My father is a smart guy. He’s an engineer and chock full stories that I always took as the gospel truth. While I look back fondly on those endless conversations, it turns out that some of the stories that I took as if from the mouth of God, were wrong. Let’s see what dad said and how it stacks up to the facts.
Here’s what Dad said:
Out of every five miles of interstate, there will be at least one mile that is straight so that planes can land during war time.
Dad said that Eisenhower, being a war guy, had the foresight to see the need for planes landing in out of the way places or in an emergency. Sadly, this is just an urban legend .
The military got fiber optic technology off the ground
Answer: not really
Dad said nuclear bombs create Electro Magnetic Pulses which knock out electronic circuits. Fiber optics were developed by the military to communicate with their nuclear missiles so that even if we got hit first, our missiles would still be able to be launched. The only thing I found on this was that “In 1975, the United States Government decided to link the computers in the NORAD headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain using fiber optics to reduce interference.” So, yes he’s right, but fiber optics had many other possible uses and researchers working on it way before 1975. Though I’m sure having the military throw almost endless money at a technology can’t hurt.
You can never get all the oil out of an oil can
Answer: partially true
With enough time and patients, you could get every last drop of oil out of a can. I believe dad’s lesson was to know when to balance time against money. At some point, you begin to lose the value of using all the oil in the can as you endlessly watch that spider web thin stream of oil flow out. More advice than fact, but I’ll give him credit.
During World War 2, The Japanese soldiers were awful bastards
True in as much as you can call an entire group of people awful bastards. As a child, I was familiar with Japanese culture only through Godzilla and samurais. Dad would speak at length of the atrocities that were committed to POWs and especially the Chinese. I didn’t really believe him. Turns out he was right. But, as he also said, we bombed them back into civility.
We bombed the Japanese back into civility
Answer: kinda true
But only by anecdotal evidence. Article 9 of the 1947 US enforced Japanese Constitution did not allow them to build the armies capable of waging war. Through nuclear bombs, we also allowed the creation of Godzilla which protects their sovereign shores.
Glass is a solid
I remember seeing old panes of glass that were thicker on the bottom that at the top. Someone told be that is because glass is a very thick liquid and over time it will flow due to the pull of gravity. Dad said that was nonsense. He was right.
The flag raisers on Iwo Jima were all American Indians
Answer: 5/6th false or 1/6th true
Ira Hayes was the only Native American that helped to raise the flag in the historic photo. Now dad also said that the historic photo was actually the second flag to go up. The first was taken down and replaced with a larger flag. He was right about that!
Bridges over interstates are built to an exact height so that ICMBs on the back of tractor trailers can fit underneath
Answer: 99% right and 1% undecided
I thought that dad was blowing some smoke here, but he was right. My assumption is that the bridges would be built to a certain height and then the military would figure out a way to go under them. I just read on the Federal Highway Administration site that all interstate bridges need to be 16.07 feet tall in coordination with the Department of Defense. Matt Rosenburg at about.com says differently and I contacted him with a very terse letter that went something like this: MY DAD IS RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG!!! My dad could so kick his dad's ass.
There once was a diet pill where you would eat a tapeworm to lose weight
Want to lose weight? Take this pill. Want to stop losing weight? Take the second pill. Dad said the first pill had a tapeworm in it. The second pill had the medicine to kill the tapeworm in it. Here what Snopes.com has to say about it.
Henry Ford used shipping crates to build his Model T
Dad said that Henry Ford would have his suppliers ship him product in crates with very specific dimensions. Odd dimensions with holes and cut outs in odd places. The directions were very specific and contractors, not wanting to lose business, built the crates without question. Then at the Ford factory, these specialty designed crates were emptied of their contents, disassembled and installed into Model Ts as floorboards. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence of this, but not any proof. I’ll give Pa this one.
Overall, Dad did pretty good. I’m sure he’d argue that he was right on most of these or that I wasn’t listening to what he really said. Then the conversation would drift to the Korean War and where he got that rash from deep in the jungle.