It’s May, at last: Aviation month

The merry, merry month of May may be known for strolling in the park, and for the flowers brought on by April showers, but it has also been a big month in the realm of aviation:

May 20, 1927 — Charles Lindbergh, 25, takes off from Roosevelt Field, on Long Island, for the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. Thirty-three hours and 3,600 miles later, he lands in Paris.

May 20, 1932 — Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, from Canada to Ireland; 2,026 miles in about 13 hours. Five years later, she disappears while trying to fly across the Pacific.

May 6, 1937 — The German zeppelin Hindenburg bursts into flames at Lakehurst, N.J., after crossing the Atlantic, killing 36 of the 97 passengers and crew.

May 8, 1942 — The Battle of the Coral Sea begins, between naval forces of Japan and the United States. It is the first time in history that opposing naval forces fight entirely with aircraft; the ships never sight each other.

May 14, 1942 — The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) is created by an act of Congress, within the Air Transport Command, under the leadership of Nancy Harkness Love. Also established that day are the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), the Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) and Semper Paratus Always Ready Service (SPARS), the Women’s Reserve of the Marine Corps.

May 19, 1943 — British Royal Air Force bombers successfully attacks dams in the Ruhr Valley of Germany using innovative “bouncing bombs” that skip along the water and explode when they hit the dams.

May 12, 1949 — The Soviet Union lifts its postwar blockade of Berlin, ending the Berlin Airlift — 462 days during which American and British planes flew more than a quarter million flights, delivering 2.3 million tons of food, coal and medical supplies to the isolated city.

May 1, 1960 — Soviet forces shoot down an American U-2 spy plane flying over Russia at 60,000 feet on the eve of a planned summit meeting between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nikita S. Khrushchev, which is then canceled, marking a low point of the Cold War. The CIA pilot, Francis Gary Powers, is captured and imprisoned, but two years later is exchanged for a Soviet spy.

May 5, 1961 — Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space, making a 15-minute suborbital flight less than a month after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s sensational first-ever orbital flight.

May 2, 2011 — U.S. special forces kill Osama bin Laden during a raid on his compound in Pakistan after a decade-long manhunt. The leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization had ordered the attacks on New York and Washington of Sept. 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed.

(Information from www.historyplace.com and www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.)



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