1929 – Wop May and Vic Horner fly badly needed medicine to Little Red Bay

Already a celebrated war ace (and one of the contenders for the title of “shot down the Red Baron”), Wilfred R. “Wop” May cemented his place as one of Canada’s greatest aviators when he and Vic Horner flew an Avro Avian from Edmonton to Little Red Bay (in Alberta) in the middle of winter to deliver medicine to treat a potentially fatal outbreak of diptheria. They succeeded in their quest, and were quite surprised to find themselves hailed as heroes when they returned to Edmonton.

This experience inspired May to create a new aviation company, Commercial Airways, to open up air services to northern Canada. Securing the contract to fly the mail kept them afloat until private freight and passenger flights got established. The company was eventually absorbed by Canadian Pacific Air Lines, which May continued to work for after the merger.

Referenced in:
Wop May — The Gumboots
Wop May — Stompin’ Tom Connors
Roy Brown and Wop May — John Spearn

1968 – Battle is joined at Khe Sanh

On the evening of January 2, six men were captured outside the fences of the US Marine base at Khe Sanh, in the Quang Tri province of Vietnam, apparently performing reconnaissance for a planned North Vietnamese attack.

A defector carried information about the attacks to the US forces on January 20, and the attacks themselves began the following day. The US and allied forces quickly joined battle, but were surrounded and besieged. For the next two months, the siege went on, until American forces broke through and relieved the base in March.

The American forces recorded a total of 730 soldiers killed in action, with a further 2,642 wounded and
7 more missing in action. Casualties on the North Vietnamese side are estimated as between 10,000 and 15,000.

Referenced in:
Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel
Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen

1973 – Amin’s regime denounced by US Ambassador

Thomas Patrick Melady is not, in the general run of things, a man given to hyperbole. Today, he is one of the senior diplomats working for the United States, and a respected authority on African and European affairs. Among his greatest accomplishments was influencing the Vatican (during his term as Ambassador to the Holy See, from 1989 – 1993) to recognise the nation of Israel. He’s a serious man, is what I’m saying.

His first ambassadorial role was as US Ambassador to Burundi from 1969 – 1972. He then had the misfortune to become the new Ambassador to Uganda in 1972, a post he left the followiung year. In this role, he watched the early days of Idi Amin’s rule with mounting horror, describing the man in a telegram he sent to Washington on January 2, 1973, as “racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic”. The United States closed its embassy in Uganda 38 days later, and did not reopen it until 1979.

Referenced in:
Idi Amin — Down I Go