Turning Points in History

Ronald Reagan and the PATCO Strike: Broken Promises and a Broken Union

When Ronald Reagan was running for President in 1980, he sent the following letter to the director of the Professional Air Traffic Controller Organization (PATCO).

Dear Mr. Poli:
I have been briefed by members of my staff as to the deplorable state of our nation’s air traffic control system. They have told me that too few people working unreasonable hours with obsolete equipment has placed the nation’s air travellers in unwarranted danger. In an area so clearly related to public safety the Carter administration has failed to act responsibly.
You can rest assured that if I am elected President, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety….
I pledge to you that my administration will work very closely with you to bring about a spirit of cooperation between the President and the air traffic controllers.
Ronald Reagan

But when the election was over, Reagan showed no sympathy for the soon to be striking workers. On August 3, 1981, the members of PATCO went on strike. Reagan gave them 48 hours to return to work and they would get to keep their jobs. He said,

“They are in violation of the law and if they do not report for work within 48 hours they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.”

Almost 2,000 would return to work. Using provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, Reagan planned to fire those who did not return. He did. 11,435 of them. PATCO never regained their strength, influence, nor did it ever come to represent the nation’s air traffice controllers again. Reagan broke the union.

To understand the strike and Reagan’s actions, events have to put in context. PATCO was formed in 1968 with the help of attorney and airplane enthusiast, F. Lee Bailey. Airplane travel was still in its infancy and air traffic controllers had far fewer flights in the 60s than they do today. However, in the 1970s, trade and travel by air began to supplant rail and road traffic. With the advent of air conditioning in the southern and southwest US, the US was expanding into the Sun Belt. With the growth south, air traffic dramatically increased. In addition, overseas travel and trade also grew exponentially. As a result, air traffic controllers had more airplanes to literally juggle in the air.

John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988 in 1962 giving federal employees the right to bargain collectively. Section 2 delineates strike provisions.

SEC. 2. When used in this order, the term “employee organization” means any lawful association, labor organization, federation, council, or brotherhood having as a primary purpose the improvement of working conditions among Federal employees or any craft, trade or industrial union whose membership includes both Federal employees and employees of private organizations; but such term shall not include any organization (1) which asserts the right to strike against the Government of the United States or any agency thereof, or to assist or participate in any such strike, or which imposes a duty or obligation to conduct, assist or participate in any such strike, or (2) which advocates the overthrow of the constitutional form of Government in the United States, or (3) which discriminates with regard to the terms or conditions of membership because of race, color, creed or national origin.

For PATCO, this provision is crucial. Whiile trying to improve the working conditions, the union leadership, under, Poli was seeking several conditions an increase in pay for controllers who earned between $20,462 to $49,229. The increase was to be $10,000! In addition, the union sought a five-day 32-hour work week with the ability to retire aftre 20 years. The federal government felt as if PATCO was holding the government hostage. The total cost of this compensation package was estimated to have been $770 million. Poli argued that the controllers had earned these stipulations due to the stresdful nature of their jobs. The FAA, in bargaining, counter offered a $40 million package with the shorter hours, but only a 10% increase in pay. Many pundits found that offer to be more than fair except PATCO. 95% of the membership rejected the offer.

In the past, Presidents have intervened on behalf of the public welfare to stop labor strife. Theodore Roosevelt threatened to once take over the coal mines and Harry Truman threatened to have the army run the railroads after World War II. But for Reagan, this was different. PATCO were federal employees. The other aborted strikes involved employees of business. However, a resulting strike by those workers would have a drastic effect on the nation’s economy. For this same reason, Reagan felt he had to take a stand, be it right or wrong by the perception of labor.

Up until this time, PATCO had been seen as the preeminent government labor organization.It had successfully, over the course of the 1970s, received huge gains in compensation and conditions for its workers. However, not every labor action had been successful for them. In 1970, the “Easter Uprising” was a massive “Sick out.” The FAA responded by shifting controllers to out of the way positions such as Baton Rouge. By the time of 1980 and Reagan’s letter, the FAA was just as fed up with the FAA as the public. The FAA began contingency plans in case of a strike to ensure the uninterrupted service of air travel and trade.

Between August 3 and 5 in 1981, both sides overreacted to each other. Negotiations between the parties had broken down. Each side used extreme measures to try to achieve their goals. When PATCO went out on strike on August 3, its leadership and membership thought the government would cave as it had throughout the 1970s. But this was Reagan. Despite his promises, his administration was prepared to send a message to all government employees that there was a new sheriff in town, and that sheriff was a lot tougher than the last three (Nixon, Ford, and Carter). It was a huge risk for Reagan. If major air traffic accidents occurred, then the Union would win. If the skies were safe, then Reagan would. The people and their lives became pawns in a labor strife.

After Reagan issued his pronouncement on August 3, 1981, he gave a press conference. His opening statement was unique:

Let me make one thing plain. I respect the right of workers in the private sector to strike. Indeed, as president of my own union, I led the first strike ever called by that union. I guess I’m maybe the first one to ever hold this office who is a lifetime member of an AFL – CIO union. But we cannot compare labor-management relations in the private sector with government. Government cannot close down the assembly line. It has to provide without interruption the protective services which are government’s reason for being.

It was in recongition of this that the Congress passed a law forbidding strikes by government employees against the public safety. Let me read the solemn oath taken by each of these employees, a sworn affidavit, when they accepted their jobs: “I am not participating in any strike against the Government of the United States or any agency thereof, and I will not so participate while an employee of the Government of the United States or any agency thereof.”

It is for this reason that I must tell those who fail to report for duty this morning they are in violation of the law, and if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.

Reagan tried to balance his comments in the context of his past. But then again, there he stood, as a supposed proponent of labor, telling them if they did not report back to work, he would not only fire them, he would also seek criminal charges through the Attorney General. It was baffling.

The results were quick. Less than 2,000 workers returned to work. On August 5, Reagan fired those remaining on strike. The FAA hired new workers and trained them rapidly. Over the course of the next five years, PATCO tried to get its membership back to work. By 1986, the FAA relented and began hiring some back, but a new union was in place to represent the air traffic controllers. PATCO was dead. Its own hubris and Reagan’s erratic and eccentric bravado had finished it off.

During this time, the Union tried to use the courts to their advantage as they filed lawsuit after lawsuit against Reagan and the FAA. Eventually, PATCO had no more war chest to spend as it had no dues left.

Author Joseph McCartin states the long term impact of Reagan’s PATCO actions:

Reagan often argued that private sector workers’ rights to organize were fundamental in a democracy. He not only made this point when supporting Lech Walesa’s anti-Communist Solidarity movement in Poland; he also boasted of being the first president of the Screen Actors Guild to lead that union in a strike. Over time, however, his crushing of the controllers’ walkout — which he believed was justified because federal workers were not allowed under the law to strike — has helped undermine the private-sector rights he once defended.

Workers in the private sector had used the strike as a tool of leverage in labor-management conflicts between World War II and 1981, repeatedly withholding their work to win fairer treatment from recalcitrant employers. But after PATCO, that weapon was largely lost. Reagan’s unprecedented dismissal of skilled strikers encouraged private employers to do likewise. Phelps Dodge and International Paper were among the companies that imitated Reagan by replacing strikers rather than negotiating with them. Many other employers followed suit.

By 2010, the number of workers participating in walkouts was less than 2 percent of what it had been when Reagan led the actors’ strike in 1952. Lacking the leverage that strikes once provided, unions have been unable to pressure employers to increase wages as productivity rises. Inequality has ballooned to a level not seen since Reagan’s boyhood in the 1920s.

McCartin’s succinct analysis of the long-term aspects of the conflict mark what a turning point in history it was. However, the distorted view of labor and its rights by some today can also be seen as an overreaction to labor’s right to exist. This viewpoint can be traced back to Reagan and PATCO. There is a huge difference between PATCO’s right to collectively bargain working conditions, salaries, and benefits for its members versus Wisconsin Governor Walker’s denying the existence of said rights to exist at all. PATCO may have over played its hand and underestimated Reagan’s own hand. Reagan never did deny PATCO’s right to exist whereas today, the situation for unions is tenuous….at best. In the end, Reagan took a huge risk putting lives in the air at risk. On the other hand, PATCO did not do itself any favors with its prodigious demands. And, ultimately, neither side compromised putting the public at risk. As a result, today, compromise is a dying word.

For Further Reading:
Joseph McCartin – Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America.


The Seven Days Battles: A New Man on the Scene

It is a wonder Abraham Lincoln had any hair left after June of 1862. The Civil War would take a physical and mental toll on the man. His generals, mainly George McClellan, used their ineptitude to great extremes in 1861 and 1862. Lincoln would not find solace in a commander until he placed Ulysses S. Grant in charge in 1864. In 1862, George McClellan was in charge of the Army of the Potomac. His task was to advance from Washington to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. It was there that McClellan would strike the death blow to the Confederacy and end the war….or so McClellan thought.

The problem for McClellan was that he admired himself too much. He considered himself a Napoleonic type of general.

McClellan in his best Napoleonic pose

Unfortunately, he forgot one thing. Napoleon liked to attack. McClellan did not.

After the Battle of Bull Run, McClellan was placed in command. McClellan began by reorganizing the army, its habits and training regimens. He did have good organizational skills. On the other hand, McClellan believed a bit too much in his own skill set. In letter to his wife, McClellan saw himself as the savior of the Union Army.

I find myself in a new and strange position here—Presdt, Cabinet, Genl Scott & all deferring to me—by some strange operation of magic I seem to have become the power of the land. … I almost think that were I to win some small success now I could become Dictator or anything else that might please me—but nothing of that kind would please me—therefore I won’t be Dictator. Admirable self-denial!

However, despite his hubris, McClellan sat in the fall of 1861. While he sat, Lincoln steamed. So much so that Lincoln issued General War Order Number One.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, January 27, 186
Ordered that the 22nd. day of February 1862, be the day for a general movement of the Land and Naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces.
That especially —
The Army at & about, Fortress Monroe.
The Army of the Potomac.
The Army of Western Virginia
The Army near Munfordsville, Ky.
The Army and Flotilla at Cairo.
And a Naval force in the Gulf of Mexico, be ready for a movement on that day.
That all other forces, both Land and Naval, with their respective commanders, obey existing orders, for the time, and be ready to obey additional orders when duly given.
That the Heads of Departments, and especially the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, with all their subordinates; and the General-in-Chief, with all other commanders and subordinates, of Land and Naval forces, will severally be held to their strict and full responsibilities, for the prompt execution of this order.

McClellan had no choice to stop evading an invasion. In January 1862, McClellan did not invade the south. He feared that Washington was under imminent attack by overwhelming numbers. McClellan wanted to stay and protect the capital. Lincoln would later add about McClellan’s indecision, “If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time.” Lincoln stripped McClellan of command and left him only in charge of the Army of the Potomac.
That March McClellan finally began to carry out a plan to invade Virginia and take Richmond. Known as the Peninsular Campaign, the Union Army would sail down the coast from Washington and land south of the Rappahannock near Fort Monroe and make its way up the Peninsula to Richmond. McClellan did every thing he could to achieve failure the next four months of 1862.

There were two main reasons for McClellan’s failure. First, he always thought he was facing superior numbers. He continually called for reinforcements when he, in fact, far out numbered the enemy. He landed in Virgina with over 100,000 men and 15,000 horses. Second, there was a new man on the scene for the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee was placed in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia in June of 1862 after Joseph Johnston was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. Unlike McClellan, Lee was not afraid to attack. Lee did so at will against McClellan that June and July.

McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign in 1862

Upon landing in Virginia, McClellan slowly made his way toward Richmond. One of four commanders in the field for the Union, the campaign began by laying siege to Yorktown. There facing General Joseph Johnston, McClellan hesitated early and often. The result was Johnston’s forces escaped, all 57,000 of them. McClellan believed there to be 120,000. McClellan began to pursue Johnston cautiously on the muddy trails of Virginia.

At Williamsburg, on May 5, a month long engagement and attack and retreat began for Johnston. McClellan, although in pursuit, fought a hesitant campaign. Had McClellan attacked, chances were good that he could have advanced to Richmond easily. Instead, McClellan wavered early and often. In late May, McClellan was near the objective of Richmond. Only four miles separated him from the capital. To McClellan, it was glorious and daunting at the same time. At the Battle of Seven Pines, McClellan’s fate changed when a major turning point occurred in the war. Johnston was wounded on May 31 and replaced by Robert E. Lee.

The next month would be hell for McClellan. There would be victories for the Union, but it would be a major humiliating retreat back to the James River for the Union. Lee, was not afraid to engage the Union. In late June, Lee did so in what has become known as the Seven Days Battles. Six engagements from June 25 to July 1, resulting in McClellan’s, and the Union’s, misfortune.

Lee stated the following upon taking command:

After the battle of Seven Pines the Federal Army, under General McClellan, preparatory to an advance upon Richmond, proceeded to fortify its position on the Chickahominy and to perfect the communications with its base of supplies near the head of York River. Its left was established south of the Chickahominy, between White Oak Swamp and New Bridge, defended by a line of strong works, access to which, except by a few narrow roads, was obstructed by felling the dense forests in front. These roads were commanded for a great distance by the heavy guns in the fortifications. The right wing lay north of the Chickahominy, extending beyond Mechanicsville, and the approaches from the south side were strongly defended by intrenchments. Our army was around Richmond, the divisions of Huger and Magruder, supported by those of Longstreet and D. H. Hill, in front of the enemy’s left, and that of A. P. Hill extending from Magruder’s left beyond Meadow Bridge.
The command of General Jackson, including Ewell’s division, operating in the Shenandoah Valley, had succeeded in diverting the army of McDowell at Fredericksburg from uniting with that of McClellan. To render this diversion more decided, and effectually mask his withdrawal from the valley at the proper time, Jackson, after the defeat of Frémont and Shields, was re-enforced by Whiting’s division, composed of Hood’s Texas brigade and his own, under Colonel Law, from Richmond, and that of Lawton, from the south.
The intention of the enemy seemed to be to attack Richmond by regular approaches. The strength of his left wing rendered a direct assault injudicious, if not impracticable. It was therefore determined to construct defensive lines, so as to enable a part of the army to defend the city and leave the other part free to cross the Chickahominy and operate on the north bank. By sweeping down the river on that side and threatening his communications with York River it was thought that the enemy would be compelled to retreat or give battle out of his intrenchments. The plan was submitted.to His Excellency the President, who was repeatedly on the field in the course of its execution.
While preparations were in progress a cavalry expedition, under General Stuart, was made around the rear of the Federal Army to ascertain its position and movements. This was executed with great address and daring by that accomplished officer. As soon as the defensive works were sufficiently advanced General Jackson was directed to move rapidly and secretly from the valley, so as to arrive in the vicinity of Ashland by June 24.
The enemy appeared to be unaware of our purpose, and on the 25th attacked General Huger on the Williamsburg road, with the intention, as appeared by a dispatch from General McClellan, of securing his advance toward Richmond. The effort was successfully resisted and our line maintained.

Ironically, the battles began when McClellan attempted to advance against Lee. He did so near Oak Grove. McClellan gained 600 yards. It cost the lives of over a 1000 dead on both sides. The next day, Lee attacked near Beaver Dam Creek near Mechanicsville. Lee had it planned perfectly. It was not executed perfectly. Stonewall Jackson’s failure to follow the plan resulted in a Union victory.
Lee wrote:

According to the general order of battle, a copy of which is annexed, General Jackson was to march from Ashland on the 25th in the direction of Slash Church, encamping for the night west of the Central Railroad, and to advance at 3 a.m. on the 26th and turn Beaver Dam. A. P. Hill was to cross the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge when Jackson’s advance beyond that point should be known and move directly upon Mechanicsville. As soon as the Mechanicsville Bridge should be uncovered Longstreet and D. H. Hill were to cross, the latter to proceed to the support of Jackson and the former to that of A. P. Hill. The four commands were directed to sweep down the north side of the Chickahominy toward the York River Railroad, Jackson on the left and in advance, Longstreet nearest the river and in the rear. Huger and Magruder were ordered to hold their positions against any assault of the enemy, to observe his movements, and follow him closely should he retreat. General Stuart, with the cavalry, was thrown out on Jackson’s left to guard his flank and give notice of the enemy’s movements. Brigadier-General Pendleton was directed to employ the Reserve Artillery, so as to resist any approach of the enemy toward Richmond, to superintend that portion of it posted to aid in the operations of the north bank, and hold the remainder ready for use when it might be required.
In consequence of unavoidable delays the whole of General Jackson’s command did not arrive at Ashland in time to enable him to reach the point designated on the 25th.
His march on the 26th was consequently longer than had been anticipated, and his progress being also retarded by the enemy, A. P. Hill did not begin his movement until 3 p.m., when he crossed the river and advanced upon Mechanicsville. After a sharp conflict he drove the enemy from his intrenchments, and forced him to take refuge in his works on the left bank of Beaver Dam, about 1 mile distant. This position was a strong one, the banks of the creek in front being high and almost perpendicular, and the approach to it over open fields, commanded by the fire of artillery and infantry intrenched on the opposite side. The difficulty of crossing the stream had been increased by felling the woods on its banks and destroying the bridges.
Jackson being expected to pass Beaver Dam above and turn the enemy’s right, a direct attack was not made by General Hill. One of his regiments on the left of his line crossed the creek to communicate with Jackson and remained until after dark, when it was withdrawn. Longstreet and D. H. Hill crossed the Mechanicsville Bridge as soon as it was uncovered and could be repaired, but it was late before they reached the north bank of the Chickahominy. D. H. Hill’s leading brigade, under Ripley, advanced to the support of the troops engaged, and at a late hour united with Pender’s brigade, of A. P. Hill’s division, in an effort to turn the enemy’s left; but the troops were unable in the growing darkness to overcome the obstructions, and after sustaining a destructive fire of musketry and artillery at short range were withdrawn. The fire was continued until about 9 p.m., when the engagement ceased. Our troops retained the ground on the right bank, from which the enemy had been driven.
Ripley was relieved at 3 a.m. on the 27th by two of Longstreet’s brigades, which were subsequently re-enforced. In expectation of Jackson’s arrival on the enemy’s right the battle was renewed at dawn, and continued with animation for about two hours, during which the passage of the creek was attempted and our troops forced their way to its banks, where their progress was arrested by the nature of the stream. They maintained their position while preparations Were being made to cross at another point nearer the Chickahominy, Before they were completed Jackson crossed Beaver Dam above, and the enemy abandoned his intrenchments and retired rapidly down the river, destroying a great deal of property, but leaving much in his deserted camps.

Lee had shown a penchant for planning. However, his subordinates were struggling to carry out his plans.

On May 27, Lee attacked again near Gaines’s Mill. Although a tactical victory, he did take heavy casualties. But the constant attacks were beginning to have an effect on McClellan and the Union. On June 27, McClellan fell back and withdrew to a position near the James River. After reconnaissance confirmed McClellan’s withdrawal, Lee stepped up the pressure. Battles at Garnett’s & Golding’s Farm continued the persistent annoyance.

McClellan entrenched himself near Savage Station. A former federal depot that had two railroads converging was not be a permanent place to stay but rather a place to re-gather himself and make sense of the constant pestering by Lee. Lee, attacked McClellan again. Lee describes the action:

Early on the 29th Longstreet and A. P. Hill were ordered to recross the Chickahominy at New Bridge, and move by the Darbytown to the Long Bridge road.
Maj. R. K. Meade and Lieut. S. R. Johnston, the Engineers, attached to General Longstreet’s division, who had been sent to reconnoiter, found, about sunrise, the work on the upper extremity of the enemy’s line of intrenchments abandoned. Generals Huger and Magruder were immediately ordered in pursuit, the former by the Charles City road, so as to take the Federal Army in flank, and the latter by the Williamsburg road, to attack its rear. Jackson was directed to cross at Grapevine Bridge and move down the south side of the Chickahominy. Magruder and Huger found the whole line of works deserted and large quantities of military stores of every description abandoned or destroyed.
The former reached the vicinity of Savage Station about noon, where he came upon the rear guard of the retreating army. Being informed that the enemy was advancing, he halted and sent for re-enforcements. Two brigades of Huger’s division were ordered to his support, but subsequently withdrawn, it being apparent that the force in Magruder’s front was covering the retreat of the main body. Jackson’s route led to the flank and rear of Savage Station, but he was delayed by the necessity of reconstructing Grapevine Bridge.
Late in the afternoon Magruder attacked the enemy with one of his divisions and two regiments of another. A severe action ensued and continued about two hours, when it was terminated by night.
The troops displayed great, gallantry and inflicted heavy loss upon the enemy; but, owing to the lateness of the hour and the small force employed, the result was not decisive, and the enemy continued his retreat under cover of darkness, leaving several hundred prisoners, with his dead and wounded, in our hands.
At Savage Station were found about 2,500 men in hospital and a large amount of property. Stores of much value had been destroyed, including the necessary medical supplies for the sick and wounded. But the time gained enabled the retreating column to cross White Oak Swamp without interruption and destroy the bridge.

A weeks worth of fighting that was a turning point in the war

While a military stalemate, Lee had hoped to crush McClellan at Savage Station. It was not to be. However, psychologically, it was the beginning of the end for the Peninsular Campaign. At Glendale and White Oak Swamp, and later Malvern Hill, Lee’s actions resulted in McClellan’s psyche being damaged. Lee’s constant attacks only fed McClellan’s beliefs that the Confederates had him outnumbered despite the Union’s ability to repel the attacks, which McClellan attributed to his sheer genius. McClellan encamped himself at Berkeley Plantation with his back to the James River and Union gunboats stationed there. Lee would not attack. In August, McClellan and the Union Army left Berekely to reinforce a second attack at Bull Run.
Lee knew he had blown an opportunity. He stated

Under ordinary circumstances the Federal Army should have been destroyed. Its escape was due to the causes already stated. Prominent among these is the want of correct and timely information. This fact, attributable chiefly to the character of the country, enabled General McClellan skillfully to conceal his retreat and to add much to the obstructions with which nature had beset the way of our pursuing columns; but regret that more was not accomplished gives way to gratitude to the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe for the results achieved. The siege of Richmond was raised, and the object of a campaign, which had been prosecuted after months of preparation at an enormous expenditure of men and money, completely frustrated. More than 10,000 prisoners, including officers of rank, 52 pieces of artillery, and upward of 35,000 stands of small-arms were captured. The stores and supplies of every description which fell into our hands were great in amount and value, but small in comparison with those destroyed by the enemy. His losses in battle exceeded our own, as attested by the thousands of dead and wounded left on every field, while his subsequent inaction shows in what condition the survivors reached the protection to which they fled.

That summer and fall of 1862 saw Lee attack the Union, even invading Maryland. The war in the East turned from the Union being on the offensive to the Union being on the defensive as a result of Lee’s charge. For the next year, Lee would attack, invading the Union twice. Lincoln would continue to search for one person to take charge and attack Lee. It would not happen until 1864.

The Haymarket Riot: Impeding to the Labor Movement

By Amanda Hamrick
Amanda graduated high school in 2012. She will be attending the University of Minnesota this fall. In addition to her school record 7 superior ribbons at the state history fair, Amanda participated in Dance, the Academic Team, and Band. She was co-Valedictorian for her class. In 2008, she was one of 14 students named a Young Historian by the State of Illinois. This is her second published paper. Previously, her paper on the Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Galesburg was published by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.


“Ungrateful hyenas!” they cried. “Foreign savages!” they shouted. “Hang them first and try them afterwards!” they cheered. It wasn’t until decades later they called out “martyrs,” but it was too late. Five major labor agitators had been hung without any real evidence of their guilt. What started out as a peaceful rally became a riot, turning the already suspicious public against all labor organizations and radicals. Counterproductive to the labor movement, the Haymarket riot delayed the adoption of the eight hour workday.

The atmosphere of the labor movement in the 1800s was volatile. The full force of the Industrial Revolution affected everything across the nation. Urbanization was on the rise, as was Chicago, Illinois. As Chicago grew, it transformed from a trading center into an international manufacturing giant, but it did so on the back of a seemingly endless supply of workers. Most of these workers were foreign. In 1850, half of all Chicagoans came from abroad; at the time of Haymarket, approximately three-fourths of Chicago residents were from another country or had a least one foreign parent. Overall, the most common trait shared by Chicagoans in the late nineteenth century was they were not actually from Chicago.

Each Chicagoan’s experience in the city depended on his or her background. Those of foreign birth occupied jobs in skilled or unskilled blue-collar areas; the native-born residents dominated professions and office jobs. The conditions in blue-collar work were appalling with little concern for safety. The workers received low pay and absolutely no benefits. The workday was ten to twelve hours, six days a week. Because of these conditions, a unionization movement began, but internal divisions prevented any true progress.

The industrialization and immigration brought about a widening division between capital and labor. For the most part, capital which included stockbrokers, executives and managers controlled the labor, those who earned their living by selling their physical skill and effort. The goal of unions was to close this gap, and much of the late nineteenth century was a battle between capital and labor over who controlled wages, hours and the process of production.

Industrial capitalism caused many shifts in production: larger workplaces with layers of supervision, increased use of technology, and the division of the manufacturing process into discrete parts that required limited skills and training. As if conditions weren’t bad enough, these trends caused the worker to be interchangeable, cheap and readily replaced. The idea of unionization became more popular as the threat to the individual worker increased, but union organizers faced powerful resistance from the middle-class public. 

As economic downturns persisted, class divisions intensified and attempts by workers to resolve inequalities increased. Widespread unemployment and reduction in wages led to angry protests, some resulting in violence from the police. Tensions reached a peak when a railroad strike swept across the country during the summer of 1877. The trains were running again in just a few days, but the deadly encounters between protesters and the law enforcement stayed in the minds of the workers as a source of continued resentment.

At this time, two of the most influential men of the labor movement came into the public eye. The first, Albert Parsons, had arrived in Chicago from Texas in November 1873. What he called his “interest and activity in the labor movement” began shortly after his arrival, and he soon became the most prominent English-speaking spokesmen for both the socialist and labor movements. The second, August Spies, had arrived in the city from central Germany the same year as Parsons. Both men supported the union movement and spoke out for the eight-hour workday, a major cause most unions were fighting for.

Foremost among emerging unions was the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor (KOL). The KOL listed more than 700,000 members by the mid-1880s. Founded in 1869, the KOL was not a new organization. It had merely come out of the shadows to hold its first national assembly a few months after the 1877 railroad strike. Soon after joining the union, Parsons founded the first Chicago assembly of the Knights. He believed, along with many others, the Knights could create a “brotherhood of toil” among men of different trades, religions and races.

Along with their devotion to the labor movement, both men shared a devotion to radicalism, an international development of the 1880s. Many middle-class and native-born Chicagoans took pride in the fact they could not differentiate between the different forms of radicalism, but socialists, communists and anarchists all had very different views about what path the labor movement should take. The only thing they agreed on was capitalism and the wage system exploited the worker, and they had to take ownership of the means of production out of current hands and return it to the people.

Albert Parsons

Anarchists like Spies and Parsons advocated cooperating with organized labor. This idea was practical, and they believed they could eventually use

August Spies

unions to help overthrow the current political and economic systems. This combination of anarchism and unionism became known as the “Chicago idea.” Extreme anarchists like George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg rejected the “Chicago idea” because they believed it compromised true anarchist principles.

Another depression hit in late 1883. A series of angry confrontations occurred throughout the country. The anarchists in Chicago put on demonstrations repeatedly to announce their cause. On Thanksgiving 1884, the anarchists helped organize a “poor people march” to point out that want rather than plenty was the workers’ lot. A few thousand demonstrators assembled downtown to hear radicals Parsons, Fielden, Spies and Schwab speak. They then marched through the cold streets past the homes of the wealthy carrying the emblem of hunger, the black flag. They repeated this demonstration a year later. Then, on May 4, 1885 (exactly a year before Haymarket), striking stoneworkers in Lemont threw stones at troopers protecting strikebreakers. The troopers fired into the crowd, killing two men instantly and wounding many others. While this outraged anarchists and other labor leaders, it wasn’t until three months later that Chicago citizens also became angry after the police clubbed innocent bystanders during a strike against the West Division Railway Company.

As unemployment and union agitation increased thorough the first half of 1886, more workers joined the revived eight-hour movement, and labor agitators made a plan for a walkout across the country on Saturday, May 1, 1886. The walkout was a huge success. Hundreds of thousands of workers across different trades and across the country and 40,000 in Chicago went on strike. Demonstrations took place without incident throughout the city, among which was a parade along Michigan Avenue.

On Monday, May 3, 1886, the first working day since the national eight-hour walkout, August Spies spoke at a rally of the Striking Lumber Shover’s Union near the main factory of the McCormick Reaper Works. As he spoke, the non-union strikebreakers ended their shift at the nearby factory. Some of his audience left the rally to join the McCormick strikers in heckling the strikebreakers. A fight broke out between the two groups. The police arrived as the strikers moved to throwing stones, forcing the strikebreakers back into the factory. The police pushed their way through the crowd with their clubs. The strikers began to throw stones at the officers who responded by firing into the crowd. The gunfire seriously injured many workers and killed two.
Angry and disgusted, Spies returned to the office of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, the leading German-socialist paper of which he was editor. He created a bilingual leaflet titled “Workingmen to Arms!” However, a compositor added the heading “REVENGE” without consulting Spies.

Later in the evening, a few dozen of the most extreme anarchists, including George Engel and Adolph Fischer, met in Greif’s Hall on Lake Street. After hearing the news of the riot at the McCormick factory, they decided to hold an outdoor public protest meeting the next evening. They chose the Haymarket as the meeting place. Fischer, after preparing a poster announcing the meeting, went on a hunt for good speakers. He asked August Spies, who accepted the offer. However, after seeing Fischer’s poster entitled “Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force,” Spies refused to speak unless Fischer changed the poster for fear it would encourage a police presence that could cause violence. Fischer conceded and edited all but a few hundred of the twenty thousand posters before distribution.

The organizers planned to begin the rally at seven-thirty the following evening, but it did not begin until over an hour later. Spies expected to address the crowd in German, and as German speakers usually spoke last, he didn’t believe it was necessary to arrive at the beginning of the rally. When he arrived sometime between eight-fifteen and eight-thirty, no meeting had started and no other speakers were present. A crowd of two to three thousand people, smaller than expected, was already beginning to disperse. Spies searched the area for Parsons, who he had expected to start the rally, but could not find him. Hoping to salvage the situation, Spies made a makeshift podium out of a nearby hay wagon and called the meeting to order. Before beginning his speech, Spies sent one of his newspaper employees back to the office where he heard Parsons, Fielden and Schwab were attending a meeting. Exhausted and disappointed by the small crowd, Spies decided to speak briefly in English:

Let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.

He continued to speak until he saw Parsons make his way through the crowd.

Meanwhile, the authorities, concerned the Haymarket rally might cause trouble, had Chief Inspector John Bonfield assemble a force of 176 patrolmen a half a block away in the Desplaines Street Station. Bonfield sent officers to the meeting in civilian clothing with orders to report back to him if the speeches became dangerous. Back at the rally, Parsons spoke for nearly an hour:
In the light of these facts and your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it behooves you, as you love your wives and children, if you would not see them perish with want and hunger, yourselves killed or cut down like dogs in the streets− Americans, as you love liberty and independence, arm, arm yourselves!

Mayor Carter Harrison, who was also in attendance to prevent violence, found the speeches to be tame by current standards. He left while Parsons was still speaking to confer with Bonfield about the peacefulness of the meeting. He returned to the meeting to hear a few minutes of Samuel Fielden’s speech, decided there was no reason for him to stay and went home.

Mayor Harrison

By the time Samuel Fielden mounted the wagon to speak, only about 600 people remained in the crowd. It was not much before ten o’clock when he began, warning the crowd to prepare for the worst. He claimed that since the police had shown no mercy, they should receive no mercy in return. “Keep your eye on the law,” Fielden cried. “Throttle it. Kill it. Stop it. Do everything you can to wound it− to impede its progress.” After hearing these words, one of Bonfield’s disguised officers reported back to him that the speaker was making dangerous threats.

About ten minutes into Fielden’s speech, the wind picked up and the crowd, anticipating rain, diminished even more. Parsons interrupted to propose the meeting reconvene at the nearby Zepf’s Hall, but Fielden announced he only needed a few minutes to finish, and the meeting would be over. Nevertheless, Parsons, Fischer and several others departed the rally for the warmth of the hall.

As Fielden winded up his speech, Bonfield decided to act. He marched his force of 176 patrolmen in formation up Desplaines Street and though the crowd to the speakers’ wagon. It was about ten-twenty at night, and the crowd was now only a mere 500 people.

“I command you in the name of the people of the state of Illinois to immediately and peaceably disperse,” ordered Captain William Ward.

“But we are peaceable,” replied Fielden. When Ward angrily repeated his order, Fielden said, “All right, we will go,” and got down from the wagon. Suddenly, a bomb rose out of the crowd on the east sidewalk. It arched about 20 feet in the air before landing in the middle of the street among the police. The bomb sat on the ground for a few seconds and then exploded. Shrapnel from the bomb ripped through the body of Officer Degan, severing a major artery in his left leg. He died on the scene.

Although often reported otherwise, evidence and testimony point to the officers initiating fire. Terrified and confused from the blast, the police fired everywhere and anywhere, including into their own ranks. The gunfire continued for two minutes straight. If the crowd fired back, it was a feeble response. Everyone ran for their lives, but many were hit before they could escape. In all, the riot took the lives of seven policemen and at least four workers. The bomb and bullets wounded about sixty officers along with an unknown number of civilians.

A period of panic and overreaction followed in Chicago. A trial ensued, and the jury found anarchists Adolph Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Oscar Neebe and Louis Lingg guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Four of the defendants were hanged in November 1887. One committed suicide before the hangings, and Illinois governor John Altgeld later pardoned the remaining three. The trial and hangings are notoriously considered one of the largest miscarriages of justice in American history as the prosecution provided no evidence connecting any of the defendants to the bomb-throwing. The widespread fear of unionism and radicalism influenced most of the public to support harsh and unjust treatment of the accused.

The Haymarket riot was a pivotal event in the early history of American labor. The effect of the riot on the labor movement was immense, and it would take decades to recover. Unions lost the little public support they had gained. In the minds of the public, all unionizers were anarchists, and all anarchists believed in violence. The anarchist was not only an alien to America but also to all things decent, rational and humane.

The riot was largely responsible for delaying acceptance of the eight-hour day as workers deserted the KOL to avoid suspicion and harassment from the general public and moved to the more moderate American Federation of Labor. With the major labor agitators of the day gone, the forceful revival of the eight-hour movement they brought about came to a stop.

For many years, the public regarded the policemen of the Haymarket riot as martyrs and the workers as violent anarchists. This view set the labor movement back. However, over time this view has changed, and history has judged the defendants to be the martyrs. In a time when unions are once again the scapegoats, the bloodshed that occurred to give the individual worker rights and power must be remembered. It must be remembered that there are fights worth fighting, but also that violence seldom helps advance a cause.

Amanda’s Exhibit on the Riot

The 1st Battle of Bull Run: A Turning Point in Attitudes

Stone House circa 1861

The prelude to the first battle of the American Civil War was one filled with romantic notions of what war was supposed to be. Both men and women were swept up in the cause. Towns sent off their best to live an adventure. Many young men thought they had better hurry up and get to the war before it was over. However, after the first major battle at Manassas Junction, attitudes changed in both the North and the South. This war was not be a summer’s war and home by harvest. It was to be a costly war fought over years.

From 1820 to 1860, the United States had tried to deal with the issue of slavery of in a variety of ways. However in the 1850s, new territory in the western US caused a debate over the spread of slavery and of slavery itself. Despite compromises in 1820, and then again in 1850, the road to war was coming to a head. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, the first shots were fired in angst between Americans. Over the next six years, the war drew ever closer. In 1859, John Brown’s raid on the arsenal Harper’s Ferry saw southern states react by creating state militias to prevent a slave uprising. In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln saw seven southern states secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America. When Lincoln called for 75,000 soldiers to put down the rebellion, other southern border states joined in. What was once a Union of 34 states was no more. On April 12, 1861, the Confederacy took the federal fort at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Civil War had begun.

Irvin McDowell

In the watch fires of a hundred circling camps, the Union forces began to amass in and around Washington, D.C. The Confederacy positioned itself to the south in defense in both the Shenandoah Valley and the the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Confederate troops had been well trained and disciplined. The Confederate forces had begun training in response to John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry. The Union, they were a mess carousing in the capital. After Ft. Sumter, the call came for the Union to counter and attack the South. However, General Irvin McDowell did not. Mainly a desk soldier, McDowell had come to be in charge after never having seen a field command. He may not have known how to command such a large army as this, but McDowell knew his men were not trained enough to invade the South. It did not matter. The pressure to attack in the summer of 1861 won out. President Lincoln ordered McDowell to invade. And so McDowell did on July 16, 1861. He would be back in Washington a week later.

McDowell entered Virginia with 35,000 men, enough to crush the 18-20,000 forces stationed at Manassas Junction under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard. However, the Civil War was not fought on paper. It was fought mainly in the south. Manassas Junction was only important for one reason, it had a railroad junction, and it was on the way to the Confederate capital of Richmond. There were not many such junctions in the South in 1861. The North, meanwhile, had hundreds. Irony would play the wild card quite often in this battle. The railroad connected the Shenandoah Valley and General Johnston’s troops to Beauregard’s. Combined, the two Confederate armies would equal the numbers of the Union army.

After a long march through Virginia in the summer (high heat and humidity) McDowell and the Army of the Potomac set up camp near Centreville. Strangely, McDowell ordered his men to complete the final march toward the battle field at 2:30 in the morning on July 21. By the time his men reached the battlefield, they were exhausted. At 10 a.m., the first battle of Manassas took place near Bull Run Creek on Matthews Hill. A small Confederate force of 1000 held off 10,000 Union troops for 90 minutes. When William Tecumseh Sherman’s attack on the Confederate flank collapsed the Confederate defense, the rebels retreated to Henry House Hill. But rather than attack and finish off the Confederates, McDowell, waited, and waited, and waited…until 2 p.m. The resulting delay allowed for reinforcements to arrive via railroad.

At 2 p.m., the Union attack resumed. Over the next two hours, several factors swung Beauregard’s way. First, the high ground allowed for better defensive measures. Second, J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry forces were put in to play. Third, the Union was not sure who was who. Later, the Union would wear Blue and the Confederacy, Grey. But at 1st Manassas, there was a melange of blues, greys, and reds on both sides. Finally, Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s defense of the Hill became a rallying point for the Confederacy. McDowell, intriguingly, attacked piecemeal. Rather than throw his entire army at the Hill, the Union attacked a regiment at a time. After a regiment failed, McDowell ordered another regiment in.

Johnston’s troops became the support that allowed the Confederacy and the Army of Northern Virginia to hold off the invasion. By 4 p.m., McDowell ordered a retreat to Washington. It became a catastrophe after that. With the Confederates in charge of the battlefield, every Union soldier hightailed it back to the capital, many left their guns behind. It became a disaster as the soldiers returned in disarray. The Confederates did not pursue. In addition, many spectators had come out to watch the battle including Congressmen. After the battle was over, the spectators clogged the roads back to DC and one Congressman was taken captive and held prisoner for six months by the Confederacy before he was released.

As a result of the Battle of Bull Run or Manassas Junction, this was a war that was not going to be over in a summer. Over 5000 casualties on both sides told of the cost of just one battle. Not only was this going to be a long war for the Union, it was going to be a bloody one. Napoleonic tactics had not kept up with the technology. It is hard to think of the Civil War as having a lot of technology, but the firepower contained in the .58 caliber mini-ball would require amputation in battle if used today. In addition, bored rifles created more accurate weapons along with greater use of artillery.

Shortly after the debacle, Lincoln called for 500,000 more soldiers twice. A million man army was initially going to be needed to put down the insurrection. Lincoln was also wrong. It would take much more.

Henry House – 2007

All color photographs by Anne Petty Johnson (my wife)

All other photos from the Library of Congress.

For further reading online:



Turning Points: The Battle of Midway

Beginning on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Fleet of the Japanese Navy began one of the most destructive campaigns the world had seen in one day. Whenever December 7, 1941 is discussed, most people think of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. December 7 was a lot more. All across the Pacific Ocean, Japan attacked the US wherever it had bases, ships, or men stationed. In one fell swoop, Japan had come perilously close to wiping out the Pacific fleet in one day. By early 1942, the refueling station at Midway was one of the few targets left standing. However, the failure of Pearl Harbor for the Japanese was that while the Japanese planes took out most of the battleships at Pearl that Sunday morning in 1941, the planes failed to take out the US aircraft carriers. In 1942, Admiral Yamamoto, the man who designed the Pearl Harbor attack began to design a second attack on an atoll, northwest of Hawaii, called Midway. This time, Yamamoto would not carry out the attack. He would leave that to someone else in June 1942.

USS Hornet – One of the 3 Aircraft Carriers at the Battle of Midway

The Japanese on Paper
Had battles been fought on paper, the Japanese should have won easily. They had more experience pilots. They had more experienced commanders. They had planes which could fly farther and faster. They had more ships and support vessels. Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo was in charge of the fleet. His experience would play a key role. Nagumo’s greatest strength was he always did what he was told. He was a good soldier. He followed battle plans to the letter. However, these strengths would also be Nagumo’s undoing.

The Americans on Paper
Frank Jack Fletcher was an American Admiral. His greatest experience had come at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942. The Americans and Australians had repelled an attempt by the Japanese to invade Australia, New Guinea, and other South Pacific targets. As the Admiral in charge of the Yorktown, the Coral Sea had left the Yorktown near listless. Somehow, Fletcher over saw the refit of the Yorktown. In what should have taken months, was done in days as over 1,400 men put the aircraft carrier back on its proverbial feet. This was done out of need as they were not many US aircraft carriers left. At the Battle of Midway, the Japanese would have 4 of them while the Americans only 3. The Japanese had every advantage on paper. However, it was the advantage of paper that swung the battle.

The American Secret Weapon: The Code
The Americans were close to breaking the Japanese code system in the fall of 1941. To many code breakers, the failure to break the code before Pearl Harbor stuck in their craw. One such analyst was Joe Rochefort.  In the spring of 1942, the Japanese code JN-25, the operational code of the Imperial Navy, was extremely complex; more so than other Japanese codes. JN-25 contained 33,333 five-digit code groups. Rochefort and his decryption code team used guesswork to finally break the code in the week before Midway. It was an amazing accomplishment as the team was deciphering between 500 and 1,000 messages a day. The US then put out a message saying Midway was almost out of water. Within hours, Japanese messages begin chattering about AF having a water emergency. The code was broken and a trap was put in motion.

Joe Rochefort

Joe Rochefort

The Battlefield
The military significance of the Midway Island was almost insignificant. The US had little use of the base early in the war. But for the Japanese, it would get them one step closer to Pearl Harbor. Once the code had been broken, Fletcher moved his fleet away from the islands to open up the islands and enabled the Japanese to show their hand.

The Battle
Nagumo sent seven Japanese scout planes to confirm that the American were not at Midway. Their own hubris of their attack plan would be their undoing. And in believing the plan to be invincible, Nagumo would not waver from it or put much stock in scouting. There would be no improvising, no changing of tactics. The US sent out over 20 scouts and found the Japanese fleet. Fletcher sent in torpedo bombers. However, initial attacks by US torpedo bombers on the Japanese fleet were a complete failure. All but 3 torpedo bombers were destroyed. This fact only cranked up Nagumo’s and the Japanese confidence.

When the first wave of Japanese planes attacked Midway, they failed to put the nail in the coffin. When word comes of a US aircraft carrier being sighted by a Japanese scout plane, Nagumo has to make make a key decision about whether to continue the attack on Midway or to go after the Aircraft Carrier. This was not part of the plan. The US aircraft carriers were supposed to be in Pearl Harbor. Nagumo chooses to reconfigure the bombs on his planes for an attack on the carriers. This would take an additional 60 minutes. To do this, the planes would be reconfigured on the decks of the aircraft carrier. It would be a fatal mistake.

When Fletcher’s attack force arrives to attack the Japanese carriers, the torpedo bombers continue a string of bad luck for the US. The first wave did no damage. The first wave of bombers got separated from its escort of fighters and were shot down easily by the Japanese fighters.

The Thach Weave – US Fighter Tactics which helped to destroy the Japanese planes. The Japanese had no answer to the confusion the tactic caused.

The second wave by the US was not going to make the same mistake. 6 US Wildcat fighters were set to face over 20 Japanese Zeroes in the skies over the Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Sōryū.  The Zero was a superior machine. It was faster, more maneuverable, and had more range. However, its one weakness was the fuel tank easily caught fire. In addition, the hubris of the Japanese commanders spread throughout the fighter ranks. In addition, they could not improvise. In what becomes known as the Thach Weave, US fighters fight in pairs but by flying inter-locking patterns which confuses the Japanese and they are unable to adjust to the American tactics. The bombers now had free reign to attack the JAkagi, Kaga, and Sōryū.

While US carriers were made of metal, Japanese carriers had wooden decks. In a mere five minutes, 3 out carriers were in flames. Between the bombs the US dropped, the Japanese carriers were sitting ducks with their own bombs on deck, the armaments underneath, and the wood. The battle was nearly over. Nagumo, despite losing the flagship, was not going to be stopped. He thundered on towards Midway. Despite only having 1 carrier to the 3 of the US, Nagumo pressed forward undaunted and undeterred. The Japanese found the Yorktown and thought they laid it waste with three bombs. Quick thinking by the US stopped the fire on the Yorktown. Nagumo thought the odds were closing to his favor. The Yorktown, while badly damaged could still float and would play a key role in the outcome of the battle.


The Japanese quickly regroup and attack what they think is another carrier but it is the Yorktown again. This time, the Yorktown is dead in the water. Nagumo thinks he has evened the odds. As Nagumo thinks he has taken out 2 carriers, he begins to attempt a final attack. Before the Yorktown is abandoned Fletcher sends out scout planes to find the final Japanese carriers. And the Americans find the final Japanese carrier. The Hiryū was hit with 4 bombs. A key to the sinking was that the Japanese pilots were eating below deck when the Americans arrived.

Midway reports for June 5 contained a variety of activity going on that day. For Fletcher and the US, a key to the battle was deciphering the reports that were coming in. While history records the key details, it also can reveal the small details. Fletcher had to sort through the large amount of data to make decisions. Here is a list of just June 5, 1942.

5 June, 1942.
Daily search, 10 planes, sector 250 to 020 to 250 miles. Co-verage about 100%.
0000 – Flight 102, 2 PBY5A’s with torpedoes off to attack transport group.
0130 – Submarine shelled Midway. Batteries returned fire. Three hits on SS are claimed.
0415 – Submarine reports large enemy force at 28-23 N., 179-09 W, at 1417 Zed.
0430 – All B-17’s in the air.
0510 – 1V102 requests MO’s.
0530 – Search group in the air.
0600 – 7V55 reports 3 men in boat, 29-08 N., 178-07 W.
0615 – V92 reports unable to locate target, unfavorable wea-ther, verify position, advise.
0625 – Ordered V92 to proceed to Kure.
0630 – 2V55 reports sighted 2 battleships bearing 264, dist-ance 125 miles, course 268, speed 15.
0632 – 2V55 reports ships damaged, streaming oil.
0700 – 4V58 reports 2 enemy cruisers bearing 286, distance 174, course 210, speed 20.
0719 – 7V55 reports 5 ships bearing 325, distance 200.
0735 – 7V55 reports 5 ships on course 338, speed 25, latitude 31-15, longitude 179-55.
0800 – 6V55 reports 2 battleships and one carrier afire, 3 heavy cruisers bearing 324, distance 240, course 310, speed 12.
0815 – 6V55 reports cruisers and destroyers screening burning carrier. Battleship well ahead.
0820 – 8V55 reports bearing 335, distance 250, one carrier course 245.
0821 – 10V55 reports ENTERPRISE on fire and sinking.
0850 – Submarine reports land plane out 279½°, distance 570.
0945 – 10V55 reports TF 16 bearing 020, distance 90, course 270, speed 25.
1000 – V92 reports making hits on Jap battleship.
1020 – 10V55 reports TF 16 bearing 018, distance 80.
1220 – 10V55 reports destroyer rescued crew of 1V58 (23P2).
1220 – Remains of Marine Air Group, 8 dive bombers, scored one hit on damaged cruiser to westward. Lost one plane by AA fire.
1250 – 7V55 picked up man at 20-27 N., 179-17 W.
1320 – Flight V92 in air to attack crippled carriers to north-ward.
1430 – V92 reports TF 16 bearing 322, distance 105, course 322, speed 25.
1430 – PT boat reports attacked by cruiser aircraft bearing 150, distance 170.
1545 – V93 on attack mission.
1610 – 1V56 reports one carrier, two battleships, three heavy cruisers, five destroyers, course 280, speed 10, bearing 325, distance 110, friendly ships.
1800 – V92 reports finding only one cruiser. Scored only near misses.
1845 – 2V56 reports being attacked by 12 enemy planes bearing 313, distance 350.
1930 – 5V93 dropped bomb bay tanks instead of bombs on enemy.

Nagumo limped home in defeat. The Americans, while losing the Yorktown, only lost over 300 men. The Japanese lost 3000 experienced sailors and airmen. For the Japanese it wasn’t the pilots who were the key loss, but rather the maintenance crews and the aircraft carriers. A lot of technical know how went down in the ocean. An invasion was deterred. A turning point in the war in the Pacific changed the course of the war. From now on, the Americans could rebuild their fleet, planes, and begin an offensive against the Empire of Japan. The Battle of Midway was the high water mark for the Japanese. Their navy nearly destroyed was now on the defensive. The battle also marked an important turning point as it showed the importance of aircraft carriers as the key to the Pacific theater of operations. Air power by sea was going to win the war. However, on June 6, 1942, the US had no strategy on how to defeat Japan. They only hoped to stop it. Midway changed that mindset.

“After a battle is over, people talk a lot about how decisions were methodically reached, but actually there’s always a hell of a lot of groping around.” – Jack Fletcher

For Fletcher, he groped better thanks to his ability to improvise and make adjustments throughout the battle. This trait would be a key for the Americans in the Pacific against the Japanese and in Europe against the Germans.

Dr. Seuss puts the Battle in perspective

Dr. Seuss puts the Battle of Midway in perspective in 1942

Here are three excellent educational films about the Battle of Midway.

Juwan Howard and the Fab Five: The Templates for Modern Athletes

When I get to teaching the 1970s and 1980s, I show my students pictures of me playing basketball as young kid and in high school. I show them pictures of my basketball idols – Dr. J, Gail Goodrich, and Larry Bird. My students laugh. They laugh a lot. Not at me, or my idols, but rather, they laugh at the shorts – the short shorts to be exact. That was how basketball players dressed until the early 1990s. Then everything changed in 1991. Five freshman at the University of Michigan, including one from the south side of Chicago,  changed everything about the modern athlete. It was more than just the shorts. It was how the modern athlete was going to act. There were going to be no apologies.

Jack Johnson was the first African-American athlete to gain national prominence. The boxer became heavyweight champion of the world and flaunted his “blackness” unforgivably. He wore long coats with fur, drovee fancy cars, lived in a swank home in Chicago, and married a white woman. In 1908, Johnson won the heavyweight championship in Sydney, Australia. Immediately, calls for a “great white hope” began. No one could defeat Johnson and his defensive style in his prime. What brought Jackson down was the enforcement of the Mann Act. Ken Burns’ film “Unforgiveable Blackness” said of Johnson:

What most bothered whites about Johnson was that he openly had affairs with white women—and even married them—at a time when miscegenation of this sort was not only illegal but was positively dangerous. Johnson did not seem to care what whites thought of him, and this bothered most whites a great deal. He was not humble or diffident with whites. He gloated about his victories and often taunted his opponents in the ring. (This behavior was not unique to him as a champion boxer. Many boxers, notably John L. Sullivan, acted this way. It was unique for a black public figure.) He also did not care what blacks thought of him, as some were critical of his sex life. His preference for white women seemed an embarrassment and something that would bring the wrath of whites down on the heads of every black person.  […] Since Johnson could not be defeated in the ring, the battle moved to defeating Johnson in the area where he most offended and where he was most vulnerable—his [personal] life.

Rather than serve one year in jail, Johnson left the US for Europe. He would eventually return and serve his term but his prime years were behind him. There would not be another African-American champ until Joe Louis in 1937.

The modern athlete still was a long way away. Despite Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in 1947 and 1948, the issue of sport and race would not change until the 1960s. In 1964, a young Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Championship. Clay was brash, outspoken, and unlike anything the world had seen to that point. Immediately after defeating Liston, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and for the next three years, he was an unstoppable cultural force until he was drafted into the Army. Ali refused to go. He was at the center of everything in the 1960s – Civil Rights and Vietnam. His boxing licenses were suspended all across the country. He filed suit not to go into the Army and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Ali would return to boxing. Like Johnson, his prime years had been taken away. He still could fight, but he was not the same. His influence on the modern athlete was huge.

For Juwan Howard, growing up on the south side of Chicago was not easy. Raised by his grandmother, Howard had strict rules to follow including being home by sundown every day. Along with church and school, Howard did small jobs as a child including raking leaves and shoveling driveways. He worked hard and did not take life granted. He said, “You can be here today and gone tomorrow.” But above all else, Howard wanted out. He was going to do what it took. Whether it was sport or school, he would give both everything he had.

A star at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Howard was one of the top recruits in the nation. He was heavily recruited by many schools including the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune explained the decision Howard had to make:

About this time last year, Howard was on track to attend Illinois. Coach Lou Henson came out to watch him play on a few occasions, and Howard figured to fit in well with fellow Public League stars Deon Thomas and Jamie Brandon (who later transferred to LSU). But the NCAA’s prolonged investigation of the Illinois program, which eventually resulted in probation, drove Howard away, and he wound up choosing Michigan over Arizona State.

“Illinois was in a situation where I was waiting to find out what would happen with them,” he said. “Four days after I committed, (the NCAA sanctions) were announced. That hurt them. Deon was always joking that I had better come to Illinois or he’d never speak to me again. He may have been a little upset, but I had to go to the place that suits me best.”

The day he signed his letter of intent, his grandmother passed away. Coaches Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher became his new family. For Fisher and Dutcher, Howard became the lynchpin to help get other recruits. He helped recruit Jimmy King and then Howard lent his talents to help recruit Ray Jackson.

The final two pieces of the prized recruiting class came in the form of Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. Rose, like Howard, had grown up in the inner city. Webber did not. Still, the five freshman became the most highly touted recruiting class – they were four of the top 11 recruits in the nation that year.

When the five freshman showed up in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1991, the style began to change. Jalen Rose instituted the move to long shorts. While Michael Jordan had begun the move to long shorts, Jordan’s were still above his knees. The Fab Five wanted the long shorts like Jordan, but only longer. Coach Fisher relented. The players would add black socks to complete the look.

In a Big Ten preview in the Chicago Tribune, Neil Milbert wrote:

“Freshmen can be unreliable here, but we’re not talking about ordinary freshmen,” said Illinois coach Lou Henson. “When you’re as good as they are, you’re going to be right up there with the best.”

“Those five new kids averaged close to 145 points per game last year in high school,” said Fisher. “But they’re freshmen. Who’s going to score? Who will set the screen for the going to score? Who can accept coming off the bench?

“How quickly they adjust to going to Bloomington, East Lansing and hostile arenas like that will dictate how good we are. We hope we can reach a consistency by the middle of the Big 10 season where we can be a factor and a force.

According to Juwan Howard, the next three years would be the best years of his life. They would also be filled with highlights and controversy. That first year started off well. Webber, Howard, and Rose all made the starting lineup. After a 4-0 start, the young Wolverines ran into number one Duke. In an interview on TV, the team showed no fear. They were not afraid of Duke. At the end of the interview, the team flashed signs using their hands. The thought of young athletes flashing signs was unheard of. Even more so, the team explained they were signs about themselves. Duke got out to early lead and built that lead to 17 points. The freshman did not quit though. They fought back and showed they could hang with the best team in the country. Although they lost in overtime, it showed how good Michigan could get. Sports Illustrated said of the team:

They’re certainly not ordinary freshmen. Webber, a forward, and his classmates—center Juwan Howard, forward Ray Jackson and guards Jimmy King and Jalen Rose—proved that fact against Duke, even though Michigan ultimately fell to the Blue Devils 88-85 in overtime. By the time Duke escaped from Ann Arbor with its ranking intact and record unblemished, the best-freshman-class-ever label, with which the Michigan newcomers had been saddled, was more than mere hyperbole. In their first exposure to elite college competition, the Fab Five proved they are as good as advertised.

It would not be until February that all five freshman would start together against Notre Dame.

At the time, America was in a cultural transformation. On the outside, George H.W. Bush’s presidency had been about a 1000 points of light. Desert Storm and the first Gulf War had been over for a year. The Soviet Union had collapsed. America was at the top of the heap. But on the inside, America was changing. Hip Hop culture was slowly taking over music, movies, fashion, and television. The Fab Five brought it to sport. What made these five freshman different was their culture and attitude. They listened to rap. They listened to NWA and Public Enemy. They had tattoos. They got in opponent’s faces to get in their heads. The ABA in the 70s had brought playground style basketball to the NBA. The Fab Five brought everything else about the playground to the arena.

For Michigan basketball, it was only three years removed from the Glen Rice team that had won the NCAA basketball championship. In February and March of 1992, the team became the team everyone wanted to see. Every Saturday afternoon, the Fab Five celebrated the routine and redefined the spectacular. They became the Beatles of basketball. Crowds and cameras followed them everywhere. It did translate in to winning but it did not translate in to winning championships. In 1992, the Wolverines made it to the NCAA Tournament. In the elite eight, they faced a team that had beaten them twice in Ohio State. In overtime, the Michigan Wolverines prevailed. In the national semi-final, they beat Temple to advance to the final, a rematch against Duke. It was not to be. Duke won going away. However, Michigan and the Fab Five would be right back in the title game next year against North Carolina.

For every fan in the inner city of Michigan basketball, there was an equal detractor.  Before the 1993 title game, Bernie Lincicome of the Chicago Tribune wrote,

Today’s mission is to determine what is most unlikable about Michigan’s basketball team. This is not an easy chore because there is something to offend everybody.
Some say it is Michigan’s arrogance, but opinion is not unanimous on this. Ego, like gardening, is psychically damaging only in the extreme. Winners need confidence in themselves.
“My idea of an ideal championship game,” said Jalen Rose, “would be to be sitting on the bench with three minutes to play leading by 30 points already wearing a championship shirt.”
Only 30 points? See, Michigan has its ego under control.
There are those who cannot stand Michigan’s incessant intimidation, its constant badgering and trash talking. Jimmy King scores inside on UCLA and comes down screaming into his defender’s face. Against Kentucky, Rose is yelling at Travis Ford while Ford is shooting free throws.
“I was just asking him where he was going to have dinner,” Rose said.
A sincere inquiry in a close ballgame.
“Intimidation is never a factor against us,” Chris Webber said.
It is easy to be annoyed by the Wolverines’ smirking self-absorption, their complete lack of charity, as if the rest of the world is either against them, or it doesn’t exist.

The undisciplined play and attitude of the Fab Five was not popular in the coaching ranks either. John Chaney of Temple of claimed Fisher failed at teaching the young men character. Rick Pitino, for one, did not like how the team did not box out but rather used their hands in the lower back to gain an advantage.

The infamous “time out” by Chris Webber marred that 1993 championship game for Michigan as they lost to North Carolina. Webber would go pro that summer while Rose and Howard waited one more year. Howard and Rose returned to the Elite Eight in 1994 where they lost to eventual champion Arkansas. Webber, Howard, and Rose would have long pro careers. Howard is still playing while Webber and Rose are retired. Jimmy King would play parts of 3 seasons in the NBA. Coach Fisher is now at San Diego State.

After the fact, events came to light which involved a Michigan booster named Ed Martin. All five players would testify in court about the relationship they had with Martin and most involved money. Webber will not talk about the events while Jalen Rose has always been forthcoming about those days. Despite Rose’s honesty, the banners hanging in the Michigan rafters were taken down after the school received NCAA sanctions. But the memories would not be.

The Fab Five, although they didn’t win any championships, they changed the game and became the template for the modern American athlete. They are arguably the most well known college basketball team of all time. Their attitude, style, and look changed sport and society and not just basketball. While they did not invent the clothes, the look, the swagger, they did popularize them and thus influence athletes of all races.

Neil Milbert of the Chicago Tribune said this of Juwan and his grandmother after that first year:

“She’d also be proud of the fact that off the court, he has tried hard to continue the lifestyle she wanted him to follow. His intensity in games masks a considerate and caring personality. He is serious about his studies and wants to get his degree before pursuing a pro basketball career. The bonding of these freshmen has given Howard a new sense of family. “I’m happy I came to Michigan, and they all decided to come,” he said. “It doesn’t feel right if I’m not with at least one of them.”

While Howard has played over 17 seasons in the NBA, he is still best known as a member of the Fab Five wherever he goes and whoever he meets. As Jalen Rose would say in a documentary that it would the closest he would get to blood brothers. 

For educational purposes only