A Scientific/Technological Development from 1936

     A scientific/technological development that happened in 1936 was the completion of the Hoover Dam, about 30 miles from Las Vegas. The Hoover Dam is a testimonial to the resiliency of the American worker and the brilliance of American Engineers. Over 200 engineers and 7,000 dam workers endured amazingly harsh conditions and extreme danger to complete what was deemed an impossible task. They even completed it two years early.

     The Colorado River between Arizona and Colorado was known for horrible flooding. In 1931, the Hoover administration decided to create a dam that would control this flooding, irrigate the agricultural areas of California and Arizona, and produce hydroelectric power for millions of people in the area. The project would also provide jobs for thousands of men  who flocked into the area, often with their families, in search of work during the depression. The project created a shanty town known as Rag Town for five years. The makeshift town consisted of cardboard boxes, tin scraps and tents, anything that could shelter its 5,000 men, women, and children from the intense summer heat which reached 130°F to 30°F at night. Conditions were devastating with no federal assistance, but one man, Murl Emery and his family came to the workers aid, and opened a store. He gave credit to the 50 cents an hour workers and their families, permitting them to pay what they could afford. Only one man did not pay his debt, and that was because he had died.

     Six companies were awarded the contracts for building the Dam for $48,890,955. The Six Company Inc., as it became known, was given incentive bonuses for early completion, and it would be fined for every day the construction was late. “Thus began the around the clock construction.

     The Dam was first called the Boulder Dam and it was planned for a site 10 miles up river from where it was finally built. “An engineering reassessment moved the location.” The Colorado River had to be drained and diverted. Four tunnels were built to divert the water through the canyon walls. They needed 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete plus another million for the power plant, so two concrete plants were built on site. A railroad system was built to move the concrete, and an overhead cableway system lowered huge buckets of concrete into the forms. The base needed 230 individual gigantic blocks of concrete between 25 and 60 feet wide which were put together “like a giant Lego set.” Cooling pipes were placed into the concrete slabs, so they would set rapidly. The arch-curved shape of the structure dissipates the water pressure on three sides, and gravity helps to hold it back. It was the job of high-scalers, who hung dangerously by ropes above the canyon cliffs, to remove weak and loosen rock from the Black Canyon walls. Each “High Scaler” was carefully chosen for their fearlessness, agility and physical shape. They earned 75 cents an hour and often entertained the other workers with their death defying feats.

     In 1936, Lake Meade on one side of the dam was filled and power generators were turned on. The dam was named for Herbert Hoover, who was instrumental in getting the dam built. The dam is 726 feet high, 1,244 feet wide and has a four lane highway that crosses it. It is a National Historic Landmark, and draws more than seven million tourists per year.



Artisitic Development from 1936

   The artistic development that I chose to deal with is the Olympic Film. The epic film “Olympia” by Leni Riefenstahl was filmed about the 1936 Summer Olympic Games. She was a motion picture specialist who produced pictures for the Nazi party. Riefenstahl had filmed a story about the Nuremburg party rally called “Triumph of Will.” She had impressed Hitler, but she also impressed the International Olympic Committee who commissioned her to produce a documentary about the Berlin Games. It took her 18 months to edit the final version, and when it was released it became the standard for all future sports documentaries. She used unusual camera angles, smash cuts, and extreme close ups. Riefenstahl experimented with various camera settings as she filmed the athletes. She put camera operators in foxholes and trenches. She placed mini cameras on rails and had them follow the athletes remotely, so the competitions would not be disrupted. Camera men were placed in the crowd to get personal and emotional reactions to various events. One even captured Hitler’s reaction when Jesse Owens won the 100 yard dash, it was pure disgust. They even dove into the water to film the diving meet and divers above and below the water. Only a small portion of that film was ever used, but most of her techniques were universally admired.

     Hitler had given her the freedom to produce the film anyway she wanted, but his minister of propaganda, Goebbels, kept pressuring her to film “Olympia” with a pro-German view. She did not succumb to this pressure and presented both the German super star, Luz Long, who won 3 gold medals, and Jesse Owens who won 4 gold medals with the same professionalism. The film had 3 versions: German, French, and English. There was a slight difference in each version which appealed to that particular national audience.

      The film won several awards including The National Film Prize, Venice International Film Festival Award, Swedish Polar Prize, and The Olympic Gold Medal of the Comité International Olympique. In 1960 Riefenstahl’s peers voted the film as one of the 10 best films of all time. Riefenstahl was an excellent and well respected film producer; however, she rarely worked outside of Germany because of her affiliation with the Third Reich.


Major Political Event in the Eastern World

     In the eastern world, Japan’s military was becoming stronger and preparing for conquest. However, in 1936 the Japanese military experienced a revolt. The Imperial Japanese Army had two rival factions which promoted a revolution on February 26, 1936. There were two parties in the army. The first was the Kodo-ba who emphasized the importance of the Japanese culture and the need to attack the Soviet Union. The second was the Tosei-ha officers who were influenced by the German general staff and supported military planning for total war. A group of senior officers led by Generals Nishida, Kurihara, Ando, and Kono convinced a group of 1,500 younger officers, ” to launch a murderous surprise attack on political leaders, elderly oligarchs, and the heads of the zaibastu.” They even threatened to replace Emperor Hirohito, with his brother Prince Chi Chibu, if their demands were not met.

     The rebels broke into six groups and attacked their targets. The prime minister escaped when his brother-in-law was shot because he was mistaken for him. Several other ministers were killed, but when the Emperor took an active part in the uprising, the rebels were defeated. The final battle saw 1,500 rebels surrounded by 20,000 government troops and 20 tanks. Many officers committed suicide and the rest were arrested. The Emperor ordered a Court Martial where all 1,483 members of the Righteous Army were interrogated, 124 were prosecuted, 19 were executed for mutiny and 40 were imprisoned. The revolt paved the way for the military to take control of the country. They were determined to acquire more land on the Asian mainland. On November 25, 1936 Japan signed an Anti-Communist Agreement with Hitler. They pledged to help each other if attacked by the Soviet Union. This prepared the way for the Japanese attack on China the following year.


Major Political Events in the Western World

     In the western world Britain had a very tumultuous year. On January 20 George V of Britain died. His son Edward VIII became king, but his coronation which was scheduled for May of 1937 never took place. Edward VIII abdicated the monarchy, when parliament and the Church of England refused to approve his marriage to American socialite, Wallis Warfield Simpson. He abdicated on December 11, 1936, and his brother, George VI took the throne. Edward VIII became the Duke of Windsor. England had three kings in 1936.

     In Germany, Hitler had come to power, and besides the Olympics, occupied his time in 1936 by breaking the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty that ended World War I. He entered the Rhineland which under the terms of the Treaty, had been made into a demilitarized zone as a buffer between Germany and France. In his desire to create Lebensraum (living space) for the Germans on March 1, 1936, three battalions of Nazi soldiers re-entered the demilitarized zone. They were under orders to immediately withdraw if the French defended the territory, but the French did not respond. Hitler’s gamble worked and Germany had started its conquest of most of Europe.

      In the United States, 1936 brought the Great Depression to its 8th year. Franklin D. Roosevelt won a lopsided presidential election by defeating Alf Landon, and the New Deal continued to try to alleviate American economic suffering.


The Summer Olympics of 1936

     The Summer Olympics of 1936 took place in the city of Berlin Germany. The selection of Berlin was made in 1931, while the Weimar Republic was in power, and before Hitler took over the government. The contesting cities in 1931 were between Berlin and Barcelona, but Berlin won with more than twice the votes. The Berlin Summer Olympics of 1936 was called the Nazi Olympics, and Hitler was obsessed with promoting his view of racial superiority of the German people.      All Non-Aryan athletes were not allowed to represent Germany. Jewish, part Jewish, and Romeni athletes were systematically excluded from the Nazi games. At one time the United States considered boycotting the games because of these racial policies, but the future president of the international olympic commitee, Avery Brundage, stated that sports and politics must always remain separate. It was the first time the sports of basketball, field handball, and canoeing apppeared at the games. These were the first games that were televised and Hitler engaged one of his favorite film makers, Leni Riefenstah, to film the Olympics. The films name was “Olympia,” and used numerous methods of new and advanced cinematography to film the sports.

      It was also the first games that had a visible role for America’s black athletes. Success of Blacks like Jesse Owens and Cornelius Johnson labeled them heros, who defeated Hitler. More than 400 athletes competed from 49 countries and it cost the Nazi government 40 million dollars to put on.