On This Day … 15 May


  • 495 BC – A newly constructed temple in honour of the god Mercury was dedicated in ancient Rome on the Circus Maximus, between the Aventine and Palatine hills. To spite the senate and the consuls, the people awarded the dedication to a senior military officer, Marcus Laetorius.
  • 392 – Emperor Valentinian II is assassinated while advancing into Gaul against the Frankish usurper Arbogast. He is found hanging in his residence at Vienne.
  • 1525 – Insurgent peasants led by Anabaptist pastor Thomas Müntzer were defeated at the Battle of Frankenhausen, ending the German Peasants’ War in the Holy Roman Empire.
  • 1536 – Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, stands trial in London on charges of treason, adultery and incest; she is condemned to death by a specially-selected jury.
  • 1648 – The Peace of Münster is ratified, by which Spain acknowledges Dutch sovereignty.
  • 1718 – James Puckle, a London lawyer, patents the world’s first machine gun.
  • 1776 – American Revolution: The Fifth Virginia Convention instructs its Continental Congress delegation to propose a resolution of independence from Great Britain, paving the way for the United States Declaration of Independence.
  • 1791 – French Revolution: Maximilien Robespierre proposes the Self-denying Ordinance.
  • 1792 – War of the First Coalition: France declares war on Kingdom of Sardinia.
  • 1793 – Diego Marín Aguilera flies a glider for “about 360 meters”, at a height of 5–6 meters, during one of the first attempted manned flights.
  • 1796 – War of the First Coalition: Napoleon enters Milan in triumph.
  • 1800 – King George III of the United Kingdom survives an assassination attempt by James Hadfield, who is later acquitted by reason of insanity.
  • 1849 – The Sicilian revolution of 1848 is finally extinguished.
  • 1850 – The Bloody Island massacre takes place in Lake County, California, in which a large number of Pomo Indians are slaughtered by a regiment of the United States Cavalry.
  • 1850 – The Arana–Southern Treaty is ratified, ending “the existing differences” between Great Britain and Argentina.
  • 1864 – American Civil War: Battle of New Market, Virginia: Students from the Virginia Military Institute fight alongside the Confederate army to force Union General Franz Sigel out of the Shenandoah Valley.
  • 1904 – Russo-Japanese War: The Russian minelayer Amur lays a minefield about 15 miles off Port Arthur and sinks Japan’s battleships Hatsuse, 15,000 tons, with 496 crew and Yashima.
  • 1911 – More than 300 Chinese immigrants are killed in the Torreón massacre when the forces of the Mexican Revolution led by Emilio Madero take the city of Torreón from the Federales.
  • 1919 – Greek occupation of Smyrna. During the occupation, the Greek army kills or wounds 350 Turks; those responsible are punished by Greek commander Aristides Stergiades.
  • 1932 – In an attempted coup d’état, the Prime Minister of Japan Inukai Tsuyoshi is assassinated.
  • 1933 – All military aviation organizations within or under the control of the RLM of Germany were officially merged in a covert manner to form its Wehrmacht military’s air arm, the Luftwaffe.
  • 1940 – USS Sailfish is recommissioned. It was originally the USS Squalus.
  • 1940 – World War II: After fierce fighting, the poorly trained and equipped Dutch troops surrender to Germany, marking the beginning of five years of occupation.
  • 1942 – World War II: In the United States, a bill creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) is signed into law.
  • 1943 – Joseph Stalin dissolves the Comintern (or Third International).
  • 1945 – World War II: The Battle of Poljana, the final skirmish in Europe is fought near Prevalje, Slovenia.
  • 1948 – Following the expiration of The British Mandate for Palestine, the Kingdom of Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia invade Israel thus starting the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
  • 1957 – At Malden Island in the Pacific Ocean, Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb in Operation Grapple.
  • 1966 – After a policy dispute, Prime Minister Nguyễn Cao Kỳ of South Vietnam’s ruling junta launches a military attack on the forces of General Tôn Thất Đính, forcing him to abandon his command.
  • 1969 – People’s Park: California Governor Ronald Reagan has an impromptu student park owned by the University of California at Berkeley fenced off from student anti-war protestors, sparking a riot.
  • 1970 – President Richard Nixon appoints Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington the first female United States Army generals.
  • 1972 – The Ryukyu Islands, under US military governance since its conquest in 1945, reverts to Japanese control.
  • 1987 – The Soviet Union launches the Polyus prototype orbital weapons platform. It fails to reach orbit.
  • 1988 – Soviet–Afghan War: After more than eight years of fighting, the Soviet Army begins to withdraw 115,000 troops from Afghanistan.
  • 1997 – The United States government acknowledges the existence of the “Secret War” in Laos and dedicates the Laos Memorial in honour of Hmong and other “Secret War” veterans.
  • Army Day (Slovenia).
  • Earliest date on which Armed Forces Day (United States) can fall, while 21 May is the latest; celebrated on the third Saturday of May.
  • Independence Day (Paraguay), celebrates the independence of Paraguay from Spain in 1811. Celebrations for the anniversary of the independence begin on Flag Day, 14 May.

People (Births)

  • 1786 – Dimitris Plapoutas, Greek general and politician (d. 1864).
  • 1803 – Juan Almonte, son of José María Morelos, was a Mexican soldier and diplomat who served as a regent in the Second Mexican Empire (1863-1864) (d. 1869).
  • 1841 – Clarence Dutton, American commander and geologist (d. 1912).
  • 1892 – Charles E. Rosendahl, American admiral (d. 1977).
  • 1895 – Prescott Bush, American captain, banker, and politician (d. 1972).
  • 1895 – William D. Byron, American lieutenant and politician (d. 1941).
  • 1899 – Jean Étienne Valluy, French general (d. 1970).
  • 1902 – Sigizmund Levanevsky, Soviet aircraft pilot of Polish origin (d. 1937).
  • 1925 – Carl Sanders, American soldier, pilot, and politician, 74th Governor of Georgia (d. 2014).
  • 1970 – Ben Wallace, English captain and politician.

People (Deaths)

  • 1585 – Niwa Nagahide, Japanese samurai (b. 1535).
  • 1945 – Kenneth J. Alford, English soldier, bandmaster, and composer (b. 1881).
  • 1954 – William March, American soldier and author (b. 1893).
  • 2012 – Zakaria Mohieddin, Egyptian soldier and politician, 33rd Prime Minister of Egypt (b. 1918).

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