John’s Believe It Or Not… July 10th

In 1943 – Canadian Army 1st Infantry Division and 1st Tank Brigade invade Sicily as part of Operation Husky. In 1778 American Revolution: Louis XVI of France declares war on the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1925 Monkey Trial begins. In 1985 The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. In 1992 The Exxon Valdez captain’s conviction is overturned.

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John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

Oh-Oh, It’s Monday! Did you know…

* 1943 – Canadian Army 1st Infantry Division and 1st Tank Brigade invade Sicily as part of Operation Husky. (Canada’s longest Second World War army campaign was in Italy. Canadian forces served in the heat, snow, and mud of the grinding, nearly two-year Allied battle across Sicily and up the Italian peninsula — prying the country from Germany’s grip, at a cost of more than 26,000 Canadian casualties.

Operation Husky

Canada’s Italian campaign started on 10 July 1943 when the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade began Operation Husky — the seaborne invasion of the island of Sicily. The Italian defenders were quickly overwhelmed and the Canadians advanced on Pachino and its strategic airport. Nightfall saw most of the Canadian units either on or past every initial objective. Only seven men had died and 25 others were wounded.
On 11 July the Canadians were delayed, not as much by the enemy opposition than by thousands of Italian troops wanting to surrender. The Canadians followed an inland route that guarded the British Eight Army’s left flank up the eastern coastline toward Catania and the ultimate objective of the Strait of Messina, which divides Sicily from the Italian mainland.

With the Italian army’s rapid collapse, several German divisions hurriedly established a series of defensive lines. Canadian troops encountered such a line on 15 July near Grammichele. Enemy antitank guns knocked out one tank, three carriers, and several trucks before the Canadians rallied and carried the town. Having inflicted 25 Canadian casualties, the Germans withdrew.
German tactics in Sicily were a precursor for those applied throughout the Italian campaign. This entailed heavily-entrenched fortifications set on an ideal defensive terrain of ridges, mountains, and rivers. When one line was breached the Germans quickly withdrew to another.)

1st Canadian Division hauling transport up from the beach, Pachino, Sicily.
1st Canadian Division hauling transport up from the beach, Pachino, Sicily. (legionmagazine.com)

* 1778 American Revolution: Louis XVI of France declares war on the Kingdom of Great Britain. (France, despite its financial difficulties, used the occasion of the American Revolutionary War (1776–1781) to weaken its arch-rival in European and world affairs, Britain. Independence for the colonies would seriously damage the British Empire and create a rising power, the United States, that could be allied with France.

Some argue France primarily sought revenge against Britain for the loss of territory in America in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. However, Dull, in 1975, argued that France intervened because of dispassionate calculation, not because of Anglophobia or a desire to avenge the loss of Canada. French participation reflected the desperate French diplomatic position on the European continent. The war was a tragic failure for France: American independence failed to weaken Britain. The Spanish navy was vital to the maintenance of the military initiative by the allies. France was desperate for peace but did not attempt to betray the United States. The French government was overwhelmed by debt maintenance, but war led to the financial crisis “which provided the immediate occasion for the release of those forces which shattered the French political and social order.”

The French entered the war in 1778 and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain (realized in the 1783 Treaty of Paris). Its status as a great modern power was affirmed and its taste for revenge was satisfied, but the war was detrimental to the country’s finances.

Even though French territory was not affected, victory in a war against Britain with battles like the decisive siege of Yorktown in 1781 had a large financial cost (one billion livre tournois) which severely degraded fragile finances and increased the deficit in France. Even worse, France’s hope to become the first commercial partner of the newly-established United States was not realized, and Britain immediately became the United States’ main trade partner. Pre-war trade patterns were largely kept between Britain and the US, with most American trade remaining within the British Empire. Recognition of France’s participation in the Revolution was mainly manifested in the United States’ appreciation of French military heroes like the Comte de Rochambeau and the Marquis de Lafayette. France’s hope to regain its territories in the United States ( Nouvelle-France) was also lost.The weakening of the French state, the example of the American Revolution, and the rising visibility of viable alternatives to the absolute monarchy were all factors that helped influence the French Revolution.

The weakening of the French state, the example of the American Revolution, and the rising visibility of viable alternatives to the absolute monarchy were all factors that helped influence the French Revolution.)

1778 Treaty of Alliance France France joins the colonists effort against the British
1778 Treaty of Alliance France France joins the colonists’ effort against the British (slideplayer.com)

* 1925 Monkey Trial begins. (In Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called “Monkey Trial” begins with John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law.

The law, which had been passed in March, made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” With local businessman George Rappalyea, Scopes had conspired to get charged with this violation, and after his arrest, the pair enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to organize a defense. Hearing of this coordinated attack on Christian fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate, and a fundamentalist hero, volunteered to assist the prosecution. Soon after, the great attorney Clarence Darrow agreed to join the ACLU in the defense, and the stage was set for one of the most famous trials in U.S. history.

On July 10, the Monkey Trial got underway, and within a few days, hordes of spectators and reporters had descended on Dayton as preachers set up revival tents along the city’s main street to keep the faithful stirred up. Inside the Rhea County Courthouse, the defense suffered early setbacks when Judge John Raulston ruled against their attempt to prove the law unconstitutional and then refused to end his practice of opening each day’s proceeding with prayer.

Outside, Dayton took on a carnival-like atmosphere as an exhibit featuring two chimpanzees and a supposed “missing link” opened in town, and vendors sold Bibles, toy monkeys, hot dogs, and lemonade. The missing link was, in fact, Jo Viens of Burlington, Vermont, a 51-year-old man who was of short stature and possessed a receding forehead and a protruding jaw. One of the chimpanzees–named Joe Mendi–wore a plaid suit, a brown fedora, and white spats, and entertained Dayton’s citizens by monkeying around on the courthouse lawn.

In the courtroom, Judge Raulston destroyed the defense’s strategy by ruling that expert scientific testimony on evolution was inadmissible–on the grounds that it was Scopes who was on trial, not the law he had violated. The next day, Raulston ordered the trial moved to the courthouse lawn, fearing that the weight of the crowd inside was in danger of collapsing the floor.

In front of several thousand spectators in the open air, Darrow changed his tactics and as his sole witness called Bryan in an attempt to discredit his literal interpretation of the Bible. In a searching examination, Bryan was subjected to severe ridicule and forced to make ignorant and contradictory statements to the amusement of the crowd. On July 21, in his closing speech, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed. Under Tennessee law, Bryan was thereby denied the opportunity to deliver the closing speech he had been preparing for weeks. After eight minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Raulston ordered Scopes to pay a fine of $100, the minimum the law allowed. Although Bryan had won the case, he had been publicly humiliated and his fundamentalist beliefs had been disgraced. Five days later, on July 26, he lay down for a Sunday afternoon nap and never woke up.

In 1927, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the Monkey Trial verdict on a technicality but left the constitutional issues unresolved until 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar Arkansas law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.)

Political Cartoon: "What Would Their Verdict Be?"
“What Would Their Verdict Be?” (Pinterest)

* 1985 The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. (In Auckland harbor in New Zealand, Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior sinks after French agents in diving gear plant a bomb on the hull of the vessel. One person, Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira, was killed. The Rainbow Warrior, the flagship of international conservation group Greenpeace, had been preparing for a protest voyage to a French nuclear test site in the South Pacific.

Two days after the incident, French authorities denied responsibility for the bombing and continued to do so even after New Zealand police arrested two French secret service agents in Auckland. Under pressure from New Zealand authorities, the French government formed an inquiry to investigate the incident and after several weeks concluded that the French agents were merely spying on Greenpeace. Later in the year, however, a British newspaper uncovered evidence of French President Francois Mitterrand’s authorization of the bombing plan, leading to several top-level resignations in Mitterrand’s cabinet and an admission by French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius that the agents had sunk the vessel under orders.

In Auckland, the two agents pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of manslaughter and willful damage and were each sentenced to 10 years in prison. Following negotiations with the French government, New Zealand released them a year later. In 1992, President Mitterrand ordered a halt to French nuclear testing, but in 1995 it was resumed, and Greenpeace sent The Rainbow Warrior II to French Polynesia to protest and disrupt the tests.)

The Rainbow Warrior, its hull holed, listing in Auckland Harbour.
The Rainbow Warrior, its hull holed, listing in Auckland Harbour. (home.bt.com)

* 1992 The Exxon Valdez captain’s conviction is overturned. (The Alaska court of appeals overturns the conviction of Joseph Hazelwood, the former captain of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. Hazelwood, who was found guilty of negligence for his role in the massive oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989, successfully argued that he was entitled to immunity from prosecution because he had reported the oil spill to authorities 20 minutes after the ship ran aground.

The Exxon Valdez accident on the Alaskan coast was one of the largest environmental disasters in American history and resulted in the deaths of 250,000 sea birds, thousands of sea otters and seals, hundreds of bald eagles and countless salmon and herring eggs. The ship, 1,000 feet long and carrying 1.3 million barrels of oil, ran aground on Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989, after failing to return to the shipping lanes, which it had maneuvered out of to avoid icebergs. It later came to light that several officers, including Captain Hazelwood, had been drinking at a bar the night the Exxon Valdez left port. However, there wasn’t enough evidence to support the notion that alcohol impairment had been responsible for the oil spill. Rather, poor weather conditions and preparation, combined with several incompetent maneuvers by the men steering the tanker, were deemed responsible for the disaster. Captain Hazelwood, who had prior drunk driving arrests, had a spotless record as a tanker captain before the Valdez accident.

Exxon compounded the environmental problems caused by the spill by not beginning the cleanup effort right away. In 1991, a civil suit resulted in a billion-dollar judgment against them. However, years later, while their appeal remained backlogged in the court system, Exxon still hadn’t paid the damages.

The Exxon Valdez was repaired and had a series of different owners before being bought by a Hong Kong-based company, which renamed it the Dong Fang Ocean. It once again made headlines in November 2010 when it collided with another cargo ship off of China.)

Map Showing the spread of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez.
(Explore North)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport       http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today   http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/italian-campaign/

 

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

34 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 10th”

  1. I’m amazed by all that I realize I didn’t know when I read your posts here! I didn’t recognize the Rainbow Warrior and then when I read the story I thought ‘wow shame on me for not knowing that’. Thank you for this informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I choose obscure stories that are often omitted from History texts. I select them because they are interesting or they are relevant to something going on today, Christy. As long as you’re enjoying the learning, I’m happy. Thanks for leaving your thoughts. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The literal interpretation of practically anything is rarely necessary or helpful – science and religion don’t have to stand in opposition to one another and I look forward to the time when they are no longer.

        In any case, I learned some things about the Scopes trial I didn’t know – as always happens with the info you share in these posts. Thank you.
        xx,
        mgh
        (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
        ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
        “It takes a village to educate a world!”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree that religion and science don’t need to be in opposition to each other. However, the Christian church has been picking fights with scientists for many centuries. If they would just stick to spiritual matters and guiding people to live well by respecting and caring for each other, these kinds of problems would go away. Thanks for the kind words, Madelyn! Hugs.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember the Valdez catastrophe well, but had no idea the captain’s conviction had been overturned….nor that Exxon took years to pay the damages. I always learn something from your posts, John!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Natalie. I remember hearing about it in school when we were taught the theory of Evolution in Science class. A fascinating look at the clash between Creationists and those supporting Evolution!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband’s grandfather was stationed in Italy during that period of WW2 as well. South Africans may well have with the Canadians in Italy. I read a book called Morgan’s Run which is about the impact of the American revolution on the English at that time – very interesting and sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure it’s possible that Canadians and South Africans fought together in the Italian Campaign. I remember reading an account that suggested that the British Regulars had little stomach for the Revolutionary War because the colonists were not foreign enemies – they were Englishmen like themselves. An interesting thought. Thanks for leaving your thoughts, Robbie!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Goodness…I’m forever stunned by the actions of humans. I didn’t realize that the Valdez conviction was overturned, nor did I know how the Rainbow Warrier sank. Both stories captured my attention today. As always, thank you for the reminder of the good…and not-so-good that we can promote or discourage. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I’ve stated before, Gwen, the appeal of History for me is that it puts the present in a better perspective. Sometimes it gives us a sense that we’re making some progress in certain areas. Thanks for stopping by with your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi John. Thanks for a truly interesting day in the life of our planet. The name Rainbow Warrior didn’t ring a bell with me — I was astonished by your write-up there. Also I didn’t remember the Valdez conviction being overturned. Interesting day indeed. Wishing you a great new week. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Another set of historical wonders, John.
    My father fought in that battle you describe. He landed in Sicily and fought up through Italy. He was a despatch rider and became stationed in Naples. Italian culture and food was an eye-opener for him. He was a young man and stayed with a lovely Italian family who treated him like a son. Sadly he never went back.
    The monkey trial still resonates. There are still people who believe literally in every word in the Bible, Koran, and the rest. There are still people who believe human beings aren’t animals like all the rest.
    I remember the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior by the French frogmen laying their limpet mines. What a scandalous thing to do.
    The Exxon Valdez was one of many environmental disasters that should never have happened. Those people, and the company, should have been severely dealt with.
    I wonder if the French had not backed the revolution or declared war what might have happened? We would have a different world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your insights and thought-provoking questions, Opher. My father never made it out of Canada during the war – he was stationed in Nova Scotia training military vehicle drivers. I am saddened by people who accept sacred writings to the exclusion of all else. I admired the courage of the people who sailed those Greenpeace ships – such dedication. Exxon got off pretty lightly. There just is no safe way to transport oil – I’ll be glad when our dependence on fossil fuels is at an end. Your question about the American Revolution would be a great premise for an alternative history novel!

      Liked by 1 person

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