Every war has a hero or two and many towns have their own hometown hero or a fallen soldier that they honor. Perhaps the funniest national hero was one who was “buried” in the town of Bourg, France in 1917.
In 1917, Colonel (at the time) Patton picked Bourg as an ideal location for his Light Tank Training School. On his arrival to the town the mayor was crying and told Patton that the Americans failed to inform him of a fallen soldier buried in the town. Patton later recalled, “Being unaware of this sad fact, and not liking to admit it to a stranger, I stalled until I found out that no one was dead. However, the Frenchman insisted that we visit the grave.”
Upon arriving, Patton viewed an oblong shaped earth mound that had a cross at the end. On the end of the cross it said, “Abandoned Rear” and Patton quickly realized that the French mistook a filled in latrine for a fallen soldier and left his sympathies and quickly left. When Patton returned to visit during WWII, the townspeople were still maintaining the small grave and were holding the “fallen soldier” as a hero. Patton admitted that he never told them the truth.
Written by Josh Yohe
"Don’t take candy from strangers” is a phrase you might have heard your parent say to you when you were younger. But, there is a good reason for that. It came about primarily due to the first child abduction with the intention of gaining a ransom. Charley Ross was a young four-year-old boy when he and his brother were kidnapped in Philadelphia in 1874.
Charley and his older brother Walter were originally given candy by their future abductors, and when questioned by the Christian Ross their father, they determined that the man was just fond of children. However, a few days later they were playing when a buggy with the same two men once again appeared and offered to take them to get some firecrackers. Charley and Walter agreed, but after going off in an unfamiliar direction Walter began to voice his concerns. The two men stopped at a store and gave Walter 25 cents to buy some firecrackers and while he was in the store the two men fled with Charley still with them.
Mr. Ross came home the same day, and when he could not find his sons assumed they were out playing at a neighbor’s house. However, after several hours he became concerned, and when he asked his neighbors if they had seen his sons, a neighbor woman told him she saw the two boys get in a buggy with two men she had never seen before. Mr. Ross headed to the police for help, and on his way, Walter was returned by a man who found him lost, confused, and crying. Walter told his father what happened, and Mr. Ross let the police, who assumed a couple of drunks had taken the boys, handle the issue.
Christian Ross, not wanting to alarm his ailing wife, who was in a different town getting treatments, didn’t tell her that her sons were missing. However, she found out when she read a newspaper advertisement offering a reward for the return of Charley Ross. He would receive several poorly written notes seeking $20,000 for the return of his son. The police urged him not to pay, as it would set a precedent for other kidnappings across the city. Instead, the police conducted a massive manhunt searching every vehicle, boat, abandoned structure, and even started a house to house search. Several composers wrote songs about the incident, and even the Pinkertons were brought in to help find him. Within a short span of time, the missing Charley Ross had become a nationwide sensation. P.T. Barnum offered a $10,000 reward for his safe return, with the intent on having Charley as a part of his show.
A few months later two professional burglars were shot while attempting to break into a house. The two men named William Mosher and Joseph Douglas were already possible suspects, but the police hadn’t been able to find the pair. Mosher was killed in the altercation, and Douglas was mortally wounded. Prior to Douglas passing he told the police that they were responsible for kidnapping Charley, but only Mosher knew where he was. Walter would later identify the pair as the kidnappers, and Christian Ross would spend every penny he had to try to find his son, but sadly, Charley Ross never turned up. Because of this incident, Pennsylvania became the first state to make kidnapping a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
Today, the largest non-government missing person database, is named after Charley Ross and is called The Charley Project. This organization is aimed at providing material on missing persons across the United States and is constantly being updated by the sole researcher and writer Meaghan Good. To this day, nobody knows what happened to Charley Ross.
Written by Josh Yohe
“Drink the Kool-Aid” is an American idiom which means to blindly follow a person or group. But where did this idiom originate?
On November 18, 1978, in Jonestown, Guyana, more than 900 people died from cyanide poisoning. The leader, Jim Jones, had founded several “churches” throughout California between the 1950s and the 1970s to create a utopia. Members were regularly humiliated, beaten, and blackmailed, and many were coerced or brainwashed into signing over their possessions—including their homes—to the church. As the media began to investigate him, Jim Jones fled to a compound that he had built in Guyana.
In Guyana, Jones found more autonomy than he had in California. However, when a US Congressman, Leo Ryan, visited Jones’ compound, members who were being held against their will tried to escape. Members who still believed in Jones launched an attack on Congressman Ryan and his party, leading to Ryan’s death.
Upon hearing the news, Jim Jones ordered everyone in and around the compound to commit suicide, using a fruit drink laced with cyanide. Jones himself was later found dead with a gunshot wound. While Jones used Flavor-Aid, the Kool-Aid brand seemed to be preferred in the idiom. Both brands were at the scene, but Kool-Aid got front billing in the aftermath and eventually stuck due to a large media focus on it. So whatever you do, don’t “drink the Kool-Aid.”
Written by Josh Yohe
In the early part of the 20th century, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood black district was considered one of the richest black communities in America. However, in 1921 one of the worst atrocities in the United States occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In a section of the city called Black Wall Street, many men and women had found great wealth. Prosperous businesses, farmers, and oil tycoons had built the black community into one of the richest communities in the country, regardless of color. Money stayed in the community and continued to build a prosperous community.
Yet greed and jealousy by the surrounding community for the prosperous black community led to a level of violence few could imagine. Led by the KKK and local officials, mobs began to attack the prosperous Black Wall Street.
The mobs dropped bombs from the air and began burning and looting houses and businesses. In less than a day hundreds of black citizens were killed and over 600 thriving businesses were destroyed. Surviving witnesses said that many white families stood on the outskirts of the community and watched as the destruction unfolded.
For decades, media and state officials covered up the riots; and news headlines and official documentation could never be found. It wasn’t until 2001 that a report on the matter officially came out.
Written by Josh Yohe
Virginia Hall, an educated Baltimore socialite served as a clerk in the US embassy in Poland in 1931. Only a year into her service, a hunting accident took the use of her leg, leaving her with a wooden prosthetic she affectionately code named, Cuthbert. This would end her career in the State Department as they had a strict policy against hiring disabled workers. But Hall sojourned on and by fate ended up in the right place at the right time: Paris on the eve of invasion in 1940. She offered her services and became an ambulance driver until Paris fell to the Germans, forcing her to flee to England.
Again, opportune timing brought her into contact with a British spy, which led to working for the Special Operations Executive or SOE. Hall became one of the first British spies dispatched to occupied France, where she began building a complex organization of spies and French citizens called HECKLER. HECKLER worked to rescue downed British airmen, keep tabs on Nazi officers, and smuggle operatives into France. Before long, the Nazis caught on and began capturing HECKLER operatives, but never seemed to get close to Hall, not for lack of trying. It did not help that Hall changed code names and appearances often, even filing down her American teeth to resemble French dentistry. These measures proved necessary as wanted posters lined French streets, declaring Hall to be “The Enemy’s Most Dangerous Spy.”
But as the Gestapo came closer and closer, she was forced to flee over the Pyrenees to Spain, a dangerous task for anyone, but more so for a disabled woman in the dead of winter. But she never lost her spirit, joking in dispatches that Cuthbert was giving her trouble. After a brief incarceration in Spain, she was released into American custody, where she had finally proved herself enough to join the Office of Strategic Services or OSS. And back to France she went, this time under the American flag.
Hall would go on to work for the CIA for sixteen years after the war and paved the way for more and more women to join the espionage services. For her exemplary service, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre, and was made an honorary member of the British Empire.
Written by Kimberly Kuntz
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