Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Image result for easter bunny

April 1, 2018

For the first time since 1956, Easter Sunday falls on April 1 - or April Fool's Day. Since 1900, Easter has fallen on April Fool's Day only four times - 1923, 1934, 1945 and 1956. It won't happen again until 2029.

April 1, 1945, we celebrated Easter by invading the island of Okinawa. That was the last island my First Marine Division invaded while fighting the Japanese. I also celebrated my 20th birthday after almost 3 years in World War II.
The time when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Christ, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox. The spring equinox occurs on March 20 this year.
Easter generally falls between March 22 and April 25 each year.

In addition to religious services, Easter is also celebrated with egg hunts, family gatherings and visits from the Easter Bunny, who leaves treats in children's Easter baskets.

The Easter/April Fool's combo isn't the only joint commemoration this year. In February, Valentine's Day fell on Ash Wednesday.

Origins of Easter

While the Bible does not mention "Easter," it's believed the name comes from early celebrations of the pre-Christian goddess Eostre, who was typically celebrated at the beginning of Spring. Eostre's name remained as early Christians marked the time of Jesus' resurrection and the title survived through history, though it was changed to "Easter" by English speakers.

The Easter season coincides with Passover, one of the most important festivals on the Jewish calendar. In 2018, Passover will begin on the evening of Friday, March 30 and ends in the evening of Saturday, April 7. Passover commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

Monday, March 12, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day will arrive, and once again many of my friends in the United States are getting ready for the day’s celebrations. One friend is currently in Savannah, home of the second largest St. Patrick’s Day event in the country. Friends are getting their green shirts ready for the day – for people growing up in certain parts of the United States, a failure to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day may result in you getting pinched!

While living in Dublin I was pretty surprised to find out that St. Patrick’s Day is nowhere near as big in Ireland as it tends to be in the United States, especially since the holiday originated in Ireland. This got me wondering why, so I did a little research.

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of St. Patrick, and therefore a religious holiday. St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland, who lived in Ireland in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. He wasn’t Irish; in fact, he was a Romano-Briton who was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave. In Ireland, St. Patrick was traditionally celebrated for the missionary work he performed in Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the country; the holiday is therefore a religious holiday, similar to Christmas and Easter – it’s not a celebration of Ireland like it is in the United States. These days you can find St. Patrick’s Day parades, shamrocks, and free-flowing Guinness in Ireland, but it’s mostly there because the tourists wanted it there. If not for them, it would likely have remained a day of solemnity; in fact, up until 1970 Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on St. Patrick’s Day.

So why did St. Patrick’s Day come to be such a huge deal in the United States? To Americans, especially those 36.5 million with Irish heritage, it represents something quite different than it does to the Irish living in Ireland. When close to a million poor Irish Catholics immigrated to the United States during the Great Potato Famine in the mid-1800s, they were despised for their religious beliefs and had a hard time finding even menial jobs. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States were met with contempt. When the Irish began to realize that their great numbers gave them political power, they started to organize themselves into a force. Annual St. Patrick’s Day parades, that started not in Ireland but in New York City in March of 1762, were a demonstration of strength and solidarity among a people who, at that time, were for the most part unwelcome in protestant America.

So to Irish Americans and those claiming Irish American descent, a population that currently stands at about nine times the population of Ireland itself, St. Patrick’s Day means much more than the celebration of a religious figure – it’s a day that came to represent the strength and pride of the Irish people in a foreign land. And as such it has a very important meaning here – tens of millions of Americans are both proud to be American, and proud to be of Irish ancestry. On March 17th comes their chance to celebrate as such.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Turn your clocks back an hour at 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time on March 11, Saving Time wasn't always such a routine idea.
The first Daylight Saving Time policy began in Germany on May 1, 1916, in the hopes that it would save energy during World War I, according to Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. But, though Germans were first to mess with their clocks, they likely got the idea from Britain—and from someone whose ideas about Daylight Saving had little to do with conserving fuel.

William Willett had in 1907 published The Waste of Daylight. Willett was inspired by an early-morning epiphany that “the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep” and yet there “remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal.” Though he did mention that it would save money to reduce the use of artificial lighting, his main purpose was the increase enjoyment of sunlight. He lobbied Parliament for such legislation until his death in 1915—not living to see the law passed in England shortly after it was in Germany. (Frankfurt’s daily newspaper Zeitung published this dig: “It is characteristic of England that she could not rouse herself to a decision.”)

Across the pond, the first U.S. law on Daylight Saving Time went into effect on March 19, 1918, for the same fuel saving reasons, about a year after the country entered the war. But again, though the official reason was fuel saving, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the major backer for the policy, Downing argues, because Americans getting off work while it was still light out meant they would be more likely to go out shopping in the evening.

Sports and recreation industries saw the light, too. “Golf ball sales skyrocketed during Daylight Saving Time,” according to Downing. “Baseball is a huge early supporter, too, because there’s no artificial illumination of parks, so to get school kids and workers to ball games with the extended daylight, they have a later start time.” Some even considered Daylight Saving Time a good health policy, given the extra time people had to be outdoors.

But the policy also had its opponents—”the movie industry hated Daylight Saving Time because people were much less likely to go into dark theaters when it was bright outside,” Downing says—and none more powerful than the farm lobby. That farmers advocated for Daylight Saving is a common myth. In fact, Daylight Saving Time meant they had less time in the morning to get their milk and harvested crops to market. Some warned it was “taking us off God’s time.”

“It’s so unpopular when we experiment with Daylight Saving Time during World War I that before the Versailles Treaty is signed [at the end of the war], Congress is forced to sign a repeal to quell the revolt from the farm lobby, it’s that potent a lobby,” says Downing.

There wouldn’t be another national Daylight Saving Time policy until 1942, for the duration of World War II, but New York City, however, continued to observe a metropolitan Daylight Saving Time all along. Because of the city’s position as a financial capital, other places followed. The result, Downing says, was “cities observing Daylight Saving Time surrounded by rural areas that are not, and no one can tell what time it is anywhere.” In fact, TIME’s letters department received a poem from an Ohio man about just that topic: “To miss a train or business deal, / Because our clocks are without keel / Can cause a nation loss of gold / E’en worse than all the misers hold.”

By 1966, the confusion was bad enough to prompt the Uniform Time Act. Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the first peacetime Daylight Saving Time law said that the United States policy would be to observe six months of Daylight Saving Time and six months of Standard Time. It required states to either adopt Daylight Saving Time entirely or opt out, avoiding the patchwork of cities and counties that had been so problematic, according to Downing. For example, Arizona opted out because an extra hour of daylight in the summer doesn’t make sense when it’s over 100 degrees already, as a March 1969 Arizona Republic editorial explained.

In 1973, shortly after the oil embargo went into effect, President Richard Nixon called for year-round Daylight Saving Time. A brief trial ended—partly because of fears that children would get hit by cars in the dark—but Daylight Saving Time has nevertheless grown. In 1986, the U.S. started observing seven months of it—an extra month that the golf industry and manufacturers of barbecue equipment claimed was worth between $200 million and $400 million. And since 2005, the U.S. has been observing eight months of Daylight Saving Time.

By now, the original stated purpose of the idea—saving energy—has been called into question.
While a 2008 U.S. Department of Energy report found a 0.5% decrease in total electricity use per day since the 2005 extension, other studies have found that Daylight Saving may actually fuel energy usage. For example, a 2011 study by economists Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant found that, after some Indiana counties began observing Daylight Saving, overall residential electricity consumption increased as much as 4%.

But Willett’s original point holds true: an extra hour of daylight is, generally, enjoyable—and as Daylight Saving ends and darkness begins earlier, the U.S. will once again look forward to spring to see all that sunlight in person.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the President who signed the Uniform Time Act of 1966. It was Lyndon B. Johnson.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Image result for us marines fighting in france during world war I
Remembering World War I: American Troop Ships First Arrive in France

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, the commander of U.S. Convoy Operations was ordered to organize and begin escorting the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to France. With the threat of enemy submarines, American ships crossing the Atlantic needed protection. Four cruisers, 13 destroyers, two armed yachts, and two fuel tankers gathered in New York Harbor in early June 1917 to serve as escorts. They would convoy 14 steamships and three navy transports to France with cargoes of soldiers, material, draft animals, and supplies. By the end of the war, more than 75 percent of American troops passed through New York Harbor on their way to Europe. 

In little time, the transport ships had been gathered, fitted for carrying troops, equipped with radios, and armed. The United States even utilized German ships that had been interned, or seized after the declaration of war. The American government had to be flexible and efficient in order to get troops and supplies into Europe quickly. By June 14 the ships were deemed ready to sail.

The cruiser USS Seattle, and the destroyers USS Wilkes, Terry, Roe, and later, the Fanning served as heavy escort to the USS Tenadores, Saratoga, Havana, Pastores, and the DeKalb, a captured German armed merchantman. (Merchantman is a name given to a ship, tanker, or freighter whose intended purpose is the transportation of goods and supplies, not military troops). Their orders sent them toward the port of Brest, France. Late at night on June 22, torpedoes coursed through the convoy, narrowly missing several ships.  Lt. T. VanMetre of the destroyer USS Wilkes used early passive sonar to discern the sounds of nearby U-boats. The ships scattered as planned and regrouped the morning of the 23rd.  Marines on the DeKalb were aware of the attack but some soldiers missed the incident.  A soldier of the First Division reported ?Daily rumors spread that submarines were near, but no one saw them.? The Navy later remarked on the incident to Congress. 

On the afternoon of the 24th the convoy rendezvoused with additional American destroyers stationed at Queenstown, Ireland. They escorted the ships toward France, where French aircraft could be seen patrolling for submarines. Because of U-boats off the port of Brest, they headed for Saint-Nazaire instead. The crowded troop ships arrived safely, giving the soldiers, sailors and Marines a great sense of relief.

On June 26th the landing began with Army stevedores going ashore to prepare for unloading. Company K of the 28th Infantry Regiment was the first AEF infantry unit to set foot in France. The rest of the 28th, and the 16th Infantry Regiment also came ashore that day, as did part of the 5th Marine Regiment. It was June 30th before the entire contingent could be brought ashore.  Due to the cramped port, it took stevedores assisted by Marines a few day to bring all animals, materiel and supplies ashore.
First Units to Land at St. Nazaire in Order of Arrival:
    16th Infantry Regiment            
    18th Infantry Regiment
    26th Infantry Regiment            
    28th Infantry Regiment
    5th Marine Regiment             
    Army Field Hospital No. 13                             Ambulance Company No.13                     Company C 2nd Field Signal Battalion

The first units ashore marched three miles to Camp No. 1, a site hastily constructed by German Prisoners of War. The mayor of Saint-Nazaire welcomed the Americans, who awed the citizens of the small port town.  Local French bands played in honor of the Americans, and American regimental bands returned the compliment. Shortly after arrival, the French requested that Americans march in Paris on July 4 as a symbol of the United States? entry into the war.  The 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment received a rapturous welcome in Paris from French citizens and government officials.

While less than an Army division of Americans had arrived in France by late June 1917, this small installment began the mobilization of several million American men and women. Many French ports were transformed to accommodate the arriving waves of allied support. Many of the new docks, warehouses, roads, and railroads were built by American engineer regiments. The U.S. Navy pioneered modern antisubmarine warfare, convoy escort, and refueling of ships underway. The scale and sophisticated organization of the effort amazed Americans and Europeans alike. These millions of Americans with supplies and material became the keystone of Allied victory in 1918.