Sunday, June 26, 2011

Analyzing Tom Horn

Tom Horn. 

A simple name for a man yet it appears he lived a very complex life.  In fact, Tom Horn himself said of his life, “I have lived about fifteen ordinary lives.  I would like to have had somebody who saw my past and could picture it to the public.  It would be the most interesting reading in the country.”

Once guilty, now innocent, but still dead – the description the New York Times gave Tom Horn in 1993.
A man Steve McQueen chose to portray in a movie – though historians have several issues with the treatment’s accuracy.

Tom Horn is an excellent historical figure for students to analyze while learning a little about the American Southwest during the late 19th Century.   The details surrounding his life, the historical events swirling around him, and the issue of right and wrong regarding those events in relation to Mr. Horn’s actions could lead to a classroom of very engaged students on various levels.

Upon running away from home at the age of 16 Horn headed for the American Southwest.  He became involved with the Apache Wars and was hired by the U.S. Cavalry as a civilian scout.   He was a member of the party who captured Geronimo.

He became a hired gunman and took part in the Pleasant Valley War between cattle ranchers and sheep men in.

He also took a position for a time as a deputy sheriff in Arizona and later in 1899 or 1890 was an employee of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.   However, he was a suspect in a couple of killings and Horn and the agency parted ways in 1894.  Horn hired himself out as a range deputy and detective for various wealthy ranchers in Wyoming and Colorado mainly during the Johnson County War where he became involved with a few other questionable murders.  Many sources regarding Horn’s life define Horn’s job as a range deputy essentially as a killer for hire.

During the Spanish American War he served as a soldier for a brief time before coming down with malaria and returned home.

In 1901 he began working for John C. Coble, a cattle baron.   On July 18, 1901 Horn was working near Iron Mountain when a sheepherder’s son, 14-year-old Willie Nickell, was murdered.   Horn was arrested, tried, and convicted.  He was hanged for the crime in 1903 using “The Julian Gallows”, which made the condemned man actually hang himself.   It is said that Horn made the rope that was used to hang him.
Following the Nickell murder and subsequent Horn trial the cattle barons in Wyoming had less influence legally and politically.

Two great sites to visit for more regarding Tom Horn can be found here and here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The OTHER Greatest Generation

Our greatest generation, those men and women who got us through World War II, keeps getting smaller as time marches on.  In fact, it is estimated 1,000 to 1,200 men and women who lived through the Great Depression and volunteered to serve during the war are dying every day.  In just a few short years we will see the sad story on the news telling us how the very last World War II soldier has passed on.
This really hits home with me since I firmly believe that one of the most important stories regarding World War II to get across to students has to be the various stories of the people who participated in the war effort.   They volunteered, they participated, and they sacrificed.  In today’s society of entitlement and sensationalism I think it’s important for students to see a different view regarding citizenship.

Sonlight Pictures Blog explains the importance of teaching about the greatest generation much more eloquently than I can stating, “They understood that the world doesn’t revolve around them, but instead they were simply a piece of the puzzle within it and it was up to them to determine how important of a piece they would become.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t just a generation of men and women rapidly leaving us.   Another generation is almost gone.

I’m talking about the generation of heavy bombers with four engines developed in the 1930s for the United Army Air Corp.  

Yes, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress planes.

The B-17 could fly long range distances, was able to defend itself and could often withstand heavy damage in order to make its way home.  Of the 1.5 million metric tons of bombs dropped on Germany approximately 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.

During the early 30s several companies were vying for the bomber contract from the U.S. government.  In 1934, there was a “fly-off” held where the prototypes were rolled out.  Boeing’s model was quite impressive….so much so a reporter with the Seattle Times dubbed the plane a flying fortress due to the multiple machine-gun installations.   Boeing eventually trademarked the name, and it stuck.

Boeing got the contract nod, but in 1935, during a second test evaluation flight the crew forgot to engage the “gust lock”, a device that held the bomber’s moveable control surfaces in place while the aircraft was parked on the ground.  Once airborne the plane went into a steep climb, but stalled.  It then nosed over and crashed killing two crew members.  Boeing was disqualified from the contract.

However, by January, 1936 a legal loophole was found and Boeing was considered once again.  The B-17 Flying Fortress evolved as it underwent several design advances.

Discussing the use of B-17s in the war effort can bring up other interesting points for students to analyze.   There are several well documented missions and interesting pilots and crew members.  It’s important to remember Lt. Col. Nancy Love and Betty Gillies as they were the first women to fly a B-17 in 1943.   Another interesting dynamic to examine has to do with families divided by the war.  American born Captain Werner G. Goering flew B-17s.  Ironically, his uncle was commander of the German Luftwaffe, Herman Goering.  Hollywood and the world of sports had their presence in the B-17s as well.  Clark Gable had five missions under his belt as a waist gunner while Tom Landry claimed 30 missions.   Norman Lear, Gene Roddenberry, and one of my personal favorites, Jimmy Stewart all served on B-17s as well as several others.

The main image at the top of this post is a drawing created by Lt. Col. C. Ross Greening who created many such drawings while being held a prisoner at Stalag Luft 1 in Bath, Germany during 1944-45.  Greening had quite a distinguished career as a Doolittle Raider.  As a POW he distinguished himself with his art as this article suggests.

Since the war many of the B-17s have been maintained and exhibited at museums and various air shows across the nation.   However, like the men and women who flew them they are becoming worn and parts are becoming harder to locate.   Wikipedia advises there are a total of 51 surviving airframes worldwide with only 10 actively flying.

Courtesy of
Just the other day we lost another one…..the Liberty Belle, when it burned after making a crash landing per this Chicago Tribune article found here.  The Liberty Belle belonged to the Liberty Foundation.  More information regarding the plane can be found here.

You can see a video here of the Liberty Belle taking off from Peachtree-Dekalb Airport in Georgia and this video is from Rocky Mountain Municipal Airport.

The crash scene can be seen here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Even Harry Got to Go to the Beach....

I love the beach.  The sand, the sparkling water, the sound and smell of the pounding surf, walking the beach with my head down hoping….hoping…. hoping for the perfect shell find. 

The beach at morning……the beach at night…….seafood…..even the sunburn…..I love it all.
I miss the beach, and the beach misses me.  Seriously....

I hope we can reunite soon, until then I soothed my longing for the beach by doing a little research regarding Harry Truman’s White House at the beach.

Yes!   Even Harry was able to have some beach time!
Read my post over at American Presidents here!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is It Flag Day Already?!?

We drove through a little town close to our house Sunday, and they had our nation’s flag everywhere - on buildings, houses and up and down the main street every few feet. Dear Son wondered aloud what was going on, and we immediately decided that it must be early decorations for the Fourth of July. It seemed a little early, but we had been to a family reunion all day and my mind was on other things.

I had forgotten. There IS an important holiday for our nation in June every year.

Flag Day…..

….and sadly, Flag Day is often rushed through or forgotten entirely.

We remember Flag Day to commemorate the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the U.S. Flag in 1777. It is also the date they adopted the Continental Army.

Perhaps the reason the date is often glossed over is the fact it’s not an official American holiday – government offices and banks don’t close. You still get your mail. President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14th Flag Day, but it has never been an official United States’ holiday and observances are at the President’s discretion.

It doesn’t matter to my family. Our flags are flying today at our house on the front and back porch.

Are yours?

Here are a few past postings here at History Is Elementary regarding the flag…..

13 Things Concerning the Display of the Flag

The Star Spangled Banner – Why It Should Be Our Anthem

The Red Skelton Pledge

Take a few minutes and think about that rectangle of cloth and what it means to you….

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

History Hodgepodge...A Little This and That

Did you know…..32 years today CNN made its debut with a lead story regarding the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan.

New to my blogroll here at History Is Elementary is the blog Text Message, the blog of the textural archives services division of the National Archives. The most recent posting deals with the education program during World War II getting people to save their kitchen fat known as the Fat Salvage Campaign.

I wish my hometown of Atlanta would have its own free mobile app like Cleveland. The app, known as Cleveland Historical is free and developed by the Center for Public History and Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University. The app lets you explore the people, places, and monuments that shaped the city’s history per their website's “about” page.

Here’s another did you know…..a cold snap in Greenland in the 12th century may help explain why Viking settlers vanished from the islands, scientist said earlier this week in a Reuters report.

Five hundred eyes were on the President-elect as he lifted the top of the dish and gazed at the boast of Georgia……Find out what the boast of Georgia was in my most recent postings at American Presidents and Georgia on My Mind

and finally……This link will take you to my column Every Now and Then at Douglasville Patch where my very real and non-cartoon self writes every week about local history where I live. This week I write about the poor farm.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see links to past columns.

You didn’t really think I was a cartoon, did you?