Shepard during Freedom 7 flight on May 5, 1961.

This Year in History

Our Selections From May

All year, we've been highlighting historical news events—and Foreign Affairs articles about those events—as part of our "This Day in History" series. Here are our collected selections for May.

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1

May 1, 2011: Bin Laden Is Killed

U.S. President Barack Obama announces that U.S. forces have killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

2

May 2, 1972: J. Edgar Hoover Dies

As the controversial first director of the FBI, he dies while still director at age 77. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

3

May 3, 2005: Iraq's first democratically elected government was sworn in

It replaced the interim government and paved the way for the permanent government ot takeover in May 2006Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

4

May 4, 1980: Josip Broz Tito Dies

The communist leader, who had led Yugoslavia since 1945, passes away at the age of 87 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

5

May 5, 1961: First American in Space

NASA launches the first American, Navy commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., into space. Russia's Yuri Gagarin had accomplished the feat only a few weeks earlierRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

6

May 6, 1930: Riots in India After Gandhi's Arrest

In Bombay, thousands protest against the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi. He was jailed the day prior for leading protests against the British salt tax. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

7

May 7, 1945: Germany signs unconditional surrender with Allies

General Alfred Jodl signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces in Reims, FranceRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

8

May 8, 1999: United States bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade

During its operation in Yugoslavia, NATO missiles struck the embassy and killed three Chinese. U.S. President Bill Clinton apologized and called it a mistake. The CIA said it had been aiming for a Yugoslav target on the same streetRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

9

May 9, 1955: West Germany Joins NATO

It becomes the alliance's 15th member and its membership was a key step in the U.S. defense of Western Europe against the Soviets. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

10

May 10, 1994: Nelson Mandela becomes South Africa's president

He is sworn in as South Africa's first black presidentRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

11

May 11, 1995: Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Extended

The treaty is extended indefinitely. It opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

12

May 12, 2003: Riyadh compound bombings carried out by Al Qaeda kill 26 people

Explosions in three Western-owned residential compounds kill 39 and injure more than one hundred. The attacks were attributed to extremistsRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

13

May 13, 1958: Vice President Richard Nixon attacked in Caracas, Venezuela

During a trip to Caracas, an angry mob attacks Vice President Richard Nixon's car, nearly overturning it. Many Latin Americans were angry over U.S. Cold War policies. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

14

May 14, 1955: The Warsaw Pact is formed

The Soviet Union and seven of its European satellites sign a mutual defense treatyRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

15

May 15, 1943: Stalin dissolves the Comintern

In order to deflect suspicions from his WWII allies of promoting communism in other countries, Stalin disbanded the Communist International, an organization that pushed for world communism. But he later creates a substitute, the cominform or the Communist Information Bureau. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

16

May 16, 2005: Kuwait Gives Women the Right to Vote

Kuwait's parliament grants women full political rights, including the ability to run for office. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

17

May 17, 1983: Israel and Lebanon Sign an Accord

After 35 U.S.-brokered meetings, which began in December 1982, Israel and Lebanon sign an agreement for peaceful relations, outlining steps for the normalization of relationsRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

18

May 18, 2009: End of Sri Lankan War

After 25 years of fighting the Tamil Tigers, the government kills the group's leader and declares an end to the war. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

19

May 19, 1941: Viet Minh Established in Vietnam

After a 30 year absence from Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh returns to form the communist coalition, also known as the “League for the Independence of Vietnam,” at Pác Bó, a village in Vietnam's Cao Bằng province. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

20

May 20, 1948: Chiang Kai-shek is elected as the first President of the Republic of China

The general wins by a landslide, making him the first president of the Republic of China, then located on the mainland. In 1949, he moves his government to Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

21

May 21, 1991: Ethiopian Dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam Flees to Zimbabwe

After the Civil War ends in Ethopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam resigns and finds refuge in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe. An Ethiopian court later convicted Mengistu of genocide. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

22

May 22, 1947: Truman Signs Greece-Turkey Aid Bill

President Harry Truman commits the United States to support Greece and Turkey against the Soviets. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

23

May 23, 1949: West Germany is Established

It was formed from the British, French, and U.S.-occupied zones. Konrad Adenauer, president of the West German Parliamentary Council and future president of West Germany, proclaimed, "Today a new Germany arises." Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

24

May 24, 1963: The Baldwin–Kennedy Meeting

To improve race relations, then U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy invited novelist James Baldwin and other black cultural leaders to meet in New York City. The meeting quickly became tense and did not resolve any issues. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

25

May 25, 1944: Operation Rösselsprung Begins

The Germans launch an assault on Yugoslavian Prime Minister Josip Broz Tito in an attempt to push him out of power, but he escapes the raid. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

26

May 26, 1942: Battle of Gazala Begins

During the Western Desert Campaign of World War II, the Germans and Italians fought the British near the port of Tobruk in Libya. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

27

May 27, 1960: Turkish Coup D'État

Led by General Cemal Gürsel and organized by Colonel Alparslan Türkeş, a group of young Turkish military officers overturned the democratically elected government of the Democrat Party. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

28

May 28, 1940: The Battle of Belgium Ends

After 18 days of fighting the Germans, the outnumbered Belgium forces are defeated and surrender unconditionally. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

29

May 29, 1999: First Shuttle to Dock With the ISS

The Discovery space shuttle is the first to dock with the International Space Station. The crew had to transfer over 1.5 tons of equipment. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

30

May 30, 1966: Biafra Declares Independence from Nigeria

After years of repression from the Nigerian government, the Igbo people of the eastern region of Biafra secede from Nigeria. This ultimately leads to the Nigerian Civil War. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

31

May 31, 1977: The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Is Completed

The 800-mile pipeline was built to move oil from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay in the north to Valdez in the south. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

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