 4805

KLM Flight 4805 was a charter flight for Holland International Travel Group and had arrived from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands.[7] Its cockpit crew consisted of captain Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten, age 50,[8] first officer Klaas Meurs, age 42, and flight engineer Willem Schreuder, age 48. At the time of the accident, van Zanten was KLM’s chief flight instructor, with 11,700 flight hours, of which 1,545 hours were on the 747. Meurs had 9,200 flight hours, of which 95 hours were on the 747. Schreuder had 15,210 flight hours, of which 540 hours were on the 747.

The aircraft was a Boeing 747-206B, registration PH-BUF, named Rijn (Rhine). The KLM jet was carrying 14 crew members and 235 passengers, including 52 children. Most of the KLM passengers were Dutch; also on board were 4 Germans, 2 Austrians and 2 Americans. After the aircraft landed at Tenerife, the passengers were transported to the airport terminal. One of the inbound passengers, who lived on the island with her boyfriend, chose not to re-board the 747, leaving 234 passengers on board.[9][10]

Pan Am Flight 1736

Pan Am Flight 1736 had originated at Los Angeles International Airport, with an intermediate stop at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The aircraft was a Boeing 747-121, registration N736PA, named Clipper Victor. Of the 380 passengers (mostly of retirement age, but including two children), 14 had boarded in New York, where the crew was also changed. The new crew consisted of captain Victor Grubbs, age 56, first officer Robert Bragg, age 39, flight engineer George Warns, age 46, and 13 flight attendants. At the time of the accident, Grubbs had 21,043 hours of flight time, of which 564 hours were on the 747. Bragg had 10,800 flight hours, of which 2,796 hours were on the 747. Warns had 15,210 flight hours, of which 559 hours were on the 747.

This particular aircraft had operated the inaugural 747 commercial flight on January 22, 1970.[7] On August 2, 1970, in its first year of service, it also became the first 747 to be hijacked: en route between JFK and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico it was diverted to José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba.[11]


Diversion of aircraft to Los Rodeos

Both flights had been routine until they approached the islands. At 13:15, a bomb planted by the separatist Canary Islands Independence Movement exploded in the terminal of Gran Canaria International Airport, injuring eight people.[12] There had been a phone call warning of the bomb, and another call received soon afterwards made claims of a second bomb at the airport. The civil aviation authorities had therefore closed the airport temporarily after the explosion, and all incoming flights bound for Gran Canaria had been diverted to Los Rodeos, including the two Boeing 747 aircraft involved in the disaster.[3] The Pan Am crew indicated that they would prefer to circle in a holding pattern until landing clearance was given, but they were ordered to divert to Tenerife.[13]

Los Rodeos was a regional airport that could not easily accommodate all of the traffic diverted from Gran Canaria, which included five large airliners.[14] The airport had only one runway and one major taxiway running parallel to it, with four short taxiways connecting the two. While waiting for Gran Canaria airport to reopen, the diverted airplanes took up so much space that they were having to park on the long taxiway, making it unavailable for the purpose of taxiing. Instead, departing aircraft needed to taxi along the runway to position themselves for takeoff, a procedure known as a backtaxi or backtrack.[3]

The authorities reopened Gran Canaria airport once the bomb threat had been contained. The Pan Am plane was ready to depart from Tenerife, but access to the runway was being obstructed by the KLM plane and a refueling vehicle; the KLM captain had decided to fully refuel at Los Rodeos instead of Las Palmas, apparently to save time. The Pan Am aircraft was unable to maneuver around the refueling KLM, in order to reach the runway for takeoff, due to a lack of safe clearance between the two planes, which was just 3.7 meters (12 ft).[9] The refueling took about 35 minutes, after which the passengers were brought back to the aircraft. The search for a missing Dutch family of four, who had not returned to the waiting KLM plane, delayed the flight even further. A tour guide had chosen not to reboard for the flight to Las Palmas, because she lived on Tenerife and thought it impractical to fly to Gran Canaria only to return to Tenerife the next day. She was therefore not on the KLM plane when the accident happened, and she would be the only survivor of those who flew from Amsterdam to Tenerife on Flight 4805. Read More…..

This Day in History, March 25: John Lennon and Yoko Ono Hold Their First Bed-In for Peace (1969)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Hold Their First Bed-In for Peace (1969)

The Washington Post reported that an acquaintance of Lennon and “Uno” had said the couple was planning “the century’s most uncensored love-in.” So some journalists showed up thinking they were about to witness a conjugal act between the Beatles megastar and his Japanese bride.

When they arrived, however, they found Lennon and Ono in conservative pajamas buttoned all the way up.

“There we were like two angels in bed, with flowers all around us, and peace and love on our heads,” Lennon said later.

You have to admit, he does look quite angelic. Or perhaps, Christ-like?

Why were they there? To protest war (in bed) and preach world peace (by growing out their hair), they said.

At the time, Lennon and Ono had been dogged by negative coverage of their love affair. (Both had been married to other people when they began their relationship, and many people later blamed Ono for the breakup of the Beatles.)

But, Lennon explained, they had decided to harness and redirect that attention for their own purposes.

John Lennon: ‘We’re going to stay in bed for seven days’

The bed-in went over well with fans, and Washington Post humorist Art Buchwald joked:

“I was lucky to interview students in Fort Lauderdale on Easter vacation to get their reaction. . . . An Oberlin music major said, ‘If sleeping is going to make this country wake up to the fact that we want peace, then I say we should sleep.’ His girlfriend said, ‘After a week in Fort Lauderdale, I’ll need seven days and seven nights of sleep, even if it isn’t for peace.’”

Months later, Lennon and Ono planned to hold a second bed-in in New York, but Lennon was denied entry into the United States because of a drug conviction. So they chose an alternative location.

“We are going to the Bahamas to protest — in bed,” Lennon told Reuters. “I don’t know how long we will stay there. It depends when, and if, the visa is granted.”

They lasted one day, purportedly due to the island country’s heat, and flew to the cool climes of Montreal instead.

There, they holed up at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel for another week.

In Montreal, Lennon and Ono hosted visitors, including poet Allen Ginsberg and civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory. They also recorded “Give Peace a Chance” with a crowd of backup singers that included LSD advocate Timothy Leary and the musical comedian Tommy Smothers.

After the Montreal bed-in, Lennon and Ono continued their campaign for peace by sending world leaders acorns “for peace” and buying full-page ads and billboards with the message, “WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT.”

The Amsterdam Hilton room where the newlyweds stayed is permanently memorialized in its moment in history. You can still rent it, but it’ll cost you between $1,800 and $2,300 per night.

–Washington Post

This Day in History, March 24: Robert Koch Announces Discovery of Tuberculosis Bacterium (1882)

Robert Koch Announces Discovery of Tuberculosis Bacterium (1882)

Historical Perspectives Centennial: Koch’s Discovery of the Tubercle Bacillus

On March 24, 1882, Robert Koch announced to the Berlin Physiological Society that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis. Three weeks later, on April 10, he published an article entitled “The Etiology of Tuberculosis” (1). In 1884, in a second paper with the same title, he first expounded “Koch’s postulates,” which have since become basic to studies of all infectious diseases. He had observed the bacillus in association with all cases of the disease, had grown the organism outside the body of the host, and had reproduced the disease in a susceptible host inoculated with a pure culture of the isolated organism.

Koch continued his studies on tuberculosis, hoping to find a cure. In 1890, he announced the discovery of tuberculin, a substance derived from tubercle bacilli, which he thought was capable of arresting bacterial development in_vitro and in animals. This news gave rise to tremendous hope throughout the world, which was soon replaced by disillusionment when the product turned out to be an ineffective therapeutic agent. Tuberculin later proved to be a valuable diagnostic tool.

In 1905, when Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine, he devoted his acceptance speech to promoting greater understanding of tuberculosis and its causative agent. Koch died in 1910, leaving the scientific community and the world in general with a valuable inheritance of knowledge and understanding resulting from his seminal work on anthrax, cholera, trypanosomiasis, and especially tuberculosis.

In the wake of Koch’s discoveries, subsequent progress in conquering tuberculosis has been relatively slow. In the laboratory, recognition of the avian bacillus by Nocard in 1885 and differentiation of bovine and human tubercle bacilli by Theobald Smith in 1898 laid the groundwork for identification of other (nontuberculous) mycobacterial species. Diagnosis of tuberculosis was aided by discovery of the acid-fast nature of the bacillus by Ehrlich in 1882, discovery of X rays by Roentgen in 1895, development of the tuberculin skin test by Von Pirquet and Mantoux in 1907-1908, and preparation of purified protein derivative (PPD) of tuberculin by Seibert in 1931.

In the 1930s, the epidemiologic work of Wade Hampton Frost led to a better understanding of the epidemiology of tuberculosis. In the 1940s, using Seibert’s PPD administered by the Mantoux method and chest X-ray examinations, the United States Public Health Service began a series of studies that elucidated further the epidemiology of tuberculosis and made apparent the distinction between tuberculous infection without disease (a positive skin test in the absence of signs and symptoms) and overt clinical tuberculosis.

Treatment has progressed from bed rest, special diets and fresh air, through pneumothorax and other lung-collapse procedures and surgical resection, to specific chemotherapy (streptomycin in 1947, para-aminosalicylic acid in 1949, isoniazid in 1952, and drugs such as rifampin in recent years). With combinations of modern drugs properly administered, tuberculosis is now virtually 100% curable.

Prevention of tuberculosis has been approached in 2 ways. In 1921, Calmette and Guerin developed an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis, which many countries throughout the world have used, with variable results, as a vaccine. The other major approach to prevention has been the treatment of persons with subclinical tuberculous infection (tuberculous infection without disease) with isoniazid.

There have been recent improvements in tuberculosis-control methodology. Effective treatment regimens of 9 months’ duration are now available, and research continues in attempts to further shorten treatment. Fluorescence microscopy has made the examination of sputum smears faster, easier, and more accurate. Phage typing is a useful tool for studying the epidemiology of tuberculosis. Newer immunologic techniques offer promise of improved diagnostic tests, and rapid radiometric methods of identifying M. tuberculosis and testing for drug susceptibility are being developed.

In the century since Koch’s discovery, advances in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis–especially treatment–have produced a spectacular decline in tuberculosis mortality and a striking decline in tuberculosis morbidity–primarily in technically advanced countries (Figure 1). Progress has been less dramatic in developing countries. Tuberculosis stubbornly persists as a major worldwide health problem. It is estimated that as many as 10 million cases of tuberculosis may occur throughout the world each year–4-5 million of them highly infectious, and 2-3 million resulting in death. Eradication of tuberculosis, although possibly attainable in technical terms, remains an elusive goal. Reported by Tuberculosis Control Div, Center for Prevention Svcs, Mycobacteriology Br, Bacterial Diseases Div, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.


  1. Koch R. Die Atiologic der Tuberkulose. Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift 1882; 15:221-30.

Published on CDC

This Day in History, March 19: René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, Murdered by His Own Men (1687)

René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, Murdered by His Own Men (1687)

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (November 22, 1643 – March 19, 1687) was a 17th century French explorer and fur trader in North America. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. He is best known for an early 1682 expedition in which he canoed the lower Mississippi River from the mouth of the Illinois River to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.

La Salle is often credited with being the first European to traverse the Ohio River, and sometimes the Mississippi as well. It has now been established that Joliet and Marquette preceded him on the Mississippi in their journey of 1673-74, and the existing historical evidence does not indicate that La Salle ever reached the Ohio/Allegheny Valley.

Sieur de La Salle

Sieur de La Salle is a French title roughly translating to “Lord of the manor”, from the old French sal(e) (modern salle), “hall”, a manor house. Sieur is a French title of nobility, similar to the English “Sir”, but under the French Signeurial system, the title is purchased rather than earned, and does not imply military duty. It refers to Robert Cavelier’s Signeurial purchase of Lachine from the Sulpician order at Ville Marie around 1667. The phrase La Salle has become iconic, and associated with the person as if it were his name, in expressions such as Robert La Salle, or simply “La Salle”.

Early life

Robert Cavelier was born on November 22, 1643, into a comfortably well-off family in Rouen, France, in the parish Saint-Herbland.[1] When he was younger, he enjoyed science and nature. As a man, he studied with the Jesuit religious order and became a member after taking initial vows in 1660.[a] At his request on March 27, 1667, after he was in Canada, he was released from the Society of Jesus after citing “moral weaknesses.”[3] Although he left the order, never took final vows in it, and later became hostile to it, historians sometimes described him incorrectly as a priest or a leader.[citation needed]


La Salle never married,[4] but has been linked to Madeleine de Roybon d’Allonne, an early settler of New France.[5] His older brother, Jean Cavelier, was a Sulpician priest. His parents were Jean Cavelier and Catherine Geest.[3]


Required to reject his father’s legacy when he joined the Jesuits, La Salle was nearly destitute when he traveled as a prospective colonist to North America. He sailed for New France in the spring of 1666.[6] His brother Jean, a Sulpician priest, had moved there the year before. He was granted a seigneurie on land at the western end of the Island of Montreal, which became known as Lachine.[7] [b] La Salle immediately began to issue land grants, set up a village and learn the languages of the native people, several tribes of Iroquois in this area.[8]


“Ohio” expedition


The Seneca told him of a great river, called the Ohio, which flowed into the sea, the “Vermilion Sea”.[d]. He began to plan for expeditions to find a western passage to China. He sought and received permission from Governor Daniel Courcelle and Intendant Jean Talon to embark on the enterprise. He sold his interests in Lachine to finance the venture.[10]


La Salle left Lachine by the St. Lawrence on July 6, 1669 with a flotilla of nine canoes and 24 men, plus their Seneca Indian guides: himself and 14 hired men in 4 canoes, the two Sulpicians Dollier de Casson and Abbé René de Bréhan de Galinée with 7 new recruits in three canoes, and two canoes of Indians. There they went up the St. Lawrence and across Lake Ontario. After 35 days, they arrived at what we call today, Irondequoit Bay on the southern shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of Irondequoit Creek, a place now commemorated as “La Salle’s Landing”.

Indian villages

There they were greeted by a party of Indians, who escorted them starting the next day to a village some leagues distant, a journey of a few days. At the village, the Seneca vehemently attempted to dissuade the party from proceeding into the lands of their enemies, the Algonquins, telling of the dire fate awaiting them. The necessity of securing guides for the further part of the journey, and the obstinacy of the Seneca to provide them, delayed the expedition a month. A fortuitous capture by the Indians in the lands to the south of a Dutchman who spoke Iroquois well but French ill, and was to be burned at the stake for transgressions unknown, provided an opportunity to obtain a guide. The Dutchman’s freedom was purchased by the party in exchange for wampum.

While at the Indian village in Sept. 1669, La Salle was seized with a violent fever[e] and expressed the intention of returning to Ville Marie.

Niagara and Lake Erie

At this juncture, he parted from his company and the narrative of the Jesuits, who continued on to upper Lake Erie.The missionaries continued on to the upper lakes, to the land of the Potawatomies. Other accounts have it that some of La Salle’s men soon returned to New Holland or Ville Marie.

Further evidence

Beyond that, the factual record of La Salle’s first expedition ends, and what prevails is obscurity and fabrication. It is likely that he spent the winter in Ville Marie.[12] The next confirmed sighting of La Salle was by Nicolas Perrot on the Ottawa River near the Rapide des chats in early summer, 1670, hunting with a party of Iroquois. That would be 700 miles as the crow flies from the Falls of the Ohio, the point supposed by some that he reached on the Ohio River.[13]

La Salle’s own journal of the expedition was lost in 1756.[14] Two indirect historical accounts exist. The one, Récit d’un ami de l’abbé de Galliné, purported to be a recitation by La Salle himself to an unknown writer during his visit to Paris in 1678[15], and the other Mémoire sur le projet du sieur de la Salle pour la descouverte de la partie occidentale de l’Amérique septentrionale entre la Nouvelle-France, la Floride et le Mexique. A letter from Madeleine Cavelier, his now elderly niece, written in 1746, commenting on the journal of La Salle in her possession may also shed some light on the issue.

La Salle himself never claimed to have discovered the Ohio River.[16] In a letter to the intendent Talon in 1677, he claimed discovery of a river, the Baudrane, flowing southwesterly with its mouth on Lake Erie and emptying into the Saint Louis (i.e. the Mississippi), a hydrography which was non-existent. In those days, maps as well as descriptions were based part on observation and part on hearsay, of necessity. This confounded courses, mouths and confluences among the rivers. At various times, La Salle invented such rivers as the Chucagoa, Baudrane, Louisiane (Anglicized “Saint Louis”), and Ouabanchi-Aramoni. These included segments of those he’d actually traversed, which were earlier the Illinois and Kankakee, St. Joseph’s of Lake Michigan, probably the Ouabache (Wabash) and possibly the upper Allegheny and later, the Chicago and lower Mississippi. He also correctly described the Missouri, though it was hearsay – he’d never been on it.

Confounding fact with fiction started with publication in 1876 of Margry’s Découvertes et Etablissements des Français. Margry was a French archivist and partisan who had private access to the French archives. He came to be the agent of the American historian Francis Parkman. Margry’s work, a massive 9 volumes, encompassed an assemblage of documents some previously published, but many not. In it, he sometimes published a reproduction of the whole document, and sometimes only an extract, or summary, not distinguishing the one from the other. He also used in some cases one or another copies of original documents previously edited, extracted or altered by others, without specifying which transcriptions were original, and which were copies, or whether the copy was dated earlier or later. Reproductions were scattered in fragments across chapters, so that it was impossible to ascertain the integrity of the document from its fragments. Chapter headings were oblique and sensational, so as to obfuscate the content therein. English and American scholars were immediately skeptical of the work, since full and faithful publication of some of the original documents had previously existed. The situation was so fraught with doubt, that the United States Congress appropriated $10,000 in 1873, which Margry wanted as an advance, to have the original documents photostated, witnessed by uninvolved parties as to veracity.

Discovery of the Ohio and Mississippi

If La Salle is excused from discovering the two great rivers of the midwest, history does not leave a void. On May 8, 1541, south of present-day Memphis, Tennessee, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi River, which the Spanish called the Rio Grande for its immense size.[17] He was the first European to document and cross the river, though not traverse it.[citation needed] It is uncontested that Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette were the first Europeans to traverse the upper Mississippi in 1673,[18] and that Father Louis Hennepin and Antonine Augalle visited the Falls of St. Anthony on the upper Mississippi in spring, 1680,[19] in advance of La Salle’s own excursion in early 1682.

Credit for discovery of the Ohio River is provisionally given to two obscure early English explorers, Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam from Virginia who visited Wood’s River (today called the New River), a tributary of the Ohio via the Kanawha, in what is today West Virginia in Sept. 1671.[20] Other scholars declaim that this short (one month) expedition did not penetrate to the Ohio to the west, but elect instead Virginia Englishmen James Needham and Gabriel Arthur who in 1673-74 circumnavigated the southeast finally traversing Shawnee villages along the Ohio.[21] The lower Ohio River first began appearing on French maps about 1674[22] in approximately its correct hydrography, and in its relation to the Mississippi, though diagrammed more northerly, approaching Lake Erie from the west and may have been confounded with the Maumee portage route.[23]A memoir by M. de Denonville in 1688, recites that the lower Ohio, at least from its confluence with the Wabash to the Mississippi, was a familiar trade route.[24] In 1692, Arnout Viele, a Dutchman from New York, traversed the length of the Ohio from the headwaters of the Allegheny in Pennsylvania to it’s mouth on the Mississippi, though the hydrography of the Allegheny remained opaque for at least several decades thereafter.[25]  Read More…

This Day in History, March 18th: UK Recognizes British Sign Language as Official Language (2003)

UK Recognizes British Sign Language as Official Language (2003)

British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language of some deaf people in the UK. There are 125,000[5] deaf adults in the UK who use BSL, plus an estimated 20,000 children. In 2011, 15,000 people living in England and Wales reported themselves using BSL as their main language. The language makes use of space and involves movement of the hands, body, face, and head. Many thousands of people who are not deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British deaf community.


History records the existence of a sign language within deaf communities in England as far back as 1570. British Sign Language has evolved, as all languages do, from these origins by modification, invention and importation.[7][8] Thomas Braidwood, an Edinburgh teacher, founded ‘Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb’ in 1760 which is recognised as the first school for the deaf in Britain. His pupils were the sons of the well-to-do. His early use of a form of sign language, the combined system, was the first codification of what was to become British Sign Language. Joseph Watson was trained as a teacher of the deaf under Thomas Braidwood and he eventually left in 1792 to become the headmaster of the first public school for the deaf in Britain, the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in Bermondsey.

In 1815, an American Protestant minister, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, travelled to Europe to research teaching of the deaf. He was rebuffed by both the Braidwood schools who refused to teach him their methods. Gallaudet then travelled to Paris and learned the educational methods of the French Royal Institution for the Deaf, a combination of Old French Sign Language and the signs developed by Abbé de l’Épée. As a consequence American Sign Language today has a 60% similarity to modern French Sign Language and is almost unintelligible to users of British Sign Language.

Until the 1940s sign language skills were passed on unofficially between deaf people often living in residential institutions. Signing was actively discouraged in schools by punishment and the emphasis in education was on forcing deaf children to learn to lip readand finger spell. From the 1970s there has been an increasing tolerance and instruction in BSL in schools. The language continues to evolve as older signs such as alms and pawnbroker have fallen out of use and new signs such as internet and laserhave been coined. The evolution of the language and its changing level of acceptance means that older users tend to rely on finger spelling while younger ones make use of a wider range of signs.[9]

On 18 March 2003 the UK government formally recognised that BSL is a language in its own right.[10]


Linguistics are an integral component to any language because this allows for languages to be understood in a more efficient manner when taught[11]. In general, sign languages have their own ‘words’ (hand gestures) that could not be understood in other dialects[11]. How one language signs a certain number would be different than how another language signs it[11]. British Sign Language is described as a ‘spatial language’ as it “moves signs in space[11].”


Like many other sign languages, BSL phonology is defined by elements such as handshape, orientation, location, movement, and non-manual features. There are phonological components to sign language that have no meaning alone but work together to create a meaning of a signed word: hand shape, movement, location, orientation and facial expression [12][11]. The meanings of words differ if one of these components is changed[12] [11]. Signs can be identical in certain components but different in others, giving each a different meaning[11]. Facial expression falls under the ‘non-manual features’ component of phonology[13]. These include “eyebrow height, eye gaze, mouthing, head movement, and torso rotation [13].”


In common with other languages, whether spoken or signed, BSL has its own grammar which govern how phrases are signed. [11]. BSL has a particular syntax[11]. One important component of BSL is its use proforms[11]. A proform is “…any form that stands in the place of, or does the job of, some other form.[11]” Sentences are composed of two parts, in order: the subject and the predicate[11]. The subject is the topic of the sentence, while the predicate is the commentary about the subject[11].

BSL uses a topic–comment structure.[14] Topic-comment means that the topic of the signed conversation is first established, followed by an elaboration of the topic, being the ‘comment’ component[11]. The canonical word order outside of the topic–comment structure is object-subject-verb (OSV), and noun phrases are head-initial.[15]

Relationships with other sign languages

Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as the predominant oral language, British Sign Language is quite distinct from American Sign Language(ASL) – having only 31% signs identical, or 44% cognate.[16] BSL is also distinct from Irish Sign Language (ISL) (ISG in the ISO system) which is more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL.

It is also distinct from Signed English, a manually coded method expressed to represent the English language.

The sign languages used in Australia and New Zealand, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language, respectively, evolved largely from 19th century BSL, and all retain the same manual alphabet and grammar and possess similar lexicons. These three languages may technically be considered dialects of a single language (BANZSL) due to their use of the same grammar and manual alphabet and the high degree of lexical sharing (overlap of signs). The term BANZSL was coined by Trevor Johnston[17] and Adam Schembri.

In Australia deaf schools were established by educated deaf people from London, Edinburgh and Dublin. This introduced the London and Edinburgh dialects of BSL to Melbourne and Sydney respectively and Irish Sign Language to Sydney in Roman Catholic schools for the deaf. The language contact post secondary education between Australian ISL users and ‘Australian BSL’ users accounts for some of the dialectal differences we see between modern BSL and Auslan. Tertiary education in the US for some deaf Australian adults also accounts for some ASL borrowings found in modern Auslan.

Auslan, BSL and NZSL have 82% of signs identical (using concepts from a Swadesh list). When considering similar or related signs as well as identical, they are 98% cognate. Further information will be available after the completion of the BSL corpus is completed and allows for comparison with the Auslan corpus and the Sociolinguistic Variation in New Zealand Sign Language project . There continues to be language contact between BSL, Auslan and NZSL through migration (deaf people and interpreters), the media (television programmes such as See Hear, Switch, Rush and SignPost are often recorded and shared informally in all three countries) and conferences (the World Federation of the Deaf Conference – WFD – in Brisbane 1999 saw many British deaf people travelling to Australia).

Makaton, a communication system for people with cognitive impairments or other communication difficulties, was originally developed with signs borrowed from British Sign Language. The sign language used in Sri Lanka is also closely related to BSL despite the oral language not being English, demonstrating the distance between sign languages and spoken ones.

BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on an official level. BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government on 18 March 2003, but it has no legal protection. There is, however, legislation requiring the provision of interpreters such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Read More….

This Day in History, March 8: US President Ronald Reagan Dubs the USSR an “Evil Empire” (1983)

US President Ronald Reagan Dubs the USSR an “Evil Empire” (1983)

Speaking to a convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Florida on this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as an evil empire for the second time in his career. He had first used the phrase in a 1982 speech at the British House of Commons. Some considered Reagan’s use of the Star Wars film-inspired terminology to be brilliant democratic rhetoric. Others, including many within the international diplomatic community, denounced it as irresponsible bombast.

Reagan’s aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union became known as the Reagan Doctrine. He warned against what he and his supporters saw as the dangerous trend of tolerating the Soviets’ build-up of nuclear weapons and attempts to infiltrate Third World countries in order to spread communism. Advocating a peace through strength policy, Reagan declared that the Soviets must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards [nor] ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire. To do so would mean abandoning the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

Reagan proposed a policy that went beyond the Truman Doctrine of containment, urging active intervention. He vowed to increase U.S. military spending and to use force if necessary to roll back communist expansion in Third World nations. His administration provided military aid to Nicaraguan groups fighting the leftist Sandinista government and gave material support to the Afghan mujahideen in their ongoing war against Soviets. At the same time, he reassured Americans that he would pursue an understanding with totalitarian powers and cited the United States’ effort to limit missile development as a step toward peace.

Reagan’s doctrine came at the same time as a surge in international and domestic protests against the U.S.-Soviet arms race. His opponents blamed the administration for causing the largest increase in American military spending since the beginning of the Cold War, a policy that swelled the nation’s budget deficit.

The Soviet economy ultimately collapsed in the late 1980s, ending decades of communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe. Americans disagreed as to the cause: while economists and Reagan’s critics claimed the Soviet empire had buckled under the weight of its own bloated defense spending and a protracted war in Afghanistan, Reagan and his supporters credited his hard-line anti-communist policies for defeating Soviet communism.