On February 26ththis year Kermit Tyler died in San Diego. Kermit was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked by air. He was an Army Air Force first lieutenant on temporary duty at a radar information center that day. Two privates at the center reported to him that they were seeing a very large and unusual number of "blips" on the screen which indicated to them it was aircraft about 132 miles away and closing fast. In fact this was the first wave of Japanese fighters, torpedo bombers and Pearl harbor.2 dive bombers about to make a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Tyler had been told that fleet of U.S. B-17 bombers were due from the mainland so he told the privates "don’t worry about it" and went on with his business. After the attack he was blamed for the mistake, but others defended him under the circumstances.

Tyler wasn’t the only person who has made a blunder that has been recorded in history. Some are comical and some not so serious like Roy Riegles blunder. Roy Riegles was the captain-elect of California’s 1929 football team and in the Rose Bowl that year he snagged a fumble and ran for the goal line. Behind him someone was chasing him yelling at him. Finally, at the ten yard line, Benny Lom, his teammate, who had been yelling at him, grabbed him, and yelled Football"Stop, stop. You’re running the wrong way." Reigles shook him off and yelled "get away from me. This is my touchdown." At the three yard line Lom dragged him down. Riegel’s realized something was wrong and when he got up he realized he had run sixty two yards in the wrong direction. He was thereafter known as "wrong way Riegels."

On September 23, 1908 the New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs played at the Polo Grounds and Christy Matthewson was pitching. It was tied 1 – 1 when the ninth inning began. At the bottom of the ninth, Giants Moose McCormick was on base when a rookie Fred Merkle hit a single and was on first with McCormick advanced to third base. There were two outs when Al Bridwell followed Merkle to the plate and hit a drive to center sending McCormick to home for a 2 – 1 win. Fans came out on the field and Merkle, seeing McCormick cross home plate, headed for the dug out instead of going to second base. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers seeing Merkle cut for the dug out yelled for the ball and ran to second base for an out. He then yelled to the umpires that Merkle was out and McCormick’s score didn’t count because there were three outs. There was so much controversy following this game that it was ruled the game had to be replayed. This became known as "The Merkle Blunder" and earned him the nickname "bonehead." For many years afterwords "to merkle" meant to fail to finish a job. Merkle once told a reporter "I suppose when I die, they’ll put on my tombstone, ‘Here lies bonehead Merkle."

However, there have been some historical blunders that have been tragic. On October 25, 1854 during the Crimean war, British, French and Turkish forces were advancing towards a major Russian port. An Light birgade order was sent to the British Cavalry which was supposed to direct them to capture enemy guns on one side of the valley. The order was incorrectly given as an order to charge into the valley in the face of Russian guns and artillery. The calvary realized this was a suicide order for them, but Led by Lord Cardigan followed the orders and charged into the valley. Over six hundred calvary made the charge and the Russians were so astounded they thought they were all drunk. The result was less then two hundred survived the onslaught of fire. Lord Cardigan was saved from death when shot by a heavy woolen jacket he was wearing and returned to Britain a hero. Tennyson immortalized the event in his poem The Charge of the Light Brigade "ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die." Responsibility for the mistake in the order was never clearly explained.

So, the next time you make a dumb mistake, just be glad you weren't one of these people and that the whole world wasn't made aware of your error.


  1. In a word, Amen.
    Coincidentally, you touched on a subject on which I’ve been hoping you’d write in some depth: Lobbyists. Am I being totally naive to think the whole lobbying system is.. well, about the same as allowing a drug dealer to set up shop in a schoolyard? It seems to me like it just opens the door to temptation and corruption. I don’t understand. What purpose do lobbyists serve? (other than their own clients’ purposes?) I’d really like to hear your take on the system.

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