Vikings Beware! There Be Scots Here!

Vikings were afraid of SCOTLANDVikings were feared throughout Northern Europe for more than 300 years. The mere mention of these fierce Norse warriors was enough to turn the most battle-hardened soldier weak at the knees. There was one place, though, where even the Vikings trembled and avoided when possible: Scotland. Continue reading

The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived two nuclear bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi could tell you stories about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was working for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and on August 6, 1945 his work took him to the city of Hiroshima, Japan. At 8:15 a.m. the sky ignited with the explosion of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over much of his body.  Continue reading

An Island of Gallantry

Malta award of George Cross

The George Cross is the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded for gallantry “not in the face of the enemy” to members of the British armed forces and to civilians.

In 1942 King George VI recognized the heroism exhibited by the people of Malta by awarding the people of the entire island with the George Cross. He awarded this distinction in a hand-written letter on April 15, 1942.

If you wish to address a letter to someone in Malta, the address should end with “Malta, G.C.”

George VI George Cross Malta
Letter from King George VI, awarding the George Cross to the entire population of Malta.

Military Genius and Mental Madness

Field Marshal Blucher delusions pregnant with elephant

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher rose to distinction in the Prussian military in his campaigns against Napoleon, earning the rank of Field Marshal.

He was also barking mad.

Blücher was paralyzed by fear for days at a time, perched in his chair, convinced that the French had made the floor too hot for him to stand upon. When he was forced to move from his chair, he danced from spot to spot, trying to stand on only one toe.

He also believed he had been sexually assaulted by a French soldier and as a result, he was pregnant and about to give birth to an elephant. His servants tried to mollify him by assuring him that it could be worse — he could have been raped by a French elephant, but nothing would calm his nerves.

Field Marshal Blücher had many fights with people only he could see, resulting in the destruction of a lot of furniture. When he was convinced that his head had been turned to stone, he pleaded with a servant to smash his head with a hammer.


Speedy Pit Stop

How fast do jets refuel in midair?

Mid-air refueling is impressive by any standard. For two or more aircraft to join together while flying at 300 mph, it requires pilot skill and technological sophistication well beyond average.

Among the many impressive things about this feat is how quickly it happens. Modern refueling tankers deploy fuel at a rate of about 6,000 pounds per minute. An  F/A-18 Hornet, with a fuel capacity of 4,460 lbs., can get topped off in well under a minute.

To put that in context, if you were driving a large pickup with a massive fuel tank of 38 gallons, it would take 1.8 seconds to refuel if your gas station’s pump worked as quickly as an aerial fuel tanker.


Throw it All Away — But Be Sure to Keep It All

Ronald Reagan Army Make Copies Before Destroying Documents

President Ronald Reagan devoted his presidency to combating an ever-growing and intrusive federal government. He recounted his days in the Army Air Force during World War II when he first faced the bureaucratic mindset:

“I remember one of my first experiences with government was as an adjutant for an Army Air Corps base in World War II. There was a warehouse filled with files, and the files containing documents and records and so forth — but which upon going at them you recognized that they were of no historical value. And they were totally useless, their time had passed them by. So, we started a message in the usual military style of sending a message, endorsing it up to the next in command, asking permission to destroy those papers so we could make use of the files for current documents. And then the next echelon — they endorsed it up and up and up, and finally to the top command. And then back down through the channel it came, and the answer was yes. We could destroy those papers, providing we made copies of each and every one.”

Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1987 (October 9).

No Erasing Presidential Pencil

Is it legal to use pencil to sign contracts or legal documents?

Armchair lawyers often throw around caution about the color of ink that is needed when signing a legal document, and they certainly do not approve of using a pencil. If there was ever any doubt about the legality of pencil-written missives, consider the outcome of one such document.

On July 31, 1945 President Harry S. Truman was in Potsdam, Germany for his meeting with the leaders of the Allies. He received an urgent top-secret cable from the War Department, advising him that preparations for use of the atomic bomb were complete, and the President’s final approval was needed for its scheduled use.

President Truman considered the communique. Making his decision, he flipped the pink paper over, and on its back he wrote these words — in pencil:

Sec WarHarry Truman order approving use of atomic bomb
Reply to your 41011 suggestions approved. Release when ready but not sooner than
August 2.

No one has challenged the legality of this use of the Presidential pencil.