May 5, 1961
The first American in space
From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
NASA was established in 1958 to keep U.S. space efforts abreast of recent Soviet achievements, such as the launching of the world’s first artificial satellite–Sputnik 1–in 1957. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the two superpowers raced to become the first country to put a man in space and return him to Earth. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet space program won the race when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into space, put in orbit around the planet, and safely returned to Earth. One month later, Shepard’s suborbital flight restored faith in the U.S. space program.
NASA continued to trail the Soviets closely until the late 1960s and the successes of the Apollo lunar program. In July 1969, the Americans took a giant leap forward with Apollo 11, a three-stage spacecraft that took U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon and returned them to Earth. On February 5, 1971, Alan Shepard, the first American in space, became the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission.
“The first American in space,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4977 [accessed May 5, 2009]
1494 – Christopher Columbus sighted Jamaica on his second trip to the Western Hemisphere. He named the island Santa Gloria.
1798 – U.S. Secretary of War William McHenry ordered that the USS Constitution be made ready for sea. The frigate was launched on October 21, 1797, but had never been put to sea.
1814 – The British attack the American forces at Ft. Ontario, Oswego, NY.
1821 – Napoleon Bonaparte died on the island of St. Helena, where he had been in exile.
1862 – The Battle of Puebla took place. It is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo Day.
1865 – The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the U.S.
1901 – The first Catholic mass for night workers was held at the Church of St. Andrew in New York City.
1917 – Eugene Jacques Bullard becomes the first African-American aviator when he earned his flying certificate with the French Air Service.
1925 – John T. Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, TN, was arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.
1942 – General Joseph Stilwell learned that the Japanese had cut his railway out of China and was forced to lead his troops into India.
1945 – The Netherlands and Denmark were liberated from Nazi control.
1955 – The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) became a sovereign state.
1981 – Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands died at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. It was his 66th day without food.
May 5, 1945
Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb
In Lakeview, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it. They were the first and only known American civilians to be killed in the continental United States during World War II. The U.S. government eventually gave $5,000 in compensation to Mitchell’s husband, and $3,000 each to the families of Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Jay Gifford, and Richard and Ethel Patzke, the five slain children.
The explosive balloon found at Lakeview was a product of one of only a handful of Japanese attacks against the continental United States, which were conducted early in the war by Japanese submarines and later by high-altitude balloons carrying explosives or incendiaries. In comparison, three years earlier, on April 18, 1942, the first squadron of U.S. bombers dropped bombs on the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoyo, surprising the Japanese military command, who believed their home islands to be out of reach of Allied air attacks. When the war ended on August 14, 1945, some 160,000 tons of conventional explosives and two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan by the United States. Approximately 500,000 Japanese civilians were killed as a result of these bombing attacks.
“Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4976 [accessed May 5, 2009]