“Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode.”
These were the last words of Vince Coleman, the train dispatcher who met his end on December 6, 1917 in the Halifax Explosion. Seconds later, the ship would explode — and set off the 3,000 tons of explosives inside. It would be the biggest and most devastating explosion in history, until the invention of the nuclear bomb.
Before the recession of 1969 helped send New York spiraling into an era of drugs, poverty, and violence, the city had one last decade of mid-century glory, at least on the surface. New York in the 1960s was a city full of life and diversity, from the executives of Madison Avenue to the artists of the East Village – but it was also a time of turmoil.
For ten years in Vietnam, it rained a chemical mist. It was the height of the Vietnam War, and planes and helicopters flew over top of the country, spraying out a toxic chemical called Agent Orange.
The plan was to wipe out the enemy’s food supply. Agent Orange was an incredibly potent herbicide made even stronger in the hands of the U.S. and South Vietnamese Air Forces, who mixed it to 13 times its usual strength. It could obliterate whole farms and wipe out entire forests with nothing more than a gentle mist. Their plan was to leave the Viet Cong exposed and hungry — but they couldn’t have imagined the full impact that this plan would ultimately have.
While the matter remains one of debate, many contend that history’s first concentration camps were built in South Africa, 41 years before the Holocaust began.
These camps were built by British soldiers amid the Boer War, during which the British rounded up Dutch Boers and native South Africans and locked them into cramped camps where they died off by the thousands.
This is where the word “concentration camp” was first used – in British camps that systematically imprisoned more than 115,000 people and saw at least 25,000 of them killed.