December 1 to December 15
Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
by John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith
America is a “melting pot”: a country composed—generously—of immigrants. In 1938, Enrico Fermi immigrated from Italy after garnering the Nobel Prize in physics. Afterwards, he obtained a professorship at the University of Chicago, conceived the world’s first nuclear reactor, designed the atomic bomb, and advanced the applications of statistical mechanics and quantum theory.
According to History.com, Fermi “created a jury-rigged laboratory with the necessary equipment, which he called an ‘atomic pile,’ in a squash court in the basement of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. With colleagues and other physicists looking on, Fermi produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction and the ‘new world’ of nuclear power was born.” A cryptic message was sent to President Roosevelt to signal the success. It read, “the Italian navigator has just landed in the New World.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age by David N. Schwartz.
At 2:10 P.M. on December 5, 1945, five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers lifted off for a routine training mission from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station:
“Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and backup compass had failed and that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions. Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, but none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 6:20 p.m., apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel,” reports History.com.
At 7:27 p.m. a search and rescue Mariner aircraft departed with a 13-man crew to search for the lost squadron. It was never seen again.
“Naval officials maintained that the remains of the six aircraft and 27 men were not found because stormy weather destroyed the evidence, [but] the story of the ‘Lost Squadron’ helped cement the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of the Atlantic Ocean where ships and aircraft are said to disappear without a trace.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Into the Bermuda Triangle: Pursuing the Truth Behind the World’s Greatest Mystery by Gian Quasar.
Most American women did not nab the vote until 1920—except those residing in Wyoming. Their rights were bestowed on December 10, 1869.
History.com tells us that “though some men recognized the important role women played in frontier settlement, others voted for women’s suffrage only to bolster the strength of conservative voting blocks. In Wyoming, some men were also motivated by sheer loneliness–in 1869, the territory had over 6,000 adult males and only 1,000 females, and area men hoped women would be more likely to settle in the rugged and isolated country if they were granted the right to vote.”
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends New Women in the Old West: From Settlers to Suffragists, an Untold American Story by Winifred Gallagher.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.