May in History: Part 1

  • Post category:History

Jamestown, Women’s Suffrage, U-2 Incident, and More

May 1, 1945

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May in history begins with May 1, 1945 as Adolf Hitler is pronounced dead through a German newsreader. One day earlier inside his Fuhrerbunker, Hitler shot himself and his wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide via cyanide pill. Their bodies were later carried to the Reich Chancellery Garden and burned. Adolf Hitler formed the Nazi Party in 1920 then was imprisoned in 1923 following the Beer Hall Putsch, during which he and other Nazis attempted a failed coup. During his time in prison, he narrated “Mein Kampf,” which was subsequently published. Hitler assumed power as Chancellor of Nazi Germany in 1933 and then as Fuhrer from 1934 until his death. His regime was responsible for the death, starvation, and enslavement of over six million people.

May 1, 1960

Gary Francis Powers’ U-2 Spy Plane is shot down over the Soviet Union. While performing a surveillance flight, Powers was hit by a Soviet S-75. Though his plane was destroyed, Powers parachuted safely and was captured once on the ground. Known as the U-2 Incident, this event increased tension in the already-strained relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Powers remained in Soviet custody for over a year and a half, until he was released via prisoner swap with William Fisher, a Soviet spy who had been captured by the FBI.

May 2, 1611

The King James Version of the Bible is published for the first time in London, England, by Robert Barker. First commissioned in 1604, the King James Version has been renowned as one of the most important books in forming Western heritage. It was a driving force for the English-speaking world. One of the primary reasons for the development of the KJV was to address concerns regarding the wrongful translation of earlier printed Bibles. It remains one of the most popular books in the world.

May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden is killed by US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, a nearly-10-year hunt for bin Laden began. The Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and War on Terrorism were all launched as a result of his attacks. On May 1, 2011, US Navy SEALs discovered his location. President Barack Obama was informed and delivered the order to raid bin Laden’s compound. After bin Laden was killed, his body was buried at sea. As a result of his death, the Iraq War ended in December of that year. The War in Afghanistan and the War on Terror, however, continue. On a side note, the correct date for bin Laden’s death is disputed. Some argue that he was actually killed on May 1, as it occurred in Pakistan’s time zone.

May 4, 1970

The Kent State Massacre occurred on May 4, 1970. Many Kent State students began protesting following the Nixon Administration’s announcement of the Cambodian Campaign. Due to the heavy political controversy surrounding the Vietnam War, protests had been underway for several years. When students began protesting at Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard was deployed. Not long after the students were given orders to disperse, the soldiers opened fire. Approximately 67 rounds were fired in 13 seconds. Four students were killed and nine others were injured. As a result, more than 450 campuses across the nation were closed for demonstrations.

May 4, 1979

Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom. Thatcher was born in Lincolnshire, England on October 13, 1925. A member of the British Conservative Party, she served as Prime Minister from 1979-1990, during which time she became known as the “Iron Lady,” due to her strong leadership style. Using a peace-through-strength initiative, she formed a strong bond with President Ronald Reagan and stood firm against the Soviet Union. Thatcher passed away on April 8, 2013.

May 5, 1863

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated for the first time in California. This occurred one year after the Battle of Puebla. Following the Mexican Civil War, Napoleon III of France sought to acquire Mexico as a puppet state. With the US fighting the Civil War on their own home front, the Monroe Doctrine could not be enforced. During the Second French Intervention in Mexico, French troops originally held the upper hand. At the Battle of Puebla, however, Mexican troops gained a foothold and won a significant victory. Not long after, Mexico won the war. Cinco de Mayo has since been celebrated in recognition of the Mexican victory during the battle.

May 6, 1863

The Battle of Chancellorsville comes to an end. Considered Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory during the Civil War, Confederate troops under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson attacked Union troops near Chancellorsville, Virginia under General Joseph Hooker. With an overwhelming victory, this convinced Lee to take the fight to the North. As a result, the largest battle of the war was fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania just two months later. Despite the victory at Chancellorsville, this is also where Lee was dealt one of his greatest losses. On May 2, Stonewall Jackson was injured by friendly fire and his arm was amputated. As a result, he caught pneumonia then passed away on May 10, 1863. Lee stated, “Jackson lost his left arm. I’ve lost my right.”

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May 7, 1915

The RMS Lusitania is sunk by a German submarine. At the outset of World War I, Britain formed a naval blockade around Germany. In response, Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on Britain. The Lusitania, carrying over 2,000 passengers, sank in less than 20 minutes off the coast of Ireland. Roughly 1,198 of the passengers were killed and some among them were US citizens. This tragedy increased pro-war sympathy in America, though the US would not enter the war until 1917, following the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram.

May 8, 1945

The first V-E (Victory in Europe) Day is celebrated. One day prior, Nazi Germany surrendered to Allied forces, leaving the Japanese Empire as the sole remaining Axis superpower. Fighting in the Pacific would continue, leading to President Harry Truman’s grave decision to drop the atomic bombs in August 1945. Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945. Over 60 million lives were lost during World War II, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

May 10, 1940

Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. From 1940-1945, Churchill led Britain through the Second World War and his courageous leadership gained him worldwide recognition. Born in Oxfordshire, England on November 30, 1874, Churchill observed the Boer Wars as a journalist and fought in World War I. After becoming prime minister, he used a no-compromise, no-negotiation strategy with Adolf Hitler. Following his success during World War II, Churchill served as prime minister of the UK again from 1951-1955. He passed away on January 24, 1965.

May 12, 1949

The Berlin Blockade is lifted. This is considered by many to be the official start of the Cold War and was its first major international crisis. After World War II, the city of Berlin, Germany was divided by the East and West. Described by Winston Churchill as an “Iron Curtain,” the Soviet Union formed a blockade, cutting off access for many of the city’s citizens. As a result, the Berlin Airlift began, in which various Western nations conducted thousands of flights to provide West Berliners with food and supplies. Even after the blockade was lifted, Berlin would remain a hotspot for hostility between the East and the West.

May 13, 1862

Robert Smalls steals a Confederate ship freeing himself, his family, and his crew from slavery. When the Civil War broke out, Union forces blockaded Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, resulting in the CSS Planter becoming trapped. After donning a Confederate uniform and taking command of the ship, Smalls sailed to Hilton Head, where he proclaimed to a Union captain, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir!” The CSS Planter was later made into a Union warship. Following the Civil War, Smalls served as a Republican in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1868-1870; South Carolina Senate from 1870-1875; and US House of Representatives from 1882-1887.

May 14, 1607

The English colony of Jamestown, Virginia is established. This was the first permanent English settlement in North America. It came not long after the failed Roanoke Colony of present-day Dare County, North Carolina in 1585 whose inhabitants disappeared. Their whereabouts were never discovered. At Jamestown, settlers often suffered from starvation and disease. The colony was briefly abandoned in 1610, but later became the Virginia capitol until 1699.

May 15, 1869

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton found the National Woman Suffrage Association in New York City. Its founding occurred following the drafting of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution. Both Anthony and Stanton opposed the amendment if it did not include the right for women to vote. While Anthony and Stanton agreed on some core issues, they disagreed on others, creating factions within the Women’s Suffrage Movement. In December 1869, Wyoming became the first territory in the union to legalize women’s suffrage. The right for women to vote nationwide would finally go into effect on August 18, 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment

Stay tuned for more historical events in May, coming later this month!

Garrett Smith
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