May 7th in history:
The British ocean liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7th, 1915. Nearly twelve hundred people aboard the ship died, including 128 Americans. The sinking is considered to be a major factor which led the U.S. into World War I, two years later.
Sgt. Alvin York became one of the most decorated U.S. soldiers in World War I, by capturing 132 enemy soldiers. Gary Cooper, born on May 7th, 1901, won his first of two Oscars for playing York in the movie “Sergeant York.” Cooper also starred as WWI Gen. Billy Mitchell, considered the founder of the Air Force, in “The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.”
On this date in 1960, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced that American pilot Francis Gary Powers had been captured. Powers was flying a U-2 spy plane over the USSR when he was shot down on May 1st.
One of the scientists who developed the optics used on the U-2 was Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera. Land was born May 7th, 1909.
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.
November 11 in history:
Many of the Pilgrims who came to America aboard the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11th, 1620. The document established a government at the Massachusetts colony where they had landed.
The armistice agreement which ended the First World War was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, in a railroad car in a French forest. The war’s end came four years after its triggering event, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and about a year-and-a-half after the U.S. joined the conflict.
The war ended on George S. Patton’s 33rd birthday. Patton was a tank commander in the war, but on Armistice Day, he was recovering from a leg injury received in battle two months earlier.
Comedian Stubby Kaye was born on the last day of World War I. Kaye became a man in uniform in the movie “Guys and Dolls,” as a reformed gambler who joined the Save-a-Soul Mission. He’s also known for appearances in “Cat Ballou” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
November 9 in history:
Germany has had its share of political upheavals on November 9th…
Kaiser Wilhelm II stepped down from his post as German emperor on November 9th of 1918, ending a 30-year reign. The armistice to end the first World War was reached two days later.
The new German government that replaced the monarchy did not please one Adolf Hitler. He and hundreds of Nazi party members attempted an overthrow of the Bavarian government in 1923 with an uprising known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The revolt was put down by police in the streets of Munich on November 9th.
The Communist government of East Germany which came after Hitler’s reign during World War Two was starting to fall apart in 1989 when it bowed to pressure from the public and allowed people to pass freely through the Berlin Wall. After that announcement on the 9th of November, Germans began breaking down the wall which had divided the free and Communist portions of Berlin since the 1960’s.
The 1967 military comedy “How I Won the War” featured John Lennon of the Beatles as an English soldier serving in WWII. A photo of a short-haired Lennon in his soldier costume appeared on the cover of the first Rolling Stone magazine, issued on this date in ’67.
October 24 in history:
Here’s a holiday experiment that didn’t work: moving Veterans’ Day away from the traditional date of November 11th. The holiday, originally called Armistice Day, observed the date on which World War I ended in 1918. But starting in 1971, Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day all became Monday holidays for federal government employees. Veterans’ Day was switched to the fourth Monday in October…and was observed that way for the last time on October 24th, 1977, before being returned to November 11th.
October 24th of 1951 was designated the last day of World War II by President Truman. Germany and Japan both surrendered to the Allies in 1945, but the European war never officially ended with a peace treaty. Truman apparently got tired of waiting to reach an agreement with a divided Germany, so he declared the war to be over.
Over the falls in a barrel…that where Annie Edson Taylor went on her 46th birthday, October 24th, 1901. She became famous as the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls inside a barrel.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford went over a cliff in a famous scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which opened around the U.S. on this date in 1969. Both Redford and Newman won Oscars in the 1980s, as did two actors who were born on October 24th: F. Murray Abraham (1939), who starred in “Amadeus,” and Kevin Kline (1947), a winner for “A Fish Called Wanda.”
September 30 in history:
“The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” might not have existed without Fred Flintstone. On September 30th, 1960, “The Flintstones” debuted on ABC. It was the first long-running animated sitcom in prime time, and it inspired spinoffs, sequels, live-action movies, breakfast cereals, and chewable vitamins.
Lewis Milestone was not a character on “The Flintstones.” He was an Oscar-winning director who had a hit movie in theaters in the fall of 1960, the original “Ocean’s Eleven.” Milestone was born on this date in 1895. He also directed the Best Picture winner for 1930, the World War I drama “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
European leaders hoping to prevent a second World War signed the Munich Pact on September 30th, 1938. The pact would allow Hitler to annex the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia to Germany. The agreement has gone down in history as a monumental blunder, especially for British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who returned to England that day with a peace treaty signed by Hitler.
The most popular song in much of Europe on this date in 1976 was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. On September 30th, it was the number-one song in England, Ireland, Holland, Norway, and Sweden.
September 17 in history:
Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in a plane crash on September 17th, 1908. Orville Wright was flying the plane, and Selfridge was his passenger, in a demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia. The plane went into a nose-dive after a propeller broke.
On this date in 1916, German Baron von Richthofen, the “Red Baron,” shot down his first enemy plane during World War One. The English plane was the first of 80 that Richthofen downed before he was shot down himself a year-and-a-half later.
Soldiers shoot at an airplane carrying IMF agents at the end of the pilot of “Mission: Impossible,” which debuted on CBS on this date in 1966. One year earlier, two series with heroes performing nearly impossible or secret missions premiered on CBS on September 17th, 1965: “The Wild Wild West” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”
“Mission: Impossible” star Peter Graves played an ill-fated pilot in the movie comedy “Airplane!” An ill-fated airplane flight to Las Vegas which has to be diverted to Casper, Wyoming, is a highlight of the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids,” directed by Paul Feig, born on September 17th, 1962. Feig, also known for directing the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot and creating the TV series “Freaks and Geeks,” was born the same day and year as Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann, whose films include “Moulin Rouge!” and the 2013 remake of “The Great Gatsby.”
Below: Triviazoids’ Brad Williams quizzed on September 17 TV trivia on “Live with Regis and Kelly”, as seen in the documentary, “Unforgettable”.