Home Decades 1950s 1955

1955

January

01 – The US gives $216 million in aid to South Vietnam.

01 – The 1955 Cotton Bowl Classic American football game is won by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

02 – President José Antonio Remón Cantera is assassinated at a racetrack in Panama.

06 – Comic actor (Blackadder and Mr Bean) Rowan Atkinson is born.

12 – US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles outlines the government’s new “massive retaliation” nuclear policy, which calls for “a great capacity to retaliate instantly by means and at places of our choosing”. The US-Soviet arms race heats up even further.

17 – USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, puts to sea for the first time, from Groton, Connecticut.

18 – Government in Kenya offers terms to Mau Mau terrorists.

18 – US actor Kevin Costner is born in California.

23 – 17 die and 43 are hurt in the UK when the York to Bristol express is derailed and overturns at Sutton Coldfield station.

23 – 380 Jamaican immigrants arrive in the UK aboard the liner Fairsea.

25 – USSR officially ends war with Germany.

25 – Scientists at Columbia University (USA) develop an atomic clock that is accurate to within one second every 300 years.

26 – Future American rock musician Eddie Van Halen is born in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

27 – UK bank rate is raised from 3% to 3.5%


February

02 – England secures the Ashes in their fourth test against Australia.

05 – Mendès-France resigns as French Premier.

08 – In the USSR, Soviet premier Malenkov resigns and is succeeded by Marshal N.A. Bulganin.

09 – Compulsory military service is introduced in China.

10 – The US Navy evacuates thousands of people from the Chinese Nationalist Tachen Islands. Communist forces on the Chinese mainland – within firing distance of the Tachens – have been threatening the Nationalist strongholds for several weeks.

10 – British MPs vote by a majority of 31 to keep the death penalty.

10 – 3,000 armed South African police begin evicting 60,000 blacks from Sophiatown, west of Johannesburg. The displaced are taken to Meadowlands, a new township 11 miles away where they will be tenants, not freeholders.

1955johannesburgevict

12 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends the first US advisors to South Vietnam.

22 – American tennis star Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly retires from the sport after a horse-riding accident. Little Mo has dominated women’s tennis worldwide since 1951 and won the women’s title at Wimbledon for the past three consecutive years, in 1952, 1953 and 1954.

24 – Deep snow and freezing temperatures cut off many parts of Britain.

24 – Steve Jobs, future founder of Apple Inc, is born in San Francisco.

24 – Turkey and Iraq sign Baghdad Pact.

28 – Israeli troops kill 36 soldiers and six civilians in a raid on Egyptian-controlled Gaza. Tensions between Israel and Egypt rise.


March

02 – Egypt and Syria sign defence pact.

07 – First coast-to-coast televised Emmy Awards is hosted by Steve Allen on NBC.

11 – Italy, Germany and France ratify European Pact.

11 –  Scottish Bacteriologist and discoverer of penicillin, Sir Alexander Fleming dies of a heart attack, aged 73.

12 – American saxophonist and jazz musician Charlie Parker dies aged 34.

15 – Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) is born.

19 – American actor Bruce Willis is born in Germany.

20 – American teenagers dance in the aisles at cinemas to the music of Bill Haley in the film Blackboard Jungle.

26 – ‘Quare Times’ wins the Grand National.

27 – Pakistan declares State of Emergency.

31 – Chinese Communist Party purged.


April

01 – German airline Lufthansa is revived as post-World War II bans on powered flight in West Germany are lifted.

03 – Over 300 die when a train plunges into a canyon near the city of Guadalajara, Mexico.

03 – Football representatives from eight European countries set up a “European Cup” contest.

05 – 80-year-old Winston Churchill resigns as British Prime Minister due to ill health. Anthony Eden becomes the new PM.

10 – South Africa withdraws from UNESCO rather than modify racialist policies. African families are compulsorily moved out of Johannesburg to a black settlement 11 miles away.

11 – A bomb detonates aboard an Air India Lockheed L-749A Constellation carrying delegates to the Bandung Conference in Djakarta, Indonesia. The aircraft explodes in mid-air and crashes into the South China Sea, killing 16 of the 19 people on board. Taiwanese agents had planted the bomb in an attempt to assassinate Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who had changed his travel plans and is not on the plane.

11 – Neville Staples (The Specials) is born.

12 – US Food and Drug Administration announces that Dr Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine is safe and effective. Mass vaccination of school children is scheduled.

16President Eisenhower states that he may use nuclear weapons if America is drawn into another war. Foreign Minister Molotov warns of Soviet strength, claiming superiority in hydrogen weapons.

18 – Physicist Albert Einstein dies in hospital in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 76.

18 – Hungarian premier Imre Nagy is dismissed for “deviation” (ie: being too moderate). Andras Hegedus takes over.

18 – The first ‘DON’T WALK’ Pedestrian crossing signs are installed in New York City.

21 – British newspapers are published for the first time in nearly a month following the end of the maintenance workers’ strike. The stoppage is called off following an agreement on Tuesday night between electricians’ and engineers’ unions and the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association.

29 – Civil war has broken out in Saigon, capital of South Vietnam, between the government of Emperor Bao Dai and the quasi-religious Binh Xuyen faction.


May

05 – Official occupation ends in West Germany. West Germany now becomes a sovereign country recognised by countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

06 – Britain goes to International Court over the Falkland Islands.

07 – Newcastle United appear in a record 10th FA Cup Final.

08 – 25 Hiroshima victims arrive in California for plastic surgery.

09 – West Germany becomes a member of NATO at a special ceremony in Paris.

14 – The Warsaw Pact defence treaty is signed by the USSR and its Eastern Bloc allies – Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania – as a response to NATO.

15 – Britain, France, the USA and the USSR sign the Vienna Treaty restoring Austria as an independent nation.

23 – Senator John F Kennedy returns to the Senate in Washington after back surgery and seven months off.

25 – ‘Phil Drake’ wins the Derby.

27 – The Conservatives win the British general election with a clear majority, ending a five-year political stalemate. The Conservatives win 324 out of a total of 630 seats. Combined with those of their Associates the Conservatives have an overall majority of 60 seats – the largest majority for five years.

28 – 16 Teddy Boys are arrested in Bath (UK) after a disturbance at the city’s dance hall.

30 – The giant poster of Marilyn Monroe with her skirts billowing is removed from the facade of Loew’s State Theater in New York under pressure from the League of Decency. The poster had been up for five days promoting her latest film, The Seven Year Itch.

31 – The US Supreme Court orders that schools must be racially integrated by local authorities within ‘a reasonable time’.


June

02 – A British team under Charles Evans conquers the highest unclimbed peak in India, Kanchenjunga (28,146 ft).

11 – Three cars crash at 150 mph at the Le Mans racetrack in France and plough into the spectators’ grandstand. 84 people are killed, with children decapitated and other spectators dismembered.

15 – US and Britain sign agreement on atomic energy.

16 – 13 die when the British submarine HMS Sidon sinks in Portland Harbour after an explosion.

17 – 202 die in an attempted coup in Buenos Aires when Argentine Naval Aviation and Argentine Air Force aircraft bomb and strafe the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires and the adjacent Plaza de Mayo while a large crowd is gathered there to express support for President Juan Perón.


July

04 – British dock strike ends after a month.

07 – A new supersonic Hawker Hunter aircraft crashes at Farnborough Air Show in the UK, killing the pilot.

13 – 28-year-old blonde model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for murdering her lover, 25-year-old racing driver David Blakely. She is the last woman to be executed in the UK.

17 – Stirling Moss, 25, wins his first Grand Prix at the Aintree track near Liverpool, beating his Mercedes-Benz teammate, world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

18 – Disneyland opens on a 60-acre site at Anaheim, California – 22 miles outside Los Angeles. The magic kingdom comprises five themed zones – Main Street, USA (which, Disney said, “turned back the clock to the days of grandfather’s youth”), Frontierland (celebrating “the pioneering spirit of our forefathers”), Adventureland (“an exotic tropical place”), Tomorrowland (looking at “the marvels of the future”) and Fantasyland, complete with castle and fantasy village.

23 – Donald Campbell breaks the water speed record at 202 mph.

24 – Bulganin and Khrushchev visit East Germany.

25 – New York City Subway system begins using tokens.

26 – Austria formally regains its sovereignty.


August

05 – Movie star Carmen Miranda dies in Hollywood, California, aged 46.

08 – A conference is held in Geneva to discuss peaceful uses of atomic energy.

11 – Right-wing Muslim government takes over in Indonesia.

12 – German writer Thomas Mann dies.

13 – Five armed IRA men are arrested attempting to steal arms from a training centre at the Army barracks at Arborfield, Berkshire.

15 – Indians attempt to enter Goa. 12 are shot dead by the Portuguese.

20 – Hundreds are killed in anti-French riots in Morocco and Algeria.

23 – A Canberra PR7 flies from Croydon near London to New York and back in 14 hours.

27 – The Guinness Book of Records is published for the first time, compiled by Norris and Ross McWhirter.

28 – 14-year-old African-American teenager, Emmett Till, is murdered in Mississippi for speaking to a white woman.

30 – A pilotless aircraft takes off from Bankstown in Sydney (Australia) and flies over the city for three hours before being shot down by a navy plane.


September

01 – Peron puts Buenos Aires under a state of siege as students riot.

04 – The French tug Ambes capsizes and sinks in the Gironde Estuary following a collision with US ship SS Lipari, with the loss of three crew.

06 – Anti-Greek riots in Istanbul and Izmir.

06 – A force of British commandos is sent to Cyprus amid mounting tension.

11 – Italian Grand Prix is run at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, and is won by Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina.

12 – Martial Law is declared in Turkey as a result of recent riots and demonstrations.

15 – EOKA – the guerrilla group fighting in Cyprus for union with Greece – is outlawed by the British.

17 – South Sydney beats Newtown 12-11 in the Australian Rugby League Grand Final.

17 – Melbourne Football Club beats Collingwood in the Victorian Football League Grand Final in Melbourne, Australia. The match, attended by 88,053 spectators, gives Melbourne their seventh premiership victory.

18 – The British Foreign Office states its belief that Burgess and Maclean, the former diplomats who disappeared in 1951, had been long-term Soviet agents. Kim Philby denies being the “third man”.

19 – Argentinean president Juan Perón is overthrown in a military coup after nine years of dictatorship. He resigns and flees to Paraguay.

20 – TV Times is first published (London area).

21 – Britain annexes the uninhabited rocky islet of Rockall, 300 miles (483km) west of Scotland, to stop the Soviets spying on missile tests. Two Royal Marines and a civilian naturalist, led by Royal Navy officer Lieutenant Commander Desmond Scott, raise a Union flag on the island and cement a plaque into the rock.

22 – Commercial television begins broadcasting in Britain with the launch of ITV. The new channel ends the 18-year monopoly of the BBC and brings advertisements to the airwaves for the first time.

23 – General Eduardo Lonardi is sworn in as provisional Argentinean president.

23 – In Sumner, Mississippi, USA, an all-white jury acquits both defendants in a trial for the murder of black teenager Emmett Till, after a 67-minute deliberation; one juror says, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” JW Milam later admits to shooting Till and says he and his fellow-defendant Roy Bryant did not think that they had done anything wrong.

24 – US President Eisenhower has a minor heart attack while on vacation in Denver, Colorado, but recovers fully. Vice President Richard Nixon serves as Acting President while Eisenhower recovers.

25 – Field Marshal Harding is appointed Governor of Cyprus.

25 – The 1955 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final takes place at Croke Park, Dublin, and is won by Kerry.

26 – America and the UK are linked by a submarine telephone cable.

30 – In California, actor James Dean crashes his Porsche 550 Spyder head-on into a Ford Tudor driven by student Donald Turnupseed. Dean is pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. He is just 24.

1955jamesdeanporsche

30 – Violent demonstrations against British rule erupt in Cyprus. Troops are ordered to shoot to kill if necessary.


October

02 – The ENIAC computer is deactivated at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, USA, having been in continuous operation since 1947.

04 – After years of World Series disappointment, the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the New York Yankees for baseball’s world championship. The Series MVP is pitcher Johnny Podres, Brooklyn.

04 – Field Marshal Papagos, the Greek Premier, dies.

08 – In the USA, the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga is launched. It is the world’s most powerful warship.

08 – Hitler’s pilot Hans Bauer, just released by the USSR, confirms that Hitler and Eva Braun both committed suicide.

10 – Test transmissions for colour television begin in Britain.

12 – Florence Chadwick swims the English Channel in 13 hours 55 minutes.

18 – Former emperor and head of state of Vietnam, Bảo Đại, formally dismisses his prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm.

26 – Ngô Đình Diệm proclaims South Vietnam a Republic and declares himself President.

28 – Software designer, entrepreneur and Microsoft supremo Bill Gates is born in Seattle, Washington.

30 – Britain’s Princess Margaret announces she will not marry divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend.

30 – Abdication of the Sultan of Morocco.

30 – The NASCAR Grand National Series ends with Tim Flock winning the championship by a margin of 1508 points over Buck Baker.


November

01 – A Douglas DC-6B Mainliner Denver, operating as United Airlines Flight 629, is destroyed over Longmont, Colorado, by a bomb planted in the cargo hold by Jack Gilbert Graham, who is attempting to cash in his mother’s life insurance policies. All 44 onboard, his mother among them, are killed. Graham is executed for the crime on 11 January  1957.

01 – ‘Toporoa’ wins the Melbourne Cup.

02 – Ben-Gurion forms a government in Israel.

03 – The Cocos Islands – previously part of Singapore – are transferred to Australia.

05 – The new Vienna Opera House is opened.

12 – The immigration centre on Ellis Island in New York Harbour closes.

13 – Provisional President Lonardi is ousted by Major-General Pedro Aramburu in Argentina.

16 – Donald Campbell sets a water-speed record of 216.2 mph in his Bluebird speedboat on Lake Mead in the US.

20 – Ten die and 99 are hurt in a train crash near Didcot in Oxfordshire.

20Bo Diddley makes his television debut on Ed Sullivan’s Toast Of The Town show for the CBS-TV network.

20 – Future screen siren and perfect “10” Bo Derek is born in California.

22 – Colonel Tom Parker signs Elvis Presley to RCA Records.

24 – Future England cricketer Ian Botham is born in Heswall, Cheshire.

25 – Racial segregation on interstate trains and buses in America is banned by the Interstate Commerce Commission.

26 – An IRA group crosses the border into Roslea, County Fermanagh, and attacks a Royal Ulster Constabulary police station.

26 – The USSR claims to have exploded a hydrogen bomb of “unprecedented force”.

26 – State of emergency is declared in Cyprus following terrorist activities by Greek-Cypriot organisation EOKA and the death of two more British soldiers.

30 – The first floodlit international football match is played at Wembley, between England and Spain.


December

01 – 42-year-old black woman Rosa Parks is arrested in Alabama after refusing to give up her seat on a US bus to a white man. A boycott begins on the bus company which continues for over a year and causes the bus company to go broke.

02 – 12 people die in a train fire in Barnes, London, after a collision caused by a signal error.

03 – Britain and Egypt sign an agreement granting independence to Sudan.

06The Jam drummer Rick Buckler is born.

07 – Clement Attlee resigns as leader of the UK Labour Party after twenty years.

09 – Sugar Ray Robinson knocks out Carol Olson to regain the world middleweight boxing championship.

10 – The first Saturday morning cartoon series is shown on US television: The Mighty Mouse Playhouse is broadcast by CBS.

10 – Australian prime minister Menzies is returned with an increased majority in the federal election.

12 – Christopher Cockerell patents his design of the hovercraft.

14 – 16 nations join the UN – the biggest single expansion of the United Nations since it was formed – but Mongolia and Japan are barred.

14Hugh Gaitskell is elected leader of the British Labour Party, succeeding Clement Attlee who has resigned.

16 – The United Nations General Assembly elects Yugoslavia to the hotly-contested non-permanent seat on the Security Council

20 – Cardiff is declared the capital of Wales by the British Government.

22 – The French government sends 60,000 more troops to Algeria to suppress revolutionary elements.

28 – The Comet 3 aircraft completes its first round-the-world flight, finishing the Montreal-London section in 6 hours and 18 minutes.


Also this year . . .

  • Clean Air Act passed to eliminate killer smog in Britain.
  • America begins supplying direct financial aid to Vietnam.
  • Quiz shows with big prizes are introduced to American television.
  • Fads of the year in the USA: Davy Crockett hats and Rock & Roll!
  • Archers fans mourn the loss of Grace Archer in a fire.
  • Fish Fingers are created.