History Camp Followup

Madison returns with a report on his day at History Camp Colorado. Pictures from the event can be found on The History List’s Instagram page. Enjoy!

You may remember, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a guest post about History Camp, an upcoming event at which I was invited to present. Well, what was once the future is now past–the conference was held last Saturday and it was a resounding success! Now that it’s over, I figured you might like a candid look into what the presenters have to deal with behind the scenes.

Going back to the day before, I spent most of the day writing a script for the event. Truth be told, I probably put too much time into it-it was ten pages long by the end and although I had read it out loud to get a sense of the timing, I wasn’t really able to make it sound extemporaneous. There were also a whole bunch of supplies I had to gather: books, tablet, credit card reader, sharpies, money bag, laptop & usb stick (with my slideshow on it), change, flyers, order forms, probably something I’m forgetting too. It was four boxes in the end, although half of that was just merchandise.

The event was held in the Tivoli Student Union, and I had to get there early to set up my author’s table. This entailed moving the four boxes (probably 70 pounds total?) up to the presentation area on the fourth floor. Fortunately, they had a parking lot right up against the entrance (not free, but worth every penny) and a service elevator to go up, but it was still a big haul. The actual presentation space was unusual. You had the main room, which was kind of this two-story open balcony room a little like a makeshift theater. Then there were three other presentation rooms, but they were in different hallways, and they were all on slightly different elevations so if you wanted to switch rooms you had to make a few turns and climb a few stairs. I couldn’t switch rooms because I had to stay with the author’s table all day.

Speaking of which, getting that set up was easy once I had all the materials inside. It helps that our books really speak for themselves as far as quality goes. I was set up next to an author who had written a book about baseball in Colorado Springs. He had actually worn a vintage Cubs uniform to the event, which was pretty amazing to see. There were probably about 100, 120 people once everyone had filed in, which is pretty impressive for a first-time conference.

Anyway, once the introductions were done the presentations started up. Like I said, I was stuck in the room with the author’s tables so I essentially got a “random sampling” of what the conference had to offer. And I must say, it was really impressive! There was a college professor giving a run-down of her dissertation topic: ads civil war soldiers would place in the paper imploring girls to write them letters. There was an overview of the construction of the sewers of Denver, told by the governmental historian who had to put together a report about them for the Colorado Department of Transportation. There was a discussion of the human impact on the wildlife of Colorado, from the hunting and habitat reduction of the 1800s to the reversal and reintroduction of species in recent years. And then on a more micro scale, I heard the story of a resort hotel–how it was founded, built up, expanded, why it was popular, why it faded away, how it was sold, and what has since replaced it. There was also my presentation, slotted into the mid-afternoon. You can read about the topic here. It went well, except my script ended up being too expansive for the 45-minute time slot and I had to cut a few sections. Fortunately, I realized that was going to happen before I ran out of time so I was able to recover smoothly. Sadly, one of my favorite stories did not get to see the light of day. Maybe next time…

Overall, the event went very smoothly. Everyone was very friendly, too, especially the people putting on the event, which impressed the heck out of me. I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t been doing a presentation on behalf of the company. I would highly recommend if someone puts a conference like this together in your area—-go!

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Pulling the Thread of History: We’re Heading to History Camp!

As we prepare for History Camp Colorado next month, we wanted to give you some insight into how we chose our topic, the disappearance of General Walker’s aircraft on January 5, 1943. For that, we want to introduce you to our Managing Editor, Madison Jonas, who will be giving the presentation. Take it away, Madison!

You know what I like about studying history? You get to follow the consequences. Living in the present, it’s hard to ascribe a chain of causality through the actions you take and the events around you. But when we study historical events in detail and with focus, the chain can be linked together. And sometimes, you get an event that has outsize influence—small in isolation, but hugely significant to the events that follow.

Such an event occurred on January 5, 1943. There was an air raid conducted by heavy bombers—B-17s from the 43rd Bomb Group and B-24s from the 90th—based in New Guinea against Simpson Harbor, a major Japanese port in the Southwest Pacific. Going purely by the numbers, it was a small affair: 14 planes attacking, three shot down, two crews rescued, one cargo vessel sunk and three more ships damaged. But the consequences would ultimately shift the nature of the war in New Guinea over the next six months.

Unlike prior air raids against Rabaul and Simpson Harbor, the attack on January 5th was a daylight mission. Rabaul was a heavily defended base complex, and beyond the reach of fighter cover, so conventional wisdom had long-range bombers flying small missions at night and doing negligible damage in a token effort to harass the base. General Kenneth Walker, head of V Bomber Command, thought that a massed formation of bombers would be able to defend itself from enemy interception and inflict severe damage on enemy operations. Walker had even flown on the lead plane to assess the battle damage as a proof-of-concept. Tragically, he was lost that day, along with the entire crew of the SAN ANTONIO ROSE. The loss nixed further daylight bombing of Rabaul for the time being. It remained the center of Japanese operations, able to send out reinforcements to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands largely undeterred. Air operations against it saw no major impact until fighter coverage could be brought into range.

An Expensive Mission by Jack Fellows

On January 5, 1943, Brig. Gen. Kenneth N. Walker planned a large daylight raid on Rabaul to disrupt an assembling convoy. Walker was flying as an observer in the lead plane, B-17F-10 SAN ANTONIO ROSE. Over Rabaul, the bomber was hit by flak and then pursued south along the coast of New Britain by a flight of Oscar fighters from 11 Sentai. The location where the B-17 went down is unknown; however, it may have gone down deep in the remote Kol Mountains of New Britain. Two crewmembers, Maj. Jack W. Bleasdale and Capt. Benton H. Daniel, bailed out and survived the shootdown, only to be taken prisoner and executed by the Japanese. General Walker was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Painting by Jack Fellows.

The target of the attack on January 5th had been a convoy carrying over 4000 soldiers for a new ground offensive in the mountains of New Guinea. The convoy was scheduled to depart on the 6th, but by a stroke of luck it had been moved to nearby Jacquinot Bay the night before, dodging the strike. The near-miss, however, was shocking to Japanese higher-ups, who ordered additional fighter coverage on the convoy for the duration of its mission, which led to a fierce air battle over the convoy as it unloaded at New Guinea. Those troops were then sent to capture an outlying Allied mountain airbase called Wau, which led to the next ground engagement of the war in the Southwest Pacific. The U.S. also learned from the attempted convoy interception, developing specialized anti-shipping tactics that would lead to the overwhelming victory of Allied air power in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

The January 5th raid had significant reverberations, and I think this was partly reflected in the decision for General Walker to receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery in organizing and flying on the lead ship of the mission. The full breadth of the story, however, can only be seen in hindsight, with detailed research to piece together all the elements of the story. This is just a general summary—I’ll be delving into far more detail in my seminar at History Camp Colorado on November 12th. The story in full reaches back several days into December and forward into the present day, where the search for General Walker’s B-17 continues.

 

Save the date! IHRA is heading to HistoryCamp in November

This November, the first HistoryCamp in Colorado will be held in Denver. HistoryCamp is a day for history lovers of all types to get together and learn about a wide variety of subjects. Our session is called Medal of Honor: General Walker’s Disappearance on January 5, 1943. We will be discussing the January 5th B-17 mission to Rabaul and its place in the New Guinea campaign, as well as the possible fate of the B-17 SAN ANTONIO ROSE. Between sessions, there will also be an author’s table where you can pick up a copy of any (or all) of our books. For information on how you can attend HistoryCamp Colorado, visit their website. You don’t want to miss it!

Check us out at HistoryCamp Colorado on November 12th!