The Year was 1793

On a hot summer day in Paris, concealing a butcher knife in her long skirts, Charlotte Corday appeared at the gates of Jean-Paul Marat’s house. She told the guards she had names of Marat’s enemies – for the guillotine. And she would give them to no one but Marat. His wife had a bad feeling…

The Year was 1939

Why would all these people be coming to this obscure graveyard? The caretaker could not understand the sudden interest in the nondescript grave of a teenage soldier who had died during a skirmish in the British Mandate of Palestine more than 60 years earlier, in 1939.   The teenager, named Harry, had lied about his…

The Year was 1946

“Those crazy enough to try to change the world often do.” This was not Gandhi. Not Martin Luther King. Not Churchill. Not even Shakespeare! It was Branch Rickey. Who was he? For you non-baseball fans, he was the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. And what he did in fact did change the…

The year was 1938

Magda was fed up. She wanted a divorce. But she did not ask her husband. Instead, she asked Adolph Hitler. Not only had Hitler arranged her first meeting with Joseph, but years later, he had set up Magda and her husband and their six adorable blond, blue-eyed children as the poster family for the Third…

The Year was 1917

Facing the firing squad, Mata Hari refused the white blindfold. In a firing squad, all the shooters fire bullets except one, who fires blanks, so that no shooter knows who fires the fatal bullet. As the sun came up, Mata Hari smiled, seemingly unafraid, even blowing a kiss toward her executioners.   Born in Holland,…

The Year was 1922

Lee Duncan and his dog were watching a movie crew shoot a scene with a wolf for a movie called Man from Hell’s River. The wolf could not get it. Duncan called to the crew, “Hey guys, my dog could do that on the first take.” “Oh, sure!” they said. “Get lost!” But after more…

The year was 1916

Col. Mark Sykes called Gertrude Bell (among other things!) a “conceited, gushing, flat-chested… blethering fool.” Both were British. Sykes joined with France’s Francois Georges-Picot to draw the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, but it was Bell who was the power behind the map that carved up the old Ottoman Empire, willy-nilly creating the countries that are now…

The year was 1962

With fear in his heart, Nobuo Fujita, carrying an ancient samurai sword, was bravely going to face his fate. He expected the worst – imprisonment. He was coming from Japan, headed for Oregon. What had he done? It had been 20 years earlier… On Sept. 9, 1942, Fujita and his co-pilot, Okuda Shoji, had taken…

The year was 1356

In a stunning, shocking defeat, the French king, John II, was captured on September 19th during the Battle of Poitiers, fought southwest of Paris. He was taken to London, a prisoner – except that King John’s jailor, the king of England, was John’s very own uncle.  And the knight who had beaten him in the…

The year was 1189

Japan’s greatest samurai, not yet 30, was on the run with his young wife and his baby son, his death ordered by the very brother he had made Shogun. How had this happened? Yoritomo, now shogun, was the older half-brother, and Yoshitsune was of the brilliant young general. They were the feared Minamoto. There had…