This Month in Military History

MonthDayYearEvent
MAY11898U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey's Asiatic Squadron steams single file into Manila Bay and destroys the out-armored and out-gunned Spanish fleet in the Philippines.
MAY11943When his B-17 bomber is hit by German flak and SGT Maynard H. "Snuffy" Smith loses power in his ball turret gun, he climbs out to assist the other airmen. With a fire now burning in the fuselage, three of the crew had already bailed out. Smith treats two severely wounded comrades and begins fighting the fire that was melting holes in the aircraft. For the next 90 minutes, Smith alternates between caring for the wounded, extinguishing the fire, and manning the .50 caliber guns against attacking German fighters. The plane makes it safely back to England but breaks in half upon landing from the fire. Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY11945Eighth Air Force B-17s drop 700 tons of food over German-occupied Holland, whose residents are suffering from famine. The Germans told the Allies that their bombers would not be targeted so long as they remained within approved air corridors. Operation CHOW HOUND has begun.
MAY11951AD "Skyraiders" conduct the only aerial torpedo attack of the Korean War, against the Hwacheon Dam.
MAY11960CIA pilot - and U.S. Air Force CPT - Francis Gary Powers takes off from a military airbase in Pakistan on a secret reconnaissance overflight mission of the Soviet Union. His U-2 spy plane, flying 70,000 feet above Russia, is hit by a surface-to-air missile. Powers ejects safely and is held in a Soviet prison until his famous exchange on a Berlin bridge nearly two years later.
MAY12003George W. Bush becomes the first president to make an arrested landing when the S-3 Viking dubbed "Navy One" touches down on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) following its 10-month combat deployment. Bush delivers a speech on the deck of the aircraft carrier announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
MAY21863GEN Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is shot by a Confederate sentry while performing a leaders-reconnaissance mission.
MAY21945Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne and the 8th Infantry Division liberate the Wöbbelin concentration camp in northern Germany.
MAY21945GEN Heinrich von Vietinghoff surrenders all Wehrmacht forces in Italy and the Red Army flies the Soviet flag over the Reichstag building. Berlin has fallen.
MAY21946When prisoners at Alcatraz riot - breaking into the prison armory and taking hostages - Marines from Treasure Island Naval Base assist in suppressing the riot.
MAY21964A North Vietnamese frogman plants an explosive charge on USNS Card as the ship sits at a dock in Saigon. The blast kills five civilian crew members and Card sinks.
MAY21999LTC David Goldfein, commander of the U.S. Air Force's 555th Fighter Squadron, becomes the second U.S. pilot shot down during Operation ALLIED FORCE. His F-16 fighter was shot down near Belgrade by a Serbian surface-to-air missile. Goldfein ejects safely and is soon recovered by a combat search and rescue team.
MAY22011After perhaps the largest manhunt in history, U.S. intelligence finally tracked down Osama bin Laden - the founder of Al Qaeda. An elite team of "DEVGRU" Navy SEALs boards specially modified Black Hawk helicopters in Afghanistan, flying undetected through Pakistan to bin Laden's secret compound in Abbottabad.
MAY31898Marines from the cruisers USS Baltimore (C-3) and USS Raleigh (C-8) raise the Stars and Stripes for the first time in the Philippines over Cavite, the historical capital.
MAY3192326 hours and 50 minutes after taking off in New York, Army Air Corps 1LTs Oakley Kelly and John Macready touch down at Rockwell Field, San Diego, becoming the first aviators to fly non-stop across the United States. The specially modified Fokker T-2 passenger plane averaged a blistering 92 mph.
MAY31942Off the Florida coast, two German U-boats each sink a cargo ship, killing a total of 23 sailors.
MAY31943LTG Frank M. Andrews, the commander of all U.S. Forces in the European Theater, is killed when the B-24 Liberator bomber, carrying the former cavalry trooper and pilot on an inspection tour, crashes.
MAY31946Prosecution of 28 Japanese military and political leaders begin at the War Ministry Office in Tokyo.
MAY31951The Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees begin closed-session hearings into the dismissal of GEN Douglas MacArthur.
MAY31952Air Force LTC Joseph O. Fletcher, piloting a C-47 with skis for landing gear - along with fellow LTC William P. Benedict and scientist Dr. Albert P. Crary - become the first Americans to land at the geographic North Pole. That day, Crary becomes the first person to have stood on both the North and South Poles.
MAY31952MAJ Donald E. Adams and CPT Robert T. Latshaw, Jr. each splashed two enemy MiGs and become the USAF’s 13th and 14th aces of the Korean War.
MAY31965Lead elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade depart Okinawa for South Vietnam, becoming the first Army ground combat units deployed in the Vietnam War.
MAY31975USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. by President Gerald R. Ford.
MAY41864LTG Ulysses S. Grant moves the Army of the Potomac out of their winter encampments and 100,000 Union soldiers cross the Rapidan River in Virginia, kicking off the campaign that will set the stage for the defeat of GEN Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
MAY41916Germany announces it will abandon its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Rather than continuing to indiscriminately sink all vessels in the British Isles, German subs will only torpedo those found to carry war materials.
MAY41917A detachment of destroyers commanded by CMDR Joseph K. Taussig arrives at Queenstown, Ireland. The destroyers will assist convoy escorts against German U-Boats, which are sinking a staggering 600,000 tons of shipping per month.
MAY41945Germany's new president, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz sends envoys to GEN Sir Bernard Montgomery's headquarters - a carpeted tent in Lüneburg Heath, Germany - and sign the unconditional surrender of German air, land, and sea forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northwest Germany.
MAY41945The Japanese 32nd Army attempts - and fails - to make an amphibious assault behind American lines.
MAY41968As soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) brave intense sniper fire and charge uphill towards fortified enemy positions in Vietnam's infamous Vietnam's A Shau Valley, a soldier discovers an enemy claymore. Platoon Leader Douglas B. Fournet orders his men to take cover while he charges forward to disarm the mine. He unsheathes a knife and attempts to cut the wire used to detonate the device, but it explodes. Fournet shields his teammates from the blast with his body and he is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
MAY41970Ohio National Guard units open fire on protestors at Kent State University. In 13 seconds, four students lay dead and nine more were wounded.
MAY41999An Air Force F-16CJ Fighting Falcon shoots down a Serbian Air Force MiG-29 marking the U.S. military's fifth and final air-to-air kill of the NATO campaign
MAY41999An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashes in Albania, killing the pilot and gunner - the first NATO fatalities of Operation ALLIED FORCE.
MAY51862Disappointed in the lack of progress of MG George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln departs for Hampton Roads, Virginia. on the Treasury Department revenue cutter Miami to personally oversee operations.
MAY51864The bloody albeit inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia) opens between Union Army forces under the command of LTG Ulysses S. Grant and MG George G. Meade, and Confederate forces under GEN Robert E. Lee.
MAY51916Two companies of Marines from the transport USS Prairie (AD-5) land at Santo Domingo, beginning the United States' eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic.
MAY51917Eugene J. Bullard becomes the first black combat aviator, earning his wings with the French Air Service.
MAY51945A Japanese balloon bomb explodes in Bly, Oregon, killing a pastor, his wife, and five Sunday schoolchildren on the way to a picnic.
MAY51961At 0934, U.S. Navy CMDR Alan B. Shepard Jr.'s Mercury-Redstone rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral. Shepard becomes the first American in space as his "Freedom 7" capsule carries him 116 miles above the Earth's surface.
MAY61942LTG Jonathan Wainwright unconditionally surrenders all US forces in the Philippines to the Japanese.
MAY71873Marines from the USS Pensacola and USS Tuscarora land at the Bay of Columbia to protect American citizens and interests as local groups fight for control of the Panamanian government.
MAY71915The submarine U-20 spots the massive ocean liner RMS Lusitania, steaming from New York and hoping to sneak through Germany’s blockade of the British Isles. The U-boat fires a single torpedo at the ship and Lusitania sinks in just 18 minutes, taking 1,198 people – including 128 Americans – with her to the bottom.
MAY71942The Battle of the Coral Sea begins in earnest between a primarily U.S. Naval force and the Japanese Navy.
MAY71942Chief Water Tender Oscar V. Peterson leads a repair party on the oiler USS Neosho during the Battle of the Coral Sea. With no regard for his own safety, Peterson sacrifices himself to contain damage to save the ship. He will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice.
MAY71945At 0241 at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in Rheims, France, German general Alfred Jodl signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces, ending World War II in Europe.
MAY71945When his fellow Marines become pinned down in a valley by a Japanese machine gun on Okinawa, PFC Albert E. Schwab single-handedly charges and eliminates two machine gun positions with his flame thrower before he is killed by enemy fire. PFC Schwab was awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice.
MAY71954Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap decisively defeats the French military in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The French withdraw from Vietnam after Dien Bien Phu, leaving the problem to the United States – setting the stage for the Vietnam War.
MAY71962The submarine USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) launches the only nuclear-tipped ballistic missile ever fired by the United States. The Polaris missile blasts out of the submerged sub and flies 1,000 nautical miles before detonating in the air near Johnson Island in the South Pacific.
MAY81846U.S. Army forces under the command of GEN Zachary Taylor decisively defeat Mexican forces under GEN Mariano Arista in the Battle of Palo Alto (Texas).
MAY81864Union Army forces under the command of LTG Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under GEN Robert E. Lee clash in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse
MAY81904U.S. Marines land at Tangier, Morocco to protect the Belgian legation.
MAY81911U.S. Navy CPT Washington I. Chambers places an order for two A-1 Triad floatplanes from the Curtiss aircraft company. The first order in U.S. Navy history.
MAY81942LT John J. Powers tells his fellow dive bombers as they prepare to climb into their planes to attack the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea, “Remember, the folks back home are counting on us. I am going to get a hit if I have to lay it on their flight deck.” He made good on his promise but lost his life in the process. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY81942SBD Dauntless scout pilot LT (junior grade) William E. Hall attacks and destroys three enemy warplanes during the Battle of the Coral Sea and is wounded during the dogfight. The previous day, Hall assisted in the sinking of the Japanese carrier Shoho.
MAY81942LT Milton E. Ricketts is leading a damage control party on USS Yorktown while Japanese pilots target the aircraft carrier. An enemy bomb falls right next to Ricketts and his men, exploding one deck below them. The blast kills and wounds several of Ricketts’ team and although mortally wounded himself, Ricketts charges a firefighting hose and works to extinguish the blaze until he perishes.
MAY81945The unconditional surrender of German forces signed by GEN Alfred Jodl at the "little red schoolhouse", in Reims, France, the previous day becomes official. The war in Europe is over.
MAY81945Acting squad leader PFC Anthony L. Krotiak and his soldiers are engaged in a firefight on Luzon Island’s Balete Pass. When Krotiak spots an enemy grenade thrown into their trench, he knocks his squad mates out of the way, jams the grenade into the ground with the butt of his rifle, then shields them from the blast with his body. Krotiak will die within moments.
MAY81970During an armed reconnaissance mission near Ban Ban, Laos, an AC-119K Stinger gunship begins raining down fire on enemy vehicles with their 20mm cannons and 7.62mm miniguns. Six anti-aircraft vehicles struck back with deadly fire. Air Force pilot, CPT Alan D. Milacek manages to muscle the nearly crippled plane out of a dive and limps the bird back to Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand.
MAY81970When LCPL Miguel Keith‘s outnumbered platoon was engaged in South Vietnam’s Quang Ngai Province during an early morning attack, the already-wounded Marine charged into heavy fire, raining down fire that downed three and chased off the remaining two enemy soldiers in their failed attempt to rush the American command post. An enemy grenade wounds him again, but he ignores his serious wounds and charges once more at a force of 25 men, killing several more with his machine gun and breaking off the attack. Keith is hit again after his second charge, this time fatally.
MAY81972President Richard M. Nixon authorizes Operation LINEBACKER I, ordering the mining of North Vietnamese ports and interdiction operations against the Ho Chi Minh Trail to stop the flow of weapons to the communists.
MAY91865After learning that GEN Robert E. Lee had surrendered the previous month, Confederate LTG Nathan Bedford Forrest surrenders his men at Gainesville, Alabama. Forrest orders his men to "submit to the powers to be, and to aid in restoring peace and establishing law and order throughout the land."
MAY91926Naval aviators LCDR Richard E. Byrd and Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett take off from Spitsbergen, Norway, and head north. In about eight hours, they will report that they have reached the North Pole, becoming the first men to do so by air.
MAY9194140 Allied ships steam west across the Atlantic, right into the jaws of a waiting wolfpack of German U-boats. U-110 and U-201 made a coordinated attack on the convoy, sinking three freighters. British escort vessels score hits on both subs, sending U-201 back to German pens for repair. U-110 is forced to surface, and the captain orders his crew to abandon ship as it appears the destroyer HMS Bulldog is preparing to ram the sub. British sailors quickly seize the opportunity to board the fatally wounded submarine instead, grabbing the Enigma cipher machine and German code book. The British can now read the German Navy's traffic - a secret so closely guarded that the United States isn't informed until 1943.
MAY9194247 Royal Air Force Spitfire fighters launch from the deck of the American aircraft carrier USS Wasp and head for the island of Malta. When Canadian Pilot Officer Jerrold A. "Jerry" Smith notices that the long-range fuel tank necessary for him to reach the Allied airfield fails after takeoff, he circles around and requests permission to land on the carrier. Not being equipped with a tailhook for an arrested landing, Smith skids to a stop just six feet from the edge of the deck - making the first-ever carrier landing with a Spitfire.
MAY9199731 years after being shot down over Hanoi, former prisoner of war Douglas B. "Pete" Peterson returns - as the first Ambassador of the United States to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
MAY101775The famous Vermont guerrilla force the "Green Mountain Boys", commanded by COL Ethan Allen, and state militiamen led by COL Benedict Arnold catch the British troops at Fort Ticonderoga by surprise.
MAY101797The 55-gun heavy frigate USS United States is launched at Philadelphia, becoming the first commissioned ship of the U.S. Navy.
MAY101801Yusuf Karamanly - the Pasha of Tripoli - demands tribute from the United States to prevent the Barbary pirates from continuing their practice of taking hostages and capturing ships. President Jefferson refuses, and the Pasha declares war.
MAY101863GEN Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson dies from pneumonia.
MAY101863MAJ Byron M. Cutcheon of the 20th Michigan infantry leads a charge during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
MAY101864During the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, CPT Abraham Arnold of the 5th U.S. Cavalry leads a gallant charge against a numerically superior enemy which "extricated his command from a perilous position in which it had been ordered."
MAY101864At Laurel Hill, SGT Moses A. Luce of the 4th Michigan Infantry charges forward in the face of an advancing enemy to rescue a wounded friend and comrade, SGT Asher LaFleur, carrying him to safety. The 3rd Vermont Infantry's COL Thomas O. Seaver - in command of three regiments - attacks and occupies Confederate defensive works under "galling" enemy fire.
MAY101865Union cavalry troopers capture Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, near Irwinville, Georgia. Davis is charged with treason and held at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
MAY101866Seaman Richard Bates, Seaman Thomas Burke, and PO John Brown rescue two drowning sailors off the coast of Maine.
MAY101945As the fighting rages on Okinawa, Navy corpsman William D. Halyburton Jr. charges through a "merciless barrage" of mortar, machinegun, and sniper fire to assist a wounded Marine. Halyburton shields his comrade with his body while treating the fallen Marine, sacrificing himself so his patient could live.
MAY101960The nuclear-powered radar picket submarine USS Triton (SSRN-586) returns to port after completing the first-ever completely submerged circumnavigation of the Earth.
MAY101969Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division move into the A Shau Valley for what would become an intense ten-day battle against North Vietnamese Army on Hill 937 - dubbed "Hamburger Hill."
MAY101972U.S. Navy fighters have their busiest day of the war, shooting down six enemy MiGs. F-4J Phantom pilot LT Randall H. "Duke" Cunningham and his radio intercept officer, LT William P. "Irish" Driscoll, score two victories becoming the only aces of the Vietnam War, and the only U.S. aviators to ever accomplish the feat using missiles.
MAY111846President James K. Polk tells Congress: "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil."
MAY111864During the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Confederate MG J.E.B. Stuart is shot by a dismounted Union cavalry trooper north of Richmond
MAY111889An Army wagon train leaves Fort Grant loaded with $28,000 (1889 dollars) in gold and silver coins to pay U.S. troops stationed in Arizona Territory, guarded by a dozen Buffalo Soldiers from the 24th Infantry and 10th Cavalry regiments. A band of highwaymen ambush the convoy and manage to make off with the money following a 30-minute firefight that wound eight soldiers. SGT Benjamin Brown and CPL Isaiah Mays are awarded the Medal of Honor, and eight soldiers are decorated with the Certificate of Merit Medal.
MAY111927CPT Charles A. Lindbergh touches down at St. Louis' Lambert Field after a 14-hour flight from San Diego to pick up the custom-built Ryan NYP that will hopefully carry the U.S. Air Service Reserve Corps aviator across the Atlantic Ocean.
MAY1119433,000 7th Infantry Division soldiers land at Attu Island in the Territory of Alaska's Aleutian Islands to repel Japanese troops that landed in June of 1942. After a month of fighting under harsh arctic conditions, the Americans finish off the remaining Japanese in hand-to-hand combat after a last-ditch Bansai charge. The Battle of Attu is the only land combat on American soil during World War II.
MAY111945As U.S. soldiers launch another attack against Japanese forces on Okinawa's Shuri Line, Japanese pilot Kiyoshi Ogawa's specially modified Mitsubishi Zero fighter slips through anti-aircraft fire and drops a 550-lb. bomb on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) before slamming his aircraft into the flight deck, igniting a fuel fire, and causing several explosions that kill some 400 sailors.
MAY111945As U.S. Army PVT John R. McKinney rests following his watch, 100 Japanese troops sneak up on a three-man machine gun position at Luzon Island's Dingalan Bay. McKinney receives a glancing head blow from a Japanese saber. He grabs a rifle and bludgeons the sword-wielding foe before turning his attention to the machine gun, which has been captured by 10 enemy soldiers - and is about to be turned on the Americans.
McKinney fires as he charges the position, finishing off the remaining enemy with his rifle butt upon reaching the pit. As mortar and rifle fire hammers his position, he uses his rifle to "cut down waves of the fanatical enemy." When the smoke clears, 40 Japanese bodies litter the battlefield. McKinney - "the Pacific War's Audie Murphy" - has single-handedly carried the day.
MAY111945On Okinawa's "Zebra Hill," 1LT Seymour W. Terry of the 382nd Infantry Regiment systematically destroys pillbox after pillbox with satchel charges and white phosphorous grenades, shooting those that survived. Each time his platoons are pinned down throughout the day, Terry advances on the position and destroys it, leaving in his formidable wake numerous enemy positions, multiple machine guns, and dozens of dead bodies before he is mortally wounded by an enemy mortar.
MAY111957President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that the United States will work with South Vietnam to ensure the peaceful unification of Vietnam and continue to provide support in their fight against communism.
MAY111961President John F. Kennedy approves the deployment of 400 Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) and 100 CIA operatives to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese forces.
MAY121780GEN Benjamin Lincoln, commanding American forces at Charleston, surrenders to GEN Sir Henry Clinton after a six-week siege.
MAY121864GEN Ulysses S. Grant orders his forces to assault the Confederate salient known as the "Mule Shoe" during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
MAY121865A Union force led by COL John S. Ford attacks Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Texas.
MAY121942The German U-boat U-507 torpedoes the SS Virginia at the mouth of the Mississippi River, sinking the 10,000-ton tanker and killing 26 sailors.
MAY121943After his capture by the British, German GEN Hans-Jürgen von Arnim surrenders his Army Group Africa to the Allies in Tunisia. Hundreds of thousands of Axis forces are taken prisoner and the war in North Africa is over.
MAY121975Khmer Rouge forces seize the merchant ship SS Mayaguez off the coast of Cambodia.
MAY151862CPL John F. Mackie becomes the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor when he mans the mans the guns of the ironclad USS Galena after most of the Naval gun crew are killed or wounded during the Battle of Drewry's Bluff.
MAY151864As 9,000 Union troops led by MG Franz Sigel march into Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, Confederate MG John C. Breckenridge musters a defense force that includes cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Academy. The cadets are held in reserve, but when the Union breaks the Confederate lines, Breckenridge declares "Put the boys in... and may God forgive me for the order." Within moments, 47 cadets are wounded and ten lay dead in the Battle of New Market.
MAY151918PVTs Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts of the all-black "Harlem Hellfighters" become the first American soldiers to be awarded the Croix de Guerre - France's highest decoration for military valor. When a German raiding party attacks their outpost and captures Roberts, Johnson fights back with grenades, gun fire, his rifle butt, knife, and fists, rescuing his fellow soldier and forcing the Germans to retreat. Johnson is wounded 21 times in the fight but is not awarded the Purple Heart until 1996 - decades after his passing - and is finally awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015.
MAY151963U.S. Air Force MAJ Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. blasts off aboard "Faith 7", the final Mercury mission.
MAY16189922 U.S. Army scouts come across a group of some 600 Filipino rebels attempting to destroy a bridge during the Philippine Insurrection. While under heavy fire, the scouts charge across the bridge and rout the enemy force. The following day, the Americans cross the bridge and capture San Isidro, the capital of the insurrection. 15 scouts from the Battle of San Isidro are awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY161863MG Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee clashes with three Confederate divisions led by LTG John C. Pemberton in the Battle of Champion Hill.
MAY161919LCDR Albert C. "Puffy" Read and his crew of five depart Newfoundland on the first-ever transatlantic flight.
MAY161927Although a peace treaty ended the Nicaraguan Civil War earlier in the month, a crowd of 75 Liberal rebels attack a platoon of U.S. Marines, led by CPT Richard B. Buchanan. Two Marines - including CPT Buchanan - are killed in the Battle of La Paz Centro.
MAY161947101 B-29 Superfortress bombers conduct Strategic Air Command's first maximum-effort mission, making a mock mass bomber attack on New York.
MAY161951150,000 communist soldiers cross the Soyang River and manage to push back UN forces on the eastern portion of the peninsula some 20 miles. The Chinese Spring Offensive - the last all-out offensive campaign for the Chinese in the Korean War - fails as the Eighth Army, led by new commander LTG James Van Fleet, drives the communists back to the 38th Parallel.
MAY161968In South Vietnam's Quang Tri Province, the North Vietnamese Army launches an attack against 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. After having crossed enemy fire to reach a wounded Marine, Navy corpsman Don E. Ballard spots an enemy grenade that lands during Ballard, his patient, and four other Marines. Ballard leaps on the grenade, but fortunately for the Americans, the cheaply produced communist explosive fails to detonate. Ballard calmly gets up and returns to his work - and will be awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY171943The crew of the B-17F Flying Fortress named Memphis Belle lands safely in England after a bombing raid on Lorient, France. CPT Robert K Morgan's crew have completed their 25th mission of the war, a remarkable feat considering crews averaged between eight and 12 missions before being shot down.
MAY171962When communist Pathet Lao forces mass near the border during the Laotian Crisis, Thailand requests assistance from the United States. President John F. Kennedy deploys a 3,000-man Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Udorn, Thailand in a show of force.
MAY171968When PFC Robert C. Burke's company comes under heavy mortar, machine gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and rifle fire, the Marine grabs his machine gun and charges single-handedly against the large fortified enemy position. As Burke maneuvers from one position to another, suppressing enemy bunkers and neutralizing machine gun crews, his fellow Marines move forward and evacuate their wounded. When his automatic weapon malfunctions, he picks up a weapon from a casualty and keeps firing. Once his machine gun is operational, he moves to an exposed position and pours heavy fire into the treeline but will be mortally wounded.
MAY171987An Iraqi aircraft fires two Exocet anti-ship missiles at the frigate USS Stark (FFG-31) while on patrol in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq-Iran War. Both missiles hit the American warship, igniting a blaze that kills 37 sailors and injures 21.
MAY181775COL Benedict Arnold leads a successful surprise attack against a British fort and the adjacent shipyards at St. Johns, Canada. Among Arnold’s prizes is the British sloop HMS George which he renames "Enterprise,” the first of eight so-named American Navy ships.
MAY181846GEN Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation captures the fortified city of Matamoros during the Mexican-American War.
MAY181863Union Army forces under the command of MG Ulysses S. Grant move against the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
MAY181902Marines from the gunboat USS Ranger land at Panama City to protect American citizens.
MAY181916Kiffin Rockwell, one of the first American volunteers for the Frech Air Service's Escadrille Américaine, overcomes engine troubles with his Nieuport fighter and shoots down a German plane over the Alsace battlefield - the first aerial victory by an American pilot during World War I.
MAY181945On Okinawa, the Sixth Marine Division captured most of Sugar Loaf Hill - a 50-foot tall, 300-yard long, heavily fortified hill. It takes the Marines 11 bloody assaults to finally secure the terrain, and after 12 days, over 1,600 Marines lay dead and 7,400 are wounded.
MAY181953On his last day of combat, U.S. Air Force CPT Joseph C. McConnell shoots down three enemy MiG-15 fighters. McConnell is the first American triple ace of the Korean War, and his 16 victories are the most of any U.S. pilot.
MAY181969A Saturn V rocket carrying COL Thomas P. Stafford (USAF), CMDR John W. Young (USN), and CMDR Eugene A. "Gene" Cernan (USN) lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center. The Apollo 10 crew are the second to orbit the moon, conducting a "dress rehearsal" of the planned lunar landing two months later.
MAY191848The Mexican government agrees to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending the Mexican-American War and ceding over 500,000 square miles of territory to the United States.
MAY191855Marines from the screw frigate USS Powhatan land in Shanghai to protect American lives and property during the Taiping Rebellion.
MAY191942After evading capture by Japanese forces in China and returning safely to the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards BG James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle the Medal of Honor for leading the raid against Japan.
MAY191944The crew of destroyer escort USS England (DE-635) detects the Japanese submarine I-16 as the vessel attempts to deliver supplies to enemy troops on Bougainville Island. England's crew sinks the sub with Hedgehog mortars.
MAY191960Air Force MAJ Robert M. White pilots his North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft to an altitude of 108,000 feet (20.6 miles).
MAY211927CPT Charles A. Lindbergh touches down at Paris’ Le Bourget Aerodrome after his treacherous nonstop 33 1/2 hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean – a feat made even more remarkable considering Lindbergh made the flight using dead reckoning, since there were no navigational aids. 150,000 French citizens are on-hand to witness perhaps the most famous flight in history.
MAY211944As the U.S. military prepares for the invasion of the Mariana Islands, a massive explosion wipes out six landing ships and crews work frantically for 24 hours to control the blaze. The government orders a press blackout of the disaster. The event was classified and to this day, not much is known of the West Loch Disaster. 196 are killed and hundreds are wounded, but the actual number of casualties could be much higher.
MAY211945Desmond Doss becomes the only conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor. Already wounded four times and a two-time recipient of the Bronze Star with Valor device for actions on Guam and the Philippines, the medic had famously carried 75 wounded soldiers to safety on Hacksaw Ridge just days before. On this day during intense fighting on Okinawa's Shuri Line, Doss was hit badly and was in the process of being carted off the battlefield when he spotted a more seriously injured solder. Doss crawls off the litter and instructs his fellow soldiers to treat the other soldier instead. He ties a rifle to his shattered arm and painfully crawls 300 yards to the aid station.
MAY211951PFC Joseph C. Rodriguez engaged in a "whirlwind assault" against a fortified hostile force on a hill near Munye-ri, Korea. Taking fire from the front and left flank, Rodriguez charges up the rocky hill through heavy fire, knocking out machine guns and foxholes with grenades as he drives forward. When the dust settles, the enemy is broken, and 15 bodies lay dead from his "whirlwind assault."
MAY211957Air Force MAJ and Korean War jet ace Robbie Risner flies the same route taken by “Lucky Lindy.” Risner’s F-100 Super Sabre completes the trip in just 6 hours and 38 minutes, setting a transatlantic speed record.
MAY211966During an intense firefight that had claimed the lives of several of his fellow cavalry troopers, David C. Dolby's dying platoon leader ordered him to lead the unit's withdrawal. Dolby evacuates the wounded - carrying one to safety through enemy fire - and organizes covering fire. He neutralizes several enemy machine guns with his rifle and then crawls forward to mark the positions of bunkers for air strikes. He remained in an exposed position to call in artillery support. For his selfless actions, Dolby is awarded the Medal of Honor and will return for four more tours in Vietnam.
MAY211969During a search-and-clear operation near South Vietnam's Tam Ky region, Spec. 4 Santiago J. Erevia charged forward through intense enemy fire from four bunkers pinned down his platoon. He crawls forward to the first position, killing the enemy with a grenade, and repeats the act on a second and third. Out of grenades, he moves to the last bunker, eliminating the last position with point-blank rifle fire. Erevia is awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014.
MAY212003U.S. forces capture Aziz Salih Nuhman - the "King of Diamonds" from the deck of most wanted Iraqis playing cards- in Baghdad, Iraq. Nuhman was one of Saddam Hussein's "dirty dozen," wanted for brutal murder and torture of Iraqis prior to the U.S. invasion. He will be returned to Iraq in 2011 and is executed.
MAY221804The "Corps of Discovery," a group of about four dozen Army volunteers led by CPT Meriwether Lewis and 2LT William Clark, departs St. Charles, Mo. and heads west along the Missouri River, marking the official start of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
MAY221863During the Siege of Vicksburg, GEN Ulysses S. Grant orders an assault against the formidable Confederate heights. Although the Union soldiers knew there would be little chance of surviving the mission, twice as many volunteers (which had to be single) stepped forward than what was asked for. Following a massive four-hour bombardment by hundreds of artillery pieces, the men of the so-called "Forlorn Hope Detatchment" charged forward with planks and ladders to defeat the moat and embankment wall.
MAY221912The aviation arm of the U.S. Marine Corps is born with the arrival of 1LT Alfred A. Cunningham at the Naval Aviation Camp, Annapolis, Maryland.
MAY221944With the Allies in the final preparation stages for the invasion of Normandy, the U.S. Eighth and Ninth Air Forces, supported by Royal Air Force warplanes and French resistance fighters begin Operation CHATANOOGA CHOO CHOO – a series of massive air attacks against Axis rail infrastructure.
MAY221945As the threat of Cold War with the Soviets begins to materialize following the end the war in Europe, the U.S. military begins recruiting and evacuation of valuable German rocket scientists and their families.
MAY221947The United States launches its first ballistic missile. The dismally inaccurate Corporal E, a primitive (by today's standards) guided missile capable of hitting targets 75 miles away with a conventional or tactical nuclear device, will not be fielded until 1955. It will also become the first U.S. missile system marketed to foreign militaries and remains in service for U.S. troops stationed in Western Europe until 1964.
MAY221968The fast-attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) is mysteriously lost at sea several hundred miles off the Azores. All hands – 99 sailors – perish.
MAY231862Confederate forces under the command of MG Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson strike, outmaneuver, and – with textbook coordination of infantry, cavalry, and artillery – decisively defeat Union Army forces under COL John R. Kenly at Front Royal, Virginia.
MAY231943The most decorated battleship in the U.S. Navy, USS New Jersey (BB-62), is commissioned at Philadelphia.
MAY231944In Italy, VI Corps at the Anzio Beachhead begin their breakout. Fighting is intense - the 3rd Infantry Division suffers nearly 1,000 casualties, the most by any American division in a single day of the entire war, and the German troops defending Cisterna are annihilated in house-to-house combat.
MAY231945GEN Dwight Eisenhower orders the arrest of German military and government leaders.
MAY231945SS commander Heinrich Himmler uses a hidden cyanide capsule to kill himself after being captured by the Soviet Army.
MAY231967U.S. congressman James Howard reads a letter sent from a Marine serving in Vietnam stating that most of the casualties in the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions with the unit's new M16 rifle. The weapon is shorter and lighter than the M14 it replaced earlier in the year as the U.S. military's standard service rifle but does not come with adequate cleaning kit as the new rifle is billed as self-cleaning. Serial reports of dead soldiers and Marines found next to their malfunctioning M16s anger the American public, until improvements to the rifle and ammunition make the weapon far more reliable.
MAY241818GEN Andrew Jackson and his expeditionary army march into Spanish-controlled Florida, easily capturing the Gulf-coastal town of Pensacola.
MAY241861Less than 24 hours after Virginia secedes from the Union, a regiment of zouave infantry consisting of volunteer fire fighters from New York City land at Alexandria and occupy the town. The regiment’s commander COL Elmer E. Ellsworth becomes the first Union officer killed in the Civil War when he is shot while taking down a Confederate flag.
MAY241939The submarine salvage ship USS Falcon arrives and begins rescue operations on the recently sunk submarine USS Squalus. Although 26 sailors drowned instantly when the submarine went down, divers used a newly designed rescue chamber to save the remaining 33 crewmembers. Four divers are awarded the Medal of Honor for the world's first rescue of a submarine crew in deep water.
MAY241943One quarter of the German U-boat fleet is sent to the bottom in one month, thanks to breaking the new German Enigma radio code, modern radar, new long range patrol aircraft, aggressive tactics, and escort carriers. The Kriegsmarine is losing more ships than they are sinking. ADM Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to break off operations in the North Atlantic, declaring "We had lost the battle of the Atlantic."
MAY241944SGT Sylvester Antolak charges alone across 200 yards of flat, coverless terrain as the 3rd Infantry Division fights to expand the beachhead at Anzio. Antolak is hit multiple times and pins his weapon under his only remaining functional arm. Amazingly, he survives the charge, killing two Germans with his submachine gun and forces the remaining 10 to surrender. Rather than allow his wounds to be treated, he leads another charge against a German fortification and is killed - earning a posthumous Medal of Honor.
MAY24194415th Infantry Regiment soldier PVT James H. Mills covers his platoon's advance, moving from position to position while killing and capturing several Germans along the way. Realizing that an assault against the German strongpoint would result in heavy American losses, he volunteers to draw enemy fire on himself from an exposed position. His plan works; the Germans concentrate their guns on Mills while his fellow close in on the position, capturing 22 and taking the objective without a casualty. Mills is also awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY24194415th Regiment soldier PFC Henry Schauer earned the Medal of Honor at Anzio. Armed with his Browning Automatic Rifle, Schauer braves fire from five enemy snipers concentrated on the exposed American and systematically kills each German marksman. Later that day, he ignores enemy artillery and machine gun fire hammering his position, wiping out a German machine gun crew. The following day, the Germans try throwing a tank and machine gun at Schauer, but learn that not even armor can break his concentration as he dispatches another machine gun with deadly accuracy.
MAY241962U.S. Navy LCDR Malcolm "Scott" Carpenter orbits the earth three times in his "Aurora 7" space capsule, spending nearly four hours above the Earth's surface performing science experiments.
MAY251942CMDR Joseph Rochefort and his Station HYPO cryptanalysts have broken the Japanese Navy's main radio code, named JN-25b. When they discover Japan's planned assault at a facility codenamed "AF," they suspect the target is the U.S. base at Midway, and secretly instruct the radio operators to announce over radio that they suffered a breakdown of their water purification system, which Japanese intelligence intercepts. Japan falls for the trick and reports over JN-25b that AF is short on water. The U.S. Navy now knows the location, date, and strength of the attack and sets a trap for the Japanese. Two companies of Marine Raiders land on the remote island to reinforce the garrison while warplanes are deployed, and submarines take up their patrol positions.
MAY251945The Joint Chiefs of Staff meet in Washington and approve plans for Operation DOWNFALL - the invasion of Japan, which is set for November 1. Casualty estimates for the American-led invasion are in the millions.
MAY251945464 B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bombers target Tokyo, burning 16 square miles of the city.
MAY251953The North American F-100 "Super Sabre" makes its first flight, with test pilot George Welch pushing the jet to Mach 1.03. The sleek new warplane is the first Air Force fighter capable of reaching supersonic speeds at level flight.
MAY251953The 280-mm gun, known as “Atomic Annie”, fires a nuclear warhead 10,000 yards downrange as 3,200 Soldiers and civilians are on hand to witness the United States’ only nuclear artillery test. The projectile is similar in design and yield (15 kilotons) to the “Little Boy” dropped on Hiroshima. The shot is known as “Grable”, part of the UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE atomic tests.
MAY251961President John F. Kennedy declares his intention to put a man on the moon in less than ten years and asks Congress to make the space program a high priority.
MAY251971MAJ William E. Adams (U.S. Army) volunteers to fly his medevac helicopter to a besieged fire base in Kontum Province to rescue three wounded soldiers. Adams flies through heavy ant-aircraft fire and lands so the casualties could be loaded. When he takes off, his helicopter is hammered by enemy fire and explodes, killing all aboard. Adams is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY251973CPT Charles Conrad, Jr., CMDR Paul J. Weitz and CMDR Joseph P. Kerwin blast off aboard a Saturn IB rocket. The all-Navy crew are the first to visit the Skylab space station, already in orbit.
MAY261917U.S. Army GEN John J. “Black Jack” Pershing is named commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Force.
MAY261942The Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter makes its first flight. The twin-boom P-61 is the first aircraft to carry radar and the U.S. military's first night fighter.
MAY261958Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William R. Charette selects which remains of unidentifiable service members from World War II will be interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from four identical caskets in a ceremony on the deck of the cruiser USS Canberra (CAG-2). Charette is the only enlisted sailor and recipient of the Medal of Honor still in active service. The "unknowns" were disinterred from cemeteries in Europe, Africa, Hawaii, and the Philippines.
MAY261961An Air Force B-58 Hustler bomber - the first operational bomber capable of sustaining Mach 2 - flies from New York to Paris in three hours and 19 minutes, setting a new record and averaging 1,386 miles per hour.
MAY262008SSG Leroy A. Petry and his fellow Rangers come under enemy fire while attempting to capture a high-value Taliban target in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. Petry, already wounded in both legs by an enemy bullet, sees an enemy grenade land near his team's position and throws it back. But the grenade explodes just after being thrown, severing Petry's hand and spraying him with sharpnel. He applies a tourniquet and coordinates support for his soldiers on the radio. Petry will receive an advanced prosthetic hand and rejoin the Rangers, returning to Afghanistan for his eighth deployment before becoming the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
MAY271967USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) – the last conventionally powered American aircraft carrier – is launched.
MAY271998When a Cessna passenger plane crashes 10,000 feet up in the mountains west of Anchorage, Alaska, an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crew from the Air Force's 210th Rescue Squadron races to the scene. Over the next seven hours, the pilots fight high winds and zero-visibility conditions, looking for a spot to land. When a window appears in the clouds, the chopper lands and Pararescuemen extract the passengers from the wrecked aircraft.
MAY281918LTG Robert Lee Bullard's soon-to-be-famous 1st Infantry Division ("the Big Red One") launches the first major attack by U.S. forces during World War I, capturing the French town of Cantigny from a far-more experienced German Eighteenth Army led by GEN Oskar von Hutier. Following a two-hour artillery bombardment, whistles are blown along the American trench lines, and soldiers from the division’s 28th Infantry Regiment – destined to become known as the "Lions of Cantigny" – climb over the top and into the open. Supported by French aircraft, tanks, and mortar and flame-thrower teams – the Americans advance over 1,600 yards in three waves at marked intervals behind a creeping artillery barrage. Soon, the German lines are defeated, and the town is in American hands.
MAY281959Two rhesus monkeys named Able and Baker blast off from Cape Canaveral aboard a Jupiter rocket, reaching a height of 360 miles above the earth. The monkeys splashed down safely in the Atlantic after traveling 1,700 miles in 16 minutes.
MAY281980The first female cadets graduate from the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy.
MAY291780British cavalry soldiers and Loyalists led by LTC Banastre Tarleton attack Abraham Buford's force of Continental Army soldiers near Lancaster, South Carolina. As Buford raises the white flag, Tarleton's horse is shot and killed, trapping the British officer. His raiders respond by ferociously attacking the Americans, killing over 100 and seriously wounding many more.
MAY291781Off the coast of Nova Scotia, the frigate USS Alliance engages two British sloops-of-war: HMS Atalanta and HMS Trepassy. Alliance was still in the process of repairing damage from by storms and the larger vessel was hampered by a lack of wind. CPT John Barry is seriously wounded by a blast of grapeshot and eventually has to be taken below decks to treat his wounds. When his executive officer asks Barry's permission to surrender, the famous skipper resumes command. The wind picks back up and after a series of devastating broadsides, both British vessels strike their colors. Britain will offer Barry 100,000 pounds and command of any frigate to switch sides, but the "Father of the U.S. Navy" replies that he would refuse even if they offered him the entire British treasury and command of the Royal Navy.
MAY291944USS Block Island (CVE-21) becomes the only U.S. aircraft carrier sunk in the Atlantic when a German U-boat slips through the escort carrier's defensive screen and hits the flattop with two torpedoes. Only six sailors perish in the attack as 951 of Block Island's crew are rescued.
MAY291944CPT William W. Galt of the 168th Infantry Regiment volunteers to personally lead his battalion after two failed attacks against German positions at Villa Crocetta in Italy. Standing exposed on the turret of a tank destroyer, Galt led the charge as he used his machine gun and grenades to kill some 40 Germans with grenades and his machine gun. Galt was mortally wounded by a German 88-mm shell and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY291951PFC Whitt L. Moreland of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines volunteered to join a rifle platoon in an attack against an enemy-held hill near Kwagch’i-Dong, Korea. After capturing their first objective, Moreland led a group of Marines on an assault against an enemy bunker 400 yards away. When the communists attacked his party with a volley of grenades, Moreland kicked several grenades away, but slipped and fell while attempting to neutralize the last grenade. Realizing that he would not have enough time to safely get rid of the grenade, he rolled on top of it and shielded his comrades from the blast with his body. For his sacrifice, PFC Moreland was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY292002FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledges that his organization did not follow up on red-flag leads that may have prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
MAY301866Decoration Day" – the predecessor to Memorial Day – is first observed by order of U.S. Army GEN John A. Logan, who designated the day "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country." MG James A. Garfield presides over ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery, and approximately 5,000 participants decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate dead — about 20,000 of them — buried on the grounds.
MAY301904As seven warships of the European and South Atlantic squadrons sit anchored off the North African coast, Marines from the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn (ACR-3), commanded by CPT John T. "Handsome Jack" Myers, land at Tangiers, Morocco to reinforce the guard force at the American Consulate.
MAY301942The B-17F "Flying Fortress" bomber makes its first flight. The Boeing B-17 entered service back in 1935, but the "F" model has several hundred improvements to the airframe.
MAY301942The U.S. Army accepts delivery of the world's first production helicopter - the Sikorsky R-4. Designer Igor Sikorsky flew the R-4 over 700 miles in a record-setting cross-country trip from the factory in Connecticut to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.
MAY301942RADM Frank J. Fletcher's Task Force 17 departs Pearl Harbor following 72 hours of frantic repairs to USS Yorktown (CV-5). The ship sails west to join RADM Raymond A. Spruance's task force with Enterprise and Hornet already enroute .
MAY301943After a last-ditch bonsai charge led by COL Yasuyo Yamasaki, resulting in fierce hand-to-hand fighting, U.S. and Canadian forces have secured the Alaskan island of Attu. Only 28 of the original 8,000-man Japanese occupation force are captured alive. The brutally cold Aleutian Campaign is over.
MAY311862As GEN George McClellan's Army of the Potomac attempts to cross the swollen Chickahominy River just east of Richmond, GEN Joseph Johnston's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia strikes.
MAY311900While the bloody Chinese campaign against foreigners and Christians known as the Boxer Rebellion intensifies, Marines from the battleship USS Oregon (BB-3) and cruiser USS Newark (C-1) arrive at the Chinese capital of Peking to protect American and foreign legations.
MAY311943As the Allied attack begins on the island of Pantelleria, halfway between Tunisia and Sicily, the 99th Pursuit Squadron - the first all-black fighter squadron of the U.S. military - arrives in Tunisia.
MAY311944When German forces hit PVT Furman L. Smith's company near Lanuvio, Italy, wounding several soldiers, the outfit is ordered to fall back. Smith refuses to leave the casualties. He places the wounded in shell holes and holds his ground during the German counterattack. He is killed, but not before leaving a string of dead and wounded Germans. Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
MAY311945On Okinawa's "Hen Hill," PFC Clarence B. Craft launches an incredible one-man attack against Japanese defenders when his five-man reconnaissance force is wounded by grenades and pinned down. He exposes himself to intense enemy fire, shooting at anything that moves. Craft advances single-handedly up the hill, against defenses that previously beat back battalion-sized U.S. forces. Once he reaches the crest of the hill, his fellow soldiers advance, supplying him with cases of grenades and a satchel charge, which he used to seal off a cave containing an unknown number of enemies. Craft continued pumping rounds into Japanese soldiers and silenced an enemy machine gun position. Dozens of Japanese soldiers die at the hands of Craft, and his charge against the critical position of Hen Hill leads to the collapse of the entire Japanese line.
MAY311951When a "numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire" attacks Hill 420 near Wontong-Ni, Korea, the American platoon is forced to withdrwaw after expending their ammunition. A wounded CPL Rodolpho P. Hernandez of the 187th Regimental Combat Team remains behind, pumping deadly fire into the attackers. When his rifle becomes inoperable, Hernandez fixes his bayonet and charges into the enemy, killing six before falling from grenade, bayonet, and gunshot wounds. His one-man attack stuns the enemy, enabling his fellow soldiers to counterattack and retake the position.
MAY311994The United States announced that it is no longer "aiming" (preprogrammed computer targeting) nuclear weapons at Russian targets.
MAY312014The Taliban hands SGT Bowe Bergdahl over to a team of Delta Force operators. The former prisoner of war is exchanged for five high-ranking Taliban officials in a highly controversial deal between the U.S. government and the Afghan terrorist group.