Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Super Typhoon Megi Set To Strike Philippines With Extreme Intensity
October 17, 2010

Super Typhoon Megi Cast an Impressive Multispectral Image at 2330Z Oct 16, 2010

For a more recent update regarding Typhoon Megi’s approach to China CLICK HERE

Japan Meteorological Agency Forecast Track Super Typhoon Megi (Juan)

The Philippines is making preparations ahead of a powerful Super Typhoon set to strike the island nation Monday morning with effects being felt on Sunday. The storm, known locally as Juan, is feared to have the same flooding potential as Typhoon Ketsana in Sept 2009. Typhoon Megi (a.k.a. Typhoon Juan) has behaved exactly as expected and it is now a very powerful storm designated as Super Typhoon Megi, Super Typhoon Juan or Super Typhoon 15W.  Whichever moniker you choose, it is a force to be reckoned with as its energy release compares favorably to an excess of the global electric generating capacity or as an equivalent to the largest yield atomic weapon every minute.  Another estimate puts a well developed tropical cyclone energy release on par with 500,000 Hiroshima style atomic bombs per day

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Central Pressure Progression

In any event, the inhibiting factors to the storm have gone by the wayside as anticipated and the central pressure has dropped to 908 mb, which is extremely low.  To provide a frame of reference of how that compares to intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic,  Hurricane Camille in 1969 bottomed out at 909 mb and had winds approaching 200 mph.  Hurricane Andrew in 1992 had a minima pressure of 922 mb and the lowest that Katrina had in 2005, well before landfall, was 920 mb.   Super Typhoon Megi is not too far from the all-time lowest recorded atmospheric pressure which occured in 1979 with Typhoon Tip, which had a remarkable central pressure of 870 mb.  Previously, Typhoon Ida held the record of 879 mb when it was 750 miles east of Luzon (very close to the current location of Megi-450 miles NE of Manila) in 1958.  So, extremely intense storms in the region are not totally uncommon.  The clouds that had been obscuring the center have gone by the way-side and a well defined, relatively small eye has developed. 

West Pacific IR Rainbow Satellite Featuring Typhoon Megi-Click Image for Most Recent Loop

Super Typhoon Megi (Juan) JTWC Forecast Track 00Z 10.17.10

A pressure approaching 900 mb can easily support higher winds than the 3 UTC (Z) Oct 17 2010 analysis of 140 kt sustained winds of 140 kts and gusts to 170 kts, which translates to sustained winds of 161 mph or 259 kph and gusts to 195 mph or 315 kph.  Some further intensification is possible as the forecast calls for sustained winds to increase to 145 kts and gusts to 175 kts.  While the pressure can support even higher winds than that, at this point, they are so strong that it almost becomes academic in relation to the destruction potential and the ultimate intensity at landfall will most likely be subject to eyewall replacement cycles.  When a tropical cyclone goes through an eyewall replacement cycle, central winds typically fall off but the breadth of gale force winds expands.  That was the case with Hurricane Katrina which “only” had winds of 125 mph at landfall as it headed  into Mississippi but 100 mph winds were felt all the way to Mobile.  Another factor that may inhibit substantial intensification would be a slight disruption of the northern outflow.  This is an example of why it is difficult for an extremely intense tropical cyclone to maintain its maxima for long as environmental conditions must be perfect and perfect conditions rarely last long.  Nevertheless, as it stands, the official forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center puts the winds around 140 kts at landfall sometime after 00 UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  It would not be out of the question for winds to exceed forecast levels at some point in time.  The timing of eyewall replacement cycles, however, is beyond current forecast abilities until the beginning of the cycle change is actually observed.

West Pacific Total Precipitable Water Latest 72 hours-Click Image for Loop

West Pacific IR Satellite with Wind Barbs (Isotachs)

As was anticipated, the trof of low pressure near Okinawa that was causing a weakness in the steering ridge to the North has moved northeast and the ridge filled in.  Consequently, the previous west northwest track of Megi has shifted westward at 12 kts.  The ridge is expected to continue to build such that the westward track should change around the time that the storm gets to the coast of Luzon such that it moves west-southwest.  That track would take Megi over the mountainous regions of northern Luzon but well north of Manila.  The storm surge on the eastern, northeastern and northern part of the island will be extreme but exact levels will be determined by the geogrpahy of the coast.  The mountains will enhance the rain totals which will most likely be extreme.  Even as it loses intensity rapidly over the mountains, the circulation will be such that there will be an onshore flow off of the South China Sea toward Manila for a period of time so rain totals will most likely be high on both sides of Luzon. 

Super Typhoon Megi Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery with max Wind Velocity-Click Image for Loop

If there is any good news to report it is that the forward speed may increase a bit and so the center of the storm may be over Luzon for only about 12 hours.  That’s plenty of time to do plenty of damage but at least its not going to crawl across the Philippines and extend the high risk for catastrophic flooding.  By 12UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 Typhoon Megi should re-emerge over the ocean in the South China Sea with winds forecast to have been reduced to 95 kts.  However, once over the warm waters of the ocean, Typhoon Megi will regain some strength but most likely will not get back to it’s former self…that would be extremely rare and there simply will not be time nor will the environmental conditions support such a scenario.  Even so, It is expected to get back to 115 kt sustained winds by 00UTC (Z) October 22, 2010. 

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Wind Speed Progression

Previously, the extended forecast track had suggested a second landfall on the South China island of Hainan followed by a final landfall after crossing the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam.  Modeling data though has formed a consensus though of another trof coming down through Asia. 

Map SE Asia

That trofiness is expected to influence Megi northwest after it enters the South China Sea.  The depth of that trof will determine the fate of Megi.  If it is slow or not so strong, then Megi may run into China south of Hong Kong, though it would still be close enough to affect that city.  If the trof is a little deeper, then it could turn Megi for a more direct affect on Hong Kong and if the trof is fast and very deep, it could conceivably turn the storm north and then northeast.  While there may not be sufficient room in the sea for this to occur without striking land, that scenario would put Taiwan at risk of a hit from the Southwest and potentially even Japan after that.  It’s way too soon to tell.  One thing seems invevitable:  the Northern Philippines will be affected adversely of the effects of a major tropical cyclone by 00UTC (Z) 18 October 2010.

Typhoon Megi Probable Super Typhoon Threatens Philippines
October 16, 2010

23:30 UTC (Z) Rainbow IR image of Typhoon Megi Not totally impressive but it should become better defined over next 48 hours (Click image for most recent loop)

Typhoon Megi 17:30Z IR Satellite 10.15.10

CLICK HERE FOR MORE RECENT UPDATE ON SUPER TYPHOON MEGI

Typhoon Megi continues to intensify and is expected to be a significant threat to the northern Philippine province of Luzon by late this weekend.  Americares is making preparations to bring relief.   Typhoon Megi is currently the only tropical cyclone anywhere on earth but it could be one of the strongest of the year to affect land.  While it is very likely that the storm will go well beyond the threshold of Super Typhoon status with winds in excess of 100 kts, the specific track seems to be a little problematic and that could mean all the difference for the Philippines.  By 18 UTC (Z) October 17, 2010 the typhoon is expected to have sustained winds of 135 kts with gusts to 165 kts.  Roughly, that would be just shy of the North Atlantic Category 5 classification.  Environmental conditions are such that intensification from the 18 UTC (Z) October 15, 2010 95 kt level to the loftier, stronger classification is likely.  Megi is the name of a catfish in South Korea and is related to the feeling of getting wet, according to the Hong Kong Observatory

Equatorial Total Precipitable Water-Click Image for latest 72 hour loop As Typhoon Megi Develops

Typhoon Megi JTWC Forecast Track 18UTC (Z) 10.15.10 (click to enlarge)

Typhoon Megi was about 1000 miles east of Manilla at 18 UTC (Z) 10.15.10 moving WestNorthwest at about 17 kts with a central pressure of 955 mb which will in itself support higher winds than the current estimates.   The pressure trend has continued to be down.  The typhoon has been traveling around a big ridge of high pressure to the north but has taken the more northwesterly track over the past 24 hours due to a weakness in the ridge just south of Okinawa, Japan.  The general model consensus and analysis of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is for that weakness to get squished out and the ridge reassert itself.  As that happens, Typhoon Megi will resume a more westerly course around the ridge.  However, previous forecasts had been calling for that turn more to the west to have already occured.  Since it has not, the landfall point on Luzon has been shifted farther north to somewhere near or north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  The northern part of the island is very mountainous and the terrain is anticipated to do a number on the storm and it should rapidly fall apart with the land interaction.   However, the rising terrain of the mountains will provide for a lifting mechanism that will tend to enhance rainfall.  It is for that reason that in the Philippines and other island nations with central mountain ranges that flooding and mudslides are often the greatest threat as rainfall totals can be exceptionally extreme in a relatively short period of time.  Given the counterclockwise flow of a typhoon in the northern hemisphere, even locations on the other side of the island such as Laoag can expect and onshore flow from the north that will also provide adverse conditions of wind and heavy rain.

Typhoon Megi Morphed Intergrated Microwave Imagery 00Z 10.16.10 (Click for Loop)

The thinking now is that the storm will run across the northern part of the Philippines in 48-72 hours and lose much intensity, but not completely.  It is expected to re-emerge in the South China Sea as a 75 kt typhoon where it will continue west and regain some strength over the following day or so back to 90 kts.  From that point, it is expected to make a second landfall, perhaps on the South China island of Hainan.  From there, it could move across the Gulf of Tonkin and make a 3rd landfall in North Vietnam.  While it will certainly have lost considerable intensity by then, it is not uncommon for typhoons on the downside of life to prove a risk to life and property in Vietnam due to flooding concerns. 

Map SE Asia

I would think that the fly in the ointment is the weakness in the ridge.  It is caused by a shortwave trof that came off the Asian continent.  As mentioned it is forecast to be squished, or more correctly, it is expected to lift to the northeast as the ridge fills in.  However, if that trof does not lift out in a timely manner or slower than currently anticipated, then it is plausible that Megi proceeds on its current west northwest track a bit longer than forecast before making its turn more toward the west.  Should that happen to a great enough degree, then the typhoon could run over the islands in the Luzon Strait.  That would also bring Hong Kong into the picture as a potential threat to receive at least adverse effects of a major typhoon.

Bottom line is that this is going to be a serious typhoon.  It will affect the northern Philippines to some degree.  The current forecast calls for a landfall in Northern Luzon.  However, unanticipated but possible changes in the atmospheric conditions to the north that are steering the storm give rise to a degree of uncertainty as to the ultimate story of Typhoon Megi.

Poor Attitude Cost Apollo 7 Crew Rightful Recognition and Perhaps Trip To The Moon
October 12, 2010

The Brave and Successful Men of Apollo 7 Paved The Way For Man's Walk on the Moon But They Never Flew in Space Again

Apollo 7 Flight-Tested A Significant Amount of Never Before Used Equipment and Procedures Including the Saturn IB Rocket at Liftoff on Oct 11, 1968

On This Date In History:  Our old neighbor, Walter Cunningham, on this date in 1968 was in orbit as part of the Apollo 7 crew that launched the previous morning  and marked America’s return to manned spaceflight following the fire that killed the Apollo 1 crew about a year and a half earlier.   Cunningham, Donn Eisele and Wally Schirra were undertaking a very dangerous mission.  It was the initial test flight of the Apollo spacecraft and, from top to bottom, it was a brand new machine that had never been flown before.  The mission was open-ended to some degree with no conclusion time scheduled except for the maximum of 11 days.  The flight featured numerous tests to systems and procedures and the results allowed for crucial developments that led to the successful first landing on the moon less than a year later.  Cunningham said that, “We launched on the longest and most ambitious engineering test flight in history, testing the spacecraft systems, verifying the operating procedures, checking out the worldwide tracking network, and that’s not to mention testing our crew.”   Wernher Von Braun said that ” The Apollo 7 performed… as nearly perfect as one can rightfully expect a development flight to be” and NASA’s Apollo Program Office Director General Samuel C. Phillips said,  “Apollo 7 goes in my book as a perfect mission.  Our official count is that we have accomplished 101 per cent of our intended objectives.”   However, the crew of Apollo 7 did not receive NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal as all other Apollo flight crews.  Instead, they were given the Exceptional Service Medal

My Old Neighbor, Walter Cunningham, Hard At Work During the Mission of Apollo 7

Now, Cunningham and his family lived around the corner from us. I went to his house a few times as he had a son named Brian who went to my school. I never saw Brian’s father at home, though I did see him when he visited our school once in the early 1970’s.  It never occurred to me why he was available to come to an elementary school but I always wondered why he never flew again.  The official NASA recount of Apollo 7 gives no reason.  But, other accounts reveal circumstances that NASA may have preferred stayed lost to history.   The reason was that he and the crew was grounded.  The little known story behind the successful and crucial Apollo 7 mission was that the crew were deemed to be uncooperative and “grumpy.”  It began when Schirra developed a cold a day or so into the mission.  It spread to the other crew members, though Cunningham wrote in his 1977 book (updated 2003)  The All-American Boys only that he felt a little “blah” by the 3rd day.  In space, there is no drainage from the head of mucus accumulation that fills the nasal passages,  The only relief is to blow hard and in space that can be quite painful to the ear drums.  Hence, this is the reason behind the grumpiness of the crew, in particular Schirra. 

Not Only Equipment But Also Critical Procedures Were Tried For the First Time On Apollo 7 Such As Lunar Module Rendevous Methods

Schirra was one of the original Mercury 7 and had flown in in the Gemini program so one might think, as a NASA veteran, he would know what was kosher and what was off-limits.  Then again, perhaps as an original American space hero, he had a little issue regarding hubris.  Or maybe, it was just the cold.  In any event,  the crew members complained about the sleep schedule, which did not correspond to normal earth conditions.  They complained about the sleeping arrangements; clasps that held the sleeping bags in place were apparently in inappropriate places.  They complained about the food.  Following his Gemini mission, Schirra vowed to take coffee with him if he ever flew on Ap0llo; he did.  They complained about noisy fans in the environmental control.  And, to be fair, I have not read about any complaints about something that would cause anyone to complain but it had to cause irritation.  The defication bags were cumbersome and the whole process took some 40 to 60 minutes with malodorous consequences.  Hence, the crewmen tended to hold off on releasing body wastes as long as possible.  There are all sorts of issues that arise with a test mission and they had to contend with every one.  But, it was their reaction to the problems that got them in trouble.

Schirra and Crew Clowned Around While On TV But Their Mood Was Anything But Fun

Some problems may have been kept in-house but the crews demeanor became known throughout the NASA hierarchy when Schirra decided unilaterally to cancel one of several scheduled television hook ups with the world.  Remember, NASA and the United States was really into the publicity of the efforts of the space program in the midst of the Cold War.  Donald “Deke” Slayton was also one of the original Mercury 7 and was in charge of crew assignments,  He tried to talk Schirra out of his decision but was tersely told by Schirra that there would be no TV show that day.  Eventually, they did broadcast from space  several times with the first live TV down-link from space with the crew appearing to have great fun as they managed to hide their discomfort from the world-wide audience. Schirra even shouted “Yabbadabbadoo!” like Fred Flintstone.  But, the colds persisted and the  complaints continued even as they prepared for their return.  They feared that they would not be able to blow their noses during the re-entry process and that pressure build-up might cause their eardrums to burst.  Therefore, the crew refused to wear their helmets as they returned to earth.   Once again, Slayton tried to convince Schirra to wear the helmet and once again Schirra dug in his heels.  The crew took decongestants and returned to earth safely without any problems with their ears.

There Might Not Have Been An Apollo 11 Success Story of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins Had It Not Been for Apollo 7

Schirra was a space veteran and hero and undoubtedly he was in a good spot to receive a mission to the moon.  Cunningham and Eisele would also have certainly merited consideration considering the technical success of their dangerous and imperative mission.  Nevertheless, Flight Director Chris Kraft wrote in his 2001 memoir that “I told Deke (Slayton) that this crew should never fly again.”  None of the men of Apollo 7 did go into space following their return.  Cunningham described himself as “NASA Hero, Second Class” in his book,  a reference to the lesser honor bestowed on the crew and their subsequent unofficial grounding.  But, in 2008, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin looked back at the accomplishments of the Apollo 7 crew and, while acknowledging the decisions by his predecessors, decided that the crew deserved more.  So, on October 20, 2008, Forty years after flying NASA’s first manned Apollo mission, the crew of Apollo 7 was honored  with the space agency’s highest award, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Schirra and Eisele had both passed away at the time of the ceremony but my old neighbor Walter Cunningham was on hand as was Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr and Neil A. Armstrong, the first men on the moon as well as fellow lunar astronaut Alan Bean.  By video link, the crew of the International Space Station attended and video tributes were received from President George H. W. Bush, Wayne Newton and Houston Mayor Bill White.  Everyone acknowledges that the space program may never have gotten off the ground successfully following the Apollo 1 disaster had it not been for the bravery and efforts of Wally Schirra, Walter Cunningham and  Donn Eisele…not matter how “grumpy” they were.

Weather Bottom Line:  Our best and only chance of rain in the forseeable future will be on Wednesday with the passage of a cold front.  It’s not a huge chance and won’t be a drought buster but we need all we can get as we will return to exceedingly dry, but lovely, conditions for the rest of the week through the weekend.

When A President Threatened to Abolish Football in the United States
October 10, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt Cut A Manly Figure as a Collegiate and Liked College Football But That Didn't Prevent Him From Threatening the Game with a Big Stick

1st Football Game Between Rutgers and Princeton Nov 6, 1869

On This Date in History:  President Theodore Roosevelt had an affinity for football.  It provided physical fitness to build bodies and competition to build character.  He liked the way that it taught teamwork and inspired individuals to never give up.  American football had been in its development stages during the 19th century and at least 10 of his Roughriders listed their occupations as football players when they signed up in 1898.  While the beginnings of the NFL did not come about with George Halas until 1920, professional football in America can be traced to as early as 1892 and college football to 1869.  Perhaps all those football players joining up with Teddy Roosevelt to fight the Spanish is an indication of the rather wild and woolly landscape surrounding college football at the time.  Now, you have to remember, at the turn of the century western colleges and universities were in a relatively fledgling state and the dominance of higher education resided in what we now call the Ivy League.  That also held true for college football and the three reigning powers of the gridiron were Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Robert "Tiny" Maxwell in 1905

The presidents of those institutions as well as others were scratching their heads on this date in 1905 as the previous day they had been taken to the proverbial woodshed by the young President of the United States.   You see, President Roosevelt had seen a photograph of Swarthmore College lineman Bob Maxwell who had been savagely beaten during a game.  Seems that Penn knew that the agile, 250 pound Maxwell was the best player on Swarthmore so the team focused its effort on everyone pounding Maxwell early and often.  The photo of him staggering off the field  was so graphic that the Old Roughrider must have thought that the game had gotten too rough.  As it turns out, he had good reason.  Players wore very little padding and helmets were nothing more than a leather cap.  Routinely, slugging and punching took place on the field and gang tackling was rampant.  A favorite play was the “flying wedge” in which an entire team formed a  V and plowed down the field like a tank. The players would often lock arms or even grab on to one another’s belts equipped with special handles.  More often than not, the result was players strewn across the field and slugfests erupting.   In 1905, there was roughly one-fifth the number of college football players as there are today, yet, 18 were killed and 159 severely injured in that one year alone. 

The "Flying Wedge" Formation

So, on October 9, 1905, Teddy summoned representatives from Yale, Harvard and Princeton to the White House.  When they arrived, he may have walked softly but he certainly brandished the Big Stick.  He told them that if footbal could not put an end to on-field brutality, then he would abolish the game with an Executive Order.   It’s kinda funny that young men being maimed or killed on the field did not make the coaches and presidents of the schools to consider changes and  it took a roar from the Bully Pulpit got their attention.   They should have noticed all by themselves that interest in football was on the decline due to the violence, high risk of injury and potential for fatalities.  On the West Coast, Stanford and Cal had  even dropped football due  in favor of English Rugby.   So, the following day the coaches got to work on making changes in order to save their jobs if not to help save some lives. 

Football Has Never Been For the Faint of Heart

First, the American Football Rules Committee was formed with the three influential forces on the governing body rising in the form of Walter Camp,  Harvard’s William Reid and Captain Palmer Pierce of the United States Military Academy.  The committee established a neutral zone along a line of scrimmage between the opposing teams with a requirement that at least 6 men had to be on that line.   The distance required for a 1st down was changed to 10 yards instead of 5.  The forward pass was put into the rules and, perhaps most importantly, mass formations were banned as was gang tackling.  Game times were reduced to one hour with two 30-minute halves.  While it doesn’t appear to monumental on paper, these rules changes had some dramatic results.  The forward pass was used sparingly but the defenses were forced to weaken their lines due to the threat of the pass.   That little neutral zone reduced the number of fights that broke out and the 6 man requirement took away the mass momentum plays.  Two yards and a cloud of dust off-tackle plays became more common.   With a less-potent ground attack, the additional five yards required for a new set of downs resulted in more frequent punts and an increased use of the field goal, which were worth 4 points at the time, compared to 5 points for a touchdown.   In 1906, only 6 players were killed and 3 of those were Ivy Leaguers who died in fistfights. 

Walter Camp Did Not Outlaw Touchdown Celebrations

The committee changed its name to the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States when it met in 1906 before eventually settling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association moniker.   Whatever the name, conditions for football improved and Roosevelt did not ban the game.  Nevertheless, the NCAA football rules committee became much more vigilant. In 1907, the number of deaths on the football field were up again to eleven.   In reaction to the new rules, the Minnesota Shift was developed in which the line and backs would shift, sometimes twice, prior to the ball being snapped in a somewhat intricate manner.  The maneuvers were designed to outflank the defense.   The death toll rose to 33 in 1909 (The NY Times via the Chicago Tribune claimed 26 deaths at the time) and it was that year, specifically a game between Harvard and Yale in November 1909, that veteran sportswriter Frank Deford says was the real turning point in the sport.  So, in 1910, new rules were implemented that made the line of scrimmage requirement 7 men and reduced the reward for a field goal to 3 points. By 1912, the touchdown was changed to 6 points.   Pushing and pulling the ball carrier was disallowed and players running interlocked interference was banned.  The flying tackle, which called for a tackler to leave his feet, was also put on the shelf.  But, they did not ban touchdown celebrations.

Weather Bottom Line:  Look for Sunday and Monday to be carbon copies with lots of sun, a cool start and an afternoon high about 40 degress higher than the morning as it pushes toward 90.  A trof comes through Monday night but its too dry to provide rain.  The temperatures Tuesday should back off a shade though to the mid 80’s.  Keep in  mind the normal high is about 72.  Wednesday, we get a system from the southwest coming up that kicked off some severe weather in the Southern Plains but it will be too dry for even it to give us more than just a smattering of showers.  But, cooler air filters in behind it and we go to near average or slightly above average temperatures for the end of the week into the weekend.  We need rain.  We’ve had .20″ of rain since Sept. 1.

The Patriot Went to the Dogs
October 6, 2010

The Ficticious Mars and Jupiter Showed Up with Gibson Probably Due to The Inspiration of a Real Life Story of General Washington and General Howe's Dog

Battle of Brandywine Sept 11, 1777

On This Date in History:  Following its victory at the Battle of Brandywine, the British Army captured Philadelphia and the troops camped in Germantown just north of the city.  American General George Washington decided a little counter-attack was in order as part of an attempt to surprise the British in their camp.  It seemed to be a grand opportunity since Washington was in the rather fortunate position of outnumbering his foe with about 11,000 men under his command while, his counterpart, General William Howe, commanded about 8,000 British and Hessian soldiers.  Thus, we have the outline for the Battle of Germantown which proved to be an engagement of note in the American Revolution.

Troop Movements Battle of Germantown

Now, Washington’s plan called for 4 columns to attack the British and “precisely 5 oclock with charged bayonets without firing.”   Basically, General Washington was trying to duplicate the surprise attack that he successfully initiated against the Hessians at Trenton on Dec. 25, 1776.  However, things didn’t work out so well because on the morning of October 3, 1777 the American columns were all well short of their respective planned starting positions.  The surprise element went by the wayside when a British piquet discovered one of the columns and fired some shots to warn of the impending attack.  That particular piquet was reinforced by a light infantry battalion that required great effort to push back.  Howe rode up to take a look for himself but his view was impeded by an early morning fog.  His initial notion was that his piquet had simply encountered an American raiding party. 

Chew House Fighting Was Fierce

British Colonel Musgrave was in charge of the light infantry battalion and had them fall back and establish a strong position at the home of Chief Justice Benjamin Chew.  The Americans made a strong assault on the stone home, complete with artillery support.  Well, American General Adam Stephen was supposed to follow orders and continue an attack on the British right wing.  Instead, he heard the commotion going on at the Chew House and ordered his men to turn and attack there.  That was not part of General Washington’s plan. 

Stephen's House May Be More Celebrated Than The Owner (Click For Details)

 In the Meantime, American General Nathanael (Nathaniel)  Greene had his men attack the British line as ordered and he broke through.  Stephen, for his part, went on beyond Chew House to continue the attack where, in the fog,  he ran into a brigade commanded by Brigadier General Wayne.  The two forces took up arms against one another.  The trouble was, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s Pennsylvania Brigade was on the same side as the men under Stephen.  I suppose the Americans must have put up a pretty good fight with one another because both forces withdrew and fled.  A result of the Battle of Germantown was that the Americans determined that General Stephen was incapacitated by drunkeness and he was drummed out of the service with his command given to the Marquis de Lafayette even though Lafayette had just had his 20th birthday!  That in itself holds some importance but there were more significant aspects to the outcome of the battle.   

Germantown Loss May Have Been Big Winner For Americans

In the end, the British suffered 500 casualties and the Americans lost 1000.  50 Americans were killed while assaulting the Chew House, which ultimately was a diversion from the original plan.  The Americans were forced to withdraw and most histories report the Battle of Germantown as a British victory since they held the field.  In fact, General Washington had to withdraw some 16 miles to escape the harrassment by British light dragoons.  However, sometimes a loss can be a victory.  In Vietnam, the TET Offensive was a total military disaster for the North Vietnamese but it was the turning point in the war as the American people withdrew their support for the war effort.  In the same way, while Washington’s effort was a big flub-a-dub at Germantown, the French were pretty impressed by the American’s ability to raise and army and mount an attack and were less concerned about the results.   Many historians point to the American failure at Germantown as providing profound influence on the French Court to support the American independence effort.   But, the British weren’t entirely successful either.  General Howe did not follow up and destroy Washington’s army.  Instead, he let General Washington flee to fight another day.  Maybe Howe was looking for his dog.

Note From General Washington to General Howe Concerning Dog

You see, General Howe had a dog that had wandered onto the battlefield and, as the Americans withdrew, the dog followed with them.  He ended up in the camp of General Washington.  Now, Washington was a lover of all dogs and when he saw that the dog’s collar had the name of his counterpart on it, on this date in 1777, he had a messenger ride all the way back to the British camp with the dog and a courteous note from General Washington related to the returning of the pooch.    Some say that its an indication of just how much Washington loved dogs and of the honorable and magnamimous nature of General Washington.  However, while it may have been all that, it was also a pretty shrewed move on the part of George Washington.  The note which was delivered to the British read, “General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”  The story may have softened the view of British regulars toward General Washington but, no doubt, Washington’s courier most likely was able to report British and Hessian troop stregnth and positions back to headquarters.  Many of Washington’s men wanted to keep the dog in order to taunt the enemy but Washington knew that his act of kindness not only was a good bit of propaganda but also a great source of intelligence.

Gibson Probably Borrowed Dog Idea For The Patriot From Real Life Incident At Germantown

You see a seen similar to this true story in the fictionalized Mel Gibson movie called The Patriot.  In that film, the Gibson character of Benjamin Martin returned two Great Danes to British General Cornwallis.  I suspect  that Gibson took the real story and simply used it as a model for their story.  That is not unusual in “historical” movies.  They often borrow parts of other stories and then add them to their movie to make it more compelling for the audience.  The scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they use too much dynamite to rob a train car probably came from the real-life misadventure of Al Jennings who really did use too much dynamite when he blew up the entire mail car in his 1898 train robbery attempt.  The Patriot was not well receieved by my historical academic bretheren for many similar items.  The main character, Martin, was not a real person but instead was based on  different people, the principal being Francis Marion with other contributors being Thomas Sumter, Elijah Clarke, Andrew Pickens and Daniel Morgan.  The problem that I have with all of that is that all or any one of these men have true stories that could be extremely compelling. 

Tavington Portrayal Ruffled Some British Feathers

The bad guy in the movie was William Tavington who was based on the real life British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton.  Apparently some in Britain were not too enthused with the way in which the Tavington/Tarleton character was portrayed.  The UK Ambassador to the US didn’t have kind words for the entire movie.  For some reason, Gibson even made General Charles Cornwallis 10-15 years older than he really was and I have yet to figure out the rationale for that except that actor Tom Wilkinson was available.  I liked the movie but I am always afraid that people will think that its all a true story and that is how come Americans become ignorant of their own history.  It is suprisingly full of technical mistakes as well as historical inaccuracies.   Just remember, when Hollywood makes a story based on “history” it is usually loosely based on fact and full of “artistic license.”

Weather Bottom Line:  Beautiful weather will continue.  I saw today at one point the dew point was running in the 30’s which is awfully dry.  That means the temperatures will drop at night nicely and warm up nicely in the afternoon.  Look for upper 70’s for Wednesday and Thursday and low 80’s into the weekend.  We’ll probably nudge into the mid 80’s by Sunday afternoon.  A cold front will slip through on Monday and take temperatures down a peg but its so dry I doubt that there will be much in the way of rain.   I had to remove my sunflowers which just killed me but they were done.  The squirrels have been enjoying their bounty.  It’s really amazing how strong those 13 foot sunflowers are and the breadth of their root systems.  Then again, its not really all that amazing when you consider that they have to be able to support themselves with the weight of a flower full of seeds thats over a foot across and the windy weather they have to put up with.  But…the stalks are still pretty formidable.  I raised them from babies, protected them from critters and watered them dutifully only to put them in their final resting place.  Always sad.

From Abraham Lincoln to Sputnik to the B-52s
October 4, 2010

Today's Recon, Weather and Communication Satellites are descendents of Sputnik

Lincoln liked Lowe's Balloon But Some of his Generals Did Not

On This Date in History:  President Abraham Lincoln observed a balloon demonstration near Washington DC on this date in 1861 which was intended to show the value of using balloons to gain military intelligence on the battlefield. Both sides tried them for awhile but abandoned the practice after a few years when it was decided that they were too dangerous and unreliable. An advocate was Thaddeus S C Lowe who was in charge of the Union balloon corps. But he resigned after his pay was cut 40% when Union Commanders Joe Hooker and Ambrose Burnside were convinced that balloons gave inaccurate information. Bright guys, those Union Commanders. In the 20th century, aerial reconnaissance became a staple of military intelligence information.

Explorer I

In an ironic twist…On This Date in 1957…the Soviet Union put the first satellite into orbit. It was called Sputnik I but also was known as a “baby moon.” This was because it was a small round sphere that orbited around the earth putting out a little beeping noise via radio waves. Americans being as they are turned it into a political football and Democrats charged the Republican Eisenhower administration with allowing the Soviets to get ahead in technology. It was fearsome because it showed that they had missle technology to deliver nuclear weapons or even build space platfoms from which they could drop bombs on the US!   There also was the question of using a satellite as aerial reconnaissance…something Union generals Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker (For whom inaccurtely say the slang for prostitute is named)  and Ambrose E. Burnside (for whom sideburns are named)  had tossed aside nearly 100 years before.  So, President Eisenhower started leaning on the space program and by January 31,1958, the US successfully launched its own satellite, Explorer I and the space race was on.

Hmmmm....A Sputnik/B-52's connection?

This all really went back to 1952 when the International Council of Scientific Unions established July 31, 1957 to December 31, 1958 as the International Geophysical Year since scientists knew that solar activity would be at its height during that time. They used the opportunity to promote putting up artificial satellites around the earth. The Americans started off with their Vanguard program which was to put a 3.5 pound object into orbit. But the Soviets beat the Yanks to the punch with the beachball size, 184 pound Sputnik. Now I’m not sure what Sputnik did except scare people and get the Americans off their keesters and prove that the theory of satellites was practical. They turned to Werner Von Braun to develop the Explorer program. Unlike the Soviets and their mini radio station, the Americans included a small data collection system and Explorer I not only showed that “anything you can do, I can do better,” but also discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the earth, which took the name of its primary investigator, James Van Allen. The Van Allen Belt later was displayed prominently in “there’s a moon in the sky (called the moon)” by the B-52’s. Now that is progress…Sputnik to Explorer to the B-52’s.

Weather Bottom Line:  We have a weather pattern that looks simliar to the winter.  There is a big fat low spinning around to our Northeast.  Think of it as having spokes on a wheel.  These spokes I refer to as Vortlobes, or lobes of disturbed weather resulting from a pool of cold air aloft.  As these lobes rotate around, they tend to produce clouds as they proceed, particularly in the daytime.  In the winter, this often results in snow showers.  As it stands, our air is so dry at the surface, we don’t get much rain from the passing disturbances but the temperatures do get chilly with the cloud cover but the mercury jumps in the dry air when sunshine is added.  This pattern will slowly change this week as the upper low moves east and a surface high to our west moves eastward.  Toward the end of the week, we will get into a more southerly flow and temperatures will respond by still having relatively cool to mild nights but afternoon highs will get into the low 80’s.

Iraq 1st Gained Independence 5 years Before Saddam Was Born
October 3, 2010

Nuns Who Could Make Sally Field Proud Were On Hand in Baghdad For Iraq's Independence in 1932

1922 British Press Viewed Iraq much as Press of 2002

On This Date in History:  For most Americans, Iraq didn’t become a focus of attention until the latter part of the 20th century.  But, the modern history of Iraq really has its roots in the early part of the century.  During and prior to World War I, the region was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.  At the conclusion of the Great War, the League of Nations was formed as a governing political body in an effort to avoid further global conflicts.  As part of the Armistice of World War I, Germany was to pay reparations to her former enemies.  Today, October 3, 2010, Germany is scheduled to make its final World War I payment 92 years after the war ended.   The League of Nations was weakened from the outset, however, when the United States Senate did not ratify the treaty that would have put the US into the league even though the very concept was the brainchild of President Wilson.  There was fear that the US was ceding sovereignty to the league and, specifically, Article 10 raised objections as it seemed to signal that all members would come to the defense of any nation who came under attack.  American isolationism was growing.  Nevertheless, in 1920, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate for administrative rule over the Basra, Baghdad and Mosul provinces of the former Ottoman Empire.

King Faisal 1st of Iraq crowned by Brits in 1932

Now, the Turks were not stupid when it came to running the Ottoman Empire for some 500 or 600 years.  They knew how to control locals and so they had purposely kept the three regions seperate.  On a map, the three looked very compatable but, in fact, the folks in each region were not too enthused with one another.  The most populous region was in the South where the Shiites held a vast majority.  In the Central area, Sunni’s ruled the roost while in the North, Kurds were the dominant group.  The issues relating to these three areas for the Turks were the same issues that faced the British.  But, England thought it had a better plan and it decided to create a kingdom made up of all three regions.  On the throne was placed Amir Faisal ibn Hussain, who naturally was allied with the British.  He had fought an uprising along side Lawrence of Arabia  (T.E. Lawrence) against the Ottomans and had proved his friendliness with the British as he did so.  Faisal, though, proved to be a divider more than a uniter as he ruled with an iron fist and was particularly oppressive to the Shiite population.  Though the Shiites represented a very large, if not outright majority, of the populous but was given almost no role in the government.

Michel Aflaq and Salah Bitar founded the Baath Party

In August 1932, Iraq became part of the League of Nations and shortly thereafter, on this Date in 1932, Britain granted Iraq its independence with roots of dissent already firmly anchored.  Stability also was undermined when Faisal died about a year after he took the throne.   Almost immediately, two political parties rose to the forefront.  The Communist Party had the backing of the Soviet Union while the Baath Party took the form of a Facist organization with great similarity to the growing Nazi Party in Germany.  Unlike the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, Baathist ideals have no relation to religion at all but instead is based on political ideology.  Despite the unrest, the monarchy managed to hang on through strong military and political ties to Great Britain.  In 1941, pro-Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan) sentiments grew so rampant in Iraq that Great Britain intervened and help the Iraqi government to maintain support for the Allies in the war.  Following the war, the UK was severely weakened and its influence waned.  The dissent in Iraq was allowed to flourish until 1958 when the monarchy was overthrown. 

When we last saw Saddam...

For the next two decades, the state was quite unstable as a series of civilian and military governments came and went until  1979 when Saddam Hussein rose to power.  Saddam was born in 1937, or 5 years after Iraq officially gained independence.  He first joined the Baath Party two years before the end of the monarchy and even participated in a failed coup attempt in 1956.  In 1960, he was involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Iraq but, after it was foiled, he fled the country.  The Baath Party took the helm in 1963 and Saddam returned.  When they fell out of favor a few months later, Hussein was thrown in jail. When the Bath Party staged a successful coup in 1968, Saddam was out of the clink again and was given a spot on the Revolutionary Command Council.  He was more or less the power behind the curtain until he came out of the shadows to take control as President in 1979.  As a Baathist, he used repressive and violent means to rule the country and suppress any opposition.  Saddam ruled Iraq until 2003 when the United States invaded the country and sent Saddam to rule another world after a visit with the hangman. 

1930's Cartoon Might Suggest History Repeats Itself for Some, But It's Not Necessarily An Accurate Notion

While the adage that history repeats itself is rather well known, the truth is that history is not prescriptive.  Just because a certain series of events occured in the past does not mean that the same will happen again.  The geopolitical climate of the early 20th century is not the same as it is in the early 21st century.  Nevertheless, the Kurds in the North, the Sunnis around Baghdad in the Central area and Shiites in the South remain at odds as the United States tries to give Iraq full independence.  The history of Iraq is a fairly substantial reason for a skeptical approach to viewing the future of Iraq.   However, globalization and more expansive travel and communications such as the internet, cell phones and satellite television could conceivably prove to the be the big difference maker for the independence of Iraq today and the independence of 1932.  

Weather Bottom Line:  We had a good start today.  Then a little vort lobe rotated through.  That would be an extended pool of cold air aloft..that ran over warm air from daytime heating.  Result: clouds, a little rain and chilly temperatures.  Snow White was well prepared for the St. James Art Show on Saturday but I forgot how chilly the 50’s could be the first time out of the shoot and I was not enthused.  My feet were cold and I was miserable and that only hastened my foul mood of the late afternoon knowing that the ‘Horns would lose to the dreaded Sooners.  OU tried to give it to them and Texas still coughed it up.  Anyway, we’ll stay relatively cool for the next 48 hours with perhaps an errant shower on Sunday with another little lobe rotating around.  No big deal though.  We start a warming trend for the week ahead with a return to the low 80’s by the end of the week.

Civil War Balloon Flights Were Not Leisurely Flights of Fancy
September 24, 2010

Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe's Life Rose Like the Incline and Balloons He Developed Before It Came Crashing Back to Earth

On This Date In History: This date in 1861 was not a good day for flying. At 3:30 AM on April 20, 1861 Thaddeus S C Lowe decided it was a good time to test his new 20,000 cubic foot balloon called Enterprise. I’m not sure if the balloon was shown in the Star Trek movie that showed all of the previous vessels called Enterprise. I don’t think that I recall that being the case. Anyway, he took off from Cincinnati before the sun comes up and his little test mission turned into a misadventure. He got whisked away by 100 mph winds aloft that sent him to South Carolina. He thought he’d get welcomed like a crowned prince like the Wizard of Oz. Instead he was arrested as a spy. Apparently the professor was absent minded as he had no clue that 6 days before Fort Sumnter had fallen and the Civil War had begun. Fellow academics convinced the state authorities that Lowe was on a scientific mission and they let him go.

Lowe's Intrepid

I’m not sure if Professor TSC Lowe was ticked at being arrested or if his buddies were wrong because Lowe promptly went north and became the leader of the Union’s Army of the Potomac Aeronautic Corps of balloonists. Lowe designed and built several balloons for a whole Union fleet with the largest being the 32,000 cubic foot Intrepid that required 1200 yards of silk. This was a group of mainly civilians who made some 3000 flights in the first two years of the war. They would tether up and view the battlefield from aloft and then use a telegraph to wire down the enemy position and direct artillery fire. It was the forerunner to aerial reconnaissance. In fact, later in WWI, the airplane was used initially for recon missions until it was discovered you could drop bombs from planes or put machine guns on the plane and shoot down enemy planes and blimps. Anyway, on this date in 1861 Lowe himself was shot down. Somehow he ended up behind enemy lines. I don’t know if he got caught up in another 100 mph wind or enemy fire cut his tether or if he was just going on another “scientific excursion” but down he went and he was captured again. His wife Leontine was a witness to the whole thing. Did she sit and cry? Did she hope that academics would again get her husband set free? Nope. Instead, she personally led a raid of nighttime commandos who moved in and rescued the professor before he could be captured again.

Railway was cool but it cost Lowe his fortune

Before the war, Lowe had established a reputation for new theories and study in Chemistry, Meteorology and Aviation. He had a dream of a transatlantic balloon flight. I guess he got rich because after the war, he moved to Pasadena, CA and built a 24,000 foot house.  The professor made a bunch of money after he invented the ice machine in 1865 followed by a number of other inventions.   He also founded Citizen’s Bank, which I remember as a kid being the sponsor of my friend’s Little League baseball team.   He tried to build  a railroad to Mount Wilson but, when that fell through, he built a rail line to Echo Mountain and then on to the summit of  the mountain named for him and the Lowe Observatory among other things. Funny thing is the guy ended up living with his daughter in her Pasadena home as he lost his fortune.  Seems his financial grasp had extended beyond his reach when it came to that railroad up the mountain overlooking Altadena.   Makes you wonder if now California will rename its mountains something like Mount AIG or Mount Lehman Brothers.

Weather Bottom Line:  Count yourself lucky if you got any rain out of the frontal passage on Friday.  It was the 83rd day of Louisville having temps 90 or better this year which betters the old mark of 81 days in 1954.  While the upper air was too warm and the air too dry to support much in the way of rain, the front will bring a halt to the hot weather as highs will be in the upper 70’s on Saturday and Sunday.  A winter-like low will drop into the Ohio Valley and southern states beginning early in the week.  This will greatly enhance our much-needed rain chances on Monday and clouds and scattered showers should hold temps in the low to mid 70’s for a good chunk of the week ahead.

The US Banks Were Bailed Out in the Past, But Uncle Sam Wasn’t The Savior
September 22, 2010

Banks Have Been Bailed Out Many Times in US History

Banks Have Been Bailed Out Many Times in US History

Dow Jones Since 1900-It Took Until the 1950's for the Dow to reach Pre-Depression levels
Dow Jones Since 1900

On This Date in History In 1906, San Francisco had a great earthquake. The effects of that quake led to a financial trouble spot that turned into a full-blown economic crisis. At that time, there was no central bank or Federal Reserve. With the system stretched by the stress of the San Francisco quake, some doofus tried to corner the copper market and when that failed, all of the banks who made loans to back the scheme were in trouble so they started calling other loans and the Panic of 1907 was created. People lost confidence in the system and several banks  failed. A bailout was needed. President Theodore Roosevelt was claiming that everything was fundamentally in great shape and threatened a federal takeover of all trusts if the bankers and financial gurus couldn’t get thier houses in order. Who came to the rescue? None other than J. Pierpont Morgan was the savior; the same JP Morgan who had bailed out the system in 1871 and 1895 and the same JP Morgan that is related to JP Morgan Chase who bailed out Bear Stearns in 2008.   To fend off the threats from Teddy Roosevelt, Morgan huddled with his banking brethren and convinced them that they needed to work together to salvage the system in order to save all of their hides and the future of the banking system.   He also convinced the Secretary of the Treasury to pony up $25 million to the effort. The recession did not turn into a depression and the 1907 Panic led directly to the eventual establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

JP Morgan May Have Looked Like a Wild Old Man But He Saved Uncle Sam Bailed Out the Nation Several Times

JP Morgan May Have Looked Like a Wild Old Man But He Saved Uncle Sam Bailed Out the Nation Several Times

While the numbers are not as large…not the $700 billion to $800 Biillion that the banking bailout became in 2008-09, the other numbers are not as large either. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 39% in 1907. On this date in 2008, the market had lost and gained about two percent over the previous month and politicians ran around making comparisons to the Great Depression when a comparison to 1907 might have been a better barometer . In order to equal the fall of the 1907 panic, the Dow that was around 11,015 on September 22, 2008 would have had to fall to 7000 and it was on this date in 2008 that the Dow fell some 300 points and arguably didn’t stop falling until March 9, 2009 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average bottomed out at 6547.   So, while it was, and in some measure still is, an extremely difficult and precarious situation, it was not totally unprecedented and it wasn’t necessarily a good match with the Great Depression. It’s just the depression of the 1930’s is all the general public, politicians and most people in the media know about.  Several times in the past,  it was JP Morgan engineering a bailout with some government help and this time it was the Federal Reserve and Uncle Sam engineering a bailout with some other private help. When you hear also of rumors that today’s problem was a plot by those who stand to profit, keep in mind that in 1907 it was rumored that the banks had caused the whole panic just to line their pockets.   Aside from the Great Depression, there were a bunch of “panics” in financial circles and the resultant recessions or depressions  that came fairly regularly…perhaps too regularly. The Dow is currently in a trading range between about 9900 and 10,70o and, in recent days, there has been a declaration that the recession is over. 

Year Unemployment rate
1923-1929 3.3
1930 8.9
1931 15.9
1932 23.6
1933 24.9
1934 21.7
1935 20.1
1936 17.0
1937 14.3
1938 19.0
1939 17.2
1940 14.6
1941 9.9
1942 4.7

With unemployment still hovering near 10%, the rebound of the stock market and the claim that the recession is over are by no means a guarantee that the market and economy won’t go back in the tank.  Nevertheless, both are, and especially the Dow Jones, are certainly at a different place than anyone in March 2009 could have foreseen.   If something happens that causes a big drop in stock prices again, then maybe we can start to refer to the Great Depression as it relates to the stock market, which is but one indicator.   Unemployment is pretty bad but its more like the late 1970s and early 1980’s, not the 1930’s.

No Hoovervilles Today Like in 1930

No Hoovervilles Today Like in 1930

The big thing about the Great Depression is that its depths were so far reaching that it led to new regulation by the government into financial markets than had ever been contemplated by the founders or anyone else in an effort to try to control the economy such that these setbacks wouldn’t be so deep or so frequent. To a large degree, it has worked pretty well but to expect these things to never happen or think its some sinister plot just is to not accept reality.

Sometimes, news people say they need to give commentary to “give perspective” or a particular news event. Dan Rather used to defend journalists providing analysis instead of just reporting for that specific reason. Yet, it helps if those giving “analysis and perspective” had some perspective in the first place. It’s probably hyperbole and just outright ignorance that media types or politicians trot out the Great Depression comparison.  I remember when President Clinton was running for his first term against George H. W. Bush, they said then that it was the worst economy since the Great Depression.  It certainly wasn’t even close to the economy of the Great Depression then and it’s arguably not the same now.   It’s probably best to leave that moniker on the shelf until its truly warranted.   Let’s hope it can stay on the shelf and we can call this the great recovery. Some of us need a job, not panic.

Weather Bottom Line:  We will continue with this mid to upper 90’s nonsense through Friday.  A front will be approaching then and will pass through.  As it does so, our rain chances will go up. Trouble is that we are so dry there may not be enough moisture for this guy to give us as much rain as one might ordinarly expect from a strong front.  But, it’s a chance.  The good thing is that it will knock the mercury down to the upper 70’s to low 80’s for the weekend and it may be the sign of a pattern change.  Some models are showing a big ol’ storm dropping down into the central plains and the Ohio Valley by the middle of next week.

America Could Have Been First In Space Had the Shackles Been Removed
September 20, 2010

What Would Have Happened Had the Imaginations of Von Braun and Disney Been Allowed to Develop to The Max?

Von Braun Happy Being Captured by Americans

On This Date in History:  According to Wernher Von Braun, he was forced to join the Nazi Party in 1937.   Some sources claim he joined as early as 1932.  But, Von Braun said that ” My refusal to join the party would have meant that I would have to abandon the work of my life. Therefore, I decided to join. My membership in the party did not involve any political activities …”  Von Braun was perhaps the world’s leading scientist involved in rocket theory and design and the deal was that he had to be a party member if he was to continue his work.  And, that work was dedicated to weapons development and not the venture into space as Von Braun desired.  Nevertheless, his work advanced rocketry.  When the war was over, Von Braun surrendered to the Allies, figuring that he’d get a better post-war deal from the Americans than from the Soviets.

Redstone Medium Range Ballistic Missile

On June 20, 1945 Secretary of State Cordell Hull approved the transfer of Von Braun and his colleagues to America following a procedure that used paperclips to indicate the transfer paperwork.  Hence, the process became known as “Operation Paperclip.”   This program allowed people like Von Braun who were once considered as war criminals or security risks to work in the United States; mostly for the government.  In Von Braun’s case, not only did he go to work for the US Army, he also contracted with Walt Disney to develop educational films.   He and his associates were transferred to Fort Bliss, TX to work with US personnel in training and developing military uses for rockets.  In 1950, Von Braun and his team were sent to Huntsville, Alabama where the former Nazi Party member led the Army’s rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal where they eventually developed the Redstone rocket.    Von Braun became a US citizen in 1955. 

1953 Collier's Sparked Space Interest But Didn't Inspire the Press to Look Forward

Much as he had been with the Nazi’s, Von Braun was trapped in the military world, yet, he still dreamed of a world in which rockets would be used in space exploration.  In 1952, he published a series of articles in Collier’s Weekly titled Man Will Conquer Space Soon!  He wrote about a 250 foot in diameter space station orbiting at 1075 miles above the earth as it rotated to provide artificial gravity.  In spite of his successful development of the Redstone rocket, The first half of the 1950’s were extremely frustrating for the space dreamer.  You see, while he and his mates were focusing on military applications of rocketry, scientists in the Soviet Union were pushing forward with their Sputnik program.  Beginning in 1954, Von Braun lobbied the Eisenhower administration to look beyond the earth’s atmosphere.  He contended that the Redstone rocket could place a satellite in orbit.  In 1956, he even demonstrated the Redstone’s capability when a Redstone blasted 3000 miles over the Atlantic Ocean to an elevation of 600 miles.  Had the rocket carried additional fuel instead of a payload of sand in the upper stages, Von Braun said he could have achieved orbit.  Nevertheless, on this date in 1956, the Eisenhower administration denied Von Braun permission to use a missle to launch a payload into orbit. 

An allie in Von Braun’s efforts could have been the press but, instead of considering the material Von Braun published in regard to a potential space station, the media focused on his past membership in the Nazi Party and the slave labor used to build his V-2 rockets during the war.   The administration had budgetary concerns.  The snoozing boys in the press room and the folks in the administration were suddenly awakened October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit called Sputnik.  It was apparent for the entire world to see just how far the Americans were behind the Soviets in rocket capabilities.  The US Navy developed an inconsistent  and largely unsuccessful Vanguard rocket that was not acceptable so, suddenly, Werner Von Braun and his team was transferred to NASA, which was established on July 29, 1958. 

Unleashed Von Braun Produced the Saturn V

Eventually, the Americans surpassed the Soviets in the “space race” with the ultimate achievement being man first setting foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.  It was made possible by Von Braun’s design of the giant Saturn V rocket that propelled the astronauts to the moon.  At the time, Von Braun said that the Saturn V could be developed further and that missions to Mars would be possible by the 1980’s.  But, budget concerns once again came to the forefront and the press once again lost enthusiasm and Von Braun’s dreams died with him on June 16, 1977.    I wonder what might have  been had Wernher Von Braun’s unlimited imagination not been prohibited from reaching its full potential.

Weather Bottom Line:  Some hope lies ahead for some rain and temperatures will eventually get back to seasonal levels after autumn officially begins on Wednesday.  On that day, a front will come down close enough to perhaps trigger some t’storm activity on a scattered basis.  But, it won’t move through.  So, we’ll still be talking about the low 90’s until the weekend.  Wednesday’s front backs up in advance of another system…that one will come through.  Look for rain and a threat for t’storms on Friday evening and night and the weekend looks great with highs in the low 80’s.   Be patient…the calendar says that summer is almost over and Mother Nature may, in fact, be paying attention.

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