Archive for May 27th, 2009


Wittman D-12 "Bonzo"

Built for speed, the Wittman D-12, by Sylvester Wittman was the first airplane donated to the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


Wittman built this plane to compete in the 1935 Thompson Trophy Race where it finished second.  Held annually, the Thompson Trophy Race was a closed coarse pylon race for airplanes of “unlimited size and power”.  Capable of 325 miles an hour, faster than most US fighters of the time, “Bonzo” was a respected competitor.  Its home-built design featured wings with closely spaced ribs so that fabric could be used instead of plywood.  This gave the plane a light-weight yet sturdy construction, which helped compensate for its lack of power.  Personally, the sleek laid-back design grabbed my attention more quickly than the other racers displayed in the museum.

For more information on this plane, please see:  Wittman D-12 Bonzo


On This Day, May 27: Unlimited National Emergency

May 27, 1941

FDR proclaims an unlimited national emergency

President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces a state of unlimited national emergency in response to Nazi Germany’s threats of “world domination” on this day in 1941. In a speech on this day, he repeated his famous remark from a speech he made in 1933 during the Great Depression: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

In a radio address delivered from the White House, FDR tried to rally isolationists to his philosophy that aid to Europe was purely in America’s self-interest. In March 1941, he had successfully pushed through the Lend-Lease Bill, which gave military aid to any country vital to the defense of the United States. Roosevelt recounted for his audience how German submarines were boldly attacking British shipping and threatening American shipping in the Atlantic and how Londoners endured nightly raids of German bombers. He painted an almost apocalyptic vision of a Nazi-controlled Western Hemisphere where American workers would be enslaved by Germany, godless Nazis would outlaw freedom of worship and America’s children would “wander off, goose-stepping in search of new gods.”

Roosevelt also took pains to define what he meant by America being “attacked.” He insisted that an attack on the United States “can begin with the domination of any base which menaces our security,” for instance Canada, Brazil or Trinidad, and not just when “bombs actually drop in the streets of New York or San Francisco or New Orleans or Chicago.” He appeared to be urging Americans to consider actively engaging in the war in Europe stating “it would be suicide to wait until they are in our front yard.”

FDR then laid out his administration’s policy with regard to the current war in Europe. Without committing troops, he promised the protection of shipping in the Atlantic, continued humanitarian and military aid to Britain, the establishment of a civilian defense and warned of saboteurs and “fifth columnists” (communist infiltrators) who threatened democracy in America and abroad. He also condemned war profiteering and urged organized labor to resist disruptive strikes in war-production industries.

Finally, FDR warned Germany that the U.S. was prepared to go to war in case of attack and pledged to strengthen America’s defense “to the extreme limit of our national power and authority.”

Just over seven months later, the United States entered World War II after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

“FDR proclaims an unlimited national emergency,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 27, 2009]

On This Day

1647 – Achsah Young, a resident of Windsor, CT, was executed for being a “witch.” It was the first recorded American execution of a “witch.”

1668 – Three colonists were expelled from Massachusetts for being Baptists.

1919 – A U.S. Navy seaplane completed the first transatlantic flight.

1929 – Colonel Charles Lindbergh and Anne Spencer Murrow were married.

1937 – In California, the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to pedestrian traffic. The bridge connected San Francisco and Marin County.

1941 – The German battleship Bismarck was sunk by British naval and air forces. 2,300 people were killed.

1985 – In Beijing, representatives of Britain and China exchanged instruments of ratification on the pact returning Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997.

1994 – Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia. He had been in exile for two decades.

1999 – In The Hague, Netherlands, a war crimes tribunal indicted Slobodan Milosevic and four others for atrocities in Kosovo. It was the first time that a sitting head of state had been charged with such a crime.

May 27, 1863

Ex parte Merryman issued

On this day, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney issues ex parte Merryman, challenging the authority of Abraham Lincoln and the military to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Maryland.

Early in the war, President Lincoln faced many difficulties due to the fact that Washington was located in slave territory. Although Maryland did not secede, Southern sympathies were widespread. On April 27, 1861, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus between Washington and Philadelphia to give military authorities the necessary power to silence dissenters and rebels. Under this order, commanders could arrest and detain individuals who were deemed threatening to military operations. Those arrested could be held without indictment or arraignment.

On May 25, John Merryman, a vocal secessionist, was arrested in Cockeysville, Maryland. He was held at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, where he appealed for his release under a writ of habeas corpus. The federal circuit court judge was Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who issued a ruling, ex parte Merryman, denying the president’s authority to suspend habeas corpus. A Marylander himself, Taney shrilly denounced the heavy hand played by Lincoln in interfering with civil liberties and argued that only Congress had the power to suspend the writ.

Lincoln did not respond directly to Taney’s edict, but he did address the issue in his message to Congress that July. He justified the suspension through Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, which specifies a suspension of the writ “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Although military officials continued to arrest suspected Southern sympathizers, the incident led to a softening of the policy. Concern that Maryland might still secede from the Union forced a more conciliatory stance from Lincoln and the military. Merryman was remanded to civil authorities in July and allowed to post bail. He was never brought to trial, and the charges of treason against him were dropped two years after the war.

“<I>Ex parte Merryman</I> issued,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 27, 2009]

May 2009

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