Year
1974

India joins the nuclear club

In the Rajasthan Desert in the state of Pokhran, India successfully detonates its first nuclear weapon, a fission bomb similar in explosive power to the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The test fell on the traditional anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received the message “Buddha has smiled” from the exuberant test-site scientists after the detonation. The test, which made India the world’s sixth nuclear power, broke the nuclear monopoly of the five members of the U.N. Security Council–the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, China, and France.

India, which suffered continuing border disputes with China, refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. Fearing a second war with China and a fourth war with Pakistan, India actively sought the development of a nuclear deterrent in the early 1970s. The successful detonation of its first bomb on May 18, 1974, set off an expanded arms race with Pakistan that saw no further nuclear tests but the development of lethal intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles by both countries. On May 11, 1998, India resumed nuclear testing, leading to international outrage and Pakistan’s detonation of its first nuclear bomb later in the month.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Mount St. Helens erupts

At 8:32 a.m. PDT, Mount St. Helens, a volcanic peak in southwestern Washington, suffers a massive eruption, killing 57 people and devastating some 210 square miles of wilderness. Called Louwala-Clough, or “the Smoking Mountain,” by Native Americans, Mount St. Helens is located in ...read more

Lincoln nominated for presidency

Abraham Lincoln, a one-time U.S. representative from Illinois, is nominated for the U.S. presidency by the Republican National Convention meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was nominated for the vice presidency. Lincoln, a Kentucky-born lawyer and former Whig ...read more

Polish Corps takes Monte Cassino

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Pope John Paul II born

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Laird charges

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Communists attack Xuan Loc

More than 1,500 communist troops attack U.S. and South Vietnamese camps near Xuan Loc, located 38 miles east of Saigon. After five hours of intense fighting, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces were driven off. At the U.S. camp, 14 Americans were killed and 39 wounded; 24 ...read more

Randy Johnson throws perfect game at 40

On this day in 2004, 40-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander Randy Johnson becomes the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game, leading his team to a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. A “perfect game” is when a pitcher faces a minimum 27 batters, ...read more

Newspaper report criticizes Mrs. Lincoln

An obscure California newspaper casts first lady Mary Todd Lincoln in an unflattering light on this day in 1861. Quoting a report in the Sacramento Union, the Humboldt Times recounted a tale of how Mrs. Lincoln had usurped her husband’s presidential duty of appointing federal ...read more

Chief Satanta massacres teamsters

The Kiowa Chief Satanta joins with other Indians to massacre a wagon train near the Red River in northeastern Texas. One of the leading chiefs of the Kiowa in the 1860s and 1870s, Satanta was a fearsome warrior but also a skilled orator and diplomat. He helped negotiate and ...read more

Ian Curtis of Joy Division commits suicide

On the evening of May 18, 1980, Ian Curtis, lead singer and lyricist of the British group Joy Division, hangs himself in his Manchester kitchen. He was only 23 years old. Joy Division was one of four hugely important British post-punk bands that could trace its origins to a ...read more

Shrek released

On this day in 2001, the fledgling movie studio Dreamworks SKG, founded by Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, releases what will become its most successful film to date: the animated feature Shrek. Based on William Steig’s 1990 ...read more

Mount St. Helens erupts

Mount St. Helens in Washington erupts, causing a massive avalanche and killing 57 people on this day in 1980. Ash from the volcanic eruption fell as far away as Minnesota. Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens, which is 96 miles south of Seattle, began on March 16. A ...read more