Friday, February 20, 2009

Geronimo’s Heirs Sue Secret Yale Society Over His Skull


HOUSTON — The descendants of Geronimo have sued Skull and Bones, a secret society at Yale University with ties to the Bush family, charging that its members robbed his grave in 1918 and have kept his skull in a glass case ever since.

The claim is part of a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington on Tuesday, the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death. The Apache warrior’s heirs are seeking to recover all his remains, wherever they may be, and have them transferred to a new grave at the headwaters of the Gila River in New Mexico, where Geronimo was born and wished to be interred.

“I believe strongly from my heart that his spirit was never released,” Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo, 61, told reporters Tuesday at the National Press Club.

Geronimo died a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Okla., in 1909. A longstanding tradition among members of Skull and Bones holds that Prescott S. Bush — father of President George Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush — broke into the grave with some classmates during World War I and made off with the skull, two bones, a bridle and some stirrups, all of which were put on display at the group’s clubhouse in New Haven, known as the Tomb.

The story gained some validity in 2005, when a historian discovered a letter written in 1918 from one Skull and Bones member to another saying the skull had been taken from a grave at Fort Sill along with several pieces of tack for a horse.

Ramsey Clark, a former United States attorney general who is representing Geronimo’s family, acknowledged he had no hard proof that the story was true. Yet he said he hoped the court would clear up the matter.

Tom Conroy, a spokesman for Yale, declined to comment on the lawsuit but was quick to note that the Tomb was not on university property.

Members of the Skull and Bones, who guard their organization’s secrecy, could not be reached for comment. Though the society is not officially affiliated with the university, many of Yale’s most powerful alumni are members, among them both Bush presidents and Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

“Of all the items rumored to be in the Skull and Bones’s possession, Geronimo’s skull is one of the more plausible ones,” said Alexandra Robbins, the author of “Secrets of the Tomb” (Little Brown 2002), a book about the society. “There is a skull encased in a glass display when you walk in the door of the Tomb, and they call it Geronimo.”

Some local historians and anthropologists in Oklahoma have cast doubt on the tale, noting that no independent evidence has been found to suggest that Geronimo’s grave was disturbed in 1918. Ten years later, the army covered the grave with concrete and replaced a simple wooden headstone with a stone monument, making it nearly impregnable.

Geronimo, whose given name was Goyathlay, put up fierce resistance to white settlers, fighting the Mexican and United States armies for nearly three decades. He finally surrendered, with only 35 men left, to Gen. Nelson A. Miles on the New Mexico-Arizona border in 1886 and spent the rest of his life in prison, dying of pneumonia.

Not all Apaches want to move his remains to New Mexico. The branch of the tribe that settled at Fort Sill after Geronimo died is fighting to keep the grave where it is.

“There is nothing to be gained by digging up the dead,” said Jeff Houser, the chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. “It will not repair the damage to the tribe caused by its removal and imprisonment.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

10 Weird Facts About Presidents

In case you didn’t get enough Presidential Facts from the mag, I have this whole collection of strange facts I’ve written down about U.S. Presidents. None of them really have anything to do with one another so I’ve never been able to tie them into a themed post before. But since it’s Presidents’ Day, I don’t think I really need a theme other than that.

1. James Monroe once chased the Secretary of the Treasury out of the White House with a pair of fire tongs.
2. Andrew Jackson may have looked like a hardened old soul, but he was quite the merry prankster: when he was in school, he invited a bunch of prostitutes to the annual Christmas Ball, just because he knew how much it would freak out all of the “proper” attendees. He also liked to move outhouses around so when people went out to use their bathroom, the bathroom was no longer there.
3. John Quincy Adams liked skinny dipping in the Potomac. He thought bathing and swimming in ice-cold water was good for his constitution.
4. Martin Van Buren’s autobiography doesn’t mention his wife even once.

5. Queen Victoria once declared that Millard Fillmore was the most handsome man she had ever seen. What do you guys think? Was Millard a hottie? My assessment: no.
6. James Buchanan is the only U.S. President to remain a bachelor his entire life. Some speculated that he was gay, and his extremely close relationship with Congressman William Rufus King didn’t do anything to dispel the rumors. The two of them were often referred to as “Mr. Buchanan and his wife.”
7. Rutherford B. Hayes and his family spent every single evening in the White House singing gospel hymns.
8. William McKinley’s wife suffered from epilepsy. When she had seizures at public events and dinners, McKinley would just drape his handkerchief over her face and carry on with whatever matters were at hand.
9. Teddy Roosevelt was a big eater. It wasn’t uncommon for him to take down a dozen eggs for breakfast.
10. Lyndon B. Johnson wore a watch with an alarm on it and liked to set it off when he got bored listening to speeches.

The Origins Of Ice Cream Cone

An amazing picture of the invasion of Normandy on Utah Beach

Monday, February 16, 2009

WWII Monopoly

Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British airmen found
themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the
Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape.
Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful
and accurate map, one showing not
Only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of 'safe houses'
where A POW on-the-lam could go for food and shelter.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks -- they make a lot of noise when
you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet,
they turn into mush. Someone in MI-5 (similar to America 's OSS ) got the
idea of
printing escape maps on silk. It 's durable, can be scrunched-up into
tiny wads, And unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that
had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John
Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was
only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.
By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the U.K. Licensee for the
popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, 'games and
pastimes' was a category of item qualified for insertion into 'CARE
packages', dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.
Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible
Old workshop on the grounds of Waddington's, a group of
sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to
each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were
(regional system). When processed, these maps could be folded into
such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing
piece. As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington's also
managed to add:

1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass 2. A two-part
metal file that could easily be screwed together 3. Useful amounts
of genuine high-denomination German, Italian,and French currency
hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised before taking off on
their first mission, how to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set -- by
means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary
printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.

Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an
estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly
sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely since the
British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in
still another future war. The story wasn't declassified until 2007
when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington's, as well as the firm
itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony.

It's always nice when you can play that 'Get Out of Jail' Free' card!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Great Escape???

During WWII, there was a German POW camp in Arizona (near but not too near Phoenix). One day a German POW got his hands on a map and saw a river wasn't too far and, if they had a boat, they'd be able to get away. Oh, there were no fences around the camp because it was in the middle of the desert with no place to go.

Well, the Germans secretly built a boat and planned their escape. They carried the boat to the water (or where the water should have been). You see, the rivers in the desert don't always have water in them. (The expression "when it rains it pours" must have been said by someone from the Arizona desert.) It was not rainy season so the river was dry. The Germans had to walk back to the POW camp with their tails between their legs.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wreck of Warship Is Found in English Channel

Wreck of Warship Is Found in English Channel

Sea explorers probing the depths of the English Channel have discovered what they say is a legendary British warship that sank in a fierce storm in 1744 with the loss of more than 900 men and possibly four tons of gold coins valued at $1 billion.

The team found the wreckage of the HMS Victory last year and confirmed its identify through a close examination of 41 bronze cannons visible on the sandy ocean bottom, Greg Stemm, head of the discovery team, said at a news conference Monday in London.

The team lifted two of the cannons and gave them to the British Ministry of Defense, he said, and is now negotiating with British authorities on the disposition of the artifacts and treasure before it attempts further recoveries.

“I’m surprised we’ve been able to keep it under wraps for nine months,” Mr. Stemm said at the news conference, calling the find “a momentous discovery.” He is the head of Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Tampa, Fla., a private company that specializes in deep sea exploration and recovery.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Stemm called the find “hard to beat” in terms of raw history, lost treasure, and solved mysteries. The team found the wreck far from its reported resting place, and said the discovery had cleared the name of its commander, Admiral Sir John Balchin, whose navigation had been impugned after the catastrophic loss.

The press conference was held by the Discovery Channel, which plans to air a show Thursday about the ship on its weekly “Treasure Quest” program, which debuted last month.

The Victory was armed with up to 110 bronze cannons — one of deadliest vessels of the age. The biggest cannon weighed four tons and could fire cannonballs weighing 42 pounds — the largest and most powerful guns then used in naval warfare.

In July 1744, the flagship and its fleet of warships were sent to rescue a Mediterranean convoy blockaded by a French fleet at Lisbon. After chasing the French away, the Victory escorted the convoy as far as Gibraltar and headed home.

A hard gale scattered the British fleet shortly after it entered the English Channel, and on Oct. 5, 1744, somewhere off the Channel Islands, Victory went down with all hands. The flagship was the only member of the British fleet lost at sea.

The belief spread that ship had grounded on the Casquets, a group of rocky islets west of Alderney that protrude a few dozen feet above the water line. The rocks are called the “graveyard of the English Channel.” The lighthouse keeper of Alderney was court-martialed for failing to keep the lights on at the time of the ship’s disappearance.

That November, a Dutch newspaper reported that Victory had been carrying 400,000 pounds sterling from Lisbon that was destined for Dutch merchants. At the news conference, the ship’s finders said that would amount to about four tons of gold coins.

Historically, Victory was the last Royal Navy warship to be lost with a complete set of bronze cannons.

For decades, Mr. Stemm and his colleagues worked on the cutting edge of deep sea exploration, using sonars and robots to discover scores of interesting wrecks and thousands of artifacts. They have found treasures valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last April, the Odyssey team was exploring the English Channel when a sonar registered an intriguing blip. Ensuing investigations with a tethered robot showed the seabed covered with cannons, a copper cooking kettle, hull remains, rectangular iron ballast, two anchors, rigging, two probable gunner’s wheels and 41 bronze cannons, including eight large guns that could fire 42-pound cannonballs.

“These were the biggest cannon in the age of sail,” Mr Stemm told the news conference. “These things are huge, simply amazing.”