Banner Photo

This Month in History


May 1, 1960 - An American U-2 spy plane flying at 60,000 feet was shot down over Sverdlovsk in central Russia the evening before a summit meeting between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Russia's Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The incident caused a cancellation of the meeting and heightened 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. Upon his return to America, he encountered a hostile public which believed he should not have allowed himself to be captured alive. He died in a helicopter crash in 1977.

May 2, 2011 - U.S. Special Operations Forces killed Osama bin Laden during a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid marked a decade-long manhunt for the elusive leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization based in the Middle East. Bin Laden had ordered the aerial attacks of September 11th, 2001, in which four American passenger jets were hijacked and then crashed, killing nearly 3,000 people. Two jets struck and collapsed the 110-story Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, while another struck the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. A fourth jet headed toward Washington and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania as passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers on board.

May 4, 1970 – On the campus of 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 caused campus demonstrations across America which resulted in the temporary closing of over 450 colleges and universities.

May 5, 1865 - Decoration Day was first observed in the U.S., with decorating soldiers' graves from the Civil War with flowers. The observance was later moved to May 30th and included American graves from World War I and World War II. It later became better known as Memorial Day. In 1971, Congress moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May, which created a three-day holiday weekend.

May 5, 1893 - The Wall Street Crash of 1893 began when stock prices fell dramatically. By the end of the year, 600 banks had closed and several big railroads were in receivership. Another 15,000 businesses went bankrupt with a staggering 20 percent unemployment. It was the worst economic crisis in U.S. history up until that time.

May 5, 1961 - Alan Shepard became the first American in space. He piloted the spacecraft Freedom 7 during a 15-minute 28-second flight that reached an altitude of 116 miles (186 kilometers) above the earth. His success occurred 23 days after the Russians had launched the first-ever human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. This era of intense technological competition between the Russians and Americans was called the Space Race.

May 7, 1915 - The British passenger ship Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland, and lost 1,198 of its 1,924 passengers, including 114 Americans. The attack hastened America's entry into World War I.

May 7, 1945 - In a small red brick schoolhouse in Reims, Germany, General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of German fighting forces ending World War II in Europe. Russian, American, British and French ranking officers witnessed the signing of the document which became effective at one minute past midnight on May 9th. Jodl was then taken in to see Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who 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 and agreement.

May 7, 1992 - The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, prohibiting Congress from giving itself pay raises.

May 8, 1942 - During World War II in the Pacific, the Battle of the Coral Sea began and Japan would suffer its first defeat of the war. The battle, fought off New Guinea, was the first time in history where two opposing naval forces fought by only using aircrafts without the opposing ships ever sighting each other.

Happy Birthday! - Harry S. Truman the 33rd U.S. President was born in Lamar, Missouri, on May 8, 1884. He became president upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945. Two weeks after becoming president he was made aware 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, Harry."

May 9, 1862 - During the American Civil War, General David Hunter, Union commander of the Department of the South, issued orders that freed the slaves in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. He did so without congressional or presidential approval. The orders were cancelled by President Abraham Lincoln ten days later.

May 10, 1869 - The newly constructed tracks of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways were linked at Promontory Point, Utah. A golden spike was driven in the ground by Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, to celebrate the linkage. He missed the spike on his first swing which brought roars of laughter from the men who had driven thousands upon thousands of spikes themselves.

May 11, 1862 - To prevent being captured 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 changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete.

May 11, 1969 - During the Vietnam War, the Battle of "Hamburger Hill" began. While attempting to seize the Dong Ap Bia Mountain, U.S. troops 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.

May 13, 1846 - At the request of President James K. Polk, Congress declared war on Mexico. The controversial struggle soon cost the lives of 11,300 U.S. soldiers and caused 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.

May 14, 1607 - The first permanent English settlement in America was established at Jamestown, Virginia, by a group of Virginia Company settlers from Plymouth, England.

May 14, 1804 - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis on their expedition to explore the Northwest. They arrived at the Pacific coast of Oregon in November of 1805 and returned to St. Louis in September of 1806, completing a journey of about 6,000 miles.

May 14, 1796 – The smallpox vaccine was developed by Dr. Edward Jenner, a physician in rural England. He coined the term vaccination for the procedure of injecting a milder form of the disease into a healthy person, resulting in immunity. Within 18 months, 12,000 people in England had been vaccinated and the number of smallpox deaths had dropped by two-thirds.

May 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), the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), the Semper Paratus Always Ready Service (SPARS), and the Women's Reserve of the Marine Corp.

May 15, 1972 - George Wallace was shot while campaigning for the presidency in Laurel, Maryland, and was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

May 16, 1862 - During the American Civil War, Union General Benjamin Butler, military governor of New Orleans, issued a "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.

May 17, 1792 - Two dozen merchants and brokers established the New York Stock Exchange. During good weather they operated under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street and in bad weather they moved inside to a coffeehouse to conduct business.

May 17, 1954 - In Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that segregation of public schools "solely on the basis of race" denies black children "equal educational opportunity" even though "physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors may have been equal. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Thurgood Marshall had argued the case before the Court and he went on to become the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court.

May 20, 1862 - President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which opened 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.

May 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 with the hopes of winning a $25,000 prize for the first solo nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. Thirty-three hours later, after a 3,600 mile journey, he landed at Le Bourget, Paris. This earned him the nickname "Lucky Lindy" and made him an instant worldwide hero.

May 20, 1932 - Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She left 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 vanished while trying to fly her twin-engine plane around the equator.

May 21, 1881 - The American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton. The Red Cross provides volunteer disaster relief in the U.S. and abroad. Their community services include collecting and distributing donated blood, and teaching health and safety classes.

May 22, 1972 - President Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit Moscow. Four days later, Nixon and Soviet Russia's leader Leonid Brezhnev signed an agreement pledging to freeze nuclear arsenals at current levels.

May 22, 1947 - Congress approved the Truman Doctrine, which assured U.S. support for Greece and Turkey to prevent the spread of Communism.

May 24, 1844 - Inventor Samuel Morse sent the first official telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?" from the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., to Baltimore.

May 25, 1787 - The Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia with delegates from seven states forming a quorum.

May 27, 1937 - In San Francisco, 200,000 people celebrated the grand opening of the Golden Gate Bridge by walking across it.

May 29, 1787 - At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia the Virginia Plan was proposed. This plan called for a new government consisting of a legislature with two houses, an executive chosen by the legislature and a judicial branch.

May 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 the oath of allegiance, all former property rights, except slaves, were returned to the former owners.

Happy Birthday! - John Fitzgerald Kennedy the 35th U.S. President was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917. He was the youngest man ever elected to the presidency and the first Roman Catholic. He was assassinated in Dallas, November 22, 1963, and was the fourth President to be killed by an assassin.

May 30, 1783 - The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first daily newspaper published in America.

May 30, 1922 - The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was dedicated. The Memorial was created by architect Henry Bacon and features a statue of "Seated Lincoln" by sculptor Daniel Chester French.

May 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 American forces of 11,000 landed on Attu. After three weeks of fighting U.S. 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 captured.

May 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 almost defeated them. Johnston was badly wounded. Confederate General Robert E. Lee assumed command, replacing the wounded Johnston. Lee renamed his force the Army of Northern Virginia.

May 31, 1889 - Over 2,300 people were killed in the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania. Heavy rains during May caused the Conemaugh River Dam to break sending a wall of water 75 feet high pouring down upon the city.


© Cherry+Company web design powered by RenWeb, providers of School Site