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John’s Believe It Or Not… June 11th

In 1940 – Princess Juliana of the Netherlands arrives in Ottawa to seek wartime refuge. In 1184 BC Trojan War: Troy is sacked and burned. In 1979 John Wayne dies. In 1963 the University of Alabama desegregated. In 1963 Buddhist immolates himself in protest.

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Sunday! Did you know…

* 1940 – Princess Juliana of the Netherlands arrives in Ottawa to seek wartime refuge. (Royal history is made in Ottawa on Jan. 19, 1943, when Dutch Princess Juliana gives birth to her daughter Margriet Francisca at the city’s Civic Hospital. The first royal baby to ever be born in North America, the historic birth helped forge a bond between Canada and the Netherlands that endures to this day. Crown Princess Juliana and her two small daughters arrived in Canada in June 1940, a month after they fled the Netherlands in the wake of the German army invasion. The heir to the Dutch throne, Juliana lived in exile in Ottawa for four years and became a fixture in the capital city’s social circles. After learning of Juliana’s pregnancy, the Canadian government proclaimed the hospital’s maternity suite “extraterritorial” so that the royal baby would have full Dutch citizenship. Princess Juliana and her daughters remained in Ottawa until May 1945, when the Netherlands was liberated from German occupation. On May 5, the commander of the occupation forces surrendered to the 1st Canadian Army Corps. Within days, Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana returned to their homeland. Beatrix, Irene, and Margriet followed a few months later. To express her gratitude for Canada’s hospitality, Juliana donated 100,000 tulip bulbs to the City of Ottawa in 1945 and promised another 20,000 bulbs every year of her life. Her one request was that some of the flowers be allowed to bloom on the grounds of the Civic Hospital, where her daughter was born.)

Canadian Tulip Festival, Parliament Hill
Canadian Tulip Festival, Parliament Hill (Ottawa Tourism)

* 1184 BC Trojan War: Troy is sacked and burned, according to calculations by Eratosthenes.  (Of course, whether or not this actually took place is still subject to debate, but nevertheless, there are certainly elements of truth in it. For instance, some historians have suggested that the Trojan Horse was, in fact, a colossal battering ram shaped like a horse, in much the same manner as the Assyrians of the time employed powerful siege weaponry with animalistic names and features. Others have suggested that the walled city’s defenses were actually destroyed by an earthquake, and there is archaeological evidence that supports this theory too. Then there is the question of Troy itself. In Ancient Greece, it was thought that the city stood somewhere around the Dardanelles, in Turkey, and that the war took place in the 12th or 13th century BCE. Then for a long time after, it was thought that the city probably never existed. However, since the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site of Troy VII in Turkey, it is widely accepted that it is a real place. In fact, Troy VII is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As for the date 11 June 1184 BCE, it is based on the calculations of Eratosthenes, a famous Greek scholar from the third century BCE. Eratosthenes was a man of many talents: astronomer, athlete, geographer (he actually invented the word and concept of “geography”), mathematician, music theorist, poet and just about everything else. He is also thought to be the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth, the distance from the Earth to the Sun, the use of the leap day… and the practice of scientific chronology. It was through the latter that he tried to fix the dates of all sorts of important historical events starting with the Fall of Troy on, according to his arithmetic, 11 June 1184 BCE.)

 Troy is sacked and burned.
Troy is sacked and burned. (Pinterest)

* 1979 John Wayne dies. (On this day in 1979, John Wayne, an iconic American film actor famous for starring in countless westerns, dies at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade. The actor was born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, and moved as a child to Glendale, California. A football star at Glendale High School, he attended the University of Southern California on a scholarship but dropped out after two years. After finding work as a movie studio laborer, Wayne befriended director John Ford, then a rising talent. His first acting jobs were bit parts in which he was credited as Duke Morrison, a childhood nickname derived from the name of his beloved pet dog. Wayne’s first starring role came in 1930 with The Big Trail, a film directed by his college buddy Raoul Walsh. It was during this time that Marion Morrison became “John Wayne,” when director Walsh didn’t think Marion was a good name for an actor playing a tough western hero. Despite the lead actor’s new name, however, the movie flopped. Throughout the 1930s, Wayne made dozens of mediocre westerns, sometimes churning out two movies a week. In them, he played various rough-and-tumble characters and occasionally appeared as “Singing Sandy,” a musical cowpoke a la Roy Rogers. In 1939, Wayne finally had his breakthrough when his old friend John Ford cast him as Ringo Kid in the Oscar-winning Stagecoach. Wayne went on to play larger-than-life heroes in dozens of movies and came to symbolize a type of rugged, strong, straight-shooting American man. John Ford directed Wayne in some of his best-known films, including Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). Off-screen, Wayne came to be known for his conservative political views. He produced, directed and starred in The Alamo (1960) and The Green Berets (1968), both of which reflected his patriotic, conservative leanings. In 1969, he won an Oscar for his role as a drunken, one-eyed federal marshal named Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Wayne’s last film was The Shootist (1976), in which he played a legendary gunslinger dying of cancer. The role had a particular meaning, as the actor was fighting the disease in real life. During four decades of acting, Wayne, with his trademark drawl and good looks, appeared in over 250 films. He was married three times and had seven children.)

John Wayne still picture from a movie.

* 1963 University of Alabama desegregated. (Facing federalized Alabama National Guard troops, Alabama Governor George Wallace ends his blockade of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and allows two African American students to enroll. George Wallace, one of the most controversial politicians in U.S. history, was elected governor of Alabama in 1962 under an ultra-segregationist platform. In his 1963 inaugural address, he promised his white followers: “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” When African American students attempted to desegregate the University of Alabama in June 1963, Alabama’s new governor, flanked by state troopers, literally blocked the door of the enrollment office. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, had declared segregation unconstitutional in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, and the executive branch undertook aggressive tactics to enforce the ruling. On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy federalized National Guard troops and deployed them to the University of Alabama to force its desegregation. The next day, Governor Wallace yielded to the federal pressure, and two African American students–Vivian Malone and James A. Hood–successfully enrolled. In September of the same year, Wallace again attempted to block the desegregation of an Alabama public school–this time Tuskegee High School in Huntsville–but President Kennedy once again employed his executive authority and federalized National Guard troops. Wallace had little choice but to yield.)

Vivian Malone and James Hood
Vivian Malone and James Hood. (Idealistic Ambition’s –

* 1963 Buddhist immolates himself in protest. (Buddhist monk Quang Duc publicly burns himself to death in a plea for President Ngo Dinh Diem to show “charity and compassion” to all religions. Diem, a Catholic who had been oppressing the Buddhist majority, remained stubborn despite continued Buddhist protests and repeated U.S. requests to liberalize his government’s policies. More Buddhist monks immolated themselves during ensuing weeks. Madame Nhu, the president’s sister-in-law, referred to the burnings as “barbecues” and offered to supply matches. In November 1963, South Vietnamese military officers assassinated Diem and his brother during a coup.)

Thích Quảng Đức self-immolation to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. 1963.
Thích Quảng Đức self-immolation to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. 1963. (History Photo 66)

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* CBC Digital Archives                         



Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

9 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 11th”

  1. Goodness, I remember the protest and the burning, but I didn’t know the word “immolate” until reading your blog. And, it’s amazing to realize that the Duke died 38 years ago! Where have the years gone? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great Sunday reading, John! “The Duke” brings back memories of watching Westerns with my dad. John Wayne was one of our favorites. Though I was young, I vaguely remember the burning monk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Linda, the Duke was my favorite western hero – always bigger than life. The burning monk and others who followed his example was truly horrific. What was more disturbing was the comments made by the president’s sister-in-law. Despicable. I’m glad you left us a comment, Linda.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I found this post utterly fascinating, John. In particular the informative piece about the ‘sacking and burning’ of Troy. I love learning such diverse things here on your blog. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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