Germany signed an unconditional surrender, ending World War II in the West. (1945) The German high command surrendered all German forces to the Allied commander Dwight Eisenhower, essentially ending the war in the Western theater. Fighting would go on in Asia for several months, until the war officially ended in September.
The Lusitania sank. (1915) German forces sunk the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, on this day, killing almost 2,000 civilians. The incident caused massive outrage in many countries, and played a huge role in swinging US public opinion towards getting involved in World War I.
French forces were overrun at Dien Bien Phu. (1954) This was a shocking turn of events to many in the West, who had considered the Viet Minh as a minor threat. This marked the end of French involvement in Vietnam, and the beginning of serious US involvement in the war.
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony premiered in Vienna. (1824) Best known for the last movement, the Ode to Joy, Symphony No. 9 in D minor had its world premier in Vienna on this day. First-hand accounts say that when it was over, Beethoven still kept conducting, and had to be turned around to see the enthusiastic applause of the audience, which gave five standing ovations.
The American Medical Society (AMA) was founded. (1847) The AMA was founded by Dr. Nathan Smith Davis, who felt that there needed to be clearer standards for doctors in the US. The AMA became the largest doctor's association in the US, and publishes hundreds of guidelines for physicians, as well as several industry journals.
Vladimir Putin became the president of Russia. (2000) Putin served eight years as president, and is credited with bringing Russia back from the brink of economic collapse.
The tomb of Herod the Great was discovered. (2007) Herod the Great was a controversial leader even in his day, and was mostly known for killing any potential enemies, most famously in a biblical account where he had a number of children killed in hopes of killing a young Jesus. Archaeologists from the Hebrew University discovered the site, though it had apparently been robbed — there was a sarcophagus, but no body.
Canadian Patrick Morrow became the first person to climb the "Seven Summits." (1986) The Seven Summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, and include Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Everest. Morrow finished climbing Puncak Jaya, located in Indonesia, on this day, making him the first to climb all seven.
Joan of Arc ended the Siege at Orleans. (1429) It was a huge turning point in the Hundred Years War, a feat made even more impressive since she did so while wounded. Earlier in the battle, Joan had been shot in the shoulder with an arrow; she simply pulled it out and kept leading the battle.
David Hume was born. (1711) Hume was a major force during the Enlightenment as well as in philosophy in general. He was a famous skeptic, and is known to have influenced Rousseau, the economist Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant.