By Lesli Nolen
Published May 2013
May is a very special month for me. Two very special people were born in May—first, my husband, on May 19, and our daughter on May 7. Mother’s Day is celebrated mid month, another special occasion for me and the month ends with Memorial Day, an official kick off to summer. There are many other historical events that took place in the month of May, so I thought I’d share a few.
May 2, 2011—U.S. Special Operations Forces killed Osama bin Laden during a raid on his secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid marked the culmination of a decade-long manhunt for the elusive leader of the al Qaeda terrorist organization based in the Middle East. Bin Laden had ordered the coordinated aerial attacks of September 11th, 2001, in which four American passenger jets were hijacked then crashed, killing nearly 3,000 persons. Two jets had struck and subsequently 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 also headed toward Washington had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania as passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers on board.
May 5th—Celebrated in Mexico as Cinco de Mayo, a national holiday in remembrance of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, in which Mexican troops under General Ignacio Zaragoza, outnumbered three to one, defeated the invading French forces of Napoleon III.
May 5, 1865—Decoration Day was first observed in the U.S., 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.
May 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 Race.
May 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.
May 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.
May 8, 1884—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, Harry.”
May 17, 1875—The first Kentucky Derby horse race took place at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
May 18, 1980—Mount St. Helens volcano erupted in southwestern Washington State spewing steam and ash over 11 miles into the sky. This was the first major eruption since 1857.
May 19, 1930—The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, prohibiting Congress from giving itself pay raises.
May 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.
May 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, Northern 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 equator.
May 21, 1881—The American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton. The organization today provides volunteer disaster relief in the U.S. and abroad. Community services include collecting and distributing donated blood, and teaching health and safety classes.
May 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.
May 27, 1937—In San Francisco, 200,000 people celebrated the grand opening of the Golden Gate Bridge by strolling across it.
May 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.
The month of May has seen several trials throughout history, but it has also witnessed many positive milestones.
We, too, have seen the good and the bad, but I pray this May is historical for you in that it brings abundant rainfall in our area, peace and blessings to each of you!