Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History

For anyone who might have an interest:


Requested for the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History

This award is named in memory of Frederick I. Ordway III (1927-2014), human spaceflight advocate and chronicler of the history of rocketry and space travel.  The award is presented on an occasional basis by the American Astronautical Society and recognizes exceptional, sustained efforts to inform and educate on Astronautical history through one or more media, such as (1) writing, editing, or publication of a book series (as opposed to a single title), (2) preparation and presentation of exhibits; or (3) production for distribution through film, television, art, or other non-print media.  The award process is managed by the AAS History Committee.

Nomination forms are available at www.astronautical.org/awards/ordway.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Josh Gibson”

josh gibsonJosh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues. By William Brashler. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1978, reprint edition 2000.

There are maybe a dozen well-known names from the first half of the twentieth century when African Americans played professional baseball in segregated Negro Leagues. Some made the transition into the MLB and the names of Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Minnie Minoso, and others are well known for their careers not in the Negro Leagues but in the formerly segregated MLB. Josh Gibson was not one of them, but regardless he holds a special place. A superb hitter, Gibson became known as the “Black Babe Ruth” and all who saw him play described his powerful swing, uncanny ability to collect hits, and to gun down runners from his position as a catcher. He started playing for the Homestead Grays in 1930 and remained in Pittsburgh, sometimes with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, until his career ended in 1945.

Josh Gibson is said to have a lifetime batting average higher than .350, although actual numbers are impossible to calculate since records were so poorly kept and much of the play was not against other Negro League teams but during barnstorming stints against all manner of teams, both professional and not. Some say that he hit over 800 home runs in his career, although others question that based on an analysis of newspaper box scores.

Tragically, Josh Gibson died young, in 1947, when he was only 35 years old. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1943, and suffered a worsening condition throughout the rest of life before falling to a stroke. But he also suffered from alcohol addiction and some have suggested that this contributed to his stroke.

William Brashler’s biography of Josh Gibson does a reasonable job of telling what there is to know about Josh Gibson. It is not a scholarly account and there is no way to verify information presented in it. I very much regret that. I always want to verify what is reported. Regardless, it is a fine reading experience, giving all who delve into it a new appreciation for a superb baseball player.

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What Is the Legacy of the NACA?

NACA LogoMarch 3, 2015, was the centenary of the birth of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). This has sparked a measure of investigation and analysis about the place of the NACA in the history of flight in the twentieth century. The NACA had the mission “to separate the real from the imagined and make known the overlooked and unexpected” in the quest for flight. The NACA transformed into NASA in 1958 and has lived on as the centerpiece of American aerospace research and development (R&D). Because of this I have been thinking about the legacies of the NACA. Here are some initial thoughts on this subject. I’m sure there are other legacies that might be considered. Any comments are welcome.

  1. The efforts of the NACA played a major role in rescuing the United States from the doldrums of aeronautics that it fallen into during the first decade after the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk. Its establishment in 1915 served effectively as a means of focusing federal attention on the questions that needed to be answered to advance the technology. The new agency hired innovative engineers, gave them the instruments they needed to do cutting edge research (especially wind tunnels for the testing of aerodynamic systems), and both the funding (never plentiful but sufficient) and the freedom (always a critical commodity) to solve the “problems of flight.” Any history that does not recognize this critical aspect of the organization’s past is inaccurate and incomplete.
  2. NACA R&D fueled a revolution in aeronautics that took place in the latter 1920s and 1930s through World War II as the industry moved from canvas and wooden biplanes to metal monoplanes. Its airfoils, engines, propellers, control systems, etc. were everywhere incorporated into the aircraft of the era.
  3. The NACA led the effort to fly higher, farther, and faster in the post-World War II era as it entered partnerships with industry and the military services to “expand the envelope” of knowledge about flight. The famous X-plane series of research vehicles established a record of accomplishment unmatched anywhere else in the world.
  4. The NACA also pioneered the road to space by establishing the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD) in 1945 and systematically developing a rocket capability that helped open the door to spaceflight during the Cold War and after.
  5. The NACA taught America to fly smarter through a range of R&D projects that made possible the first commercial jet airliners, the first fly-by-wire capabilities, and numerous innovative aerodynamics, propulsion, materials, and guidance and control systems.
  6. The NACA became the basis for NASA when established in 1958. Its firm foundation provided the organizational structure for the new agency and its staff provided the bulk of its intellectual heft as NASA began operations.
  7. The NACA made a profound impact on the technology of flight from its creation in 1915 and should be remembered and commemorated for those contributions.
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Zion in Mormon History: An American Promised Land

Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph Smith Jr.

Mormonism’s self-identification as a modern replacement for ancient Israel mandated the quest for Zion as a literal place. The establishment of what the Saints called Zion had been the most persistent goal of the early Mormon movement. The early Latter-day Saints had believed they were commissioned from among the world to help usher in the triumphal second coming of Christ and the advent of the millennial reign by building a society from which Christ could rule the world.

Accordingly, during the 1830s and 1840s they had established Mormon communities to serve as utopian centers, places that would foster a new, righteous social order preparing the earth for Christ’s return: Kirtland, Ohio; Independence and Far West, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois. However, in each case the vision dissolved in failure and disillusionment. The reasons for failure were complex but essentially rested on the unwillingness of the Saints to live under the strict laws of the community established by the prophet and on persecution by non-Mormons.

This quest for Zion drove much of Joseph Smith Jr.’s scripture and doctrine, from his concept of “law” and a restored “priesthood” to his identification of America—and specifically Independence, Missouri—as the “promised land” to which Jesus would one day return. This concept of building an American Zion became the rallying cry of his young church throughout much of its early history. It was the glue that brought humanity together in the unity of pursuing a common and noble goal.

Indeed, the quest for Zion loomed as the quintessential belief among early Latter-day Saints. Even as other concepts proved nettlesome to many in the church—especially the theological speculations of the temple experience—the doctrinal development of Joseph Smith’s concept of “Zion” or “the New Jerusalem” has remained significant in all branches of Mormonism to the present, although its early millennial trappings withered over time.

Mormonism began in 1830 to focus on Zion as place, energized by ideas expressed in the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon during 1827-1830 period, it confirmed a prevalent notion among many Americans in the early 1800s that the American Indians were remnants of the lost tribes of Israel. The book contained the story of God’s dealings with two groups of Hebrew peoples who migrated to America by ship sometime before 600 before the common era (B.C.E.), but the second migration was the more important and made up the core of the account.

These people, led by a prophet named Lehi and later by his son Nephi, established an advanced and—for a time at least—righteous civilization in the Americas. The Nephite people’s civilization reached its apex with the visit of the resurrected Jesus Christ to America. During his sojourn with the Nephites Christ taught them his philosophy much more clearly and with less confusion than had been the case in Palestine. Following Christ’s visit the Nephites took part in a 200-year Golden Age that saw the formation of a Utopian society where all respected and cared for those around them.

From this success, however, the Nephites slowly degenerated to the depths of civil war. As the civilization deteriorated, the Lamanites (enemies of the Nephites although they had also once been a part of the society) began to destroy these people and in time exterminated virtually all of them. According to Mormon theory these Lamanites were the predecessors of the American Indians—the last remnants of a once righteous Hebrew people. The Book of Mormon peoples, therefore, are presented as descendants of Joseph through Manasseh (Alma 8:3).

A painting by C.C.A. Christianson of Joseph Smith preaching to the Sac and Fox Indians who visited Nauvoo, Illinois, on August 12, 1841.

A painting by C.C.A. Christianson of Joseph Smith preaching to the Sac and Fox Indians who visited Nauvoo, Illinois, on August 12, 1841.

The early Latter-day Saints, who held the native population to be descendants of the ancient Lamanites, believed their Christianization one of the church’s highest callings. The conception of this missionary mandate to the Indians was well illustrated by a hymn published in the church’s first hymnbook in 1835:

O stop and tell me Red Man,

Who are ye? why you roam?

And how you get your living?

Have you no God; no home?


With stature straight and portly,

and deck’d in native pride,

With feathers, paints and broaches,

He willingly replied:


“I once was pleasant Ephraim,

“When Jacob for me pray’d;

“But oh! how blessings vanish,

“When man from God has stray’d!


“Before your nation knew us,

“Some thousand moons ago,

“Our fathers fell in darkness,

“And wander’d to and fro.


“And long they’ve liv’d by hunting,

“Instead of work and arts,

“And so our race has dwindled,

“To idle Indian hearts.


“Yet hope within us lingers,

“As if the Spirit spoke:-

‘He’ll come for your redemption,

‘And break your Gentile yoke:


And all your captive brothers,

‘From every clime shall come,

And quit their savage customs,

‘To live with God at home.


“Then joy will fill our bosoms,

“And blessing crown our days,

“To live in pure religion,

“And sing our Maker’s praise.”

Since they were both the children of Joseph—and therefore spiritual cousins—the Latter Day Saints and the American Indians were believed by the early Saints as kindred peoples who would come together to jointly build up an American New Jerusalem as the land of their eternal inheritance—their own “promised land.”

Indeed, a mere fifty-four verses into the Book of Mormon these Israelites are told that God would send them from Jerusalem to “a land of promise” (1 Nephi 1:54)—the American continent. According to the Book of Mormon God was giving this “land of promise” to the descendants of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) as the land of their inheritance—for both time and all eternity. The Book of Mormon peoples were given a “Promised Land” in the western hemisphere on condition of keeping God’s commandments.

Moroni, one of the Book of Mormon prophets, warned future inhabitants of this land: “Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free…if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). An evolving concept, later Joseph Smith declared that in the “last days” before Jesus Christ’s return to Earth and the advent of the millennium the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would be gathered to the land of their “inheritance,” as the Jews would be gathered to the Jerusalem in Israel.

These descendants would build a city on the American continent that would be called “Zion” or “New Jerusalem” to coexist simultaneously with the Jerusalem of Israel that would also be built up. After the end of this age when “there shall be a new heaven and a new earth” both the American “New Jerusalem” and the Jerusalem of Israel would return to a renewed Earth. LDS converts also embraced the idea that the New Jerusalem is where the “lost ten tribes” will first come.

Joseph Smith continued to embellish his concept of America as a sacred space for Zion, “the New Jerusalem,” throughout the remainder of his life. In the early 1830s he undertook what he referred to as a “new translation” of the Bible that elaborated on America as a Promised Land of Zion. Not a translation in any strict sense of the term, he rewrote passages of the King James Version, adding and modifying as he thought appropriate, always contending that he was restoring through inspiration parts of the Bible lost over the centuries.

Moroni and Joseph Smith. From "Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet" (Salt Lake City: Stevenson, 1893), p. 21.

Moroni and Joseph Smith. From “Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet” (Salt Lake City: Stevenson, 1893), p. 21.

For example, in Smith’s revision of Genesis (chapters 6–7) written in December 1830, he told an extended story of Enoch, the father of Methuselah, suggesting that Enoch built a city for his followers—coincidentally also called “Zion” (Genesis 7:25). Smith wrote: “And the Lord called his people, Zion, because they were of one heart and of one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there were no poor among them. And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the city of Holiness, even Zion.” Because of its righteousness, this city was ultimately “translated” and taken up into heaven. From that point on, many other righteous people were similarly “caught up…into Zion” (Genesis 7:34).

Moreover, in this scripture Enoch beheld in vision that in the last days before the return of Christ in triumph to usher in the millennial reign that the elect would be gathered “from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare; an holy city, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion; a New Jerusalem” (Genesis 7:27, 70).

Just prior to Jesus Christ’s return to usher in the millennium, Smith wrote in his revision of the Bible, another city of “Zion” would be built on the Earth that would also be called “a New Jerusalem” (Genesis 7:70). Upon His Second Coming, Jesus would bring Enoch’s heavenly Zion with Him and join it with the Earthly Zion that had been established on the Earth (Genesis 7:71–72). This lengthy—and highly inventive—insertion into the Genesis account provided additional support for an American Zion as conceptualized by Joseph Smith and his Mormon followers. The Enoch revelation suggests that Smith had begun to explore methodologies for understanding and controlling church community, sustenance, and the concept of Zion.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Mormonism”

MormonismMormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition. By Jan Shipps. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984.

This is a book that has been available for more than three decades, yet it is still a useful discussion. Jan Shipps has been the modern equivalent of Thomas L. Kane, a sympathetic outsider who helps explain Mormonism to the world beyond the borders of Deseret. Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition is her master statement. I read this book when it first came out more than thirty years ago; on rereading it, I recognize even more clearly than previously how it was a benchmark in the historiography of the LDS religion.

Shipps’s thesis is encapsulated in this book’s subtitle, that the Latter-day Saint religion is completely separate from the Protestant tradition that spawned it in the early nineteenth century—perhaps as distinct from it as Christianity is from Judaism. She writes, “Of the cultic movements whose members accepted radically revised or fundamentally altered versions of the faith stories regnant in their cultures, only Christianity and Mormonism are now full-scale religious traditions” (p. 50). It is a powerful thesis, and Shipps argues on behalf of it with eloquence and alacrity. It is also a thesis that is at its base attractive to members of the Latter-day Saint church, since they view themselves as a “peculiar people,” and therefore it has been embraced as an explanation for the exceptionalism of the religion.

Using the literature of both cultural anthropology and sociology to buttress her thesis, Shipps makes explicit comparisons between the Mormon/Protestant and the Christian/Jewish traditions. She unabashedly draws parallels and makes insightful comparisons. More to the point, she also questions many of Mormonism’s cherished principles about a restoration of ancient Christianity. At the same time, she gives full measure to the religious innovations, such as esoteric temple rituals, plural marriage, and a host of other oddities.

I am especially taken with her discussion of the role of historical investigation in her analysis. Shipps believes that the depiction of events in the Mormon past is more significant to the health of the religion than for most other faiths. Accordingly, an overtly mythic history has emerged and there is exceptionally little wiggle room for reinterpretation of the agreed upon “master narrative.” Since I am personally enthralled with the power of myth in the making of image and memory I find these observations fascinating.

There is much to praise in this important book, and little to criticize. Some have questioned Shipps’s thesis in the context of the twentieth century, for Mormonism appears to many observers more American than America and not all that distinctive, certainly not a religious tradition comparable to early Christianity’s relationship to Judaism. For those immersed in Mormon studies, however, her thesis holds up quite well for the more recent past just as it does for earlier eras.

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Joseph Smith, Mormonism, and the Idea of Apostasy and Restoration

Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph Smith Jr.

Virtually since the beginning of the Latter-day Saint church in 1830 its founder, Joseph Smith Jr., had made strong linkages between ancient Israel and the modern Mormon era. Gathering a small group of stalwart followers in upstate New York, Smith sent missionaries into outlying areas, proselytizing all that would listen. Their message was eloquent in its simplicity and powerful in its attraction. They spoke of the boy prophet who had received divine guidance to correct the errors of the Christian churches by calling the world to repentance and baptism into the pure church of Jesus Christ.

They appealed to the adolescent republic’s natural curiosity about the ancient inhabitants of America with the story told in the Book of Mormon. They propounded the doctrine of divine revelation—not just as experienced in Biblical times but for their own day as well—and asserted that Joseph Smith Jr., was a prophet like Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Elijah. And finally, they adopted a popular ideal of the time concerning the imminent advent of Christ and the beginning of the millennial reign.

The themes of millennialism, current divine revelation, the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of Christianity to its ancient purity—the bases upon which Smith built early Mormonism—were exciting and meaningful to many Americans of the 1830s and 1840s, a period when the religious ferment of antebellum America spawned many religious movements, several adopting one or more of the basic themes of Mormonism.

What made Smith’s movement so unique was its blend of themes and the energy and vitality of both its leadership and membership, which guaranteed the survival of the Mormon religion when many of its counterparts failed. Mormonism survived largely because of a second tier of leaders who took the vision of the prophet, cut it loose from the more sublime and radical concepts of the early church’s theology, and put it more in concert with a practical reality. Brigham Young clearly followed a path of “routinization” of the faith, institutionalizing critical elements of the remarkably fertile theological conceptions of Joseph Smith .

Joseph Smith from his earliest years emphasized the apostasy of all other religious groups and the need for a restoration of ancient religious truth. Smith insisted that the church established by Jesus Christ has been a new chosen people, accepting the special place in God’s favor that had been enjoyed by the ancient Israelites. But like those ancient Israelites, the Christian religion had fallen into apostasy and had to during the intervening years and required restoration.

This stained glass window of Joseph Smith's First Vision was completed in 1913 by an unknown artist, and is presently displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This stained glass window of Joseph Smith’s First Vision was completed in 1913 by an unknown artist, and is presently displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In Joseph Smith’s “First Vision,” presumably taking place in 1820, the 14-year-old boy prayed to God which of the various Christian churches he should join. He received a powerful vision that motivated the remainder of his life. “I was answered that I must join none of them,” Smith recollected in 1842,

for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

Only a restoration of the church in its ancient purity would prove acceptable, and Smith believed himself called of God to accomplish that sacred task. The April 6, 1830, incorporation of the church, as well as host of other actions including the “restoration” of the priesthood and the translation of the Book of Mormon, represented key elements in that process.

Mark E. Petersen, who served for many years in LDS Quorum of Twelve Apostles, wrote of Smith’s restoration efforts:

Under the guidance of heaven they organized his Church according to the pattern of ancient times. The powers of the priesthood have been brought back to earth by the ministry of angels. All the gifts and powers of former days have been restored. They did not come from any existing organization. They did not come from any manmade society, nor from any political unit. They came from heaven. Holy angels brought them to earth, pure and undefiled.

This restored Church is known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City. Its organization meets all of the specifications of the scripture. It possesses the divine priesthood of God. It is headed by prophets and Apostles as was the Church in the days of Peter and Paul.

It invites all men to receive its message, for it is a message of salvation for everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free.

Of course, Joseph Smith was not the only individual in the early American republic concerned with the restoration of ancient Christianity. An important strain of “restorationism” ran through many religious groups in the first half of the nineteenth century. Among many others, Alexander Campbell and his followers adopted a goal of the restoration of the “ancient order of things.”

Those interlinked ideas of apostasy and restoration led directly to a belief among nineteenth century Mormons that the beliefs they embraced was a continuation of the eternal gospel present on the Earth whenever there were righteous men. In earlier eras God’s followers had been a covenant people, raised above all others and rewarded by God for their faithfulness. Mormons of all eras have believed that they were nothing less than a chosen people as the ancients Israelites of old.

For the Mormons, they possessed the truth of the gospel and it was their responsibility to bring it to the rest of the world. That was true in the first generation of Mormonism, and it remains true to the present. In the fall of 1830 Joseph Smith sent his first far-reaching missionaries to the American West to preach to the Native Americans of Kansas, and while that effort proved less than successful a detour led by Parley P. Pratt to Kirtland, Ohio, netted Sidney Rigdon, a reformed Baptist minister, and virtually all of his congregation. The 2000 feature film, God’s Army, by writer/director/actor Richard Dutcher, attests to the continuing centrality of the missionary impulse in Mormon culture. And a key element of Mormonism’s message from 1830 to the present resides around apostasy and restoration.

Nauvoo, Illinois, as seen across the Mississippi River from Iowa in the 1840s.

Nauvoo, Illinois, as seen across the Mississippi River from Iowa in the 1840s.

Early Latter-day Saints developed an ironclad proof text—passages of scripture used to prove a doctrine—to demonstrate the apostasy of the ancient Christian church and the restoration of God’s ancient law in the modern era. They proved remarkably inventive in making this case, using biblical texts and related theological treatises to accomplish the task. As only one example among many, in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, is states: “For the time will come when [members of Christ’s church] will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables.”

No less, Mormon believers accept the concept of a restoration of the gospel in the “latter days” before the tribulations foretold in the Book of Revelation (Isaiah 29:13-14, 24; Daniel 2:28, 44-45; Jeremiah 31:31-34; and Ezekial 37:26.) They would affirm, both in the 1830s and today, that new scripture would come forth out of the Earth to stand with the Bible as a witness of God and His work (Psalms 85:11 and Isaiah 29:4, 11-12, 18, 24.)

Mormons insisted that God ordained a new messenger, as He did with John the Baptist, to bring about this restoration, and that He would empower that prophet with the keys of priesthood sealing powers (See Malachi 3:1; Matthew 11:10.) That individual, of course, was Joseph Smith Jr.

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Ed Daly and the World Airways Experience

Edward J. Daly, the entrepreneur who built World Airways, was one of the most unusual air transport entrepreneurs of the Cold War era. Forty years ago Daly made a name for himself during the evacuation of South Vietnam in March-April 1975. Although Daley took over World Airways in 1950s and built it into one of the most important supplemental carriers operating, often under contract to the DoD, in the United States his status changed in that 1975 crisis.

Edward J. Daly, President and CEO World Airways, 1950-1984.

Edward J. Daly, President and CEO World Airways, 1950-1984.

Daly built an aggres­sive air transport company, largely on the basis of contracts with the militar­y. In 1956 he contracted with the Air Force for his two war-surplus C-46s, the only aircraft owned by World Airways at the time, to assist with Opera­tion SAFE HAVEN, the transport of refugees fleeing Hungary to the United States. A major step forward came on June 15, 1960, when World obtained a transco­ntinental con­tract to deliver parts and supplies between U.S. military installa­tions. This action assured a solvent corpora­tion and laid the groundwork for future expansion.

In May 1962 World Airways demonstrated its expansive philosophy by placing an order for three of the new Boeing 707‑320Cs. This was the first jet aircraft order from any of the supplemental carriers and it made World one of the most attrac­tive of these companies operating on the margins of air transport. World prospered during the following years, in part because of the 1962 passage of the Supplemental Air Carrier Act designed to weed out weaker and less safe carriers, steadily expanding its private charter business, but especially finding a niche as a contractor to the Department of Defense.

Beginning in the mid‑1960s it became one of the prin­cipal commercial carriers airlifting military personnel between the United States and Southeast Asia. Each year as American involvement in Vietnam grew,World’s profits also rose as well. By the end of the decade of the 1960s World was operating a fleet of nine Boeing 707s and four Boeing 727s to provide charter and cargo jet service. Daly improved this fleet with the acquisition of Boeing 747s in 1973 and DC‑10s in 1978.

WorldAirwaysMD11In the forced withdrawal of Americans and other refugees from South Vietnam in 1975, Ed Daly and World Airways entered the popular consciousness. It operated several Boeing 747 mis­sions into Da Nang and Saigon as North Vietnamese forces were surrounding those cities to evacuate refugees.

Daly, on March 27, 1975, the day after the North Vietnamese had captured Hue, accompanied a World Airways Boeing 727 carrying 200 refugees out of danger. World Airways completed three more flights before the closure of the Da Nang airport. Two days later, after failing to obtain any permission whatsoever to fly into Da Nang, Ed Daly decided to continue his efforts. He told the media: “People who should have been doing something about it sat on their asses and refused to move.” Just after noon two World Airways 727-100s left Tan Son Nhut Air Base for Da Nang, without clearance or permission.

When the 727s reached Da Nang, the first made a pass over the runway at about two hundred feet. It appeared clear so they landed. Thousands of people rushed the airplane.  Jan Wollett, a flight attendant aboard, recalled that “They were running, they were on motorcycles, they were in vans, they were in jeeps and cars and personnel carriers, they were on bicycles—they were coming in anything they could find to get into the aircraft.”

Soldiers, civilians, men, women, adults, and children fought to climb aboard. Daly, who had gone back to assist refugees, was mauled as able-bodied men threw off those less capable of defending themselves. At one point Daly threatened some with a pistol. Almost immediately someone yelled, “We’re full,” and the pilot accelerated the 727 down the taxiway as people climbed onto the wings, and then fell off as the jet became airborne.

A distraught soldier hurled a hand grenade and badly damaged the flaps on the right side. The pilot could not retract his landing gear because several people had crawled into the wheel wells. Shortly after the 727 became airborne, the pilot of the second airplane reported seeing someone lose his grip on the landing gear and fall to his death. The saddest aspect of this flight, there were only ten women and one baby among the 268 people who jammed themselves into the airplane and into the wheel wells. This was the last flight out of Da Nang. The next day it fell to the North Vietnamese without additional resistance.

Daly did pretty much the same thing on April 2, flying an unauthorized World Airways DC-8 flight evacuating 58 orphans and 27 adults from Saigon to Oakland. Daly’s maverick approach toward these evacuation flights were implicitly sanctioned the next day when President Gerald R. Ford announced that the United States government would provide airlift for over 2,000 other Vietnamese orphans in a program called Operation BABYLIFT. Daly and World were heavily involved in this effort as well. Of the 2,894 orphans that reached the United States between April 3 and May 9, 1975, the date that the State Department officially ended the evacuation of the children, World Airways joined other privately contracted airlines to carry 1,090 of them.

Hailed as a hero by the media, Daly’s actions in the Vietnam evacuation were not always appreciated by government officials. When censured Daly sent a Telex to President Ford:

We have just been notified…that our contract with the Military Airlift Command for the supply of food to Cambodia has been terminated effective this date….There is no wonder that the peoples of the world have lost their confidence in the U.S. government and its people….With all due respect to you and your worldwide problems, Mr. President, I strongly urge that you get the incompetents out of there immediately and appoint someone with the intelligence, competency and the guts necessary to get the job done. You don’t have days or weeks—you only have minutes.”

Daly’s contracts were reinstated. He was also profiled in People magazine in 1975 for his exploits.

The fall of South Vietnam was the high point in a career laced with action and not a little adventure. Daly savored the limelight that his flights out with refugees brought him. He probably also savored the complaints about him from certain government officials for his ignoring of regulations, especially the fact that they could do nothing about it.

A World Airways Boeing 747-400BDSF at Munich Airport, Germany, 2009.

A World Airways Boeing 747 at Munich Airport, Germany, 2009.

Thereafter World Airways continued to lead the supple­mental carriers. Daly also finally broke into the scheduled ranks in 1979 with limited routes. While the company faced severe financial difficulties during the early 1980s, in part due to the deregula­tion of the airline industry, it was able to weather the crisis and continue its role as a supplemental carrier for the DoD. Ed Daly died in 1984; World Airways operated for many years thereafter but finally went into receivership in March 2014.

Ed Daly was such an usual, intriguing, and controversial—as well as visionary—figure that I would like to write more about him. Perhaps someday.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “The Birth of Modern Politics”

Birth of Modern PoliticsThe Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. By Lynn Hudson Parsons. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

This is an enjoyable and enlightening new book on the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. It does a good job of discussing the coalition of supporters that put Jackson in the White House. It begins, appropriately with the collapse of the first party system and the election of 1824, which shaped fundamentally the 1828 campaign.

The author contends that this election served as a watershed in the American political system. We have known this for a long time, but Parsons’s goes further by insisting that the election of 1828 forever separated the politicians and people of the second American party system from the era of the Founders and its genteel, Enlightenment political ideals.

The author deals both with the rise of new styles of campaigning—emphasis on popular rallies, etc.—and on the division of American society into divergent pieces that had to be enticed to support the various organizations that could carry on the job of electing officials and formulating policies that reflected the priorities of its adherents. I’m not sure I would say that this election represented the “birth of modern politics,” but it is a thought-provoking way to think about the election and its meaning.

While this is a very fine overview of its subject, clearly the author’s primary intent, there is not that much new here for those immersed in the history of the era. The class divisions, the sectional influences, the push and pull of political traditions, the economics of the time, and the culture of the Antebellum U.S. are all present, but I looked hard for a new take on this and failed to find it.

Instead this is a useful and succinct synthesis that builds on decades of historiographical contributions from a range of scholars, among them Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Robert Remini, Charles Sellars, Sean Wilentz, and others. I would recommend this book as an accessible survey of the election of Andrew Jackson, appropriate for classroom use, but not a benchmark in historical understanding of a well-studied subject.

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Jerome C. Hunsaker and the Development of Aviation in America

Jerome C. Hunsaker

Jerome C. Hunsaker

I gained a new appreciation for Jerome Clarke Hunsaker (1886-1984) at the recent NACA Centenary Symposium held in Washington on March 3 and 4, 2015. His fingerprints are all over the history of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the larger aviation efforts in the United States for much of the first century of flight. He was an internationally known teacher and researcher in aerodynamics especially during the first half of the twentieth century. He made enormous contributions to the development of flight systems, fired the enthusiasm of more than a generation of later engineers involved in aviation research, and virtually created the aeronautical engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His career spanned more than six decades of aircraft research and development, where his efforts helped to establish the scientific and mathematical basis for flight.

Hunsaker was born on August 26, 1886, in Creston, Iowa, the son of Walter J. and Alma Clarke Hunsaker, who worked with the local newspaper. He moved with his family to Detroit and Saginaw, Michigan, where his father published newspapers, and was educated in the public schools. A fine student and a good athlete, Hunsaker was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1904, and graduated at the head of his class in 1908. As a boy he had become enthralled with the exploits of the Wright Brothers, Samuel Langley, and other aviators, and while at the academy he pursued questions related to the problems of flight.

When Hunsaker completed his schooling as a Midshipman and was commissioned, he obtained an appointment to MIT where he was to pursue graduate training and set up a technical program to study the development of aircraft as a naval weapon. MIT awarded him an M.S. in 1912 and a doctorate in 1916 in aeronautical engineer­ing. During the latter four years Hunsaker organized and taught the first American course on aeronautical engineering, on the success of which he founded the internationally famous Department of Aeronautical Engineering which he headed between 1939 and 1952. Hunsaker commented:

In the beginning it was not possible to teach the principles of aeronautical engineering because none of us knew them. The principles had to be discovered, which meant that we had to investigate the difficulties of the past, collect a lot of facts, and then, after finding the meaning of the facts, determine the engineering principles of flight.

Among those Hunsaker taught during this period was Donald W. Douglas, another Annapolis Midshipman who had been sent to MIT to study aeronautical engineering and the founder in 1920 of the Douglas Aircraft Corp. Hunsaker and Douglas developed at MIT during these years the first effective U.S. wind tunnel to study aerodynamics.

While Hunsaker was involved in this work at MIT, he was ostensibly a U.S. naval officer.  He was far removed from the workaday Navy, however, until World War I when he was called to serve in Washington to head the Aircraft Division of the Navy Bureau of Construction and Repair. During the war, therefore, he had responsibility for the design, development, and manufacturing of all naval aircraft, whether airplanes, seaplanes, or airships. By the end of the war, Hunsaker had overseen the construction of more than 1,000 flying boats. Hunsaker also encouraged the efforts of Donald Douglas in the 1920s, who had formed his own aircraft manufacturing company in southern California, and while still heading the Navy’s aircraft production program purchased 96 DT-1 torpedo bombers. This began a long partnership for Douglas Aircraft Company with the Navy.

Jerome Hunsaker at MIT.

Jerome Hunsaker at MIT.

In this capacity Hunsaker also had responsibility for the development of lighter-than-air craft and he sponsored the construction of numerous non-rigid airships for submarine patrol.  He was largely responsible for the development of the U.S.S. Shenandoah, the Navy’s first lighter-than-air vessel, a rigid airship that was intended for aerial observation and strategic bombardment.  He was interested in airships because of the experience of World War I. Germany had built a fearsome bombing force around Zeppelin airships by 1914, and used them effectively early in the war. Although Zeppelins made huge targets and the hydrogen that kept them aloft was highly flammable and could be ignited with machine gun fire, until the closing months of the war their high cruising altitude ensured safety from fighter attack.

The Shenandoah, contracted for in 1919 and delivered in the summer of 1923, would provide a similar capability for the U.S. Navy. Also, since it was inflated with helium, it would not ignite the way hydrogen did. Hunsaker was thrilled when the Shenandoah made its maiden flight on September 4, 1923, flying round trip between the Navy’s lighter-than-air facility at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and St. Louis, Missouri, in less than two days. He was upset when the airship was lost in a tragic accident in Ohio on September 3, 1925, in which 13 men died.

Hunsaker resigned his naval commission in 1926, after attaining the rank of commander, to pursue business interests. Until 1933 he worked with several corporations on a variety of projects. For example, he worked with Bell Telephone Laboratories to develop a radio communication system for aircraft. He then joined the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company as vice president for the newly formed Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation.

Navy NC-4, designed by Jerome Hunsaker, George C. Westervelt, and Holden C. Richardson.

Navy NC-4, designed by Jerome Hunsaker, George C. Westervelt, and Holden C. Richardson.

In the depth of the Depression in 1933, Hunsaker returned to MIT to head the Department of Mechanical Engineering and take charge of the aeronautical engineering program. When the Department of Aeronautical Engineering was formed in 1939 he became its chair. In this capacity he helped to train and certainly served as a role model of more than two generations of aeronautical engineers. He finally retired in 1952, but stayed at MIT as a lecturer until 1957 when he entered emeritus status.

Jerome Hunsaker lived a long time. He died at the age of 98 on September 10, 1984, at his home in Beacon Hill, Massachusetts. His wife, Alice P. Avery, had already died in 1966, but his son, Jerome C. Hunsaker, Jr., and two daughters, Sarah P. Swope and Alice M. Bird, survived him.

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Fielding New Army Air Forces Fighter Aircraft for World War II

During the 1930s the United States fell behind other nations in the development of fighter aircraft. This was explained in part by the Army Air Corps’ concentration on developing long-range bombers. At the opening of the war the U.S. relied essentially on two fighter aircraft. Both the Bell P-39 “Aircobra” and Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk,” designed in the mid-1930s, were single-engine fighters.  Each weighed about 4,000 pounds and had from four to six machine guns depending on the model. Between 1940 and 1944, when production ceased, a total of 9,558 P-39s and 13,738 P-40s had been accepted for service in the Army Air Forces. Only the P-40, which was employed with good success by Clair Chennault’s “Flying Tigers” in China during 1940-1942, received notoriety during the war.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning had far greater range than its early contemporaries.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning had far greater range than its early contemporaries.

The Army Air Forces developed three additional fighters that found service in the war.  The Lockheed P-38 “Lightning,” with its unique forked-tail was designed in 1937 for high-altitude interception. A superior aircraft in terms of performance and firepower, comparing favorably with the British “Spitfire” and German ME-109, by Pearl Harbor the service had an inventory of only 69 P-38s. In all 9,536 P-38s were accepted for use in the Air Forces during the war and it found service in all theaters.

The Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” was one of the most significant fighters of the war. By January 1944 approximately 40 percent of U.S. fighter groups serving overseas were equipped with it. Designed in 1940, the P-47 mounted six to eight 50-caliber machine guns and six 5-inch rockets. An excellent escort plane for bombers, it was also a superior ground attack aircraft. By May 1945 5,595 P-47s were in active service with the Army Air Forces in all theaters.

"The Bottisham Four," a famous photo showing four U.S. Army Air Force North American P-51 Mustang fighters from the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, from RAF Bottisham, Cambridgeshire (UK), in flight on July 26, 1944.

“The Bottisham Four,” a famous photo showing four U.S. Army Air Force North American P-51 Mustang fighters from the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, from RAF Bottisham, Cambridgeshire (UK), in flight on July 26, 1944.

The last U.S. fighter that saw heavy service in World War II was the North American P-51 “Mustang,” the so-called “Cadillac of the skies.” Prior to the war many bomber enthusiasts had believed that their armadas would be invincible to attack from enemy fighters, a theory that was quickly dispelled during the strategic bombing campaign in Europe. Accordingly, fighters were employed as escorts for the bombers, but none had sufficient range to stay with the bomb groups over Germany. The P-51 was the direct result. It was designed initially for the British in 1940, with the Army Air Forces taking little interest until 1942.  The first American group was equipped with P-51s in November 1943. It proved so successful in merging performance, range, and armament that by the end of the war 5,541 P-51 were in the Army Air Forces inventory. Along with the P-38 and P-47, the P-51 carried the brunt of the fighter mission for the Army Air Forces in all but the opening days of the war.

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