1943 — Sergei Rachmaninoff dies

Born in 1873, Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of the greatest Russian composers of the Twentieth Century, and one of the last Russians to compose in the Romantic style. In addition, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest pianists in history. Ironically, his greatest fame came after he moved to the West in the wake of the 1917 Russian revolution. His works – which include four concertos, three symphonies and 24 preludes – tended to emphasize the piano, the instrument he knew and loved best. As a writer for piano, he explored a wider range of its capabilities than almost any other composer.

Rachmaninoff was diagnosed with melanoma in late 1942, although only his family was told of the diagnosis – he himself was not. He died a few months later, only four days short of his seventieth birthday, and was buried in a cemetery in New York. His will had called for him to be buried on his property in Switzerland, the Villa Senar, but World War Two made that impossible.

Referenced in:

Decomposing Composers — Monty Python

1943 — The first intentional acid trip is taken

It was supposed to be a headache cure.

What Dr Albert Hofmann and his assistants were searching for, in their lab in Berne, Switzerland, was a better cure for the common headache. It was originally synthesized on November 18, 1938, but it seemed a failure, and was put aside. Hofmann barely gave it another thought, but five years later, he decided to give it another look.

Examining it, he accidentally dosed himself with an unknown quantity on April 16, 1943. The effects he experienced are now very familiar, even to those who’ve never directly felt them, and although it took him some time, he figured out what had happened. Three days later, he took the first ever deliberate acid trip, ingesting 250 micrograms, and experienced similar effects. Famously, he rode his bike home from the lab while feeling the effects, which is why this day is sometimes referred to as Bicycle Day by the kind of people who think acid’s pretty cool.

Referenced in:
Oh My Beautiful Problem Child — Intercontinental Music Lab

Happy Bicycle Day, everyone!

1943 – Frank ‘The Enforcer’ Nitti commits suicide

The man in charge of all the muscle for Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit, Nitti was busted along with Capone in 1931. But where his boss got eleven years, Nitti served only 18 months. Upon release, he went back to the Outfit, but despite the press hailing him as the new leader of that gang, he was only a figurehead to the powers behind the throne. Nonetheless, the Chiacgo Outfit prospered and expanded until 1943.

In 1943, Nitti, along with seven other prominent mobsters, was indicted for extorting money from Hollywood. And the day before Nitti was scheduled to testify, Nitti, rather than betray the Mob he had worked for his entire adult life, got very drunk, and deliberately shot himself in the head and died. There was a man who took omerta seriously.

Referenced in:
Introbomb First (My Second Reply) — Makaveli

1943 — “We’ll Meet Again” premieres

Named after her best known song, Vera Lynn’s 1943 movie “We’ll Meet Again” was her second film, but her most successful. Much like her character in the film – a dancer who discovers that she is better suited to being a singer – acting didn’t work as well for Lynn as singing.

She spent much of the war years working with ENSA, performing in front of troops in Burma, India and Egypt, and was one of Britain’s greatest sweethearts and inspirational figures during World War Two. For her service to the nation and Empire’s morale, she has been awarded the OBE, made a Dame and even given the Burma Star (a military honour).

Referenced in:
Vera – Pink Floyd

1943 – The Burma Railway is completed

The Burma Railway is a railroad connecting Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar) to Bangkok, Thailand. It runs for some 415 kilometres over very rough terrain, including numerous hills and several rivers. It was built by thousands of forced labourers compelled by the Japanese Army during World War Two to construct it – approximately 180,000 Asians and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war.

The death toll among the workers was terrible: half the Asians and more than 12,000 of the prisoners of war – including British, Dutch, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Indians and Americans. The railway saw some use during the war, but due to its hasty construction, it was largely abandoned after the war, with parts of it salvaged for use in other railway projects.

The film “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was inspired by the experiences of POWs building the railway.

Referenced in:

Nearly Over Now — Eric Bogle

1943 – The Japanese destroyer Amagiri rams and sinks US Navy PT-109

Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109, under the command of Lieutenant junior grade John F. Kennnedy, was one of 15 PT boats sent out on a mission to intercept the Tokyo Express on the night of August 1, 1943. Along with three other boats of the flotilla, it stayed behind to guard the retreat of the others and continue patrolling.

At about 2am in the morning, on a moonless night, the crew realised that they were about to collide with a Japanese ship. The destroyer Amagiri rammed them amidships, cutting the boat in half.

Under the command of Kennedy, all but two of the crew made it to safety on Plum Pudding Island, from which they were rescued by PT-157 six days later.

Referenced in:

PT-109 – Jimmy Dean

1943 – Nikola Tesla dies

Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current, and a personal and business rival of Thomas Edison for decades, died penniless and alone in a hotel in New York. Despite his many inventions and great fame, he had few friends and virtually nothing to show for his work by this, his 87th year of life.

Tesla has been more fondly remembered in fiction than in history, where he is often the archetypal Mad Scientist – and hero or villain with about equal frequency.

Referenced in:
Edison’s Medicine – Tesla
Tesla’s Hotel Room – Handsome Family