Five People Born on March 23

Today is March 23, 2010 and the 82nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar.  There are 282 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 1004 days till the end of the current cycle.  Today, in 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his speech “Give me liberty, or give me death!” at St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA.    Here are five people that share a birthday on this day:

William Kidd (1645-1701)
Scottish sailor and pirate, known for being tried and hung by England, the country he sailed for.  Kidd is considered to be one of the most notorious pirates of the seventeenth century, though most historians agree that his illegal actions were exaggerated and that he was unjustly tried and executed.  He was hired by England as a privateer to raid French ships.  His journeys took him as far as the Indian Ocean where, although he was largely unsuccessful, he captured a Mughal ship with a great treasure.  He also captured an Armenian ship, which turned out to be his greatest victory.  Unfortunately for Kidd, the captain of the Armenian ship was British. By this time, he was deemed a pirate.  He was lured to Boston under false pretenses (by another pirate) and turned over to Britain. The trial that followed was basically a sham.  The British used him as a scapegoat, refused his testimony, and refused evidence that Kidd stated that he had.  The evidence, two letters of marquis were “missing” although they were suddenly found centuries later.  Had they been used in his defense, Kidd would (or at least should) have gone free.  Instead, he was hung and left to rot as a warning to all who would be pirates.

Vasily Zaytsev (1915-1991)
So you think Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone are tough? This Russian World War 2 hero is a real live action star.  He was born in the Russian Empire (before it became the Soviet Union) and fought the Germans during the Battle of Stalingrad.  OK, saying he fought the Germans during the Battle is like saying Christmas is sort-of a holiday.  He massacred the Germans during the battle!   Zaytsev started out in WW2 as a Navy clerk, but then heard of the brutality his people were getting from the Germans, so he volunteered to be put on the front line.  He turned out to be pretty good with a rifle, so the Russians made him a sniper.  Before the Battle of Stalingrad, he had 32 confirmed German kills.  During the battle, which lasted from November 10-December 17, 1942, he went into super-sniper mode!  Zaytsev killed a confirmed 225 German soldiers and officers, including 11 enemy snipers!  He, himself, was almost killed by an enemy sniper, but escaped with his life.  The Russians named him a Hero of the Soviet Union.  A movie was made about his story, called Enemy At The Gates, which starred Jude Law as the part of Zaytsev.  He died in Kiev at the age of 76, just 10 days before the dissolving of the Soviet Union.

Joan Crawford (1908-1977)
Born Lucille Fay LeSueur, this American actress began her career as a 1920s flapper girl.  She developed a glamorous screen image, appearing often as a sumptuously gowned, fur-draped, successful career woman.  Crawford danced in nightclubs under the name Billie Cassin, and by 1924 she was dancing in Broadway musicals. On the screen from 1925, she danced her way through such popular films as Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Dance, Fools, Dance (1931), and Dancing Lady (1933). Among her early successes as a dramatic actress were The Women (1939), Susan and God (1940), Strange Cargo (1940), and A Woman’s Face (1941).  A major turning point in Crawford’s career was her performance in Mildred Pierce (1945), for which she won an Academy Award. The story of an emotional and ambitious woman who rises from waitress to owner of a restaurant chain, it was followed by such high-quality pictures as Humoresque (1947), Sudden Fear (1952), and The Story of Esther Costello (1957). Later successful roles were in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and The Caretakers (1963).  Crawford was married to the actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1929–33), Franchot Tone (1935–39), and Phillip Terry (1942–46) and to Alfred Steele, the chairman of the Pepsi-Cola Company. After his death in 1959 she became a director of the company and in that role hired her friend Dorothy Arzner to film several Pepsi commercials. Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina published Mommie Dearest (1978), an account of the harsh childhood that Christina and an adopted brother had at their mother’s hands, and a film version was produced in 1981. 

Wernher von Braun (1912-1977)
This Polish engineer and rocket expert developed the V-2 flying bomb that was deployed against Britain (1944), he was one of the most important of the German weapons specialists to work on rocketry and jet propulsion in the USA after the war. Hitler personally released him when he was imprisoned on espionage charges after refusing to co-operate with Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler’s attempted takeover of the V-2 project. Von Braun never approved of the military use of the rocket and surrendered willingly to American troops (1945). Signing a one-year contract with the US Army, he was flown to America, where he eventually became technical director of the US Army Ordnance Guided Missile Project in Alabama (1950). He was chiefly responsible for the manufacture and launching of the first American artificial earth satellite, Explorer I (1958). As director of the Marshall Space Flight Center (1960–70), he developed the Saturn rocket for the Apollo 8 moon orbit (1969). Good-looking and outgoing, he was occasionally the butt of both humorous and serious attacks aimed at the very notion of former German scientists working for the US space program.

Jason Kidd (Born 1973)
The second Kidd on today’s birthday list has never committed an act of piracy, but he has stolen the basketball of a number of his courtside opponents.  Jason Kidd is an NBA star who plays for the Dallas Mavericks.  He led the New Jersey Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances (2002 and 2003) and is considered to be one of the best players of his generation. His on-court versatility also makes him a regular triple-double threat, and he is in third place all-time for regular season triple-doubles in the NBA with a career total of 104and second in playoffs triple-doubles with a career total of 11.