2011: Japan ranks its nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at the highest possible severity on an international scale -- the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster -- even as it insisted radiation leaks were declining at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.
2009: American cargo ship captain Richard Phillips is rescued from Somali pirates by U.S. Navy snipers who shoot and kill three of the hostage-takers. The last of the four pirates who took Phillips hostage in a lifeboat after briefly seizing the Maersk Alabama on April 8 was aboard the USS Bainbridge negotiating a ransom at the time of the rescue and was taken into custody. Phillips (right) is seen here with with Cmdr. Frank Castellano of the USS Bainbridge after being rescued.
2008: Madonna's song with Justin Timberlake, "4 Minutes," peaks at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, pushing her past Elvis Presley as the artist with the most all-time top-10 hits on the chart.
2002: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez agrees to step down under pressure from the country's divided military. However, he never formally resigned and was returned to office two days later. He would remain in office until his death on March 5, 2013.
1999: Country music singer-songwriter Boxcar Willie dies of leukemia at the age of 67 in Branson, Mo. Born Lecil Travis Martin, "Boxcar Willie" was originally a character in a ballad he wrote, but he later adopted it as his own stage name. He had a top 40 country hit with "Bad News" in 1982 and opened a music theater in Branson in 1985, becoming one of the first country stars to open a show in an area that was to become a popular entertainment tourist destination.
1994: Actress Saoirse Ronan, best known for roles in movies such as "Atonement," "City of Ember," "The Lovely Bones," "Hanna" and "The Host," is born in New York City. In 2008, she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Atonement."
1992: The Euro Disney Resort officially opens in Marne-la-Vallée, France, with its theme park Euro Disneyland. The resort's name was eventually changed to Disneyland Paris, with the park becoming Disneyland Park.
1989: Activist Abbie Hoffman, who co-founded the Youth International Party (aka the "Yippies") in the 1960s, commits suicide at the age of 52 in Solebury Township, Pa., by swallowing 150 phenobarbital tablets along with hard liquor. Hoffman is also known as a member of the "Chicago Seven," a group of protestors arrested and tried for conspiracy and inciting to riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
1989: Sugar Ray Robinson, often hailed as the greatest boxer of all time, dies from Alzheimer's disease at the age of 67 in Culver City, Calif. Robinson, whose birth name was Walker Smith Jr., held the world welterweight title from 1946 to 1951, and also won the world middleweight title in 1951. He retired in 1952 following a loss while attempting to win the world light heavyweight title, but returned in 1955, eventually recapturing the middleweight title. He lost and reclaimed that title two more times over the following three years. He retired for good in 1965 with a career record of 173–19–6.
1989: Garth Brooks' self-titled debut album is released. It peaked at No. 2 on the U.S. country album chart and reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart. The album featured his first two No. 1 country chart hits, "If Tomorrow Never Comes" and "The Dance," and also featured the top 10 hits "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" and "Not Counting You."
1988: Sonny Bono is elected mayor of Palm Springs, Calif. He would serve a four-year term as mayor and be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, a position he would hold until his death on Jan. 5, 1998.
1987: Model and actress Brooklyn Decker, best known for her appearances in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and as a Victoria's Secret model, is born in Kettering, Ohio. Decker made her movie debut in 2011's "Just Go with It" and has also appeared in the movies "Battleship" and "What to Expect When You're Expecting."
1981: Former World Heavyweight Champion boxer Joe Louis, considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, dies of a heart attack at the age of 66 in Paradise, Nev. Nicknamed the "Brown Bomber," Louis was champion from 1937 to 1949, setting a heavyweight division record in successfully defending his title 25 times. He retired in 1951 with a career record of 66 wins (52 by knockout), three losses and one no contest.
1981: The space shuttle Columbia launches on the STS-1 mission, the first of NASA's space shuttle program.
1979: The movie "Mad Max," starring a then unknown Mel Gibson, premieres in Australia. The movie would go on to a limited run in North America in 1980, earning less than $10 million, but became a big international hit and a cult favorite as the years went on. It also spawned a film series, with the sequels "Mad Max 2" in 1981 and "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" in 1985.
1979: Actress Claire Danes, best known for TV roles in "Homeland" and "My So-Called Life," as well as movie roles in "Romeo + Juliet," "Terminator 3" and "Stardust," is born in Manhattan, N.Y.
1975: Dancer, singer and actress Josephine Baker, who became an international musical and political icon, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 68 in Paris, France. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Mo., Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, 1934's "Zouzou," and the first to integrate an American concert hall. She also became known for her efforts contributing the American Civil Rights Movement and for assisting the French Resistance during World War II.
1971: Actress Shannen Doherty, best known for her television roles on "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Charmed," is born in Memphis, Tenn.
1966: In an eerie recreation of the duo's hit single from two years before, Jan Berry (left) of Jan & Dean crashes his Corvette into a parked truck on Beverly Hills' Whittier Drive, near a stretch of road in Los Angeles known as Dead Man's Curve. Berry was in a coma for two months and suffered paralysis and extensive brain damage. He required four years of rehabilitation to be able to talk and a full decade in order to perform live again.
1961: The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, circling the Earth once in the Vostok 1 spacecraft in one hour and 29 minutes at a maximum altitude of 187 miles. He never went into space again, instead touring the Soviet Union and training other pilots. Gagarin died at the age of 34 on March 27, 1968, along with another pilot in the crash of a two-seat jet aircraft while on what was described as a routine training flight.
1957: Country music singer-songwriter Vince Gill, the 20-time Grammy winner best known for songs such as "I Still Believe in You," "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away," "Tryin' to Get Over You" and "If You Ever Have Forever in Mind," is born in Norman, Okla.
1956: Actor Andy García, best known for roles in movies such as "The Godfather Part III," "The Untouchables," "Internal Affairs," "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "Ocean's Eleven," is born Andrés Arturo García Menéndez in Havana, Cuba.
1955: The polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk (right), is declared safe and effective.
1950: Singer-songwriter and actor David Cassidy, a teen idol in the 1970s thanks to his role as Keith Partridge on the sitcom "The Partridge Family," is born in New York City.
1947: Author Tom Clancy, best known for his technically detailed espionage and military science novels, is born in Baltimore, Md. Four of his novels, "The Hunt for Red October," "Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger" and "The Sum of All Fears," have been turned into movies, with actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck portraying Clancy's most famous fictional character Jack Ryan. Clancy, seen here (far left) in 1989, died at age 66 on Oct. 1, 2013.
1947: Talk show host and comedian David Letterman, who has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of "Late Night with David Letterman" on NBC, is born in Indianapolis, Ind. In 1993, he moved to CBS to host "Late Show with David Letterman."
1946: The last meeting of the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, is held. Pictured is the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the League's headquarters from 1929 until its dissolution.
1946: Actor Ed O'Neill, best known for his television roles in "Married.... with Children" and "Modern Family," is born in Youngstown, Ohio.
1945: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a stroke at the age of 63 in Warm Springs, Ga., less than three months into his fourth term. Vice-president Harry Truman was sworn in as the 33rd president of the United States. Roosevelt led the United States during a time of worldwide economic depression and total war, becoming the only American president ever elected to more than two terms.
1940: Jazz musician, bandleader and composer Herbie Hancock, whose best-known solo works include "Cantaloupe Island," "Watermelon Man," "Maiden Voyage," "Chameleon," "I Thought It Was You" and "Rockit," is born in Chicago, Ill. His 2007 tribute album "River: The Joni Letters" won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, only the second jazz album ever to win the award.
1934: The Toledo Auto-Lite strike begins, with American Federation of Labor workers striking against the Electric Auto-Lite company of Toledo, Ohio. The strike is notable for a five-day running battle between roughly 6,000 workers and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard on May 23-27, 1934. Known as the "Battle of Toledo," the clash left two strikers dead and more than 200 injured. The strike itself would last until June 3.
1934: The strongest surface wind gust in the world at 231 mph, is measured on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The record would stand for 62 years until it was surpassed by a 253 mph gust recorded during Tropical Cyclone Olivia at Barrow Island in Western Australia on April 10, 1996.
1932: Entertainer Tiny Tim, most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" sung in a distinctive high falsetto/vibrato voice, is born Herbert Khaury in Manhattan, N.Y. He was also famous for marrying Victoria Mae Budinger (aka Miss Vicki) Dec. 17, 1969, on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" with 21.4 million viewers watching. He died of a heart attack at age 64 on Nov. 30, 1996.
1916: Author Beverly Cleary, the writer of more than 30 books for young adults and children, is born Beverly Atlee Bunn in McMinnville, Ore. Some of her best-known characters are Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beatrice ("Beezus") Quimby, her sister Ramona, and Ralph S. Mouse.
1912: Pioneer American teacher, patent clerk, nurse and humanitarian Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, dies of tuberculosis at the age of 110 in Glen Echo, Md.
1878: William Magear "Boss" Tweed, the politician most notable for being the "boss" of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and state, dies in New York City's Ludlow Street Jail from severe pneumonia at the age of 55. Tweed, who earlier had spent a year in jail for stealing up to $45 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption, was waiting for a civil trial in which New York State was seeking to recover $6 million in embezzled funds when he died.
1877: The catcher for Harvard's baseball team, Jim Tyng, wears a modified fencing mask behind the plate. It is believed to be the first time a catcher's mask was used during a game. The team manager, Fred Thayer, designed the mask and received a patent for it the following year.
1864: In what became known as the Fort Pillow Massacre, Confederate forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest kill most of the black soldiers who had surrendered at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.
1861: The American Civil War begins with Confederate forces firing on Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, S.C. The Confederate siege came after South Carolina demanded that the U.S. Army abandon the fort due to the secession of the state and six other Southern states since December 1860.
1857: Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" is published. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Flaubert's first novel became a bestseller quickly due to its notoriety. After the book had been released the previous year in serial form, Flaubert had been put on trial by public prosecutors for the book's alleged obscenity and acquitted.
1606: The Union Flag is adopted as the flag of Great Britain. The new flag was designed to represent the union between England and Scotland, combining the flags of both countries into one to form the first union flag. The current design dates from the Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, adding in the red saltire of the Irish St. Patrick's Flag.
1204: The Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade breach the walls of Constantinople and enter the city, which they completely occupy the following day. The Crusaders looted, terrorized and vandalized Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were either stolen or destroyed. The decision to attack the Eastern Orthodox Christian city also deepened the rift between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church.
The Board of Directors for the Nipomo Community Services District has approved a new charge for customers to pay for supplemental water delivery from Santa Maria the District says is critically important to balance current and future water needs on the Nipomo Mesa.
A notorious pirate is captured and killed, RCA Victor buys Elvis' contract from Sun Records, the nation mourns a president, The Beatles release "The White Album," and "Toy Story" premieres, all on this day.