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National Treasure $ Normandie

US Military History

Short bits of history you know and some may not!

  • National Treasure Can’t Happen: Saturday, December 13, 1952 – The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are moved from the Library of Congress to the National Archives. The move was in order to place the Charters of Freedom, The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, all in one location for public access. The move was accompanied with a parade and military protection. The documents were transported in a USMC armored personnel carrier, the wooden encased, gas sealed documents being laid on top of a mattress for extra protection during the move. As well as being transported in the APC, the documents were accompanied by a color guard and military procession, two light tanks were there for protection as they traveled. Upon arrival at the National Archives it would take 48 hours for the documents to be stored in their new home, with each document being stored in a humidity controlled case filled with helium. Today the documents are viewed by over 1 Million visitors each year.
  • A Founding Father Dies: Saturday, December 14, 1799 – After spending two days in bad winter weather and a day laying sick in bed George Washington would die. The snow, sleet and cold brought about a severe inflammation in his throat and a combination of possibly improper treatment caused his condition to only worsen. During the two days of treatment doctors would perform bloodletting, with at least five pints of blood being bleed from him. With death looming Washington would instruct his private secretary to wait three days before burying him, over fears of being buried alive. On December 18th his body would be laid to rest at his estate at Mount Vernon. His wife Martha would wear a black cape in mourning of his death for a year and burn all their letter correspondence, with only five letters written between known to still exist. Washington’s last words as recorded by his private secretary were “Tis Well” in respect to his conversation about his last wishes. Two days before his death be would write his final letter to Alexander Hamilton. In that letter he would urge him to work towards a national military academy being established.
  • Red Dawn: Saturday, December 13, 2003 – Operation Red Dawn. With the support of 1st Brigade 4th Infantry Division, Task Force 121 would capture Saddam Hussein as he hid in ad-Dawr, near Tikrit, Iraq. Saddam had been in hiding since the initial stages of the invasion of Iraq, with him being labeled as the top target by the military. After months of capturing members of his inner circle his location was narrowed down to a remote farming compound in ad-Dawr. After the initial search areas were cleared with no trace of him, US Special Operations members prepared to withdraw from the area. It was only when an operator accidentally exposed the hole Saddam was hiding in that he was found. Saddam would not resist his capture and was found with several weapons and $750,000 in his possession. He would be tried for crimes against humanity and executed in December 2006.
  • SS Normandie: Friday, December 12, 1941 – The US takes control the SS Normandie, a French ocean liner, as I sat moored in New York Harbor. The ship was the largest and fastest cruise ship afloat at the time, able to cross the Atlantic in just over 4 days time. At the outbreak of WW2 the ship was in New York and the US Government would inter the ship the same day France declared war on Germany. For some time after the start of the war the three largest cruise liners in the world would sit together in the New York Harbor, with the British Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth at port as well. The Normandie would stay under French hands till May 1940, when the US Coast Guard would go aboard to protect the ship from potential sabotage. Five days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the US Navy would take control of the ship. Upon the US taking control it was renamed the USS Lafayette and was designated a troop transport ship. Work to convert the luxury ship into its new purpose soon went underway. The ship however would never see service. Soon after work began a fire broke out, caused by a torch lighting a stack of life vests on fire. The fire would quickly spread through the ship, the varnished woodwork all around the interior of the ship catching fire easily. The fire raced through the ship with winds sweeping across is aiding the fires growth. Interestingly, the ship was outfitted with a complex fire suppression system that could have limited the fires growth easily. However, upon the Navy taking control of the ship the system was deactivated and disconnected due to its complexity. The ship would eventually capsize as a result of the fire and the fight to control it and would be salvaged after the war was over. Sabotage was considered as a cause for the fire by it was found that it was just an accident during the ships conversion. The ship remains the most powerful stream turbo electric propelled ship ever built.

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