As many know by now, we lost the amazing Country and Western singer Mickey Gilley yesterday. Mickey Gilley was 86.
I had the good fortune to meet Mickey several times in the 1960s when he and his buddy, Bob Luman, would stop in at KDET AM-930 in Center, TX, where I worked. Bob’s first cousin was Royce Luman, our station Program Director, and Mickey and Bob would stop in whenever they were in the East Texas area.
Mickey Gilley was cousins with Jerry Lee Lewis and with evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. He learned to play the piano at an early age from Jerry Lee and continued Jerry’s boogie-woogie style of playing. His Country and Western nightclub in Pasadena, TX, was originally “Sherri’s Club,” named for his partner Sherwood Cryer. Later, it became Gilley’s with the reputation as the “World’s Biggest Honky Tonk.” It featured a mechanical bull, later made famous in the movie, “Urban Cowboy.”
Forty-seven years ago on April 30, 1975, the capital city of Saigon, South Vietnam, finally fell and with it, the Vietnam Conflict was over.
Throughout 1974 and early-1975, the South Vietnamese steadily lost ground and the US military gave little support. US President Richard Nixon had promised the South Vietnamese support, but by early 1975, Nixon had resigned, Gerald Ford was now President, and he failed to convince Congress to uphold Nixon’s promise of support. The South Vietnamese, with no US support, rapidly fell back in total disarray.
Emboldened, the North Vietnamese capitalized on theses light defenses, taking one area of South Vietnam after another. By April 27, the North Vietnamese had completely encircled Saigon and prepared for a final assault and a complete take over.
When they attacked at dawn on April 30, they met little resistance. North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace and the Vietnam Conflict ended.
North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin accepted the city’s surrender from General Duong Van Minh. Tin explained to Minh: “You have nothing to fear. Between Vietnamese, there are no victors and no vanquished. Only the Americans have been beaten. If you are patriots, consider this a moment of joy. The war for our country is over.” (The History Channel)
With the fall of the capital city and South Vietnam, the US had spent more than 10 years and lost more than 58,000 young men and women who were Killed in Action. Thousands more were sent home, maimed and injured for life. Years later, a black granite “monument” to the dead slashed the green hillside of Washington, D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial. It stands there today, along with three bronze, life-size soldiers, as a reminder of one of the bloodiest and ignominious periods in US history.
Today is the 186th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. On April 21, 1836, “Texican” forces under the leadership of General Sam Houston defeated the Mexican Army in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes.
That same Mexican Army under President of Mexico and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had earlier that year massacred almost 200 men and women at the Battle of Alamo. Less than a month later, more Texicans were executed as Prisoners of War following the Battle of Goliad. Both of these atrocities gave birth to the Battle Cries: “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!”
Following these losing battles, General Sam Houston began a series of strategic retreats eastward across Texas with the Mexican Army in pursuit. Texicans derided General Houston for his retreats, preferring instead to stand and fight Santa Anna. As General Houston camped on the banks of the Bay of San Jacinto near the present-day metropolis of Houston, Texas, he planned his counter-punch against Santa Anna. On April 21, Houston’s Texican Army surprised the Mexican Army as it camped nearby. Following his defeat in that battle, the Mexican Army’s Santa Anna, disguised as a Mexican Army Private, was captured and brought before General Sam Houston. In exchange for his freedom, Santa Anna was forced to recognize Texas’ Independence.
Nine years later in 1845, Texas was finally admitted to the Union as the 28th state of the growing United States of America.
A hundred and eighty-one years ago, writer Edgar Allan Poe created a completely new genre of literature when he published the first detective story. The tale, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, first appeared in the Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine on April 20, 1841.
The story follows Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin as he solves a series of murders in Paris, France. The tale is narrated by the great detective’s roommate…a style which would be adopted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with his tales of detective Sherlock Holmes, narrated by Dr. John H. Watson, more than 45 years later in 1887.
Following the 32-year old Poe’s detective short story, English novelist Wilkie Collins expanded the detective story genre to his full-length novel, The Moonstone, in 1868. His novel’s hero, Sergeant Cuff, searches for the mastermind who stole a sacred Indian moonstone. His detective novel contains many of the mystery elements found in today’s detective thrillers, such as red herrings, false alibis, and others. Later, mystery writers such as Dame Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Sue Grafton, Lee Child, and many, many others became famous, publishing their own variations of detective and mystery stories and novels. The detective genre survives today with new authors following in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe and all the others who followed him.
On this day, 186 years ago, February 23, 1836, one of the bloodiest battles of the Texas War for Independence began: The Battle of the Alamo. At the end of the 13-day battle, more than 187 Texians (as they were called back then) lay slaughtered in and around the San Antonio mission, along with 400 to 600 Mexicans who died or were wounded in the assault on the Mission. This battle generated the battle cry: “Remember the Alamo,” which resonates with Texans, even today.
At the end of the 13-day siege (February 23 – March 6, 1836) Mexican President and Army commander of more than 1,500 Mexican attackers, General Antonio Lopez de Sana Anna claimed victory over the Alamo’s Texian defenders, all of whom were either killed in the onslaught or executed after the battle. This bloody massacre was soon followed by the Battle of Goliad and later the Battle of San Jacinto where Santa Anna (as he was called) was defeated in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes by Texas General (and first Republic President) Sam Houston on April 21, 1836. The rallying cries, “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” echoed throughout this final battle for Independence. The Battle of Goliad was fought at sunrise on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. The Mexican Army marched most of the captured Texian army from the Persidio La Bahia near Goliad out in three groups. A short distance later, the Mexican army opened fire on the unarmed Texian defenders and executed 342 of them. Forty of the executed soldiers were too wounded to march.
In February, 1836, the garrison at the Alamo, a Spanish mission near San Antonio, Texians led by 26-year old Colonel William B. Travis, James Bowie (originator of the famed “Bowie Knife”), Tennessean Davy Crockett and others, prepared to defend the mission. James Bowie had originally been ordered to the Alamo on January 19, 1836. He arrived with orders to destroy the complex. Instead, he took command of the garrison as its co-commander, along with Colonel William Barret Travis. Travis became the sole commander of the Alamo on February 24, 1836.
Texians, enraged by the slaughter at the Alamo and later Goliad, joined the Texas Revolution cause across the state. A little more than a month after the fall of the Alamo, Texas General Sam Houston made his stand on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto Bay near the present-day city of Houston, and defeated Mexican General and Commander, Santa Anna in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes. General Santa Anna was captured while disguised as a mere foot soldier and Private, but was recognized and cheered by his men as he was paraded through the other Prisoners of War. Santa Anna was presented to General Sam Houston and just three weeks after the battle, was forced to sign a peace treaty which dictated that the Mexican Army would depart the area to south of the Rio Grande River. The Republic of Texas then became an independent country, General Samuel Houston became a national celebrity, and the rallying cries “Remember the Alamo,” and “Remember Goliad” became legendary in Texas history.
Today marks the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the bloody assault on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II: February 19, 1945.
Most think of the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi when the island of Iwo Jima is mentioned. That would come four days later on February 23 after a bloody battle that took the lives of more than seven thousand US Marines.
But the beginning of this epic, important battle began with an underwater attack by US Navy “Frogmen” (Underwater Demolition Teams or UDTs, the precursors of Navy SEALS). Japanese snipers fired upon them, giving up their “secret” positions on the island. Under the watchful eyes of the US Navy Secretary of the Navy (later the first Secretary of Defense) James Forrestal, US Marines landed on the island in amphibious landing crafts. Forrestal was offshore, accompanied by journalists, in a command ship watching the attack.
By nightfall that first day, more than 550 Marines lay dead on the beaches and more than 1,800 were wounded from seven Japanese battalions defending the island. Many more American Marines and Japanese defenders would die during the next four days before famed photojournalist Joe Rosenthal would take his famous photograph of six US Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi.
A vital piece of Pacific real estate would finally be in the hands of the Americans in their onward march toward Japan and Victory over Japan (VJ) Day, still almost seven months away.
Photographs by Tony Corso: Paris, Texas, Photojournalist
Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp.
The Camp was liberated by the Russian Red Army during the Vistula–Oder Offensive. Soldiers of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front opened the gates of Auschwitz Concentration Camp for Liberation on January 27, 1945.
Many of the Jews died during the forced march to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but approximately 7,000 Jews remained in the Main Camp and the smaller surrounding camps when the Russian Red Army arrived at the gates. Soviet soldiers discovered the corpses of about 600 prisoners there who had been shot by withdrawing German SS soldiers or who had succumbed to exhaustion.
The photos here were taken by Paris, TX, photojournalist Tony Corso, during his coverage for The Holocaust Survivor Project in 2010. Thank you for your photographs, Tony.
For the black and white photo of Max Glauben above, Tony wrote:
“And then there is Max Glauben…the eternal optimist. I will always remember him sharing a story about a group he led back to Poland on his annual trips with college students (March of the Living) They were in the camp where his parents were killed. Apparently he had become separated from the group. The students heard someone whistling away in some cheerful tune and they were shocked that anyone could be so disrespectful to whistle like that in such a place.
“Lo and behold here come Max around the corner and it was him whistling. Someone asked him how he could whistling that in such a cheerful manner. His response: “This is where my parents were killed. If I didn’t whistle, I’d cry.”
Let us vow to never, EVER forget the horrors of all of these German concentration and extermination camps of World War II and the sacrifices that more than six million Jews made there.
Rock and roll legend, Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, died Thursday, January 20, 2022. The actor, singer, and theatrical legend was 74 years old. No cause of death was officially announced, but one news outlet listed complications of COVID as the cause. Meat Loaf’s wife of 15 years, Deborah Gillespie, was at his side when he passed away.
Born Marvin Lee Aday, he changed his first name to Michael, but was always known to his music and movie audience as Meat Loaf, a nickname he acquired as a high school football player when he stepped on the coach’s foot. However, he also said he lied about other sources for the moniker, devising a new “story” every time someone asked him how he received the nickname. Another story was that his father told the nurse in the hospital to put “Meat” on his crib because even at four days old, he was still “…red like a hunk of meat.” One story he never changed was why he changed his name from “Marvin” to Michael. In the first grade, he was overweight and had trouble finding pants that fit. A Levi’s commercial came out that said, “…poor fat Marvin can’t wear Levi’s….” (although it had nothing to do with him). The kids teased him so mercilessly that he legally changed his first name to Michael in 1984 at the age of 37.
The versatile artist starred in the movie Fight Club and reprised his stage role of Eddie in the rock classic movie: Rocky Horror Show. He met his long-time song-writing partner, Jim Steinman, in the mid-1970s. Steinman had started writing a rock opera based on the story of Peter Pan when Meat Loaf joined him. That rock opera eventually became Bat Our of Hell, Meat Loaf’s first international rock hit.
Meat Loaf released such hits as Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, I’d Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That), It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (with Marion Raven) Bat Out of Hell II and III, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and so many, many more.
He and close friend Steinman did have some disagreements over the years because Steinman, the moving creative force behind the duo, felt left out of all the attention Meat Loaf was receiving. His friend, composer Jim Steinman, passed away April 19, 2021. At the time of Steinman’s death, Meat Loaf said he believed that he, too, would soon follow his friend and would not last a year. His prediction was right. Meat Loaf died just nine months later: January 20, 2022.
Meat Loaf: a rock music and theatrical legend — dead at the age of 74.
Today is the birthday of the Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, born January 19, 1809, (the same year Abraham Lincoln was born, incidentally).
Both of Poe’s parents died before he was three years old. He was raised by his godfather, John Allan, a wealthy tobacco merchant. Poe married his 13-year old cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836, the same year he finished his first horror novel, Arthur Gordon Pym, which was published two years later.
Poe moved to Philadelphia, where he became known for his horror and detective novels. While there, he published The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Tell-Tale Heart. Poe also began writing mystery stories, including The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter.
He moved to New York City and published his seminal poem, The Raven in 1845.
His wife fell ill and died in 1847. Poe returned to Richmond, VA, where it appeared he began drinking at a party in Baltimore and disappeared, only to be found incoherent in a gutter three days later. He was taken to the hospital where he died on October 7, 1849, at age 40 under suspicious circumstances.
Poe’s detective novels and superb ability at solving cryptographic ciphers influenced later authors and famous people such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock, and America’s foremost cryptologist: William Friedman. Two of Poe’s own cryptograms published in 1841 were not solved until 1992 and 2000.
Between 1949 and 2009 (200 years after Poe’s birth), a mysterious grave visitor known as the “Poe Toaster” left a bottle of cognac and three roses on Poe’s tombstone in Baltimore, MD, on his birthday each January 19. Sam Porpora, a historian, claimed to be the “Poe Toaster” in 2007, but was unable to prove it and some of his facts were inaccurate. The final annual bottle of cognac and three roses from the “Poe Toaster” were left on January 19, 2009, the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth.