Monday, October 9, 2017

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Halloween Comes to America


Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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Columbus Day


Early in the morning of October 12, 1492, a sailor on board the Pinta sighted land, beginning a new era of European exploration and expansion. The next day, the ninety crew members of Columbus - three-ship fleet ventured onto the Bahamian island that he named San Salvador (now Watling Island, and then called Guanahaní by the natives), ending a voyage begun nearly ten weeks earlier in Palos, Spain.

As a reward for his valuable discovery, the Spanish crown granted Columbus the right to bear arms. His new coat of arms added the royal charges of Castile and Leon and an image of islands to his traditional family crest. Columbus further modified the design to include a continent beside the pictured islands.

Before his final voyage, the Spanish monarchs prepared a Book of Privileges, a collection of agreements showing how Columbus was remunerated for his explorations. In 1502, four copies of the book were known to exist. The Library of Congress's copy of this work is one of the Top Treasures included in the online exhibition American Treasures of the Library of Congress. 

The first recorded celebration of Columbus Day in the United States took place on October 12, 1792. Organized by the Society of St. Tammany, also known as the Columbian Order, it commemorated the 300th anniversary of Columbus landing.

The 400th anniversary of the event inspired the first official Columbus Day holiday in the United States. President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation in 1892, "recommending to the people the observance in all their localities of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America" and describing Columbus as "the pioneer of progress and enlightenment." Since then, school programs, plays, and community festivities have been organized across the country in celebration of Columbus Day. Columbus and the Discovery of America, Imre Kiralfy’s “grand dramatic, operatic, and ballet spectacle,” is among the more elaborate tributes created for this commemoration. The World's Columbian Exposition or Chicago’s World's Fair, which opened in the summer of 1893, was designed to commemorate Columbus’ discovery of the New World 400 years earlier.  
In the decades that followed, the Knights of Columbus, an international Roman Catholic fraternal benefit society, lobbied state legislatures to declare October 12 a legal holiday. Colorado was the first state to do so on April 1, 1907. New York declared Columbus Day a holiday in 1909 and on October 12, 1909, New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes led a parade that included the crews of two Italian ships, several Italian-American societies, and legions of the Knights of Columbus.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designated Columbus Day (then celebrated October 12) a national holiday in 1934.

Since 1971, when Columbus Day was designated the second Monday in October, it has been celebrated as a federal holiday. In many locations across the country Americans hold parades to commemorate the day.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

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BATTLE OF PELELIU


NOTE: (Noah H. Belew, was a member of B Co., 1st Bn., 1st Reg., 1st Marine Division:) On September 15, 1944, U.S. Marines fighting in World War II (1939-45) landed on Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands of the western Pacific. Over the next several weeks, ferocious Japanese resistance inflicted heavy casualties on U.S. troops before the Americans were finally able to secure the island. Though the controversial attack on Peleliu resulted in a higher death toll than any other amphibious assault in U.S. military history, Allied commanders and troops learned important lessons that would benefit them during the invasion of the Philippines and the Japanese home islands.


 
On the morning of September 15, the 1st Marine Division landed on the southwest corner of Peleliu. U.S. forces had refined their amphibious strategy over a year of hard fighting, and by this time had it down to a science: Massive naval bombardment of land-based targets preceded troop landings, which were supported by strafing and bombing runs by carrier-based aircraft. The troops arrived on shore in waves, gathering on an island's beaches until they had sufficient numbers to push inland. These methods had worked in earlier landings and were expected to work again on Peleliu.

The Japanese had learned from past attacks, however, and they took a new strategy, aimed at bogging the enemy invaders down for days and inflicting massive casualties in hopes of pushing the Allies into a negotiated peace. Peleliu’s many caves, connected by networks of tunnels, allowed the Japanese to hunker down and emerge mostly unscathed from the Allied bombardment. They held out for four days before U.S. forces were even able to secure the southwest area of Peleliu, including a key airstrip. When the Marines turned north to begin their advance, they were targeted along the way by heavy artillery fire and a fusillade of small arms from Japanese forces installed in caves dug into the rocky surface of Umurbrogol Mountain, which the Marines dubbed "Bloody Nose Ridge." Over the next eight days, U.S. troops sustained about 50 percent casualties in some of the most vicious and costly fighting of the Pacific campaign.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division had secured Angaur and Ulithi, also in the Palaus, relatively quickly. Members of the 321st Regiment (and later the 323rd) were sent to aid the 1st Marine Division, arriving in time to make a renewed attack on Bloody Nose Ridge from the west on September 24. While the combined Army and Marine forces were able to envelop Japanese positions on the mountain, the Japanese still held out, and would only be dislodged after much bloodshed throughout October. More U.S. reinforcements arrived, and the ridge was finally neutralized on November 25. Characteristically, the Japanese defenders refused to surrender, and virtually all of them were killed.

The Battle of Peleliu resulted in the highest casualty rate of any amphibious assault in American military history: Of the approximately 28,000 Marines and infantry troops involved, a full 40 percent of the Marines and soldiers that fought for the island died or were wounded, for a total of some 9,800 men (1,800 killed in action and 8,000 wounded). The high cost of the battle was later attributed to several factors, including typical Allied overconfidence in the efficacy of the pre-landing naval bombardment, a poor understanding of Peleliu’s unique terrain, and overconfidence on the part of Marine commanders, who refused to admit their need for support earlier on at Bloody Nose Ridge.

On the other hand, the capture of Peleliu served as a means to MacArthur's much-desired end: the recapture of the Philippines, and the drive towards Japan's home islands. The lessons learned at Peleliu also gave U.S. commanders and forces insight into the new Japanese strategy of attrition, which they would use to their advantage in later struggles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Monday, September 4, 2017

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Irma

The National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. update Monday warned that Irma is "expected to remain a dangerous major hurricane through the upcoming week," but also cautioned that "it is too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States." The update reiterated that "everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place" with the peak of hurricane season ahead.

The current projected path of the storm -- to the south, lining up with Cuba -- would have its outer edges impacting South Florida on Sunday.