history and headlines

Wayback Wednesday: Great Fire Of Meireki 1657

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Meireki Fire Wiki Image
Image Credit: Wikipedia

One of the greatest disasters in Japanese history began in the Japanese capital city of Edo (original name of Tokyo) on March 2, 1657, 365 years ago, today. Legend has it that the fire was accidentally started by a priest who was supposedly trying to cremate a cursed kimono. The kimono had been owned in succession by three teenage girls who all died before ever being able to wear it. When the garment was being burned, a large gust of wind fanned the flames causing the wooden temple to ignite.

The fire spread quickly through the city, due to hurricane force winds, which were blowing from the northwest. Edo, like most Japanese cities, […] the buildings were especially dry due to a drought the previous year. [The] roads and other open spaces between buildings were small and narrow, allowing the fire to spread and grow particularly quickly.

The Great Fire of Meireki
Naked History
February 21, 2016

[The] city of Tokyo, Japan, then known as Edo, suffered a catastrophic fire that lasted three days, and killed 100,000 Japanese people, a death toll greater than either of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The carnage caused by the Great Fire of Meireki (or sometimes known as the Furisode Fire) combined to destroy about 60% to 70% of the buildings in Edo.

[The] wind spread the flames across a city that was built almost entirely of wood and paper buildings [and], firefighters [were] unable to keep up with the rapid spread of flames caused by the wind. The fire brigade established in Edo was a novel idea but, the force was nowhere near large enough to deal with a conflagration of this magnitude.

Reconstruction of the city lasted the next 2 years.

Great Fire Kills More Japanese Than Atom Bomb
History & Headlines
March 2, 2017

Additional Reading:
Japanese Tales: The Fire of the Furisode
(Elle Of A Kind Blog/01-07-2022)

Furisode Fire

The Great Fire Of Meireki/Destruction of Tokyo

Military Monday: USS Harmon DE-678 1943

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USS Harmon DE-678 Image One
Destroyer Escort USS Harmon
Circa August 1943
Image was censored and retouched.
Radar antennas removed.
Pennant added in its place.
Released for publication March 1944
Photo Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The USS Harmon was a U.S. Navy Buckley class destroyer escort named after Leonard Roy Harmon, a Mess Attendant (Messman) First Class that served aboard the USS San Francisco. It was the first U.S. warship to be named after a Black American. It was launched July 25, 1943, by Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, MA, sponsored by Harmon’s mother and, seventy-seven years ago, today, it was commissioned. She spent nearly a year serving as an escort ship near New Caledonia. After a short period at Pearl Harbor, she joined the Luzon Reinforcement Group. By March 1945, she was an escort and an anti-submarine screen off Iwo Jima. She returned to Pearl Harbor for training, then to Mare Island for a weapons upgrade and, when the war was over, she conducted training operations with submarines.

Leonard Roy Harmon Image Two
Commemoration Poster
Source: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Decommissioned March 25, 1947, she joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was stricken August 1, 1965 and sold for scrap January 30, 1967. She received three battle stars for her World War II service.

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Leonard Roy Harmon, born in Cuero, Texas, on January 21, 1917, enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1939, as a Mess Attendant Third Class. He trained at the Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia and reported to [the] San Francisco (CA-38) on October 28, 1939. On November 12, 1942, [the] San Francisco was covering a force of transports disembarking reinforcements off Guadalcanal when Japanese land attack planes, carrying torpedoes, attacked. [The] enemy aircraft crashed into the ship causing “considerable damage and intense fires” that put the after anti-aircraft director and radar out of commission. One officer and 15 men were either killed outright or died of their injuries. Harmon rushed in to evacuate the wounded. He was then assigned to assist Pharmacist’s Mate Lynford Bondsteel in evacuating and caring for the wounded. While the ship was being raked by enemy gunfire, Harmon deliberately shielded Bondsteel in order to protect his wounded shipmate. Although Bondsteel managed to get his courageous shipmate below, Harmon died of his wounds soon afterward.

Democracy In Action Poster Image Three
Artist: Charles Henry Alston
Collection: National Archives at College Park
Office of War Information poster from 1943
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Harmon was awarded a Purple Heart and, in March 1943, the Navy Cross.

Citation Excerpt:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon (NSN: 3600418), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty in action against the enemy while serving on board the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. San Francisco (CA-38) […]. With persistent disregard of his own personal safety, […] Harmon rendered invaluable assistance in caring for the wounded and assisting them to a dressing station. In addition to displaying unusual loyalty [on] behalf of the injured Executive Officer, he deliberately exposed himself to hostile gunfire in order to protect a shipmate and, as a result of this courageous deed, was killed in action. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Addition Reading & Sources:
First US Ship Named For An African-American (History & Headlines August 31, 2016)
USN Ships: USS Harmon (DE-678) (Ibiblio Database)
Citation: Leonard Roy Harmon (Military Times)
Modern Ships: USS Harmon DE-678 (Naval History & Heritage Command)
Ship Histories: Harmon (DE-678) (Naval History & Heritage Command)
USS Harmon (DE-678) (Naval Warfare Blogspot)
World War Two: Told In A Museum (New Caledonia Site)
Leonard Harmon (Smithsonian)
Leonard Harmon, USN (USS San Francisco Site)
Leonard Roy Harmon (Wikipedia)
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (Wikipedia)
USS San Francisco (Wikipedia)

Flashback Friday: Death Valley Hits 134.4°F 1913

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Death Valley Record Image
Photo Credit: Ken Lund
History & Headlines
Wikimedia

This was going to be a post on the highest recorded heat level, listed in the Guinness (Book) of World Records. Supposedly, one-hundred and seven years ago, today, Death Valley got up to 134.4℉. I read Wikipedia, I read Guinness and I read History & Headlines. If it made it into Guinness, someone must have thought it was legitimate. Well, after taking a dive into Weather Underground‘s investigation of this record (this is a very long read), posted by weather historian Christopher Burt on October 24, 2016, I’m not so sure this event ever happened.

I have contacted Guinness for a challenge. We shall see how this plays out. ~Vic