[by Earl Blacklock] Elyesa Bazna was the butler for the British Ambassador to Turkey in the final years of World War II. He was also the highest paid spy in history – at least on paper. Bazna is known to history as Cicero, his German code name. He approached the German embassy in Ankara with an offer they couldn’t refuse – an opportunity to regularly see the contents of British Ambassador Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen’s home safe. The Ambassador was careless about following procedure, regularly bringing sensitive documents home. He was unaware that his trusted valet had made a copy of the key to his safe, and was regularly rifling it for secrets.
[by Earl Blacklock] Robert E. Peary was the first to lead a successful conquest of the North Pole, one of the great achievements of history. However, the measure of the man can be found in what happened after his return. Peary had made previous expeditions to the North, including a failed attempt to reach the pole in 1906. He and his men came within 174 miles before they had to turn back, barely alive. In 1908, at the age of 52, Peary knew he was facing his final chance to reach the pole. He planned his expedition carefully. A thick-hulled ship named the Roosevelt carried him to Cape York, Greenland. There he met his Inuit helpers and their families, who knew him well from his previous expeditions. They came on board for the journey to the jumping off point at Cape Columbia, the northernmost point of Canada. There, they spent the winter locked in ice. The Inuit hunted for extra food, and they built sledges for the journey.
[by Earl Blacklock] Prior to 1854, Japan was a reclusive nation ruled by a shogunate that had isolated the nation for 200 years. When Commander Perry sailed into Tokyo harbour aboard the frigate Susquehanna, he demanded a treaty between the two nations that would guarantee the safety of shipwrecked American sailors and allow American ships to refuel on their way to Asian markets. Much has been made of the threat that the American guns posed to the Japanese that day. Less known is the story of the role played by a Japanese man who had returned to Japan after being rescued by American sailors. Nakahama Manjirō was only 14 when, in 1841, he was shipwrecked with four others. They made it to an island where they survived for six months. They were rescued by the American whaler ship John Howland and taken to Honolulu.
[by Earl Blacklock] The next time you have an x-ray, you may want to pause a moment to give thanks for Mihailo Idvorsky Pupin. His invention of the fluoroscope cut x-ray exposure times from about an hour to mere seconds. He also discovered secondary x-rays, the product of atoms struck by primary x-rays. Pupin’s invention of the Pupin inductance coil increased the distance a long distance telephone call could be transmitted by amplifying the signal along the line without distortion. His oscillating circuit made it possible for telephone companies to send several messages simultaneously on a single line. He sold to the Marconi Corporation patents for a process of electrical tuning and an invention for the conversion of high frequency electrical waves, which allowed clearer radio signals over long distances.
[by Earl Blacklock] I was driving down the street, almost oblivious to anything other than my plans for the day. Going down the street in front of my destination bookstore, I spotted the only parking spot, an angled spot directly in front. Life was good! After I parked, as I was about to open my door, I heard, then saw an outraged man shouting – nay, screaming at me. He was almost incoherent, but I managed to hear the words “You cut me off!” The man was raging at me with all the venom he could summon, demanding that I open the car door – something I quickly decided would be imprudent. Talking through the closed window, watching his clenched fists, I wondered whether he would break the window to get at me. Thankfully, after sharing with me the full extent of his expletive-filled vocabulary, he finally departed, likely thinking me properly rebuked.
[by Earl Blacklock] Imagine a spy who, trained by the British Intelligence Service, could emerge from capture and captivity by the Gestapo crippled but unbroken in spirit and faith. A man whose reported exploits made one reviewer say that, compared to him, all other spy tales were about rank amateurs. You don’t need to imagine it. You can simply read the book “The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk” by noted war correspondent Quentin Reynolds (available on Amazon). The book is about George DuPre, a British-trained spy who parachuted into occupied France to help shot down RAF fliers and the resistance in the guise of a half-witted Frenchman. DuPre’s tale was one of heroism, thrilling exploits, and then, after his capture, indomitable faith in God as he suffered torture and privation. It captured the imagination of millions looking for a hero. The book flew off the shelf. The November 1953 Reader’s Digest ran a condensation of the story.
[by Earl Blacklock] Tex Wilson was a newspaper editor in the U.S. midwest, 40 years in the business. At 65, he purchased a local newspaper as his retirement project. He was editor, photographer, and reporter together. Whether there was celebration or sorrow in the town, Tex was there to record the event. Over the years, the community learned to appreciate Tex and his newspaper. There was one thing, though, that gave them pause. On occasion, the paper would be printed with a column or two totally blank. It seemed at first an oversight, like someone forgot to lay the page out properly. But it happened often enough that speculation as to its meaning began.
[by Earl Blacklock] May 10, 1941 was a night to remember. It was the night that the German Luftwaffe, aided by a clear night and a bomber’s full moon, launched a furious attack on London. Hundreds of bombers dropped incendiaries and high explosives. At no time in the war had so many German planes attacked, and at no time did they cause so much damage. The House of Commons was hit. St. Paul’s Cathedral was surrounded by devastation. Thousands of homes were destroyed, and close to 1,500 people, including children sleeping in their beds, were killed. All in one night.
Arthur Pearson was a man of accomplishment, but also a man of service despite a lifelong problem of fading eyesight and eventual blindness. He was born in 1866 to a father who was the Rector of a centuries-old Church of England parish church and a mother who was the granddaughter of hymn-writer and religious poet Henry Francis Lyte, the writer of the well-loved hymn “Abide With Me”. Pearson became a journalist at 18, and the publisher of a periodical journal with a quarter of a million subscribers at 24. He continued to establish and acquire newspapers and magazines, and his greatest accomplishment as a publisher was the founding of the Daily Express newspaper, which is still operating.