How many hours of sleep has this mystery caused since May 25, 1977? How many sleepless nights have people spent pondering this great unknown, trembling with fear and terror? Well, after reading my blog post today, you won’t have to contend with this particular fear again because the mystery is about to be SOLVED! I have discovered the answer…and because I’m in a generous mood, I’m going to share it with you! (You may send me frozen Snickers and Dr. Pepper out of gratitude if you wish!)
OK. I know precisely what you are thinking, and have been thinking, every since the first Star Wars movie. You have wondered what really happened to the Death Star. On screen it appears to be blown to smithereens, but deep in your heart you have had that nagging fear that it’s still out there somewhere, lurking in space, perhaps sneaking up on us by hiding behind our moon where we can’t see it. And one day, you fear, it will pop out from the dark side of the moon and blast us into oblivion.
Fear not! For I have found the Death Star and it is the subject of today’s blog post. I found the Death Star while walking down a sidewalk in Portland, OR last week with my oldest son. I certainly wasn’t trying to solve the mystery on that morning, but as we walked by a house – there it was – sitting right there in plain sight outside of a basement window. Imagine my surprise – and my delight to have the mystery solved.
But then, I began to wonder: it looked intact! Does that mean it could really still be functional? But then, I thought that it’s so small!!!! It doesn’t look like it would be much of a threat to our planet so we didn’t need to be sleepless any more. And THAT’S when I began to be disillusioned. You see, I always thought it was HUGE, monstrous in fact. But it clearly isn’t very big at all.
So, what’s my conclusion? Two things: 1) the Death Star still does exist and we have nothing to fear from it due to it’s small size, and 2) all those people who were in the movie must be very, very small to fit inside this thing. There you have it! (Don’t forget to send the frozen Snickers and Dr. Pepper!)
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1820, U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, was mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Once friends, Decatur sat on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy for five years in 1808 and later opposed his reinstatement, leading to a fatal quarrel between the two men.
Stephen Decatur was reared in the traditions of the sea and in 1798 joined the United States Navy as a midshipman aboard the new frigate, United States. That year, he saw action in the quasi-war with France and in 1799 was commissioned a lieutenant. Five years later, during the Tripolitan War, he was praised as the greatest American naval hero since John Paul Jones.
In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. Sustained action began in June 1803, and in October the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by gunboats. Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be used as a model for building future Tripolitan frigates, and on February 16, 1804, Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured vessel.
After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force sailed into Tripoli harbor and boarded the Philadelphia, which was guarded by Tripolitans who were quickly overpowered by the Americans. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire. Famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson hailed the exploit as the “most bold and daring act of the age,” and Decatur was promoted to captain. In August 1804, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the Battle of the Gunboats, which saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.
In 1807, Commodore James Barron, who fought alongside Decatur in the Tripolitan War, aroused controversy when he failed to resist a British attack on his flagship, the Chesapeake. Decatur sat on the court-martial that passed a verdict expelling Barron from the Navy for five years. This began the dispute between Decatur and Barron that would end 13 years later on the dueling grounds in Maryland.
In the War of 1812, Decatur distinguished himself again when, as commander of the USS United States, he captured the British ship of war Macedonian off the Madeira Islands. Barron, meanwhile, was overseas when his Navy expulsion ended in 1813 and did not return to the United States to fight in the ongoing war with England. This led to fresh criticism of Barron from Decatur, who later used his influence to prevent Barron’s reinstatement in the Navy.
In June 1815, Decatur returned to the Mediterranean to lead U.S. forces in the Algerian War, the second Barbary conflict. By December, Decatur forced the dey (military ruler) of Algiers to sign a peace treaty that ended American tribute to Algeria. Upon his return to the United States, he was honored at a banquet in which he made a very famous toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!”
Appointed to the Navy Board of Commissioners, Decatur arrived in Washington in 1816, where he became a prominent citizen and lived a satisfying life politically, economically, and socially. In 1818, however, dark clouds began to gather when he vocally opposed Barron’s reinstatement into the Navy. The already strained relations between the two men deteriorated, and in March 1820 Decatur agreed to Barron’s request to meet for a duel. Dueling, though frowned on, was still acceptable among Navy men. On March 22, at Bladensburg in Maryland, Decatur and Barron lifted their guns, fired, and each man hit his target. Decatur died several hours later in Washington, and the nation mourned the loss of the great naval hero. Barron recovered from his wounds and was reinstated into the Navy in 1821 with diminished rank.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.