High Praise for The Line from Publishers Weekly: “Mayer has crafted a military thriller in the tradition of John Grisham’s The Firm.” Kirkus: “So convincing, that by the last page, readers may doubt the official version of the last 50 years.” Written by a New York Times Bestselling Author, West Point Graduate and Green Beret.
I wrote The Line some years ago. My main inspiration was to update the classic Seven Days in May. But I was also concerned about the growing power of the military-industrial cabal. The one that has kept us in forever war for varying reasons.
No other institution has had such a great impact on our history as the United States Military Academy. Two Presidents of the United States; the President of the Confederate States of America; 18 NASA astronauts; 76 Medals of Honor; Grant, Lee, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley— the list of graduates and their accomplishments is long.
But deep inside the Academy, there is a secret organization, known to only the handful recruited into it from each class. THE LINE.
They’ve steered our country through war and peace. Doing whatever they thought was necessary. At the end of World War II they even killed one of their own.
They’ve forced Presidents into going to war.
But now, in a time of growing political dissent and terrorism, they realize they have only one last resort.
In the vein of Seven Days in May, a story ripped from the headlines about the unbelievable, but possible, as only an insider can tell it. The Line
What they didn’t count on was two graduates, who weren’t members of The Line, to stay true to their Oath of Office to the Constitution.
Having taken that Oath upon graduating West Point, Delta Operative Boomer Watson and Intelligence officer, Benita Trace, begin to uncover clues leading to what they had considered unthinkable.
What they learn? The Line plans to take out the President on Pearl Harbor Day during a ceremony in Hawaii.
From the Ukraine to Pearl Harbor to the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, it becomes a race against time for Boomer and Trace to keep our country whole as the 7th of December looms.
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops
Basic Facts: Length: 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) With all branches included, it measures 13,171 miles (21,196 kilometers) Started: Various walls were initiated as early as the 7th Century BC. But it was Shi Huang, in 220 BC, who is credited with starting what we now know as the Great Wall. The majority of the current wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Why was it built? Besides defense, it was also built for border control, so tariffs could be imposed on trade goods, and control of immigration and emigration.
During early construction of the wall, the labor force was made up of soldiers and convicts. It’s estimated over 400,000 lost their lives during the Shi Huang phase of construction. The dead were buried in the Wall and became part of it. While it is difficult to accurately assess, it is estimated the Wall cost the equivalent of 360 billion modern US dollars.
Most of the Wall as we know it now was built, or rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty. After Beijing was proclaimed the capital in 1421, construction on the Wall picked up.
The wall’s actual effectiveness is debated. It is agreed that it had a significant psychological effect for the country, as an emblem of strength against outsiders. While it was designed against Mongols from the north, support for it collapsed when China, instead of battling their neighbors, began trading and forged economic ties that benefited both sides.
While the Wall is a great tourist attraction these days, the reality is that throughout Chinese history, the Wall was view mostly in a negative light. As a sign of government oppression, cruelty and death.
A popular myth is that the Wall can be seen from space. The reality is that it can be, but only with assistance; not with the naked eye. Below, it is difficult to see the Wall; while the river is much more visible.
Interesting Facts about the Great Wall:
1. Rice Flour was used to make the cement to bind bricks for the Wall during its early construction.
2. Over 10 million tourists visit the Wall annually.
3. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) many bricks from the Great Wall were taken to construct buildings and even dams.
4. In many places the top of the Wall is so wide, a car can drive along it.
5. A mythical story is Men Jiangsu’s Bitter Weeping— where a woman whose husband died building the Wall, cried so bitterly, her tears collapsed a section of the Wall, so she could recover his body for proper burial.
Of course, there are those who postulate other theories about the purpose of the Great Wall. What if, built into the Wall, there is a message? Designed to be seen only from space, but only to those with the technology for space flight and the optics to discern it?
Two ancient rivals from another world are vying to dominate Earth, and Mike Turcotte and his team must choose which army to side with. The key to averting the crisis lies in a single weapon: Excalibur. The mythical, legendary sword of King Arthur is real and can unlock a galactic power beyond what anyone—human or alien—has ever seen. And Mike must keep it from falling into the wrong hands. The race to recover Excalibur will lead the players all across the globe—from the ancient pyramids to the Great Wall of China, from a fortress on Easter Island to the heights of Mount Everest—in a high-stakes game in which the fate of humanity is the ultimate prize.
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops
Officially known as The Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. Realizing that they would be behind the west in technology for weapons, particularly in the nuclear field, the Japanese turned to experimenting on humans to discover biological and chemical weapons to tip the balance of the war in their favor. Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army.
It was located in Harbin, in Manchuria. This was outside of mainland China and where a steady supply of Chinese prisoners could be experimented on.
It is estimated that 250,000 people (men, women and children) perished in Unit 731’s experiments. Most were Chinese, Korean and Mongolians. There were also a handful of Allied (Australian, British and American) POWs sent there, in order to make sure various diseases worked the same on Caucasians.
Biological warfare is the use of infectious agents or toxins to incapacitate or kill humans, plants or animals. As long as there has been warfare, humans have used biological warfare in various forms.
The problem with biological weapons has always been that they are indiscriminate. They kill the side employing them as much as the side they are used against. The Japanese were working on ways to target certain ethnic groups.
While the primary purpose mission of Unit 731 was to develop biological weapons, the Unit also conducted other experiments such as:
Vivisection without anesthesia
Effects of shrapnel on exposed victims tied to stakes in a field Testing
Conducted Brain surgery to see which parts of the brain controlled various motor functions
Effect of syphilis (looking for treatment for soldiers)
Amputation to study blood loss rates
Female prisoners were raped in order to impregnate them in order to study the transmission of various diseases to the fetus. Testing Conducted
If a sick medical mind could think of it; it was tested at Unit 731.
Victims were referred to as Meruta. (Logs)
The unit was under the command of General Shiro Ishii He was never prosecuted.
In fact, at the end of the war, the United States did not prosecute a single member of Unit 731. Instead, we took the records of the experiments. Much as we took the Nazi scientists in Operation Paperclip. As recently as 2003, the Japanese government still refuses to acknowledge what really went on in Unit 731.
What is on the horizon, and probably already being developed in secret, are genetic weapons, which are targeted toward specific ethnicities and/or genotypes. The implications of such weapons are staggering. Genetic Weapons
I have written about Unit 731 in several books, partly in an attempt to publicize this blight in history. I also cover how to prepare for and what to in case of biological warfare. It is features in the Area 51 series and in my thriller that mixes history with present terrorism The Gate.
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops
The Warren Commission determined in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. In the half a century since, polls have never indicated more than 30% of American believe that.
Vincent Bugliosi estimates that 214 different people have been accused in various conspiracies ranging across 42 groups with 82 possible gunmen.
In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassination concluded that a second gunman besides Oswald probably fired at Kennedy. Afterwards, the acoustic evidence it used for this determination was dismissed.
From the beginning there was a rush to cover- up what happened. Discrepancies include the body being taken from Texas back to Washington the same day of the shooting and illegally.
The original autopsy was destroyed. What was thought to be the original, to the right, is one made later. The original photos from the autopsy also went missing.
Kennedy had many enemies, including numerous Americans.
Earlier in 1963, after being arrested in New Orleans, Oswald asked to speak to the FBI. He did, but just a memo that the talk occurred was filed. The FBI never followed up. Why?
Sam Giancana, from the Chicago “Outfit” and Kennedy actually shared a mistress at one point, Judith Campbell Exner. She arranged meetings between Kennedy and Giancana regarding assassinating Castro.
Giancana, and the Outfit, had supposedly helped Kennedy win Chicago, and thus Illinois, in the 1960 election. They felt Kennedy wasn’t living up to his end of the “deal.”
Carlos Marcello, head of the New Orleans mob, wasn’t happy with the Kennedy brothers. Bobbie Kennedy had him deported out of the country and dumped in the middle of Guatemala in 1961. Jack Ruby, who would shoot Oswald, was supposed to be in debt to Marcello.
Kennedy’s Administration had sanctioned the Bay of Pigs and several assassination attempts on Fidel Castro.
Kennedy had faced down the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis, forcing their ships to turn back. In return, of course, but little known, we removed our Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy.
There are many theories, but none of them quite fit. It seems as if the top level of government would have to be in on the coverup if there was more to it than just Oswald. Why would it do that?
What if the answer were very simple? That there were two ‘gunmen’. And the identity of the 2nd gunman is the reason for the cover-up which began immediately?
The first gunman was, of course, Lee Harvey Oswald.
It’s the second gunman that’s the problem. A Secret Service Agent in the follow car.
The Agent, not part of the normal security detail, was issued a weapon he wasn’t familiar with, an AR-15. Upon hearing the first shot, he jumped to his feet. Just as the car accelerated, also in response to the first shot. Losing his balance, the agent accidentally discharged the weapon. Kennedy had already suffered a wound that would be fatal, but this round was the infamous head shot and has given birth to many of the conspiracy theories.
Could such an accident be admitted? Or was the reality known by those who made the decisions, including the President’s widow, and the decision was made to keep it quiet?
We may never know. But what did Mrs. Kennedy mean when, during the viewing of her husband’s body in the Rotunda, she told Russian Ambassador Mikoyan: “I am sure that Chairman Khrushchev and my husband could have been successful in the search for peace, and they were really striving for that. Now the Chairman must continue the agreed upon endeavor and bring it to completion.”
What was The Kennedy Endeavor? Why was his mistress, Mary Meyer, killed a year later? Why was Khrushchev forced out of power the very next day? What was in Mary Meyer’s diary that disappeared?
Over 4,500 years ago, the Great Sphinx was carved out of a quarry on the Giza Plateau. It has the body of a lion and the head of a man.
It is part of a larger complex with Temples and causeways containing the Giza Pyramids.
It is speculated the head bears the visage of Khafre, the ruler of Egypt who commissioned it. Legend is that Napoleon had a cannon shoot the nose off, but the reality is that it was missing by the time he got there, destroyed by Turks over a hundred years before.
This is how it is imagined to have originally looked.
Between the paws is the “dream stella”, which is inscribed with a story, that Thutmosis, if he cleared the sand from the Sphinx, would become king of Egypt.
Some have claimed that the Sphinx has been weathered by rain. This is open to debate, but climatologists have recently revealed it is possible that for its first 500 years, the weather was much wetter on the Giza Plateau.
While we think we know why the Sphinx was carved and the mighty Pyramids built, there are always possibilities. Especially for a fiction writer.
Area 51: The Sphinx: Dr. Lisa Duncan and Special Forces officer Mike Turcotte know better than anyone that no secret is safe for long—especially one that offers untold power. Case in point: no sooner does Turcotte’s elite Area 51 team uncover a dormant alien ship in earth orbit than a group of alien-human hybrids seizes it and uses its technology to commandeer a satellite array bristling with nuclear missiles. Now they’re demanding that humankind hand over the key to an ancient stash of alien technology…or watch an entire continent be reduced to atomic rubble. Doom seems certain, as the required key is believed lost to the ages—until an anthropologist discovers the first of many clues to its hiding place. As Duncan and Turcotte race to reach the key—and the powerful treasure it can unlock— ahead of their alien foes, the quest leads them deep into a deadly maze within the Great Sphinx of Giza. The prize? Nothing less than the legendary Ark of the Covenant.
Could the Revolution Have Ended in 1776?
Travel back in time to Staten Island, New York on 11 September 1776 A.D. The day Benjamin Franklin and John Adams meet Admiral Lord Howe to discuss the possibility of peace between Britain & the Colonies. There is the slight complication that a few years previously, Benjamin Franklin had left the sister of Admiral Howe with child while visiting England.
This occurred after George Washington was defeated in what would be the biggest battle of the Revolution, on Long Island and forced to withdraw up Manhattan Island. The British would occupy then New York City for the rest of the war. It would become a haven for runaway slaves, including two of George Washingtons’s.
“They met, they talked, they parted. And now nothing remains but to fight it out.” — British report after the Staten Island Peace Conference 11 September 1776
According to history, neither Admiral Howe nor Franklin and Adams, have any real authority from their respective governments to negotiate.
For his 24-hour bubble in time, Time Patrol Agent, Doc arrives prior to the meeting. Doc quickly learns that is not the case. That there is a real possibility of history being changed.
George Washington has just been defeated on Long Island, and his army is being threatened across the Hudson on York (Manhattan) Island.
What if a peace is negotiated? And the Revolution ends in 1776 with the colonies still part of England?
As the peace conference gets underway, Doc must decide how to stop the negotiations and keep our history intact But at what cost?
What of the legend of a ghost in Billopp House, where the meeting was held, on the southwestern corner of Staten Island? The ghost of a servant girl killed by the owner who believed she betrayed him to the Colonists?
This is one of the missions in Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol)
Major Robert Rogers in 1759 wrote Standing Orders, Rogers Rangers, from lessons learned in the first 3 years the Rangers were formed. These are at least 17 rules. Simple rules, but learned at the cost of blood. All SOPs are guidelines.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): A step by step procedure written down that delineates how things should be done correctly. They can serve many purposes, but for a survival situation they give you a proper plan of action in the midst of stress. It is too late once an emergency occurs to come up with SOPs.
1. DON’T forget nothing.
2. HAVE your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.
3. WHEN you’re on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
4. TELL the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all your please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don’t never lie to a Ranger or Officer. Ranger Assault at Pointe du Hoc, D-Day
5. DON’T never take a chance you don’t have to.
6. WHEN we’re on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can’t go through two men. With my team, Winter Warfare Training above 10,000 Feet, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
7. IF we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast so it’s hard to track us.
8. WHEN we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
9. WHEN we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
10. IF we take prisoners, we keep ’em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story between ‘em.
11. DON’T ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed. 12. NO matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on each flank, and 20 yards in the rear so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
13. EVERY Night you’ll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force. Don’t sit down to eat without posting sentries.
14. DON’T sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.
15. DON’T cross a river by a regular ford.
16. IF someone’s trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
17. DON’T stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, hide behind a tree. Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch, then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.
SOPs are an essential part of emergency and survival preparedness.
I also have written about Major Rogers and the execution of Nathan Hale in Equinox (Time Patrol).
Propane doesn’t smell. It’s odorless in its natural state. But if there is a leak, you smell a nasty odor.
Ever wonder why? It wasn’t always that way. What caused the changed?
It would have been fortuitous if this had been done from the start as more and more buildings began to use propane and gas for heating. But no one thought of doing it until they realized they had to.
Lessons learned that save lives later, Blood Lessons, often come at high cost.
On March 18, 1937, a gas leak was sparked, causing an explosion that killed approximately 293 students and teachers at the New London School in New London, Texas. It is still the deadliest school disaster in U.S. History.
1930: Oil discovered in Rusk County
1932: New London Schoolhouse built; the first in Texas to have a football stadium with electric lights. The school board overrules the architect’s recommendation for steam heat, instead installing gas heaters.
1937: Early in the year, the school cancels their natural gas contract and instead taps directly into residue lines from oil derricks.
18 March 1937: Gas that had been leaking in the crawl space under the school explodes.
The Cascading Events
The school board overrode the architect’s plan for heating the school.
The original plan, as drawn up by the architect, called for the school to be heated by a boiler and a steam system. But the school board overrode that and insisted on a gas system in order to save money.
The New London Schoolhouse was located in Rusk County and despite the rest of the country being bogged down in the Great Depression, it was one of the richest areas in the country. Oil fueled the local economy. There were 11 derricks located on school grounds. The school was relatively new, having been built in 1932.
Despite a large amount of money spent on the construction, the decision was made to heat the school with 72 gas heaters, rather than the planned centralized boiler and steam system. The architect warned them that the building wasn’t designed to vent gas fumes, but they proceeded anyway.
Experts are just that.
There are actually two problems here wrapped in one. First, is ignoring the original plans for the building. A heating system is integral to such plans and in this case, the building had been designed for steam heat. Switching to multiple gas heaters ignored the basic construction of the building. And ignoring the warning that the building wasn’t designed to vent gas fumes was piled on top of that.
The school was built on a slope so there was a large dead space underneath it, stretching the entire length of the building.
Add this to cascade one and you begin to see a pattern. Dead space is just that: unused, and often ignored.
The term ‘dead space’ is a misnomer. It’s still part of the building. Often, it’s places we don’t look and inspect that problems can build up over time. Extra effort must be made to periodically inspect ‘dead space’ in whatever form it takes. Out of sight, out of mind, is a precursor for disaster.
Eventually, school officials canceled the natural gas contract and tapped directly into a residue line from the oilfields.
This was a relatively common thing in the area as propane was considered waste and usually burned off. A problem with this was that the quality of this gas was of varying quality. Also, they had to run a new line into the gas company’s residue line.
This move saved the school $300 a month. While this might seem overly cheap, remember the environment in the country at the time: the Great Depression was ongoing and the mindset was one of frugality.
Cost cutting can be one of the most dangerous things in terms of safety.
It’s ironic that one of the richest school districts in the country chose to cut costs this way. But there are two factors playing into this beyond simply saving money.
First, these were oil people. The school’s football team was the Wildcats, for ‘wildcatter’. Almost everyone there was associated with the oil business in one-way or the other.
The second was that the natural gas residue was there for the taking. One can easily imagine the mindset of a school official seeing the bill they were paying for something that ran right by the school and was burned off and wasted and could be tapped into for free.
The gas company knew the school, and others, were tapping into the residue lines, but turned a blind eye to it.
After all, many of the people working for the company had children at the school.
After the explosion, during the rescue operations, they found a blackboard with a teacher’s note for the day chalked on it: “Oil and natural gas are East Texas’ greatest mineral blessings. Without them this school would not be here and none of us would be here learning our lessons.”
Rules exist for a reason.
The residue gas was of questionable quality and was normally burned off. To allow waste product to be used in the school violated protocol and was a shortcut.
Like cost cutting, shortcuts tend to have negative results.
Additionally, because there was no meter on the gas the school was tapping into, no one could tell if the reading was abnormal. Meter readings are a backup way to tell if there is a leak in the system; if the reading is abnormally large, then there is a problem.
None of the people involved in these decisions and actions had bad intentions. In fact, just the opposite. They were trying to do what they thought was the best course of action.
The connection to the residue gas line was faulty.
Although no one knows exactly how, since it was destroyed, the line had to have developed a leak. Because of the dead space underneath the length of the school, and the fact it wasn’t designed to vent fumes, that large area filled with gas.
Cascade events do just that: they cascade.
This was a mechanical failure. They happen. But this failure in conjunction with gas instead of steam heat, dead space, no venting, no meter, and events were now ripe for disaster.
Students had been complaining about headaches and burning eyes for days.
Since the gas was odorless, the only symptoms were these headaches and burning eyes. It does seem a bit odd that in a community where many people worked in the gas industry, no one took these complaints for what they were.
There were reports that students were in classrooms with the windows open and their jackets on. It’s obvious then that people were aware there was something wrong, but with 72 separate heating units, it would have been easy to ascribe it as a localized problem.
Paying attention to the details and then taking action.
In retrospect, even with everything else that went wrong, the physical symptoms were a glaring warning. One of the issues with cascade events is focus. To not just notice a problem, but to focus on it and then not assume it’s just going to go away.
I’ve been guilty of this many times: noticing something isn’t quite right, but having what I call a self-correcting mindset. This is where I shrug off a physical symptom or an anomaly in my environment and just assume it will get better or isn’t important.
Inevitably, it doesn’t without some action being taken.
Final Event: DISASTER
A few minutes prior to school being let out, at 3:17 PM, a teacher turned on an electric sander. This caused a spark that sent an arc into the enclosed space where the gas had been building up.
Witnesses say it appeared that the entire building seemed to lift up off the ground and then slam back down. People over four miles away heard the explosion and it was felt for dozens of miles. As an indicator of the force of the explosion, a two-ton slab of concrete was thrown 200 feet away from the building.
Fortunately, the lower grades had already been dismissed for the day. The high school was still in session with about 800 students, but many were not in the building as they were preparing for a sporting event. The exact death toll was never fixed, but is roughly around 300.
Walter Cronkite, on one of his first assignments working for United Press in Dallas, rushed to the school. What he saw caused him to make the quote at the beginning of this section years later, even after covering wars and other disasters: “I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.”
Classes were resumed within a few weeks of the tragedy. The school was rebuilt within two years; this time with steam heat. The loss was so devastating that those who lived there hardly ever mentioned it again. “If you don’t talk about it, maybe it’s going to go away. Of course, we know it doesn’t.” (Miles Toler, VOA News, http://goo.gl/ITfQ2l). There is a museum now, opened in 1998. It contains telegrams of sympathy, one even from Adolf Hitler; an indication of how far the repercussions of this event spread.
There was one major result of this horrific tragedy, which has undoubtedly saved many lives since the event. Less than two months afterward, the Texas Legislature passed a law which required refineries to add a smell to natural gas. Roughly 1.5 pounds of ethyl-mercaptan per 10,000 gallons of propane is the norm. Thus, since propane is heavier than air, any leak will have a lingering odor that is unmistakable.
However, regarding the other cascade events, nothing much was done. The Court of Inquiry noted the design flaw, the swapping out of steam for the gas heaters, the switch to the residue line, the lack of action on the student complaints of headaches and burning eyes, but ultimately held no one accountable. Some families filed lawsuits against the school district, but the cases were dismissed and never came to trial. No individual was ever held liable and no fine was levied.
The official report said that school officials were “average individuals, ignorant or indifferent to the need for precautionary measures, where they cannot, in their lack of knowledge, visualize a danger or a hazard.” (Court of Inquiry, 1937.)
There can hardly be a better way to sum up the purpose of this book than to correct this line.
This tragedy was the result of well-intentioned people making a mistake. The mistake was compounded by cascade events, as all disasters are.
The most significant problem was never focusing on some of the cascade events, particularly the physical complaints of the students and teachers. Disasters often signal that they are pending in ways we can literally feel, but if we don’t focus on those feelings, we don’t appreciate the warning.
This is excerpted from The Green Beret Guide to Seven Great Disasters I.
It’s an island off the Bronx in New York City, not far from where I grew up. It’s not very big. Roughly a mile long by a third of a mile wide. Exact acreage is argued: some say its 101 acres and other claim its 131 acres.
I put this map together while researching Hart Island for my book, Hell of a Town.
It’s adjacent to City Island, a small enclave of the Bronx. There is no bridge to Hart Island and no power. A ferry runs from City Island to Hart Island. It’s near Orchard Beach which my family used to visit, and also Pelham Bay Park.
Hart Island was originally occupied by Native Americans of the Siwanoy Tribe. It was purchased by an English physician, Thomas Pell, in 1654, as part of a larger land deal. The island remained in that family for 120 years. In 1774 it was sold several times to a variety of families. There are some records that illegal bare-knuckle fights were held on the island with thousands attending and betting on the outcomes.
The first official use of the island came in 1864 when it was used to train “colored” troops of the 31st Infantry Regiment. Eventually, over 50,000 troopers were trained there.
The island transitioned from training troops to housing Confederate prisoners in November of 1864. 3,413 rebels were held there. 235 died. Interestingly, they were buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery, off-island.
The first recorded burials on the island were indigent Union soldiers during the Civil War. In 1868, New York City bought the island for $75,000. The city began burying the indigent and unclaimed soon after. The first person recorded as buried in the 45 acre plot was Louisa Van Slyke, who had died in Charity Hospital.
Hart Island’s “Potter’s Field” replaced two earlier graveyards the city had been using. Those were located in what are now Washington Square Park and where the main branch of the New York Public Library is located. There are numerous former burial all over New York City, lost in time, including the African Burial Ground, covered in another article.
Frankly, researching these books in the Will Kane series, you don’t want to know how many bodies lie under New York City. In an earlier book I referenced the African Burial ground north of Wall Street. This was because it was forbidden by law for Africans to be buried inside city limits which was then Wall Street, which literally was a wall protecting the city. There is a monument to the African Burial Ground at 290 Broadway.
By 1958 over a half million people had been buried on Hart Island. Other parts of the island were used for different things over the years. A quarantine during the 1870 Yellow Fever Epidemic. A women’s psychiatric hospital. A school for troubled boys. A prison.
An entrepreneur in 1924 proposed building an amusement park in a small tract of land on the island for African-Americans since they were not allowed at Rye Playland or Dobbs Ferry Parks. The city nixed that due to the proximity to prisoners.
In 1956 the military got back in on the act and stationed a battery of Nike Missiles on the island to protect New York City. The launch pads are still there.
The island was closed as a prison in 1966. A drug rehab center, Phoenix House, opened. It closed in 1977 after regular ferry service to the island ceased.
Hart Island primarily became a potters field. In 1985, sixteen bodies infected with HIV were buried on the southern end of the body, away from the other bodies because it was feared even the dead bodies could infect others.
Adults bodies are buried in trenches, the wooden coffins stacked three deep in two rows, totaling 150 per section.
Children and infants are stacked five deep and in rows of twenty with one thousand per section.
Bodies are buried by prisoners from Riker’s Island. Who, despite being on a nearby island, have to be bussed to City Island to take the ferry over. Currently, Hart Island is the largest potter’s field in the United States. It’s estimated over one million people are buried there. Its use has dwindled in the past two decades. Sadly, indigent mothers who lose their baby have signed a paper for a “city burial” not understanding it means Hart Island.
Some who are buried there that we know: Academy Award Winner Bobby Driscoll. T-Bone Slim. Novelist Dawn Powell. And many whose names are lost to history.
Hart Island is now entering a new chapter with the COVID-19 virus. Let us hope it is a brief and short one. Stay safe!
New York City. 1970s. Jack Reacher meets the Equalizer by NY Times Bestselling Author, West Point graduate and former Green Beret One of the top five new series of the year. https://bobmayer.com/fiction/
In the late 1960’s, scientists face a fundamental question regarding computing. In what direction will the future go? The big corporations, IBM and others, want to build centralized, large computers that people must go to. Others want computers to be smaller and not centralized and be linked together remotely. The link? A thing that will become known as the Internet.
ARPANET: Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. There are two versions why ARPANET was started: 1. To exploit new computer technologies to meet the needs of military command and control against nuclear threats, achieve survivable control of US nuclear forces, and improve military tactical and management decision making. 2. Out of the frustration that there were only a limited number of large, powerful research computers in the country, and that many research investigators, who should have access to them, were geographically separated from them.
Regardless. What we call the Internet would never have happened if ARPANET had failed.
The first message ever sent was from a computer in a lab at UCLA to a computer in a lab at Stanford, on 29 October 1969. The image above is the entire extent of the Internet at the end of 1969 via landline.
The first message consisted of: L O and then the system crashed before the LOGIN could be completed. This also foreshadowed the future of the Internet.
What if none of that first message ever made it? What if ARPANET was destroyed? How would that change history?
Los Angeles, California. 29 October 1969. Scout is in the middle of free love, drugs, and the counter- culture. At UCLA, it is the day the first internet message is sent. And someone doesn’t want that message to be transmitted. Of course, as with many Time Patrol missions, it isn’t that clear cut. Is the birth of the Internet the target? Or is the real target, Scout herself?
What will Scout decide? Will she survive? This mission along with 29 Oct 1929: Black Tuesday 29 Oct 1980: Last test flight of Operation Credible Sport. 29 Oct 999: A Viking raid on an English Monastery 29 Oct 1618: Sir Walter Raleigh heads for the chopping block 29 Oct 1972: Survivors of a plane crash in the Andes struggle to live.