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Hello Fellow History Buffs,

Welcome to the July edition of The Throwback, your monthly hit of entertaining and informative history tales that will make you say, “Wait! What?” If you are receiving this e-mail, you have signed up on my website or at one of my lectures or author events. 
 
On July 20, the world will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the seminal moments of the 20th century when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. planted their footprints on the desolate, gray surface of the moon. Days later, the crew of Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and fulfilled John F. Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s. 

But what would have happened if the mission did not go as planned?

Computer glitches, the failure of an ascent engine to ignite, or an inability to dock with the orbiting command module captained by Michael Collins could have stranded Armstrong and Aldrich on the moon or in outer space with no possibility of rescue. Some even feared that the lunar dust on the astronauts’ spacesuits would spontaneously combust as soon as it contacted oxygen inside the lunar module. The Apollo program had already suffered a fatal mishap—three Apollo 1 crew members died in a cabin fire during a launch pad training exercise in 1967—and the possibility of another deadly accident remained a constant worry. Under the worst-case scenario, NASA planned to end communication with the men, leaving them to either run out of oxygen or commit suicide with no further earthly contact. 

In case tragedy struck and Armstrong and Aldrin were left marooned on the moon, plans called for President Richard Nixon to address the nation and deliver a presidential eulogy penned by senior speechwriter William Safire, later a New York Times columnist. “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace,” reads the opening of the presidential address that thankfully was never delivered. To see the full text of Safire’s speech, read this piece I wrote for History.com or view the memo “In Event of Moon Disaster” on the National Archives website

Of course, some people believed the moon landing was all an elaborate ruse staged by NASA on a Hollywood soundstage in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the “I can’t believe we even have to have this conversation” category of stories, I wrote several years ago about a virtual lighting model developed by computer graphics chipmaker Nvidia that debunked claims that the Apollo moon landings never happened. 

This month also sees the culmination of the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament. You might be surprised to know that more than 100 years ago a women’s soccer team in England drew such huge crowds that they were banned for threatening the popularity of the men’s game. As I wrote for History.com, women who worked on the assembly lines of the Dick, Kerr and Co. factory in the northwest English city of Preston during World War I played pickup soccer games in the factory yard and regularly defeated squads of male apprentices. Recognizing the women’s talent, office administrator Alfred Frankland organized the Dick, Kerr Ladies team to play local charity games to raise money for injured servicemen. 

The women drew crowds that occasionally topped 25,000 in some of Britain’s most storied venues, such as London’s Stamford Bridge, Manchester’s Old Trafford, Glasgow’s Celtic Park, and Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Park. Women’s soccer proved to be popular—perhaps too popular to the liking of the men’s soccer establishment, who might have believed their ticket sales threatened. On December 5, 1921, England’s Football Association (F.A.) prohibited its members from permitting women’s team to use their grounds. Incredibly, the ban lasted until 1971.
WHAT I’M READING: Candice Millard is one of the best history writers in the business. She has made an art out of crafting books about lesser-known episodes in the lives of well-known figures, such as her book River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt’s near-death experience while traveling the Amazon in his post-presidential years. In Hero of the Empire, she writes about Winston Churchill’s capture and escape from a prisoner of war camp in South Africa during the Boer War. Churchill was only 25 years old when he was taken prisoner while covering the war for the London Morning Post, but Hero of the Empire is no coming-of-age story because the Churchill we are all so familiar with as prime minister is already fully formed by that point. Nicknamed “Pushful, the Younger” by a newspaper reporter, Churchill was hardly shy in sharing the belief that he would one day become prime minister. “I have faith in my star that I am intended to do something in the world,” he wrote to his mother, and the front-page news of Churchill’s capture during a battle in which he picked up a gun to assist British forces and his dramatic escape back home would help point him on a political trajectory to 10 Downing Street decades later. 
  
WHAT I’M WATCHING: I was very saddened to learn of the recent passing of author Tony Horwitz. Long before the current debates about Confederate statues and iconography, he highlighted how the wounds of the Civil War remain quite raw in his book Confederates in the Attic. Horwitz had returned to the divide between North and South in his latest book, Spying on the South, in which he retraced the travels of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who toured the South in the years leading up to the Civil War as an undercover correspondent for the New York Times. Horwitz’s keen eye looking at America’s cultural divide then and now is a big loss for all of us. In the days before his death, Horwitz sat down for this discussion of Spying on the South that can be viewed on the C-Span website. 
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO: One of the great things about living in the Boston area is how so much local history is truly national history as well. There’s a goldmine of stories about Boston history, and some of them are being unearthed on a weekly basis by the HubHistory podcast. Recent episodes have explored the Underground Railroad on Boston Harbor, the connection of Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth to the city, and the occupation of Boston by British troops. Even history buffs without connections to the Hub will enjoy the podcast since so much of Boston history is American history. 
WHEN THE IRISH INVADED CANADA
Since the release of When the Irish Invaded Canada, I’ve enjoyed getting to speak to curious and enthusiastic audiences about this little-known coda to the Civil War when an Irish-American army attempted to attack Canada, hold the British province hostage, and ransom it for Ireland’s independence. I was very happy to see the book profiled in the June 16 issue of the Wall Street Journal as well as in the Irish Echo. Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper also ran my op-ed explaining how this Irish-American army unwittingly played a role in Canada's birth 152 years ago. This month, I’ll be talking at the Bookstock book festival in Woodstock, Vermont. For a list of upcoming events, visit my website, and you can order the book by clicking here
 
If this e-mail was forwarded and you would like to subscribe to this monthly e-mail newsletter, click hereE-mail to let me know what you’re reading, watching, or listening to that I should check out or say hi on Twitter
 
Keep reading! 

Christopher Klein
Copyright © 2019 Christopher Klein, All rights reserved.


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