1st - Observed
as May Day, a holiday and spring festival since ancient times, also observed in
socialist countries as a workers' holiday or Labor Day.
1, 1960 - An American U-2 spy plane flying at 60,000 feet was shot down
over Sverdlovsk in central
on the eve of a summit meeting between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Russia's Premier Nikita
Khrushchev. The sensational incident caused a cancellation of the meeting and
heightened existing Cold War tensions. The pilot, CIA agent Francis Gary
Powers, survived the crash, and was tried, convicted and sentenced to 10 years
in prison by a Russian court. Two years later he was released to America in
exchange for an imprisoned Soviet spy. On his return to America, Powers
encountered a hostile public. Powers
later became a helicopter traffic watch reporter in the LA area. His A/C ran out of fuel and in an attempt to
avoid ground casualties, he crashed landed and was killed.
Birthday - World War II General Mark Clark
(1896-1984) was born in Madison Barracks, New York. He commanded the U.S. Fifth Army
which invaded Italy in September of 1943, fighting a long
and brutal campaign against stubborn German opposition.
Birthday - African American Olympic athlete
Archie Williams (1915-1993) was born in Oakland,
California. Williams, along with
Jesse Owens, defeated German athletes at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and helped
debunk Adolf Hitler's theory of Aryan racial
superiority. Williams won a gold medal in the 400-meter race. After the
Olympics, he went on to earn a mechanical engineering degree from the University of California-Berkeley but faced
discrimination and wound up digging ditches. He later became an airplane pilot
and trained Tuskegee Institute pilots including the black air corp of World War II.
2, 2011 - U.S. Special Operations Forces killed Osama bin Laden during a
raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
4, 1970 - At Kent State University,
four students - Allison Krause, 19; Sandra Lee Scheuer,
20; Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20; and William K. Schroeder, 19 - were killed by
National Guardsmen who opened fire on a crowd of 1,000 students protesting
President Richard Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia. Eleven others were
wounded. The shootings set off tumultuous campus demonstrations across America
resulting in the temporary closing of over 450 colleges and universities.
May 5, 1865 - Decoration Day was first observed in
with the tradition of decorating soldiers' graves from the Civil War with
flowers. The observance date was later moved to May 30th and included American
graves from World War I and World War II, and became better known as Memorial
Day. In 1971, Congress moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May, thus
creating a three-day holiday weekend.
5, 1961 - Alan Shepard
became the first American in space. He piloted the spacecraft Freedom 7 during a 15-minute 28-second
suborbital flight that reached an altitude of 116 miles (186 kilometers) above
the earth. Shepard’s success occurred 23 days after the Russians had launched
the first-ever human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, during an era of intense
technological competition between the Russians and Americans called the Space
6, 1937 - The German airship Hindenburg burst into flames at 7:20 p.m.
as it neared the mooring mast at Lakehurst,
New Jersey, following a
trans-Atlantic voyage. Thirty six of the 97 passengers and crew were killed.
The inferno was caught on film and also witnessed by a radio news commentator
who broke down amid the emotional impact and exclaimed, "Oh, the
humanity!" The accident effectively ended commercial airship traffic.
7, 1915 - The British passenger ship Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine off
the coast of Ireland,
losing 1,198 of its 1,924 passengers, including 114 Americans. The attack
hastened neutral America's
entry into World War I.
7, 1945 - In a small red brick schoolhouse in Reims, Germany, General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of all German
fighting forces thus ending World War II in Europe. Russian, American,
British and French ranking officers observed the signing of the document which
became effective at one minute past midnight on May 9th. Jodl
was then ushered in to see Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D.
Eisenhower, who curtly asked Jodl if he fully
understood the document. Eisenhower then informed Jodl
that he would be held personally responsible for any deviation from the terms
of the surrender. Jodl was then ushered away.
7, 1992 - The 27th Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution was ratified, prohibiting Congress from giving itself pay
8, 1942 - During World War II in the Pacific, the Battle of the Coral Sea began in which Japan would
suffer its first defeat of the war. The battle, fought off New Guinea,
marked the first time in history that two opposing naval forces fought by only
using aircraft without the opposing ships ever sighting each other.
8, 1945 - A second German surrender ceremony was held in Berlin. Soviet Russia's leader Josef Stalin had
refused to recognize the German surrender document signed a day earlier at Reims. This time, German Field
Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signed the surrender document which declared, as did the first, that
hostilities would end as of 12:01 a.m. on May 9th.
Birthday - Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) the 33rd U.S. President
was born in Lamar, Missouri. He became president upon the death
of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945. Two weeks after becoming president he
was informed of the top secret Atomic bomb project. In the war against Japan, an Allied invasion of Japan was being
planned which would cost a minimum of 250,000 American lives. Truman then
authorized the dropping of the bomb. On August 6, 1945, the first bomb exploded
over Hiroshima, followed by a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th. The next day, Japan sued for
peace. Truman served as President until January of 1953. He was the last of
only nine U.S.
Presidents who did not attend college. His straightforward, honest, no-nonsense
style earned him the nickname, "Give 'em hell,
9, 1862 - During the American Civil
War, General David Hunter, Union commander of the Department of the
South, issued orders freeing the slaves in South Carolina,
Florida and Georgia. He did so without
congressional or presidential approval. The orders were countermanded by
Lincoln ten days
11, 1862 - To prevent its capture by Union forces advancing in Virginia, the
Confederate Ironclad Merrimac was destroyed by the Confederate Navy.
In March, the Merrimac had fought the
Union Ironclad Monitor to
a draw. Naval warfare was thus changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete.
11, 1969 - During the Vietnam War, the Battle of "Hamburger Hill" began.
While attempting to seize the Dong Ap Bia Mountain, U.S. troops repeatedly scaled the hill over a
10-day period and engaged in bloody hand-to-hand combat with the North
Vietnamese. After finally securing the objective, American military staff
decided to abandon the position, which the North Vietnamese retook shortly
thereafter. The battle highlighted the futility of the overall American
12, 1949 - Soviet Russia
lifted its blockade of Berlin.
The blockade began on June 24, 1948 and resulted in the Berlin airlift. For 462 days - from June 26,
1948, until September 30, 1949, American and British planes flew about 278,000
flights, delivering 2.3 million tons of food, coal and medical supplies to two
million isolated West Berliners. A plane landed in Berlin
every minute from 11 Allied staging areas in West Germany. The planes were
nicknamed ''candy bombers'' after pilots began tossing sweets to children. They
also flew out millions of dollars worth of products manufactured in West Berlin.
13, 1846 - At the request of President James K. Polk, Congress declared war on Mexico.
The controversial struggle eventually cost the lives of 11,300 U.S. soldiers and resulted in the annexation of
lands that became parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and Colorado.
The war ended in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
14, 1607 - The first permanent English settlement in America was established at Jamestown,
Virginia, by a group of royally chartered
Virginia Company settlers from Plymouth,
14, 1942 - During World War II, an Act of Congress allowed women to
enlist for noncombat duties in the Women's Auxiliary
Army Corps (WAAC), the Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES),
Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), and Semper
Paratus Always Ready Service (SPARS), the Women's
Reserve of the Marine Corp.
16, 1862 - During the American Civil
War, Union General Benjamin Butler, military governor of New Orleans, issued his "Woman Order" declaring
that any Southern woman showing disrespect for Union soldiers or the U.S. would be
regarded as a woman of the town, or prostitute. This and other controversial
acts by Butler
set the stage for his dismissal as military governor in December 1862.
Birthday - Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) was born in the central Vietnamese village of Kim Lien (as Nguyen That Thanh). In 1930, he organized the Indo-Chinese Communist
party and later adopted the name Ho Chi Minh, meaning
"he who enlightens." In 1945, he proclaimed the independence of Vietnam and served as president of North Vietnam
from 1945 to 1969. He led the longest and most costly war during the 20th
Century against the French and later the Americans. On April 29, 1975, six
years after his death, the last Americans left South Vietnam. The next day the
city of Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
20, 1862 - President Abraham
Lincoln signed the
Homestead Act opening millions of acres of government owned land in the West to
"homesteaders" who could acquire up to 160 acres by living on the
land and cultivating it for five years, paying just $1.25 per acre.
20, 1927 - Charles Lindbergh, a 25-year-old aviator, took off at 7:52
a.m. from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, in the Spirit of St. Louis attempting to win a $25,000 prize for
the first solo nonstop flight between New York City
Thirty-three hours later, after a 3,600 mile journey, he landed at Le Bourget, Paris,
earning the nickname "Lucky Lindy" and becoming an instant worldwide
20, 1932 - Amelia Earhart became the first
woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She
departed Newfoundland, Canada, at 7 p.m. and landed near Londonderry, Ireland, completing a 2,026-mile
flight in about 13 hours. Five years later, along with her navigator Fred
Noonan, she disappeared while trying to fly her twin-engine plane around the
22, 1972 - President Richard Nixon became the first American president to
Four days later, Nixon and Soviet Russia's leader Leonid Brezhnev signed a pact
pledging to freeze nuclear arsenals at current levels.
22, 1947 - Congress approved the Truman Doctrine, assuring U.S. support for Greece
to prevent the spread of Communism.
24, 1844 - Telegraph inventor Samuel Morse sent
the first official telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?" from
the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., to Baltimore.
25, 1787 - The Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia with delegates from seven states
forming a quorum.
26, 1940 - The Dunkirk evacuation began in
order to save the British Expeditionary Force trapped by
advancing German armies on the northern coast of France. Boats and vessels of all
shapes and sizes ferried 200,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian
soldiers across the English Channel by June
Birthday - American politician Hubert H. Humphrey
(1911-1978) was born in Wallace,
South Dakota. Humphrey was a
mainstay of liberal Democratic politics, championed civil rights, and was
considered by political friends and foes alike to be a truly decent man. He
served as vice president under Lyndon Johnson. In 1968, Humphrey was the
Democratic candidate for president, but lost to Republican Richard Nixon in a
very close race.
Birthday - All-around athlete Jim Thorpe
(1888-1953) was born near Prague, Oklahoma. He won the pentathlon and decathlon
events at the 1912 Olympic Games and also played professional baseball and
29, 1787 - At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia the Virginia
Plan was proposed calling for a new government consisting of a legislature with
two houses, an executive chosen by the legislature and a judicial branch.
29, 1865 - Following the American Civil War, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation granting general
amnesty to Confederates. The amnesty excluded high ranking Confederates and
large property owners, who had to apply individually to the President for a
pardon. Following an oath of allegiance, all former property rights, except
slaves, were returned to the former owners.
Birthday - American revolutionary leader Patrick Henry (1736-1799) was born in Studley, Virginia. He is best remembered for his speech in 1775 declaring: "I know not
what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me
30, 1922 - The Lincoln Memorial in Washington,
D.C., was dedicated. The Memorial
was designed by architect Henry Bacon and features a compelling statue of "Seated Lincoln" by
sculptor Daniel Chester French.
30, 1943 - During World War II in the Pacific, the Aleutian
Islands off the coast of Alaska were retaken by the U.S. 7th Infantry Division.
The battle began on May 12 when an American force of 11,000 landed on Attu. In three weeks of
casualties numbered 552 killed and 1,140 wounded. Japanese killed numbered
2,352, with only 28 taken prisoner, as 500 chose suicide rather than be
31, 1862 - During the American Civil War, the Battle
of Seven Pines occurred
as Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's Army attacked Union
General George McClellan's troops in front of Richmond Virginia
and nearly defeated them. Johnston
was badly wounded. Confederate General Robert E. Lee then assumed command,
replacing the wounded Johnston.
Lee renamed his force the Army of Northern Virginia.