John’s Believe It Or Not… October 9th

1918 – General Sir Arthur Currie leads Canadian Corps in the capture of Cambrai. 1000 Leif Ericson discovers “Vinland” (possibly L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada) reputedly becoming first European to reach North America. 1967 Che Guevara is executed. 1992 Meteorite crashes into Chevy Malibu. 1974 Oskar Schindler dies.

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Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Did you know…

* 1918 – General Sir Arthur Currie leads Canadian Corps in the capture of Cambrai.

The Battle of Cambrai in northern France took place from 27 September to 11 October 1918, during the First World War. The battle was among the Canadian Corps’ most impressive tactical victories of the war, particularly because of the Canadians’ skillful use of military engineers. It was part of a series of connected battles at the start of the Hundred Days Campaign, which would lead to the defeat of Germany and the end the war.

After years of grinding stalemate in the vast trench works of the Western Front, the armies of France, Britain and their empires had by that summer finally found ways of beating the Germans — using new battlefield tactics and weapons. The Allies were also assisted by the arrival of fresh US troops into the war. Emboldened by their decisive victory at Amiens earlier that year, Allied commanders decided to stay on the offensive in the fall of 1918. They launched multiple attacks against German strongpoints throughout northern France, including an attack on enemy forces holding the city of Cambrai – an important railway and supply hub for the German army.

Cambrai was not only heavily defended by German forces, it was surrounded by interlocking man-made canals that were naturally difficult for infantry soldiers and tanks – one of the newest battlefield weapons – to cross. The canals were also guarded by enemy machine-gun posts, barbed wire, and other defenses.

To get into Cambrai, Allied forces would need to cross the Canal du Nord to the west of the city, as well as seize the heights of Bourlon Wood, a forested hill that overlooked its banks. The difficult task of capturing these two obstacles was given to the Canadian Corps, under the leadership of Lieutenant General Arthur Currie. Their job was made even tougher because the Germans had flooded much of the land surrounding the canal and the woods.

Currie spent the latter part of September carefully planning the attack. Canadian and British engineers were given expanded resources and manpower and ordered to construct bridges to be used in the attack across the canal, and tramway lines for transporting artillery and other supplies to the battlefield.

On the morning of 27 September the Canadian Corps, with British forces on its flanks, assaulted a dry portion of the partially excavated canal, following in the wake of a moving, or creeping, artillery barrage that kept German defenders down in their dugouts or concrete machine-gun posts. By nightfall, after a day of stiff fighting, the canal had been crossed and secured, and Bourlon Wood captured.

For the next several days the Canadians fended off heavy German counterattacks. Throughout the battle, they were assisted over the difficult and often-flooded terrain by engineers who repaired roads and hastily assembled bridges for infantry and artillery. With Cambrai’s outer defenses overrun, the city was captured and liberated by the Allies on 11 October.

The Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade
The Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade (commons.wikimedia.org)

* 1000 Leif Ericson discovers “Vinland” (possibly L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada) reputedly becoming first European to reach North America.

Leif Erikson or Leif Ericson (c. 970 – c. 1020) was a Norse explorer from Iceland. He was the first known European to have discovered continental North America (excluding Greenland), before Christopher Columbus (or possibly Saint Brendan). According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, tentatively identified with the Norse L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada. Later archaeological evidence suggests that Vinland may have been the areas around the Gulf of St. Lawrence and that the L’Anse aux Meadows site was a ship repair station.

Leif and his crew traveled from Greenland to Norway in 999 AD. Blown off course to the Hebrides and staying for much of the summer, he arrived in Norway and became a hirdman of King Olaf Tryggvason. He also converted to Christianity and was given the mission of introducing the religion to Greenland. The Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders, both thought to have been written around 1200, contain different accounts of the voyages to Vinland. The only two known strictly historical mentions of Vinland are found in the work of Adam of Bremen c. 1075 and in the Book of Icelanders compiled c. 1122 by Ari the Wise. According to the Saga of Erik the Red, Leif apparently saw Vinland for the first time after being blown off course on his way to introduce Christianity to Greenland.

According to a literal interpretation of Einar Haugen’s translation of the two sagas in the book Voyages to Vinland, Leif was not the first European to discover America: he had heard the story of merchant Bjarni Herjólfsson who claimed to have sighted land to the west of Greenland after having been blown off course. Bjarni reportedly never made landfall there, however. Later, when traveling from Norway to Greenland, Leif was also blown off course, to a land that he did not expect to see, where he found “self-sown wheat fields and grapevines”. He next rescued two men who were shipwrecked in this country and went back to Greenland (and Christianised the people there). Consequently, if this is to be trusted, Bjarni Herjólfsson was the first European to see America beyond Greenland, and the two unnamed shipwrecked men were the first people known to Europeans to have made landfall there.

Leif then approached Bjarni, purchased his ship, gathered a crew of thirty-five men, and mounted an expedition towards the land Bjarni had described. His father Erik was set to join him but dropped out after he fell from his horse on his way to set sail, an incident he interpreted as a bad omen. Leif followed Bjarni’s route in reverse and landed first in a rocky and desolate place he named Helluland (Flat-Rock Land; possibly Baffin Island). After venturing further by sea, he landed the second time in a forested place he named Markland (Forest Land; possibly Labrador). Finally, after two more days at sea, he landed in a verdant area with a mild climate and plentiful supplies of salmon. As winter approached, he decided to encamp there and broke his party into two groups – one to remain at camp and the other to explore the country. During one of these explorations, Tyrker discovered that the land was full of vines and grapes. Leif, therefore, named the land Vinland. There, he and his crew built a small settlement, which was called Leifsbudir (Leif’s Booths) by later visitors from Greenland. After having wintered over in Vinland, Leif returned to Greenland in the spring with a cargo of grapes and timber. On the return voyage, he rescued an Icelandic castaway and his crew, earning him the nickname “Leif the Lucky”.

Leif Erikson and Vikings in Canada
Leif Erikson and Vikings in Canada (About Canadian History – WordPress.com)

* 1967 Che Guevara is executed.

On this day in 1967, socialist revolutionary and guerrilla leader Che Guevara, age 39, is killed by the Bolivian army. The U.S.-military-backed Bolivian forces captured Guevara on October 8 while battling his band of guerillas in Bolivia and assassinated him the following day. His hands were cut off as proof of death and his body was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1997, Guevara’s remains were found and sent back to Cuba, where they were reburied in a ceremony attended by President Fidel Castro and thousands of Cubans.

Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna was born to a well-off family in Argentina in 1928. While studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, he took time off to travel around South America on a motorcycle; during this time, he witnessed the poverty and oppression of the lower classes. He received a medical degree in 1953 and continued his travels around Latin America, becoming involved with left-wing organizations. In the mid-1950s, Guevara met up with Fidel Castro and his group of exiled revolutionaries in Mexico. Guevara played a key role in Castro’s seizure of power from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and later served as Castro’s right-hand man and minister of industry. Guevara strongly opposed U.S. domination in Latin America and advocated peasant-based revolutions to combat social injustice in Third World countries. Castro later described him as “an artist of revolutionary warfare.”

Guevara resigned—some say he was dismissed—from his Cuban government post in April 1965, possibly over differences with Castro about the nation’s economic and foreign policies. Guevara then disappeared from Cuba, traveled to Africa and eventually resurfaced in Bolivia, where he was killed. Following his death, Guevara achieved hero status among people around the world as a symbol of anti-imperialism and revolution. A 1960 photo taken by Alberto Korda of Guevara in a beret became iconic and has since appeared on countless posters and T-shirts. However, not everyone considers Guevara a hero: He is accused, among other things, of ordering the deaths of hundreds of people in Cuban prisons during the revolution.

A 1960 photo taken by Alberto Korda of socialist revolutionary and guerrilla leader Che Guevara, age 39, is killed by the Bolivian army.
On this day in 1967, socialist revolutionary and guerrilla leader Che Guevara, age 39, is killed by the Bolivian army. (Bowie News) A 1960 photo taken by Alberto Korda.

* 1992 Meteorite crashes into Chevy Malibu.

On this day in 1992, 18-year-old Michelle Knapp is watching television in her parents’ living room in Peekskill, New York when she hears a thunderous crash in the driveway. Alarmed, Knapp ran outside to investigate. What she found was startling, to say the least: a sizeable hole in the rear end of her car, an orange 1980 Chevy Malibu; a matching hole in the gravel driveway underneath the car; and in the hole, the culprit: what looked like an ordinary, bowling-ball-sized rock. It was extremely heavy for its size (it weighed about 28 pounds), shaped like a football and warm to the touch; also, it smelled vaguely of rotten eggs. The next day, a curator from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City confirmed that the object was a genuine meteorite.

Scientists estimate that the Earth is bombarded with about 100 pounds of meteoric material every day. Meteorites are pieces of asteroids and other debris made of rock, iron, and nickel that have been orbiting in space for billions of years. Some are as tiny as dust particles and others are as huge as 10 miles across; most, however, are about the size of a baseball. Astronomers and other people who pay attention to the night sky can easily see them: When a meteorite enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it blazes across the sky like a fireball. (What most people call “shooting stars” are actually meteorites.) Thousands of people in the eastern United States saw the greenish Peekskill meteorite as it streaked toward Knapp’s Malibu and many heard it too: one witness said that it crackled like a very loud sparkler. Scientists have determined that it came from the inner edge of the main asteroid belt in space, between Jupiter and Mars.

While meteorites are fairly common, a meteorite hitting a car is not: A car is, after all, a very small object on a very large planet. In fact, as far as scientists know it has only happened twice before–once in Illinois during the 1930s and once in St. Louis. Eventually, the famous Knapp meteorite was sold to a collector and two fossil dealers, who broke it into smaller chunks and sold those to a handful of other collectors and museums. The car, meanwhile, sold for $10,000 to Lang’s Fossils and Meteorites in Cranford, New Jersey. It has been on display in New York, Paris, Munich, and Tokyo.

The Chevy Malibu struck by the Peekskill meteorite fall of 1992 in New York.
The Chevy Malibu struck by the Peekskill meteorite fall of 1992 in New York. (peekskill.rocks)

* 1974 Oskar Schindler dies.

German businessman Oskar Schindler, credited with saving 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust, dies at the age of 66.

A member of the Nazi Party, he ran an enamel-works factory in Krakow during the German occupation of Poland, employing workers from the nearby Jewish ghetto. When the ghetto was liquidated, he persuaded Nazi officials to allow the transfer of his workers to the Plaszow labor camp, thus saving them from deportation to the death camps. In 1944, all Jews at Plaszow were sent to Auschwitz, but Schindler, at great risk to himself, bribed officials into allowing him to keep his workers and set up a factory in a safer location in occupied Czechoslovakia. By the war’s end, he was penniless, but he had saved 1,200 Jews.

In 1962, he was declared a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official agency for remembering the Holocaust. According to his wishes, he was buried in Israel at the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion.

Left: Oskar Schindler; Right: Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler
Left: Oskar Schindler; Right: Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler

Today’s Sources: 

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

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                      http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-cambrai/

* 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/

* Wikipedia                                                                                 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leif_Erikson  

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.

17 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… October 9th”

  1. I wonder who our Schindlers are today? And why we don’t have a lot more stories in the press about men and women of his ilk and a lot fewer words about Orange and his. I think press coverage unbalances the truth of our world.

    You make a good point about his membership in the Nazi party supporting his bid to save so many. But then, most of Germany joined the party in those dark days to avoid being sent to camps of one sort or another.

    I agree with you about Che – violence is never acceptable – and inciting violence in others is even less so. We humans are certainly taking a long time to get the message: you can’t make peace with elements of its opposite.

    I didn’t know the meteorite story either – but I was happy to read that the girl got some money to replace her car. As for the vikings – amazingly daring souls. Probably seeding ADD around the world – lol. I mean, what else would inspire a cadre of men to repeatedly take off to cross the ocean in an open boat for the sake of “discovering” a new land? 🙂
    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. Well said, Madelyn. I’m sure there are many unsung heroes in the world each day, but let’s face it, good news doesn’t sell like bad news. So DT gets way too much attention and will probably be “Newsmaker of the Year”. Now the Vikings were a courageous lot – but the truth is that they were land hungry. Good arable land was pretty scarce in their neck of the woods – so sons who would not inherit needed to look elsewhere. Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course – but still they’d have to be “risk-seeking” types to choose that alternative repeatedly. Those who survived passed their genes along over time.

        I often wonder if a concerted effort could change our addiction to the adrenaline hit of bad news and gentle our societies. Of course, our news producers won’t even try it if WE keep “buying” their bad news focus.

        I wanted to buy a sweater in my size from a Gap store years ago and was told that, even though they had a guaranteed sale, they could ONLY replace what had already sold. Since they never stocked that sweater in my size, their computer system wouldn’t let them, no matter how many people requested it. NO way to compensate for an original ordering mistake. Truly stupid sales model, but they’ll never know it with the system they originally decided to use.

        I guess the b-schools are teaching that model – my local hardware store uses it today, even though I’ve requested a particular copper cleaner that is THE best and explained every time that I’m not going to go from store with a shopping list, I’m going to buy it ALL from the store that carries the products that are important to me.

        SUCH a misunderstanding of “economies of scale.” ::sigh:: Life ain’t logical, and corporate capitalists live by and die by metrics. They can’t measure data they don’t capture in the first place so ALL they can do is reinforce their paradigm

        Guy stands on the corner waving his arms wildly – every day and in all kinds of weather.
        Man asks guy why. “To keep the tigers away”
        “But there ARE no tigers in New York City,” says the man.
        “SEE?” says the guy, “It works!”
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The meteorite story cracked me up. A Chevy Malibu of course. The Shindler story is one that should be retold many times. It stands as an example of someone who saw a way to help and did it. Che Guevara was a very charismatic leader. I remember in college we all thought he was terrific. It didn’t really matter that he wanted us all dead we simply admired him as someone who knew what he wanted and went for it. I can’t imagine the Vikings crossing large bodies of water in open boats. Thanks, John. Super episode.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Men like Oskar Schindler set the standard for human potential. He was an amazing person. Thank you for reminding us that there’s reason for hope. And, on a light note, I don’t recall anything about the meteorite – even though I was working not far from Peekskill. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m happy not being alone in not remembering about the meteorite story, Gwen! Yes, Schindler was very special to exercise the courage it took to help those workers. There’s lots of good in this world even in the face of the worst evil. Thanks, Gwen!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Never heard that meteorite story before. What are the odds?—apparently extremely slim!

    I’ve never watched Schindler’s List, but after reading your snippet about him, I think I will. What an amazing man!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Schindler was a brave man, wasn’t he?
    Che was an icon who stood for something beyond himself.
    I left a review for your book on Amazon. I really enjoyed it. It’s all about the kids, relationship and genuine love. Teaching – you can’t beat it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Schindler was a very brave man – and I wonder if he would have gotten away with saving those workers if he wasn’t a member of the Nazi Party. Thanks for the review, Opher – I hope to return the favour soon.

      Like

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