The last doughboy passes
Frank Buckles, the last U.S. World War I veteran, died in his home of natural causes early Sunday morning.
February 28th, 2011
02:00 AM ET

The last doughboy passes

CNN Senior National Editor Dave Schechter has written extensively about World War I veterans. He filed this blog post after learning of the death of the war's last U.S. veteran:

I never met Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I, who died at 110-years-old in his sleep early Sunday at his farm in West Virginia.

Nonetheless, I feel a loss because over the past 20-plus years I was drawn into a small community of people who kept track of the dwindling numbers of American veterans of “The War To End All Wars.”

My professional interest began many years ago when my wife, then a producer at CNN, worked on a project about centenarians and brought home the newspaper of an organization for World War I veterans and their families. On the personal side, my mother’s father trained as a pilot at Kelly Field in Texas but never deployed, while my father’s father served in the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, likely inhaled poison gas and served as the allied military’s legal authority in a sector of Germany (an experience he wrote about for The Sunday New York Times Magazine).

Among those most keenly devoted to the surviving doughboys has been David DeJonge, a portrait photographer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who devoted countless hours to photographing World War I veterans and bringing attention to their stories. In recent years, DeJonge accompanied Buckles to the White House, the Pentagon, the Capitol and a small, tree-shrouded memorial to the World War I troops from the District of Columbia on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Others with this particular bent have included a now-retired employee of the Veterans Administration, who patiently answered my questions when it came time for my annual note on the numbers of living veterans from America’s wars; the woman who worked for another federal agency full-time but who, on her own time, ran that organization for WWI veterans until their ranks were reduced to only a few dozen; and the radio producer from Texas, who recorded interviews with several of the last survivors for a public radio special narrated by Walter Cronkite.

DeJonge is among those publicly advocating creation on the National Mall of a national memorial to World War I. Just last week in West Virginia, he announced creation of the National World War I Legacy Project, which will  include a documentary DeJonge is producing about Buckles titled “Pershing’s Last Patriot.”  Buckles, who enlisted at 16 and saw duty in England, France and Germany, took this cause seriously, wanting recognition not for himself but for all of those who served in that conflict.

I have written before that if we honor those who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam on the National Mall, then similar recognition is due those of the 20th century’s first major war.

After years of decay, at long last the existing monument to the World War I troops from the District of Columbia is being cleaned up. To create a national monument, I’d like to see it expanded, perhaps with figures of soldiers peering over a trench, bayonets fixed and gas masks at the ready, ready to charge over the top.

Unfortunately, Frank Buckles did not live long enough, not even nine decades after the war ended, to see honor properly paid to his comrades. Now that he has passed, let that honor be paid in memory of this patriot.

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Filed under: History • Military • Veterans • War
Wisconsin law requires teaching of history of organized labor
Protesters rally against a bill that would cut public workers' collective bargaining rights.
February 25th, 2011
01:39 PM ET

Wisconsin law requires teaching of history of organized labor

Public school teachers have been among the loudest voices protesting inside and outside the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison over Gov. Scott Walker's proposals for dealing with the state’s budget problems - specifically his legislation to limit public workers' collective bargaining rights.

Here’s a piece of irony: Wisconsin law requires that public school students be taught the history of organized labor. The kids certainly are getting a real-time lesson in the subject.

Some teachers who left their classrooms and hit the bricks in defense of their ability to organize and negotiate contracts likely are those who teach the history of the labor movement to students in those same classrooms.

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 172, passed by Democrat-controlled state legislature, was signed into law by then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, in December 2009.

The law requires teachers to include instruction in “the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process.”

The state’s Department of Public Instruction website reads: “Wisconsin has long been a leader in labor rights. The Progressive Movement, which had its beginnings in our state, led to laws limiting child labor and safety in the workplace. Unions such as the AFL-CIO and Teamsters allow us to enjoy an eight-hour work week and vacation time. In fact, it has been argued by some historians that the history of the United States itself could be a history of labor.”  The DPI site notes that the law made Wisconsin the first state in the nation to include the history of organized labor as part of state standards for teaching social studies.

Teachers are referred to websites for the Educational Communications Board Surf Report on Labor History, Wisconsin Historical Society Labor Collections and Wisconsin Labor History Society.

The Wisconsin Labor History Society offers teachers outlines to help them present the subject. “Workers and unions helped to make our nation great and to create our standard of living, with top wages and benefits for all workers. There were many struggles facing workers in reaching these goals. This presentation will discuss some of those struggles and identify the major gains of early workers and their unions. ...

Today, the United States is the richest country on earth. By most standards, U.S. earnings permit the vast majority of us to enjoy the highest standards of living. Most families have cars, sometimes two or three, televisions, refrigerators and their children have access to boom boxes, CDs, computers and cell phones.”

Back in April 2009, when then-historical society President Kenneth Germanson testified before the state legislature in support of the bill, he recounted the contributions by organized labor to American society. “But who is aware of this today?” Germanson asked. “Very few persons, and it’s a result of an education system that has overlooked a key part of American history. It’s precisely this omission that AB 172 seeks to overcome.”

Some politically conservative blogs are now calling to repeal AB 172.

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Filed under: Education • History • Labor • Politics • Protest • Wisconsin
Gotta Watch: Chainsaw britches, pot for tots, history's jigsaw, Haiti's 'Earth ships'
An Oklahoma man is accused of trying to steal a chainsaw by shoving it down his pants.
February 23rd, 2011
10:51 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Chainsaw britches, pot for tots, history's jigsaw, Haiti's 'Earth ships'

The ol' cut and run - An Oklahoma man is accused of stuffing a chainsaw down his pants and running. Well, waddling is likely a better word. The best part about this absurd story is the repeated use of the term "britches" and the infamous local news standby – the old camera man re-enactment routine.


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Filed under: Architecture • Art • California • Child safety • Consumer safety • Courts • Drugs • Environment • Germany • Gotta Watch • Haiti • Health • History • Justice • Marijuana • Medical Marijuana • Natural Disasters • Nature • Oklahoma • Science • Travel • Uncategorized • War
Lincoln sneaks through Baltimore - again
President-elect Abraham Lincoln (actor Fritz Klein) meets with the media Wednesday in Baltimore.
February 23rd, 2011
10:41 AM ET

Lincoln sneaks through Baltimore - again

Folks in Baltimore, Maryland, could be forgiven for doing a few double-takes at the tall stranger who rode into town Wednesday morning.

A man who looked an awful lot like the guy on the $5 bill arrived by carriage at Camden Station in a re-enactment of a secret transit by President-elect Abraham Lincoln exactly 150 years earlier.

Following his election in November 1860, Lincoln was making his way to Washington for his March 1861 inauguration when he learned of a possible assassination plot.


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Filed under: Civil War • History • Maryland • Politics
Wednesday's intriguing people
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says a license plate honoring Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest won't actually pass.
February 16th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Haley Barbour

The Mississippi governor, who is reportedly considering a 2012 presidential bid, refused to denounce an effort to put a Confederate-era member of the Ku Klux Klan on state license plates, saying, "I don't go around denouncing people." Barbour also said of the ex-Klansman, "He's a historical figure."


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Filed under: Barack Obama • Budget • District of Columbia • Economy • Education • Football • Health • History • Mississippi • Missouri • Most Intriguing People • Pennsylvania • Politics • Race
Humans may have left Africa for Eurasia earlier than believed
These small hand axes are at least 100,000 years old. A team of scientists found these tools in the United Arab Emirates.
January 27th, 2011
03:45 PM ET

Humans may have left Africa for Eurasia earlier than believed

Scientists have discovered new evidence suggesting that modern humans first left Africa to explore Eurasia much earlier than previously thought.

An international team of scientists has uncovered a tool kit that indicates that modern humans, who looked and perhaps behaved much like us, must have lived in eastern Arabia about 100,000 to 125,000 years ago. The collection of small hand axes, scrapers and other tools was found in Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates. A report about the discovery appears in the journal Science.

The people who made these tools "are our ancestors, I have no doubt about that," said Hans-Peter Uerpmann, of the University of Tubingen in Germany, who collaborated on the project, at a press teleconference Wednesday.

But the findings still do not prove definitively that modern humans made these tools, as the researchers did not find human remains near them, said Ted Goebel, anthropologist at Texas A&M University, who was not involved in the study. They potentially could have been made by Neanderthals or Neanderthal-like hominids, who were already in Eurasia at that time, Goebel said.


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Filed under: History • Science
Geraldine Hoff Doyle, 'We Can Do It!' poster inspiration, dies at 86
December 30th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, 'We Can Do It!' poster inspiration, dies at 86

The woman who inspired the famous World War II "We Can Do It!" poster has died.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle was just 17 when a United Press photographer captured her in 1942 working at a Michigan metal factory, wearing a red polka-dotted bandanna.

Her pretty face caught the eye of artist J. Howard Miller, who had been commissioned by the government to create a series of motivational posters for factory workers.

The face on the poster was Doyle's, but the powerful muscles were not, her daughter Stephanie Gregg of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, told The New York Times.

"She didn't have big, muscular arms," Gregg said in the Times' obituary. "She was 5-foot-10 and very slender. She was a glamour girl. The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face — that's her."

Doyle abandoned the factory job after just two weeks, worried that she might injure her hands and not be able to play cello anymore, according to the Washington Post. She took a job at a soda fountain, where she met her future husband.

The poster eventually became an icon of women's empowerment, but Doyle never recognized her own face on it until 1984, when she saw it in Modern Maturity magazine, the Lansing (Michigan) State Journal reported.

Doyle was married for 66 years to dentist Leo Doyle, who died in February. They had six children, 18 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. Geraldine Doyle died Sunday at a hospice facility in Lansing, her daughter said. She was 86.

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Filed under: Art • History • Michigan • Obituary • U.S. • War
On the Radar: Billy the Kid, snowy East Coast, Australian floods
December 29th, 2010
09:15 AM ET

On the Radar: Billy the Kid, snowy East Coast, Australian floods

Billy the Kid pardon? New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has promised to make a decision by Friday on whether to grant a posthumous pardon to notorious Old West gunslinger Billy the Kid.

Richardson will be deciding only the matter of a promise to the outlaw made by territorial Gov. Lew Wallace, Richardson spokesman Eric Witt said. "We're not offering a blanket pardon for everything he did."

Wallace had promised to grant the Kid (who also went by the name William Bonney) amnesty for the fatal shooting of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady and other "misdeeds" if he agreed to testify before a grand jury investigating another murder. Bonney cooperated, but the pardon didn't happen.


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Filed under: Australia • Billy the Kid • Crime • History • New Mexico • U.S. • Winter weather
New metal-eating bacteria found on Titanic
December 11th, 2010
06:17 PM ET

New metal-eating bacteria found on Titanic

Bacteria scooped from the wreckage of the Titanic almost 20 years ago have been confirmed as a new species in the December issue of a microbiology journal.

While new scientific discoveries are usually heralded as joyous news, this discovery is bittersweet.

The bacteria, found on the ship's "rusticles" (rust formations that look like icicles), are eating the Titanic.

The strain, dubbed Halomonas titanicae, was initially designated BH1T in honor of the researchers who discovered it, then-graduate student Bhavleen Kaur and Dr. Henrietta Mann at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

The researchers tested the bacteria to see whether it was "good bacteria" or "bad bacteria," according to the school's website.

Let's just say the bug has an appetite for destruction.

"The BH1 cells stuck to the surface of these [small metal tags] and eventually destroyed the metal. So we knew we had a bad bacteria,” Mann is quoted as saying on the Dalhousie University website.

"In 1995, I was predicting that Titanic had another 30 years," said Mann, who still works at the university, according to CBS News. "But I think it's deteriorating much faster than that now ... Eventually there will be nothing left but a rust stain," she is quoted as saying.

The metal-eating bug presents a dilemma for scientists.

"Letting it proceed with its deterioration is also a learning process," said Kaur, who now works with the Ontario Science Centre, according to National Geographic. "If we stop and preserve it, then we stop the process of degradation," Kaur is quoted as saying.

The findings were published in the December 8 issue of the  International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

The Titanic, heralded in its day as the largest passenger ship in the world, sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, killing more than 1,500 people. The wreckage was found in 1985 by an expedition team more than 2 miles deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Filed under: History • Nature Pearl Harbor: December 7,1941
December 7th, 2010
03:49 PM ET

Pearl Harbor day: Looking back 'on a date which will live in infamy'

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 - "a date which will live in infamy," President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said at the time - was a defining moment in American and world history that led to the outbreak of World War II.

Japan effectively declared war on the United States on that day, in a move that many Americans - then and now - considered unprovoked. But Japan considered the attack inevitable for a number of political and economic reasons, making the conflict more complicated than generally acknowledged.

Images from commemorating the anniversary include a proposed draft of Roosevelt's "infamous" speech, scenes from Pearl Harbor on the day itself and America's reaction in the days to follow.

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Filed under: History • Japan • Military
November 20th, 2010
10:53 AM ET

Peru president says Yale agrees to give artifacts back

Peru's president says Yale University has agreed to return artifacts to the South American country - a move that could end a lengthy dispute over relics excavated nearly a century ago.

A university representative pledged in a meeting Friday to return a massive collection of artifacts collected from the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, Peruvian President Alan Garcia said.

"The Peruvian government is grateful for this decision and recognizes that Yale University conserved these parts and pieces that otherwise would have been dispersed in private collections throughout the world, and perhaps would have disappeared," Garcia said in a statement.


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Filed under: History • Peru
October 9th, 2010
10:26 PM ET

Paper: Gunfire, tussle heard before Kent State shootings

A commotion and several shots from a pistol preceded the iconic Kent State University shootings that took place 40 years ago, analysis of an audio recording shows, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The new findings shed light - and raise new questions - on what caused the Ohio National Guard to open fire on anti-war demonstrators on May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio.

The events heard on the tape take place about 70 seconds before guardsmen begin firing, killing four students and wounding nine others in an event widely seen as a tipping point for American sentiment against the Vietnam War. The recording was found three years ago in library archives.


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Filed under: History • Military • Ohio • Protest • War
October 5th, 2010
11:03 AM ET

Britain's 'Peerless Pier' goes up in flames

Two teens were arrested in the Tuesday fire at Hastings Pier.

Britain’s renowned Hastings Pier, a Victorian-era structure once dubbed the “Peerless Pier,” was 90 percent destroyed by fire early Tuesday.

Two local men, ages 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of arson after the blaze, according to the Hastings Observer.

The pier, which opened in 1872 as a holiday destination for tourists, was the work of Eugenius Birch, who designed 14 similar piers across Britain. Only seven remained before Tuesday’s fire, according to the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust.

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Filed under: Architecture • Crime • Fire • History • United Kingdom
October 2nd, 2010
09:59 PM ET

The day's most popular stories

The five most popular stories on in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse.

Sanchez out after controversial comments: CNN anchor Rick Sanchez abruptly left the network Friday afternoon, just one day after making controversial comments on a satellite radio program.

J.K. Rowling hints about more Harry Potter: Fans, rejoice - J.K. Rowling offered a bit of hope on Friday that, perhaps, the final Harry Potter story has yet to be told.


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Filed under: Elections • Guatemala • Harry Potter • Health • History • Most Popular • Politics • Showbiz
September 25th, 2010
07:07 PM ET

Susan B. Anthony letter goes on sale for $15,000

Susan B. Anthony letter wrote this letter in 1905, a year before her death.

A newly discovered letter written by civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony decrying the treatment of women as "pets" has gone on sale for $15,000.

The letter offers a rare, personal glimpse into the powerful emotions behind the fight for women's equal rights, said Nathan Raab, Vice President of The Raab Collection, which is offering the letter for sale.

"This letter has the unique perspective of being simultaneously a reflection of the pain of her female contemporaries at being shut out of society's privileges, and also the optimism with which they worked for equal rights," Raab said.


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Filed under: History
August 18th, 2010
10:38 PM ET

Civil War site unites descendants of captive, guard

Kevin Chapman, the college graduate student who led the team that recently unearthed Civil War artifacts at the site of a Confederate prison in Georgia, recalls two visitors who came one day to watch one of the digs.

Doug Carter of Fayetteville, Georgia, and Nina Raeth of North Augusta, South Carolina, traveled in April to Magnolia Springs State Park, unaware of each other and the bond they shared.

Carter brought a "fowling" shotgun that belonged to his great-grandfather, Jesse Taliaferro Carter, who was a Confederate prison guard at Andersonville and Camp Lawton, site of Chapman's work.

Raeth, a great-granddaughter of a Union prisoner who also was at Andersonville and Lawton, came out of curiosity.


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Filed under: Civil War • Georgia
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