On June 11th 1963, Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, sat down in the middle of a busy intersection in Saigon, covered himself in gasoline, ignited a match, and set himself on fire. Đức burned to death in a matter of minutes. He was immortalized in a photograph taken by a reporter who was in Vietnam to cover the war. All those who saw this spectacle were taken by the fact that Duc did not make a sound while burning to death. Đức was protesting President Ngô Đình Diệm’s administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion.
During the second Sino-Japanese War and World War II the Japanese military formed an infamous secret squadron whose goal was to research and develop biological and chemical warfare. This unit showed no remorse and carried out some of the most heinous experiments in human history on men, women, children, and infants. Thousands of civilian and military personnel were subjected to human experimentation.
Ping Fang was the headquarters of the Japanese Biological Warfare Unit 731. Often refered to as the “Asian Auschwitz” the facility had an airport, railway, dungeons medical facilities and an incinerator where the bodies of the victims were disposed of. The Japanese burnt most of Ping Fang to destroy the evidence of their crimes but the incinerator remains and is still used by a local factory that has taken over the complex.
In 1942, Shiro Ishii, began field tests of the germ warfare agents developed by Unit 731, He also began testing various methods of dispersion (i.e. via firearms, bombs, gas, clothing, etc.) on both Chinese prisoners of war as well as, operationally on battlefields and against civilians in Chinese cities. Some historians estimate that as many as, 200,000+ died as a result of the bio-weapons that were deployed. His unit also conducted physiological experiments on human subjects, including vivisections, forced abortions, simulated strokes, heart attacks, frostbite and hypothermia.
Arrested by the American authorities at the end of World War II, Ishii and Unit 731 leaders received immunity in 1946 from war-crimes prosecution before the Tokyo tribunal in exchange for germ warfare data based on human experimentation. Many of the scientists involved in Unit 731 went on to prominent careers in post-war politics, academia, business, and medicine. Ishii never spent any time in jail for his crimes and died at the age of 67 of throat cancer.
Initially set up under the Empire of Japan’s Kempeitai military police to develop weapons of mass destruction for potential use against Chinese, and Soviet forces. Unit 731, was officially disbanded in August of 1945, when the Russian’s invaded Manchukuo and discovered another of the highly secret Japanese programs. Unit 200 was researching bio warfare.
Unit 731 was divided into eight divisions:
Division 1: Research on bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax, typhoid and tuberculosis using live human subjects. For this purpose, a prison was constructed to contain around three to four hundred people.
Division 2: Research for biological weapons used in the field, in particular the production of devices to spread germs and parasites.
Division 3: Production of shells containing biological agents. Stationed in Harbin.
Division 4: Production of other miscellaneous agents.
Division 5: Training of personnel.
Divisions 6–8: Equipment, medical and administrative units.
Some of the experiments conducted by Unit 731 and its subsidiary units included:
Vivisection, victims were subjected to live autopsy without anesthesia whereupon they were purposefully infected with diseases (including pregnant women who were impregnated by doctors). The reasons for this was to study the effect on human organs and avoid decomposition from affecting results, amputate limbs to study blood loss and the effects of rotting and gangrene (some limbs were later attached to the other side of the body), parts of the stomach, liver, brains and lungs were often removed to observe the effects.
Weapons testing, grenades, mortars and other explosive devices were detonated near living targets to determine the effects with regards to different distances and angles. So they could determine how long victims could survive with their sustained injuries while others were tied to stakes and were subject to the use of biological bombs, chemical weapons, and other explosive material.
Germ warfare, male and female prisoners were injected with venereal diseases in the disguise of inoculations (or sometimes infected via rape) to determine the viability of germ warfare, victims were infested with fleas in order to communicate the disease to an organism which could be later dropped onto a populace. Fleas themselves were also tainted with cholera, anthrax, and the bubonic plague, as well as, other plagues. These were later dropped in the guise of clothing and supplies which resulted in the estimated death of another 400,000 Chinese civilians. This was the origin of the “flea bomb” which infected large geographic areas and polluted land and water.
In other experiments victims were hung upside down to observe how long it took for one to die due to choking and the length of time until the onset of embolism occurred after inserting air into ones blood stream.
Many think these atrocities were overlooked because The United States feared that the Soviet Union might acquire Ishii’s expertise and records through a secret deal. Allied POWs had a lot of stories to tell about biological experimentation on humans. Prosecutors at the Tokyo War Crimes trials were warned not to investigate the specific crimes and by 1948, all Unit 731 members were offered immunity in exchange for data and co-operation.
The discovery of the bodies beneath Tokyo, broke a cover-up which lasted for more than four decades. Suddenly, allied servicemen started telling about their ordeals. Joseph Gozzo, a former aviation engineer, had glass rods inserted in his rectum during his internment. He said “Damn right I remember; I can’t believe our government let them get away with it”.
Ex-POW, Frank James, shared his memories with a US House of Representatives sub-committee in 1986: “We were just pawns. We Always knew there was a cover-up”. The House of Representatives hearing lasted just half a day and only one of 200 US survivors was permitted to testify in front of the chief archivist for the US Army. The official report said that files provided by Ishii were returned to Japan in the 1950s and copies had not been made.
Initially, the US and Japanese governments denied that atrocities had occurred but when official information was made public from General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters that stated that the investigation of Unit 731 was “under the direct supervision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The utmost secrecy was essential in order to protect the interests of the United States and to guard against embarrassment.” Finally, in 1993, US Defence Secretary William Perry declassified records of WWII biological experiments.
The Conch Republic is a micronation who declared their independence and the secession of the city of Key West from the United States on April 23, 1982. It’s since been maintained as a tourism booster for the city. From then on, the term “Conch Republic” has been expanded to refer to “all of the Florida Keys, or, that geographic apportionment of land that falls within the legally defined boundaries of Monroe County Florida, northward to ‘Skeeter’s Last Chance Saloon’ in Florida City, Dade County Florida, with Key West as the nation’s capital and all territories north of Key West being referred to as ‘The Northern Territories’.”
While the protest that sparked the creation of the Conch Republic (and others which have occurred since then) have been described by some as “tongue-in-cheek”, they were motivated by frustrations over genuine concerns.
The Conch Republic celebrates it’s Independence Day every April 23rd as part of a week-long festival of activities involving numerous businesses in Key West. The organization – a “Sovereign State of Mind,” seeking only to bring more “Humor, Warmth, and Respect” to a world in sore need of all three according to its Secretary General, Peter Anderson.
In 1982, the United States Border Patrol set up a roadblock and inspection point on US 1 just north of the merger of Monroe County Road 905A/Miami-Dade County Road 905A onto US 1 (they are the only two roads connecting the Florida Keys with the mainland), in front of the Last Chance Saloon just south of Florida City. Vehicles were stopped and searched for narcotics and illegal immigrants. The Key West City Council complained repeatedly about the inconvenience for travelers to and from Key West, claiming that it hurt the Keys’ important tourism industry. Eastern Air Lines, which had a hub at Miami International Airport, saw a window of opportunity when the roadblocks were established; Eastern became the only airline to establish jet service to Key West International Airport, counting on travelers from Key West to Miami preferring to fly rather than to wait for police to search their vehicles.
When the City Council’s complaints went unanswered by the federal government and attempts to get an injunction against the roadblock failed in court, as a form of protest Mayor Dennis Wardlow and the Council declared Key West’s independence on April 23, 1982. In the eyes of the Council, since the federal government had set up the equivalent of a border station as if they were a foreign nation, they might as well become one. As many of the local citizens were referred to as Conchs, the nation took the name of the Conch Republic.
As part of the protest, Mayor Wardlow was proclaimed Prime Minister of the Republic, which immediately declared war against the U.S. (symbolically breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a naval uniform), they quickly surrendered after one minute (to the man in the uniform), and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid.
Conch Republic officials were invited to the Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994, and Conch representatives were officially invited to 1995’s Florida Jubilee.
The mock secession and the events surrounding it generated great publicity for the Keys’ plight — the roadblock and inspection station were removed soon afterward. It also resulted in the creation of a new avenue of tourism for the Keys.
Invasions of 1995
On September 20, 1995, it was reported that the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion of the United States Army Reserve was to conduct a training exercise simulating an invasion of a foreign island. They were to land on Key West and conduct affairs as if the islanders were foreign. However, no one from the 478th notified Conch officials of the exercise.
Seeing another chance at publicity, Wardlow and the forces behind the 1982 Conch Republic secession mobilized the island for a full-scale war (in the Conch Republic, this involves firing water cannons from fireboats and hitting people with stale Cuban bread), and protested to the Department of Defense for arranging this exercise without consulting the City of Key West. The leaders of the 478th issued an apology the next day, saying they “in no way meant to challenge or impugn the sovereignty of the Conch Republic”, and submitted to a surrender ceremony on September 22.
During the federal government shutdown of 1995 and 1996, as a protest, the Republic sent a flotilla of Conch Navy, civilian and fire department boats to Fort Jefferson, located in the Dry Tortugas National Park, in order to reopen it. The action was dubbed a “full scale invasion” by the Conch Republic. Inspired by efforts of the Smithsonian Institution to keep its museums open by private donations, local residents had raised private money to keep the park running (a closed park would damage the tourist-dependent local economy), but could find no one to accept the money and reopen the park.
When officials attempted to enter the monument, they were cited. When the citation was contested in court the following year, the resultant case, The United States of America v. Peter Anderson, was quickly dropped.
The annexation of Seven Mile Bridge
In yet another protest on January 13, 2006, Peter Anderson (the defendant in the Dry Tortugas case from 1995–1996) purported to annex the abandoned span of Seven Mile Bridge, which had been replaced by a parallel span in 1982. The move was in response to a recent event regarding Cuban refugees. On the previous January 4, fifteen Cuban refugees had reached the bridge, but had been returned to Cuba by the Border Patrol because of a federal decision under the “wet feet/dry feet” policy of the US government that declared the bridge to be a “wet feet” location. The rationale was that, since two sections of the span had been removed and it was no longer connected to land, it was not part of U.S. territory subject to the “dry feet” rule, and thus the refugees were not permitted to stay. Anderson, seizing upon the apparent disavowal of the abandoned span by the U.S., claimed it for the Republic. He expressed his hope to use the bridge to build affordable, ecologically friendly housing. In response, Russel Schweiss, spokesman for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, declared “With all due respect to the Conch Republic, the bridge belongs to all the people of Florida, and we’re not currently in negotiations to sell it.”The refugee decision was later overturned, but only after the refugees had been returned to Cuba.
In another protest beginning in 2008, the northern keys including Key Largo formed a separation of the Conch Republic known as the Independent Northernmost Territories of the Conch Republic. This separation is claimed to be a result of disagreements over the definition and usage of the term ‘Conch Republic’
Souvenir passports and vehicle registration
Through their website, the Republic issues souvenir passports. These are not valid travel documents. Although these are issued as souvenirs, some people have evidently acquired them in the mistaken belief that they can be used as legitimate travel and identity documents. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, FBI investigators thought that hijacker Mohamed Atta had possibly purchased a Conch Republic passport from the website. International Country Code stickers can also be purchased from vendors in Key West, bearing the initials KW and “CR” – the latter being the official initials for Costa Rica.
The Conch Republic actively maintains an Army, Navy, and Air Force whose primary duties are to help re-enact the Great Sea Battle of 1982, and the retaking of Ft. Jefferson. The Navy comprises no fewer than 10 civilian boats and the schooner Wolf under the command of RAdm. Finbar Gittleman. The Army consists of the 1st Conch Artillery, garrisoned at Ft. Taylor.
The so-called “Zero-Year Curse”, also known as the Curse of Tecumseh or the Curse of Tippecanoe, was first widely popularized by a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” cartoon from 1931. The cartoon noted that since 1840, every U.S. President elected in a year ending with a zero had died in office.
The first victim of the curse, William Henry Harrison, was a general who had received fame for defeating the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh in the battle of the Tippecanoe River in the Indiana Territory in 1811. Because of this victory, Harrison was nicknamed “Old Tippecanoe”. (His election slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!”)
Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa, another leader of the Shawnee tribes, was a holy man often called “The Prophet”. It has been speculated that Tenskwatawa might have placed the curse on the man who killed his brother and upon anyone else ascending to the presidency in a like-numbered year.
- 1840 William Henry Harrison (aka “Old Tippecanoe”) — died April 4, 1841 of pneumonia — one month after being inaugurated
- 1860 Abraham Lincoln — died April 15, 1865 — assassinated
- 1880 James A. Garfield — died September 19, 1881 — assassinated
- 1900 William McKinley — died September 14, 1901 — assassinated
- 1920 Warren G. Harding — died August 2 1923 — believed to have died of a heart attack or stroke; but some believe he was poisoned.
- 1940 Franklin D. Roosevelt — died April 12, 1945 — died of cerebral hemorrhage.
- 1960 John F. Kennedy — died November 22, 1963 — assassinated
- 1980 Ronald Reagan — attempted assassination on March 30, 1981, but survived to serve two terms
The only president to die in office who wasn’t elected in a Zero Year was Zachary Taylor, who died of gastroenteritis on July 9, 1850. Reagan seems to have broken the curse, because he served both his terms and did not die until 2004, nearly two decades after leaving office. George W. Bush, elected in 2000, also survived his presidency without incident.
As Germany collapsed, its fascist masters tried to hide $7.5 billion in gold and thousands of priceless stolen masterpieces. Much of the hoard has never been recovered. Among the chaos of the collapse of Hitler’s empire in April 1945 the biggest heist in history took place. Gold bars, jewels and stolen foreign currency with an estimated worth of $3.34 billion vanished from the Reichsbank vaults, in Germany.
The Reichsbank vaults held the major part of Nazi Germany’s gold reserves, estimated to be worth about $7.5 billion by today’s standards, including $1.5 billion of Italian gold.
On April 7, U.S. officers took an elevator 2,100 feet down into a cave hewn from salt rock and found a billion Reichsmarks in the 550 bags left behind. After dynamiting the steel door to Room No. 8, they discovered more than 7,000 numbered bags in a room 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 12 feet high. The hoard included 8,527 gold bars, gold coins from France, Switzerland, and the United States, and still more stacks of paper money. Gold and silver plate, smashed flat for easier storage, was packed in boxes and trunks. There were suitcases filled with diamonds, pearls, and other precious stones robbed from death camp victims along with sacks stuffed with gold dental bridges and fillings. Added to minor amounts of money from Britain, Norway,Turkey, Spain, and Portugal, the entire cache proved to be one of the richest deposits anywhere in the world at that time. It represented an astonishing 93.17 percent of Germany’s entire financial reserves as the war reached an end.
But that was not all. In other tunnels that webbed through the soft rock, investigators found 400 tons of art, including paintings from 15 German museums, and important books from the Goethe collection from Weimar. Under heavy guard, the treasures of the mines were placed in 11,750 containers and loaded onto 32 10-ton trucks for transport to Frankfurt, where they were stored in the vaults of the Reichsbank branch there. Despite persistent rumors about the disappearance of one of the trucks in the convoy, none of the gold or art was lost in transit.
In the ensuing decades small quantities of the treasures have turned up in Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, Spain, Sweden and even a small town outside of Texas in the United States, but the majority remains missing. Across the world search teams look for this missing treasure but after 60 years the challenge becomes more and more formidable.
So where is Hitler’s missing gold? Here is a list of popular theories as to the loot’s disappearance.
Via: The George Washington University These materials chronicling the Presley-Nixon meeting were obtained from the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives at College Park (College Park, Maryland).
Of all the requests made each year to the National Archives for reproductions of photographs and documents, one item has been requested more than any other. That item, more requested than the Bill of Rights or even the Constitution of the United States, is the photograph of Elvis Presley and Richard M. Nixon shaking hands on the occasion of Presley’s visit to the White House.
On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley paid a visit to President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in Washington, D.C. The meeting was initiated by Presley, who wrote Nixon a six-page letter requesting a visit with the President and suggesting that he be made a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The events leading up to and after the meeting are detailed in the documentation and photographs included here, which include Presley’s handwritten letter (Document 1), memorandum from Nixon staff and aides, and the thank-you note from Nixon for the gifts (including a Colt 45 pistol and family photos) that Presley brought with him to the Oval Office.
Document 1: Handwritten Letter from Presley to Nixon, Undated
Document 2: Transcription of Presley letter, Undated
Document 3: Memorandum for H.R. Haldeman from Dwight L. Chapin, 21 December 1970
Document 4: Memorandum for the President, Re: Meeting with Elvis Presley, 21 December 1970
Document 5: Memorandum for the President’s File from Egil “Bud” Krogh, Re: Meeting with Elvis Presley, 21 December 1970
Document 6: Message from (Bev) to (Lucy), Re: Presley’s Gifts to the President
Document 7: Letter from Richard M. Nixon to Elvis Presley, 31 December 1970
Document 8: Memo from Egil “Bud” Krogh to Neal Ball, Re: Guidance on Jack Anderson Column-Elvis Presley, 27 Jan 1972
The photos sets below are digital reproductions of contact sheets available at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. Click on the thumbnails to view each photo, and use the arrows to navigate through the entire collection.
Set 1: Photos of Nixon and Presley with White House aide Egil “Bud” Krogh. (22)
Set 2: Photos of Presley and associates meeting with Nixon. (6)
Via: BoingBoing This is a half-meter resolution image of the US Capitol and National Mall taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite this morning during President Obama’s inauguration. That sure is a lot of people. 2009 Inaugural Celebration. Washington D.C. National Mall
Via: CBS News Inauguration Webcast
A stunning sight to see so many in attendance. The National Mall filled to capacity with people as far as the eye can see and it’s just under 3 hours till swearing in.
A great version of this with both the original and the more modern and depressing update.
Time for Change
“In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.”