Category Archives: Vintage

What’s a Molotov Cocktail?

The term “Molotov cocktail” came from the Russian invasion of Finland in 1939. Finnish soldiers and civilians resisted the numerically far bigger, communist Red Army with home made fire grenades named after Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Molotovin koktaili.

The term’s origin was a response to Russian propaganda. Molotov was claiming on Soviet state radio that bombing missions over Finland were actually airborne humanitarian food deliveries for their starving neighbors. This was, of course, a blatant lie.

Vyacheslav Molotov, 1945

The outraged Finnish population sarcastically dubbed the Soviet cluster bombs “Molotov bread baskets” in reference to Molotov’s propaganda broadcasts. And when they began using hand-held bottle firebombs to destroy Soviet tanks, they called them “a drink to go with his food parcels”.

When skillfully thrown against vulnerable points on vehicles (such as trucks, armored personnel carriers or tanks), the little fire grenades were surprisingly successful at the time. So successful indeed that the Finns commissioned the distillery company Oy Alkoholiliike Ab to manufacture Molotov cocktails industrially. It is said that the company made 450,000 of them.

A Finnish soldier with a Molotov cocktail in the 1939–1940 Winter War

Finland’s fierce resistance and the fighting spirit of its population succeeded in preserving the country’s independence. But it came at a cost of at least 70,000 Finnish lives and large territories, which were ceded to the Soviet Union during the peace negotiations.

Since then, the Molotov cocktail has been a weapon of choice in many conflicts involving civilians against an overwhelming force. For instance, during the Hungarian uprising against Soviet control in 1956, Molotov cocktails thrown by Hungarian street fighters destroyed as many as 400 tanks before the Soviet military crushed the rebellion. Similar fighting occurred in 1968, during the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning Soviet tank in Prague, 1968.

In essence, a Molotov cocktail is a primitive incendiary weapon. It consists of a breakable glass bottle filled with a flammable liquid. A fuse of some sort is attached to the outside and lit before throwing the bottle, which shatters upon impact and spreads the flammable liquid. Various kinds of liquids, fuses and added chemicals have been used, and there are some versions that produce the ignition by a chemical reaction rather than by manually lighting a fuse.

How effective these devices still are against modern military vehicles is highly questionable. Over time, military vehicles have been hardened against this sort of attack. Vulnerable points (such as tires, the cogs on which tank tracks run, air intakes and radiators) have been improved, and there are often fire suppression systems on board. And an effective counter tactic is for convoys to move very rapidly. At the same time, the delivery of a Molotov cocktail (usually by direct throwing from very close range, or by dropping from buildings, bridges or other structures) subjects the combatant to great risk. As in any form of combat, the risk-benefit assessment is very tricky and comes down to probabilities.

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John Lennon’s 80th Birthday

by Reinhard Kargl

John Lennon would have been 80 years old today. This is my favorite photograph of him. It was taken by Jürgen Vollmer in 1961, during an early Beatles gig in Hamburg, West Germany, at Wohlwillstraße 22, Jägerpassage 1.

The blurry figures in the foreground are: George Harrison (who died in 2001 in Los Angeles), Stuart Sutcliffe (died in 1962 in Hamburg), and Paul McCartney.

Jürgen Vollmer, who together with Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann befriended the Beatles in Hamburg, became a successful artist, musician, and record producer. His friendship and occasional collaboration especially with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr continued throughout the decades.

In 1975, the photo was used for the cover of John Lennon’s solo album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

Here is the location photographed in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia User Lipinski

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Merry Christmas From Los Angeles

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Downtown Los Angeles, 1930s?

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Christmas on Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles, 1940s

Nov. 28, 1952: Police officer watches traffic on Hollywood Blvd. after holiday lights were turned on. Photo looking east from McCadden Place. (Los Angeles Times Archives)

Nov. 28, 1952: Police officer watches traffic on Hollywood Blvd. after holiday lights were turned on. Photo looking east from McCadden Place. (Los Angeles Times Archives)

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Joyriding In Beverly Hills, 1935

This film was studio background footage shot to be seen from the rear window of a stationary mock up car supposedly driving with actors in the front seat. The film records the road scenes on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills from Canon Drive past Robertson Boulevard.The last part of the film records the street scenes on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, following the same route as previous. (Via ).

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On Top of The World

In memoriam of Elmar Ploner (1922 – 2010), who would have been 90 years old today.

On Top of The World, the Alps, 1940s. Photo: Gilbert Ploner. Courtesy of Monika Ploner. Click to enlarge.

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7th Street and Broadway, Los Angeles 1934

Scott Harrison, who says he has worked at the Los Angeles Times for 48 years and started as a paper boy, found this image:

Click to enlarge.

The photo was taken by L.A. Times photographer William Snyder on Nov. 24, 1934. It was published the next day, accompanying an article about the first day of a strike by the Amalgameted Assn. of Street and Electric Railway Employees against the Los Angeles Railway Corp.

The article notes: This photograph taken at Seventh street and Broadway yesterday morning shows what little effect the strike on the Los Angeles Rail way street-car lines had on business activities in the retail shopping district. Normal trolley car operations are apparent. (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25, 1934).

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L.A. Noire

I am not a video gamer. No, no, no! Not at all! But to my great surprise there is now a computer game I could see myself getting excited about: L.A. Noire. Its simulation of 1940s Los Angeles is simply stunning and mindboggling.

This is not an invented landscape! This is a representation of the authentic streets, buildings, landmarks and vehicles which really existed at the time, and the players navigate on a true map of the city. Here is a simulated police chase through downtown Los Angeles, circa 1947:

I never thought I’d say this, but this has gone on my “must try” list. Not that I’d really want to “solve a crime” or actually play the game — I’d be content with cruising around vintage Los Angeles for hours and hours.

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Christmas Shopping

As so often, I wish I had a time machine!

Christmas shopping in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles, 1941. (Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, Order # 00068526). Click to enlarge.

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