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Monday, August 31, 2009

History Lesson

I was flipping through the channels tonight looking for something interesting to watch and came upon a program on PBS called History Detectives.

A story about a POW during WWII in Stalag 17 caught my eye. The story of his experience in the camp would have made a great program, but there was another angle. A man who was a prisoner had a portrait of himself that was done by another prisoner. They never kept in touch and the man was curious about the artist. The investigator for the program searched the archives of the names of those who served in WWII and found someone with the same last name, but a different first name. Not only did the artist survive the POW camp, but he became a prominent lawyer in California. His name was Harold Rhoden and he died in a plane crash in 1989. His son confirmed that the portrait was indeed the work of his father.

They then went onto another story. A woman had a huge shell that her mother had used as a doorstop. She believed that the shell came from an explosion on Black Tom Island, about 1/2 mile from the Statue of Liberty. I don't recall learning about this in school. This explosion took place July 30, 1916 when a German spy ring carried out a well-planned set of synchronized explosions on Black Tom Island in New York's harbor, using the United States' own cache of munitions produced to aid Britain and France in World War I. Two million pounds of exploding ammunition rocked the country as far away as Philadelphia, blew the windows out of nearly every high rise in lower Manhattan, injuring hundredsand causing some damage to the torch on the Statue of Liberty. Initial news reports said that this was an accident. The United States at the time wanted to remain neutral and President Woodrow Wilson was running for reelection. He didn't want it known that this was caused by German sabotage. It was not until after the war that the truth came out. Germany was ordered to pay reparations in 1939, but that didn't happen until about 1979.

They also did another story about seadromes, which were expected to be floating airports in the Atlantic Ocean, but I didn't pay as much attention to that one. The design of these seadromes was used later for the floating oil rigs.

This was a very interesting program and I enjoyed it very much. It's really a shame that we get so used to watching the same program week after week. I've seen some really interesting programs when I just roam around the channels. Maybe channel surfing is a good thing.

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