John’s Believe It Or Not… May 15th

* 1885 – Louis Riel surrenders to Middleton – NW Rebellion ends after 100 days. * 1937 Madeleine Albright is born * 1941 First Allied jet flies * 1963 The flight of Faith 7 * 1982 “Ebony And Ivory” begins a seven-week run at #1 on the pop charts

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Madeleine Albright

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1885 – Louis Riel surrenders to Middleton – NW Rebellion ends after 100 days.

The North-West Rebellion (or North-West Resistance) was a violent, five-month insurgency against the Canadian government, fought mainly by Métis militants and their Aboriginal allies in what is now Saskatchewan and Alberta. It was caused by rising fear and insecurity among the Métis and Aboriginal peoples as well as the white settlers of the rapidly changing West. A series of battles and other outbreaks of violence in 1885 left hundreds of people dead, but the rebels were eventually defeated by federal troops. The result was the permanent enforcement of Canadian law in the West, the subjugation of the Métis and the Plains tribes, and the conviction and hanging of rebel leader Louis Riel.

On 1 May, Colonel Otter moved west from Battleford with 300 men and early the next day confronted the Cree and Assiniboine force just west of Cut Knife Creek, 40 km from Battleford. The Aboriginal force had enormous advantages of terrain, virtually surrounding Otter’s troops on an inclined, triangular plain. Cree war chief Fine Day deployed his soldiers successfully in wooded ravines. After about six hours of fighting, Otter retreated. Casualties would have been very high as the militia re-crossed the creek, had not Chief Poundmaker persuaded the Aboriginal warriors not to pursue the government troops. Eight of Otter’s force died; five or six Aboriginals were killed.

Otter’s setback prompted Middleton to wait two weeks for reinforcements before resuming his march toward Batoche. On the morning of 9 May, his forces attacked the carefully constructed defenses at the southern end of the Batoche settlement. The steamer Northcote, transformed into a gunboat, attempted to attack the village from the river, but the Métis lowered the ferry cable, incapacitating the boat. After a brief, intense conflict in the morning, the cautious Middleton kept the attackers at a discreet distance from the enemy positions. In the afternoon, after failing to make headway against the entrenched enemy, the troops built a fortified camp just south of Batoche.

The next two days were repeats of the first. The troops marched out in the morning, attacked the Métis lines with little success and retired to their camp at night. On 12 May Middleton tried a co-ordinated action from the east and south but the southern group failed to hear a signal gun and did not attack. In the afternoon, apparently without specific orders, two impetuous colonels led several militia units in a charge. The rebels, weary and short of ammunition, were overrun.

Eight of Middleton’s force died during the Battle of Batoche. The general later reported that 51 rebels were killed, but that number has often been disputed. Riel surrendered on 15 May; Dumont fled to Montana.

Riel under military guard after surrender.
Riel under military guard after the surrender. (Bibliothèque et Archives Canada)

* 1937 Madeleine Albright is born

On this day in 1937, Madeleine Albright, America’s first female secretary of state, is born Maria Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic).

The daughter of Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, Albright fled to England with her family after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. Though Albright long believed they had fled for political reasons, she learned as an adult that her family was Jewish and that three of her grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps. The family returned home after World War II ended but immigrated to the United States in 1948 after a Soviet-sponsored Communist coup seized power in Prague. Josef Korbel became dean of the school of international relations at the University of Denver (where he would later train another female secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice).

After graduating from Wellesley College in 1959, Albright married Joseph Medill Patterson Albright of the prominent Medill newspaper-publishing family. With an MA and PhD from Columbia University under her belt, Albright headed to Washington, D.C., where she worked for Maine’s Senator Edmund S. Muskie and served on the National Security Council in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. She and Joseph Albright divorced in 1982. During the Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Albright worked for several nonprofit organizations and taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

With a Democrat–Bill Clinton–in the White House again in 1992, Albright found herself at the center of Washington’s most powerful circle. In 1993, Clinton appointed her ambassador to the United Nations. In that post, Albright earned a reputation as a straight-talking defender of American interests and an advocate for an increased role for the U.S. in U.N. operations. In late 1996, Clinton nominated Albright to succeed Warren Christopher as U.S. secretary of state. After her nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, she was sworn in on January 23, 1997.

As secretary of state, Albright pursued an active foreign policy, including the use of military force to pressure autocratic regimes in Yugoslavia and Iraq, among other troubled regions. Her trip to North Korea in October 2000 to meet with leader Kim Jong Il made her the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit that country. She drew some criticism for her tough position on U.S. sanctions against Iraq, which led to many civilian deaths in that country and fueled the rage of Muslim extremists such as Osama bin Laden.

Albright’s term ended with the election of President George W. Bush in 2000. Though there was talk of her entering Czech politics, she returned to her teaching post at Georgetown and became chair of a nonprofit organization, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (legalinsurrection.com)

* 1941 First Allied jet flies

On May 15, 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 aircraft flies successfully over Cranwell, England, in the first test of an Allied aircraft using jet propulsion. The aircraft’s turbojet engine, which produced a powerful thrust of hot air, was devised by Frank Whittle, an English aviation engineer and pilot generally regarded as the father of the jet engine.

Whittle, born in Coventry in 1907, was the son of a mechanic. At the age of 16, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an aircraft apprentice at Cranwell and in 1926 passed a medical exam to become a pilot and joined the RAF College. He won a reputation as a daredevil flier and in 1928 wrote a senior thesis entitled Future Developments in Aircraft Design, which discussed the possibilities of rocket propulsion.

From the first Wright brothers flight in 1903 to the first jet flight in 1939, most airplanes were propeller driven. In 1910, the French inventor Henri Coanda built a jet-propelled bi-plane, but it crashed on its maiden flight and never flew again. Coanda’s aircraft attracted little notice, and engineers stuck with propeller technology; even though they realized early on that propellers would never overcome certain inherent limitations, especially in regard to speed.

After graduating from the RAF college, Whittle was posted to a fighter squadron, and in his spare time he worked out the essentials of the modern turbojet engine. A flying instructor, impressed with his propulsion ideas, introduced him to the Air Ministry and a private turbine engineering firm, but both ridiculed Whittle’s ideas as impractical. In 1930, he patented his jet engine concept and in 1936 formed the company Power Jets Ltd. to build and test his invention. In 1937, he tested his first jet engine on the ground. He still received only limited funding and support, and on August 27, 1939, the German Heinkel He 178, designed by Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain, made the first jet flight in history. The German prototype jet was developed independently of Whittle’s efforts.

One week after the flight of the He 178, World War II broke out in Europe, and Whittle’s project got a further lease of life. The Air Ministry commissioned a new jet engine from Power Jets and asked the Gloster Aircraft Company to build an experimental aircraft to accommodate it, specified as E 28/39. On May 15, 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 flew, beating out a jet prototype being developed by the same British turbine company that earlier balked at his ideas. In its initial tests, Whittle’s aircraft–flown by the test pilot Gerry Sayer–achieved a top speed of 370 mph at 25,000 feet, faster than the Spitfire or any other conventional propeller-driven machine.

As the Gloster Aircraft Company worked on an operational turbojet aircraft for combat, Whittle aided the Americans in their successful development of a jet prototype. With Whittle’s blessing, the British government took over Power Jets Ltd. in 1944. By this time, Britain’s Gloster Meteor jet aircraft were in service with the RAF, going up against Germany’s jet-powered Messerschmitt Me 262s in the skies over Europe.

Whittle retired from the RAF in 1948 with the rank of air commodore. That year, he was awarded 100,000 pounds by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors and was knighted. His book Jet: The Story of a Pioneer was published in 1953. In 1977, he became a research professor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He died in Columbia, Maryland, in 1996.

The Gloster-Whittle E28/39 was the first Allied jet aircraft
The Gloster-Whittle E28/39 was the first Allied jet aircraft. (Daily Mail)

* 1963 The flight of Faith 7

On May 15, 1963, Gordon Cooper is launched into space aboard Faith 7 on the longest American space mission to that date. Faith 7 was the capstone of Project Mercury, the NASA program that put the first American into space in 1961 and the first astronaut into orbit in 1962. Cooper completed 22 orbits of the earth and spent 34 hours in space. He was the first American astronaut to spend more than a day in space. On the afternoon of May 16, Faith 7 landed safely in the Pacific Ocean, four miles from the recovery ship Kearsarge.

Cooper was honored by parades in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., where he addressed a joint session of Congress, and in New York City, where he was greeted by a massive ticker-tape crowd. Later Shawnee, Oklahoma–Cooper’s hometown–celebrated the return of the sixth Mercury astronaut from space.

Gordon Cooper in his Mercury pressure suit as he looks over to Faith 7,
Gordon Cooper in his Mercury pressure suit as he looks over to Faith 7. (SpaceFlight Insider)

* 1982 “Ebony And Ivory” begins a seven-week run at #1 on the pop charts

Without the black keys, the white keys on a piano would pretty much be stuck playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Do Re Mi.” If you want anything more interesting than that—if you want a song like “Yesterday,” for instance—you’re going to have to get the two sets of keys working together. From this little insight, Paul McCartney crafted the biggest hit record of his post-Beatles career: “Ebony And Ivory.” Recorded as a duet with the great Stevie Wonder, “Ebony And Ivory” took the top spot in the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1982 and didn’t relinquish it until seven weeks later.

McCartney had been a fan of Stevie Wonder’s for many years before they first met. He even included a Braille message for Stevie—”We love you”—on the back of his 1973 Wings album Red Rose Speedway. Wonder spent the 1970s recording a string of incredible albums that often included songs expressing a strong social consciousness. It’s not surprising, then, that McCartney thought of Stevie Wonder as a duet partner for “Ebony And Ivory.”

Stevie Wonder agreed, and his duet with Paul McCartney not only yielded a smash-hit record that topped the charts on this day in 1982, but it also continued a trend toward pop music power-couplings that was particularly prevalent in the early 1980s. Following on the late 70s success of pairings like Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” 1978), the period from 1981-1983 witnessed a significant boom in hits from such A-list power couples, including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, 1981), “Endless Love” (Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, 1981), “Islands In The Stream” (Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, 1983) and “Say Say Say” (Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, 1983).

Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder – Ebony And Ivory (UK 12″)
Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder – Ebony And Ivory (UK 12″) (Burning The Ground)

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/north-west-rebellion/

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

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… May 15th”

  1. Super stories today, John. It amazes me how innovations like the jet engine are shoved to the back burner by those who don’t grasp the concept. “We’ve always done it this way,” is a phrase that has slowed many developments. The German jet suffered from the same problem. Had development been pushed, the battle for Briton might have taken a different turn. Interesting story on Madeline Albright.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if people, in general, are more open to new technology than those who lived in the 1940s. I’m guessing yes because the pace of the development of new technology since WWII has been breathtaking. Alternative history scenarios are always fascinating. What would the world be like today if the Nazis had developed the atomic bomb first? Thanks, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your piece on “Ebony And Ivory” brings up youthful hopes and dreams. Humm, maybe our elected officials need to listen to more music. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Methinks that the only cure for many elected officials is to be turfed out by the electorate. Otherwise, they don’t care. I thought the keyboard comparison was genius. Thanks, Gwen!

      Like

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