John’s Believe It Or Not … May 5th

John Fioravanti stands at the front of his history classroom 2006

It’s Cinco de Mayo! Did you know…

* 1862 The Battle of Puebla. (It is a celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. In the United States and Canada, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. Elsewhere in North America the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American and Mexican-Canadian culture. In Mexico, the commemoration of the battle continues to be mostly ceremonial, such as through military parades.)

Painting of the Battle of Puebla in 1862
Battle of Puebla (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

* 1973 – Ron Turcotte rides Secretariat to Kentucky Derby win in record 1:59.4. (Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte from New Brunswick and American thoroughbred Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby in a time of 1:59.4, breaking the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964; the record still stands. Louisville, Kentucky.)

Ron Turcotte Autographed 8x10 Photo Inscribed "1973 KY Derby"
Ron Turcotte Autographed 8×10 Photo Inscribed “1973 KY Derby” (Courtesy of Pinterest)

* 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 into 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.)

Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., May 5, 1961
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., May 5, 1961 (Courtesy of Pinterest)

* 1877 Sitting Bull leads his people into Canada. (Nearly a year after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and a band of followers cross into Canada hoping to find safe haven from the U.S. Army. On June 25, 1876, Sitting Bull’s warriors had joined with other Indians in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana, which resulted in the massacre of George Custer and five troops of the 7th Cavalry. Worried that their great victory would provoke a massive retaliation by the U.S. military, the Indians scattered into smaller bands. During the following year, the U.S. Army tracked down and attacked several of these groups, forcing them to surrender and move to reservations. Sitting Bull and his followers, however, managed to avoid a decisive confrontation with the U.S. Army. They spent the summer and winter after Little Big Horn hunting buffalo in Montana and fighting small skirmishes with soldiers. In the fall of 1876, Colonel Nelson A. Miles met with Sitting Bull at a neutral location and tried to talk him into surrendering and relocating to a reservation. Although anxious for peace, Sitting Bull refused. As the victor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull felt he should be dictating terms to Miles, not the other way around. Angered by what he saw as Sitting Bull’s foolish obstinacy, Miles stepped up his campaign of harassment against the chief and his people. Sitting Bull’s band continued to roam about Montana in search of increasingly scarce buffalo, but the constant travel, lack of food, and military pressure began to take a toll. On this day in 1877, Sitting Bull abandoned his traditional homeland in Montana and led his people north across the border into Canada. Sitting Bull and his band stayed in the Grandmother’s Country-so called in honor of the British Queen Victoria for the next four years. The first year was idyllic. The band found plenty of buffalo and Sitting Bull could rest and play with his children in peace. The younger warriors, though, soon tired of the quiet life. The braves made trouble with neighboring tribes, attracting the displeasure of the Canadian Mounties. While the Canadian leaders were more reasonable and sensitive about Indian affairs than their aggressive counterparts to the south, they became increasingly nervous and pressured Sitting Bull to return to the U.S.)

... loving father, gifted singer and warm friend to many, whose spirituality provided him prophetic insight and lent special power to his prayers.
… loving father, a gifted singer and warm friend to many, whose spirituality provided him prophetic insight and lent special power to his prayers. (Courtesy of The Wild West)

* 1945 Six killed in Oregon by a 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 Nagoya, 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.)

Japanese balloon bomb display at the national museum of the US air force Dayton Ohio
Japanese balloon bomb display at the national museum of the US Air Force Dayton Ohio (Courtesy of

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

11 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not … May 5th”

  1. As a kid, I remember watching Secretariat win the Triple Crown. What an amazing feat! Somehow I missed Seattle Slew and Affirmed and never saw another Triple Crown win until American Pharoah in 2015, despite years and years of watching. I watched Secretariat win with my dad, American Pharoah with my husband. Both are amazing memories. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, that Secretariat was very special and I’m proud that this Canadian jockey was a part of that Triple Crown win. Canadian horse Northern Dancer was special too. Thanks for sharing your memories, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating, John. I loved the movie, Secretariat. I didn’t know about the 6 killed in Oregon, nor did I know that Sitting Bull had ventured into Canada. Thank you for the history lesson!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, Gwen, that was a great film. The Oregon story was news to me too, but I did know about Sitting Bull’s brief residence in Canada. I loved that he referenced Queen Victoria as “Grandmother”. I wonder what her reaction to that would have been. I’m glad you’re enjoying these adventures into historical events.


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