Daniel Boone Day

June 7

Daniel Boone

Today the Kentucky Historical Society celebrates the life of Daniel Boone, American pioneer and legendary folk hero.

Daniel Boone was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the—wait no—mixing up my folk heroes here. Boone was born in Eastern Pennsylvania, not Tennessee, but like Davy Crockett he was indeed raised in the woods so he knew every tree. No record of when he killed his first bear, but he was an expert hunter/trapper by age twelve.

Boone had two siblings who scandalized the Quaker world by marrying “worldlings”, ie. non-Quakers. This scandal may or may not have contributed to the family’s decision to move further west to the Shenandoah Valley and then to North Carolina in 1751. He married Rebecca Bryan five years later, and fought in the French and Indian War.

Legend has it that an American beech tree in Tennessee still bears Boone’s handiwork. The pioneer supposedly carved “D. Boon cilled a bar [killed a bear] on this tree in the year 1760”. (www.inhs.illinois.edu)

June 7 was chosen as Boone Day because it marks the supposed anniversary of the pioneer’s entry into Kentucky in 1767.

Two years later, Boone’s friend, a trader named John Findley, asked Boone to help him explore the unchartered wilderness, and Boone obliged.

Boone’s most famous trek may have been through 200 miles of Virginian wilderness to the Cumberland Gap, a journey immortalized by Caleb Bingham in his 1851 painting. Thousands of settlers later followed Boone’s path to make their way inland toward the Kentucky River.

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers the Cumberland Gap, Caleb Bingham, 1851

Daniel Boone Day has been celebrated for over 100 years. The 1908 American Practitioner states that

“Daniel Boone Day will be one of the features of the week, during which there will be sewing bees, apple parings, corn huskings and old-fashioned dances.”

That Boone Day, however, was celebrated on June 15th.

By 1922, the Kentucky Historical Society extended a cordial invitation to readers and friends “to attend Boone Day exercises on June 7”, the traditional anniversary of the day in 1767 that Boone first explored the backwoods of what is now Kentucky.

[And no, despite his penchant for journeying out to the middle of nowhere, Boone had nothing to do with the term “Boondocks”. That comes from the Tagalog word bondoc, which means mountain and was brought to the U.S. by military personnel in the Philippines.]


D-Day Anniversary

June 6


D-Day: Cargo Vehicles

“The eyes of the world are upon you.”

from General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s statement to the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force, June 1944

June 6 marks the anniversary of the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy that precipitated the long and brutal campaign to liberate Western Europe from Nazi power.

The invasion, also known as Operation Overlord, involved the landing of approximately 160,000 Allied troops, including U.S., U.K, Free French, Canadian, and Australian forces, in a single day along the heavily fortified Normandy coast. The day was scheduled to be June 5, but unfavorable weather conditions forced the landing back a day.

Contrary to popular belief, D-Day doesn’t stand for Debarkation Day.

“In fact, it does not stand for anything. The ‘D’ is derived from the word ‘Day.’ ‘D-Day’ means the day on which a military operation begins.”


Operation Overlord referred to the entire operation from the initial assault on June 6 to the crossing of the River Seine on August 19. Operation Neptune referred the beginning of the invasion, covering the assault on the beaches, and ended on June 30.

Then there was the lesser known “Operation Fortitude”. Operation Fortitude entailed a massive invasion through the narrowest point in the English Channel by the “First US Army Group” led by General George S. Patton.

D-Day: Invasion

Operation Fortitude was, needless to say, entirely made-up. A fictitious assault created to mislead the Germans into thinking the invasion would occur at another location. Secrecy was essential as the Germans had 55 divisions at their command in France, and the Allies could only land a maximum of 8 at any one time. Keeping the world’s largest invasion a secret was a feat almost as remarkable as the invasion itself. It required the Allies win complete dominance over UK airspace—Allied air forces suffered tremendous losses in the two months before the invasion in order to make this so. It required the UK to ferret out all German spies within their ranks and region and to force known spies to send misinformation back home.

The deception went so far as to set up a fake base for the “First U.S. Army Group” in England opposite the suspected landing site, complete giant rubber tanks, cardboard weapons, a paper mache oil pump, and scripted radio chatter.

D-Day: Wounded by the Chalk Cliffs

General Patton was an obvious choice for the fictitious assault. The Germans assumed Patton—one of the U.S. most capable generals—could lead such an operation. However, Patton had been disciplined for a “slapping” incident, something the Germans found difficult to believe was true. (It was.)

“Fortitude succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Long after June 6th, Hitler remained convinced that the Normandy Landings were a diversionary tactic to induce him to move his troops away from the Pas-de-Calais…He therefore kept his best units in readiness there, until the end of July…”

Normandie Memoire, Operation Fortitude

Within five days, over 325,000 troops had landed in Normandy.

The exact number of casualties and soldiers killed on D-Day itself are difficult to ascertain due to the large scale and complexity of the operation, and the conditions under which it was fought. Traditional estimates put the number of Allied casualties at 10,000 with the number of deaths accounting for a quarter of that.  More recent estimates have put the number of dead alone at over 4400, a little over half of that figure Americans.

D-Day: German Troops Surrender

“These men came here — British and our allies, and Americans — to storm these beaches for one purpose only, not to gain anything for ourselves, not to fulfill any ambitions that America had for conquest, but just to preserve freedom… Many thousands of men have died for such ideals as these… but these young boys… were cut off in their prime… I devoutly hope that we will never again have to see such scenes as these. I think and hope, and pray, that humanity will have learned… we must find some way… to gain an eternal peace for this world.”

— Former President Eisenhower at the 20th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. (The D-Day Companion: Leading Historians Explore History’s Greatest Amphibious Assault)


D-Day: Monument


65th Anniversary of D-Day on the Normandy Beaches

Dragon Boat Festival

5th day of 5th lunar month
June 23, 2012
June 6, 2011
June 16, 2010;

Dragon Boats

Duanwu is often called Double Fifth, because it falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, but it’s more commonly referred to as the Dragon Boat Festival, after its most famous annual event.

Almost as famous are the delicious special foods prepared for this date. The traditional dish, zongzi, is a triangular rice ball stuffed with sweet or savory fillings, and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The Duanwu beverage of choice is a special realgar yellow rice wine.


The inspiration for the holiday comes from the death of one of China’s first great poets, Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a political advisor in the late forth century BC who urged his king to unite with other kingdoms against the rising state Qin. However, jealous and corrupt political opponents counseled the king against the advice of Qu Yuan, who was accused of treason and forced into exile. It was during this exile that Qu Yuan traveled the country gathering and recording local folklore and legends.  When Qin did eventually attack and capture the capital city of Ying, Qu Yuan composed one of his greatest works, “Lament for Ying”. He then committed suicide by tying himself to a rock and jumping into a river.

The local fishermen tried to keep the fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body by throwing food into the water. Over time this became a tradition. Later a legend gained credence that Qu Yuan was killed by a great underwater dragon.


Qu Yuan

The Maoist government banned celebrations of Duanwu in 1949. It wasn’t until only a few years ago that the Chinese government officially reinstated three of the country’s most popular holidays: Tomb Sweeping Day, Mid-Autumn Festival and Duanwu.

Tonga – Emancipation Day

June 4

It would be hard to describe Tonga in a word, but you could do worse than  ‘exceptional’. Over the past two hundred years, the remote archipelago has stubbornly been the exception in the Pacific rather than the norm.

Though it was a British protectorate until 1970, Tonga is the only Pacific island nation never to have been formerly colonized. It’s the only nation in the region continuously governed by its indigenous population. And it’s the last Polynesian monarchy, making it one of only five members of the Commonwealth of Nations to have its own monarch.

Located about 3,000 kilometers east of Australia, Tonga consists of 171 islands.

Tonga is one of the smallest countries in the world, both in terms of area and population. At 747 sq. km, its landmass is roughly one-tenth the size of Los Angeles County and it has 1/100th the population.

Its life expectancy is 73–quite long for the region. And for our Moscow readers, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Tonga was 48 F/8.7 C.

That’s not to say Tonga is without problems. In addition to widespread poverty, public demands for reducing royal power have met stiff resistance. And its not hard to see why. Over the past two hundred years, Tonga’s monarchs have been the core force in maintaining its highly autonomous status and development.

Tonga has been inhabited since about 2500 BC. Oral history recalls the sovereign line dating back a thousand years. But there are no written records of Tongan history before Captain Cook’s landings in the 1770s. Cook called the place the “Friendly Islands” based on the population’s hospitality and his positive exchanges with the locals.

King George Tupou I

The first king of Tonga as we recognize it today was King George Tupou I. Tupou is believed to have been born in 1793. As a chieftain, he consolidated power over the disparate island groups.

“From a small, disputed inheritance in the Ha’apai group in 1820, his ambition to reunite Tonga after its civil wars which had begun in the 1780s led him first to the conquest of Ha’apai in 1826; he secured the inheritance of Vava’u in 1833, and the inheritance of the Tu’i Kanokupolu title which nominally gave him Tongatapu in 1845, and thus made him king of all Tonga.”

The Alleged Imperialism of George Tupou I. Campbell, I.C. Journal of Pacific History

He had abolished serfdom in Vava’u—part of Tonga—back in the 1830s. In 1862 he took two more extraordinary steps. Not only did he create a parliamentary system of government, he also…

“…abolished the system of semi-serfdom that had previously existed and established an entirely alien system of land tenure whereby every Tongan male, upon reaching the age of 16, was entitled to rent for life at a nominal fee a plot of bush land (api) of 8.25 acres, plus a village allotment of about three-eighths of an acre for his home.”

Landfalls of Paradise

For these and more sweeping changes, the first modern king is Tonga’s national hero. The anniversary of the Tupou’s coronation in 1875 is celebrated in December, but June 4 is Tonga’s National Day. It remembers both the anniversary of the the abolishment of serfdom in 1862 and the end of Tonga’s status as a British protectorate over a century later.

Mabo Day – Australia

On May 27, 1967, the Australian public voted to alter the language of the Constitution to remove discriminatory laws against the indigenous people.

One such Constitutional clause had previously declared:

“In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.”

Still, even decades after this sweeping reform, the Australian court held to a policy known as Terra Nullius. Terra Nullius was the doctrine that insisted that the occupation of the Australian continent did not occur until after European ‘discovery’ and colonialization. This historical whoops now generally estimated to be about 40,000 years off. It wasn’t overturned until the last decade of the 20th century, on June 3, 1992, in the extraordinary case of Eddie Mabo.

Eddie Mabo - Mabo Day

Born on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait in Queensland, Mabo was working as a gardener and groundskeeper at James Cook University when he was denied passage back to his birth island during a trip to visit his ailing father. Mabo took on the aged Australian albatross of indigenous landrights disputes. While pursuing a teaching degree (in his 40’s) Mabo waged a decade-long legal battle confronting the fallacy of Terra Nullius. He took his case all the way to the highest court in the land.

“The Mabo decision is arguably the most important decision that the High Court of Australia has made since Federation. It states Indigenous people have Legal Rights not just Symbolic Rights to all Crown Land in this country, as well as possible rights to pastoral leases. Mabo Day marked the beginning of a new era for Indigenous people. It changed Australian’s views of themselves and their rights to this land. It has forced mining companies and the corporate world to take stock of Indigenous peoples’ claims. It has radically altered the relationship between Indigenous and non Indigenous people in this country.”

Though Mabo Day is not an official holiday in Australia, the week from May 27 to June 3 is now known as Reconciliation Week. It is a week meant to encourage dialogue and help mend centuries of injustice against the nation’s indigenous people and to foster healing between Australia’s diverse communities.



Wild Ride on an Italian Superbus

June 2

Today the descendants of the world’s oldest Republic celebrate Republic Day.

Over 2500 years ago present-day Italy was ruled by a king with a superbadass name, Tarquinius Superbus, who inherited the throne, not through direct lineage, but the even-older-fashion way–by offing his wife’s dad King Tullius.

Servius Tullius had angered the Roman elite by implementing revolutionary policies that protected the poor and laid the foundations for constitutional government. Tarquinius and the king’s daughter Tullia, outraged at how her father was flushing their country down the toilet, led the conspiracy to assassinate him, ending his 44-year reign. According to legend, Tullia showed her remorse for the murder by repeatedly running over her father’s dead body with a chariot.

Tarquinius ushered in a new age of Roman reform, by repealing his father-in-law’s Constitutional decrees and maintaining the peace through violence, murder and terrorism. These halcyon days came to an abrupt halt in 510 BC. Just as Tullius’ daughter became the king’s downfall, Tarquinius’ son Sextus would become his, taking down not only his father, but the entire concept of monarchy in his wake.

The Rape of Lucretia

The unruly and loathsome Sextus decided it would be a thrill to rape one of the most respected and pious members of Roman patrician society. He told Lucretia, wife of the nobleman Collatinus, that if she refused to submit to him, he would have her killed and place her body in bed with a dead slave, all before her husband returned home. A fate worse than death, she would be disgraced for all time.

Lucretia gave in to the threat. But after the evil deed, she reported circumstances of the rape to her family. She then committed suicide to save them from scandal. The furor that arose against the king led to a revolt against the monarchy and the deposing of the whole king’s clan.

On these precarious beginnings grew the most famous republic in world history. A republic that only ended half a millennium later when Julius Caesar was elected dictator for life.

But that has nothing to do with Republic Day. No, the Italians celebrate Republic Day to commemorate this day back in 1946, when they elected to boot the House of Savoy, Europe’s longest ruling royal house, from power.

fascio-nating’ bit of linguistic trivia:

In 1922, after a series of riots and civil unrest, Italy’s King had appointed the strong figure of Mussolini, leader of the Fascist Party, to be the nation’s new Prime Minister. (Today’s word fascist comes from the Italian fascio, referring to a bundle of rods. In the 19th century the fascio was used by political groups as a symbol of Italian unity: the individual sticks of the fascio were fragile, while the bundle itself was unbreakable.)

The King assumed Mussolini would reign in the rebelling democratic and parliamentary institutions. Mussolini did indeed consolidate power, by declaring himself supreme dictator and doing away with any semblance of representative or Constitutional government.

In 1939 Mussolini and the Fascists brought Italy into World War II on the side of Nazi Germany in the hopes of rebuilding an empire–a mission accomplished by conquering King Zog of Albania. Mussolini met his fate near the end of the war. Executed by a Soviet firing squad, Mussolini’s body was hung upsidedown at an Esso gas station, where it became a punching bag for angry Italian citizens.


But his death didn’t ease resentment against the monarchy that had once promoted the dictator.

There were no names or specifics on the famous 1946 referendum. The ballot asked voters to determine whether the Head of the Italian State would be held by the Royal Family–the House of Savoy–or a democratically elected representative.

During this process King Vittorio Emanuele III handed over the throne to his son Umberto II. Umberto is called “the King of May”, referring to his fleeting reign. On June 2 and 3 a narrow margin of Italians voted for the final abolition of the Italian monarchy.

As a result of the referendum the king and his progeny were forced to leave Italy forever. It wasn’t until 2002 that this provision was overturned, and the son of King Umberto, Victor Emmanuel, exiled for 56 years, finally re-entered the land he once almost ruled.

Madaraka Day – Kenya

June 1

June 1 is Children’s Day in over 40 countries on five continents, but in Kenya, where roughly half the population is 14 or under, June 1 is Madaraka Day, one of Kenya’s three national holidays.

  • Madaraka Day:  June 1
  • Kenyatta Day: October 20
  • Jamhuri Day: December 12

The original Madaraka Day was June 1, 1963 when Kenya gained self-rule for the first following a century of colonization.

Madaraka means “autonomy” or “self-rule”. On the first Madaraka Day in 1963, Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta addressed the importance of the concept of “Hamrabee”.

“As we participate in pomp and circumstance, and as we make merry at this time, remember this: we are relaxing before the toil that is to come. We must work harder to fight our enemies — ignorance, sickness and poverty. I, therefore, give you the call Harambee! Let us all work hard together for our country—Kenya.”

Jomo Kenyatta, quoted by Anthony Cullen, reprinted in “How to Develop Resources for Christian Ministries“, 2004

Harambee comes from a Bantu term. meaning “work together” or “let us all pull together”. In bears much in common with ujamaa, a term popularized in Western culture by the emergence of Kwanzaa.

“Harambee is not new but a traditional principle which existed in every traditional society in Kenya. Each society had self-help or co-operative work groups by which groups of women on the one hand and men on the other organised common work parties, for example to cultivate or build houses for each other; clear bushes, harvesting etc.”

— The Harambee Movement in Kenya: The Role Played by Kenyans and the Government in the Provision of Education and Other Social Services, Susan Njeri Chieni

Six months later, on December 12, 1963, Kenya achieved full independence as the Republic of Kenya.

[The date of Kenya’s independence became of paramount interest in the United States in 2009 after a document surfaced purporting to be President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. The “Republic of Kenya” document is dated February 17, 1964.]