Below please find an outline of the significant historical events that occurred in the month of May:
May 1 – Since ancient times, a day for festivals celebrating the arrival of the Spring season. Today, many socialist countries celebrate May Day on May 1 as a holiday to celebrate workers.
May 1, 1707 – Scotland was combined with England and Wales to form Great Britain. The later addition of Northern Ireland formed the UK.
May 1, 1960 – An American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia on the eve of a summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev. The incident caused the cancellation of the summit and increased Cold War tensions between the two countries.
May 2, 2011 – US Special Forces located and killed Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
May 4, 1494 – Christopher Columbus, still seeking the Northwest Passage, discovered the island of Jamaica.
May 4, 1970 – Ohio National Guard troops fired into a student demonstration at Kent State University killing four students.
May 5 – Mexican holiday celebrating Mexican forces’ defeat of a numerically superior French invasion force in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
May 5, 1865 – Celebration of Decoration Day honoring soldiers killed in the Civil War. Eventually, morphed into Memorial Day.
May 5, 1961 – Astronaut Alan Shepard completed a 15 minute suborbital flight, thus becoming the first American to fly in space.
May 6, 1937 – The German blimp, Hindenburg, burst into flames killing 36 of its 97 passengers.
May 7, 1915 – The shocking sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, by a German U-boat hastened the US’s entry into WWI on the side of the Allies.
May 7, 1954 – The French surrendered at Dien Bien Phu, ending their colonial presence in Indo-China. Eventually, this event led to the US’s ill-advised involvement in Vietnam.
May 8, 1942 – The Battle of the Coral Sea, which historians consider to be the turning point of WWII in the Pacific, commenced. US naval forces defeated Japan for the first time and began their inexorable march toward the Japanese mainland.
May 10, 1869 – The Union Pacific and Central Railroads join at Promontory Point, UT (symbolized by driving a golden spike into the roadbed), creating the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the entire US.
May 10, 1994 – Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa, bringing an official end to Apartheid.
May 12, 1949 – Russia ended its blockade of West Berlin.
May 14, 1607 – The first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown, VA.
May 14, 1804 – The Lewis and Clark expedition of the northwest, which lasted some 18 months and covered some 6,000 miles, departed St. Louis.
May 14, 1796 – English Dr. Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine. He coined the term, vaccination, to describe his method of injecting a weakened version of the disease into a healthy person, who would then fight off the disease and develop an immunity.
May 14, 1948 – The State of Israel declared its independence.
May 15, 1972 – While campaigning for the presidency, George Wallace was shot and paralyzed from the waist down.
May 17, 1792 – Some two dozen brokers and merchants began meeting under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street to buy and sell stocks and bonds. Eventually, this led to the establishment of the NY Stock Exchange.
May 17, 1875 – The initial running of the Kentucky Derby took place at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY.
May 17, 1954 – The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, Brown vs. The Board of Education (Topeka, KS), ruled that school segregation based on race was unconstitutional.
May 20, 1927 – Aviator, Charles Lindberg took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island for the first solo non-stop flight between NY and Europe (landing in Paris).
May 20, 1932 – Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1937, while attempting to fly across the Pacific Ocean, she was lost at sea, and her fate remains shrouded in mystery to this day.
May 21, 1881 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
May 22, 1947 – Congress approved the Truman Doctrine, which provided foreign aid to Greece and Turkey, which was necessary to prevent the spread of communism in that region.
May 24, 1844 – Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, transmitted the first telegram (“What hath God wrought?”).
May 26, 1940 – Great Britain commenced the evacuation of its army trapped at Dunkirk.
May 27, 1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.
May 30, 1783 – The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to be published in the US on a daily basis.
May 30, 1922 – The Lincoln Memorial, designed by architect Henry Bacon, was dedicated in Washington, D. C.
May 31, 1889 – The infamous Johnstown Flood of 1889 killed some 2,300 persons.
Birthdays – Niccolo Machiavelli – 5/3/1469; Golda Meir – 5/3/1898; Karl Marx – 5/5/1818; Sigmund Freud – 5/6/1856; Harry S. Truman (33rd President) – 5/8/1884; Israel Isidore Baline (aka Irving Berlin – song writer) – 5/11/1888; Florence Nightingale – 5/12/1820; Gabriel Fahrenheit (physicist) – 5/14/1686; Nguyen That Thanh (aka Ho Chi Minh – 5/19/1890; Malcolm Little (aka Malcolm X) – 5/19/1925; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes creator) – 5/22/1859; Laurence Olivier – 5/22/1907; Ralph Waldo Emerson – 5/25/1803; Al Jolson- 5/26/1886; Wild Bill Hickok – 5/27/1837; Hubert Humphrey – 5/27/1911; Jim Thorpe – 5/28/1888; Patrick Henry – 5/29/1736; John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President) – 5/29/1917; Walt Whitman – 5/31/1819.