1955 24 Hours of Le Mans: A Tragic Vision
By: Jeremy McMullen
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By: Jeremy McMullen
| In the fog of war, the potential for friendly fire increases dramatically. And in such horrible moments a truly tragic scene develops that is every bit as terrible as the act of friendly troops being cut down by their own. Often a time of blame and finger-pointing, instead of honesty and commitment to stand together, is the immediate result. Unfortunately, such a scene would be about to unfold on the 11th of June, 1955. However, amidst the chaos and the tragedy, one man would see his way forward and would do his best to lead into an era of greater awareness and action instead of blame and apathy.
At six in the evening, a titanic battle would be clearly underway with two potent forces pounding away at each other. With such ferocity, it would be consuming all in its path. It truly was World War II all over again. But instead of some incredible tank battle it would be a motor race with two great teams, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar enthralling the crowd and the drivers. Neither side would be giving in. Therefore, in the fog of this titanic battle, neither side would realize the truly horrific scene that was about to play out and, as a result, expose decades of apathy and abandonment of sound judgment.
The early 20th century would be a period of great adventure and discovery. Danger and the threat of death would be never far away as man stretched the limits. In fact, the danger would be considered part and parcel to the quest of pushing back boundaries. Forethought, it would turn out, would actually be hindsight.
At the time of this titanic battle raging between Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, Europe had only emerged from the Second World War about a decade earlier. There were still portions of the continent in ruin or slowly being rebuilt. The war would remain on the minds of many, as would the rather comfortable acceptance of death and danger. After all, had it not been for men and women willing to face such incredible danger and incredible threats of death it would have been likely Mercedes would have considered Le Mans home territory by 1955. So there were many things, many obvious signs of danger that would go unnoticed until 6:26pm on the evening of the 11th of June.
The Deadliest Crash—The Le Mans 1955 Disaster (UK BBC 16 May 2010) Video. (2010). Retrieved 7 November 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asGtbXjYdK0
John Fitch and the 1955 Le Mans Catastrophe Video. (2009). Retrieved 7 November 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOAQu4C3yAc
Martin, Douglas. 'John Fitch, Glamorous Racer with a Flair for Danger, Dies at 95', (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/sports/autoracing/john-cooper-fitch-glamorous-racer-with-a-flair-for-danger-dies-at-95.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&). The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/sports/autoracing/john-cooper-fitch-glamorous-racer-with-a-flair-for-danger-dies-at-95.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
'Obituaries: John Fitch', (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/sport-obituaries/9654484/John-Fitch.html). The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/sport-obituaries/9654484/John-Fitch.html. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
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