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Today in history: May 5

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, May 5, the 125th day of 2005. There are 240 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. became America’s first space traveler as he made a 15-minute sub-orbital flight in a capsule launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

On this date:
In 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on the island of St. Helena.

In 1862, Mexican forces loyal to Benito Juarez defeated French troops sent by Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla.

In 1925, John T. Scopes was arrested in Tennessee for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In 1942, during World War II, Japanese forces landed on the Philippine island of Corregidor.

In 1945, in the only fatal attack of its kind during World War II, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded on Gearhart Mountain in Oregon, killing the pregnant wife of a minister and five children.

In 1955, West Germany became a sovereign state.

In 1955, the baseball musical “Damn Yankees” opened on Broadway.

In 1980, a siege at the Iranian embassy in London by armed men demanding the release of political prisoners in Iran ended as British commandos and police stormed the building. Nineteen hostages were rescued; two others had already been killed by their captors; four of the five hostage-takers also were killed.

In 1981, Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands died at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in his 66th day without food.

In 1985, President Reagan kept a promise to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl by leading a wreath-laying ceremony at the military cemetery in Bitburg.

Ten years ago: As rescue workers ended their search for bodies in the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton denounced self-styled anti-government militias, saying, “How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes.” Talks collapsed between the United States and Japan on averting a bitter trade fight over automobiles. Powerful thunderstorms began tearing through North Texas, claiming two dozen lives.

Five years ago: President Clinton met at the White House with Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshiro Mori. The Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate had hit a 30-year low of 3.9 percent in April 2000, with blacks and Hispanics recording the lowest jobless rates in history. Reformers swept Iran’s run-off elections, winning control of the legislature from conservatives for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

One year ago: Seeking to calm international outrage, President Bush acknowledged mistakes but stopped short of an apology as he condemned the abuse and deaths of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. soldiers during appearances on two Arabic-language TV networks. Picasso’s 1905 painting “Boy with a Pipe” sold for $104 million at Sotheby’s in New York, breaking the record for an auctioned painting.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Ann B. Davis is 79. Actress Pat Carroll is 78. AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney is 71. Saxophonist Ace Cannon is 71. Country singer-musician Roni Stoneman is 67. Actor Michael Murphy is 67. Actor Lance Henriksen is 65. Comedian-actor Michael Palin is 62. Actor Jean-Pierre Leaud is 61. Actor John Rhys-Davies is 61. Actor Roger Rees is 61. Actor Richard E. Grant is 48. Broadcast journalist John Miller is 47. Rock singer Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) is 46. NBC News anchor Brian Williams is 46. Actress Tina Yothers is 32. Singer Craig David is 24. Actress Danielle Fishel is 24. Rock singer Skye Sweetnam is 17.

Thought for Today: “When in doubt, duck.” — Malcolm Forbes, American publisher (1919-1990).