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    Bernard Montgomery










    Erwin Rommel

    October 23, 1942: The Second Battle of El Alamein begins.

    Seventy years ago, the North African campaign reached its climax when Allied forces decisively defeated German-Italian forces at the coastal Egyptian town of El Alamein. At the First Battle of El Alamein, which took place in July of 1942, the Allied and Axis armies fought to a stalemate, although the Axis advance into Egypt (and toward the Suez Canal) was halted temporarily. The twelve-day second clash pit forces commanded by Erwin Rommel against those under the newly-appointed commander of the Eighth Army, Bernard Montgomery. Rommel was outnumbered in nearly every way possible. The Allied force had more men (British, Australian, South African, Greek, French, even Indian), more tanks, more cars, more artillery, and more aircraft; granted, the Allies had also outnumbered their foes at their first engagement at El Alamein, but now their advantage was almost overwhelming, particularly the air support provided by the RAF versus that provided by its German and Italian counterparts. In the end, the British took some 30,000 prisoners of war. 

    In his “The End of the Beginning” speech, delivered in November, Winston Churchill said of the Allied victories: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” True enough, the defeat at El Alamein did not completely stamp out the Axis in Africa, but it was the turning point of the North African Campaign. The battle was also a huge morale booster. After the war, Churchill wrote: “It may almost be said, ‘Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.’” The Axis’ forces were driven all the way to Tunisia, and in May 1943, Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps surrendered to the Allies. In 1946 Bernard Montgomery was granted the title Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, commemorating his crucial victory there.


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    October 26, 1861: The Pony Express ceases operations.

    This short-lived mail service was once the fastest and most direct form of communication between the eastern and western portions of the United States. Founded in 1860, it tied the more organized Midwest to California, with its burgeoning population, on the eve of Civil War. The Pony Express was the pinnacle of practicality and speed in communication at the time; riders of the Pony Express travelled from Missouri to California by crossing the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada (a distance of nearly 2,000 miles) in just ten days. Some messages were relayed even faster - for example, in November 1860, news of Abraham Lincoln’s election reached California from Nebraska in five days.

    Such a feat was said to be impossible. It wasn’t, of course, but still, riders had to be skilled to carry out this incredibly strenuous, demanding work (“Buffalo Bill” Cody was one such rider). One famous ad seeking prospective riders reportedly read: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Because of the risks and high demand involved in the employment, riders were payed the generous sum of a hundred dollars a month. Those who found themselves in the employment of the Pony Express soon found themselves out of work, however; on October 24, 1861, the east and west coasts of the United States were finally linked by telegraph, almost immediately rendering horseback mail service obsolete. Although the Pony Express closed after a little over a year of service, it and the men who rode for it were heavily romanticized as some of the many iconic pieces of the mythic Old West. 


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    unhistorical:

    October 26, 1861: The Pony Express ceases operations.

    This short-lived mail service was once the fastest and most direct form of communication between the eastern and western portions of the United States. Founded in 1860, it tied the more organized Midwest to California, with its burgeoning population, on the eve of Civil War. The Pony Express was the pinnacle of practicality and speed in communication at the time; riders of the Pony Express travelled from Missouri to California by crossing the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada (a distance of nearly 2,000 miles) in just ten days. Some messages were relayed even faster - for example, in November 1860, news of Abraham Lincoln’s election reached California from Nebraska in five days.

    Such a feat was said to be impossible. It wasn’t, of course, but still, riders had to be skilled to carry out this incredibly strenuous, demanding work (“Buffalo Bill” Cody was one such rider). One famous ad seeking prospective riders reportedly read: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Because of the risks and high demand involved in the employment, riders were payed the generous sum of a hundred dollars a month. Those who found themselves in the employment of the Pony Express soon found themselves out of work, however; on October 24, 1861, the east and west coasts of the United States were finally linked by telegraph, almost immediately rendering horseback mail service obsolete. Although the Pony Express closed after a little over a year of service, it and the men who rode for it were heavily romanticized as some of the many iconic pieces of the mythic Old West. 


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    October 27, 1858: Theodore Roosevelt is born.

    Theodore Roosevelt took office as president of the United States upon the assassination of William McKinley in 1901; interestingly enough, although he is often regarded as one of the country’s greatest presidents, he was forced onto the Republican ticket by political bosses against the will of McKinley’s campaign manager. 

    Roosevelt was president, but he was also an avid reader, an athlete, a respected historian, a sheriff, New York City Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, commander of the “Rough Riders” cavalry regiment, and governor of New York.  He was often hesitant and passive on the subject of racial equality, but he was also the first president to invite an African-American to the White House for dinner. He was a big game hunter and also an outspoken conservationist who placed over 200 million acres of land under public protection. He was repelled by corruption, and he was the first major trust-busting president, as well as the first president to use federal power to intervene and arbitrate a strike rather than to crush it. He issued a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that was used to advance American imperialism, and he encouraged the strengthening of the country’s then relatively weak military, but he also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his successful mediation between Russia and Japan at a 1905 peace conference. He was born into a wealthy, privileged family, but his political philosophy of “New Nationalism” was a mostly pro-labor program designed to protect workers from exploitation (among other points). 

    Roosevelt promoted the idea of a strong American identity (he once called the country the mightiest nation upon which the sun shines”), and in some ways his presidency can be seen as the starting point of the modern United States.


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    Americans watch Kennedy's televised address.





    October 28, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis ends.

    The Cuban Missile Crisis marked the highest point of tension between the United States and USSR during the Cold War. After President Kennedy ordered a “quarantine” of Cuba on October 22, declaring in an address that the United States would regard any missile attacks from Cuba “as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

    Four days later, the crisis reached a stalemate; the Soviet Union had not displayed any signs of backing down, and the United States could not possibly allow the missiles to remain where they were, less than 100 miles from Florida. The Strategic Air Command was ordered to DEFCON 2, the highest state of military readiness before imminent nuclear war (the first and only time during the entire Cold War). The crisis was finally ended by secret negotiations conducted between President Kennedy’s Cabinet and Soviet officials. Khrushchev would remove his missiles from Cuba, and the United States pledged never to invade Cuba and also to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey, a promise that was fulfilled by April of 1963. 

    Because of the secretive nature of these negotiations, the USSR came out of the crisis as the weaker party, even though both countries had been forced to compromise. To the public, however, it seemed as though the USSR had completely succumbed to American pressure, and Khrushchev’s removal from office two years later may have been in part caused by the embarrassing aftermath of the event. After this close brush with nuclear war, the Soviet Union and United States established the Moscow-Washington hotline (the “red telephone”), which provided a clearer and more direct means of communication between the two nations. 


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    October 29, 1897: Joseph Goebbels is born.

    Hitler’s chief propagandist (“Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda”) was a bitter, diminutive figure described by Albert Speer as an “intellectual” who “looked down on the crude philistines” that made up much of the party, and by others as a “goblin”, as a “poison dwarf”, and “the little doctor”. Goebbels was, physically, the opposite of the Aryan ideal - he was short, frail, dark-haired, and he had, as a child, developed a deformity on his leg that caused him to walk with a limp. Despite his far-from-perfect appearance, Goebbels was also apparently a “serial seducer”

    Goebbels joined the NSDAP in 1924, while Adolf Hitler was still serving a prison sentence for leading the Beer Hall Putsch. In the end, he was also probably Hitler’s most loyal supporter; Goebbels wrote of his love for his Führer, whom he described as a “political genius”, and he replaced Hitler as Chancellor after the latter’s death. He held this position for only a day, before his entire family committed suicide. 

    In life, Goebbels and his ministry were in charge of maintaining the cultural identity of the Third Reich and implementing the policy known as Gleischaltung. This involved, among other things, purging the German art and music scenes of what was considered degenerate (typically modern art, jazz, and anything “Jewish” in nature). Goebbels and Hitler were also interested in using film as a means of propaganda; documentaries were filmed, of course, but cinema was media for the masses, and films like Jud Süß (a box-office hit created at the behest of Goebbels) were both popular with the public and effective anti-semitic propaganda. 


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  • 10/29/12--12:00: Happy birthday, Bob Ross. 


  • Happy birthday, Bob Ross. 


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    Inside Paris’s Grand Guignol, a theatre that was once popular for its live horror/shock shows; images from Life

    Plays with plots like these were the norm:

    • When a doctor finds his wife’s lover in his operating room, he performs a graphic brain surgery rendering the adulterer a hallucinating semi-zombie. Now insane, the lover/patient hammers a chisel into the doctor’s brain.
    • Two hags in an insane asylum use scissors to blind a young, pretty fellow inmate out of jealousy.
    • A nanny strangles the children in her care.
    • A young woman visits the man whose face she horribly disfigured with acid, where he obtains his revenge.

    These were performed live, with the help of practical special effects (limited by whatever was available during the time period, but still). Non-horror plays were also performed, but these were not as popular. One of the Grand Guignol’s most famous performers, Paula Maxa, was called “the most assassinated woman in the world”, having been murdered and raped in plays thousands of times during her productive career. 

    The theatre began to decline in popularity during and after World War II before finally closing in 1962 after sixty-five years of operation; said its final director: “We could never equal Buchenwald.” 


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    November 1, 1814: The Congress of Vienna opens.

    After Napoleon was defeated by the Sixth Coalition and exiled to the island of Elba, the major European powers met in Vienna over the course of seven months for a series of conferences chaired by the German-Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich. The “Four Great Powers”, who, together, had formed the basis of the Sixth Coalition, were Austria, the United Kingdom, Prussia, and Russia. France, which restored Louis XVIII to the throne after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo, was also represented at the conference. Besides those five, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and a handful of German states also sent representatives to the Congress of Vienna, which would ultimately decide the continent’s future. Other groups (companies, cities, religious organizations) also sent representatives to Vienna.

    The main goal of the congress was to establish a balance of power in Europe that would ensure peace and stability in the years following the Napoleonic Wars. If this end were achieved, no one power could attain as much dominance over the continent as Napoleon’s French Empire had, and so the mostly conservative delegates divided countries, redrew territorial lines, and encouraged the restoration of monarchies. The Congress of Vienna also established the German Confederation, which replaced what Napoleon had created to replace the Holy Roman Empire, the Confederation of the Rhine. Territories were exchanged, ceded, and recovered, and nascent movements promoting nationalism and liberalism were temporarily suppressed - the creation of the Holy Alliance (between Russia, Austria, and Prussia) was also created to help maintain the strength of the monarchies against revolution. Ultimately, the Congress was more successful in preventing a European war to the scale of the Napoleonic Wars than maintaining the status quo; the Revolutions of 1848 shook Europe less than forty years later, but Europe did not see a conflict like the Napoleonic Wars until 1914. 


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    November 2, 1963: Ngô Đình Diệm is assassinated.

    Ngo Dinh Diem was South Vietnam’s first president, having achieved the office through a fraudulent 1955 referendum that credited him with 98.2% of the vote and, in certain districts, more votes than there were voters. Diem was both staunchly Catholic and anti-Communist, but he would not be used as an American puppet ruler. Vietnamese relations with the United States were strained further during the 1963 Buddhist crisis, which culminated in Thích Quảng Đức’s dramatic act of self-immolation (pictured above) in protest of Diem’s policy toward Buddhists. The South Vietnamese government responded to further protests by conducting raids and attacks on Buddhist pagodas (in the process killing, abducting, or arresting thousands of people).

    Diem’s divisive and oppressive actions proved a headache for the Kennedy administration, and, in August 1963, the State Department sent Cable 243 to the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam. It stated that, if Diem refused to remove his brother from power, then the United States would have to “face the possibility that Diem himself [could not] be preserved”. Sure enough, the United States stood by as certain high-ranking ARVN officers staged a coup and overthrew, then assassinated Diem and his brother on November 2, 1963. Despite the implications of Cable 243, several members of the Kennedy administration, including Kennedy (who was assassinated less than three weeks later), were appalled by the killings. South Vietnam fell into political chaos after the coup, and the North Vietnamese Politburo had this to say:

    Diệm was one of the strongest individuals resisting the people and Communism. Everything that could be done in an attempt to crush the revolution was carried out by Diệm. Diệm was one of the most competent lackeys of the U.S. imperialists. 

    Sure enough, none of the puppet governments established after the coup were very long term, and, as a result, the United States could only slip further and further into the Vietnamese quagmire. 


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    November 3, 1957: Sputnik 2 is launched.

    Designed and built in around four weeks, this Soviet satellite was the second ever launched. Sputnik 2 was notably also carrying Laika, a dog (a stray picked up off the streets of Moscow) who would become the first animal to go into orbit. She was called “Muttnik” by the American press (the United States had yet to launch its first satellite), and she was the first of several dogs used by the Soviet space program to test the effects of spaceflight on living things. 

    Because the technology needed to return a satellite from orbit had not yet been developed, it was a foregone conclusion that Laika would die sometime during spaceflight. It was not known exactly how it happened until after the fall of the Soviet Union, however. Initially, it had been reported that Laika had been euthanized or that she had died from oxygen starvation, but it was revealed in 2002 that Laika had probably not survived more than a few hours in space and that she had died from overheating and stress. After over 160 days in orbit and over 2,000 orbits, Sputnik 2 returned to Earth, carrying Laika’s remains with it. 


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    November 4, 1916: Walter Cronkite is born.

    In 1962, Walter Cronkite became anchorman for the CBS Evening News, marking the start of a nineteen-year career during which he would acquire the title “the most trusted man in America”. When Cronkite travelled in 1968 to Vietnam in order to cover the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, he wrote: 

    … it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer’s almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us… it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

    After “the most trusted man in America” delivered his verdict on the Vietnam War to the public, Johnson famously remarked to an aide: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

    Cronkite became an American icon during his tenure as anchor. To many, his report of President Kennedy’s assassination was as memorable as the event itself, and over the years he also covered the Cuban missile crisis, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lennon, the Watergate scandal, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and the Apollo 11 moon landing, along with most of the other manned spaceflights that occurred between 1962 and 1981, for which he displayed extraordinary enthusiasm. Cronkite retired in 1981, and that same year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 


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    November 5, 1605: The Gunpowder Plot fails.

    On November 5, 1605, a man named Guy Fawkes was arrested after he was found beneath the House of Lords near dozens of barrels of gunpowder, ready to be lit. Fawkes was one of a small group of conspirators plotting to assassinate James I, England’s first Stuart king, whose attitude toward Catholics had turned from moderate to hostile as time passed. In 1604, the king reintroduced fines against non-Anglicans (and his hostility was exacerbated by the foiling of this conspiracy, of course).

    Although Fawkes was the would-be assassin who was immortalized and remembered by history, the leader of the group and principal organizer was one Robert Catesby, a charismatic and zealous “crusader” who, after the plot was foiled, was eventually found dead holding a picture of the Virgin Mary. 

    The “Gunpowder Plot” had come extremely close to succeeding and had failed almost by chance. On October 26, an anonymous letter was sent informing the lords of a possible attack on Parliament, but the conspirators, aware of the letter, thought little of it. Their plan seemed to have been going smoothly until the King ordered a last-minute search of the cellars beneath Parliament, where Guy Fawkes was discovered and arrested. When interrogated and asked what he intended to do with the gunpowder that he had been found guarding, Fawkes replied that his intention had been to “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” He, along with his co-conspirators, was hanged, drawn, and quartered in January of 1606, and, that same year, Parliament passed an act establishing what would later be known as “Guy Fawkes Night”. The holiday was meant to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, and (in its early years) it was as much a condemnation of Catholicism as it was a celebration of the King’s survival. A rhyme often accompanied these festivities; one went this way:

    Guy Fawkes, Guy  
    Stick him up on high,  
    Hang him on a lamp post  
    And there let him die.  
    Guy,Guy,Guy,  
    Poke Him in the eye,  
    Put him on the fire  
    And there let him die  
    Burn his body from his head  
    Then you’ll say  
    Guy Fawkes is dead  
    Hip, Hip, Hooray!  

    The most famous begins with these lines:

    Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
    I know of no reason
    Why the Gunpowder Treason
    Should ever be forgot.

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    Oh, right, as someone just pointed out - “anarchist” wouldn’t really apply to Fawkes and the other conspirators, would it? Interesting proposition nevertheless.


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    historical-hatred:

    Erm, ‘Anarchist’? Step away from V For Vendetta… Fawkes [and his many conspirators] wanted a monarchy - just a Catholic one.

    The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots wouldn’t have been celebrated, because if you haven’t noticed, the monarch the gunpowder-plot was against was Mary’s son, James.

    Cromwell’s hanging wasn’t celebrated because he had been dead for years when they dug him up and hung him.

    If you want to know why the 5th Nov is still celebrated, look at the tensions present at the time throughout Europe over sectarianism, and then the increasing pressure GB was under over faith. Catholics were the bogeyman for many, many years [read: centuries]. Look up Titus Oates. Look up the Glorious Revolution. Catholics were barred from untold positions and privileges such as ownership and even marriage.

    Even in the 21st century, it was only last year that marrying a Catholic would have rid you of your claim to the throne, and Catholics are essentially still disallowed from becoming PM [note Blair converted after leaving office - and a senior politician has publicly stated he’ll never stand for leadership of his party due to his Catholic faith].

    Case in point of why celebrations are still held over the thwarting of a Catholic conspiracy to kill the Protestant king and nobility - have a look at the fervour with which protestants in Northern Ireland still celebrate a victory during the Glorious Revolution. They totally dwarf the 5th Nov [wiki/video].

    Also, it’s a bloody brilliant excuse for fireworks, isn’t it?

    And response.

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    henrydlacklaw:

    unhistorical:

    historical-hatred:

    Erm, ‘Anarchist’? Step away from V For Vendetta… Fawkes [and his many conspirators] wanted a monarchy - just a Catholic one.

    The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots wouldn’t have been celebrated, because if you haven’t noticed, the monarch the gunpowder-plot was against was Mary’s son, James.

    Cromwell’s hanging wasn’t celebrated because he had been dead for years when they dug him up and hung him.

    If you want to know why the 5th Nov is still celebrated, look at the tensions present at the time throughout Europe over sectarianism, and then the increasing pressure GB was under over faith. Catholics were the bogeyman for many, many years [read: centuries]. Look up Titus Oates. Look up the Glorious Revolution. Catholics were barred from untold positions and privileges such as ownership and even marriage.

    Even in the 21st century, it was only last year that marrying a Catholic would have rid you of your claim to the throne, and Catholics are essentially still disallowed from becoming PM [note Blair converted after leaving office - and a senior politician has publicly stated he’ll never stand for leadership of his party due to his Catholic faith].

    Case in point of why celebrations are still held over the thwarting of a Catholic conspiracy to kill the Protestant king and nobility - have a look at the fervour with which protestants in Northern Ireland still celebrate a victory during the Glorious Revolution. They totally dwarf the 5th Nov [wiki/video].

    Also, it’s a bloody brilliant excuse for fireworks, isn’t it?

    And response.

    He’s right. When Occupy Wall Street people wear Guy Fawkes masks, what they are actually saying is they want to replace the capitalist oligarchy with a Catholic monarchy…I’m all for OWS, economic equality, social democracy, etc., but I’m definitely not in favour of giving the Catholic Church a single inch of political power.

    While the term “anarchist” was definitely misused in this case, apparently there IS a theory that the entire plot was a plot by the government to further vilify Catholics. I’m not sure what evidence there is behind this theory, but it’s… interesting? But yeah, I agree that we need to clear up any misconceptions about the real Guy Fawkes (versus the V for Vendetta version) before getting into more conspiracy theories.

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    Well, what he wanted was to replace one monarch with another, so how accurate is it to him as an “anarchist”?

    But I don’t agree with people who rail against those who use the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol of anarchy or antiestablishmentism. It’s not even Guy Fawkes himself who is the symbol, but the mask modelled after him from V for Vendetta… so as long as people aren’t confusing Guy Fawkes or his intentions with V and his, I don’t see why using the mask as a symbol is a big deal. The problem is that people do confuse the two, so I can see why that’s annoying.

    Alan Moore is an anarchist, though. He only modelled the mask after Guy Fawkes because the guy tried to blow up Parliament, and Moore would probably support that act regardless of whether it was in the name of Catholicism or anarchy. 

    I just googled it up, though, and apparently David Lloyd, who illustrated and co-created the comic book, said that V would “decide to adopt the persona and mission of Guy Fawkes – our great historical revolutionary”, which…. ehhhh… is very misleading. Seeing as he’s British and should know all the history behind Guy Fawkes Night (better than us Americans, at least), it seems odd that he would say something like that, unless… V was a Catholic revolutionary the whole time. 


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    Hey, maybe someone should write a dystopian novel/comic inspired by him.


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  • 11/06/12--07:30: Article 1












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