July 17 in history:
During the First World War, when England was fighting against Germany, English King George V officially changed his family name from the German-sounding “Saxe Coburg and Gotha” to the more British-sounding “Windsor” on July 17th, 1917.
One year later, on July 17th of 1918, George’s relatives in the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. King George was a first cousin to both Czar Nicholas and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm.
By 1945, Stalin was leader of Russia and the entire Soviet Union. On July 17th of that year, he was meeting with U.S. President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Potsdam Conference, to decide the future of Nazi Germany after World War II. During the three-week conference, Churchill was voted out of the Prime Minister’s office. His successor, Clement Attlee, completed the Potsdam talks.
Germany would be led by chancellors after the two world wars. The first female Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was born on this date in 1954.
December 18 in history:
The President of the United States got married on December 18th, 1915. Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen, died a year after moving into the White House. Widower Wilson met widow Edith Bolling Galt in 1915, and they wed just nine months later. Edith Wilson is sometimes considered America’s first female president, for assuming some duties of the presidency after Wilson had a stroke during his second term.
At the time of President Wilson’s second wedding, he was about to run for a second term using the slogan “He kept us out of war.” The First World War began in 1914, in response to the assassination of an Austrian archduke and his wife. That archduke, Franz Ferdinand, was born on this day in 1863. Future Soviet leader Joseph Stalin also was born December 18th, in 1878. Stalin was not allowed to serve in WWI because of a bad arm.
In the 2008 movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the title character, who ages in reverse, is born on the last day of World War I. Button is played by Brad Pitt, born December 18th, 1963. Pitt also has starred in “Moneyball,” “Fight Club,” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” and is known for his marriages to Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.
The WWI drama “War Horse” earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination for its producer and director Steven Spielberg, born December 18th, 1946. Spielberg has won two Oscars as a director, for two films about World War II, “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” He’s also had big hits with “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” and the Indiana Jones franchise.