30 October 2013

INVASION! A 75th Anniversary Tribute

If you were to ask any knowledgeable historian, “when was the last time the United States was invaded by alien forces?”, the answer you would get would probably be "sometime around 1916" when Francisco “Pancho” Villa invaded the United States and attacked the village of Columbus, New Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.

They would, however, not be entirely correct. Twenty-two years later, the United States of America was invaded again. This time New Jersey was targeted and by forces much more advanced than those of Pancho Villa. This time, the invasion was not stopped by a general or by the militia, but by a lone New Jersey State Trooper sitting “on the book” and answering phones at Department Headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey.

Trooper Vincent Mason reported for duty at 4:00 in the afternoon of October 30, 1938. All was quiet, the most exciting thing happening so far was an escape from the Skillman Village, an epileptic asylum just north of Hopewell. But then all hell broke loose.

The United States in 1938 was sitting on a precipice looking over the edge at a fast approaching war in Europe. Adolf Hitler had been in power since 1933 and had already advanced his nationalist army into Austria and Czechoslovakia. Who would be next? Would the Germans come here?

What of the Japanese? They had sent their imperial forces into China and wreaked havoc in Manchuria. Would the Japanese come here?

The question was, who would get here first?

My father, who was 19 years old at the time, remembered the anxious tension of that time. In an interview with him a few years before he died he told me that he remembered listening to the radio every night. “We would hear Hitler giving his speeches over in Germany at those rallies. Then all the Germans cheering and shouting ‘Heil Hitler!’ It was really scary!” International tensions were so heightened that the slightest utterance of the word “Boo!” could trigger a panic.

Then it came. INVASION!

It was 75 years ago on October 30, 1938. It began with huge flaming objects hurtling through the sky and crashing down in the countryside. According to the news being flashed on WCBS Radio, a “huge flaming object…fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey, twenty-two miles from Trenton…The noise of the impact was heard as far north as Elizabeth.”

WCBS reporter Carl Phillips was immediately dispatched to the scene of the invasion. The yellowish-white projectile – a huge cylinder” that had the diameter of thirty yards had hit the Wilmuth Farm in Grovers Mill. Phillips reported that it had struck the ground with such “terrific force…[that] it was half buried in a pit.”

Old man Wilmuth witnessed the object hurtling through the sky. In an interview with Carl Phillips, Mr. Wilmuth explained that he first heard a hissing sound “kinda like a fourt’ of July rocket.” As he turned to look out the window “I seen a kinda greenish streak and then zingo! Somethin’ smacked the ground. Knocked me clear out of my chair!”

Was this a new type of weapon developed by Hitler’s military machine? A prelude to the Nazi regime unleashing their infamous Blitzkrieg - Lightning War - on the United States? The crowds that had gathered by now would not have to wait long to find out – the object was beginning to make noise. It was described as a scraping sound of metal upon metal. Suddenly, a piece of the cylinder fell off with a bang. To the horror of the crowd, someone began to climb out of the metal canister!

The epitome of evil that was released from the object unleashed hell’s fury, firing a flame thrower into the unsuspecting gathering of curious onlookers. WCBS’s Carl Phillips reported the carnage until he, himself, fell victim to its wrath:

"I can make out a small beam of light against a mirror. What's that? There's a jet of flame springing from the mirror, and it leaps right at the advancing men. It strikes them head on! Good Lord, they're turning into flame! Now the whole field's caught fire. The woods . . . the barns . . . the gas tanks of automobiles . . . it's spreading everywhere. It's coming this way. About twenty yards to my right . . .

Sadly, Carl Phillips did not survive the invasion of 1938. He and at least forty other people died when their bodies were “burned and distorted beyond all possible recognition."

Once news of the invasion had reached Trenton, the Governor of New Jersey immediately placed the counties of Mercer and Middlesex under martial law, and put Brigadier General Montgomery Smith in charge of the state militia. No one was permitted to enter or exit the area "…except by special pass issued by state or military authorities."

The countryside was engulfed in flames. The technologically advanced flame thrower was described by Professor Pierson of Princeton University: "It is my guess that in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute nonconductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror…much as the mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light. That is my conjecture…"

Reports issued by Captain Lansing of the signal corps were relayed by WCBS Radio. Lansing was attached “…to the state militia now engaged in military operations in the vicinity of Grovers Mill. Situation arising from the reported presence of certain individuals of unidentified nature is now under complete control… adequately armed with rifles and machine guns. All cause for alarm, if such cause ever existed, is now entirely unjustified…Anyway, it's an interesting outing for the troops. I can make out their khaki uniforms, crossing back and forth in front of the lights. It looks almost like a real war.”

Captain Lansing’s cavalier attitude did not last long because what has become known in some circles as The Battle of Grovers Mill ended “…in one of the most startling defeats ever suffered by any army in modern times; seven thousand men…one hundred and twenty known survivors. The rest strewn over the battle area from Grovers Mill to Plainsboro.” The enemy was now in control of the middle section of New Jersey and had effectively cut the state through its center.

“Communication lines are down from Pennsylvania to the Atlantic Ocean. Railroad tracks are torn and service from New York to Philadelphia discontinued except routing some of the trains through Allentown and Phoenixville. Highways to the north, south are clogged with frantic human traffic. Police and army reserves are unable to control the mad flight. By morning the fugitives will have swelled Philadelphia, Camden, and Trenton, it is estimated, to twice their normal population. At this time martial law prevails throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. “

Meanwhile, back at New Jersey State Police Department Headquarters in Trenton, Trooper Mason is single handedly putting an end to this terrifying "foreign invasion" simply by answering the telephone…over and over again throughout the night. As he noted in the Station Record for that evening,

"Between 8:30p & 10pm received numerous phone calls as result of WABC [sic] broadcast this evening re Mars attacking this country. Calls included papers, police depts. Including N.Y.C. & private persons. No record kept of same due to working teletype & all the extensions ringing at same time. At least 50 calls were answered. Persons calling inquiring as to meteors, number of persons killed, gas attack, militia being called out & fires. All were advised nothing unusual had occurred & that rumors were due to a radio dramatization of a play."

Orson Welles was the brilliant mind behind the radio dramatization of the novel The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. He, most of all, was shocked when he learned about the fear and near panic his radio play instilled in the hearts of Americans. At the end of the broadcast he stepped out of character (he had portrayed the fictional Professor Pierson) to explain:

“that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night. . . so we did the best next thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the C. B. S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian. . .it's Hallowe'en.”

It would be another three years before the United States would face another invasion. Once more there would be a radio broadcast. This time, however, it would be for real. This broadcast would not be delivered by Orson Welles; rather by a very angry and resolute Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States.

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…”

Note: This article has been revised from the original, which was published on the 70th anniversary of the broadcast in 2008.
New Jersey State Police Department Headquarters. Station Record.
Pancho Villa Expedition. Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancho_Villa_Expedition. As of October 28, 2008.
The War of the Worlds. Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds_(radio) As of October 28,
Welles, Orson. The War of the Worlds. Script.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/ufo/mars/wow.htm As of October 28, 2008.

15 February 2013

Why the Delay?

            The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case is full of baffling aspects, not the least of which was the timing of the payment of the ransom money.  Could the phase of the moon provide some insight into why it took a month for the ransom to be paid?
When the Lindbergh Baby was kidnapped on March 1, 1932, a ransom note was left in the nursery demanding payment of $50,000.  It also stated that, “After 2-4 days we will inform you where to deliver the money.”   Because Charles Lindbergh did not open the note as soon as he found it and instead waited for the police to arrive, it was too late to heed the instructions of the kidnappers not to make “anyding public or for notify the Police.”
On March 4th, a second ransom note arrived at the Lindbergh Estate.  It scolded Lindbergh for not following their instructions:  We have warned you note to make anyding Public also notify the Police now you have to take the consequences.  ths means we will holt the baby untill everyding is quiet.  We can note make any appointment just now.”  It also increased the ransom to $70,000.
            The following week, the infamous Bronx blowhard Doctor John F. Condon, aka Jafsie, was brought into the story as the intermediary.  An editorial had run in the Bronx Home News stating that Condon wanted to act as go-between[1].  He received a note from the kidnappers accepting his offer and instructing him to place advertisements in the classified section of the newspaper.  He would then receive further instructions through the mail. 
A ransom note was delivered to him on March 12th.  It instructed him to meet with a member of the kidnap gang that evening at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx so that the ransom could be paid.  However, when Condon met with a man who was later referred to as Cemetery John, Condon refused to pay, instead demanding further proof that he was in fact dealing with the actual kidnappers. 
            A few days later, on Wednesday, March 16th, Doctor Condon received what was accepted as the baby’s Doctor Denton sleeping suit.  Convinced now that they were dealing with the actual kidnappers, it was decided to pay the ransom.  However, it would be another two weeks before this was done!  Why the delay?
            Many people mistakenly accuse Lindbergh as causing the delay, saying that he refused to pay the ransom until he was convinced to do it for the sake of his wife’s health or because the kidnappers threatened to increase the ransom to $100,000.  A closer look reveals the opposite.  It was not Lindbergh that was delaying, but the kidnappers!
            The day after the sleeping suit was delivered, Condon again began placing advertisements in the paper.  Money is ready. No Cops, No Secret Service. No Press.  I come alone like last time.  Please Call.  Jafsie.” ran on March 17th.    I accept.  Money is ready. John your package is delivered and is ok. Direct me.  Jafsie. ran on the 18th and 19th.  Finally, on March 21st, a note was received from the kidnappers.  However, there are no instructions for delivering the ransom!  It was a long note that really said nothing:

Dear Sir:  You and Mr. Lindbergh know
ouer Program.  If you don't accept
den we will wait untill you
agree with ouer Deal, we know
you have to come to us any way
But why shoul'd Mrs. and Mr.
Lindbergh suffer longer as necessary
  We will note communicate with
you or Mr Lindbergh until you write so
in the paper.
     We will tell you again; this kid
naping cace whas prepared for a
yaer already so the Police would
have any look to find us or the child
    You only puch everyding further out
dityou send that
little package to
Mr Lindbergh? it contains
the sleepingsuit from the  
the baby is well.         Baby.

(on the other side:)

Mr Lindbergh only waisting
time with hiss search

What was the point of this note, other than to “remind” Lindbergh that the kidnappers were still out there?  Doctor Condon continued to place his ads in the paper.  Four more, posted on March 22nd through the 25th, were more extensive than previous ones:

Thanks.  That little package you
sent was immediately
delivered and accepted as real article.
See my position.  Over 50 years in
business and can I pay
without seeing the goods?  Common sense
makes me trust you.  Please
understand my position.  Jafsie.

The plea was met by a lingering silence by the kidnappers.  Three more ads were placed on March 26th, 27th and 28th:

Money is ready.  Furnish simple code
for us to use in paper.  Jafsie.

On March 30th, the kidnappers finally sent another note.  But once again, there are no instructions.  The note does, however, set a time frame for the payment of the ransom.  Lindbergh was told that if the ransom was not paid by April 8th, the ransom would be increased to $100,000.
For the next two days, March 31st and April 1st, “I accept.  Money is ready.  Jafsie” ran in the newspaper.  On April 1st, another ransom note arrived, this time with instructions: 

Dear Sir:  have the money redy by saturday
evening.  we will inform you where
and how to deliver it.  have the money
in one bundle we want you to put
it in on a sertain place.  Ther is
no fear that somebody els will
tacke it, we watch everything
closely.  Pleace lett us know if
you are agree and ready for action
by saturday evening. --if yes--
put in the paper
            Yes everything O.K.
It is a very simble delivery but we
find out very sun if there is any trapp.
after 8 houers you gett the adr; from
the boy, on the place
you finde two
ladies.  there are

(on the other side:)

If it is to late to put it in
the New York American for saturday
evening put it in New York Journal.

            The ransom was finally paid on Saturday, April 2, 1932 – just a month from the night of the kidnapping.  Why did the kidnappers delay the payment of the ransom? We may never know the answer for sure, however one theory could be that it was based on the phase of the moon.
            It is not known for sure why the kidnappers chose March 1932 to commit their crime, but working with the “moon theory” March 1st was the opportune time to kidnap the child.  Why?  It was because the phase of the moon at that time was a “waning crescent” and only 32% visible making for an all-important dark night. 
            With the kidnapping occurring on March 1st, you can then factor in the “3-4 days” mentioned by the kidnappers in the Nursery Note as to when instructions for the ransom payment would be provided.  That brings us to Friday March 4th and Saturday March 5th.  The moon at this point is only 8% and 4% visible, respectively – in other words, no moon.  A dark moonless night is just what the kidnappers would want for the night of the ransom drop.  But there is a problem.  Lindbergh did not follow instructions and he called the police! 

We have warned you note to make anyding Public also notify the Police now you have to take the consequences.  ths means we will holt the baby untill everyding is quiet.”

            The kidnappers need to come up with another plan.  Suddenly, on March 9th Doctor John Condon is on the scene as the go-between.  A meeting is arranged with him and one of the kidnappers in Woodlawn Cemetery on March 12th.  The kidnappers are expecting the ransom to be paid.  The phase of the moon is now a “waxing crescent” – it’s getting brighter – but it is still, at this point, only 23% visible.  It would still make for a very dark cemetery.  But there is now another problem.  Condon refuses to pay the ransom that night!
            It is three weeks before Lindbergh is given new instructions for paying the ransom.  The sleeping suit does not arrive until March 16th.  Now the moon is working against the kidnappers.  Each night, it is getting brighter as it approaches the Full Moon.  Eventually, the kidnappers tell Lindbergh the ransom must be paid by April 8th and arrangements are made for it to be paid on April 2nd.  Why those two dates?  The moon on April 2nd is once again a waning crescent and only 12% visible.  On April 8th, it is a “waxing crescent” (that is, getting fuller) but still only 6% visible.  Both are very dark moons, and therefore very dark nights.  After April 8th, the next opportunity for a “dark night” is not until the end of the month, around April 29th or 30th and after that, not until the middle of May.  The kidnappers must get the ransom no later than April 8th, hence the threat that Lindbergh would have to shell out $100,000 – twice the original ransom – if he doesn’t do what he is told.
             Of course, the kidnapping could have occurred before March 1st.  Nevertheless, if the kidnappers were waiting for a dark, moonless night to kidnap the child from Hopewell with a dark moonless night 3-4 days later, they had a limited number of opportunities to do so.  The Lindberghs only began staying in Hopewell on the weekend of October 31, 1931.  They stayed twelve weekends, and of those twelve, only six had a dark moon.  Of those, only four were ideal: November 7, 1931, December 5, 1931, February 6th, 1932 and February 27th, the weekend of the kidnapping.[2]
            While the phase of the moon would have been known to anyone with access to the Farmer’s Almanac, the “moon phase theory” shows that the kidnapping of the Lindbergh Baby took forethought and careful planning and could not have been pulled off on a whim.  

[2] The other weekends would not work.  November 14th and January 6th, the moon was too close to entering the full moon phase, so there would be no time for a ransom drop.  January 2nd would have worked, except that the house was too crowded – Betty Gow and Red Johnson joined the Lindberghs and the Whateleys in Hopewell.  For almost the entire month of December 1931, Anne was ill so they stayed in Englewood.
[3] Moon calendar: www.calendar-12.com/moon_calendar/1932/march  and www.calendar-12.com/moon_calendar/1932/april