John’s Believe It Or Not… May 12th

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Fabulous Friday! Did you know…

* 1942 – German U-boat sinks 2 ships near Anticosti Island; Battle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence begins. (The Battle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence begins this night and the following morning between the Royal Canadian Navy and German U-Boats, as U-553, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Karl Thurmann, sinks the 5,364-ton British freighter Nicoya, 16 kilometres off the Gaspé coast; most of Nicoya’s 87 crew and passengers get safely away, landing at the tiny Gaspé villages of Cloridorme and L’Anse-à-Valleau; several hours later, Thurmann sinks the 4,712-ton Dutch steamer, Leto; twelve of Leto’s 43 passengers and crew perish; ; the U-boat was seeking calmer waters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after experiencing engine trouble near Halifax, Nova Scotia; the war is now less than 600 km from Quebec City. Anticosti Island, Québec. German U-190 complies with orders to surface and surrender; U-899 a day later; only U-boats to surrender to the Royal Canadian Navy. St. John’s Newfoundland)

1942: U-boat sinks 2 ships near Anticosti Island; Battle of the St. Lawrence begins.
1942: U-boat sinks 2 ships near Anticosti Island; Battle of the St. Lawrence begins.

* 1885 – Dumont and Riel finally defeated after four days fighting at the Battle of Batoche. (Gabriel Dumont and his Métis and Cree warriors finally defeated after the four-day Battle of Batoche; some troops disobey Middleton, storm the trenches and slaughter the Metis defenders, who had run out of ammunition and were firing stones and nails. Riel gives himself up to Middleton’s troops on May 15 and is charged with treason; Dumont flees to the US.)

Louis Riel, leader of the Métis people in Western Canada. North America's Métis nation was born out of the meeting of the First Nations and European settlers between the 17th and the 18th centuries.
Louis Riel, leader of the Métis people in Western Canada. North America’s Métis nation was born out of the meeting of the First Nations and European settlers between the 17th and the 18th centuries.

* 1937 George VI crowned at Westminster. (At London’s Westminster Abbey, George VI and his consort, Lady Elizabeth, are crowned king and queen of the United Kingdom as part of a coronation ceremony that dates back more than a millennium. George, who studied at Dartmouth Naval College and served in World War I, ascended to the throne after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated on December 11, 1936. Edward, who was the first English monarch to voluntarily relinquish the English throne, agreed to give up his title in the face of widespread criticism of his desire to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American divorcee. In 1939, King George became the first British monarch to visit America and Canada. During World War II, he worked to keep up British morale by visiting bombed areas and touring war zones. George and Elizabeth also remained in bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace during the war, shunning the relative safety of the countryside, and George made a series of important morale-boosting radio broadcasts, for which he overcame a speech impediment. After the war, the royal family visited South Africa, but a planned tour of Australia and New Zealand had to be postponed indefinitely when the king fell ill in 1949. Despite his illness, he continued to perform state duties until his death in 1952. He was succeeded by his first-born daughter, who was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.)

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on coronation day on 12 May 1937
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on coronation day on 12 May 1937

* 1949 Berlin blockade lifted. (On May 12, 1949, an early crisis of the Cold War comes to an end when the Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin. The blockade had been broken by a massive U.S.-British airlift of vital supplies to West Berlin’s two million citizens. At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four sectors administered by the four major Allied powers: the USSR, the United States, Britain, and France. Berlin, the German capital, was likewise divided into four sectors, even though it was located deep within the Soviet sector of eastern Germany. The future of Germany and Berlin was a major sticking point in postwar treaty talks, especially after the United States, Britain and France sought to unite their occupation zones into a single economic zone. In March 1948, the Soviet Union quit the Allied Control Council governing occupied Germany over this issue. In May, the three Western powers agreed to the imminent formation of West Germany, a nation that would exist entirely independent of Soviet-occupied eastern Germany. The three western sectors of Berlin were united as West Berlin, which was to be under the administration of West Germany. On June 20, as a major step toward the establishment of a West German government, the Western powers introduced a new Deutsche mark currency in West Germany and West Berlin. The Soviets condemned this move as an attack on the East German currency and on June 24 began a blockade of all rail, road, and water communications between Berlin and the West. The four-power administration of Berlin had ceased with the unification of West Berlin, the Soviets said, and the Western powers no longer had a right to be there. With West Berlin’s food, fuel, and other necessities cut off, the Soviets reasoned, it would soon have to submit to Communist control. Britain and the United States responded by initiating the largest airlift in history, flying 278,288 relief missions to the city during the next 14 months, resulting in the delivery of 2,326,406 tons of supplies. As the Soviets had cut off power to West Berlin, coal accounted for over two-thirds of the material delivered. In the opposite direction, return flights transported West Berlin’s industrial exports to the West. Flights were made around the clock, and at the height of the Berlin airlift, in April 1949, planes were landing in the city every minute. Tensions were high during the airlift, and three groups of U.S. strategic bombers were sent as reinforcements to Britain while the Soviet army presence in eastern Germany increased dramatically. The Soviets made no major effort to disrupt the airlift. As a countermeasure against the Soviet blockade, the Western powers also launched a trade embargo against eastern Germany and other Soviet bloc countries.)

U.S. Navy and Air Force aircrafts unload at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft unload at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift. (U.S. Air Force)

* 1963 Bob Dylan walks out on The Ed Sullivan Show. (By the end of the summer of 1963, Bob Dylan would be known to millions who watched or witnessed his performances at the March on Washington, and millions more who did not know Dylan himself would know and love his music thanks to Peter, Paul and Mary’s smash-hit cover version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” But back in May, Dylan was still just another aspiring musician with a passionate niche following but no national profile whatsoever. His second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, had not yet been released, but he had secured what would surely be his big break with an invitation to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. That appearance never happened. On May 12, 1963, the young and unknown Bob Dylan walked off the set of the country’s highest-rated variety show after network censors rejected the song he planned on performing. Or so goes the legend that helped establish Dylan’s public reputation as an artist of uncompromising integrity. In reality, Bob Dylan was polite and respectful in declining to accede to the network’s wishes. “I explained the situation to Bob and asked him if he wanted to do something else,” recalls Ed Sullivan Show producer Bob Precht, “and Bob, quite appropriately, said ‘No, this is what I want to do. If I can’t play my song, I’d rather not appear on the show.’” It hardly mattered whether Dylan’s alleged tantrum was fact or reality. The story got widespread media attention in the days that followed, causing Ed Sullivan himself to denounce the network’s decision in published interviews. In the end, however, the free publicity Bob Dylan received may have done more for his career than his abortive national-television appearance scheduled for this day in 1963 ever could have.)

american musician bob dylan performs talkin john birch paranoid blues during rehearsals for an apperance on the ed sullivan show new york new york
May 12, 1963, THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW Bob Dylan performs. T29057_50
Copyright CBS Broadcasting, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Credit: CBS Photo Archive

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

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.

8 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 12th”

  1. Great photos if the ‘old’ Royal Family. It’s difficult to think of Queen Elizabeth II as a child. One of my favourite places in the Natal Drakensberg range of mountains that my parents took my sister and I on numerous camping trips when we were children, is the Royal Natal National Park, opened by King George when he and the Royal family visited there in 1950.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Kim, the photos of that young royal family are precious. I was a toddler when Elizabeth was crowned and I recall gazing at her picture on the wall of my grade 2 classroom – she had a startling resemblance to my mother! So I always have a soft spot in my heart for Queen Elizabeth II. Thanks for sharing your memories today!

      Liked by 1 person

I love comments & questions! Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s