Vera Caslavska And The Amazing Story Of Her 1968 Olympics

Mexico City in 1968 was brimming, hosting the Olympic games with champions being made every step of the way. And there were many life-changing decisions during this time by athletes taking a stand in the world of politics. Many made their disdain for their government’s decisions known well on the podium. What was the most iconic moment? Well, many would say it was Tommie Smith’s black power salute – but today we are going to talk about something else.

The protest was from Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, which was in regard to the Soviet-led invasion of her country just two weeks earlier. Her protest was more subtle but still noticed, she turned away from the Soviet Union flag which she advised was representing her invaders.

And though the action was very subtle, even understated, not really noticed. The ramifications were immense, as we learned later from another gymnast Mary Prestidge. As part of an exchange program, Prestidge had spent time training with Caslavska to train for the Mexico Games. Caslavska was already a superstar having won multiple gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964.

But in August 1968 she was forced into hiding due to the Soviet Union led invasion of Czechoslovakia. With the Olympic Games just two months away she should have been training hard in a gymnasium. Instead, she found herself shoveling coal to toughen up her hands and training on a makeshift balance beam. She had to stay in hiding as she was a known figure that spoke out against the Soviet Union.

It didn’t take her long though to show up in the limelight, while most athletes from the Soviet Union found themselves being booed. Caslavska was able to captivate the home audience with a routine that featured Mexican hat dance music.

Of course, this did not sit well with the USSR as they could not have Caslavska standing at the top of the podium better than their athletes. So they paid off the judges, and scores were revised. In the end, Caslavska did win gold medals but she shared first place with Larisa Petrik from the USSR. This meant the USSR flag would be raised also at the same level as the Czech flag.

Unfortunately, the tragedies did not end there for Caslavska who would be forced into retirement when she returned home and put under house arrest. She did not see society again until 20 years later when the Soviet Union collapsed and she was able to start coaching gymnastics.

Camouflage California The Secret Of World War II That You Never Heard Before

In early 1942, the United States Navy was busy monitoring all activity off the coast of California, especially looking for Japanese submarines lurking around the San Francisco area. Japanese submarines were surfacing and targeting oil storage facilities. With Pearl Harbor still fresh in their minds, the threat of a Japanese was being taken very seriously by the U.S. military and navy forces.

The Western Defense Command was told they had to put in place passive defense measures along the Pacific coast. Colonel John F Omer was in charge of carrying out the orders as he was stationed just 60 miles from Los Angeles, he started what was called Operation California.

One of the main ideas behind this operation was to camouflage the state, to provide passive defenses to key buildings and protect schools. After testing camouflage on areas by flying over them with aircraft, the Colonel realized it was difficult to tell buildings apart or identify areas that had been camouflaged. This was vital as it meant he could effectively hide factories, bases, and plants from Japanese intelligence. Once he confirmed this was a perfect solution, orders were sent out to most of the country.

A massive camouflage operation happened in the Boeing Aircraft complex, 26 acres were covered: schools, parks, homes, and municipal buildings. So how did they do it you ask? Colonel Ohmer was a pioneer of deception and misdirection, he specialized in many camouflage techniques that are still studied and used today. Ohmer had visited England during the height of the Battle of Britain and saw how effective on-ground camouflage had been to hiding assets from the Luftwaffe bombers.

The way it worked primarily was with big camouflage netting on top of the building, and then planting shrubs and trees on top of the netting. This gave the illusion that the key building was a forest. The crazy part was many people helped get this camouflage together, even the famous studios from Hollywood joined in such as Disney, Paramount, MGM, Universal and 20th Century Fox – they all came together to offer the services of their set designers.

As the war continued the threat of a Japanese invasion lessened, especially after the U.S landed a massive blow against the Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway Island – it would have been interesting to see if the camouflage would have been successful. Though we can take happiness in the fact that we did never find out.

Bessie Coleman The First African American Woman Pilot

An American aviator by the name of Bessie Coleman, she was the first black woman to be able to secure an official pilot’s license. And it is an amazing story of determination on how she was able to do it, because at the time, all flying schools in the United States denied her entry. As a result she first taught herself French and then moved to France, where she was able to attend the well-known Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation.

In just seven months, Coleman was able to secure her pilot’s license and could now officially fly. She was even a daredevil specializing in stunt flying and even parachuting. Even today she remains a pioneer of performing aerial tricks in the field of aviation. It was often said that her flying skills always left her audience in awe. Of course, perhaps her most famous flight happened in 1922, when she became the first African American woman to fly a public flight to America.

Born in 1892 in Texas, she was one of 13 children in a family who worked as sharecroppers. Her father, who was of Native American descent, left the family early on, in search of better opportunities. This meant all the children worked and contributed as soon as they could. Coleman did actually graduate high school and started to attend a University, however, due to financial problems she could only complete one semester. It was in 1915 when she moved to Chicago to live with one of her brothers that she started to read and listen to stories of the famous World War I pilots, thus, starting her interest in aviation. Up until this time she had been working as a manicurist, though it was not really her passion at all.

Breaking down gender and racial discrimination, she earned her license to fly in France and planned to start her own flying school for African Americans as soon as she had the funds. Cemented in history by completing the first public flight to America flown by an African American woman.

Tragically, Coleman’s story though so great ended very abruptly when she was just 34 years old, many say she had so much more to give to the field of aviation. On April 30, 1926, she was training for an upcoming aerial show and doing rehearsals where she was sent plummeting to her death.

The Gay German Who Fought The Nazis

Gad Beck has a very cool hero story when you look at it as a whole, not many people in history were able to help so many people. Gad Beck was a gay Jewish resistance leader who fought the Nazis right in their hometown: Berlin – throughout the war. He was only half Jewish and this may have been the reason that he was never arrested immediately. He used this status to his advantage and set up a whole system that kept many of the last surviving Jews in the city completely hidden and alive.

The craziest Gad Beck story has to be the time he walked his boyfriend straight out of a Nazi prison. His Jewish boyfriend and family had been arrested, were due to be deported to a ghetto in Poland. Before the deportation though his boyfriend, Manfred Lewis, was being forced to work in a factory. So Gad Beck went down to the factory and implored the factory boss for help, luckily he found someone was not a Nazi supporter entirely. The factory boss told him where Lewis was being held in prison and even provided him with a Hitler Youth uniform as a disguise.

Gad Beck was able to talk his way into the prison and invent a story on why Lewis was needed at the factory, something about a mission key. This allowed him to walk out of the prison with Lewis right behind him. A daring rescue mission that many would not even have attempted, but that was the type of hero Beck was – he wouldn’t dream of leaving his lover behind. Alas the mission has a sad twist, once free Lewis told him that he would never let his parents be deported without him and walked right back into the prison. The Lewis family was never seen again.

And that was only one of Beck’s amazing war time stories and deeds that he carried out. Eventually the Gestapo did close in his organisation and himself, but Beck was relatively famous in Berlin having come from a well known business family. It seemed this fame made the Gestapo unsure if they wanted to go ahead and torture him. In fact some of the Gestapo officers interrogating him, had known him since he was a boy, regularly buying cigarettes from one of his family’s shops. They had no qualms about brutally torturing his boyfriend Zwi Abiram right in front of him though, probably trying to get Beck to break.

Beck never did though and he kept the lives of the 62 Jews in hiding safe. Later when the Russian’s free Berlin he was able to get out of the Gestapo prison with Zwi alive. And the Russians even knew who he was already, so was the fame of his heroic resistance.

Dr. Jenner Discovered The First Ever Vaccination In A Crazy Way

Edward Jenner was an English country doctor from Gloucestershire who is widely credited with discovering and creating the world’s first-ever vaccination. He was able to create and administer the world’s first vaccination program for smallpox, which was a disease that killed millions of people over many centuries.

One may know the saying as clear as a milkmaid’s skin, and this was a song or stereotype that was widely sung because milkmaid’s rarely ever got smallpox sores on their face. As a medical student, Jenner noticed that milkmaids would contract a disease that is known as cowpox on their arms. This resembles the same sores from smallpox, which is because the two diseases are closely related. Milkmaid’s would catch this from touching the utter’s of infected cows.

However, he noted that they did not catch smallpox, which was much deadlier. Smallpox would cause severe skin eruptions and dangerous fevers that caused many human deaths. Cowpox simply led to a couple of ill symptoms amongst these women. On May 14, 1796, Jenner did something that would be unimaginable today. He used a eight year old boy as a guinea pig to test his theory. He took the fluid from a cowpox blister and scratched it into the skin of the boy. As he thought, a single blister rose on the spot, but James soon recovered from the cowpox.

On July 1, Jenner did the same thing but this time he injected the boy with smallpox fluid. Incredibly no disease developed, which meant the vaccine was a success. Doctors all over Europe soon started to follow his work and incorporate his technique into their medical operations. This led to a steep and drastic decline of new sufferers from the disease.

During the 19th and 20th century, many scientists used Jenner’s model to create new vaccines that were much more powerful and could fight numerous terrible diseases. Which created the invention of vaccines for polio, whooping cough, measles, tetanus, yellow fever and typhus – to just name a few. Much more sophisticated smallpox vaccines were also developed by the World Health Organization during the 1970s as they made it a goal to eliminate smallpox worldwide.

The Mali Empire May Have Made It To Brazil Before Europe

Africa’s greatest explorer was an emperor from Mali who ruled during the 14th century. And there is evidence that he was even the world’s greatest explorer, with many historians believing that the emperor from Mali discovered the Americas before Christopher Columbus. Abubakari II ruled what was once thought to be the largest and richest empire on earth. His empire stretched across all of West Africa.

A book written by a Malian scholar Gaoussou Diawara notes that at one point he gave up all of his riches, gave up all the power and gold for the adventure of knowledge and discovery. Apparently, he left Mali with over 2,000 ships and intended to find out if the Atlantic ocean had another bank, like the great River Niger that went through Mali. In 1311, there are records that he handed the throne over to his brother and left on an expedition into the unknown.

There is of course evidence that the Vikings and even the Chinese did cross the Atlantic ocean far before the Mali emperor and Christopher Columbus. But records show Abubakari II left what would be known as Gambia today with boats filled with livestock, people and drinking water. Many believe he landed in Brazil in around 1312, at what would presently be known as Recife.

This is because Recife has another name, an ancient name, which is Purnanbuco which linguistics believe is a way of saying rich goldfields. And rich goldfields are what accounted to much of the wealth that caused the rapid rise of the Mali Empire. Historians also note that even Columbus’s own records mention that he found black traders already present in the Americas.

The most telling tale though is when scientists performed chemical traces on the gold found on spears in the Americas, which showed the gold had most likely originated from West Africa. The reason this amazing story is not really well known or well reported is due to how the original historians of Mali reacted. Known as the Griots they were charged with recording everything that happened in the Mali Empire, but they found his abdication shameful and decided to place a seal of silence on his story. This meant no songs or stories were told about the great African man.

First Every Pizza Delivery Was In 1889

Today you can have meals turn up to your doorstep with the flick of the wrist and touch of your favorite delivery app. But that was not always the case, for centuries humans had to venture out into the wilderness and danger to find our next meal. It all changed in 1889 when the first pizza was delivered, it is actually like much of human history, a political story.

While many disputes and argue about if the pizza was invented in Naples, no one can deny that the town made it famous. Pizza is cheap to make and easy to prepare, which is why it became an instant favorite. Which is why many of the Italian nobles called pizza disgusting and food for the poor.

You see Italy only unified in the late 19th century, which brought together towns and regions and spread their local foods around the nation. Everything you think of as famous Italian food such as Lasagna or cannoli, really only became famous at this time in Italian history. Which is why Naples pizza was not popular outside of the city. All this changed when they were visited by the King and Queen of Italy in 1889.

The legend has it that Queen Margherita was growing tired of her nobly and royal duties she felt the food was becoming boring. The fancy meals found in Italian royal life were usually inspired by the French and did not really contain much Italian culture. So one night she demanded a meal that was fit for a commoner, to find out what the local cuisine was like.

Brandi Raffaele Esposito was summoned, at the time he was Naples’s most famous pizza chef. He cooked up three different types of pizzas with his wife, one he even made it look like the Italian flag using mozzarella, green basil, and tomatoes. Once cooked he rushed them over to the Queen himself, which was undoubtedly the first-ever pizza delivery in the history of mankind.

Queen Margherita de Savoy on biting into the new Italian flag colored pizza immediately uttered that it was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. One of those moments in time where you can truly say the phrase: the rest, they say, is history.

The Female Doctor That Had To Live Her Whole Life As A Man

During the 1800s, certain professions were nearly impossible for a woman to break into, unfortunately, it was a time of great inequality between men and women. One of the professions was the medical domain, where being a doctor was primarily a male role. One bright Irishwoman set out to follow her dreams and in the process trick nearly the whole British Empire.

Known as Dr. James Barry, she dreaded the life of being confined to a house and decided the way out was the simply transform herself into a man. Born as Margaret Bulkley in Cork in 1789, her early life was pretty terrible when her father lost his business due to anti-Catholic repression and they were dropped into poverty. Margaret and her mother fled to London and sought the help of one of their eccentric uncles James Barry, who had a reputation for being very eccentric, with even some saying madness.

It was here that Margaret met his intellectual friends such as General Francisco de Miranda, who was an exiled Venezuelan revolutionary. When James died, Margaret received a modest inheritance, and she decided that it was a sign that she should be doing something else. Following Miranda’s encouragement, she disguised herself as a man and started to study medicine at Edinburgh University. She was accepted and proposed, coming back home a qualified doctor. Initially, her idea was to simply receive the education, and then shed the disguise and go be a doctor in Venezuela with Miranda but on her return home, she found he had been betrayed and was now sitting in a Spanish prison.

So she kept her disguise and practiced as Dr. James Barry, for the next half-century. She fooled the Army, high society, the whole British Empire from Jamaica to Malta. Traveling from the Cape to the Crimea, she went everywhere as a surgeon and became a celebrated one. James Barry pioneered new techniques, such as carrying out the first successful cesarean delivery in 1826.

In 1865, Dr. James Barry died and her instructions of being buried in her clothes with no examination were ignored. When the truth came out, all of her research and pioneering medical studies were largely ignored for another 100 years before society realized that of course women could excel in the medical profession.

Over 230 Years Ago Trenton Was The Capital Of America

Nearly 235 years ago there was a great victory during the American Revolution. Victory in the battle of Trenton pretty much turned the tide of the revolution. And as a result, this famous victory meant that Trenton became the seat of America’s government. However, Trenton’s claim to fame as the capital of the United States of America was very short-lived, the city was officially the nation’s capital for just 54 days in late 1784.

It was a very epic time in history, a moment that gave hope to all Americans wishing to be free of British rule. The American Revolution had only just ended fourteen months earlier with the Treaty of Paris. Which caused many revolutionaries to flock to Trenton that had always been a hub and base during the revolution. You found divisive figures of the future such as James Monroe, who later went on to be the fifth president.

There was also John Jay who went on to become the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, and of course, Marquis de Lafayette, the Revolutionary War hero. The new Congress would meet at the French Arms Tavern which at the time was Trenton’s largest building. Trenton was one of the five towns that were the capital from 1781 to 1786.

You see the precursor to the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, named no fixed permanent capital. The New Jersey Legislature attempted to get Trenton named as the permanent capital in 1783 and lobbied the congress with offers of money and land. Trenton was just a small town with a population of 500, so becoming the capital would have greatly helped it grow.

Ultimately though this was not meant to be, the Northern and Southern states came to a compromise to agree that the permanent capital should be located on the Potomac River. In 1790, Trenton has named the capital of New Jersey, which many saw as New Jersey’s consolation prize. Many historians like to joke about how different the US would have been had the culture been deeper entwined with New Jersey, over New York or Philadelphia.

Thomas Jennings The First African American To Receive A U.S. Patent

It is widely thought that in 1821, Thomas Jennings became the first African American to ever receive a U.S. patent for his invention. Now over two centuries ago, Jennings invented a new way of cleaning clothes in Lower Manhattan. Many of the details of his patent were lost in a fire and we do not know exactly what he invented.

Historians and researchers have determined it was a better way to clean clothes. Many assume as result that he was an improved dry cleaning method which is referred to as scouring. It is a method that is commonly used in the dry cleaning industry today. Jennings received his patent in 1821, and from that day on he had made history.

The important part to note is that this was 44 years before the end of slavery. In fact, at the time that he was issued his patent, slavery was not even fully abolitioned in the state of New York. However, these things never troubled Jennings, he was an entrepreneur, a businessman and a visionary so he pushed on with his idea. His work even caught the eye of the abolitionist hero: Frederick Douglass.

Douglass covers Jennings story in his book, recalling that when Jennings entered adult life he started to work in the tailoring business and spotted a market opportunity for providing better ways to clean clothes. Now what is amazing is that getting a patent in the 1800s was no easy task for anyone. And the idea of a black person receiving a patent seemed unbelievable to most.

Jennings was able to do it, with his patent, his business saw success. As he got older and wealthier, he started to support anti-slavery movements and organizations. Jennings determination to change society for the better had an impact on his children. His daughter, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, is sometimes described as the first Rosa Parks.

It goes to show that someone’s legacy can truly live on if it has rubbed off in the right way and influences people positively.