Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Humble Hero: (Ret.) Chief Master Sgt. Peter S. Harding

This Veteran's Day, 2014 I honor my brother-in-law. 

I have known Peter for the forty-six years I have been with his sister, Donna. Yet if I add up all the time I have spent with him, it would be less than a week. This is due simply to the fact that he spent thirty years deployed in service to his country and has retired far from my home in Massachusetts. However, his career is remarkable and I desire honor his selfless exemplary service.

I’d like to begin by listing the military decorations Peter earned over the course of his career: three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, five Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and two Air Force Commendation Medals. He logged over 2,500 hours of flying time and completed over 400 parachute jumps.

Peter is a 1965 graduate of Foxboro High School and entered the Air Force in 1966. He was trained as a para-rescueman – a combat rescue and survival specialist earning Navy Diver qualifications, Army parachutist training, medical training and combat tactics.

Soon after training Peter was stationed in Thailand for a year, from where he flew helicopter rescue missions into North Vietnam to retrieve downed American pilots. During his second year-long tour in Thailand, he was involved in the evacuation of Saigon and the recovery of the crew of the cargo vessel Mayaguez, captured and held hostage by Cambodian forces on the island of Ko Tang. His parachute team was one of the first military units placed on alert to rescue U. S. personnel taken hostage in Iran. He was later deployed with a nine-man para-rescue team at the onset of problems with Iraq and was a key planner of the initial air assault against the Iraqi air defenses and follow-on rescue operations through the entire Gulf War. In the final years of his career, Peter was involved with astronaut rescue operations and was selected to work with NASA engineers to develop and evaluate escape vehicle design options for the U.S. Space station.

Significantly, in August of 1974 Peter returned home to walk his sister, Donna, down the aisle on our wedding day. He will always be a hero, and just as importantly to us, a loving uncle and great-uncle to our children and grand-children.... and to me, the big brother I never had growing up.

Thank you, Peter.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mata Hari Executed as Spy Oct. 15, 1917

Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" Zelle MacLeod (7 August 1876 – 15 October 1917), better known by the stage name Mata Hari, was from the Netherlands, She was an exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy[1] and executed by firing squad in France under charges of espionage for Germany during World War I

With the outbreak of World War I, Mata Hari's cross-border liaisons with German political and military figures came to the attention of the French secret police and she was placed under surveillance. Brought in for questioning, the French reportedly induced her to travel to neutral Spain in order to develop relationships with the German naval and army attaches in Madrid and report any intelligence back to Paris. In the murky world of the spy, however, the French suspected her of being a double agent. In February 1917 Mata Hari returned to Paris and immediately arrested; charged with being a German spy. 

Her trial in July revealed some damning evidence that the dancer was unable to adequately explain. She was convicted and sentenced to death. In the early-morning hours of October 15, 1917 Mata Hari was awakened and taken by car from her Paris prison cell to an army barracks on the city's outskirts where she was to meet her fate


Mata Hari at arrest

Mata Hari performing in 1905

Mata Hari in 1906, wearing only a bra and jewellery.

Short History Massachusetts Death by Electric Chair

Recently and over the past several years there have been too many stories reported of botched death penalty executions. In 1898, Massachusetts was the third state to employ the electric chair to carry of court ordered death sentences. Actually, Massachusetts was one of the first states to carry out the death penalty in colonial times but has since changed its approach. In early times, hanging was the primary method of execution. 

Some defendants in the 1600's were executed for religious affiliations. Mary Dyer was just one of the people executed for affiliating with the Quaker religion and there were dozens of individuals, both male and female, executed for witchcraft. In 1900, Massachusetts installed an electric chair to be used in death penalty cases. 

Control Room
Electrocution was the most common form of execution in the Commonwealth until capital punishment was abolished in 1984. After the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in the state, governors, including Mitt Romney, have tried to reinstate the death penalty. Attempts thus far have been unsuccessful.

When a criminal is to be electrocuted, their head and legs are shaved. Their eyebrows and facial hair may also be trimmed off to reduce the odds of the prisoner catching fire. Once the prisoner is fastened into the chair, a sponge dipped in saline solution is laid on top of their head to encourage conductivity. 

A single electrode is affixed to their head, and another is connected to one of their legs to complete the closed circuit. The prisoner receives two jolts of current: the length and intensity is dependent on the person’s physical condition. Generally, the first surge of approximately 2,000 volts lasts for as many as 15 seconds. This usually causes unconsciousness and halts the victim’s pulse. 

Next, the voltage is turned down. At this point, the prisoner’s body reaches up to 138°F, and the uninterrupted electric current causes irrevocable damage to his or her internal organs. The electric current burns the prisoner’s skin, forcing prison employees to peel the dead skin from the electrodes.

After close to 50 years of use, the state finally put the electric chair to rest along with the death penalty. The State of Massachusetts’ final use of capital punishment was documented in 1947.

Viewing Room

Friday, May 16, 2014

House of the Angel Guardian; Jamaica Plain, Boston / Memorial Day Story

Lately I have been dreaming of my deceased parents. Whether it is the advent of Memorial Day or some other reason, I feel compelled to share a story.

After the untimely accidental death of my grandfather, my dad was placed in the House of the Angel Guardian on August 7, 1937. At the time my father was living at the Franco-American school/orphanage in Lowell, Massachusetts. Two years previous he had been placed there with his two younger brothers and older sister for his destitute widowed father could no longer care for them.

The House of the Angel Guardian was an industrial school / orphanage situated in Jamaica Plain/Boston, Massachusetts. The orphanage was administered by the Belgian religious order, the Brothers of Charity. A historian described the home as "certainly no bed of roses under the strict rules," but it "inculcated manly virtues, self-discipline, independence, and respect for authority in its graduates, qualities useful in the military and industry...the monotonous diet of oatmeal, bread, milk, stew, potatoes and peanut butter." The Brothers taught dad the trade of printing and he worked as a printer most of his life.

Dad Far Right

Read Story of Dad's Parents Mendoza and Eveline Rousseau