MONDAY 10AM CENTRAL: Squatters in the Capitalist City
Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

ROTTEN HISTORY

Posted by Alexander Jerri

In 1946 – (73 years ago)thirty-three people were crushed to death and hundreds more were injured when crowds got out of control at Burnden Park stadium in Lancashire, England, during a soccer match between the Bolton Wanderers and the Stoke City football club. The game was part of an elimination tournament for the FA Cup, which was being revived after a six-year hiatus due to the Second World War. The stadium and the field, still in bad shape from wartime neglect, were overrun by some eighty-five thousand fun-starved fans. Twenty minutes before kickoff, the authorities were forced to close the entrances. At that point, fans began climbing in over the fences without paying. The crowd got so chaotic that some spectators were literally pushed out the other end of the stadium. After the game finally began, two metal barriers collapsed on top of some spectators, crushing them underneath. Referees halted the game while bodies were pulled out of the wreckage. The dead spectators were laid out next to the field and covered in their own jackets — and the game was started up again. It ended in a scoreless tie.               

In 1967 – (52 years ago) — a TWA jetliner carrying twenty-five passengers from Pittsburgh to Dayton, Ohio, was making its landing approach toward the Dayton airport when it plowed into a small, private Beechcraft airplane operating in uncontrolled airspace. The Beechcraft was pulverized, as were critical parts of the jetliner, which went into an uncontrolled dive and a crash and burn. All people aboard both planes were killed.  Investigators later concluded that the airliner had descended from cruising altitude too fast for its pilots to see the small plane drifting into its flight path. 

In 1976 – (43 years ago) — at the ski resort of Cavalese in the northern Italian Alps, a cable car carrying forty-four Italian, German, and Dutch tourists was making its way down from the top of a mountain when the steel cable snapped. The cable car fell some seven hundred feet, hitting the mountainside, and it was immediately crushed by the three-ton overhead carriage assembly that landed on top of it. One passenger, a fourteen-year-old girl, somehow survived. The other forty-three people, including fifteen children, were all killed. Though inspectors had recently found the cable mechanism to be in good shape, an inquiry after the accident found signs of severe stress on the cables, which was attributed to lack of proper maintenance and unsafe operation in high winds. A safety mechanism would have shut down the cable car in dangerous weather, but it had been turned off. Four officials of the Cavalese resort were found guilty and sent to prison.

(Twenty-two years later, in February 1998, another twenty cable car riders at the same mountain were killed when a hot-dogging US military pilot flew his NATO jet too low, severing the cable and sending the car crashing down the mountainside.)

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi


Posted by Alexander Jerri

In 1657 – (362 years ago) — several months of drought, along with gale-force winds, brought on the perfect conditions for a catastrophic fire that consumed large parts of the Japanese capital city of Edo, known today as Tokyo. Legend has it that the initial sparks were created by a temple priest in the city who was burning a kimono that held a fatal curse after being owned by three young girls in succession who had all died before getting the chance to wear it. Whatever the fire’s real cause, it spread rapidly in a densely built city where houses and other buildings made of wood and paper stood in long narrow streets, and fiery embers were easily carried by the wind from one neighborhood to the next. The city had a fire brigade, and the firefighters rose gallantly to the occasion, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading conflagration, which lasted for three days. About sixty percent of the city was destroyed — including not only vast working-class residential districts, but also many rich mansions, and even parts of the shogun’s castle. Between one and two hundred thousand people were killed — a figure unmatched for almost three hundred years until the same city, under its new name of Tokyo, was firebombed by US Army air forces in 1945.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

In 1700 – (319 years ago) — the Pacific Northwest area of North America was ripped by a massive 9.2 earthquake along a fault stretching some six hundred miles from Vancouver Island to what is now northern California. Although no direct records of the quake exist from that time, scientists have deduced its time and intensity from detailed records of a tsunami that struck the east coast of Japan shortly afterward. Further evidence of the cataclysm was also preserved in growth rings in trees, and is also found in the oral traditions of local Native American and First Nations people, which tell of an apocalyptic blast that struck without warning on a winter’s night, accompanied by floods and landslides that buried entire villages and swept people into the sea, never to be heard from again. Scientists have uncovered other clues suggesting that earthquakes in that region have occurred in a cycle of roughly once every three to five hundred years. In some estimates, they suggest a 37 percent chance of another major quake occurring in that area within the next fifty years.

In 1856 – (163 years ago) — fed up after months of chaotic battle with white settlers in what became known as the Puget Sound War, a force of several hundred Native Americans attacked a white settlement located on a small peninsula at Seattle. In their armed response, the settlers were quickly supported by Marines from the USS Decatur, a Navy ship anchored just offshore. The battle lasted all day, and it ended with at least twenty-eight Native Americans dead, eighty wounded, and the rest demoralized in retreat. The whites, meanwhile, had suffered only two deaths, and would go on maintain and reinforce their hold on the peninsula.

In 1977 – (42 years ago) — former vice president, presidential candidate, and New York governor Nelson Rockefeller died of a heart attack. The first news reports of his death claimed that he had been found slumped over the desk in his office. But contradictions quickly appeared in the official story, and it soon turned out that in fact Rockefeller had met his end while alone in a Manhattan townhouse with a twenty-five-year-old woman who worked for him, and whom he had helped to purchase a condo. While Rockefeller’s family struggled to deny rumors of an illicit sexual affair, the incident quickly became the subject of jokes on late-night television.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri


In 1915 – (103 years ago) — Arch and Cordella Stevenson, an African-American couple living in Columbus, Mississippi, were regarded by locals as respectable, hardworking people. But rumors were circulating that their son, who had a reputation as a troublemaker, had deliberately burned down a local white farmer’s barn several months earlier. Questioned just after the fire, Cordella Stevenson had told police that her son was out of town and that she had no idea where he was. Convinced of her honesty, the police had let her go, and dropped the case for lack of any evidence. But now, at ten in the evening, Cordella and her husband, Arch, were awakened by a loud knock on their door. Before they could answer it, a mob of angry, gun-wielding white people broke down the door and burst into their home. They grabbed Cordella and threatened to kill Arch, who somehow managed to escape and ran to get help. The next morning, Cordella Stevenson’s naked body was found hanging from a tree near a railway track, where it could be seen by horrified train passengers going in and out of town. It was left hanging there all day and through the night. Only on the following morning was it finally cut down and an inquest held, in which an all-white jury quickly ruled that Cordella Stevenson had been murdered by persons unknown.     

In 1966 – (52 years ago) — The SS Heraklion, a Greek ferry, was sailing from the island of Crete to the port of Piraeus in high winds and rough seas, carrying some 270 passengers and crew along with a large load of cargo, including a refrigerator truck full of oranges. Evidently, the truck was poorly secured inside the ship’s cargo hold — and, as the ship pitched and rolled in the heavy waves, the truck repeatedly banged against a large loading door in the ship’s side. The door finally gave way, spilling the truck into the sea, and water rushed into the ship, causing it to capsize and sink in a few minutes. Hours went by before Greek, British, and US planes and ships arrived and were able to rescue thirty-seven passengers and sixteen crew. The other 217 people aboard the Heraklion all died. An inquiry later found the shipping company guilty of negligence, false documentation, and manslaughter. Twelve of the company’s other ships were pronounced unseaworthy, and its owner and general manager were both sent to prison.

In 1980 – (38 years ago) — While returning home from a recording studio mixing session with his wife, Yoko Ono, John Lennon was shot dead in the entrance of the Dakota Apartments, his residence in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His twenty-five-year-old assailant, Mark David Chapman, who had waited there patiently for hours, put four bullets into Lennon’s back with a .38 special revolver. The shots tore Lennon’s left lung to pieces, and ruptured all the major blood vessels around his heart. Chapman then stood quietly, offering no resistance to police who arrested him while Lennon was carried to a police car and rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi


Posted by Alexander Jerri

In 1940 – (78 years ago) – an earthquake in the Vrancea region of eastern Romania wreaked havoc from the capital city of Bucharest well into neighboring Moldavia (now known as Moldova). In Bucharest, some 185 buildings were destroyed, including a fourteen-story reinforced concrete structure that was the city’s tallest building. From across the country came reports of fire, landslides, burst pipelines, leveled neighborhoods, and collapsed factories. The death toll was placed at almost 600, with another 1,271 people injured in Romania’s worst earthquake of the twentieth century.

 

In 1944 – (74 years ago) – at Port Seeadler in the Admiralty Islands of Papua New Guinea, the US Navy cargo ship Mount Hood exploded without warning, with almost four thousand tons of explosives and ammunition aboard. The ship had been delivering munitions to Navy vessels in the South Pacific theater of World War II. Eyewitnesses reported a sudden blast and mushroom cloud, followed by chunks of mud, metal debris, and body parts raining from the sky. The explosion completely destroyed the Mount Hood and killed all 350 of its crewmembers, of whom no physical remains were ever positively identified. It also damaged some twenty-two smaller craft nearby in the harbor, many of whose crewmembers were also killed. Years later, the blast would be assessed as equivalent to that of a small tactical nuclear weapon. It was so powerful that it blew a hole in the ocean floor directly below the ship, measuring a hundred yards long, fifty feet wide, and forty feet deep. Altogether at least 432 people died, with 371 wounded. A naval inquiry later attributed the accident to poor handling of ammunition.

 

In 1975 – (43 years ago) the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, largest ship on the Great Lakes, ran into violent weather on Lake Superior, some seventeen miles north of Whitefish Point in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The ship was buffeted by hundred-mile-an-hour winds, with waves up to thirty-five feet high. Its captain, Ernest McSorley, was on his last voyage before retirement. Just after 7 p.m. he radioed to another freighter nearby, the SS Arthur M. Anderson, that although his vessel was taking on water, he and the crew were holding their own in the storm. It was the last communication from the Edmund Fitzgerald. Without even sending out a distress signal, the ship went to the bottom of Lake Superior with all twenty-nine crew members. A search party found only two empty lifeboats and some scattered debris floating on the water. Experts from the US Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board later blamed the disaster on faulty cargo hatches that allowed water to enter the ship’s hold. The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies in two giant pieces 535 feet deep in Canadian waters. After a series of incidents in which divers visited the shipwreck and even photographed the remains of dead crewmembers, the Canadian government prohibited public access to the underwater site.

 

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi


Posted by Alexander Jerri

In 1894 – (124 years ago) – more than four hundred people were killed in a firestorm that resulted when two separate forest fires merged in the lumber country around Hinckley, Minnesota, at the end of an unusually hot and dry summer. In those days it was common for loggers to strip trees of their branches before cutting them down. That practice covered the forest floor with chunks of dead wood and flammable tinder in areas where steam locomotives regularly passed through, spewing red-hot coal cinders from their smokestacks. In the Hinckley firestorm, powerful convection currents sucked up so much oxygen that many victims died by suffocation. In just four hours, some 300,000 acres of pine forest were destroyed. A few hundred people managed to survive the blaze by taking shelter in a gravel pit and a muddy lake. But their livelihood, the local lumber industry, was completely wiped out. And though an effort was made to rebuild the town of Hinckley, it would never regain its former economic importance.

In 1914 – (104 years ago) — the world’s last known passenger pigeon was found dead on the floor of her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. Known by the name “Martha,” she was about twenty-nine years old, the last survivor of years of failed breeding attempts by ornithologists in Cincinnati and at the University of Chicago. She had never in her life laid a fertile egg, and the last male passenger pigeon had died four years earlier. For thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers, passenger pigeons had been the most abundant bird species in North America and perhaps the world, numbering some three to five billion at their peak. In 1813 the naturalist John James Audubon described seeing migrating flocks that numbered in the millions, so vast that they blackened the sky and took hours or even days to pass overhead. Frontier settlers found they could easily bring the pigeons down by shooting into the sky without bothering to aim, or by using torches to smoke them out of the trees where they nested. Some used the birds as a source of cheap food, while others killed them for fun, leaving them on the ground to rot. In the mid- to late nineteenth century, passenger pigeons were the target of uncontrolled commercial hunting that drastically reduced their numbers. Meanwhile, the timber industry decimated the forests of the eastern United States, depriving the pigeons of their favored breeding habitat. By the time their population decline became obvious, it was too late to save the species — and after Martha’s death, the passenger pigeon was declared extinct. In more recent years, the Harvard University biologist E. O. Wilson has estimated that humans are driving some thirty thousand species to extinction every year.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi


Posted by Alexander Jerri

In 1941 – (77 years ago) — four truckloads of Nazi German paratroopers arrived at the village of Kondomari, on the Greek island of Crete, where local farmers, armed with crude weapons and assisted by New Zealand troops, had fiercely resisted the German invaders just days before. The Germans had lost several hundred troops in their World War II invasion all across Crete, and now their survivors on the island were being ordered to carry out reprisals against Greek civilians — and to do it fast, without trials or other formalities. At Kondomari, the Germans surrounded the village and rounded up men, women, and children in the town square. Then a number of Greek men were chosen from the group, while the women and children were let go. The Germans led the men to a nearby olive orchard, where they methodically lined them up and shot them dead. German records list twenty-three victims, but Greek sources put the death toll at or near sixty. The lieutenant who led the massacre at Kondomari was later killed by Allied troops at Normandy. A German military photographer who captured the Kondomari episode on film was later arrested by the Gestapo and jailed for having secretly helped some Cretans to escape. He survived the war, to testify against Hermann Göring at Nuremberg — but his chilling photographs from Kondomari lay forgotten in German archives until their rediscovery in 1980.  


Posted by Alexander Jerri

In 1637 – (381 years ago) — more than a hundred English Puritan colonists were joined by some two hundred indigenous Mohegan, Narragansett, and Niantic warriors in an attack on a fortified Pequot village near the Mystic River in what is now southeastern Connecticut. The Mohegans, in particular, had once been in a single tribe with the Pequots before the two groups split over tensions regarding trade with English and Dutch settlers. But now the Mohegans were allied with the English, who had their own territorial and trade ambitions and had been at war with the Pequots for almost a year. In an early morning raid led by two English captains, the combined forces surrounded the Pequot village, breached its wooden palisade, and forced their way in. The Pequot defenders quickly fought them off, so the English responded by setting the whole village on fire, blocking its two exits, and shooting anyone who tried to come out. Within a half hour, some four hundred to five hundred men, women, and children were horribly burned to death. The few villagers who managed to escape were quickly hunted down and shot. After another year of war with the settlers, the Pequot would effectively cease to exist as a tribe, and the stage was set for further colonial expansion in New England.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi.


Posted by Alexander Jerri

On This Day in Rotten History...

In 1732  – (285 years ago) – the armory at a castle in Campo Maior, Portugal — which contained some five thousand pieces of ammunition, and almost a hundred tons of gunpowder — was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. The explosion was spectacular, not only destroying the armory but starting a fire that caused major damage to the castle and its fortress,  injuring most of its inhabitants.  

In 1893  – (124 years ago) – one of the last large tracts of unassigned public land in the American West was opened for settlement in a land run at the so-called Cherokee Outlet in what is now the state of Oklahoma. The Cherokee nation had been pressured to sell the federal government six million acres of grazing land. On the morning of the land run, more than a hundred thousand people with horses and wagons prepared to race into the area to plant claim flags on some forty thousand surveyed and plotted homesteads. Some of the would-be settlers had been camping in the area for months — and though US Army troops tried to keep order, they failed to prevent a number of violators, later known as “Sooners,” from sneaking in before the noontime starting gun to grab the best plots of free land for themselves. In the manic chaos of the run, most participants failed to claim a plot. And of those who did, many would soon be disappointed to find that the dry, dusty land was no good for growing crops.  

In 1977 – (40 years ago) — Marc Bolan, star of the British pop-rock band T. Rex, emerged at four in the morning from a long dinner with friends at a restaurant in London’s Berkeley Square. He was accompanied by his girlfriend, the American singer Gloria Jones. It had been a long day and evening, and Bolan had been drinking through most of it. He gave Jones the keys to his Mini GT, and they began the drive home. Neither Bolan nor Jones wore a seat belt. Less than a mile from Bolan’s house, Jones lost control of the car — which slid off the road, crashed into a steel-reinforced fence, and came to rest at the base of a sycamore tree. Both occupants were thrown from the car. Jones survived the accident, but Bolan’s skull was ripped open by a protruding bolt on a fencepost, and he died instantly — two weeks before what would have been his thirtieth birthday.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi