Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wordless: A Mystery Coin

This week’s mystery involves the coin you see above. There is quite a story surrounding this coin….one that involves a much larger and much more tragic story during a very difficult time in American history.

Can you tell me why this coin is important? Where was it found?

I’ll be writing about this coin next week with full disclosure, but for now…how about a guess?

Find other blogs posting wordless images here.

Last week’s explanation can be found here

Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Napoleon's Hat at the Village of Perros-Guirec?

Before we begin, please listen to some personal messages.

Jean has a long mustache.

There is a fire at the insurance agency.

The rabbit is going down his hole.

The door should be left open.

Are the nonsensical sentences I’ve written above part of some strange grammar exercise?

Are we going to diagram sentences?

As much as I like diagramming….no, I won’t do that to you.

Hmmm…..has Elementaryhistoryteacher finally lost it? Well, the answer to that question could morph into a huge debate, but no….for the most part I’m in complete control of my faculties…for now.

The sentences I’ve listed above are what you might have heard if you were part of the French Resistance during World War II and you were listening to the BBC. What seemed to be nonsensical sentences were actually coded phrases that contained pre-arranged orders for the hundreds of French Resistance groups across France.

Time and time again the nonsensical messages played a part in Allied victories across France. The people of France were alerted that the beginning of Operation Overlord, or the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, would begin in 24 hours when the first stanza of Paul Verlaine's poemChanson d’Automne or Autumn Song…was broadcast.

Resistance groups were made up of men, woman and sometimes children who heeded General Charles de Gaulle’s words after the fall of France to German occupation: But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!...Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.

When teaching World War II events it’s very easy to discuss D-Day and then slide into a quick wrap-up of the war in France. I’ve seen teachers do that time and time again, but D-Day wasn’t the only invasion into western Europe via France, and we are doing students a disservice when we create the perception that all was well and things were merely mopped up after the hit the beaches at Normandy.

This week my wordless Wednesday mystery invovled a rock formation. My clues included Europe, west, and hat. Go take a look at the image again, and THIS TIME think about Napoleon and his bicorn hat. See the resemblance?

Homeschooling Granny came the closest in her guess that the formation was called Napoleon’s Rock. She asked if the formation was in Morocco. Well, I discovered in my research that there are many rock and geographic formations called Napoleon’s Hat all over the world. I know the image I posted is not the one in Morocco, but can I testify in court it is truly the one the coded messages refer to? No, I can’t. Here is another link to an image of the Napoleon’s Hat in could or might not be the one the coded message referred to.

So what does a rock formation have to do with coded BBC messages to the French Resistance?
Well…..first you need to know that the rock formation referred to as Napoleon’s Hat is located near the village of Perros-Guirec in Brittany. The area is known as the Cote de Granit Rose (the Pink Granite Coast). While pink granite can be seen all along the coast from Tregastel to Brehat, the rock formations in Perros-Guirec are exceptional and visitors have fun analyzing what the formations resemble.

Second….it would helpful to know that following D-Day the Allied operations became bogged down among the hedgerows of the French countryside.

Finally….the significance of the Napoleon’s Hat rock formation….French Resistance members in Brittany listened day after day for the message that would alert them that their position had changed and that they could finally exert all out war and revenge on the Germans occupying their villages and towns. The nonsensical question they longed to hear was Le chapeau de Napoleon, est-il encore a Perros-Guirec? Translated the question means is Napoleon’s Hat where it has always been – at the village of Perros-Guirec?

The question signaled the impending second D-Day invasion. Yes! There were two D-Day invasions. The second one took place on July 25, 1944 eight weeks after the first one and it was referred to as Operation Cobra.

Once members of the French Resistance heard the coded message regarding Napoleon’s Hat they were able to enter into the third phase of their work. The first phase consisted primarily of identifying and attacking sabotage targets – [they] cut railways, block[ed] roads, destroy[ed} telecommunication systems – which would cause delays for the Germans. The Second phase was keeping their original targets out of order while arming themselves and training for the mass uprising that would occur in the third and final stage. The third stage would not commence until the Napoleon’s Hat message was heard signaling the beginning of Operation Cobra. The difficulty was in maintaining the careful balance between too little action, which would allow the Germans to advance to Normandy, and too little action, which would force them to retaliate and wipe out the Resistance groups before the third phase began.

Though Operation Cobra began with several friendly fire incidents due to the large number of bombs dropped from Allied airplanes the operation was a success. French Resistance groups were no longer invisible, and they excelled in their methods to frustrate the Germans in any way they could.

By July 30th, and in less than a week after the second D-Day began, a breakthrough of 60 kilometers had been made along with the taking of 18,000 prisoners. The stalemate had come to an end and the war of attrition had suddenly and dramatically been replaced by a war of movement.

My inspiration for posting the Wednesday Mystery and this article came from a fantastic book by Colin Bevan titled Operation Jedburgh - D-Day and Americas First Shadow War…..I’ll be writing more about it later.

This page has links to BBC broadcasts with personal messages

You can hear actual recorded messages here.

This web article details one of the transmitters used to send some of the nonsensical messages.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

13 Library of Congress Sound Recordings

Did you know the Library of Congress has a blog. You can find it here.

The National Recording Preservation Board, part of the Library of Congress, has released their 2008 list of recordings added to the LOC collection to maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, and for other purposes.

The entire list of the 2008 Registry can be seen at this link, but I’m presenting my favorite 13 of the 25 below.

If you don’t have Real Player you might want to download it to hear the clips. My mind is already turning over how these clips could be used to teach certain aspects of 20th Century history.

1.“At Last!,” Etta James (1961) ….Etta James’ recording of “At Last” is widely acknowledged as a “crossover” masterpiece…Her sultry, blues-inflected approach to “At Last” -- set in a brilliant strings and rhythm section arrangement by Riley Hampton -- transcends genre, like all great crossover interpretations.

2.“Rank Stranger,” Stanley Brothers (1960) ….The Stanley Brothers, one of the premier bands of the formative days of bluegrass, included sacred songs as a featured part of their performances. Their recording of “Rank Stranger,” written by famed gospel songwriter Albert E. Brumley Sr. and sung with reverence and simplicity in the traditional mountain style, shows why the Stanley Brothers continue to influence performers today.

3.“2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks,” Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961) ….The secret to living 2000 years? “Never touch fried foods!” In their party routine first performed for friends, Mel Brooks played a 2000-year-old man, while Carl Reiner, as the straight man, interviewed him. After much convincing, the two writers for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” recorded their ad-libbed dialogue for a 1961 album.

4."The Who Sings My Generation,” The Who (1966) ….On their first album, The Who, assisted by The Kinks’ producer Shel Talmy, laid down a set of tracks that would include both enduring classics and mainstays of their later concert performances. Pete Townshend penned the rebellious title track, “My Generation,” which features John Entwistle playing one of the earliest bass leads in rock.

5.“No News, or What Killed the Dog,” Nat M. Wills (1908) This recording captured a gifted monologist at his best and became one of the most popular performances on early records. The “No News” monologue, with roots in oral tradition, was one of vaudeville’s most famous and often-copied routines

6.NBC Radio coverage of Marian Anderson's recital at the Lincoln Memorial (April 9, 1939) ….By 1939, Marian Anderson had been hailed as the greatest contralto of her generation, yet she was refused the use of Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. because she was an African-American. The ensuing controversy climaxed with her historic recital on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939. There she sang to an audience of over 75,000 people, with a national radio audience of millions more. Though brief newsreel excerpts of her brilliant performance have become familiar and even iconic since that time, the contemporary impact of this live, continuous radio coverage cannot be underestimated, and it is now our most complete documentation of this key event in the struggle for civil rights.

7.“A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” Dylan Thomas (1952) Part nostalgic childhood remembrance and part poetic incantation, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” was issued with five of Dylan Thomas’ poems on Caedmon Records’ first release. According to the label’s co-founder Barbara Holdridge, Thomas arrived in the studio with insufficient material to fill an entire LP, but he remembered writing a Christmas story for Harper’s Bazaar. Holdridge and her business partner, Marianne Roney, were able to identify the piece as “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and obtained a copy from the magazine. It became one of Caedmon’s most successful releases and has been credited with launching the audiobook industry in the United States. “We had no idea of the power and beauty of this voice,” Holdridge said of Thomas’ reading, “We just expected a poet with a poet’s voice, but this was a full orchestral voice.”

8. “West Side Story,” original-cast recording (1957) While there are over 40 recordings of the score to the Broadway show “West Side Story” in various languages and styles, the original-cast recording is in many ways unequaled. The orchestra was increased to 37 for the recording, but the performances of this rich score are visceral and passionate. Bernstein’s music—with its Latin, jazz, rock and classical influences—was arguably the most demanding score heard on Broadway up to that point.

9. “Rumble,” Link Wray (1958) ….Asked for a tune that kids could dance “The Stroll” to, Link Wray came up with this powerfully menacing guitar instrumental on the spot, and the crowd went wild, demanding encores. When he couldn’t recreate the distorted sound of his live version in a studio, Wray poked holes in his amp speakers, cranked up the tremolo, and was then able to capture what he wanted in three takes -- for a cost of $57.

10. “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” George Jones (1980) ….George Jones has said that he initially thought “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was too sad to be very popular, but, at one of the lowest points of his career and personal life, he made it one of country music’s defining and most enduring songs.

11. “Tom Dooley,” The Kingston Trio (1958) ….The Kingston Trio recorded their version of “Tom Dooley” on their debut album for Capitol Records in early 1958. The song was already part of their regular set list and was also in the repertoire of other folk revivalists such as the Tarriers and the Gateway Trio. In spite of Dave Guard’s distinctive and dramatic opening narration, the song attracted little attention on its own until a Salt Lake City radio station began playing it heavily, prompting Capitol Records to place an 1866 murder ballad on a 45rpm record for the teenage market. This sparked a modern-folk revival, the influence of which would be felt throughout American popular music.

12. “Night Life,” Mary Lou Williams (1930) When a record producer asked for an impromptu solo piano performance, 20-year-old Mary Lou Williams created an original three-minute collage of stride, ragtime, blues and pop styles that summarized the art of jazz piano to that time while pointing to the future of that genre and her own career in it. At the time, she was a pianist, composer and arranger for Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy, one of the great jazz bands of the Midwest. She later said that thoughts about the nightlife of Kansas City had driven this composition.

13. “Sinews of Peace” (Iron Curtain) Speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill (March 5, 1946)…. The LOC site did not provide a link to the audio file. Here is one to a YouTube video. Lamenting the deepening shadow of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe and fearing Soviet-directed, fifth-column activities in the West, Winston Churchill delivered this opening salvo of the Cold War at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. The speech heralds an increasingly widespread feeling in the West that a tougher stance was needed toward Russia, a departure following the positive image that the country enjoyed as a wartime ally in World War II. Churchill famously pronounced that “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

View some of my other Thirteen posts here.

See what other bloggers are posting about by visiting the Thursday Thirteen hub.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless: Interesting Places

Here’s a puzzle for you….this rock formation had a very important role to play in history.

Can you guess which world history event is involved?

Here’s are a few hints….Europe, West, and hat.

Guess away. I’ll be writing more about this later with a full explanation.

Check out the Wordless Wednesday hub here

Monday, June 15, 2009

All Hail the Patriotic Squirrel

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here at Elementaryhistoryteacher Central….Recently I’ve loaded my plate up with so much stuff I’ve needed a Chinet (you know….the Cadillac of paper plates) just to tote it all around.

Sadly in my rush to get around town and cross one more thing off my to-do list I’ve been leaving dead bodies in my wake….For some crazy reason squirrels and snakes seem to jump out at me when I least expect it. So far the carnage count from last week is three squirrels and one very long snake who thought the roadway might be an interesting place to work on his or her tan.

As much as squirrels annoy me and snakes just scare me to death I don’t relish hearing the sound and feeling the thud as their little bodies thump against the tires of my car.
It devastates me to kill an animal, and it really, really ruins my day.

Though I strongly feel squirrel are just rats with good PR, I don't really want to run them down with my car. One of the bushy-tailed creatures was hit on my street….close to my home. Gee, a neighborhood squirrel….not some random squirrel I didn’t know, but one that’s probably scampered across my yard, teased my cat, or even wintered in the attic of my home. It didn’t help that Dear Daughter jumped out of the car once I wheeled in the drive and ran up the street to take pictures with her cell phone camera of the BREAKING NEWS.

Mother, Teacher, Blogwriter crushes squirrel and abandons it to die alone….Details at 11!

Oh, the shame.....

That was the first death to occur at my hand last week….by the time I had killed two additional squirrels and then ran all four wheels over a snake stretched out across the roadway I decided I must do something to appease the Animal Kingdom. Perhaps that’s the only way I can avoid killing anymore creatures.

I actually stayed in all day today just to keep the death toll at a minimum.

Then I remembered I had saved the link to a story about a Michigan squirrel. Over Memorial Day the folks at Mount Hope Cemetery near Detroit place close to 1,000 small American flags on soldier’s graves. From one day to the next cemetery workers noticed many of the flags were missing….all that was left was the wooden stick the flags had been attached to.

Hmmm…was it the work of terrorists? Anarchists? Vandalizing hoards of teens?


Just a dang squirrel….and a patriotic one at that.

My kind of squirrel! I bet it knows the pledge as well.

The little varmit detached a flag stapled to a staff and carry it up a tree to its nest in front of the cemetery superintendent. The squirrel was using the flags to line its nest.

Here's a link in case you missed the story.

So, I hope by posting this I have now appeased the animals ,and they will just stay the heck out of my way for the rest of the summer.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Remembering D-Day...

Today is D-Day….another day that does live in infamy. Over the last three years I’ve posted various things about D-Day and/or WWII in general.

We need to NEVER forget the sacrifice Americans made during WWII as well as any war before or any war after.

Here are the links:

Gliding Into D-Day….a look at how some Americans spent their morning on D-Day including one of my uncles

13 Facts Concerning the D-Day Invasion…just as it says 13 facts with some links

Other World War II articles of mine:

Razzle Dazzle and All That Jazz….covers our entry into the war a bit and discusses the unique way camouflage was used

Balloon Bombs….Did you know Americans were killed on our own soil by Japanese weapons?

Beach Red…a post regarding Tarawa…a very important but often forgotten battle during WWII and how garbage can often serve as poor reminder of a war

Fleet Problem 13....Pearl Harbor Foreshadowed…..Pearl Harbor was foreshadowed?!? Yes, yes it was

Timberwolf Up!... A very special post I wrote to remember an uncle and his war experience as he served in the 104th…..
I’ve also placed Eisenhower's D-Day Letter over at American Presidents Blog and General George S. Patton’s very colorful speech over at Georgia on My Mind.

Have a great Saturday and thank a solider or veteran today!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Implications From Dorr's Rebellion

By simply relying on the textbook my students learn that between 1840 and 1860 the number of immigrants arriving in the United States rose sharply. However, people didn’t begin streaming in the doors as the year 1840 arrived.

They had been arriving in steady ebbs and flows for years, and during the 1830s large numbers of people arrived from Ireland.

In fact, a Library of Congress site states during the 1830s approximately 150,000 immigrants from Northern Ireland reached the United States. Between 1820 and 1860 the Irish were one third of all immigrants to the United States, and by 1840 half of all immigrants were Irish.

A rise in immigrants along with new technologies due to the Industrial Revolution led to many changes in America. Urban areas grew larger while rural areas declined.

But there were other issues as well….one that escapes most textbook writers.

The story I want to share with you today is an interesting tidbit of Rhode Island history that is rooted in their colonial and immigration history, however it provides opportunities for any American History student.

The event I’m referring to is known as the Dorr Rebellion.

In order to fully under the Dorr Rebellion we need to remember how the colony of Rhode Island came to be. After Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony regarding his religious differences a charter was granted from the King of England to form a new colony. The original charter from 1663 was like many at the time….providing the vote for men who owned property. This made sense since the majority of men who immigrated to the colonies had agriculture on their minds and the process seemed fair….at the time.

Over the next several years, however, the economy of Rhode Island along with the economies of many of the Northern states changed due to the Industrial Revolution. Waves of immigrants meant that huge chunks of the population lived in urban areas and owned no land resulting in disenfranchisement. In fact, this Rhode Island history site advises by 1840, 60 percent of free adult males were unable to vote in the state.

There had been several attempts to change the charter of Rhode Island over the years, but those attempts met no success. People argued the charter had been signed by a British monarch and therefore had no place in an independent nation. Others argued that the charter violated the Article 4, Section 4 of the United States Constitution where there is a guarantee to every state in the Union that they shall have a republican form of government. The charter also provided for no amendment process.

Finally, the people of Rhode Island became tired of the ineffectiveness of their state legislators to handle the problem and they began to act on their own. In October, 1841, the People’s Convention was formed where they actually drafted a Constitution on their own. Their new Constitution provided the vote to all white men who had been residents of the state for one year. The People’s Convention and the push for a new state constitution was led by Thomas Wilson Dorr and the people around him…his supporters are often remembered as Dorrites. Unfortunately the state legislators didn’t take kindly to the people acting on their own and formed a rival conference where their Freeman’s Constitution was drafted. The People’s Constitution was ratified in popular referendum in December 1841 and under this document Dorr was elected governor in April 1842.

The reformers were resisted by a “Law and Order” coalition of Whigs and rural Democrats, who returned incumbent Governor Samuel Ward King to office in a separate election and then used force and intimidation to prevent the People’s Constitution. When Dorr responded in kind by unsuccessfully attempting to seize the state arsenal in Providence on May 18, 1842, most of his followers deserted the cause, and Dorr fled into exile. To add insult to injury Dorr’s father and uncle sided against him and took part in defending the arsenal.

The “other” governor of Rhode Island at the time also wrote President John Tyler requesting Federal toops. President Tyler had his own concerns regarding his rise to the Oval Office and knew he had to tread lightly regarding the situation. See his reaction in my article over at American Presidents Blog here.

When he returned in late June to reconvene his so-called People’s Legislature in Chepachet, a Law and Order army of twenty-five hundred marched to Glocester and sent the People’s Governor into exile a second time.

In September, 1842 another convention was called to write a new Rhode Island Constitution. This time the document provided the vote for all men regardless of color with a poll tax of $1.00. The Dorrite document had not mentioned any race other than the white population…not because Dorr wanted to refuse the vote to blacks. He had merely caved under pressure in 1840 from the white immigrant population.

For his part in the rebellion Dorr received a very harsh sentence….he was found guilty of treason and was sentenced in 1844 to solitary confinement at hard labor for life. Many people condemned the sentence and he was finally released in 1845 and his civil rights were restored in 1851. By 1854 the court judgement convicting him was set aside.

This little known chapter in Rhode Island history can have great application in the classroom today for students to analyze.

This situation provides more observation regarding the effects of the Industrial Revolution and immigration in early America that would make an interesting discussion with the addition of today’s issues surrounding legal and illegal immigration.

We also have the issue regarding the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution (Article 4, Section 4) and how President Tyler handled the request for Federal troops given that Tyler was already under attack for assuming the presidency has he did and considering he was attempting to get re-elected in his own right.

Then there is the Supreme Court case arising out of the Dorr Rebellion – Luther vs. Borden. The Constitutional question addressed in the case involved Article 4. Martin Luther was a participant in the Dorr Rebellion. He was arrested by Borden, a state official. Borden searched Luther’s home and allegedly damaged property. Luther asked the court to find that Borden had acted with no legal authority. The Supreme Court found it was up to the Executive and Legislative branch of the government to enforce Article 4, and it was outside the legal jurisdiction of the court to rule upon. The ruling established that the “republican form of government” clause was non-justiciable, and the ruling that still holds today, however, the Fourteenth Amendment includes the Equal Protection Clause.

Other questions involve “We the People” - For example, can “We the People” rise up when circumstances dictate that our government is no longer seeing to the needs of the people?
When is it acceptable to go against the people currently in power?

An essay at this site and part two of the essay provide more information regarding the Dorr Rebellion.