USA Government

November 14, 1957 – Apalachin Mafia Summit Bust

Home of Joseph Barbara, Apalachin, New York. Photo: Gordon Rynders, New York Daily News

Home of Joseph Barbara, Apalachin, New York. Photo: Gordon Rynders, New York Daily News

On November 14, 1957 approximately 100 key Mafia bosses, advisors, and their bodyguards converged on Apalachin, New York to meet at the 53-acre estate of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara.  On the agenda: resolve conflicts among the families of La Cosa Nostra (the American version of the Sicilian Mafia) regarding gambling, casinos, local and international narcotics smuggling and dealing, garment industry rackets (manufacturing and loansharking), trucking, labor and unions, and other operational issues.  Recent hits and attempted hits on leaders of individual families also needed attention to prevent all-out war, particularly between the Genovese, Scalice, and Anastasia factions.

Edgar Croswell, a local New York trooper, had grown curious about Barbara estate activities after several suspicious encounters with previous guests.  Learning that many local motel rooms were being reserved by Barbara’s son, he started keeping a close eye on the residence.  As the luxury cars and limos flocked to Barbara’s house, state police began taking down license plate numbers.  Background checks revealed the presence of known criminals, reinforcements were called in, road blocks were set up, and eventually a lot of expensive tailoring was ruined as mob bosses and underlings tried to escape into the brush.  Guns and $100 bills were scattered across the hillside, continuing to turn up for months afterward.

Joseph Barbara

Joseph Barbara. Photo: Geocities/Organized Crime Syndicates website

Fifty-eight men were apprehended, roughly fifty escaped.  Among those consigned to the “paddy wagon”: top figures Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci, and Joseph Bonanno.  Their explanation that the gathering was a “get-well-soon” coffee clatch for Barbara went over like a set of cement overshoes.  Up to this point, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had been reluctant to admit the existence of organized crime in America.  The Apalachin summit bust made the syndicate and its influence painfully clear, and Hoover responded by creating the “Top Hoodlum Program” to pursue Cosa  Nostra bosses throughout the country.

The Apalachin summit of “Who’s Who” in 1957 American, Canadian, and Italian mafiosi inspired many portrayals in books and film.  A version of the event appeared in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Returns, and was also referred to in Hollywood’s Goodfellas and Analyze This.

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November 12, 1957 – Moorpark First Town Powered by Nuclear Energy

On November 12, 1957, the small town of Moorpark, California, became the first town in the United States to be entirely powered by electricity generated from a nuclear reactor.  At 7:30 PM, the lights went out for all 1100 residents of the rural Ventura County burg; twenty seconds later, when they came on again, history had been made.  Local farmers and townspeople, shop owners and newspaper editors, all had different reactions to the new technological marvel.  Barton Miller, Moorpark’s postmaster, was “pretty excited”.  “My wife and I drove up on a hill that night so we could see the town all lighted up.”  Grocery store owner Ruben Castro experienced the event as a “mystery”.  He admitted, “I didn’t know anything about atomic power, other than it was used for a bomb.  I guess I should have been happy that we were using this warlike energy for peacetime purposes.”  Whitaker’s Hardware owner James Whitaker felt let down by the whole event.  “It was very undramatic.  We were like, ‘Oh, so what.'”  An editor of the local newspaper was downright suspicious.  He accused the power company of indulging in “hocus-pocus” in a column titled, “Interesting No Doubt, but Partially Phony”.

Credibility and wider interest came with television coverage two weeks later on Edward R. Murrow’s See it Now program.  The footage obtained by a New York reporter and three-man camera crew put Moorpark on the map.  “We were more impressed with being on national television than about the event itself,” said resident and featured homeowner Charles Sullenbarger.

The Moorpark experiment had originated from President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program, which sought commercial uses for the new atom-splitting technology developed for military applications.  All through the 1950’s, the federal government encouraged the national power industry to take advantage of nuclear power as a cleaner, more efficient alternative to fossil fuels for generating electricity.  Moorpark’s “nuclear-flavored electricity” was generated from a small reactor in nearby Simi Hills, operated by Atomics International, a division of North American Aviation, which eventually became Rockwell International.  Southern California Edison transferred the 6500 kilowatts of energy generated by 20,000 kilowatts of nuclear reactor heat to the entire town for only about one hour, although the reactor continued to fill part of the town’s electricity needs for years.  “It was a very successful experiment,” A.C. Werden Jr., an Edison engineer explained, “We proved we could do it.  We could furnish electricity to a community from a nuclear reactor.”

Hardware-purveyor Whitaker’s slightly humorous, slightly ironic assessment of Moorpark’s scientific milestone illustrated the disconnect that can exist between visionaries and grass-roots folks.  “There was a feeling around town that the whole thing had been much overrated,” he explained.  “It was just a short little zip on TV.”

Atomics International reactor control room, 1959

Atomics International reactor control room, 1959. Photo: EnviroReporter website

November 11, 1957 – Eero Saarinen-Designed War Memorial Center Dedicated

War Memorial Center, Milwaukie, Wisconsin

War Memorial Center, Milwaukie, Wisconsin. Photo: Milwaukee War Memorial Center website

On November 11, 1957 – Veterans Day – the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center opened and was dedicated to the men and women who had served in the United States Armed Forces.  Designed as a floating cruciform structure by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, the magnificent building features cantilevered portions and has since been named a Milwaukee Landmark.  On the west-facing facade, a 1,440,000-piece mosaic mural by Air Force veteran and Milwaukee resident Edmund Lewandowski displays Roman numerals honoring those who gave their lives in World War II, the War on Japan, and the Korean conflict (1941-1945, 1950-1953).

On this Veterans Day, on behalf of grateful Americans everywhere, 1957 Time Capsule wants to express a most heart-felt thank you to all veterans and service members of United States Military forces past and present, at home and around the world.  I am grateful for your service and your sacrifice for us and for your country.

May we never forget.

Memorial Mosaic by Edmund Lewandowski

Memorial Mosaic by Edmund Lewandowski. Photo: Milwaukee War Memorial Center website

November 5, 1957 – Election Day in Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann talks with Col. William Kuhn, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Photo: US Army

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann talks with Col. William Kuhn, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Photo: US Army

On November 5, 1957, the first Tuesday in November, voters in integration battlefield Little Rock, Arkansas went to the polls to elect a new mayor.  The incumbent, Democrat Woodrow Wilson Mann, had decided not to run for a second term.  Mann’s election campaign in 1955 to put Little Rock’s first Republican mayor, Pratt C. Remmel, out of office, had been blessed by Arkansas’ Governor Orval Faubus, Senator James Fulbright, and Representatives Brooks Hays and Wilbur Mills, all Democrats.  But by the late fall of 1957, Mann knew he had fallen from grace with his state party machine.

The Little Rock school district had been ordered to integrate, starting with the 1957 school year, in compliance with the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.  Nine African-American students had enrolled in Little Rock Central High and attempted to attend the first day of classes in September.  Gov. Faubus had responded by activating the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the teenagers from entering the school.  Even though he never supported classroom integration, Mann wrote, in one of a series of articles later published by the New York Herald Tribune in 1958, he felt bound to uphold the law in the Supreme Court’s ruling against desegregation.  He contradicted Faubus’ interpretation of the events surrounding the crisis, asserting that the Guard troops weren’t necessary to prevent violence.  A small group of organized agitators, and weak-kneed Faubus’ political pandering were to blame.  “Left to ourselves we could easily complied with the law,” he asserted.

So on a fateful day in September, Mayor Mann telegraphed President Dwight Eisenhower.  “I am pleading to you as president of the United States to provide the necessary troops within several hours”, he wrote, adding that an armed mob was growing by the minute.  Eisenhower deployed the Army’s 101st Airborne and the Little Rock Nine, as the students came to be known, entered Central High.  Roy Reed, author of a biography of Orval Faubus and reporter for the Arkansas Gazette at the time, said Mayor Mann “did what needed to be done and stood up”, adding, “It almost certainly cost him any future that he had in politics in Arkansas.”  Gov. Faubus subsequently expressed his regret over ever having supported Woodrow Mann for mayor.

With the political writing on the wall, and crosses burning on his front lawn, Mann decided not to run for reelection.  Democrat and construction company owner Werner C. Knoop was voted into office on November 5th, along with a slate of new school board members, one of which ran on a militantly anti-integration platform.  Mann, an insurance broker who as mayor had taken small but significant steps toward racial equality in Little Rock city government, relocated to Houston, where he stood a better chance of success in business.  He remained in Houston, where he retired in 1990, and passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.

November 4, 1957 – Time Magazine Reports on Jimmy Hoffa and the AFL-CIO

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AFL-CIO President George Meany

On November 4, 1957, a Time magazine article reported on the recent vote by AFL-CIO union leadership to oust the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) from the parent organization.  AFL-CIO President George Meany, “the stocky, onetime plumber’s helper with a mind and heart as tough as cast-iron pipe”, together with his Executive Council, followed through on their promise to sever ties to the IBT if they elected James Riddle Hoffa president.  Hoffa and the Teamsters were dirty; unless they cleaned house, Meany wanted nothing to do with them.

Hoffa had risen through the IBT ranks over the past ten years.  Through strikes, boycotts, fraud, wiretaps, bribery, and perjury, the union and its leadership had become one of the most powerful labor groups in the nation.  Newly-elected President Hoffa’s predecessor, Dave Beck, had been called to testify before Sen. John McClellan’s powerful Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and had taken the Fifth Amendment 140 times in response to questioning before that body.  Now Hoffa was confident that the AFL-CIO Council wouldn’t have the guts to kick out the IBT – the IBT contributed over $840,000 in per capita dues annually, and too many industries depended for their livelihood on transportation by Teamster truckers.  An angry IBT could easily tie up deliveries, perform raids, and splinter the resolve of the parent group.

But Meany and the AFL-CIO Executive Council held firm, Time reported.  After ninety minutes of discussion, and ninety minutes of deliberation, the Council gave its verdict: the Teamsters were suspended on a 25 – 4 vote.  Only representatives from the Teamsters, “scandal-tinged” Bakery Workers, “powerful” Carpenters, and Letter Carriers unions had sided with the IBT.  “Under George Meany’s tough hand,” Time declared, “a powerful majority had shown that the AFL-CIO would risk its own future to protect honest unions from creeping corruption.”  If Hoffa and his cronies were removed from power, and Teamster abuses were corrected, the IBT could return.  Otherwise, the Council would recommend expulsion.

Hoffa had been cocky with reporters before the hearing, but he marched out “grim and glum”.  Soon on the heels of the AFL-CIO smack-down, a Manhattan federal court ordered Hoffa to stand trial on perjury and wiretapping charges.  Also, in Washington, rank-and-file IBT members secured a preliminary injunction preventing Hoffa and his followers from assuming union leadership, alleging election fraud.  Things weren’t looking good for Jimmy.  Were his leadership days numbered?

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Teamster’s President, Jimmy Hoffa

Where Were They Then? – Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee at Newsweek's Washington bureau, late 1950s. Photo: Mike Lien, The New York Times-Redux

Ben Bradlee at Newsweek’s Washington bureau, late 1950s. Photo: Mike Lien, The New York Times-Redux

Benjamin Crowninshield “Ben” Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post, was a towering figure in American journalism with a rich family history (literally and figuratively) and a broad experience of life and the world. His family relations and close friendships included Old World royalty and New World privilege. He moved among people who made the news and then made sure they were the news. He is best known for giving Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein free rein to follow the slim story of the Watergate Apartments break-in to its damning conclusion, ultimately bringing down President Richard M. Nixon and radically remaking the journalism profession for all who followed. Bradlee not only served his country by pursuing the truth, he also served in the Pacific during World War II as an naval intelligence officer. He participated in numerous operations including the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle ever fought. After the war, Bradlee immediately started on his career as a reporter for the New Hampshire Sunday News, Newsweek, and the Washington Post.

Where was Ben in 1957? Through a connection at the Post, Bradlee had been assigned to the United States French embassy in 1951 as a press attaché. There he joined the staff of the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), which produced Pro-American films, magazines, research, speeches, and news items for use by the CIA throughout Europe (propaganda, if you like). Bradlee’s official role with USIE ended in 1953 and he began reporting for Newsweek in 1954.

In 1956, Ben interviewed members of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), or National Liberation Front of Algeria. The FLN was a socialist political party with a revolutionary guerilla arm fighting to liberate colonial Algeria from control by France. The war of liberation lasted from 1954 until 1962, when the French government agreed to a cease-fire, Algerian independence, and mutual cooperation between the two countries.

As a  American resident of France, working as a foreign correspondent, Bradlee’s contact with Algerian forces was not looked upon favorably by the French authorities. His background in intelligence raised red flags – was he really just a reporter for Newsweek, or was something else going on? A biographer of Post publisher Katharine Graham, Deborah Davis, later described Bradlee’s actions in 1956 as having “all the earmarks of an intelligence operation.” “I flew back to Paris, and next morning went to see Ambassador Dillon to let him know what I had been up to in Algeria,” Bradlee wrote in The Good Life: Newspapers and Other Adventures, his 1995 memoir. “When I got back to my office on the Rue de Berri in a taxi, I was suddenly surrounded by cops and black Citroens. Two cops got me by the elbows, lifting me off the pavement, and asked me to come along with them.”

Bradlee’s recent marriage to Antoinette Pinchot added to the suspicion. Toni was closely tied to two CIA figures in France – her brother-in-law Cord Meyer, and James Jesus Angleton, the husband of a good friend. Ben and Toni’s circle of connections seemed to indicate that Bradlee might have been doing more with the FLN than taking notes.

Consequently, Bradlee was no longer welcome in France. He returned to Washington in 1957 and continued working at Newsweek. Ben and Toni bought a house in the prestigious Washington, DC suburb of Georgetown. Very soon after, a new power couple moved in down the street: Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline. “I was on a roll being in the right place at the right time, a luck that stayed with me,” Bradlee wrote in The Good Life. For Bradlee, the year 1957 was the year he put his career on a fast track. Building an intimate friendship with future-President Kennedy would ultimately boost Ben’s professional credentials and provide insights and access into the halls of government.

Four years later, Newsweek was bought by the Washington Post. Bradlee played an instrumental role in the acquisition. Now at the Post, Ben moved up the ladder to become “the most lauded and influential American journalist of his era.”

October 23, 1957 – Vanguard’s TV-2 Launched From Cape Canaveral

Vanguard Rocket Launch. Photo: United States Navy

On October 23, 1957, the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Vanguard program successfully tested a three-stage rocket designed to send an American Earth satellite into orbit.  The recent launch of the Soviet Union’s rocket bearing the first Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, created a sense of urgency for the U.S. to catch up with their Cold War nemesis, and the original timetable for American satellite deployment was put on a fast track.

In 1955, the United States government announced plans to create and successfully place an Earth satellite into orbit during the International Geophysical Year, running from July, 1957 through December of 1958.  Consequently, three branches of the armed services – the Army, Air Force, and Navy – all independently pursued their own rocket-development programs.  The Army’s Redstone project and the Air Force’s Atlas ballistic missiles were military in nature and of a top priority.  The NRL was always viewed more as a scientific organization and Vanguard was emphasized as a non-military project.

Two NRL program launches took place before October 23rd’s blast-off.  TV-0, launched December 8, 1956, tested telemetry systems, and TV-1 on May 1, 1957, tested the separation and subsequent second-stage ignition capabilities of the two-stage rocket design.  Several abortive attempts occurred over the summer of 1957, before TV-2 was able to test the 75 feet tall, 3.74 foot diameter, 22,156 pound, three-stage version.  TV-2 successfully demonstrated Vanguard’s ability for first-second stage separation and “spin-up” of the third stage.  Stages 1 and 2 were steered by gimbaled engines.  The third stage was “spin-stabilized, the spin being imparted by a turn-table on the second stage before separation”.  The engines worked, the turn-table worked, the telemetry and separation systems worked, but American rockets were still incapable of packing a satellite aboard.

Fast-tracking the Vanguard project in response to the threat posed by Sputnik resulted in disappointments and set-backs before achieving its ultimate goal.  Next test reservation date for Cape Canaveral’s LC-18A pad would be December 6th.  The suspense was mounting.