Cocoanut Grove on fire! (11-28-42)

The Evening Star (December 31, 1942)

Eleven are indicted in probe of Boston fire, killing 489

Charges kept secret, but grand jury hits officials’ ‘laxity’

Boston, Massachusetts (AP) –
A grand jury today returned 11 secret indictments in connection with the Cocoanut Grove Night Club fire Nov. 28, in which 489 panic-stricken persons lost their lives in a horror of flame, smoke and gas.

Simultaneously, the 20-man Suffolk County grand jury issued a series of findings and recommendations, declaring there had been:

…laxity, incompetence, failure to fulfill prescribed duties effectively and also lack of complete knowledge of duties" among members of various departments charged with the protection of public safety.

In a lashing statement, the jury said it intended to record its conclusions:

…even though such evidence may fall short of establishing the willfulness or corruption required to make neglect of duty a criminal offense.

The jury said:

We have found shifting of responsibility and a tendency by various officials in different important departments who relied too much on their subordinates without exercising a sufficient and proper check on such subordinates.

We have found no complete coordination between the buildings department, fire department, police department, and licensing board, with respect to various types of inspection intended to be made to insure public safety in addition to protecting the public health, morals, et cetera.

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The Pittsburgh Press (January 4, 1943)

Nine plead innocent in Boston club fire

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
Nine of 10 defendants pleaded innocent today when arranged in Superior Court on manslaughter, conspiracy or negligence charges growing out of the Cocoanut Grove fire which took 489 lives.

The only defendant who failed to appear was Police Captain Joseph Buccigross, who is charged with neglect of duty and corruptly failing to enforce fire laws. It was announced in court that he was confined to his home by illness. Special arrangements will be made for his arrangement.

In continuing the cases until Jan. 12 for the filing of special pleas, Superior Judge Frank J. Donahue released the defendants in the same bail as when they were arrested Thursday. It totaled $88,500.

The Pittsburgh Press (January 10, 1943)

Hurt in nightclub fire, man jumps to his death

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) – (Jan. 9)
The death toll of the Cocoanut Grove holocaust rose to 490 today when Francis Gatturni, 31, of Roslindale, one of those injured, committed suicide by leaping from a window at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Pittsburgh Press (April 10, 1943)

Jury handed fate of 3 in Boston fire

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
The manslaughter case against three men blamed for the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire that cost 491 lives went to the jury at 1 p.m. today after a month-long trial.

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The Pittsburgh Press (April 15, 1943)

Nightclub owner is given 15 years

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
Barnett Welansky, owner of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison today for manslaughter in connection with the fire at his club last Nov. 28 which cost 491 lives.

Judge Joseph Hurley imposed the prison sentence on each of 19 counts, but ordered that they all be served concurrently – the first day in solitary confinement and the rest at hard labor. The possible maximum sentence would have been 20 years in prison.

The 46-year-old defendant, a Boston lawyer, stared ahead as sentence was pronounced.

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so this decision was taken at the lower court level right? So… in case he goes for higher courts… would he be in prison or the sentence dropped till the issue is resolved in the higher courts?


The Pittsburgh Press (July 23, 1943)

Contractor is convicted in Boston nightclub fire

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
Samuel Rudnick, a contractor, was convicted of conspiracy today in connection with the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire last November which cost 492 lives. Three other Boston men were acquitted.

Those acquitted of conspiring to evade the building laws were James Welansky, brother of Barnett Welansky who is serving a 12- to 18-year prison term for manslaughter; Theodore Eldracher, city building inspector, and Rudnick’s helper, David Gilbert.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 4, 1943)

Seared victim of Cocoanut Grove Fire holds hope for life after 8 months

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
One of medical history’s most amazing fights for life was revealed today by physicians who for eight months have worked tirelessly at the bedside of a young Coast Guardsman burned almost beyond recognition in the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub holocaust.

Third-degree burns covered 65% of Clifford Johnson’s body when the 21-year-old Sumner, Missouri, sailor was dragged last Nov. 28 from the nightclub fire that cost 492 lives.

In a third-degree burn, the skin and possibly some of the tissue beneath has been destroyed. No other person in that fire who suffered more than 20% burns survived.

Since that night, Johnson, the only victim still hospitalized, has lain on his stomach. Three things have apparently kept him alive during those pain-wracked months – nutritional treatment, blood plasma and about $20,000 worth of the finest medical case obtainable.

Perhaps the first was the most important. Dr. Charles C. Lund of Brookline said that the nutritional treatment was a more important factor than sulfa drugs and the triple dye treatments.

From 168 pounds, Johnson dropped to 112 as the protein in his body drained from a normal of 6.5.% to 3.2%. to combat this, he was intravenously fed 6,500 calories daily as compared with the 3,500 calories required each day by a laborer. His daily caloric intake equaled about three pounds of meat.

The Navy and the Coast Guard gave nearly 100 transfusions from their blood banks into the youthful seaman’s veins – perhaps more than ever has been used by any one person in such a concentrated period.

Three physicians. Including Dr. Newton C. Browder, and six nurses have been in almost constant attendance at City Hospital. It was Dr. Browder who persuaded the Coast guard that Johnson should remain in that institution until his recovery was complete.

The American Red Cross donated almost $5,000 for nursing care. Burn specialists throughout the United States visited him to study this very rare case in medical history.

The National Research Council at Washington and the City Hospital’s Thorndike Memorial Laboratory have gathered information from his case that may revolutionize burn treatment.

Skin grafts on Johnson’s back are healing. He has passed through the most painful period and now wants to live. Doctors believe he will.

But these same physicians say it will be several months before he walks again and that by the time he is well, his medical care will have cost more than $50,000.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 14, 1943)

After 290 days –
Victim of nightclub fire beginning to walk again

‘Isn’t that something?’ Coast Guardsman asks after he takes a few steps

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
Falteringly, 22-year-old Clifford Johnson of Sumner, Missouri, walked unassisted today for the first time since he was burned almost beyond recognition in the cocoanut Grove Nightclub holocaust 290 days ago.

“Isn’t that something?” he asked his nurses with a grin as, like a baby learning to walk, he took a few steps across the Boston City Hospital room where he has lain – most of the time on his stomach – since the fire that cost 492 lives.

Although the young coast Guardsman is winning one of medical history’s most amazing fights for life, it will probably be four more months before he can go back to his parents and a sister on their Missouri farm.

On Aug. 4, newspapers throughout the country published the story of Johnson’s plucky battle for life. It was a fight in which some $20,000 was spent on nutritional treatment, blood plasma, sulfa drugs and skin grafting in an effort to patch up a body, 65% of which was covered with third-degree burns.

To Johnson came a flood of letters, many from mothers with sons in the service or from servicemen themselves, offering sympathy and encouragement.

Apparently, the letters were just the tonic the shy sailor needed. A six-footer, he has regained 16 of the 56 pounds he lost as a result of the accident and now weighs 124.

Johnson still has to sleep on his stomach, but in his waking hours is able to relieve the monotony by typing with one hand on a portable typewriter.

Dr. Newton Brower, who belittles his own large part in Johnson’s recovery, praised Dr. Charles C. Lund and the staff of the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory. He said Johnson already had had 17,000 pinpoint skin grafts on his head, back, arms and legs, and that more were yet to come.

Etymology, origin and meaning of holocaust by etymonline

Oct 13, 2021 — Originally a Bible word for “burnt offerings,” given wider figurative sense of “massacre, destruction of a large number of persons” from 1670s

It’s a Much older word.

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