Tuesday, April 10, 2018

This Day in History

It's been exactly one year since my last post here, both that one and this motivated by a singular event seventy-four years ago.  Of all the days that have come and gone in those intervening years, what would make this one stand out so boldly?  It has been a life-changing event for many people—both then and now.  

On this day in 1944, at a tiny bungalow in the suberbs of Waukesha, Wisconsin, I was a chubby-cheeked, curly-haired, lad barely learning to walk.  It was the day after Easter and winter was whispering farewell.  War was raging in Europe and the Pacific— not that anyone could tell by the idyllic simplicity of our lives.  It would be several years before I would see my first television and I only faintly remember the existence of a radio at that time.  One single light bulb hung by a twisted wire in the center of our small living room and our only source of water was a hand-pump in the yard outside.  I do remember, as a very small child, that we had a wringer-type washing machine and the rotation of the agitator fascinated me.  Equally fascinating was the weekly gathering of family members who played a variety of musical instruments.  It was a wonderful environment in which to grow.  Little did I know then, or for many years after that time, how many young men sacrificed their lives for me and those of my generation to enjoy that privilege.

William Edward Cramsie was one of those heroes.  He was endowed with exceptional talent, superb social skills, outstanding leadership qualities and boundless dedication.  Bill was good at everything he chose to undertake—graduating at the top of his High School class, top 8% of his West Point class of June 1943 and considered by many of his fellow pilots in the 416th Bomb Group to be the best formation flyer in the Group.  By his fourth combat mission, he had already been chosen to fly on the left wing of the formation leader.  That was a position of considerable honor and responsibility, not to mention danger.  German gunners preferred to target the leading aircraft in a formation.  That fourth mission, on April 10, 1944, was a disaster for Bill Cramsie and his crew.  Hit twice by flak from the German 88mm cannons, they lost an engine over France and began losing altitude as they headed back across the English Channel on one engine toward their base at Wethersfield.  Only a few miles from land, their A-20 Havoc could carry them no further.  They went down in Bradwell Bay and neither plane nor crew were ever found.

Each passing year the technological advances in underwater search make it more likely that these young men will be located and honored appropriately.  We long for that day and continue to honor their sacrifice by heralding their achievements and the service of all who flew or worked with them during those trying times.  The background and details of this sad but inspiring saga, are covered at http://cramsie.blogspot.com and in the 416th web site at http://416th.com as well as the 416th Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/416th .

 Note:  This entry was written for the Cramsie blog cited above,  but Google has seen fit to post it here on the Ancient Coin blog and I can't find a way to get it transferred.  So, if you are looking for coin comments -- sorry :-( 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

More Verification of Fake News

Several months ago I cited a 78-page  Dutch National Police Investigation report that criticized Fake News in the media.  In particular, this investigation debunked the outrageous claims of Cultural Property Nationalists, many of whom are American Institute of Archaeology members or colleagues, that the funding of ISIS is (or was) derived in large measure by the looting and sale of cultural artifacts.  As I stated earlier, this claim was not universally supported within the archaeological community, but it did garner the support and encouragement of some "big name" leaders in that field.  It was clearly a text book example of the "big lie" syndrome that was eagerly disseminated by the media without even rudimentary verification.

An indepth study by MIT scholars, recently reported in The Atlantic,  analyzed some 126,000 contested news stories that surfaced on Twitter.  Their finding has undeniably confirmed that the propensity to lie or grossly exaggerate in the media, and consequently online, has risen to alarming proportions.  I suppose that some Archaeologists might feel vindicated in that they were just following the Pack while creating and feeding on the fallout from those Fake News claims of ISIS marketing through the antiquities trade.  Of course the lies were not innocent little barbs, they were extremely destructive and irreversible.   This abdication of professional ethics is in itself a serious cause for concern and could well lead to a backlash that those guilty of supporting had not anticipated.