1965 — US Marines occupy Santo Domingo

The Dominican Civil War was not even a week old before Lyndon Johnson decided that it posed a threat to US interests (to be fair to Johnson, the Cuban Missile Crisis was only three years earlier, and Johnson was worried that ‘another Cuba’ was about to form). The US Marines landed near Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) on April 28, and had captured the city within a day or so – the Constitutionalist forces surrendered the city on the following day.

The Dominican Civil War dragged on until September, and American forces remained in occupation until July of the following year, when somebody the US liked could be elected.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1805 — The Battle of Derne commences

The first extra-territorial land battle fought by the armed forces of young United States of America. It is the source of the Marine Corps Hymn (“To the Shores of Tripoli”), because the American forces – which consisted mostly of a few hundred mercenaries, backed by three ships – were led by 54 marines. It was the decisive engagement of the First Barbary War (fought between the United States and Sweden on one side and the so-called Barbary States – the Eyalet of Tripolitania and Morocco – on the other).

The battle itself took place after the mercenary forces, led by 8 US marines, attacked the fort at the city of Derne, taking it after heavy fighting against a greatly numerically superior enemy. The surrender of the Barbary forces came a month later, and the US set an early precedent for its poor treatment of its veterans by stiffing the mercenaries on part of their pay.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1911 – Gustav Mahler dies

Gustav Mahler was one of the greatest modern composers, generally classified as one of the Late Romantics. He wrote ten symphonies (although he died with the last one unfinished), and numerous other works, and was one of the most respected and popular composers of his era.

Mahler and his wife Alma had moved to New York in 1908, but as his health failed – he suffered from bacterial endocarditis, complicated his defective heart valves, and almost universally fatal before antibiotics – he and Alma returned to Europe. Mahler died in Vienna, and was buried in Grinzing.

Referenced in:
Alma — Tom Lehrer

1942 – “To The Shores Of Tripoli” premieres

Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (best known for his four Charlie Chan films made from 1936 to 1938), “To The Shores of Tripoli” takes its named from a line of the Marine Corps Hymn. Like “Casablanca”, it was in production when that attack on Pearl Harbour took place, and the entry of America into the war led to changes in its plotline. From being simply a romance about Maureen O’Hara’s character, it changed to focus more on John Payne’s character enlisting.

The film was a hit in 1942, grossing 2 million dollars. It was credited by the US Marine Corps (who assisted in the film’s making by allowing the use of the actual Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego) as a major recruitment tool for them during the war.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1965 – President Johnson announces the escalation of the Vietnam War

On July 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced an increase in the numbers of American troops deployed to Vietnam. From their prvious level of 75,000, another 50,000 troops were to be sent, bringing to total level to 125,000 – representing more than quintupling of American numbers from the end of 1964. By the end of 1965, numbers would have quintupled again, and American casualties would be running at over a thousand dead each month.

Johnson was acutely conscious of the importance of public opinion in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, and watched the polls closely. He made strong efforts to downplay the war, which were largely successful. At first. Only a few years later, backlash against the war would be enough to end Johnson’s political career.

Referenced in:

Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1942 – Franz Werfel’s “The Song of Bernadette” is published

A Jew from Prague who fled the Aunschluss in 1938, Franz Werfel was also a playwright noted for his satirical plays about the Nazis (written before 1938). He and his wife Alma (the widow of Gustav Mahler) fled to Paris, where they were safe until the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 – when they fled once more, going into hiding and eventually reaching Portugal, from whence they took ship to New York. It was during this period, sheltered by assorted sympathisers, that Werfel learned the story of St Bernadette Soubirous, who had reported 18 separate visions of the Virgin Mary while at Lourdes. Some of this was told to him by people who had actually met Bernadette, although it is likely that their accounts were somewhat embroidered.

Werfel wrote the saint’s story largely as a tribute and thanks to the people who had helped them in France, Spain and Portugal (something he had promised them while fleeing the Nazis), and it was published in 1942 and spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list, including 13 weeks at the top of it. In 1943, it was adapted as a film which was nominated for 8 Oscars and won 4 of them.

Referenced in:

Alma — Tom Lehrer

1919 — Walter Gropius founds the Bauhaus School

The Bauhaus school was founded in Weimar, Germany (the town, not the government) by Walter Gropius, an architect. Ironically, as first comprised, the Bauhaus lacked an architecture department, although given its project of creating a “total” work of art in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together, this was an oversight that was corrected in short order.

Bauhaus would become one of the most – if not the most – influential schools of design in the twentieth century, affecting art, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, typography and, yes, architecture. Ironically, its wide influence had much to do with its suppression by the Nazis – many Bauhaus alumni were exiled by the Nazi regime, others fled it. They spread its influence to Western Europe, Britain, North America and Israel (Tel Aviv, for example, built more than 3000 buildings influenced by Bauhaus ideas from 1933 onwards).

Referenced in:
Alma — Tom Lehrer

1929 – Franz Werfel and Alma Mahler are married

Franz Werfel was husband number three for Alma Mahler. She’d already been having an affair with him and even living together for about a decade when they married. Unlike her other marriages, however, this one would last. Alma would stay with Franz until his death.

Along the way, she had a very beneficial effect on his career, inspiring him and promoting him, and she deservedly shared in the success of his most famous work, The Song of Bernadette. After the couple fled Austria in the wake of the Aunschluss in 1938, they settled in the United States, and when The Song of Bernadette became a Hollywood film, they became wealthy celebrities.

Referenced in:

Alma — Tom Lehrer

1902 – Gustav Mahler and Alma Schindler are married

Mahler and Schindler first met in November of 1901. Their marriage was considered a bad idea by most of their friends and family, but Alma was already pregnant with their first child by then (she was born in November of the same year) by their wedding day. She was followed by a second child two years later.

Alma and Gustav’s marriage was tumultuous – Mahler was diagnosed with a defective heart in 1907, and the family moved from Vienna to New York City in 1908. Mahler himself died in 1911, but Alma lived on until 1964.

Referenced in:
Alma — Tom Lehrer

1911 – Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” is first performed

Das Lied von der Erde – “The Song of the Earth” – is a six movement orchestral composition in which each of the six movements is an independent song (but “Six Songs of the Earth” wouldn’t sounded so good). It was composed by Gustav Mahler, an Austrian composer, and largely inspired by his reading of Hans Bethge’s volume of ancient Chinese poetry rendered into German, Die Chinesische Flöte (“The Chinese Flute”).

It is unusual in that it is a combined form, a song cycle and a symphonic work. It is become one of most well known of all Mahler’s works – and is also widely considered his most personal. And it was never performed prior to his death six months earlier.

Referenced in:

Alma — Tom Lehrer