1937 — Dennis Banks born

The co-founder of the American Indian Movement – a major ‘Red Power’ group in the civil rights struggles of native Americans – Dennis Banks was born in the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. Dennis Banks, of course, was simply his white name – in the Ojibwe language of his people, the Anishinaabe, was Nowa Cumig (which means ‘centre of the universe’).

As a leader of the American Indian Movement, he participated in numerous protests and demonstrations, often clashing with the law and even getting convicted a few times. In recent years, he has been a leader of the annual Sacred Run movement and served as a member of the Board of Trustees for Leech Lake Tribal College, a college with a primarily native American student body.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1937 — The Rape of Nanking begins

In our world’s long and sorry history of warfare and strife, the Rape of Nanking, or Nanking Massacre, is one of the greatest atrocities to have ever been committed – and the continued denial by serial Japanese governments that the Rape even occurred one of the greatest hypocrisies.

The city of Nanking, which had been left very lightly defended by Chiang Kai-shek after the fall of Shanghai, fell to the Japanese advance on December 13, and almost at once, a military advance transformed into looting and arson, and shortly thereafter, into killing and raping, at first incidental, but increasingly systematised over the six weeks following the 13th.

No accurate tally of victims has ever been made, but estimates place the number of rapes between 20,000 and 80,000, many of them old women and children, and the number of murders anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000, the majority of them civilians or prisoners of war. Bodies were burned and buried in mass graves to help prevent identification, and it is believed that documents pertaining to the massacre were among those destroyed by the Japanese High Command immediately before and after their surrender in 1945.

Referenced in:
Nanking — Exodus

1937 – Amelia Earhart makes her last radio transmission

At 8:43am local time, the last radio transmission definitely from Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was received at Howland Island, Earhart’s intended destination that day.

Problematic conditions had led to the pair relying on radio navigation, but their radio contacts were sporadic and patchy. Although later transmissions were received, they were too weak to get a fix on or properly interpret. The two were never heard from again, and their plane’s wreckage has never been located. There are a number of theories regarding their disappearance, but the lack of crash evidence tends to support the idea that they crashed at sea and sank.

Referenced in:
Amelia Earhart – Freakwater
Someday We’ll Know – New Radicals
In Search of Amelia Earhart – Plainsong
True Story Of Amelia Earhart – Plainsong
Amelia Earhart’s Last Ride – Anne Feeney
Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight – Red River Dave

1937 – The Hindenburg disaster

The LZ 129 Hindenburg was the lead ship of its class (which was also named for it). A German passenger lighter-than-air craft, it was approaching Lakehurst Naval Station in New Jersey on the evening of May 6, 1937, to disembark passengers, having set out from Frankfurt in Germany three days earlier.

At 7:25pm local time, the Hindenburg caught fire. The reason for the fire is unknown, even today. The hydrogen-filled gasbag of the airship burned quickly and hotly, being consumed in the first 90 seconds or so of the blaze. The cloth and wood that made up most of the body of the ship – and all of the areas actually inhabited – continued to burn after this. Of the 97 passengers and crew on board, 35 were killed in the blaze (and a member of the ground crew was also killed). The Hindenburg disaster effectively spelled the end of the zeppelin era, and air travel from 1937 onwards has been almost entirely conducted in heavier-than-air vehicles.

Referenced in:
History Is Made By Stupid People — Arrogant Worms

1937 – Spam is first released

Spam didn’t used to have anything to do with enlarging your penis or getting cheap medicines of dubious quality.

It was originally the name of a certain kind of meat, although the ‘dubious quality’ part is well-enshrined in urban legend – known backronyms devised for it include “Something Posing As Meat”, “Stuff, Pork and Ham” and “Spare Parts Animal Meat.” Oddly enough, Spam wasn’t even the original name of the product – it was introduced because the previous name – Hormal Spiced Ham – was losing market share.

It wasn’t until Monty Python and Joel Furr got involved years later that the word assumed its modern meaning.

By the way: according to Hormel’s trademark guidelines, Spam should be spelled with all capital letters and treated as an adjective, as in the phrase “SPAM luncheon meat” – strange but true.

Referenced in:

Spam – Save Ferris
Spam Song – Monty Python
Spam – Weird Al Yankovic