With the approval of the Food and Drug Directorate, the morning sickness suppressant thalidomide went on sale for the first time in Canada, marketed by Richardson-Merrill under the name Kevadon. The Horner Company would begin sales of its own version, Talimol, in October. Despite evidence later in the year that the drug caused birth defects, sales were not halted in Canada until March 21, 1962, after four million tablets had sold to expectant mothers.
Television commercials were introduced to New Zealand, which had one station (AKTV2) in Auckland, and TV was allowed for 28 hours per week, spread over five days.
Believed to have become extinct in 1909, the Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) was rediscovered in Australia by naturalist Eric Wilkinson. Later in the month, the first specimen found in more than 50 years was captured.
Country music star Spade Cooley, nicknamed "The King of Western Swing", murdered his wife Ella Mae after she admitted to having an affair. Cooley remained in prison until 1969, and died on November 23 of that year after performing a concert while on furlough.
The Soviet government approved sending a man into space on the April 12 launch of a rocket, and made a choice between the two remaining candidates for first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov.
Carlos Marcello, boss of the Mafia in New Orleans, was arrested after making a required check-in with the local office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, driven to the airport and placed as the only passenger on an airplane bound for Guatemala City. Marcello's deportation, ordered by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was done immediately, without affording him the benefit of a phone call, money or even a change of clothes. Marcello, outraged by the surprise move, would sneak back into the United States two months later. Some conspiracy theorists suggest that Marcello conspired in the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy in revenge for the act.
Bay of Pigs Invasion: At 6:00 pm in a conference room at the office of U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Kennedy convened a meeting to discuss final plans for the invasion of Cuba. U.S. Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas, who argued against the operation, was invited to participate at the meeting, which also included Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, CIA Director Allen Dulles, and three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The meeting ended at 8:18 pm with Kennedy approving the mission.
New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the bill authorizing the construction of the World Trade Center and a rehabilitation of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad (H & M RR). The original plan for the WTC called for construction of several buildings in the east side of Manhattan, near the Brooklyn Bridge, the two tallest being 72 stories and 30 stories. New Jersey, which shared the Port Authority with New York, protested the location and the site was relocated to Manhattan's west side, where the H & M's office buildings stood.
New York Times reporter Tad Szulc filed a two column story reporting that an invasion of Cuba was "imminent". Times publisher Orvil Dryfoos chose not to run the news after consulting with the paper's Washington bureau. Dryfoos's decision was revealed five years later by editor Clifton Daniel in a speech at Macalester College.
Vladimir Ilyushin, according to contemporary rumours, supposedly became the first man in space. Dennis Ogden, at the time an American reporter for the U.S. Communist Party newspaper, the Daily Worker, would later note that Soviet papers reported that cosmonaut Ilyushin had been seriously injured in a car accident, and speculated that the news was a cover story for a mission that had gone wrong.
Shortly after 4:00 am, the British passenger ship MV Dara exploded off Dubai. In the fire and in panic during the rescue, 238 passengers and crew died, while another 565 were rescued. The ship sank two days later while being towed. A British Admiralty court concluded a year later that an anti-tank mine, "deliberately placed by a person or persons unknown", had "almost certainly" caused the explosion.
The leadership of the Malta Labour Party, readers, advertisers and distributors of Party papers as well as its voters were placed under an interdict, which lasted until 1969.
Bay of Pigs Invasion: Eight days before the scheduled invasion of Cuba, the CIA learned that the Soviet Union was aware that the attack would take place on the 17th, but didn't call it off. The information was not made public until 39 years later, when the Taylor Commission report was declassified.
The last of the streetcars of Los Angeles was retired, after 136 passengers boarded the last scheduled Pacific Electric Railway red car to ride the 18 mile rail line to Long Beach. A charter car departed 10 minutes later. The network had been formed in 1902, but the interurban tracks were gradually removed after World War II.
Died:Zog I, 65, former King of Albania from 1928 to 1939, died in Paris. As Ahmet Zogu, he had been Prime Minister and then President of Albania before proclaiming a monarchy. Albanian exiles proclaimed his 22-year-old son, the former crown prince, as King Leka I.
A radar signal, transmitted from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Venus, gave the first definite measurement of its distance from Earth (26,372,600 miles). "This single determination," it has been written, "was sufficient to fix the scale of the solar system with an unprecedented accuracy." 
At 2:07 p.m. local time (9:07 a.m. Moscow, 0607 UTC and 1:07 a.m. in New York), Soviet cosmonautYuri Gagarin was launched from Baikonur, in the Kazakh SSR on the Vostok 1 rocket, and became the first human being to go into outer space. Gagarin made one orbit of the Earth before re-entering, and landed at 10:55 a.m., 15 miles southwest of the city of Engels in Russia's Saratov Oblast.
Died: Former Private First Class John A. Bennett, 26, became the last American serviceman to receive the death penalty following a court-martial. Bennett had been convicted of the 1954 rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old girl while in Austria and was hanged at the prison at Fort Leavenworth.
In an event televised live throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Yuri Gagarin received a hero's welcome at the Vnukovo airport, where he was greeted by Soviet dignitaries, and along the ten mile route from the airport to Moscow's Red Square.
Bay of Pigs Invasion: Eight Douglas B-26B Invader bombers attacked Cuban airfields at San Antonio de Los Baños, Ciudad Libertad, and Santiago de Cuba airport. The B-26s had been prepared by the CIA on behalf of Brigade 2506, and painted in false flag markings of the Cuban air force. They had flown from Nicaragua with crews of Cuban exiles, and the purpose of Operation Puma was to destroy armed aircraft of the Cuban air force in advance of the main invasion. Shortly after the attacks, another B-26 flew to Miami with false battle damage, and the pilot falsely claimed to be one of several Cuban defectors. At the United Nations, the Cuban Foreign Minister accused the US of aggressive air attacks against Cuba. The US ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson stated that US armed forces would not "under any conditions" intervene in Cuba. He was later embarrassed to realize that the CIA had lied to him and to Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
Bay of Pigs Invasion: In a funeral oration in Vedado for victims of the air raids the day before, Fidel Castro described the January 1959 Cuban Revolution as follows: "...esta es la Revolución socialista y democrática de los humildes, con los humildes y para los humildes..." (...this is the socialist and democratic revolution of the working people, with the working people, and for the working people...)
Bay of Pigs Invasion: At about 01:00, in Operation Zapata, the first group of a force of about 1,300 Cuban exiles of Brigade 2506 made an amphibious landing at Playa Girón, a beach at the Bahia de Cochinos ("Bay of Pigs" in modern Spanish) on the southern coast of Cuba. They had been trained by the CIA in Guatemala, then embarked in Nicaragua on four freighter ships chartered by the CIA, and escorted to Cuban waters by a large US Navy task force. A second group of attackers landed 35 km further northwest in the bay at Playa Larga. By about 06:30, the freighter ships and landing craft still unloading troops, vehicles and equipment were attacked by Sea Fury fighter-bombers and T-33 jets of the Cuban air force. At about 07:30, 177 invading paratroops were dropped at four locations north of the landing areas. By about 09:00, one of the freighters had been damaged and beached, and another was then sunk in the bay by air-to-ground rockets. The surviving vessels withdrew south to international waters. By the end of the day, four attacking B-26 bombers had been shot down by T-33s and ground fire, and invading troops had come under fire from Cuban militia and regular troops.
Bay of Pigs Invasion: Cuban ground forces continued their advances against invading troops, retaking Playa Larga, and advancing towards Playa Girón and the paratroop positions. They were attacked by B-26s flown by Cuban exiles and CIA contractors using napalm, machine guns and bombs.
Catherine Dorris Norrell, widow and legislative assistant of Arkansas Congressman William F. Norrell, won a special election to fill the vacancy left by her husband's death on February 15, defeating four men vying for the office. She took office as U.S. Representative for the 6th District of Arkansas on April 25, and finished out his term.
Bay of Pigs Invasion: Air attacks were made by B-26s against advancing Cuban ground forces. Combat air patrols, with strict rules of engagement, were flown by unmarked US Navy A4D Skyhawk jets from USS Essex, but they failed to prevent two bombers being shot down by Cuban aircraft, killing four Americans of the Alabama National Guard employed by the CIA as aircrew trainers. By dusk, about 17:30, Brigade 2506 ground forces had retreated to the beaches, then surrendered or dispersed into neighbouring swamps. About 114 Brigade ground troops, and 176 Cuban ground forces, were killed in combat. Subsequently, 1,189 prisoners were taken, and later tried for treason. On December 24, 1962, the last group of 1,113 prisoners was released in exchange for $53,000,000 worth of food and medicine.
President John F. Kennedy sent Vice-President Johnson, to whom he had delegated the job of Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, a memorandum asking him to find out, "Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets" in the race to be the first "to go the moon and back with a man".
The Minnesota Twins, who had already played six road games, played their first game at home and the first regular season MLB game in Minnesota. Formerly the Washington Senators until moving, the team played the new Washington Senators (who would later become the Texas Rangers, and lost, 5-3.
At a press conference in the State Department, President Kennedy was asked by NBC reporter Sander Vanocur whether it was true that Dean Rusk and Chester Bowles were against the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Kennedy said "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan... What matters is only one fact, I am the responsible officer of the government." (the saying was later attributed to Mussolini's Foreign Minister, Galeazzo Ciano, in 1942).
Algiers putsch of 1961: Four retired French Generals-- Maurice Challe and Raoul Salan, both of whom had formerly been Commanders-in-Chief of the French Army in Algeria; Edmond Jouhaud, former Inspector General of the French Air Force; and André Zeller, former Chief of Staff of the French Ground Army—sent at least 2,000 paratroopers to seize control of cities in Algeria to prevent the transfer of power from France to Algerian nationals. In the early morning hours in Algiers, France's delegate general, Jean Morin, French Transport Minister Robert Buron, and General Fernand Gambiez were taken prisoner as the troops seized control of government offices. Expecting that an attempted coup would reach the French mainland, President Charles De Gaulle ordered loyal units to fight the mutineers. Failing to win support in the coup, General Challe surrendered to loyal troops on April 26 and was flown to Paris to face trial for treason, while Salan, Jouhad and Zeller fled, along with former Prime Minister Georges Bidault, who had joined the generals in a statement calling for the overthrow of De Gaulle.
Judy Garland performed in a legendary comeback concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, receiving a standing ovation as she arrived on stage, and five minutes of cheering. Variety critic Gordon Cox Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: A Listener's Life List (Workman Publishing, 2008) described the event as "the greatest night in show business history". The live performance was recorded as a Grammy award winning and bestselling album, Judy at Carnegie Hall.
For the first and only time in the history of the Fifth Republic of France, the emergency powers (pouvoirs exceptionnels) provision in Article 16 of its Constitution was invoked. President De Gaulle retained the special power following the uprising in Algeria, until September 29.
The Swedish warship Vasa was raised from the sea after sinking in the Baltic Sea almost 333 years earlier. The Vasa capsized hours into its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, drowning the 30 people on board. The ship was rediscovered in 1956 by Anders Franzén off of the island of Beckholmen, still well-preserved, and is now in a museum in Stockholm.
U.S. Patent 2,981,877 was issued to Robert Noyce, founder of the Intel Corporation as the first ever granted for an integrated circuit. Noyce's application for "Semiconductor Device-and-Lead Structure" had been filed on July 30, 1959, after Jack Kilby's filing on May 6, 1959 for "Miniaturized Self-Contained Circuit Modules and Method of Fabrication", but was not approved until June 23, 1964 (and granted U.S. Patent 3,138,744) because it was more complex.
An unmanned American Atlas rocket was destroyed by ground control, 40 seconds after an attempt to launch it into orbit, sending a rain of shrapnel from 16,000 feet.Gus Grissom, piloting an F-106A to observe the launch, was able to fly through the debris without injury.
At 10 seconds after midnight in Freetown, the green white and blue flag of the Dominion of Sierra Leone replaced Britain's Union Jack as the former British colony for freed slaves became an independent nation. A British anti-slavery society had purchased West African land in 1787 from King Waimbana, and Britain created the colony in 1808. Later in the day, Sir Milton Margai took office as the nation's first Prime Minister, and accepted the new constitution from Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who was appearing on behalf of his cousin, Queen Elizabeth II. The former colonial governor, Sir Maurice Dorman, became the first Governor-General. Opposition leader Siaka Stevens, who would become President when the Dominion became a Republic in 1971, was kept under house arrest until ceremonies were over.
President Kennedy delivered the speech: The President and the Press: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association. Kennedy told the assembled press that the Cold War required the media to avoid disclosing information that might threaten American interests, saying, "Every newspaper now asks itself with respect to every story: 'Is it news?'. All I ask is that you add the question: 'Is it in the interest of national security?'" 
Little Joe 5B, the final unmanned test of the Launch Escape System of the Mercury spacecraft, was launched from Wallops Island, Virginia, exactly one week before the first American astronaut would be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. A misfire sent the rocket to 14,000 feet rather than 40,000 feet, the original altitude at which the abort system was to eject the capsule. The system performed flawlessly, even against a dynamic pressure of almost twice as much as what had been planned.
The Union of African States was created as the nation of Mali joined an existing union between Ghana and Guinea to become the third member of what had Ghana's leader Kwame Nkrumah had described as the nucleus of a "United States of Africa" open to all nations on the continent. The Union fell apart after Nkrumah's ouster in 1966.
Westward Television became the holder of the independent television franchise for the South West of England, retaining it for twenty years.
Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants ended a batting slump with what he described as "the greatest game of my career", becoming only the sixth major league player to hit four home runs in one game, in a 14-4 win over the host Milwaukee Braves, whose Hank Aaron hit two homers. Giants' first-base coach Wes Westrum, a former catcher, is said to have been able to decode the signals from the Braves' catcher, and to have signaled Mays on what to expect.
Eastern Air Lines revolutionized commuter air travel by inaugurating the Eastern Air-Shuttle, hourly flights between New York's LaGuardia airport and Boston and Washington, with no reservation required. If a customer was unable to make one flight, it was guaranteed that another one would be available within an hour or less. The New York Times described it as "the greatest advance in aviation since the Wright Brothers".
^Jameson W. Doig, Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority (Columbia University Press, 2001) p384
^John G. Morris, Get the Picture: A Personal History of Photojournalism (University of Chicago Press, 2002) p193; "Editor's Decision on Cuba Related; Kennedy Later Wished Times Had Printed All it Knew", New York Times, June 2, 1966
^Jim Walker, Images of Rail: Pacific Electric Red Cars (Arcadia Publishing, 2007) p87; "Big Red Car Disappears; Era In California Ends", Spartanburg (SC) Herald, April 10, 1961, p3
^"Kasai Secessionist Crowned Baluba King", Toledo Blade, April 10, 1961, p2; "Baluba Tribe Has King Again", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 10, 1961, p1
^"Ex-Albanian King Zog Dies at 65", Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, April 10, 1961, p9
^Eli Maor, June 8, 2004: Venus in Transit (Princeton University Press, 2000) p171
^"Player Wins Masters as Palmer Flubs 18th Hole", Spokane Spokesman-Review, April 11, 1961, p16
^Paul F. Boller, Presidential Diversions: Presidents at Play from George Washington to George W. Bush (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007)
^"EICHMANN'S TRIAL BEGINS", Miami News, April 11, 1961, p1
^James Waller, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing (Oxford University Press US, 2007) p99
^"RUSSIA PUTS MAN IN SPACE", Miami News, April 12, 1961, p1; Erik Gregersen, ed., Manned Spaceflight (Rosen Publishing Group, 2009); Ben Evans, Escaping the Bonds of Earth: The Fifties and the Sixties (Springer, 2009) p23
^"U.S. Military Braces for Flurry of Criminal Cases in Iraq", New York Times, July 9, 2006
^"Army Private Hanged For Raping Child, 11", St. Petersburg (FL) Independent, April 12, 1961, p2-A
^Herbert N. Foerstel, Banned in the Media: A Reference Guide to Censorship in the Press, Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and the Internet (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998) p8
^David Shayler, Space Rescue: Ensuring the Safety of Manned Spacecraft (Springer, 2009) p123; "Space Capsule Survives Last Pre-Manned Test", Milwaukee Sentinel - April 29, 1961, p2
^Robert S. Wieder, Wannabe Guide to Classical Music (RDR Books, 2002)
^Kevin G. Quinn, Sports and Their Fans: The History, Economics and Culture of the Relationship between Spectator and Sport (McFarland, 2009) p97; "Pirates, Penn Relays on Screen", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 29, 1961, p3-8
^Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, Kwame Nkrumah's Politico-Cultural Thought and Policies: An African-centered Paradigm for the Second Phase of the African Revolution (Psychology Press, 2005)
^Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, (McGraw-Hill, 1964) p264
^"A(Mays)ing Willie Ties Homer Record: Say Hey! 4 HRs, 8 RBI Help Giants Rip Braves", St. Petersburg Times, May 1, 1961, pC-1
^George F. Will, "With a Happy Eye, But...": America and the World, 1997-2002 (Simon and Schuster, 2003) p49
^Thomas Petzinger, Hard landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits that Plunged the Airlines into Chaos (Random House, 1996)