8 salacious secrets about our nation’s founders

FoxNews.com
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    AP

They are heroes of American history whose faces adorn our dollar bills and whose names are attached to cities, universities, streets and national holidays.

But the Founding Fathers and Mothers, those people we have immortalized as cultural icons central to our nation’s birth, were people, too. And, as such, they lived, loved, and misbehaved just like the rest of us mere mortals.

While doing research for my novel, “The Traitor’s Wife,” on Benedict and Peggy Arnold, and their attempt to end the American Revolution, I discovered that there was much more to the infamous tale than just Benedict Arnold’s decision to turn traitor. Benedict Arnold had a back story of his own, yes. But even more interesting was his wife’s back story.

An imposing figure at six foot two inches tall, Washington was no wallflower when given the opportunity to cut loose.

Here is a look at some of the unknown facts about the men and women who created our nation, and the mischief and adventure they indulged in while doing so.

1. Benedict Arnold & Peggy Arnold: A Checkered Past.  Everyone knows the name Benedict Arnold. To be called a “Benedict Arnold” is a huge insult, implying you can’t be trusted.But few know of the traitor’s wife, Peggy Shippen Arnold, and the role she played in American history.

Socialite Peggy Shippen was half Benedict Arnold’s age when she met and married the patriotic war hero. Besotted by his new bride, Arnold forgave the fact that Peggy was loyal to the British and had had a past romance with the dashing British spy, John André.

But it seemed that her old habits persisted, because Peggy connected her new husband to her former lover, and together, the three of them hatched the plot to deliver West Point to the British. Had Peggy and Benedict Arnold succeeded, the American fight for independence would have been crushed.

2. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Peggy Arnold: Swooning for a Traitor.
Benedict Arnold and John André were not the only two men smitten with the charming Peggy Arnold.

George Washington, an unabashed flirt, famously told his friend and mentee, Benedict Arnold, (before Arnold’s treason was discovered!) that half of his men were in love with Peggy Arnold.

Meanwhile, George Washington’s aide, a promising young officer by the name of Alexander Hamilton (yes, the same Alexander Hamilton who later went on to help found the United States Treasury and the banking system as we know it), was with Washington at the Arnold residence on the day that Benedict’s treason was uncovered.

When Peggy heard of her husband’s newly-discovered treason, she fainted. Hamilton, very concerned, brought Peggy Arnold flowers in bed and attempted to comfort her in her distress.

If only he knew!

3. George Washington and Caty Greene: Dancing & Diplomacy. Flirtation and flattery were not the only ways by which the tall, handsome commander in chief charmed women. Washington was also a famously good dancer.

An imposing figure standing at six foot two inches tall, Washington was no wallflower when given the opportunity to cut loose. At a ball during the winter of 1779, Washington reportedly danced for three hours with the same woman – and no, her name was not Martha. Her name was Mrs. Caty Greene, and she was the energetic and beautiful young wife of one of Washington’s favorite generals, Nathanael Greene.

This winter in New Jersey marked the third year of a bloody war, when American volunteers were often forced to go without both food and pay, and General Washington wrestled with the bleak outlook for the patriotic effort. It seems that there was, at least, one bright spot for the general during that frigid winter.

4. Agent 355: A Spy at the Soiree. Brains and beauty can be a dangerous combination, especially when they come with a skill for spying. Meet Agent 355. She is believed by historians to have been a young socialite living in British-held New York City throughout the American Revolution.

A favorite of the British officers, and a frequent guest at their salons, dances and dinner parties, Agent 355 was recruited by fellow New York patriots to be a member of George Washington’s top-secret spy ring.

Throughout the war, Agent 355 used her unique access to British leadership to feed the American commander in chief vital information on the enemy army’s plans and movements. Employing her proximity to the officers, as well as her disarming wit and charm, Agent 355 proved devastating to the British cause.

Agent 355 is the only member of Washington’s top-secret spy ring whose identity remains unknown to this day and that, perhaps, is the best indication of how skilled she was in espionage.

For more information on Agent 355 and this spy ring, check out the book by Fox News Channel’s Brian Kilmeade called “George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution.”

5. Aaron Burr and Theodosia Prevost: An Unlikely Pair.Aaron Burr is perhaps best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. But a lesser-known fact is that the young officer and patriot also married a loyalist.

Burr’s bride, an intelligent and sophisticated young woman by the name of Theodosia Prevost, was a recent widow, her husband having died while serving in the British army. Theodosia was also a close friend of Peggy Shippen’s. The two women had both been popular favorites of some of the same British officers earlier in the Revolution.

Theodosia Prevost is cited by some historians as the reason we know of Peggy’s role in her husband’s treason.

According to a Burr biographer, Peggy divulged to Theodosia the central role she had played in her husband’s schemes, even complaining of how exhausting it had been to maintain the charade of innocence for Washington. Theodosia in turn reportedly confessed this to Aaron Burr, who waited until the principle
figures in the treason were dead before revealing this information.

Peggy Shippen Arnold’s family members were outraged by Burr’s account, and responded by accusing Burr – a notorious flirt – of making advances at Peggy in a carriage ride. Advances which, the Shippen family alleged, were not reciprocated.

Regardless of this colonial-era he-said-she-said, Peggy’s role in the plot has now been substantiated by her own hand-written letters and British documents recording payments made to the Arnolds.

6. Benjamin Franklin: A Founding Father in France. Benjamin Franklin was a brilliant scientist, a skilled diplomat, and an ardent patriot. He also happened to be the most popular man at the French court of Versailles, winning over not just the royal diplomats, but their wives as well.

Early in his life, Franklin had been the poster-boy for character traits such as frugality, industriousness, and good sense. However, when he sailed for France in 1776, this 70-year-old Founding Father was a savvy enough politician to recognize that his new home, the palace of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, was nothing like his hometown of Philadelphia.

The French Court was an extravagant and dissolute place where Franklin’s previous diligence and sensibility had little value, and might even appear to the royal residents more like vices than virtues.

In France, Franklin had to achieve nothing short of the impossible: he had to convince King Louis, already in debt from years of overextended government and devastating military campaigns, to bankroll a foreign army and support a non-existent nation against the world’s mightiest military power.  Tough argument to make? Franklin succeeded.

The image that persists of Franklin’s years in France is one of a randy and frolicsome man, shirking his duties and enjoying far too much of the French wine and French women.

Perhaps Franklin did have some dalliances during his decade at Versailles. But what is certainly true is that he identified the role he had to play in order to succeed, and he played it skillfully.

7. John Adams & Abigail Adams: Patriots & Partners. The other key figure in the negotiations in France was John Adams. Adams, a man of a decidedly different temperament than Franklin, never did adjust to life at court, and found many more critics than he did admirers.

Adams, unable to affect the affability and easy charm of his fellow Founding Father, wrote openly of how appalling he found Franklin’s behavior in France. He even went so far as to say that a statue in the Court of the Versailles garden would do better as an ambassador than Benjamin Franklin!

Franklin, like the French, found Adams irksome. He wrote that Adams was “always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.”

Though he never did click with the French, Adams had the unconditional support and backing of another American patriot: his wife Abigail.

A devoted partner and trusted confidante, Abigail Adams wrote diligently to her husband from the time of his first trip to the Continental Congress through the remainder of their days in public service.

Thanks to love letters that begin with pet names such as “Miss Adorable,” and “My Dearest Friend,” history knows the depth of the relationship enjoyed between Abigail and John Adams. The two discussed everything, from the state of their children’s upbringing, to debates over politics, to reactions to current events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution.

8. Sybil Ludington: A Rider Like Paul Revere. When you hear about a midnight ride through dangerous territory, during which time a lone rider warns of the coming British army, you think of Paul Revere, right?

Well, it turns out there was a colonial heroine who rode twice as far as Paul Revere allegedly did, and she was a sixteen year old girl named Sybil Ludington.

A young patriot from upstate New York, Sybil was tapped for her dangerous midnight mission after the British raided Danbury, Conn., in April of 1777.

Setting out after dark in freezing late-winter rain, Sybil rode forty miles. Some reports even state that she fought off a band of highway robbers along the way, rousing the local militia and ordering them to the home of her father, an American colonel. From Sybil’s home, the men marched and engaged the British at the Battle of Ridgefield.

Sybil, though often forgotten today, was honored by George Washington for her heroic ride.

 

Allison Pataki received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University and spent several years writing for television and online news outlets, including ABCNews.com and FoxNews.com. The daughter of former New York State Governor George Pataki, she is the author of the new book, “The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel” (Howard Books 2014).

Scrapped for a penny: USS Forrestal, Navy’s first supercarrier, begins final voyage

FoxNews.com
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    Feb. 4, 2014: The 1,067-foot ship, which was shut down in 1993, is seen being towed from Philadelphia on Tuesday. The trip is expected to last 17 days, weather permitting, company officials told FoxNews.com (Courtesy: All Star Metals)

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    June 15, 2010: The decommissioned aircraft carrier Ex-USS Forrestal departs Naval Station Newport for a three-day cruise to Philadelphia. The first of the supercarriers, Forrestal was commissioned Sept. 29, 1955, and was in service for more than 38 years. (U.S. Navy/Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Melissa F. Weatherspoon)

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    On July 29, 1967, while in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War, stray voltage triggered a rocket to launch from an A-4 Phantom on the flight deck, ultimately striking an armed A-4 Skyhawk piloted by then-Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain III. A chain reaction of fires and explosions ensued, causing a daylong fire aboard the ship’s deck, which was fully packed with planes. In all, 134 men were killed, more than 300 others were injured and 21 aircraft were damaged. (U.S. Navy)

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    The incident prompted changes within the Navy to damage control and disaster response training, as most of the sailors who were trained as firefighters were reportedly killed during the initial blast, forcing the remaining crew to improvise its rescue efforts. (Courtesy: Ken Killmeyer)

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    After seven months of repairs, the ship later returned to sea for more than two decades before ultimately being decommissioned in 1993. It was stationed in Newport, R.I., until 2010 when it was moved to Philadelphia’s Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility. (U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier — the long-decommissioned Forrestal — has begun its final voyage to a Texas scrapyard, after the Pentagon tried to sell it, found no takers and had to pay a penny to get rid of it.

The 1,067-foot ship, which was shut down in 1993 after more than 38 years of service, was being towed Tuesday morning down the Delaware River and along the Eastern Seaboard before crossing the Gulf of Mexico to reach All Star Metals in Brownsville. U.S. Navy officials signed a 1-cent contract with the Texas company in October to dismantle the ship perhaps best known for a 1967 incident that killed 134 and injured more than 300 others, including a young Navy aviator named John McCain.

“We started our departure from the dock at 5:31 a.m.,” All Star Metals President Nikhil Shah told FoxNews.com, adding that the trip should take roughly 17 days. “This is the largest ship that we’ve ever dismantled, and the largest ship the U.S. government has ever awarded to be dismantled. It’s a very big job to us.”

“As crewmembers, we relive July 29, 1967, every time we hear a loud, unexplained noise, whether you’re at the beach or you’re in your office.”

– Ken Killmeyer, USS Forrestal historian

Shah declined to specify the precise cost of towing and dismantling the behemoth ship, but said the figure was “in the millions.”

All Star Metals hired Foss Marine Towing to drag the ship to its final destination, Shah said.

Named for James Forrestal, the former Navy secretary and the first U.S. Secretary of Defense, the carrier was lauded as the “biggest ship ever built” by Popular Science, which detailed it in its August 1954 issue. More than 16,000 engineers, draftsmen and builders worked on the ship, which took an estimated $217 million — nearly $2 billion in today’s dollars — to build. Readers were amazed to learn that the ship featured enough air-conditioning equipment to cool New York City’s Empire State Building two-and-a-half times over. It launched on Dec. 11, 1954.

“Her 3,500 crewmen will use nearly twice as much water as the eight big boilers that feed her main turbines,” Popular Science reported. “To supply both needs, her water tanks must store nearly 400,000 gallons.”

The July 29, 1967, incident occurred while the ship was in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. Stray voltage triggered a rocket to launch from an F-4 Phantom on the flight deck, ultimately striking an armed A-4 Skyhawk piloted by then-Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain III, who would later spend five years as a POW, serve in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully run for president. A chain reaction of fires and explosions ensued, causing a day-long fire aboard the ship’s deck, which was packed with planes. In addition to the deaths and injuries, 21 aircraft were damaged. The incident prompted changes within the Navy to damage control and disaster response training, as most of the sailors who were trained as firefighters were reportedly killed during the initial blast, forcing the remaining crew to improvise its rescue efforts.

After seven months of repairs, the ship returned to sea for more than two decades before ultimately being decommissioned in 1993. It was stationed in Newport, R.I., until 2010, when it was moved to Philadelphia’s Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, where more than 20 decommissioned naval vessels are reportedly being stored for possible foreign sale transfer, donation or artificial reefing.

Naval officials tried to donate the historic ship to be used as a memorial or a museum, but no viable applications were received. Ken Killmeyer, historian for the USS Forrestal Association and a survivor of the 1967 incident, told FoxNews.com in October that the sale marked a “sad day” for all Americans.

While the ship could have made an excellent educational tool, Killmeyer said the “very costly” process to maintain massive aircraft carriers was difficult to overcome.

“If they’re not painting them or working on it somehow, it’s an odd day because they’re always maintaining something to keep them afloat,” Killmeyer told FoxNews.com in October. “The weather plays havoc on their exterior no matter what climate they’re in. The biggest expense is maintenance.”

Killmeyer, now 67, said he can still smell the “total devastation” aboard the ship and the broken sense of security felt by the crewmen, who thought they were much safer at sea compared to their counterparts on land.

“As crew members, we relive July 29, 1967, every time we hear a loud, unexplained noise, whether you’re at the beach or you’re in your office,” Killmeyer said. “Or, some people are affected by certain odors. When you smell flesh burnt from jet fuel, it kind of stays with you forever. You can’t get away from it.”

Museum’s restored shark-nosed fighter plane salutes exploits of Flying Tigers in WWII

Associated Press
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    Jan. 21, 2014: In this photo made available by Rolando Gutierrez shows a Curtis P-40 Warhawk fighter plane as it is loaded for transport in San Diego, Calif. The warplane is bound for the World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA. The P-40E is the model flown by the 1st American Volunteer Group during World War II. It was immortalized in military lore in a John Wayne film. (AP)

NEW ORLEANS –  New Orleans will get a flavor of one of the most heralded episodes of World War II when a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, restored in the shark-nosed markings of the famed Flying Tigers, goes on display at the National World War II Museum.

The aircraft, a P-40E model, is the kind flown by the 1st American Volunteer Group formed in China by Gen. Claire Chennault shortly before the United States entered the war. However, this one never flew for the Tigers; its service was limited to the Aleutian Islands.

Thousands of P-40s were produced during the war and supplied to U.S. allies in every theater. Most were scrapped as advanced fighters such as the P-51 Mustang became available. Today, P-40s are rare.

Having any P-40 is important in telling the Tigers’ story, said Nell Calloway, a granddaughter of Chennault, who organized U.S. volunteer pilots in 1941 as a civilian adviser to the nationalist Chinese government of Chiang Kai-Shek.

“Because the relationship between China and the United States is so important, we have to do whatever we can do to try to remember that airplane and how they used that airplane to contribute to defeating the Japanese,” said Calloway, director of the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in Monroe.

Chennault, a Texas native who grew up in Louisiana, resigned from active U.S. duty in 1937 to become an adviser to Chiang. He designed airfields and a warning network “of people, radios, telephones, and telegraph lines that covered all of Free China accessible to enemy aircraft,” he wrote in his autobiography. He retired as a U.S. Air Force lieutenant general. He died in 1958.

Japan, which had moved aggressively in China since 1931, stepped up its attacks in 1937, and full-blown war broke out.

The museum’s P-40 was painted to match the shark-faced aircraft flown by Robert Lee Scott Jr., commander of the 23rd Fighter Group created by Chennault when the Flying Tigers were brought into the U.S. Army Air Force after the United States entered the war.

Chennault wrote in “Way of a Fighter” that he never knew why the public dubbed his group the “Flying Tigers” when the planes were painted with a shark nose copied from a Royal Air Force squadron.

The Tigers found fame in the air and on the silver screen. The 1942 film “Flying Tigers” put a swashbuckling John Wayne in the cockpit of a shark-nosed P-40 blasting away at Japanese aircraft.

The museum’s P-40 has the shark face but is painted with the modified fuselage logo designed for U.S. service: a tiger bursting through a star with a torn Japanese flag and Uncle Sam hat, said Rolando Gutierrez, chief engineer of Flyboys Aeroworks, the San Diego, Calif., company that restored the aircraft.

The museum’s curators began searching for a P-40 in 2004, said Tom Czekanski, director of collections and exhibits.

“We knew we wanted it to represent the Air Force in China-Burma-India, so it would be a Flying Tiger — the shark-mouth paint,” he said.

Czekanski wouldn’t say how much it cost to buy and restore. Lafayette oilman and philanthropist Paul Hilliard, a World War II Marine, provided a big chunk of money, he said.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Curtiss built more than 14,000 P-40s of various models from 1939 to about 1944, but high-performance aircraft such as the Mustang, Republic’s P-47 Thunderbolt and the Vought F4U Corsair outclassed the Warhawk by 1944.

Adding to the P-40’s scarcity is that after the war, enthusiasts snapped up surplus high-performance aircraft for air racing and private piloting. But the P-40 found little demand.

Gutierrez estimated fewer than three dozen remain.

The museum’s P-40 was shipped to Cold Bay in the Aleutian Islands, where it had fewer than 20 hours of flying time when it was scrapped after a taxiing accident in 1942.

“The fields were very muddy, and often the plane would dig in. Then it would flip end over end,” Czekanski said.

In the 1980s, he said, someone looking for a P-38 found the P-40’s remains in a ditch near the airfield.

“We came to this a little late in the collecting game,” Czekanski said. “Early on, people were collecting planes that were in service or parked and saved. As the supply goes down, people go to greater and greater lengths to get them.”

The Warhawk will be the 10th aircraft installed in the museum, though only one can still fly, Czekanski said.

Gutierrez said the P-40’s engine, landing gear, some castings and most of the instruments are original, but most of the plane had to be built from scratch in a 72-week effort using copies of more than 3,000 original drawings provided by the Smithsonian Institution and 4,000 pages of ground-crew manuals.

The aircraft was shipped by truck to New Orleans. Eventually it will be lifted into the second floor of the museum’s Campaigns of Courage pavilion.

The allies at Anzio: Rare photos from WWII

 On January 22, 1944, six months after the Allied invasion of Sicily, American and British troops swarmed ashore at Anzio, roughly 30 miles south of Rome. The brainchild of Winston Churchill and dubbed Operation Shingle, the attack caught German troops stationed along the Italian coast largely by surprise; but after the initial onslaught, the Germans dug in. The next four months saw some of the fiercest, most prolonged fighting in World War II’s European Theater. Read more and see all the pictures at Life.com.

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Riddled with bullet holes

American soldiers inside hospital tent riddled with holes caused by German shrapnel from long range gun attacks that killed 5 and wounded 8 patients in the tent. (George Silk / Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Author of Lincoln mystery letter from 1846 identified

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Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. –  It’s been more than 25 years since workers renovating Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield found a letter fragment in a mouse’s nest inside a wall, but researchers think they’ve finally identified the mystery letter’s author.

The clue was a mention of poetry.

Lincoln had exchanged several letters with a newspaper editor about poetry and politics. So Stacy Pratt McDermott, an associate editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, set about comparing the handwriting on the fragment with a letter that Andrew Johnston had written to Lincoln in 1865 and a note that Johnston had written in 1872 on an old letter from Lincoln.

The match was unmistakable.

Besides solving a mystery, the discovery sheds light on a lesser explored aspect of Lincoln’s character.

“It illuminates an interesting part of Lincoln’s career in that he enjoyed poetry and tried his own hand at poetry,” Papers of Abraham Lincoln Director Daniel Stowell told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.

Johnston was a native of Richmond, Va., and published the Quincy Whig in Illinois.

Lincoln had written to him on Feb. 25, 1846, to send him a piece of poetry he had requested.

Johnston’s reply, sent on March 10 from Quincy, Ill., was the mystery letter. In it he thanks the future president for the poem and asks if Lincoln was its author.

In an April 18 letter, Lincoln responded that he was not, but added that he would “give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is.”

Somehow, the March 10 letter from Johnston ended up stuffed into a wall in Lincoln’s home. Some theories are that it was put there as insulation or by mischievous boys known to stuff things into cracks in the walls.

The fragment was uncovered in 1987 during a full restoration of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

That it survived is all the more remarkable because many of Lincoln’s documents from before he became president were burned, Stowell said.

“They were cleaning house before he went to Washington in 1847 and again in 1861, and they were considered junk,” Stowell told The Journal-Register. “This survived because it was put in a wall for whatever reason.”

How many people heard the Sermon on the Mount? Or the Gettysburg Address?

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    An 1890 painting of the Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch.

Have you ever wondered how many people in the audience actually heard the Gettysburg Address? How about the Sermon on the Mount or Moses at Sinai?

The answer to those questions, according to two New York University researchers, is more than you think.

People gave famous speeches for millennia without amplification. But how many people in the crowd could understand what was being said? In Monty Python’s film, “Life of Brian,” a large crowd shows up to hear Jesus’ sermon, but by the time Jesus’ words made it to the fringes of the crowd some clarity was lost. (“Blessed are the cheese-makers.”)

The two researchers, Braxton Boren and Agnieszka Roginska at NYU’s Music and Audio Research Lab, replicated a famous experiment by Benjamin Franklin using modern scientific techniques, and reported their findings at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Francisco last week.

The story begins in the late 1730s. A preacher, George Whitefield, was drawing immense crowds at his outdoor sermons in London. At one sermon, held in Mayfair, Whitefield claimed to have addressed 80,000 people, all of whom he presumed could understand him. Franklin didn’t believe it and took an opportunity to test the claim in 1739 when Whitefield spoke in Philadelphia.

“I had the curiosity to learn how far he could be heard,” Franklin wrote.

Whitefield was described as handsome, slim, and slightly cross-eyed, with a voice “like a lion,” according to contemporary reports. He was one of the founders of Methodism in America and was among the most famous preachers of his time.

In Philadelphia, he spoke to an audience of perhaps 6,000 people stretched between Front Street and the Delaware River, a good crowd considering that Philadelphia’s population at the time was only about 13,000. Franklin couldn’t resist. He walked from the front of the crowd toward the river, listening for the point at which the preacher was no longer intelligible.

Then, he went home and did the calculations.

According to Boren, Franklin ran two numbers, the area over which Whitefield’s voice was intelligible, and a guess at how many people could fit in that area. The area, he decided, was about 23,000 square meters.

Using modern modeling technology and archeological records of what Market Street looked like then, the NYU researchers thought Franklin nailed it.

Franklin also estimated each person took up 2 square feet, or about 0.2 square yards. His conclusion then was that Whitefield could have been heard by as many as 125,000 people under perfect conditions, but, Boren said, being a modest New Englander, Franklin concluded that figure was wildly off and settled on “more than 30,000,” Boren said.

“There were certain things he didn’t account for and certain things he over-accounted for, but by the end his estimate was a pretty good estimate,” Boren said.

The original calculation was off, Boren said, because the kind of density Franklin was using is what modern acoustical researchers call “mosh-pit conditions.” The crowd more likely was “solid,” which is about half a square meter per person, little more than half a square yard, and much less dense.

Using those calculations Boren and Roginska concluded Whitefield could be heard by 20,000-30,000 people on a good day, a perfectly still crowd, no wind or carriages clattering by, just as Franklin said.

Still, how could someone be heard that far? Whitefield was speaking in an area of dense construction and the buildings and streets probably acted as sound reflectors.

But, it was probably more than just the acoustics of his environment.

The NYU computer models, based on Franklin’s description, give one answer: Whitefield was very loud. They estimate that if you stood three yards in front of him, his voice would have registered 90 decibels, matching the loudest average sound levels from voices ever measured in a modern lab.

“The international standard for loud speech is 74 decibels,” Boren said.

According to Jack Randorff, an acoustical consultant and engineer from Ransom Canyon, Texas, the NYU model assumed people could hear about 30 percent of what was being said. Since the audience knew the context of his material, their minds filled in the rest.

Additionally, the style of public speaking was different in the past. Randorff said the speakers stood up straight and might have raised and stretched their arms so their diaphragms were extended.

Speeches of the past also had an entirely different cadence. Orators often spoke in bursts of four or five words with considerable emphasis instead of long phrases. Lincoln might have said, “Four score…and seven years ago….our fathers…brought forth…” It also allowed them to take deep breaths so they could keep going.

The buildings around Whitefield would have added six decibels to his voice, which would have doubled the effective area his voice would have carried, Randorff said.

Rare warplane that survived Pearl Harbor attack returning to US

Associated Press
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    UNDATED: This photo provided by the Collings Foundation, shows a Buffalo, N.Y.-built American fighter that’s one of the few remaining still-airworthy planes to survive the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (AP)

ALBANY, NY –  A New York-built American fighter that’s one of the few remaining still-airworthy planes to survive the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is being donated to a Massachusetts-based organization that flies World War II aircraft at living history events across the nation.

Robert Collings, executive director of the Stow, Massachusetts-based Collings Foundation, said that the purchase of the Curtiss P-40B Warhawk from an aviation museum in England was completed this week. The plane will be disassembled and shipped to the United States, where it eventually will fly over Buffalo and other cities, with plans to participate in the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in 2016, he said.

“The history that comes with it is pretty special,” Collings said Friday, the day before the 72nd anniversary of the surprise attack in Hawaii that launched the U.S. into the Second World War. “It was obvious that we needed to get this airplane back to America.”

Collings said a sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous bought the plane for several million dollars from The Fighter Collection in Duxford, England. He said the person who bought the warplane will donate the aircraft to the Collings Foundation, bringing its collection of World War II aircraft to a dozen, including a B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator, both bombers.

The Warhawk heading back to the U.S. came off the assembly line at the Curtiss Aircraft Co. plant in Buffalo in early 1941. Later that year, it was undergoing repairs in a hangar at Wheeler Field on Oahu when waves of Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. While more than 300 other U.S. planes were destroyed or damaged during the attack, the P-40B escaped unscathed.

But seven weeks after the attack, the plane crashed into a mountain on Oahu, killing the pilot. His body was recovered but the wreckage was left at the remote crash site. In the 1980s, a California warplane restoration group recovered the wreck and began working on the P-40B, rebuilding it with parts salvaged from two similar aircraft. The plane was flying again by 2004, soon after being acquired by The Fighter Collection.

Collings said the plane was purchased from the English museum for “several million dollars” but wouldn’t divulge the sale price or who the sponsor is. He said only a handful of P-40Bs exist, including one owned by Microsoft founder Paul Allen. Curtiss produced nearly 14,000 P-40s at its Buffalo plant from 1939-44. It was a workhorse for American and Allied air forces early in the war, and it was the same plane flown by the famed Flying Tigers, the name given to the American squadron that fought for China against Japan before American entered the war.

The only other Pearl Harbor survivor still flying is a Grumman J2F-4 Duck, a privately owned, float-equipped biplane based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, according to vintage warplane experts. The few other surviving aircraft, such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Sikorsky JRS-1 amphibious search plane, are no longer airworthy.

“It’s pretty important in terms of the rarity of that particular airplane,” Jeremy Kinney, a Smithsonian aviation curator, said of the foundation’s P-40B and its Pearl Harbor connection. “We don’t even have one.”

Secret bunker under Prague hotel opens to public

Associated Press
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    Dec. 4, 2013.: An escape staircase at the nuclear shelter from Cold War era is pictured at five star Jalta Hotel in downtown Prague, Czech Republic. (AP)

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    Dec. 4, 2013: A dummy of a policeman is placed at a desk as part of an installation at the nuclear shelter from Cold War era at five star Jalta Hotel in downtown Prague, Czech Republic. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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    Dec. 4, 2013: A eavesdropping station is placed as part of an installation at the nuclear shelter. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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    Dec. 4, 2013: To mark the 55th anniversary, the hotel began to turn the bunker into an Iron Curtain museum whose first part was opened to the public, Nov. 2013. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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    Dec. 4, 2013: A dummy of a policeman is placed at a desk as part of an installation. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

PRAGUE –  One thing was for sure when foreigners stayed at a prestigious Prague hotel during the Cold War era — their telephone conversations were carefully monitored by secret police in a hidden underground bunker some 20 meters (66 feet) under the building.

The Jalta hotel at Wencaslas Square in the heart of the Czech capital was built in 1958. Its massive bunker with its reinforced concrete walls was meant to provide Communist Party members and military officials a shelter in the case of a nuclear attack.

But it was also used as a center for surveillance operations that targeted western visitors staying at one of the several international hotels in Prague at the time.

To mark its 55th anniversary, the 500 square meter (5,382 square feet) bunker has since been turned into a museum. It opened to the public last week.

Sandra Zouzalova, Jalta’s public relations manager, said Wednesday the hotel wanted to shine a light on the many secret activities of the Cold War era.

Jalta was one of many places used by foreign diplomats where the Communists gathered intelligence. West Germany’s business representation office in the 1970s was one of the prime targets, she said.

“They were eavesdropping on all of the hotel rooms,” Zouzalova said.

Inside the bunker is some of the original equipment, including a switchboard, a tape recorder and numerous wires that once led to the hotel’s 94 rooms.

Also on display is a floor plan that shows some rooms painted in red, green and yellow.

Zouzalova said the red rooms were given to high-value targets.

She said the operation didn’t cover just phone calls.

Listening devices were attached to lint brushes, and prostitutes were often used.

The shelter, which had walls that were two meters (6.6 feet) thick, had its own ventilation system and a huge water tank that would allow more than 150 people to survive for months.

The place was shrouded in secrecy until 1998, when Czech authorities gave up the space for use. That was nine years after the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended Communist regime.

The bunker is open two days a week and guests can visit with advanced booking.