Japan Airlines Flight 123 crashed, killing 520 people. (1985) The airliner crashed into Mount Otsuka outside Tokyo, Japan, killing 520 people — 4 people survived. It is the worst single-airplane disaster in world history.
The Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb. (1953) The Soviets detonated "Joe 4," the country's first thermonuclear bomb. The test was run by physicist Igor Kurchatov as part of the Soviet atomic bomb project. The project began in 1940 in response to the US project to create the atomic bomb.
Banks in Switzerland agreed to $1.25 billion US Dollars in restitution to Holocaust survivors. (1998) The World Jewish Congress filed a lawsuit against Swiss banks to get back money and assets in bank accounts that had gone dormant during World War II. There was a great deal of political tension surrounding the suit.
Thirteen prominent Jewish poets, writers and intellectuals were executed in "The Night of the Murdered Poets." (1952) Fifteen Soviet Jews had been falsely accused of capital crimes in the Soviet Union. Authorities at the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow executed 13 of them on this day.
4,000 legal same-sex marriages in California were voided. (2004) The marriages were sanctioned earlier this same year in San Francisco by Mayor Gavin Newsom. The California Supreme Court voided the marriages, stating the mayor had violated state law.
The largest ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton was found. (1990) Susan Hendrickson discovered the bones while fossil hunting near a cliff in North Dakota in the US. The dinosaur bones dated back 65 million years.
The world's first balloon satellite was launched. (1960) NASA launched Echo 1 as a passive communication tool; signals were bounced off the satellite to help scientists learn more about atmospheric and solar densities and pressures. It also was used to redirect telephone, TV and radio signals. It burned up reentering the Earth's atmosphere on May 24, 1968.
The sewing machine patent was awarded to Issac Singer. (1851) Singer founded the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Many had patented sewing machines before Singer, but his was more practical and easier to use at home.
John Lennon apologized for declaring that the Beetles were more popular than Jesus. (1966) Lennon's statement began with an interview with the London Evening Standard in which he made statements comparing the popularity of rock and roll to Christianity. It wasn't even noted in Britain, but later that year an American magazine quoted his line, "We're more popular than Jesus now," out of context and made it a cover story.
Cleopatra committed suicide by snake. (30 BC) Cleopatra induced a cobra, or asp, to bite her once, possibly twice, resulting in her death. Some historians challenge this, claiming she died from drinking poisons.