Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Earthquake of 1868

On this date in 1868 a massive earthquake struck northern California, centered on what is now known as the Hayward Fault. Damage was extensive throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties as well as in Oakland and San Francisco. Vallejo, located just north of the quake’s epicenter, was badly shaken but not severely damaged. The Vallejo Weekly Chronicle reported on the effects of the temblor:

“About 8 o’clock Wednesday morning, the city of Vallejo felt the effect of the earthquake that proved so destructive to San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro, and other towns in the counties of Contra Costa and Alameda. The shock was of longer duration and severer than any experienced in the State heretofore, and having a vibration from northeast to southwest. Lighter shocks followed at 25 minutes to 9; 15 minutes past 9; 20 minutes past 10 (was sensibly felt); 3 minutes to 11. The introductory or heaviest shock occasioned considerable alarm among our citizens, as it commenced with an easy motion but gathered strength and greater activity in every quiver in its duration, and almost everyone having the idea that it would culminate in a general destruction of buildings. Many ran out into the streets, others of less excitability stayed where they were; some remained in their apartments on account of their not being able to present a very respectable appearance outside in way of toilet. No damages or injuries were sustained by any building or person in Vallejo, probably owing to the firm foundation upon which the buildings of the place are erected. The following ‘shakes’ caused an involuntary start by most everyone. At any rate the agitation of mother Earth was the topic of conversation during the balance of the day, completely absorbing politics. At almost any hour of the day a small number of men could be seen standing in different parts of the street relating their ‘experience’ to one another. The annexed are incidents that came to our knowledge:

A number of people were at breakfast, some of which were seized with a nauseating sensation, so much so that they had no desire to complete their meal. (Page says he made money by the ‘shake’).

A man lately from Peru was writing at the time - he didn’t appear to notice it, as he did not lift his pen off the paper. He is regarded as a natural curiosity by some.

The Bulletin says many chimneys were toppled down in Vallejo. A mistake, as no chimney was injured, if we except that of a dwelling on Virginia street, which lost two or three of its topmost bricks.

A partition in Bacheller’s building on Georgia street was slightly displaced.

The plastering in the public school house and in Capt. Wood’s dwelling on Capitol Hill, was cracked but not displaced.

A young man working in the Chronicle office considered it dangerous to continue work in a brick building; but upon being assured there was no likelihood of another quake he returned to his labors. However, the shock of 20 minutes past 10 ‘undone’ him. With a countenance expressing misplaced confidence and disgust for the country he left us.

Persons on the ferry-boat felt the shock, and say the effect was as if the boat’s bottom was bumping on a rock.

An officer on the Yard reports a wave of a foot in height. It was noticed by a number of officers, both at the City front and at the Railroad Terminus.

Nicholas, a hunter, was in Tules, about three miles above town, and reports the effects as startling; the banks of the small creeks closed and opened at short intervals. The tules having the motion of the swell of the ocean.

The water in the well on the property of the Rainbow Restaurant acted in such a manner as to cause the owner to have a disgust for the place, and advertise his place for sale, preparatory to leaving the country.

Thursday night at 15 minutes past 2, we experienced another ‘quiver,’ which lasted about five seconds, but was of a light character. At 20 minutes past 7, yesterday morning, a slight shock was felt.

One of our City Fathers was in the fifth story of the Cosmopolitan Hotel of San Francisco. He sat on the side of the bed and rode the shock out, making no effort to dress himself, probably thinking he was as well clad for leaving this world as many others.

A friend informs us that the scenes in the Occidental Hotel were both humorous and appalling. Men, women and children, completely paralyzed with fear, running frantically around the halls in their night clothes. He was partially dressed and consequently he got out into the hall with toilet very near complete; but he hardly made his appearance when an unknown female with toilet very incomplete caught him around the neck begging him to save her. Being a young man, and very modest, the ‘situation’ quite overcame him; and the only consolation he could offer was to assure the lady that it was only an earthquake; there was no danger, ‘for we’ll all die together!’ The young man hardly knew what he did say, for he was more scared by the woman than by the earthquake.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FDR at the Mare Island Hospital

During President Roosvelt's brief visit to Mare Island in September 1942 he visited wounded sailors at the Mare Island Hospital. The Vallejo Evening Chronicle carried a brief account of Roosvelt's visit with a sailor who had been wounded aboard the USS Houston:

President Chats with Wounded Man at M.I.

“The story of a sailor aboard the USS Houston who was wounded 25 times while two nearby ‘buddies’ were killed instantly was told in person by the enlisted man to President Roosevelt when he visited Mare Island last Thursday.

“Details of the conversation were revealed today at the navy yard here simultaneously with announcement in Washington by the White House that the Chief Executive of the nation inspected Mare Island while on a tour of U.S. defense plants.

“The wounded sailor is Thomas Borghetti, Jr., 35, fire controlman, first class. His home is Marseilles, Illinois. He has served in the Navy for the last 14 years, aboard the USS Salt Lake City, USS Colorado and the USS Houston, the latter when she was sent to the bottom during the Java Sea battle.

“The Houston was steaming into Macassar Straits to attack a Japanese convoy when she, herself, was attacked by an air fleet of 57 Japanese planes.

“Borghetti was wounded 25 times by shrapnel when an 800 pound bomb exploded nearby.

“Two buddies, names not revealed, who were standing only three and five feet away, were decapitated by the bomb explosion.

“Borghetti has five sisters and two brothers at home in Illinois. His father operates a grocery store.

“The greeting between President Roosevelt and Borghetti, as reported officially at the navy yard, was as follows:

The President smiled.

‘I’ve seen you before,’ he said.

‘Yes, Mr. President,’ replied Borghetti, ‘I made three cruises with you on the Houston.

‘It was too bad about the Houston,’ commented the President.

‘Yes,’ answered Borghetti. ‘She was a fine cruiser and a great crew. She gave the Japs all she had as long as she lasted, which was plenty.’

‘Where were you hit?,’ inquired President Roosevelt.

‘Twenty-five different places, most seriously in the arms and legs,’ answered the sailor.

‘What hit you?’ queried the President.

‘The doctors decided it was an 800-pound bomb,’ answered Borghetti.

‘Was that all?’ mused the President as he shook Borghetti’s hand and wished him good luck.

‘I hope to get well soon and go back to fighting the Japs again,’ concluded Borghetti.

An additional note: Wounded sailor Thomas Borghetti Jr. of the USS Houston was hospitalized on Java following the loss of his ship. When the Japanese invaded the island, Borghetti and other casualties were evacuated through the heroic actions of Dr. Corydon M. Wassell. The doctor’s story was praised by President Roosevelt in a radio address in April 1942. Wassell’s story was then made into a Hollywood movie directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Gary Cooper as the heroic doctor. In the movie (The Story of Dr. Wassell, 1944) Borghetti was played by actor Mike Killian.

To learn more about the USS Houston follow the link above or visit www.usshouston.net.

Monday, October 6, 2008

FDR at Mare Island: Part Two

During President Franklin Roosevelt’s brief visit to Mare Island in September 1942, he viewed two submarines – one Japanese and one American. The name of the U.S. submarine was not reported due to wartime secrecy. The Japanese sub was a small two-man vessel captured at Pearl Harbor and subsequently sent on a fundraising tour to U.S. military bases around the country. The photograph that accompanies this post shows Roosevelt in his car with Mare Island Commander RADM Willhelm Friedell as they stopped to look at the Japanese sub during the President’s visit. Reporter Merriman Smith of United Press reported the visit as follows:

U.S. Sub That Bagged Jap Ships Viewed by President at M.I.

“President Roosevelt looked today with great satisfaction upon two submarines – one Japanese craft captured at Pearl Harbor, the other an American sub with nine Japanese flags painted on her conning tower. Touring the San Francisco Bay Area, the President saw graphic evidence of the war in the Pacific, including sea-beaten submarines, wounded marines and sailors and supply ships loading for another long haul to the fighting fronts.

"Moving down the Pacific coast and the western sea frontier of the nation, the President paused for an afternoon’s inspection of installations in the San Francisco area, which showed plainly the signs of high-gear war activity.

"Inspecting the Mare Island Navy Yard and the embarkation station and naval supply depot at Oakland, the President got a good and realistic picture of the work involved in keeping forces of the United States in top combat condition.

See Historic Sub

"At Mare Island on San Pablo Bay, the Chief Executive saw one of the nation’s most active navy yards. Fighting ships of varied type were in for service, but the ones that caught the President’s eyes were two submarines – Japanese and American.

"The Japanese undersea craft was caught at Pearl Harbor. Small but menacing, she carried a crew of two men.

"A few minutes later Mr. Roosevelt saw a weather-streaked American sub moored at the navy yard and paused to look at her conning tower which bore nine red-and-white Japanese flags, each indicating a victim and probably ranging from small cargo craft to big Nipponese fighting ships.

"There were other fighting ships at Mare Island for repairs and supplies and the President examined each one as closely as his limited schedule would permit.”