Year
1979

Worst air crash in U.S. history

On Friday afternoon, Memorial Day weekend, American Airlines Flight 191, a Los Angeles-bound DC-10, takes off at 3:03 p.m. from Chicago-O’Hare International airport with 271 aboard. As Flight 191 raised its nose during the initial stage of the takeoff, an engine under the left wing broke off with its pylon assembly and fell to the runway. The aircraft climbed to about 350 feet above the ground and then began to spin to the left, continuing its leftward roll until the wings were past the vertical position, with the nose pitched down below the horizon. Moments later, the aircraft crashed into an open field about a half-mile from its takeoff point, killing all 271 people aboard and two others in a nearby trailer park. It was the worst domestic air crash in U.S. history.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The English Restoration

Under invitation by leaders of the English Commonwealth, Charles II, the exiled king of England, lands at Dover, England, to assume the throne and end 11 years of military rule.Prince of Wales at the time of the English Civil War, Charles fled to France after Oliver Cromwell’s ...read more

Constitutional Convention begins

Four years after the United States won its independence from England, 55 state delegates, including George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, convene in Philadelphia to compose a new U.S. constitution.The Articles of Confederation, ratified several months before ...read more

Catholic priest ordained in America

In Baltimore, Maryland, Father Stephen Theodore Badin becomes the first Catholic priest to be ordained in the United States. Badin was ordained by Bishop John Carroll, an early advocate of American Catholicism, and appointed to the Catholic mission in Kentucky.In colonial ...read more

Star Wars opens

On this day in 1977, Memorial Day weekend opens with an intergalactic bang as the first of George Lucas’ blockbuster Star Wars movies hits American theaters.The incredible success of Star Wars–it received seven Oscars, and earned $461 million in U.S. ticket sales and a gross of ...read more

Operation Knight’s Move is launched

On this day in 1944, Germany launches Operation Knight’s Move, in an attempt to seize Yugoslav communist partisan leader Tito.Using parachute drops and glider troops, German forces landed in the Yugoslavian village of Drvar, where Josep Broz Tito, leader of the anti-Axis guerilla ...read more

National Democratic Front formed in Saigon

South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu assumes personal leadership of the National Social Democratic Front at its inaugural meeting in Saigon. Thieu said the establishment of this coalition party was “the first concrete step in unifying the political factions in South ...read more

Communist launch new offensive

The communists launch their third major assault of the year on Saigon. The heaviest fighting occurred during the first three days of June, and again centered on Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon, where U.S. and South Vietnamese forces used helicopters, fighter-bombers, and ...read more

Babe Ruth hits last home run

On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babe Ruth hits his 714th home run, a record for career home runs that would stand for almost 40 years. This was one of Ruth’s last games, and the last home run of his career. Ruth went four for four on the day, hitting ...read more

Thomas Mann visits the Lido in Venice

Thomas Mann visits the Lido in Venice on this day and is inspired with the idea for his novella Death in Venice.Mann was born in Germany in 1875, the second son of a grain merchant who expected Thomas to take over the business. His father died when Mann was 15, and his mother ...read more

HMS Pinafore premieres in London

By the spring of 1877, the English light-opera team of W.S. Gilbert and Richard Sullivan had established a strong reputation based on several well-received earlier works, but they had yet to have a true smash hit. That would change on this day in 1878, when Gilbert and Sullivan’s ...read more

Star Wars released

Science-fiction fans and movie buffs in general have cause to celebrate on this day in 1977, when 20th Century Fox releases George Lucas’ space odyssey Star Wars.After Lucas’ second feature film, American Graffiti (1973), became a hit, Fox agreed to put up $9.5 million for the ...read more

DC-10 crashes, killing all aboard

Almost 300 people are killed on this day in 1979 when an American Airlines flight crashes and explodes after losing one engine just after takeoff. It was the beginning of Memorial Day weekend in 1979 when 277 passengers filled Flight 191 from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport bound for ...read more

Oscar Wilde is sent to prison for indecency

Playwright Oscar Wilde is taken toReading Gaolin London after being convicted of sodomy. The famed writer of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest brought attention to his private life in a feud with Sir John Sholto Douglas, whose son was intimately involved with ...read more