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South Yemen and North Yemen are unified as the Republic of Yemen

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/yemen-united

After 150 years apart, Marxist South Yemen and conservative North Yemen are unified as the Republic of Yemen. Ali Abdullah, president of North Yemen, became the new country’s president, and Ali Salem Al-Baidh, leader of the South Yemeni Socialist Party, vice president. The first free elections were held in 1993.

Situated at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen was divided between the British and the Ottomans in the mid-19th century. The Turks were expelled from the north in 1918, but the British continued to dominate the south until 1967, when the Arab world’s first and only Marxist state, the People’s Republic of South Yemen, was established.

The unification of Yemen in 1990 did not go as smoothly as hoped; economic troubles in 1991 brought Yemen to the brink of collapse, and a civil war in 1994 between southern secessionists and Yemen’s northern-based government temporarily dissolved the Yemeni union. Free elections resumed in 1997.

The War of the Roses begins

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-war-of-the-roses

In the opening battle of England’s War of the Roses, the Yorkists defeat King Henry VI’s Lancastrian forces at St. Albans, 20 miles northwest of London. Many Lancastrian nobles perished, including Edmund Beaufort, the duke of Somerset, and the king was forced to submit to the rule of his cousin, Richard of York. The dynastic struggle between the House of York, whose badge was a white rose, and the House of Lancaster, later associated with a red rose, would stretch on for 30 years.

Both families, closely related, claimed the throne through descent from the sons of Edward III, the king of England from 1327 to 1377. The first Lancastrian king was Henry IV in 1399, and rebellion and lawlessness were rife during his reign. His son, Henry V, was more successful and won major victories in the Hundred Years War against France. His son and successor, Henry VI, had few kingly qualities and lost most of the French land his father had conquered. At home, chaos prevailed and lords with private armies challenged Henry VI’s authority. At times, his ambitious queen, Margaret of Anjou, effectively controlled the crown.

In 1453, Henry lapsed into insanity, and in 1454 Parliament appointed Richard, duke of York, as protector of the realm. Henry and York’s grandfathers were the fourth and third sons of Edward III, respectively. When Henry recovered in late 1454, he dismissed York and restored the authority of Margaret, who saw York as a threat to the succession of their son, Prince Edward. York raised an army of 3,000 men, and in May the Yorkists marched to London. On May 22, 1455, York met Henry’s forces at St. Albans while on the northern road to the capital. The bloody encounter lasted less than an hour, and the Yorkists carried the day. The duke of Somerset, Margaret’s great ally, was killed, and Henry was captured by the Yorkists.

After the battle, Richard again was made English protector, but in 1456 Margaret regained the upper hand. An uneasy peace was broken in 1459, and in 1460 the Lancastrians were defeated, and York was granted the right to ascend to the throne upon Henry’s death. The Lancastrians then gathered forces in northern England and in December 1460 surprised and killed York outside his castle near Wakefield.

York’s son Edward reached London before Margaret and was proclaimed King Edward IV. In March 1461, Edward won a decisive victory against the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton, the bloodiest of the war. Henry, Margaret, and their son fled to Scotland, and the first phase of the war was over.

Yorkist rivalry would later lead to the overthrow of Edward in 1470 and the restoration of Henry VI. The next year, Edward returned from exile in the Netherlands, defeated Margaret’s forces, killed her son, and imprisoned Henry in the Tower of London, where he was murdered. Edward IV then ruled uninterrupted until his death in 1483. His eldest son was proclaimed Edward V, but Edward IV’s brother, Richard III, seized the crown and imprisoned Edward and his younger brother in the Tower of London, where they disappeared, probably murdered. In 1485, Richard III was defeated and killed by Lancastrians led by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Henry Tudor was proclaimed King Henry VII, the first Tudor king. Henry was the grandson of Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V, and Owen Tudor. In 1486, he married Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York, thereby uniting the Yorkist and Lancastrian claims. This event is seen as marking the end of the War of Roses; although some Yorkists supported in 1487 an unsuccessful rebellion against Henry, led by Lambert Simnel. The War of Roses left little mark on the common English people but severely thinned the ranks of the English nobility.

Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to make solo, nonstop transatlantic flight

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/earhart-completes-transatlantic-flight

Five years to the day that American aviator Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot to accomplish a solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, female aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first pilot to repeat the feat, landing her plane in Ireland after flying across the North Atlantic. Earhart traveled over 2,000 miles from Newfoundland in just under 15 hours.

Unlike Charles Lindbergh, Earhart was well known to the public before her solo transatlantic flight. In 1928, as a member of a three-person crew, she had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an aircraft. Although her only function during the crossing was to keep the plane’s log, the event won her national fame, and Americans were enamored with the daring and modest young pilot. For her solo transatlantic crossing in 1932, she was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Congress.

In 1935, in the first flight of its kind, she flew solo from Wheeler Field in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California, winning a $10,000 award posted by Hawaiian commercial interests. Two years later, she attempted, along with copilot Frederick J. Noonan, to fly around the world, but her plane disappeared near Howland Island in the South Pacific on July 2, 1937. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca picked up radio messages that she was lost and low in fuel–the last the world ever heard from Amelia Earhart.

Charles Lindbergh competes the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lindbergh-lands-in-paris

American pilot Charles A. Lindbergh lands at Le Bourget Field in Paris, successfully completing the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight and the first ever nonstop flight between New York to Paris. His single-engine monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, had lifted off from Roosevelt Field in New York 33 1/2 hours before.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh, born in Detroit in 1902, took up flying at the age of 20. In 1923, he bought a surplus World War I Curtiss “Jenny” biplane and toured the country as a barnstorming stunt flyer. In 1924, he enrolled in the Army Air Service flying school in Texas and graduated at the top of his class as a first lieutenant. He became an airmail pilot in 1926 and pioneered the route between St. Louis and Chicago. Among U.S. aviators, he was highly regarded.

In May 1919, the first transatlantic flight was made by a U.S. hydroplane that flew from New York to Plymouth, England, via Newfoundland, the Azores Islands, and Lisbon. Later that month, Frenchman Raymond Orteig, an owner of hotels in New York, put up a purse of $25,000 to the first aviator or aviators to fly nonstop from Paris to New York or New York to Paris. In June 1919, the British fliers John W. Alcock and Arthur W. Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, flying 1,960 miles from Newfoundland to Ireland. The flight from New York to Paris would be nearly twice that distance.

Orteig said his challenge would be good for five years. In 1926, with no one having attempted the flight, Orteig made the offer again. By this time, aircraft technology had advanced to a point where a few thought such a flight might be possible. Several of the world’s top aviators–including American polar explorer Richard Byrd, French flying ace Rene Fonck–decided to accept the challenge, and so did Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh convinced the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the flight, and a budget of $15,000 was set. The Ryan Airlines Corporation of San Diego volunteered to build a single-engine aircraft to his specifications. Extra fuel tanks were added, and the wing span was increased to 46 feet to accommodate the additional weight. The main fuel tank was placed in front of the cockpit because it would be safest there in the event of a crash. This meant Lindbergh would have no forward vision, so a periscope was added. To reduce weight, everything that was not utterly essential was left out. There would be no radio, gas gauge, night-flying lights, navigation equipment, or parachute. Lindbergh would sit in a light seat made of wicker. Unlike other aviators attempting the flight, Lindbergh would be alone, with no navigator or co-pilot.

The aircraft was christened The Spirit of St. Louis, and on May 12, 1927, Lindbergh flew it from San Diego to New York, setting a new record for the fastest transcontinental flight. Bad weather delayed Lindbergh’s transatlantic attempt for a week. On the night of May 19, nerves and a newspaperman’s noisy poker game kept him up all night. Early the next morning, though he hadn’t slept, the skies were clear and he rushed to Roosevelt Field on Long Island. Six men had died attempting the long and dangerous flight he was about to take.

At 7:52 a.m. EST on May 20, The Spirit of St. Louis lifted off from Roosevelt Field, so loaded with fuel that it barely cleared the telephone wires at the end of the runway. Lindbergh traveled northeast up the coast. After only four hours, he felt tired and flew within 10 feet of the water to keep his mind clear. As night fell, the aircraft left the coast of Newfoundland and set off across the Atlantic. At about 2 a.m. on May 21, Lindbergh passed the halfway mark, and an hour later dawn came. Soon after, The Spirit of St. Louis entered a fog, and Lindbergh struggled to stay awake, holding his eyelids open with his fingers and hallucinating that ghosts were passing through the cockpit.

After 24 hours in the air, he felt a little more awake and spotted fishing boats in the water. At about 11 a.m. (3 p.m. local time), he saw the coast of Ireland. Despite using only rudimentary navigation, he was two hours ahead of schedule and only three miles off course. He flew past England and by 3 p.m. EST was flying over France. It was 8 p.m. in France, and night was falling.

At the Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris, tens of thousands of Saturday night revelers had gathered to await Lindbergh’s arrival. At 10:24 a.m. local time, his gray and white monoplane slipped out of the darkness and made a perfect landing in the air field. The crowd surged on The Spirit of St. Louis, and Lindbergh, weary from his 33 1/2-hour, 3,600-mile journey, was cheered and lifted above their heads. He hadn’t slept for 55 hours. Two French aviators saved Lindbergh from the boisterous crowd, whisking him away in an automobile. He was an immediate international celebrity.

President Calvin Coolidge dispatched a warship to take the hero home, and “Lucky Lindy” was given a ticker-tape parade in New York and presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. His place in history, however, was not complete.

In 1932, he was the subject of international headlines again when his infant son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped, unsuccessfully ransomed, and then found murdered in the woods near the Lindbergh home. German-born Bruno Richard Hauptmann was convicted of the crime in a controversial trial and then executed. Then, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Lindbergh became a spokesperson for the U.S. isolationism movement and was sharply criticized for his apparent Nazi sympathies and anti-Semitic views. After the outbreak of World War II, the fallen hero traveled to the Pacific as a military observer and eventually flew more than two dozen combat missions, including one in which he downed a Japanese aircraft. Lindbergh’s war-time service largely restored public faith in him, and for many years later he worked with the U.S. government on aviation issues. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve. He died in Hawaii in 1974.

Lindbergh’s autobiographical works include “We” (1927), The Spirit of St. Louis (1953) and The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970).

Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry records his first hit, “Maybellene”

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/chuck-berry-records-maybellene

John Lennon once famously said that “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” That’s how foundational Berry’s contributions were to the music that changed America and the world beginning in the mid-1950s. Even more than Elvis Presley, who was an incomparable performer, but of other people’s songs, Chuck Berry created the do-it-yourself template that most rock-and-rollers still seek to follow. If there can be said to be a single day on which his profound influence on the sound and style of rock and roll began, it was this day in 1955, when an unknown Chuck Berry paid his first visit to a recording studio and cut the record that would make him famous: “Maybellene.”

Berry was a part-time professional musician in his native St. Louis and primarily a performer of the blues, but an avid experimenter with other sounds. On a visit to Chicago in May 1955, Berry approached his idol, the great bluesman Muddy Waters, to ask for career advice. Waters pointed him in the direction of his record label, Chess Records, where Berry managed a face-to-face meeting with Leonard Chess and an invitation to return for an audition later that week. When Berry returned, he hoped that Chess would sign him on the strength of one of his blues numbers, but it was a strange rhythm-and-blues/country-western hybrid called “Ida Red” that caught Chess’s ear. Before it was recorded, “Ida Red” got new lyrics to go with a new title—”Maybellene”—but it retained the totally original sound that Berry had given it.

Vasco da Gama reaches India

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/vasco-da-gama-reaches-india

Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama becomes the first European to reach India via the Atlantic Ocean when he arrives at Calicut on the Malabar Coast.

Da Gama sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, in July 1497, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and anchored at Malindi on the east coast of Africa. With the aid of an Indian merchant he met there, he then set off across the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese explorer was not greeted warmly by the Muslim merchants of Calicut, and in 1499 he had to fight his way out of the harbor on his return trip home. In 1502, he led a squadron of ships to Calicut to avenge the massacre of Portuguese explorers there and succeeded in subduing the inhabitants. In 1524, he was sent as viceroy to India, but he fell ill and died in Cochin.

Charles Lindbergh takes off across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/spirit-of-st-louis-departs

At 7:52 a.m., American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the first ever nonstop flight between New York to Paris.

Lindbergh, a daring young airmail pilot, was a dark horse when he entered a competition with a $25,000 payoff to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. He ordered a small monoplane, configured it to his own design, and christened it the Spirit of St. Louis in tribute to his sponsor–the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce.

On May 20, 1927, a rainy morning, he took off from Roosevelt Field, but his monoplane was so loaded down with fuel that it barely cleared the telephone wires at the end of the runway. He flew northeast up the East Coast and as night fell left Newfoundland and headed across the North Atlantic. His greatest challenge was staying awake; he had to hold his eyelids open with his fingers and hallucinated ghosts passing through the cockpit. The next afternoon, after flying 3,610 miles in 33 1/2 hours, Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget field in Paris, becoming the first pilot to accomplish the solo, nonstop transatlantic crossing. Lindbergh’s achievement made him an international celebrity and won widespread public acceptance of the airplane and commercial aviation.

Supreme Court defends rights of gays and lesbians in Romer v. Evans

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/supreme-court-defends-rights-of-homosexuals

In a victory for the gay and lesbian civil rights movement, the U.S. Supreme Court votes six to three to strike down an amendment to Colorado’s state constitution that would have prevented any city, town, or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

Colorado’s Amendment Two was passed in 1992 with a majority of the state’s citizens approving it in a special referendum. Four years later, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Romer v. Evans, a case that allowed the nation’s highest court to scrutinize the constitutionality of the amendment. On May 20, 1996, in a ruling authored by Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court struck down Amendment Two, arguing that the law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Although the ruling, authored by a Republican appointee, was cautious in its language, it was applauded as a major civil rights victory that gave gay and lesbian activists their first major constitutional precedence for fighting anti-gay legislation.

U.S. Air Force begins Operation Yankee Team

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-air-force-begins-operation-yankee-team

The United States initiates low-altitude target reconnaissance flights over southern Laos by U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft. Two days later, similar flights were commenced over northern Laos. These flights were code-named Yankee Team and were meant to assist the Royal Lao forces in their fight against the communist Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese and Viet Cong allies.

Lawrence of Arabia dies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lawrence-of-arabia-dies

T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia, dies as a retired Royal Air Force mechanic living under an assumed name. The legendary war hero, author, and archaeological scholar succumbed to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident six days before.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in Tremadoc, Wales, in 1888. In 1896, his family moved to Oxford. Lawrence studied architecture and archaeology, for which he made a trip to Ottoman (Turkish)-controlled Syria and Palestine in 1909. In 1911, he won a fellowship to join an expedition excavating an ancient Hittite settlement on the Euphrates River. He worked there for three years and in his free time traveled and learned Arabic. In 1914, he explored the Sinai, near the frontier of Ottoman-controlled Arabia and British-controlled Egypt. The maps Lawrence and his associates made had immediate strategic value upon the outbreak of war between Britain and the Ottoman Empire in October 1914.

Lawrence enlisted in the war and because of his expertise in Arab affairs was assigned to Cairo as an intelligence officer. He spent more than a year in Egypt, processing intelligence information and in 1916 accompanied a British diplomat to Arabia, where Hussein ibn Ali, the emir of Mecca, had proclaimed a revolt against Turkish rule. Lawrence convinced his superiors to aid Hussein’s rebellion, and he was sent to join the Arabian army of Hussein’s son Faisal as a liaison officer.

Under Lawrence’s guidance, the Arabians launched an effective guerrilla war against the Turkish lines. He proved a gifted military strategist and was greatly admired by the Bedouin people of Arabia. In July 1917, Arabian forces captured Aqaba near the Sinai and joined the British march on Jerusalem. Lawrence was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In November, he was captured by the Turks while reconnoitering behind enemy lines in Arab dress and was tortured and sexually abused before escaping. He rejoined his army, which slowly worked its way north to Damascus, which fell in October 1918.

Arabia was liberated, but Lawrence’s hope that the peninsula would be united as a single nation was dashed when Arabian factionalism came to the fore after Damascus. Lawrence, exhausted and disillusioned, left for England. Feeling that Britain had exacerbated the rivalries between the Arabian groups, he appeared before King George V and politely refused the medals offered to him.

After the war, he lobbied hard for independence for Arab countries and appeared at the Paris peace conference in Arab robes. He became something of a legendary figure in his own lifetime, and in 1922 he gave up higher-paying appointments to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) under an assumed name, John Hume Ross. He had just completed writing his monumental war memoir, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and he hoped to escape his fame and acquire material for a new book. Found out by the press, he was discharged, but in 1923 he managed to enlist as a private in the Royal Tanks Corps under another assumed name, T.E. Shaw, a reference to his friend, Irish writer George Bernard Shaw. In 1925, Lawrence rejoined the RAF and two years later legally changed his last name to Shaw.

In 1927, an abridged version of his memoir was published and generated tremendous publicity, but the press was unable to locate Lawrence (he was posted to a base in India). In 1929, he returned to England and spent the next six years writing and working as an RAF mechanic. In 1932, his English translation of Homer’s Odyssey was published under the name of T.E. Shaw. The Mint, a fictionalized account of Royal Air Force recruit training, was not published until 1955 because of its explicitness.

In February 1935, Lawrence was discharged from the RAF and returned to his simple cottage at Clouds Hill, Dorset. On May 13, he was critically injured while driving his motorcycle through the Dorset countryside. He had swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. On May 19, he died at the hospital of his former RAF camp. All of Britain mourned his passing.