May in American History: Part I

May 1, 2011
Osama bin Laden is killed by US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Some consider this to have occurred on May 2, depending on how the time zones are viewed. Following the Attacks of September 11, 2001, a nearly-10-year hunt for bin Laden began. The war in Afghanistan, 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 Obama was informed and the compound was raided. After bin Laden was killed, his body was buried at sea. As a result of his death, the Iraq War ended in December 2011, though new US military operations began in Iraq in June 2014. The war in Afghanistan and war on terror, however, are ongoing.

May 2, 1611
The King James Bible is published for the first time in London, England by Robert Barker. First commissioned in 1604, the King James Version has been noted for its “majesty style,” and has been considered one of the most important books in Western culture. It has been a driving force for the English-speaking world. The King James Bible is often regarded by many Christians as the true English translation of the Bible. It is said that in the US alone, over 168,000 of these Bibles are sold each day.

May 3, 1963
Eugene “Bull” Connor’s police forces begin using attack dogs and fire hoses on Civil Rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama. With the American Civil Rights Movement gaining widespread support across the nation, civil rights supporters took to the streets in Birmingham. Joining together in unison, the supporters often sang and marched together, many times while holding hands or locking arms, while waving the Stars and Stripes. One month prior, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which was published in May 1963. The images of attack dogs and fire hoses being used on civil rights supporters were displayed worldwide and brought even more attention to the ongoing struggle for Constitutional freedom.

May 4, 1970
The Kent State massacre occurs. Following the Nixon Administration’s announcement of the Cambodian Campaign, many students began protesting across the nation. Due to the heavy political controversy surrounding the Vietnam War, protests nationwide had been occurring for several years, beginning with disappointment during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. When students began protesting at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, the Ohio National Guard was deployed. The students were ordered to disperse, but instead, they relocated. Not long after, 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 America were closed for demonstrations.

May 5, 1862
The Battle of Williamsburg is fought. Located on the coast of Virginia, this battle was the first in the Peninsula Campaign. Prior to the battle, Confederate forces had retreated from Yorktown, with Union General Joseph Hooker not far behind. At Fort Magruder, Hooker’s troops attacked, but were repelled by General James Longstreet’s Confederate forces. The Union position was eventually met with reinforcements, but the battle ended in an inconclusive victory, though the Confederates retreated to Richmond. The city of Williamsburg holds great importance in American history. Founded in 1632, it played a vital role during the Colonial era.

May 5, 1863
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated for the first time in California. This occurred one year after the Battle of Puebla, which marked a major turning point for Mexico. Following the Mexican Civil War, Napoleon III of France sought to use Mexico as a puppet state. With the US fighting their own civil war, the Monroe Doctrine could not effectively be enforced. During the Second French Intervention in Mexico, French forces 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. Cinco de Mayo is often incorrectly mistaken to be held in celebration of Mexican independence.

May 5, 1864
The Battle of the Wilderness begins. Lasting two days, this battle was fought in a heavily-forested area of northeastern Virginia. Under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, the Army of the Potomac engaged Confederate soldiers under General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. With most of the fighting occurring in dense brush, the battle resulted in a victory for neither side, and with a massive amount of casualties for both. Over 17,000 Union soldiers and 11,000 Confederate soldiers were killed. General Grant retreated to the southeast, which soon resulted in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.

May 6, 1863
The Battle of Chancellorsville comes to an end. Considered by many to be Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory during the Civil War, Confederate troops under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson surprise-attacked Union forces near Chancellorsville, Virginia. With an overwhelming victory, Lee was convinced to take the fight further north. As a result, the largest battle of the war was fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, just two months later. Despite his 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, resulting in the amputation of his arm. Not long after, Jackson caught pneumonia, and passed away on May 10, 1863. Lee stated, “Jackson lost his left arm. I’ve lost my right.” Some historians believe Jackson’s death led to the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, resulting in the tide of the war turning in favor of the Union.

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. As a result, 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, some of whom were US citizens. While this tragedy increased pro-war sympathy in America, it would not convince President Woodrow Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war. This caused Wilson to endure ridicule from political rivals, including Theodore Roosevelt, who offered to take his Rough Riders to the front lines. Wilson would not ask Congress for a declaration of war until 1917, following the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram.

May 8, 1884
Harry Truman is born in Lamar, Missouri. A veteran of World War I, Truman served in France as a captain in the Field Artillery. After returning to his childhood hometown of Independence, Missouri, he served as a county judge from 1927-1935. He then served as a US Senator from 1935-1945. A member of the Democratic Party, Truman served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President from January 20 – April 12, 1945. Upon Roosevelt’s death, he assumed the presidency, and served from 1945-1953. His time as President was very eventful. Truman oversaw the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan at the end of WWII, the beginning of the Cold War with the Berlin Blockade, and the beginning and end of the Korean War. He also oversaw the implementation of military desegregation and the Marshall Plan, which was a financial attempt to rebuild Western Europe during the post-WWII years. Truman was also the first US president to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. He passed away on December 26, 1972.

May 8, 1945
V-E (Victory in Europe) Day is celebrated for the first time. Just one day prior, Nazi Germany surrendered to Allied forces, leaving the Japanese Empire as the sole remaining Axis superpower. Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, bringing an end to the deadliest conflict in history. Over 60 million lives were lost as a result of the Second World War. The end of this great conflict left the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s remaining superpowers. This led to the Cold War, a nearly-50-year-long international power struggle between capitalism in the West and communism in the East.

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 he commanded troops on the battlefield during World War I. After becoming Prime Minister, he used a no-compromise, no-negotiation strategy with Adolf Hitler, which proved a stark contrast to his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. During the early stages of World War II, Churchill stood alone against the forces of Nazi Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. 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 11, 1960
Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann is captured in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A major organizer of the Holocaust, Eichmann joined the Waffen SS – Hitler’s “elite” force – in 1932. Following Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, he frequently relocated around the country to avoid capture. He moved to Argentina in 1950, and 10 years later, his location was confirmed by Israeli forces. Eichmann was captured by Mossad soldiers, then transported to Israel, where he was tried. He was executed on June 1, 1962.

May 12, 1949
The Berlin Blockade is lifted. This event is often considered by many to mark the official start of the Cold War, and was its first major international crisis. After World War II, the German city of Berlin was divided by East and West. Described by Winston Churchill as an “Iron Curtain,” the Soviet Union formed a blockade, cutting off access for many of Berlin’s citizens. As a result, the Berlin Airlift began, in which various Western nations conducted thousands of flights to provide Berliners with food and supplies. Even after the blockade was lifted, Berlin remained a hotspot for hostility between the East and West. In 1962, the Berlin Wall was quickly constructed by Soviet forces, further dividing the city. Two prominent speeches were delivered in the city by US presidents during the Cold War: “Ich bin ein Berliner” by John F. Kennedy in 1963, and “Tear Down This Wall” by Ronald Reagan in 1987.

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 in South Carolina, resulting in the CSS Planter becoming trapped. After donning a Confederate uniform and taking command of the ship, Smalls sailed the Planter to nearby 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 converted 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. He passed away on February 23, 1915.

May 14, 1607
The English colony of Jamestown is established. Located on the coast of southeastern Virginia, this was the first long-term English settlement in North America. It came not long after the failed Roanoke Colony of present-day Dare County, North Carolina in 1585. Roanoke’s inhabitants mysteriously disappeared and their whereabouts remain unknown to this day. At Jamestown, the settlers often suffered from starvation and disease. The colony was briefly abandoned in 1610, but later became the Virginia state capital from 1616-1699. From 1675-1676, Jamestown was burned during Bacon’s Rebellion, in which Nathaniel Bacon led an armed uprising against Governor William Berkeley. This is considered the first rebellion in Colonial America.

May 15, 1869
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth C. Stanton form 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, though they stated they would support it if it included the right for women to vote. While Anthony and Stanton agreed on certain core issues, they disagreed on others, resulting in 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 officially went into effect on August 18, 1920, with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Stay tuned for Part II of American History in May, coming soon!

Author Profile

Garrett Smith
Garrett Smith is a writer for NRN and recent graduate from Western Carolina University. He is a history major with a minor in political science. As a Conservative, Smith believes that the Left has taken over America's education system, which means they now control its history. To make their fellow Americans feel guilty, they often invoke a feeling of "American Shame" in students, indoctrinating them with radical, un-American ideas. It is Smith's goal to teach Americans the true history of America, and along with this, use its history to explain what makes us great.