Friday, May 22, 2015

Brown Bag Film Screening, First Lady of Peace: Jeanette Rankin

On Thursday, June 11th the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, in partnership with the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, will host a lunch-time screening of the 1970 documentary film, The First Lady of Peace: Jeannette Rankin.

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was a notable activist for peace and women's suffrage. She served two non-consecutive terms in Congress (1917-1919 and 1941-1943), where she voted against United States entry into World War I and later became the only member of Congress to oppose entry into World War II. During her first term, she was also instrumental in passing the Nineteenth Amendment, granting all American women the right to vote, in the House of Representatives.

This film project was a labor of love for filmmaker David Fisher, who operated on a slim budget to produce the short film documenting the unique activist who spent her final years living in nearby Watkinsville. The film features extensive interviews with Rankin, who reflects on her long career and shares her vision for the future.

Archivists Jill Severn and Margie Compton will introduce the film. Sue Lawrence, director of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, will offer closing remarks.

This brown bag lunch event will take place from 12:00-1:30PM in room 285 of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries (300 S. Hull Street). The event is free and open to the public; beverages and dessert will be provided, but attendees should plan to bring their own lunch. For more information about the event email or call (706) 542-5788. For more information about Jeannette Rankin, follow #Rankin135 on Twitter throughout the month of June 2015!

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies hold the Jeannette Rankin Papers and is the official repository for the records of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation.  The Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection holds the film The First Lady of Peace: Jeannette Rankin as well as other commercial and non-commercial audiovisual materials that document Jeannette Rankin.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lost: One Nuclear Bomb

In 1958, during a practice exercise for the U.S. military, a B-47 bomber plane collided with an F-86 fighter plane off the coast of Tybee Island. No one was injured, partially because the bomber’s crew ejected the Mark 15 nuclear weapon they were carrying. After several recovery missions, the bomb was presumed lost. It’s still somewhere off the island’s coast.

Photograph of MK15
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
As a native Savannahian, I have heard and repeated this “missing bomb” story approximately a million times. But while “There’s a nuclear bomb out there” is a great conversation starter on beach days, until recently I was unsure if the bomb was fact or only an urban legend. It didn’t help that I first heard this unbelievable tale from an intimidating economics teacher who liked to tell his students that the bomb could go off at any second.

Though the “go off at any second” part is an exaggeration, the weapon really was ejected into the waters off Tybee Island. The incident even has its own Wikipedia page, which comes in handy for convincing incredulous beach-goers. In more detail, a folder from Senator Max Cleland’s papers entitled “Savannah Nuclear Bomb” gives a good picture of the situation (Series V, Box 38, Folder 24).

Apparently, it was not uncommon for nuclear weapons to go missing. Military historian Doug Keeney was quoted in a newspaper article about the Tybee case saying that the military lost seven other bombs around the same time as the Mark 15. This became such a problem that the military ended these types of tests in 1966 because of the number of accidents.

A little less than 50 years after the bomb was dropped into the ocean, Savannah residents started to become concerned. In response to citizens’ worries, the 2000 newspaper article, “Bomb Lost off Coast May Hold Plutonium,” assured that the bomb would “probably would not blow up unless jarred by a strong force.” But if those ‘may’s and ‘probably’s did not put minds at ease, the Department of Defense conducted another search for the bomb, which was estimated to be anywhere between one and 10 miles off the coast.

Photograph of Senator Max Cleland
at the Capitol, 1997.
(source: Max Cleland Papers, Electronic Records
ER 14)
At the onset of the search that began in 2003, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted an Air Force official as stating that “although the bomb shell contains some radioactive material, it is not an amount that would endanger public health.” This half-century old bomb got so much attention in the early days of the new millennium that Senator Cleland offered a public statement calling for “the most environmentally safe and common sense solution.”

Whether the bomb posed any real threat or not, an extensive search which utilized a $2 million GPS search vessel followed. Despite all these efforts, after two months, the bomb was declared “irretrievably lost.”

So, it’s probably still out there, and this Summer I can continue to spread my favorite bomb fact in good conscience.

Post by Rachael Zipperer, student assistant, Russell Library 

Monday, May 18, 2015

135 Tweets for 135 years: Rankin Matters!

In June 2015 the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies will mark the 135th anniversary of Congresswoman and activist Jeannette Rankin’s birth with the social media series, 135 tweets for 135 years: Rankin Matters.

Throughout the month, our Twitter feed @RussellLibrary will spotlight selected quotes, events, and achievements drawn from the life and career of this trailblazer for equity, justice, fairness, and peace in American politics. You can follow the Rankin Matters Series at #Rankin135. We're also planning a little birthday party, so stay tuned to the blog for details on that event happening June 11th!

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies holds the Jeannette Rankin Papers and is the official repository for the records of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation.