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Radio Terror Panics the Nation... The Martians Have Landed!

On the Sunday night prior to Halloween, Mercury Theater presents War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. It begins with an introductory narration by Orson Wells followed by dance music as if it is a normal broadcast. The music fades in and out as a series of news flashes report on strange lights from the planet Mars as if a giant gun has been shot toward Earth. Then a reporter on the scene describes the crash of a huge cylinder at a farm near Grover's Mill, New Jersey. There is a humming sound, and the cylinder opens. A strange beast emerges. "It is indescribable!" shouts the reporter. He then proceeds to describe it. "Something is happening.... a beam of light!" You can hear shouts in the background and then a long silence. "Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to be having technical difficulties." Yes, they are. The switchboards at AT&T light up. People are crying and screaming as the telephone operators try to calm the callers. If anyone had a lick of sense they would have realized that everything was happening too quickly to be real. Yet 1 in 12 listeners believed it was real. The next day newspaper headlines read "RADIO PLAY TERRIFIES NATION" Actually, the NEWSPAPER was pointing out the unreliability of their competitor, RADIO news! Luckily the newspapers spelled Orson Wells' name correctly. The young man is now famous. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
A year prior, the FCC Commissioner had pointed to the potential of radio to terrorize the public and give children nightmares. When I was a kid living in the Los Angeles area, I was fascinated when the movie, "War of the Worlds" starring Gene Barry came on TV. The movie centered the story on Los Angeles... not New Jersey. They named places that I knew, so when the TV said that the Martians were topping the hills, I could see those hills from my front yard! I ran outside to look! OK. OK. I was just a kid, and I already knew that it wasn't really happening, but I still felt compelled to look. [7] [8] [9]

Peace for Our Time

"I have returned from Germany with peace for our time."
-- Neville Chamberlain, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain never said "Peace in our time." That is a quote from the Book of Common Prayer, but the Prime Minister returns home in late September after a conference with Hitler and waves the Munich Agreement. This peaceful interlude will be brief, though. The Munich Crisis, as it was called, started years before with the breakup of Austria-Hungry after World War 1 and the creation of the nation of Czechoslovakia. Many ethnic Germans who had been living in Austria suddenly found themselves living in Czechoslovakia and they complained. Hitler is itching to annex those parts along the Czechoslovakian border. They call the area "Sudetenland" meaning "the mountainous country", but it really describes areas all over the map. The agreement itself calls for an evacuation of the Czechs... right the heck now. They aren't too happy about it, but they agree nevertheless. Poland had already annexed the Polish-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia. They have few friends now except the Soviets. The UK was supposed to be an ally, but no more.. [10] [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The German Chief of the General Staff, Ludwig Beck, resigned in protest of the annexation warning that it would start a world war! Imagine that. He planned to have Hitler arrested if only the UK had threatened to defend Czechoslovakia and oppose annexation. That would have given Beck the justification to arrest Hitler, but it was not to be. Chamberlain caved. It is easy to look back and say, "We could have avoided war, if only. If only." I'm not sure that Beck's plan would have worked. In the end Neville Chamberlain's agreement looked like appeasement, and he was replaced by Winston Churchill... the man who had warned that war was coming if they didn't do something, and once the war had begun he was charged with fighting the war he didn't want to fight in the first place. [13]

The Night of Broken Glass

Jews are leaving Germany by the thousands, but the USA has determined through eugenics that the majority of Jews are potential criminals, or imbeciles. Jews who cannot get out of Germany are moving to the larger cities such as Berlin where there is some anonymity, but the Nuremberg Laws require Jews to identify themselves when asked. The Yellow Stars sewn to a Jew's clothing won't be required for another 3 years. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews is forbidden. Even Jewish families who had sincerely converted to Christianity a generation prior are considered "tainted," so to speak. The Brownshirts stand outside Jewish businesses with signs encouraging a boycott. Then a Nazi diplomat is assassinated in France by a Polish-Jewish teenager. In retaliation, the Brownshirts gather for an evening of terror while the German authorities look the other way. Over 1,000 synagogues are burned, holy scrolls are defiled, shop windows are smashed and 91 Jews are murdered. 30,000 Jewish men are sent to concentration camps. And so it begins. [14] [15] [16] [17]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I was standing in the Jewish section of a local bookstore when a woman asked for my help. I was wearing a skullcap so she figured I was Jewish. (Uh... Yeah!) She was Christian, but she felt drawn to the Jewish texts. I asked her a few questions, and determined that her family had converted to Christianity long ago but they were originally Jewish on her mother's side. Her eyes widened when I explained that Nazi Germany would have identified her as a Jew and sent her to a concentration camp. It was unpleasant news, I know, but after the Holocaust many Jews tried to forget their Judaism, and often failed to tell their children. That leaves future generations vulnerable to a round up. But Alex! That can't happen in the good old USA! Can it? Yes it can. Japanese-Americans were rounded up during World War 2. I had to warn her. I gave her some advice on learning Hebrew and recommended two reasonable translations. Unquestionably, she was Jewish.

Notable Births

  • Donald Knuth (Living): One of the big hitters of computer science. [18]
  • Ted Turner (Living): Founder of CNN and husband of Jane Fonda until 2001. [19]
  • Jerry Brown (Living): Governor of California. His girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt, called him "Governor Moonbeam." [20]
  • And in Entertainment...
  • -- Johnny Paycheck: Best known for singing, "Take This Job and Shove It" [21]
  • -- Natalie Wood: She was the cute girl in the old, "Miracle on 34th Street" and Maria in Westside Story. [22]
  • -- Jon Voight (Living): "National Treasure II", the TV show "24" and the father of Angelina Jolie [23]
  • -- Dawn Wells (Living): Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island. [24]
  • -- Christopher Lloyd (Living): 'Doc' Brown in "Back to the Future" and Uncle Fester in "The Addams Family". [25]

**Note: (Living) means they were alive when I checked.

In Other News

  • Hitler seizes the Holy Lance that pierced Jesus. Supposedly. Different churches claim to have this holy object. [26] [27]
  • The Toll House chocolate chip cookie is invented. Toll House is a popular restaurant featuring home-style cooking. [28]
  • Howard Hughes breaks the around the world speed record. He completes his flight in 3 days, 19 hours and 17 minutes. [29]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1938, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. The War of the Worlds (radio drama) - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 6 January 2017. “In the days following the adaptation, widespread outrage was expressed in the media. The program's news-bulletin format was described as deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast and calls for regulation by the Federal Communications Commission.[3] The episode secured Welles's fame as a dramatist.”
  2. Orson Welles - War Of The Worlds - Radio Broadcast 1938 - Complete Broadcast. - YouTube (1938). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds. The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated 'news bulletins', which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a 'sustaining show' (it ran without commercial breaks), thus adding to the program's quality of realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated. In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage. The program's news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast, but the episode secured Orson Welles' fame.”
  3. Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds panic myth: The infamous radio broadcast did not cause a nationwide hysteria.. slate.com (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Blame America’s newspapers. Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted. In an editorial titled 'Terror by Radio,' the New York Times reproached 'radio officials' for approving the interweaving of 'blood-curdling fiction' with news flashes 'offered in exactly the manner that real news would have been given.'”
  4. AT&T Operators Recall War of the Worlds Broadcast - AT&T Archives - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Originally aired on October 30, 1938, the radio broadcast caused panic, and at the time prompted listeners to dial '0' for operator in droves. (Or, if they lived in an area still without direct dial service, then just picking up the phone would get the operator.) The operator, circa 1938, was the first line of defense in terms of emergency information, but of course, the operators knew nothing of any alien landings. Yet they were well-trained in keeping a level head and calming customers, which, undoubtedly, came in handy at the time.”
  5. Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds panic myth: The infamous radio broadcast did not cause a nationwide hysteria.. slate.com (2013). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “How did the story of panicked listeners begin? Blame America's newspapers. Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted.”
  6. War of the Worlds . American Experience . WGBH - PBS (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Although most listeners understood that the program was a radio drama, the next day's headlines reported that thousands of others plunged into panic, convinced that America was under a deadly Martian attack. It turned out to be H.G. Wells' classic The War of the Worlds, performed by 23-year-old Orson Welles.”
  7. 75 Years Ago, 'War Of The Worlds' Started A Panic. Or Did It? : The Two-Way : NPR (2013). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “According to Radiolab, about 12 million people were listening when Welles' broadcast came on the air and 'about 1 in every 12 ... thought it was true and ... some percentage of that 1 million people ran out of their homes.'”
  8. The War of the Worlds (1953) - IMDb (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “A small town in California is attacked by Martians.”
  9. War of the Worlds (Season 4, Episode 3) - Radiolab (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Correction: In this program, we referred twice to the fact that 12 million people heard the 'The War of the Worlds' broadcast when it was first aired in 1938. However, no one knows for sure how many people were listening. We also said that the FCC Commissioner referred to Orson Welles as a 'radio terrorist.' However, that quote comes from November 1937, 11 months prior to the War of the Worlds broadcast, when FCC Commissioner George Henry Payne protested against radio broadcasts that 'produced terrorism and nightmares among children.'”
  10. Sudetenland - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “the German name (used in English in the first half of the 20th century) to refer to those northern, southern, and western areas of Czechoslovakia which were inhabited primarily by ethnic German speakers, specifically the border districts of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Czech Silesia located within Czechoslovakia, since they were part of Austria until the end of World War I.”
  11. Munich Agreement - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “The Chief of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck, protested in a lengthy series of memos that it would start a world war that Germany would lose, and urged Hitler to put off the projected war.”
  12. Neville Chamberlain - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Chamberlain's reputation remains controversial among historians, with the initial high regard for him being entirely eroded by books such as Guilty Men, published in July 1940, which blamed Chamberlain and his associates for the Munich accord and for allegedly failing to prepare the country for war. Most historians in the generation following Chamberlain's death held similar views, led by Churchill in The Gathering Storm.”
  13. Winston Churchill - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Out of office and politically 'in the wilderness' during the 1930s because of his opposition to increased home rule for India and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII, Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister.”
  14. Kristallnacht - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed.”
  15. Nuremberg Laws. ushmm.org (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “People with three or more grandparents born into the Jewish religious community were Jews by law. Grandparents born into a Jewish religious community were considered 'racially' Jewish. Their 'racial' status passed to their children and grandchildren. Under the law, Jews in Germany were not citizens but 'subjects of the state.' This legal definition of a Jew in Germany covered tens of thousands of people who did not think of themselves as Jews or who had neither religious nor cultural ties to the Jewish community. For example, it defined people who had converted to Christianity from Judaism as Jews. It also defined as Jews people born to parents or grandparents who had converted to Christianity. The law stripped them all of their German citizenship and deprived them of basic rights.”
  16. Black, Edwin. IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation. Crown, 138-139. ISBN 9780609607992. 
  17. The Holocaust - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “The Holocaust also known as the Shoah (HaShoah, 'the catastrophe'), was a genocide in which Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and its collaborators killed about six million Jews. The victims included 1.5 million children and represented about two-thirds of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe.”
  18. Donald Knuth - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “He is the author of the multi-volume work The Art of Computer Programming. He contributed to the development of the rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms and systematized formal mathematical techniques for it. In the process he also popularized the asymptotic notation. In addition to fundamental contributions in several branches of theoretical computer science, Knuth is the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system, the related METAFONT font definition language and rendering system, and the Computer Modern family of typefaces.”
  19. Ted Turner - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “an American media mogul and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour cable news channel. In addition, he founded WTBS, which pioneered the superstation concept in cable television.”
  20. Jerry Brown - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “In 1979, an out-of-state columnist, Mike Royko, at the Chicago Sun-Times, picked up on the nickname from Brown's girlfriend at the time, Linda Ronstadt, who was quoted in a 1978 Rolling Stone magazine interview humorously calling him 'Moonbeam'.[41][42] A year later Royko expressed his regret for publicizing the nickname,[43] and in 1991 Royko disavowed it entirely, proclaiming Brown to be just as serious as any other politician.”
  21. Johnny Paycheck - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Donald Eugene Lytle (May 31, 1938 – February 19, 2003), better known by his stage name Johnny Paycheck, was an American country music singer, multi-instrumentalist and Grand Ole Opry member most famous for recording the David Allan Coe song 'Take This Job and Shove It'.”
  22. Natalie Wood - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “an American film and television actress. She was known for her screen roles in Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass, Rebel Without a Cause, The Searchers, and West Side Story. She first worked in films as a child, then became a successful Hollywood star as a young adult, receiving three Academy Award nominations before she was 25 years old.”
  23. Jon Voight - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Jonathan Vincent 'Jon' Voight (born December 29, 1938) is an American actor. He is the winner of one Academy Award, having been nominated for four. He has also won four Golden Globe Awards and was nominated for eleven. He is the father of actress Angelina Jolie and actor James Haven.”
  24. Dawn Wells - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Dawn Elberta Wells (born October 18, 1938) is an American actress who is best known for her role as Mary Ann Summers on the CBS sitcom Gilligan's Island. She and Tina Louise are the last surviving regular cast members from that series.”
  25. Christopher Lloyd - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “Christopher Allen Lloyd (born October 22, 1938) is an American actor and voice actor best known for his roles as Emmett 'Doc' Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel Addams Family Values (1993).”
  26. Brad Meltzer. History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.. ISBN 9780761178651. “In October 1938, the lance that Hitler believed to be the Spear of Destiny was in a Viennese museum. With Austria now under Nazi control, Hitler supposedly ordered the SS to seize the relic and move it by train to Nuremberg.” 
  27. Holy Lance - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “The Holy Lance also known as the Holy Spear, the Spear of Destiny, or the Lance of Longinus, is the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross, according to the Gospel of John. Several churches across the world claim to possess this lance.”
  28. Chocolate chip cookie - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 12 January 2017. “The chocolate chip cookie was invented by the American chef Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She invented the recipe during the period when she owned the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts. In this era, the Toll House Inn was a popular restaurant that featured home cooking. It is often incorrectly reported that she accidentally developed the cookie, and that Wakefield expected the chocolate chunks would melt, making chocolate cookies. In fact, Wakefield stated that she deliberately invented the cookie. She said, 'We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with Toll House cookie.'”
  29. Howard Hughes - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 25 January 2017. “On July 14, 1938, Hughes set another record by completing a flight around the world in just 91 hours (3 days, 19 hours, 17 minutes), beating the previous record set in 1933 by Wiley Post in a single engine Lockheed Vega by almost four days.”

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