46 BC – Julius Caesar dedicates a temple to his mythical ancestor Venus Genetrix in accordance with a vow he made at the battle of Pharsalus.
1087 – William II is crowned King of England, and reigns until 1100.
1580 – Sir Francis Drake finishes his circumnavigation of the Earth.
1687 – The Parthenon in Athens is partially destroyed by an explosion caused by the bombing from Venetian forces led by Morosini who are besieging the Ottoman Turks stationed in Athens.
1777 – American Revolution: British troops occupy Philadelphia.
1789 – Thomas Jefferson is appointed the first United States Secretary of State, John Jay is appointed the first Chief Justice of the United States, Samuel Osgood is appointed the first United States Postmaster General, and Edmund Randolph is appointed the first United States Attorney General.
1933 – As gangster Machine Gun Kelly surrenders to the FBI, he shouts out, “Don’t shoot, G-Men!”, which becomes a nickname for FBI agents.
1934 – Steamship RMS Queen Mary is launched.
Built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, Queen Mary along with her sister ship, RMS Queen Elizabeth, were built as part of Cunard’s planned two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City.
The two ships were a British response to the superliners built by German and French companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Queen Mary was the flagship of the Cunard Line from May 1936 until October 1946 when she was replaced in that role by Queen Elizabeth.
1954 – Japanese rail ferry Tōya Maru sinks during a typhoon in the Tsugaru Strait, Japan killing 1,172.
1959 – Typhoon Vera, the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in recorded history, makes landfall, killing 4,580 people and leaving nearly 1.6 million others homeless.
1960 – In Chicago, the first televised debate takes place between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy.
1969 – Abbey Road, the last recorded album by The Beatles, is released.
1973 – Concorde makes its first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in record-breaking time.
1983 – Soviet nuclear false alarm incident: Military officer Stanislav Petrov identifies a report of an incoming nuclear missile as a computer error and not an American first strike.
As it so happens, The New York Times published his obituary a week ago.
Here are some excerpts from it.
“Colonel Petrov died at 77 on May 19 in Fryazino, a Moscow suburb, where he lived alone on a pension. The death was not widely reported at the time.
It was just confirmed a few days ago by his son, Dmitri. The cause was hypostatic pneumonia.”
More from The New York Times obituary…
“Historians who have analyzed the episode say that Colonel Petrov’s calm analysis helped avert catastrophe.
As the computer systems in front of him changed their alert from “launch” to “missile strike,” and insisted that the reliability of the information was at the “highest” level, Colonel Petrov had to figure out what to do. The estimate was that only 25 minutes would elapse between launch and detonation.
“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike,” he told the BBC. “But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders – but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan.”
As the tension in the command center rose – as many as 200 pairs of eyes were trained on Colonel Petrov – he made the decision to report the alert as a system malfunction.
“I had a funny feeling in my gut,” he told The Washington Post. “I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it.”
Colonel Petrov attributed his judgment to both his training and his intuition. He had been told that a nuclear first strike by the Americans would come in the form of an overwhelming onslaught.
“When people start a war, they don’t start it with only five missiles,” he told The Post. Moreover, Soviet ground-based radar installations – which search for missiles rising above the horizon – did not detect an attack, although they would not have done so for several minutes after launch.
Colonel Petrov was at first praised for his calm, but in an investigation that followed, he was asked why he had failed to record everything in his logbook. “Because I had a phone in one hand and the intercom in the other, and I don’t have a third hand,” he replied.
He received a reprimand.
The false alarm was apparently set off when the satellite mistook the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch. The computer program that was supposed to filter out such information had to be rewritten.
Colonel Petrov said the system had been rushed into service in response to the United States’ introduction of a similar system. He said he knew it was not 100 percent reliable. “We are wiser than the computers,” he said in a 2010 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. “We created them.”
Colonel Petrov had largely faded into obscurity – at one point he had been reduced to growing potatoes to feed himself – when his role in averting nuclear Armageddon came to light in 1998 with the publication of the memoir of Gen. Yuriy V. Votintsev, the retired commander of Soviet missile defense.
The book brought Colonel Petrov a measure of prominence. In 2006, he traveled to the United States to receive an award from the Association of World Citizens, and in 2013 he was awarded the Dresden Peace Prize. He was the subject of a 2014 hybrid documentary-drama, “The Man Who Saved the World.”
Jakob Staberg, the producer of the film, said in a phone interview on Monday that he had tried to contact Colonel Petrov by phone and email for the last several weeks, hoping to discuss the film’s Russia release, scheduled for February. He said he had not thought much of the delay because Colonel Petrov often traveled.
Colonel Petrov’s role in the film brought him into contact with American celebrities like the actors Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro, but he did not embrace the spotlight. “I was just at the right place at the right time,” he says in the film.
2008 – Swiss pilot and inventor Yves Rossy becomes first person to fly a jet engine-powered wing across the English Channel. Leaping from a helicopter at an altitude of 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) over Calais, France, Rossy crossed the English Channel with a single jet-powered wing strapped on his back, wearing only a helmet and a flight suit for protection, on 26 September 2008.
2009 – Typhoon Ketsana hit the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, causing 700 fatalities.
2014 – A mass kidnapping occurs in Iguala, Mexico.
1329 – Anne of Bavaria (d. 1353)
1774 – Johnny Appleseed, gardener and environmentalist (d. 1845)
1874 – Lewis Hine, American photographer and activist (d. 1940)
1888 – T. S. Eliot, poet, playwright, critic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1965)
1897 – Pope Paul VI (d. 1978)
1898 – George Gershwin, Born in Brooklyn was an American composer and pianist.Among his best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928) as well as the opera Porgy and Bess (1935). (d. 1937)
1914 – Jack LaLanne, American fitness expert (d. 2011)
1716 – Antoine Parent, French mathematician and theorist (b. 1666)
1820 – Daniel Boone, American hunter and explorer (b. 1734)
1868 – August Ferdinand Möbius, mathematician and astronomer (b. 1790)
1902 – Levi Strauss, German-American businessman, founded Levi Strauss & Co. (b. 1829)
1952 – George Santayana, Spanish philosopher, novelist, and poet (b. 1863)
1984 – Paquirri, Spanish bullfighter (b. 1948)
2008 – Paul Newman, born in 1925, was an actor, film director, entrepreneur, professional race car driver and team owner, environmentalist, activist and philanthropist. He was a co-founder of Newman’s Own, a food company from which Newman donated all post-tax profits and royalties to charity. As of December 2015, these donations totaled over $460 million