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Milestones: Friday, August 11, 2023

August 11, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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SHORT-LIVED DEMOCRACY — The Weimar Constitution was signed on Aug. 11, 1919, creating Germany’s first parliamentary democracy. Friedrich Ebert, a member of the Social Democratic Party and the provisional president of the German Reichstag (government), signed the Weimar Constitution, which was a result of the citizenry’s anger over food shortages, strikes and military mutinies. Germany had been under a military dictatorship for much of World War I; discord and chaos followed the country’s loss to the Allies. Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, leaders of Germany’s Supreme Army Command, Kaiser Wilhelm II, pressured Kaiser Wilhelm to form a civilian government so that an armistice with the Allies could be reached.

However, the Weimar Constitution was short-lived, due to extremism on both the right and socialist left and then the Great Depression. These factors set the stage for the rise of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ (or Nazi) Party to dissolve the parliamentary government and seize absolute power over Germany.


GERMAN ARMY EVACUATES SICILY — Fast-forward to the middle of World War II, when, on Aug. 11, 1943, German forces begin a six-day evacuation of the Italian island of Sicily, following the Allies’ invasion of that island two miles off the Italian mainland coast. Although the German army had a presence in Sicily, The invasion, of which Gen. George S. Patton and his 7th Army and Gen. Bernard Montgomery and his 8th Army were leaders, dissolved Germany’s hold; and the strategy now became slowing and impeding the Allies’ march to Rome. The Germans led 39,569 soldiers, 47 tanks, with 94 heavy guns, 9,605 vehicles, and more than 2,000 tons of ammunition onto the Italian peninsula over the course of seven nights and six nights, giving them a chance to regroup. 

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Meanwhile, the Sicilian people welcomed the Allies and an end to fascist rule.


ONCE HOME TO AL CAPONE — The first group of civilian federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz Island, (a rock formation in the San Francisco Bay) on Aug. 11, 1934. This group had been classified as “most dangerous.” Following them in later weeks was another cohort which included among other convicts, notorious mobster Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Alcatraz, which earlier in 1934 had been fortified as a high-security federal penitentiary for most dangerous prisoners in the U.S. penal system, including military prisoners, deserters and war resisters, especially those most capable and likely to escape.

Alcatraz was named Isla de los Alcatraces, or “Island of the Pelicans,” when Spanish Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala discovered the formation in 1775. It was sold to the United States in 1849. Alcatraz was also the site of the first lighthouse on California’s coast.


PRESIDENT FOR A DAY — DAVID R. ATCHISON, born Aug. 11, 1807, was a Democratic Senator from Missouri who, being popular with his colleagues, was elected president pro tempore of the Senate 13 times. Because of a calendar fluke, the Presidential inauguration — then held on March 4 — that year fell on a Sunday. The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 specified that the Senate president pro tempore immediately followed the vice president in the line of presidential succession. Because Vice President George Dallas had taken leave of Senate session two days prior, and incoming President Zachary Taylor refused to take the office on the Christian Sabbath. Atchison was in the position to serve as President during the interim. But as records are nebulous, the question remains as to whether the need arose for him to step up.

Atchison was a staunch supporter of Mormon rights. However, he was also pro-slavery.


PIONEER TALK SHOW HOST ALSO SANG — Singer and talk show host MIKE DOUGLAS, was both born and died on Aug. 11. Born as Michael Dowd on Aug. 11, 1925, He was a pioneer of the daytime talk shows, hosting his first program in Cleveland in 1963. Within five years, he was a familiar name across the country. He featured celebrity interviews, and among his guests were Truman Capote, Richard Nixon, Jerry Lewis, Edward Everett Horton and The Rolling Stones. The Mike Douglas Show, which remained on air until 1981, won the first Emmy Award for Individual Achievement in Daytime Television.

Mike Douglas, who had been a choir boy in his youth, also sang The Star Spangled Banner at  several baseball games, including at the first Phillies game at Veterans Stadium in 1971. He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


CAPTURED A PULITZER FOR “ROOTS” — ALEX PALMER HALEY, born on Aug. 11, 1921, became a writer and college professor, after having served as a cook with the U.S. Coast Guard. His first book was the fruit of an interview with Malcolm X for an article in Playboy magazine. Titled Autobiography of Malcolm X, that book sold six million copies in eight languages. Haley’s 1976 novel, “Roots,” won the Pulitzer Prize, also sold millions, was published in even more (37) languages and was produced as a mini-series.

Roots inspired its readers and viewers to explore family genealogy.


KING HUSSEIN AND QUEEN NOOR — Prince Hussein was proclaimed the king of Jordan on Aug. 11, 1952, after his father, King Talal, after the Jordanian Parliament declared his father, King Talal, unfit to rule due to mental illness. The new King Hussein’s coronation took place on his 18th birthday, Nov. 14, 1953. Believed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, King Hussein was Jordan’s third constitutional king and ruled almost five decades, until his death in 1999. During his reign, King Hussein enjoyed good relations with the West, and in 1978 married an American woman of Syrian heritage on her father’s side. He opposed the Persian Gulf War of 1991 but supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace endeavors.

King Hussein married Lisa Halaby, who had Syrian-Lebanese heritage on her paternal side and  was Swedish on her mother’s side. She received a new name: Queen Noor Al-Hussein, whose name means Light. Queen Noor continues as a philanthropist.

See previous milestones, here.

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