Lots of History During the third Week of May
Turn-coat or scapegoat?
Captain William Kidd was executed this week, in 1701. The Scotsman, like many others of that time, had taken up residence in New York, married and settled down. His job as a sea captain was put to good use, as he was occasionally hired to rid the shores of this new world of pirates. He was also hired, late in the 1600s, to run defense for English ships in the Red Sea. So, in 1696 he hired a crew out of New York and set sail for the Indian Ocean. He didn’t seem to present much of a threat to the pirates, though. Finally, in 1698, Kidd took a boat he claimed was guilty of piracy. The situation caused an uproar in London, since the captain of the alleged pirate ship was British. Rumors that Kidd was committing piracy himself spread. In 1701 Kidd turned himself in to the governor of New York and was transported back to England. Hoping to clear his name, he argued his case to the courts, but his supporters abandoned him for political reasons. He was hanged during this week, 1701.
Crossing the Ocean a different way …
In 1927 Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. His plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, made it from New York to Paris in 33½ hours. The 3,600 mile trip was big news, back in the day. An estimated 100,000 people greeted the pilot as he landed in France, making him one of America’s favorite sons.
From good guys to bad guys …
Just before dawn on May 23, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed while driving toward Sailes, Louisiana. Ambushed by a group of lawmen from Texas and Louisiana, the notorious couple came to the end of their crime spree the hard way – with a hail of bullets. The Barrows gang, led by Clyde and his gun-toting girlfriend, were responsible for a string of bank and store robberies across Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Louisiana, and the deaths of 13 people, including nine law enforcement officers. They’d terrorized the five southern states for two years, eluding several attempts to capture them. It wasn’t until retired Texas lawman Captain Frank Hamer came on the scene that they’d met their match. It only took the Captain three months to track them down and end the Barrow Gang for good.
East and West …
After World War ll, Germany was divided into four parts by the Allies. Each taking control of ¼ of the country, America, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union also controlled ¼ of the capitol city of Berlin. On May 23, 1949, the division became long-term, with the Soviet Union announcing the creation of West Germany, or the Federal Republic of Germany. A wall was erected to separate the two Germanys, East and West. Families were separated, neighborhoods destroyed and a very concrete symbol of the Cold War became a part of history. In 1990, Germany was finally reunited.
Hitting Hawaii …
The tsunami caused by the Japanese earthquake in early 2011 wasn’t the first to send massive tsunami waves into Hawaii. In 1960, the island was swamped with 36-foot waves caused by an earthquake off the coast of Chili. The quake killed thousands and sent a wall of water speeding north and west at 400 miles per hour. The early warning system, which was developed in 1948, worked perfectly, predicting the tsunami to make landfall within one minute of the actual time. Unfortunately, some people had ignored the warning, choosing instead to go to the beach to see the historical event. Sixty-one were killed.
Every week gives a different slice of history for us to look at, think about and hopefully learn. And even if we don’t find out something new about ourselves, it’s always fun and interesting to discover new facts about our past.
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