Thursday, August 14, 2014

Holidays and Observances for August 14 2014

National Creamsicle Day


National Creamsicle Day is an unofficial food holiday celebrated on August 14 each year. Creamsicle is a brand name of a frozen dessert, made by Unilever, which is similar to a Popsicle. The treat consists of a ice cream on a Popsicle stick coated in an exterior flavored ice. Original creamsicles were vanilla ice cream covered with an orange flavor. Currently Unilever offers flavors like lime, grape, and raspberry in addition to the original orange.

National Creamsicle Day is not noted in any official legislation or designation as a holiday but is observed in the United States as an unofficial day of celebration. The frozen dessert has been in existence for many years. It was originally invented by Frank Epperson who discovered the possibility of a frozen treat on a stick in 1905 at age 11. Epperson left his drink in the freezer with a stirrer in it creating what he called the “Epsicle”. The Epsicle eventually was renamed as the Popsicle and Epperson eventually created the creamsicle and dreamsicle.

There are many ways to celebrate National Creamsicle Day, as the original orange flavored creamsicle treat has evolved into many different forms. The creamsicle flavor is now found in cheesecakes, regular baked cakes and cupcakes, and in different alcoholic beverages. Any of these could be enjoyed on National Creamsicle Day. For a touch of nostalgia, a pack of traditional creamsicles may be purchased from the local grocery store and enjoyed on the food holiday.

National Navajo Code Talkers Day


In United States history, the story of Native Americans is predominantly tragic. Settlers took their land, misunderstood their customs, and killed them in the thousands. Then, during World War II, the U.S. government needed the Navajos' help. And though they had suffered greatly from this same government, Navajos proudly answered the call to duty.

Communication is essential during any war and World War II was no different. From battalion to battalion or ship to ship - everyone must stay in contact to know when and where to attack or when to fall back. If the enemy were to hear these tactical conversations, not only would the element of surprise be lost, but the enemy could also reposition and get the upper hand. Codes (encryptions) were essential to protect these conversations.

Unfortunately, though codes were often used, they were also frequently broken. In 1942, a man named Philip Johnston thought of a code he thought unbreakable by the enemy. A code based on the Navajo language.

Philip Johnston's Idea
The son of a Protestant missionary, Philip Johnston spent much of his childhood on the Navajo reservation. He grew up with Navajo children, learning their language and their customs. As an adult, Johnston became an engineer for the city of Los Angeles but also spent a considerable amount of his time lecturing about the Navajos.

Then one day, Johnston was reading the newspaper when he noticed a story about an armored division in Louisiana that was attempting to come up with a way to code military communications using Native American personnel. This story sparked an idea. The next day, Johnston headed to Camp Elliot (near San Diego) and presented his idea for a code to Lt. Col. James E. Jones, the Area Signal Officer.

Lt. Col. Jones was skeptical. Previous attempts at similar codes failed because Native Americans had no words in their language for military terms. There was no need for Navajos to add a word in their language for "tank" or "machine gun" just as there is no reason in English to have different terms for your mother's brother and your father's brother - as some languages do - they're just both called "uncle." And often, when new inventions are created, other languages just absorb the same word. For example, in German a radio is called "Radio" and a computer is "Computer." Thus, Lt. Col. Jones was concerned that if they used any Native American languages as codes, the word for "machine gun" would become the English word "machine gun" - making the code easily decipherable.

However, Johnston had another idea. Instead of adding the direct term "machine gun" to the Navajo language, they would designate a word or two already in the Navajo language for the military term. For example, the term for "machine gun" became "rapid-fire gun," the term for "battleship" became "whale," and the term for "fighter plane" became "hummingbird."

Lt. Col. Jones recommended a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel. The demonstration was a success and Major General Vogel sent a letter to the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps recommending that they enlist 200 Navajos for this assignment. In response to the request, they were only given permission to begin a "pilot project" with 30 Navajos.

Getting the Program Started
Recruiters visited the Navajo reservation and selected the first 30 code talkers (one dropped out, so 29 started the program). Many of these young Navajos had never been off the reservation, making their transition to military life even more difficult. Yet they persevered. They worked night and day helping to create the code and to learn it.

Once the code was created, the Navajo recruits were tested and re-tested. There could be no mistakes in any of the translations. One mistranslated word could lead to the death of thousands. Once the first 29 were trained, two remained behind to become instructors for future Navajo code talkers and the other 27 were sent to Guadalcanal to be the first to use the new code in combat.

Having not gotten to participate in the creation of the code because he was a civilian, Johnston volunteered to enlist if he could participate in the program. His offer was accepted and Johnston took over the training aspect of the program.

The program proved successful and soon the U.S. Marine Corps authorized unlimited recruiting for the Navajo code talkers program. The entire Navajo nation consisted of 50,000 people and by the end of the war 420 Navajo men worked as code talkers.

The Code
The initial code consisted of translations for 211 English words most frequently used in military conversations. Included in the list were terms for officers, terms for airplanes, terms for months, and an extensive general vocabulary. Also included were Navajo equivalents for the English alphabet so that the code talkers could spell out names or specific places.

However, cryptographer Captain Stilwell suggested that the code be expanded. While monitoring several transmissions, he noticed that since so many words had to be spelled out, the repetition of the Navajo equivalents for each letter could possibly offer the Japanese an opportunity to decipher the code. Upon Captain Silwell's suggestion, an additional 200 words and additional Navajo equivalents for the 12 most often used letters (A, D, E, I, H, L, N, O, R, S, T, U) were added. The code, now complete, consisted of 411 terms.

On the battlefield, the code was never written down, it was always spoken. In training, they had been repeatedly drilled with all 411 terms. The Navajo code talkers had to be able to send and receive the code as fast as possible. There was no time for hesitation. Trained and now fluent in the code, the Navajo code talkers were ready for battle.

On the Battlefield
Unfortunately, when the Navajo code was first introduced, military leaders in the field were skeptical. Many of the first recruits had to prove the codes' worth. However, with just a few examples, most commanders were grateful for the speed and accuracy in which messages could be communicated.

From 1942 until 1945, Navajo code talkers participated in numerous battles in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Tarawa. They not only worked in communications but also as regular soldiers, facing the same horrors of war as other soldiers.

However, Navajo code talkers met additional problems in the field. Too often, their own soldiers mistook them for Japanese soldiers. Many were nearly shot because of this. The danger and frequency of misidentification caused some commanders to order a bodyguard for each Navajo code talker.
For three years, wherever the Marines landed, the Japanese got an earful of strange gurgling noises interspersed with other sounds resembling the call of a Tibetan monk and the sound of a hot water bottle being emptied.
Huddled over their radio sets in bobbing assault barges, in foxholes on the beach, in slit trenches, deep in the jungle, the Navajo Marines transmitted and received messages, orders, vital information. The Japanese ground their teeth and committed hari-kari.*
The Navajo code talkers played a large role in the Allied success in the Pacific. The Navajos had created a code the enemy was unable to decipher.

* Excerpt from the September 18, 1945 issues of the San Diego Union as quoted in Doris A. Paul, The Navajo Code Talkers (Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing Co., 1973) 99.

V-J Day


On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Since then, both August 14 and August 15 have been known as “Victory over Japan Day,” or simply “V-J Day.” The term has also been used for September 2, 1945, when Japan’s formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. Coming several months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, Japan’s capitulation in the Pacific brought six years of hostilities to a final and highly anticipated close.

Japan’s devastating surprise aerial attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, capped a decade of deteriorating relations between Japan and the United States and led to an immediate U.S. declaration of war the following day. Japan’s ally Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, then declared war on the United States, turning the war raging in Europe into a truly global conflict. Over the next three years, superior technology and productivity allowed the Allies to wage an increasingly one-sided war against Japan in the Pacific, inflicting enormous casualties while suffering relatively few. By 1945, in an attempt to break Japanese resistance before a land invasion became necessary, the Allies were consistently bombarding Japan from air and sea, dropping some 100,000 tons of explosives on more than 60 Japanese cities and towns between March and July 1945 alone.

The Potsdam Declaration, issued by Allied leaders on July 26, 1945, called on Japan to surrender; if it did, it was promised a peaceful government according to “the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.” If it did not, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.” The embattled Japanese government in Tokyo refused to surrender, and on August 6 the American B-29 plane Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, killing more than 70,000 people and destroying a 5-square-mile expanse of the city. Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing another 40,000. The following day, the Japanese government issued a statement accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. In a radio address in the early afternoon of August 15 (August 14 in the United States), Emperor Hirohito urged his people to accept the surrender, blaming the use of the “new and most cruel bomb” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the country’s defeat. “Should we continue to fight,” Hirohito declared, “it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”

In Washington on August 14, President Harry S. Truman announced news of Japan’s surrender in a press conference at the White House: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” Jubilant Americans declared August 14 “Victoryover Japan Day,” or “V-J Day.” (May 8, 1945–when the Allies accepted Nazi Germany’s official surrender–had previously been dubbed “Victory in Europe Day,” or “V-E Day.”)

Images from V-J Day celebrations around the United States and the world reflected the overwhelming sense of relief and exhilaration felt by citizens of Allied nations at the end of the long and bloody conflict. In one particularly iconic photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine, a uniformed sailor passionately kisses a nurse in the midst of a crowd of people celebrating in New York City’s Times Square. On September 2, Allied supreme commander General Douglas MacArthur, along with the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, and the chief of staff of the Japanese army, Yoshijiro Umezu, signed the official Japanese surrender aboard the U.S. Navy battleship Missouri, effectively ending World War II.

Many V-J Day celebrations fell out of favor over the years due to concerns about their being offensive to Japan, now one of America’s closest allies, and to Japanese Americans, as well as ambivalent feelings toward the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the administration of President Bill Clinton referred not to V-J Day but to the “End of the Pacific War” in its official remembrance ceremonies. The controversial decision sparked complaints that Clinton was being overly deferential to Japan and that the euphemism displayed insensitivity to U.S. veterans who as prisoners of war suffered greatly at the hands of Japanese forces.