Well, we’re in the “Dark Ages.” Only the Super Bowl to be played next weekend and no baseball games to talk about, although there are some baseball stories out there. However there is light. Remember these dates: February 14th – Pitchers and Catchers Report for Spring Training; February 17th – Position Players Report for Spring Training; February 24th – Catus and Grapefruit League games begin. And then April 2nd – Baseball season begins. The Yankees open in Tampa against the Rays. The Yankee Stadium opener is not until April 10th, also against the Rays. And May 14th is Derek Jeter Night where his number 2 will officially be retired. I’m going to that game. See you there!
January 27 was the day to give some a crap and celebrate Thomas Crapper Day. He is credited as the inventor of the flush toilet. Crapper was a shrewd businessman, salesman and self-publicist (he didn’t have a blog however). He held many patents and helped modernize indoor plumbing and his company Thomas Crapper & Co. Ltd. Is still producing reproductions of his original designs.
On January 27, 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong formally sign the “Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace to Vietnam” in Paris. The settlement established a cease-fire throughout Vietnam. Both sides agreed to withdraw forces from Laos and Cambodia. Most importantly the agreement set a timetable for withdrawal of US forces and advisors within 60 days and in return North Vietnam agreed to release all US and other prisoners of war. Vice Admiral James Stockdale is shown here climbing down from his A-4 (right) and accepting the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford (below). 591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming. The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. Many of these were Airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos.
Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shoot down; if they did not survive, then they considered efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of the missing. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process. The United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs of 1991–1993 led by Senators John Kerry, Bob Smith, and John McCain. It found “no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.”
Also on January 27 in 1888, the National Geographic Society was founded in Washington, D.C. to “increase the diffusion of geographic knowledge.” And of course that makes January 27th, National Geographic Day. The thirty three original founders were a diverse group of explorers, teachers, geographers, cartographers, military officers, lawyers and financiers. All shared an interest in scientific knowledge and were of the opinion Americans were becoming more interested in the natural world around them. They drafted a constitution and elected their first president, a lawyer and philanthropist Gardiner Greene Hubbard (pictured left). Hubbard was not a scientist but represented the Society’s desire to reach out to the layman. Nine months after its inception, the Society published its first issue of National Geographic magazine. The NGS second president was Alexander Graham Bell, scientist, inventor (pictured below). Readership of the magazine did not grow, however, until Gilbert H. Grosvenor took over as editor in 1899. In only a few years, Grosvenor boosted circulation from 1,000 to 2 million by discarding the magazine’s format of short, overly technical articles for articles of general interest accompanied by photographs. National Geographic quickly became known for its stunning and pioneering photography, being the first to print natural-color photos of sky, sea and the North and South Poles. Today, the Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions and the magazine has a circulation in excess of 9 million. The NGS periodically awards two awards, The Hubbard Medal and the Alexander Graham Bell Medal. The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. The medal is named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first National Geographic Society president. The Hubbard Medal has been presented 35 times as of 2010, the most recent award going to Don Walsh (see FOD January 23, 2017). And of course they have the National Geographic Channel founded in 1997.
27 January 1939: First Lieutenant Benjamin Scovill Kelsey, United States Army Air Corps, made the first flight of the prototype Lockheed XP-38 Lightning, serial number 37-457, at March Field, Riverside County, California. Certainly one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. It was designed by an engineering team led by Hall L. Hibbard, which included the legendary Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson. The XP-38 was a single-place, twin-engine fighter designed for very high speed and long range. Testing continued with thirteen YP-38A pre-production aircraft and was quickly placed in full production.
The P-38 Lightning was one of the most successful combat aircraft of World War II. By the end of the war, Lockheed had built 10,037 Lightnings. It was powered by two Allison V-1710-33 liquid-cooled, supercharged SOHC 60° V-12 engines (one left turning and one right turning). Each weighed 1340 pounds and produced 1040 horsepower at 2800 rpm. During WW II this engine cost $19,000.
In WW II, the 8th Air Force dispatched 64 B-17 Flying Fortresses from their bases at High Wycombe, England, on January 27, 1943. 53 reached their targets in Germany and they shot down 22 German planes while losing 3 bombers. And thus began the sustained long-range bombing effort in what became the first attempt at precision bombing efforts. The B-17 developed a reputation as an effective bomber, using the then-secret Norden bombsight, known as the “Blue Ox” an optical electro-mechanical gyro-stabilized analog computer dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II. These were tough aircraft as you can see below.
Of the 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped on Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s. B-17s were built at Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle and also by Lockheed Vega, Burbank, CA (B-17G-VE 2250 aircraft) and by Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA (B-17G-DL 2395 aircraft). 12,731 aircraft were produced. My Dad, Lloyd R. Hayes served in the 8th Air Force during WW II and later on during the war installed Norden Bombsight Trainers for IBM, including ones at what is now Fairchild AFB, Spokane WA .
And sadly, on 27 January 1967: During a “plugs out” test of the Apollo 1 capsule, two weeks ahead of the scheduled launch of the AS-204 Saturn 1B—the first manned Apollo Program space flight—a fire broke out in the pressurized pure oxygen environment and very quickly involved the entire interior. The pressure rapidly built to 29 pounds per square inch (200 kPa) and 17 seconds later, at 23:31:19 UTC, the capsule ruptured. The three astronauts inside, Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. Grissom, United States Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, United States Air Force, and Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Chaffee, United States Navy, were killed. The NASA accident investigation summary is available at https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_01a_Summary.htm. This post accident investigation led to many improvements in the Apollo program and more control by the astronaut corps over their capsule and other hardware.
Another one of those days when we’ll each recall where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news of January 28, 1986 – the Space Shuttle Challenger is gone. I was just returning from a great flight in the F-14 with VF-21, against several Top Gun adversaries, when I learned the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:39 EST (16:39 UTC). Disintegration of the vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring was not designed to fly under unusually cold conditions as in this launch. Its failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, (shown right just at launch) allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank. (Pictured below). This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter. Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live because of the presence of Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident, with the agency violating its own safety rules. NASA managers had known since 1977 that contractor Morton Thiokol‘s design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings, but they had failed to address this problem properly. NASA managers also disregarded warnings (an example of “go fever“) from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning, and failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors. The Challenger accident is frequently used as a case study evaluating engineering safety, the ethics of whistle-blowing, communications, group decision-making, and the dangers of groupthink.
And for you Packer fans still hurting from the NFC Championship game, on 28 January 1959, the Green Bay Packers signed Vince Lombardi to a five year contract. (Lombardi pictured left with Bart Starr, QB for Green Bay). Lombardi is best known for his coaching accomplishments during the 1960’s when he lead the Packers to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. The NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor. He was the right guard in the Seven Blocks of Granite, at Fordham University, in 1936 and was later an assistant coach at the US Military Academy. In fact when Army lost its coach after the 1962 season, President John F. Kennedy, a Navy fan to be sure, asked Lombardi if he would accept a position as Army’s head coach because he wanted to ensure Army had a good coach moving forward – Lombardi declined.