May 7th in history:
The British ocean liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7th, 1915. Nearly twelve hundred people aboard the ship died, including 128 Americans. The sinking is considered to be a major factor which led the U.S. into World War I, two years later.
Sgt. Alvin York became one of the most decorated U.S. soldiers in World War I, by capturing 132 enemy soldiers. Gary Cooper, born on May 7th, 1901, won his first of two Oscars for playing York in the movie “Sergeant York.” Cooper also starred as WWI Gen. Billy Mitchell, considered the founder of the Air Force, in “The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.”
On this date in 1960, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced that American pilot Francis Gary Powers had been captured. Powers was flying a U-2 spy plane over the USSR when he was shot down on May 1st.
One of the scientists who developed the optics used on the U-2 was Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera. Land was born May 7th, 1909.
April 26th in history:
On April 26th, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union exploded during a test. Until an earthquake triggered an accident at a Japanese nuclear plant in 2011, the Chernobyl blast generally was considered the worst accident ever at a nuclear power plant.
A wartime bombing raid occurred on this date in 1937, when German planes attacked the Spanish town of Guernica, killing about one thousand people. The attack was immortalized in a mural by Pablo Picasso.
The German secret police force called the “Gestapo” was founded on April 26th, 1933. April 26th was also the birthday of Hitler aide Rudolf Hess (1894).
April 24th in history:
The first fatal accident during a space mission happened on this date in 1967. Soyuz 1, the Soviet Union’s first manned space flight in two years, crashed upon landing after two days in orbit. The crash killed the lone crew member, Vladimir Komarov, who was on his second space mission. The capsule’s parachute apparently failed to open properly.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched successfully on this date in 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
New Yorkers could get high in the sky without leaving the ground on April 24th, 1913, on the day that the Woolworth Building opened in Manhattan. You could see a long distance from the top of the skyscraper, which was 792 feet tall…the tallest building in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, until the Empire State Building was constructed.
The movie musical “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” starred Oscar-winner Barbra Streisand, who was born on April 24th, 1942. Streisand’s character in the movie believes she has been reincarnated. Another winner of the Best Actress Oscar, Shirley MacLaine, is a real-life believer in reincarnation. MacLaine, also a star of screen musicals such as “Can-Can” and “Sweet Charity,” came into the world as Shirley Beaty on this date in 1934.
April 12th in history:
A man moved around the Earth in a space capsule for the first time on April 12th, 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit.
Two accidents involving Soviet submarines have happened on April 12th. In 1970, the submarine K-8 sank while being towed in the North Atlantic after a fire. Fifty-two men died when the sub went down with nuclear torpedoes aboard. On April 12th of 1963, the nuclear sub K-33 collided with a Finnish merchant ship. The accident was kept a secret for 44 years.
“The Hunt for Red October,” partly set aboard a Soviet sub, was the first successful novel by author Tom Clancy, born on this date in 1947.
Clancy once appeared as a guest on NBC’s “Late Night” show, but not during David Letterman’s time as the show’s host. Letterman was born the same day and year as Clancy. He was the original host of “Late Night,” from 1982 until 1993, when he moved to CBS and renamed his program “The Late Show.” Letterman retired from the show in 2015, and was succeeded by Stephen Colbert.
Yet another man born on April 12th, 1947, is actor Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, Kevin’s dad, on “The Wonder Years.” Letterman left NBC the same year that “The Wonder Years” ended its run on ABC.
March 15th in history:
Beware March 15th, the Ides of March — the day in 44 B.C. when emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by several members of the Roman Senate.
The Russian title “Czar,” meaning an emperor, is thought to be related to the name Caesar. Czar Nicholas the 2nd of Russia abdicated on March 15th, 1917. His brother then became the czar.
Russia was part of the Soviet Union for decades after the monarchy fell. On March 15th, 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev officially took the title of “president” of the USSR. He was the last Soviet president, when the Union disbanded the following year.
A band called the Ides of March was climbing up the record charts on this day in 1970 with its biggest hit, “Vehicle.” At the same time, the song “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly and the Family Stone was headed down the charts after hitting number 1 in February. The band’s leader, Sly Stone, was born on March 15th (year in dispute, 1943 or 1944).
March 5th in history:
Two famous show-business deaths on March 5th: John Belushi and Patsy Cline, who were both in their early 30s when they died. Comedian Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose on this day in 1982. Cline and other country singers were killed in a 1963 plane crash in Tennessee.
John Belushi once played an alien named Kuldorth in a “Coneheads” sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” On the day Belushi died in ’82, a Soviet spacecraft called Venera 14 landed on the surface of Venus, surviving the heat and atmospheric pressure of the planet for nearly an hour to take photographs.
A milestone in flight on March 5th, 1912: It was the first time that a dirigible, or zeppelin, was used for military purposes, when Italy sent a dirigible behind Turkish lines on a spy mission.
Led Zeppelin performed “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time in public in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 5th, 1971. The band’s bassist, John Paul Jones, says audience members were bored by the song because they had never heard it before.
February 7th in history:
On February 7th, 1962, the U.S. began an economic embargo on Cuba. The embargo came in response to Cuba’s allegiance with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
The Soviet government made a major policy change on February 7th, 1990, when the Communist party gave up its monopoly on power in the nation. Less than two years later, the Soviet Union would be disbanded.
And the band which eventually recorded “Back in the USSR” made its first official visit to the USA in 1964. The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport in New York on February 7th for their first American tour, including appearances three weeks in a row on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The Recording Industry Association of America says the Beatles have sold more albums in the U.S. than any other recording artist. As of early 2015, number two on the album sale list is country singer Garth Brooks, born on this day in 1962.