Aug 192015
 

Born on this day 19 August in 1921, Gene Roddenberry led a life as colourful and exciting as almost any high-adventure fiction. A decorated B-17 pilot who later flew for Pan American Airways, he possessed a passion for literature and futurology – which laid the foundations for his greatest achievement, the legendary science-fiction series, Star Trek.

Gene_Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek
(Image courtesy startrek.com)

Born in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, studied three years to become a policeman and then transferred his academic interest to aeronautical engineering and qualified for a pilot’s license. He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the autumn of 1941 and was ordered into training as a flying cadet when the United States entered World War II.

Aviation

Emerging from Kelly Field, Texas, as a Second Lieutenant, Roddenberry was sent to the South Pacific where he entered combat at Guadalcanal, flying B-17 bombers out of the newly-captured Japanese airstrip, which became Henderson Field. He flew missions against enemy strongholds at Bougainville and participated in the Munda invasion. In all, he took part in approximately 89 missions and sorties. He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

While in the South Pacific, he also began to write. He sold stories to flying magazines, and later poetry to publications, including The New York Times. Upon his return from combat, he became a trouble-shooter for the Air Force working out of Washington, D.C., investigating the causes of air crashes. At war’s end, he joined Pan American World Airways. During this time, he also studied literature at Columbia University.

Roddenberry_Riker

Gene Roddenberry and actor Jonathan Frakes who played Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
(Image courtesy startrek.com)

It was on a flight from Calcutta that his plane lost two engines and caught fire in mid-air, crashing at night in the Syrian desert. As the senior surviving officer, Roddenberry sent two Englishmen swimming across the Euphrates River in quest of the source of a light he had observed just prior to the crash. Meanwhile, he parleyed with nomads who had come to loot the dead. The Englishmen reached a Syrian military outpost, which sent a small plane to investigate. Roddenberry returned with the small plane to the outpost, where he broadcast a message that was relayed to Pan Am, which sent a stretcher plane to the rescue. Roddenberry later received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his efforts during and after the crash.

Back in the States, Roddenberry continued flying until he saw television for the first time. Correctly estimating television’s future, he realized that the new medium would need writers and decided that Hollywood’s film studios would soon dominate the new industry. He acted immediately, left his flying career behind and went to Hollywood, only to find the television industry still in its infancy, with few openings for inexperienced writers. At a friend’s suggestion, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, following in his father’s footsteps and gaining experiences which would be valuable to a writer.

Hollywood

StarTrek_characters

Spock, Kirk, Bones and Scotty in Star Trek: The Original Series.

By the time he had become a sergeant, Roddenberry was selling scripts to such shows as Goodyear Theatre, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, Four Star Theater, Dragnet, The Jane Wyman Theater and Naked City. Established as a writer, he turned in his badge and became a freelancer. Later, he served as head writer for the highly popular series Have Gun, Will Travel. His episode “Helen of Abiginian” won the Writers Guild Award and was distributed to other writers as a model script for the series. Next, he created and produced The Lieutenant series, starring Gary Lockwood and Robert Vaughn; it told the story of a young man learning the lessons of life while in the United States Marine Corps.

In 1964, Roddenberry unveiled his concept for a science fiction series – a show about a group of characters who would travel each week to worlds similar to our own. He set the show “somewhere in the future”— close enough to our time for the audience to be able to identify with the continuing characters, but far enough into the future for galaxy travel to be thoroughly established. Star Trek followed in 1966 – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Legacy

As creator of the Starship Enterprise and its crew, which included the heroic Captain Kirk and the logical Vulcan, Mr. Spock, Roddenberry unwittingly unleashed a phenomenon in which Star Trek enthusiasts became a veritable cult, numbering physicists, aerospace engineers, housewives, senators, children, teachers and intellectuals among its devotees (affectionately known as “Trekkies,” and later, “Trekkers”).

The show went outside television to win science fiction’s coveted Hugo Award. When NASA announced its space shuttle program, fans wrote hundreds of thousands of letters demanding the first orbiter be named in honour of the beloved Starship. On 4 September 1986, fans presented Roddenberry with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first writer/producer to be so honoured.

Gene Roddenberry passed away on 24 October 1991 – his legacy never to be forgotten. No one could have imagined the cultural impact that this weekly “space opera” would have on multiple generations of viewers. Interest has never waned as demonstrated by twelve Star Trek motion pictures, five additional television series and now the official coin program.

Credit: startrek.com (edits by The Perth Mint).
TM & © 2015 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved

POST A COMMENT

 
Mar 312015
 

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was formed on this day in 1921. It is the second-oldest independent Air Force in the world.

The RAAF traces its history back to the formation of the Central Flying School at Point Cook in Victoria in 1913. By 1914, it was known as the Australian Flying Corps (AFC).

Lieutenant-E-Harrison

Lieutenant Eric Harrison [Australian War Memorial A03916]

On 1 March that year, Lieutenant Eric Harrison made the first military flight in Australia using a Bristol Boxkite, registered CFS 3.

Military aviation came of age during World War I when Australia’s four AFC squadrons were primarily involved in reconnaissance. Many AFC veterans helped lay the groundwork for the future RAAF after the war.

During 1920, the AFC was replaced by the Australian Air Corps, which in turn became the Australian Air Force on 31 March 1921. King George V approved the prefix ‘Royal’ for what became only the second Royal air arm to be formed in the British Commonwealth, following the Royal Air Force.

In World War II, Australian aircrew fought throughout the world including Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, over the North Atlantic, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, India and Asia.

Today, the RAAF employs about 14,000 men and women, supported by 4,000 Air Force Reservists and 800 civilian public servants at a range of offices and 11 major bases across Australia.

100 Years of Australian Military Aviation 2014 1oz Silver Proof Coin

Commemorating 100 years of Australian military aviation, this 2014 release portrays an historic Bristol Boxkite, a pusher biplane in which early Australian aviators learned to fly. The design also includes a F/A-18 Hornet, an integral part of Australia’s modern air combat capability.

Centenary-of-Military-Aviation-in-Australia

POST A COMMENT

 
Jun 042014
 

Six months after its attack on Pearl Harbour, the Imperial Japanese Navy aimed to inflict another devastating defeat on the United States.

This time it intended to take the US base on Midway Atoll in the Pacific with a formidable strike force supported by four aircraft-carriers, while the main body of its mighty naval force lay in wait for the arrival of the heavily depleted American Fleet. Thanks to US intelligence, however, Admiral Nimitz possessed valuable details of Admiral Yamamoto’s plan.

Midway_artwork
On 4 June 1942, while Japan’s carrier-launched planes were inflicting heavy damage on Midway, the strike force suddenly learned of the approaching US Fleet. With their decks busy in the process of refuelling and redeploying aircraft, the Japanese carriers were struck with damaging consequences by about 35 Dauntless dive-bombers. As a result, all four Japanese carriers were abandoned and sunk, while USS Yorktown was also mortally wounded during the fighting.

Battle of Midway 1942 Silver Proof Coin

A turning point of World War II, the Battle of Midway was a decisive victory that permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy. Commemorating the significance of the encounter, The Perth Mint issued this Battle of Midway 1942 1oz Silver Proof Coin in 2011. The coin’s reverse design depicts a struck image of USS Enterprise, a Yorktown class aircraft carrier, and a coloured composition of a Dauntless dive-bomber above Akagi, a Japanese aircraft carrier that was scuttled after being severely damaged during the battle.

Battle of Midway coin

Less than 500 of these coins remain available for sale at The Perth Mint out of a maximum mintage of 5,000. Each coin, which is accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity, is housed in a presentation display case and superbly illustrated shipper.

POST A COMMENT

 
May 292014
 

Today is the birthday of Benedetto Pistrucci, creator of one of the world’s most highly revered gold coin designs.

Pistrucci

Bust of Benedetto Pistrucci

Born in Italy on 29 May 1783*, Pistrucci moved to England in 1815 where he became Chief Medallist at the Royal Mint.

Under the laws of the day, foreigners were technically ineligible for the top job. However, in the words of the Mint Master, his skills “place him above all competition”.

Pistrucci’s reputation in London soared with the creation of a wax model of St George in the ‘Greek style’ for aristocrats Lord and Lady Spencer.

On joining the Mint, he created designs for Britain’s Great Recoinage of 1816, suggesting St George and the Dragon for the new gold sovereign valued at one pound.

Pistrucci’s design showed St George as a Greek horseman mounted on a Parthenon-style horse slaying a dragon. The new coin made its appearance in 1817 after Britain’s victory at Waterloo.

The result was a masterpiece of numismatic art, a design combining such grace and dramatic impact that it now ranks as one of the best loved and most enduring of all British coin designs.

Australia boasts a connection with his iconic reverse. It was struck millions of times on sovereigns made at the Sydney, Melbourne and Perth Mints before 1931.
Quarter sovereign coinToday’ the British Mint continues to strike the design on magnificent gold coins such as this 2014 Quarter Sovereign struck from 22-carat red gold. Pistrucci would undoubtedly be extremely proud to know his masterpiece still commands such admiration and respect.

(*In the course of our research we found some sources quoting Pistrucci’s date of birth to be 24 May. Others we discovered have the year of birth as 1874, but this is now considered to be incorrect. We apologise if any inaccuracy is reflected in this article).

POST A COMMENT

 
Jun 282013
 

Queen Victoria was crowned at Westminster Abbey 175 years ago today.

Intriguing Facts About Queen Victoria’s Coronation

  • Around 400,000 visitors crowded the streets of London to see the new Queen on her Coronation Day – 28 June 1838.
  • Victoria was escorted into Westminster Abbey by Lord Melbourne, the British Prime Minister after whom the Australian city is named.
  • The coronation ceremony lasted five hours and involved Victoria in two changes of dress.
  • The coronation cost less than £80,000, relatively modest compared to George IV’s coronation bill of £240,000 17 years earlier.
  • The magnificent Imperial State Crown, incorporating the Black Prince’s Ruby and a sapphire from the ring of Edward the Confessor, was made for Victoria’s coronation.
  • In an act of kindness, Victoria rose from her Coronation Chair to touch an elderly peer who had fallen on the altar steps while trying to pay her homage.
  • The Coronation Ring, which had been made to fit Victoria’s little finger, was forced on to her fourth finger by the Archbishop of Canterbury, requiring her to bathe her hand in iced water before she could remove it.
  • With little rehearsal, the coronation ceremony was characterised at times by confusion and doubt, nevertheless Victoria described the day as “the proudest of my life”.

State Portrait

Queen_Victoria_Coronation_Silver_CoinThe State Portrait, painted by Sir George Hayter, portrayed the 19 year-old Queen as she was at her Coronation in Westminster Abbey. Shown seated in her Homage Chair, she wears Coronation Robes and the Imperial State Crown and carries the Sceptre with the Cross. Part of this portrait appears on the reverse of our Queen Victoria 175th Anniversary of Coronation 2013 1oz Silver Proof Coin marking this important day in history.

POST A COMMENT

 
Apr 222013
 

“Kapyong came to be the most significant
and important battle for Australian troops in Korea”

– Australian War Memorial.

On the night of 22 April 1951, Chinese forces launched a major offensive against United Nations forces defending the South Korean capital, Seoul. In the ensuing fighting in the Kapyong Valley, a key route into the city, Australian troops helped hold up the Chinese 60th Division. For their contribution to this action, 3 RAR was awarded a United States Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation.

Kapyong_Coin-case[www.anzacday.org.au says:] “The ANZAC spirit was alive and well; the 3rd Battalion had remained true to the legend. When others had retreated before an imposing enemy, the Australians stood their ground and defended their position. In doing so, they prevented a massive breakthrough from occurring that would certainly have seen the enemy recapture Seoul and with it, thousands of UN troops.”

Coin collectors can mark this famous battle of the Korean War with The Perth Mint’s Kapyong 2012 1oz Silver Proof Coin.

POST A COMMENT