From The Beacon: Learn about these scandals in history

Let's look back on some of history's most infamous and scandalous stories.


The Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor has generated many nonfiction books. Two of the best are "At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor" by Gordon W. Prange and "Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath" by John Toland. Prange's book concentrates on events leading up to the Japanese attack and the attack itself. Toland's book suggests American officials knew much about Japanese intentions, yet did not heed warnings. The resulting Congressional and military investigations were attempts to assign blame and cover up embarrassing truths. "Day of Deceit: the Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor" by Robert B. Stinnett argues President Roosevelt and others not only knew about a planned attack and did not heed warnings, but also wanted an attack to take place.


On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese sub as it was heading for the Philippines after dropping off its cargo of components for the atomic bomb on Tinian Island. Five days went by before the survivors were rescued. Of a crew of around 1,200, only 316 survived, including the captain. It was arguably the worst disaster in the history of the U.S. Navy. There was a lot of secrecy surrounding the ship's voyage and demise. The library has two excellent books on the subject: "In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton and "Fatal Voyage: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis" by Dan Kurzman.


In May 1915, a German U-boat sunk the British passenger liner Lusitania off the Irish coast, killing around 1,200, including more than 100 American citizens. The ship sank in 18 minutes. This raised many questions. Was the Lusitania solely a passenger ship or was it used to carry armaments for the Allies? Why did the ship sink so quickly? Did the British know all along what was aboard the ship? At the time of Lusitania's demise, America was not involved in World War I. But the sinking was one of several events that propelled America to eventually enter the war. Read "Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy" by Diana Preston to learn more about this mysterious tragedy.


Arguably the most infamous and sensational crime in American history occurred in 1932, when Charles Lindbergh's 2-year-old son was kidnapped from his bedroom and later found dead in the woods. At the time, Charles Lindbergh was arguably the most famous person in America for becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927. The trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the man who was charged in the kidnapping and murder of the baby, was commonly known as "The Trial of the Century." Find out more by reading "Lindbergh: The Crime" by Noel Behn.


Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish officer serving in the French Army. In 1894, he was found guilty of passing secrets to the Germans and sentenced to years of harsh imprisonment. Ultimately, he was retried and cleared of all charges. The significance of this affair was the anti-Semitism of the French government and populace and how it influenced the efforts to find Dreyfus guilty, despite insufficient evidence. Read more about Dreyfus in "For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus" by Frederick Brown.