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Our Real Life Hero Sergeant Snorkel

Kelsey Freeman

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Beetle Bailey and Sergeant Snorkel were actually based on real-life people. The comic strip may have been embellished upon to add to the humor, but the real Sergeant Snorkel did possess many of the same characteristics. His daughter Griffen wished that her father Octavian N. Savu had known that the comic strip was based on him. He would have enjoyed knowing that.

Octavian Savu had been born to parents who had immigrated from Romania. Savu was born in Indiana and raised in St. Joseph MO. When he began school, his teacher had misunderstood his name when she was told it was Tavi, so he remained being called Tom or Tommy. He later attended Park College, Junior College and the University of MO.

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When he turned 21 years old, in 1935, he joined the service. He was sent to the US Army at Fort Leavenworth Kansas. He was in the 17th infantry. This was the beginning of a decade long career for Savu.

In 1940, he married the love of his life, Margo. Around this time, he began to climb the ranks slowly in the military. He first became a Reserve Officer Trainer in Iowa, at the Abraham Lincoln High School. He taught the young recruits map reading skills, first aid, marksmanship and also combat tactics.

When he and the wife moved to St. Louis, he began a position at St. Louis’ Washington University. He was the overseer of soldiers in that school’s Army Specialized Training Program. These were twelve-week courses between 1943 and 1945. The courses later became known as “Engineering, Science and Management War Training Program”. This is where he met Mort Walker, an already known artist. Walker came from Kansas City and was a World War 2 draftee. In later years, Mort Walker would become the creator and artist of Beetle Bailey comic fame. The world would later learn that Sergeant Snorkel, the character in the comic strip, was actually based on Octavian Savu. Before leaving Missouri in 1944, Walker had given Savu a hand-drawn caricature of Savu.

Savu was then assigned overseas in France. He was a First Sergeant. Octavian Savu was there from April until August 1945. He served as an Administrative Sgt. with the 14th Reinforcement Depot. He was discharged early and sent home on a disability discharge on September 21, 1945. He was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and later it was found that he was diabetic. 

Octavian and Margo Savu adopted two daughters and moved to Colorado. He became an employee specialist at the Air Force Accounting and Finance Services. When the girls were still young, Savu had his first heart attack. He then began gardening and became known for his lawn and his roses. He was also a commander in his local VFW post.

In April of 1968, the family took a vacation and headed to where Mr. Savu had grown up. He showed the girls his family home where he had grown up. They also visited with family friends. As the vacation neared the end, they began to drive home. They stopped for the night in Omaha and obtained a hotel room. Savu had his third heart attack and passed away in the hotel room. The daughters were 14 and 11 years old.

Octavian N. Savu was given full military honors during his funeral. He was then buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.

His daughter, Griffin has stated that “He possessed many of the characteristics of Sergeant Snorkel. He was a compassionate man. He was tough but fair, and he was full of character. That is quite possibly why the troops loved him.” She also stated that to her and her sister, he was not just dad; he was their hero and their mentor.

Mort Walker spoke very highly of Savu also, before he himself passed away. He recalled when the Sergeant had written a poem and given each one of the men a copy by placing it on their pillows. The poem was called “My Boys”. Walker had stated that that was the point that they had realized he had a heart. 

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Could the Wreck of the Last Slave Ship Have Been Found?

Cynthia Brooke

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The international slave trade was outlawed far before slavery itself was banned in the United States; however, these laws didn’t stop people from trying to smuggle in new slaves of their own. During the height of slavery, one owner of an Alabama plantation made a friendly wager with a friend that he could still smuggle slaves into this country on his boat, which he called the Clotilda; however, one a fateful day in the hot summer of 1860, this plantation owner was worried that the authorities were going to catch them. He had just returned from West Africa and had to quickly unload his slaves in the middle of the night. Then, he set his beloved Clotilda on fire in an effort to hide the evidence in the Mobile Delta.

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A Possible Discovery by a Local Reporter

Now, close to 160 years later, a reporter from Alabama claims to have possibly found the wreck of this boat. Following a “bomb-cyclone” that went through the area in January of 2018, the wreck might have been revealed. Ben Raines, a reporter for AL.com, used historical records and the journal of the Clotilda’s captain to start his search. The intrepid reporter also relied on interviews from the time, local lore, and even the memoirs of local residents.

Revealed by a Massive Cold Front, a Bomb-Cyclone

As a result of the massive cold front, a burned-out wreckage of a ship was revealed just a few miles north of the Mobile Delta, where the ship was supposedly ditched. There are iron spikes, charred wood, and what appeared to be the body of the boat. The reporter, who posted a video along with one of his recent articles, stated that he had a gut feeling that this might be the wreckage of the long-lost slave ship. He might have uncovered a piece of the international slave trade.

A Chapter of the International Slave Trade

About thirty years after setting the boat ablaze, the financier of the voyage boasted about his smuggling abilities to a local newspaper. This newspaper story highlighted the importance of the slave trade to the local area. Many slaves were brought in from Benin (located in Africa) aboard the famous ship, even after emancipation had been declared. This area was dubbed “Africatown.” Since that time, many of the local residents can trace their roots back to ancestors who were brought over on this ship, signifying the place that the Clotilda has in history. Furthermore, historians such as Sylviane Diouf have even written entire books discussing the ship.

With the Help of Drone Technology: Gathering Evidence

Raines took a drone and recorded some aerial videos and snapshots of the famous wreck once it had been uncovered. Furthermore, he even took a visit to the site of the wreckage with a specialist to analyze the build and construction of the boat. With the help of professionals, everyone agreed that the design of the ship matched that of other boats that had been built during the time period of the international slave trade. Furthermore, it did show signs that it had been set ablaze, further confirming the identity of the vessel. In order to gather more evidence and information, he will need access to the hull of the ship. It could hold other artifacts that might identify it as a slave ship. Unfortunately, this will require Raines obtaining special permits to access the body of the vessel. With more time, funding, and manpower, Raines might be able to learn more about this small piece of history.

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A Recovered 1930s Interview Tells The Story Of The Surviving Slavery

Brooke Hurbert

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Many avid readers enjoy a good book by Zora Neale Hurston. What they may not know about her is that her talents ran much deeper than writing. Unbeknownst to many, she tracked down a man with an extraordinary story to tell. She found not just any man, but the last one that survived being held captive on a ship filled with slaves being transported from Africa to the U.S. 

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Not only did Hurston find this man, she thoroughly interviewed him as well. Unfortunately, she was not able to put the interview into book form, despite her best efforts. It wasn’t until 2018 that the interview was finally published in the form of a book titled Barracoon: The Story of The Last “Black Cargo.” With the release of Hurston’s book many longtime unanswered questions were suddenly answered. 

Barracoon tells the story of a man born with the name Kossula, which later became Cudjo Lewis.  When he was born he lived in Benin, a country in West Africa. At the age of 19 he was kidnapped by the Dahomian tribe. Against his will he was moved to the coast and sold as a slave, along with approximately another 120 men. He and the other slaves were forced to reside on the Clotilda, a slave ship which would take them from their home country to America.

In 1860 the ship arrived in Alabama with all captured slaves on board.  Despite the declaration in the U.S. that slavery was legal, bringing slaves in from other countries was illegal. The ship arrived in Alabama during overnight hours. They were then confined to an area swamp for a matter of days. For fear of being caught, the kidnappers set the ship on fire. There is a distinct possibility that the remains of the ship were found in early 2018. 

Those that read the book will get a firsthand view of the ordeal through Lewis’s eyes. Throughout the book, Lewis expresses how it felt to be sold into slavery against his will. He talks about how even though his fellow slaves lived together on the ship, they were separated once they reached Alabama. Readers experience the pain of the ordeal right along with him. 

Lewis talks about how he struggled with being placed on a plantation he felt out of place in. Due to language barriers, he and the plantation workers could not effectively communicate. The frustration Lewis experienced during that time is evident throughout the story. He also shares with Hurston that the Civil War had started and he’d had no idea at the time. He later gained knowledge that the point of the war was to free him and his fellow slaves. 

Following Robert E. Lee’s April 1865 surrender, Lewis told Hurston that Union soldiers came to the boat he was working on. They then delivered the news that the slaves had finally be freed . Not content to return to his prior life, Lewis and his fellow freed slaves teamed up to purchase land in Alabama. Located near Mobile, the men transformed the land they christened Africatown. 

Though Hurston faced controversy for her handling of the book’s subject matter, she kept the book intact. Much of the book took Lewis’s exact words and put them on paper. At the time she was trying to get it published, this prevented her from being able to do so. As her readers know, Hurston was known for her controversial views on anthropology and not shying away from dialogue considered vernacular. Much of that is evident in this book. 

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History

When Trucking Leads to Change

Anjali DeSimone

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The United States decision to resupply the Israeli military marked the beginning of a national crisis. In response to this decision, Arab members of the OPEC banned exports of petroleum to the United States and other supporting countries of Israel. Subsequently, oil prices quadrupled, and the economy begin to suffer. One of the people affected by this crisis was JW Edwards, A meat truck driver from Overland Park, Kansas. In an attempt to financially survive the crisis, Edwards and other truck drivers made up code names to let each other know where to find diesel fuel; however, this this did not last very long, as many gas stations did not supply enough diesel to meet trucker demand.   No gas meant no deliveries, and no deliveries meant no money. Not only was there no gas, but there had been talk of changing the maximum speed limit to fifty-five miles per hour. Edwards knew that if this continued for too long, he would be forced out of business. “I had to take things into my own hands.” he said. “My family was depending on me.” 

On the night of December 3rd, while passing through Blakeslee, Pennsylvania Edwards ran out of gas in the middle of the interstate. He had had enough. He picked up his CB radio and invited other nearby truckers to come block the interstate in protest.

When John Robinson, a local trucker from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania heard Edwards on the radio, he headed that way to show his support. Robinson knew and understood Edwards’ frustration all to well as he and his family were also feeling the affects of the oil crisis. He had been in the trucking business for thirty years, hauling lumber from state to state. Not only was this his families only source of income, but at the time, his wife had recently given birth to their fourth child. “Some nights he would come home and not say nothing,” remembers Mrs. Robinson. “I knew that he was worried, but I trusted that he would figure it out.”

The protest stretched nearly twelve miles, causing a standstill for nearly one thousand vehicles. It wasn’t long before truckers in other states followed the lead. The protest caught national attention, and although some state leaders promised changed, gas prices continued to rise. Since the protest had begun, food shortages were on the rise and the economy was a mess due to the over 100,00 people who were now unemployed.

It wasn’t until a group of six truckers from the Independent Driving Association decided to come together to speak with government officials that things begin to get better. Government officials agreed to ensure that the truck stops had enough diesel fuel to meet the demands of the truckers. They also worked together to appeal the decision to decrease the maximum speed limit.

In March of 1974, approximately six months after it had all started the embargo ended.  Negotiations between Israel and Syria were finalized. The affects of the crisis however, including the high fuel prices, lasted  throughout the 1970s.  

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