December 1959

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December 14, 1959: First manned flight above 100,000 feet
December 18, 1959: First U.S. communications satellite launched
December 15, 1959: First manned flight of more than 1,500 mph
December 4, 1959: U.S. rhesus monkey Sam launched into mesosphere
December 21, 1959: The last royal wedding in Iran

The following events occurred in December 1959:

December 1, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

The West German version of Sandmännchen.

December 2, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • The collapse of a dam at Malpasset released the waters of the Reyran River and killed 433 people in the French city of Fréjus. At 9:14 pm, 48 million cubic metres of water were released twelve kilometers from Fréjus.[4]
  • Kurt Franz, who had been a deputy commander of the Treblinka concentration camp, was arrested in Düsseldorf after 14 years working as a cook.[5] He was released from prison in 1993.
  • Behind the Great Wall, presented by Walter Reade, Jr. in "AromaRama", made its debut at the DeMille Theater in New York. The Italian film was edited by Reade to include various scents circulated by the theater air conditioning system. The release preceded, by three weeks, the debut of Scent of Mystery, in Smell-O-Vision.[6]

December 3, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower departed the United States for a "mission of peace and goodwill" that would last nearly three weeks, take him 22,000 miles (35,000 km) and bring him to eleven nations on three continents. The American president visited Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Greece, Tunisia, France, Spain and Morocco.[7]

December 4, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • "Sam", a rhesus monkey, was launched toward space from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 11:15 am on a suborbital flight to test an emergency escape mechanism. At 19 miles (31 km) altitude, the capsule was jettisoned and climbed further to reach 53 miles (85 km), then returned to Earth. The capsule was recovered by the USS Borie.[8]
  • Died: Hubert Marischka, 77, Austrian director

December 5, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The Syracuse University Orangemen defeated the UCLA Bruins 36–8 to finish as college football's only unbeaten and untied (10–0–0) team.[9] The following Monday, Syracuse became the national champion, finishing No. 1 in both the AP and UPI polls.[10]

December 6, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

December 7, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • Olongapo, a U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay, was turned over to Philippine control, along with its infrastructure. Its 60,000 Filipino residents became citizens of the Philippines, and the area became the municipality of Olongapo City.[13]

December 8, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Nikita Khrushchev sent a secret memo to the Soviet Politburo, outlining his proposal for a change in Soviet defense strategy, with an emphasis on building the nation's nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against invasion. The Politburo approved the proposal on December 14, followed by the CPSU Central Committee on December 26, and the announcement was made public on January 14.[14]
  • Louis G. Cowan was fired from his job as President of the CBS Television Network as a result of the quiz show scandals of 1959. Cowan had become President after the success of a show that he had created, The $64,000 Question.[15]
  • A Colombian airliner with 45 persons on board disappeared while bringing vacationers home from the San Andrés island resort.[16]

December 9, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower continued his foreign trip, being greeted by more than a million people in New Delhi before meeting the King of Afghanistan in Kabul.[17] No American President visited Afghanistan again until 2006.[18]
  • The Norwegian freighter Oslo Motorship Buffalo was turned over by high winds, on the fifth day of a storm that claimed more than 100 lives across Europe. All 20 persons on board were killed.[19]
  • Born: Mario Cantone, American actor and comedian, in Stoneham, Massachusetts

December 10, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • The People's Republic of China began a campaign urging Chinese people worldwide to "come back to the arms of the Motherland", and sent four ships to foreign ports for that purpose. Approximately 100,000 people took advantage of the offer.[20]
  • The United States withdrew its last military personnel from Iceland, where it had 5,200 people at Keflavik.[21]
  • The "Old Location Massacre" took place in Windhoek, the capital of the colony of South West Africa (now Namibia). Police killed eleven black Africans who were protesting their forced relocation to the new "township" of Katutura.[22]
  • In college basketball, Bowling Green State hit only 35.4% of its shots in a 74–68 loss to DePaul.[23] Two days later, Bowling Green lost to Bradley, 99–72. Falcons' player Billy Reed later testified that he and other players had been point shaving after being paid by Jack Molinas.[24]

December 11, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

Governor Freeman
  • The city of Albert Lea, Minnesota, was placed under martial law by order of Governor Orville Freeman, as 80 National Guardsmen occupied the town to intervene in a strike at the Wilson Packing Company. A federal court ruled twelve days later that Governor Freeman had overstepped his authority, holding that "military rule cannot be imposed upon a community simply because it may seem to be more expedient than to enforce the law by using the National Guard to aid the local civil authorities".[25]
  • U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Allen Dulles received a top secret memo from J.C. King, Director of the agency's Western Hemisphere Division, recommending that "thorough consideration be given the elimination of Fidel Castro". The first of many CIA-sponsored assassination attempts, none of them successful, took place the next July.[26]
  • Born: Lisa Gastineau, American socialite and reality show star, as Lisa D'Amico in Rockland County, New York

December 12, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The first elections in Nigeria took place in advance of the West African nation's independence from Britain. Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960.[27]
  • ASECNA, which regulates air traffic control in Africa, was created by a treaty signed in Saint-Louis, Senegal. The acronym stands for Agence pour la SECurité de la NAvigation aérienne en Afrique et à Madagascar.[28]
  • UNCOPUOS, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, was established.[29]
  • The test launch of an unmanned Titan rocket from Cape Canaveral failed four seconds after ignition, with the rocket collapsing on the launch pad and exploding. Nobody was injured, but the film clip of the launch remains a feature in documentaries about the American space program.[30]
  • Paraguayan forces drove off an attempted invasion by rebels, who crossed over from Argentina to attack at Pilar and Encarnacion.[31]

December 13, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • The Wizard of Oz was telecast for the second time on CBS Television. This telecast was such a success that it spurred CBS to make the film an annual television tradition. The film had been shown only once before on TV (November 3, 1956).[33]
  • Two apartment houses in a suburb of Dortmund, West Germany were levelled by an explosion at 3:12 a.m.. Of 34 people in the Aplerbeck buildings, 26 were killed.[34]
  • Born: Johnny Whitaker, American actor known for portraying "Jody" in Family Affair; in Van Nuys, California

December 14, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • Test pilot Joe Jordan became the first human being to reach an altitude of more than 100,000 feet, flying an F-104 Starfighter to an altitude of 103,395 feet (31,515 m).[35]
  • The Heritage Range, southern portion of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica, was seen for the first time, on a reconnaissance flight originating from Byrd Station.[36]
  • The Strategic Rocket Forces was created in the Soviet Union as a separate branch of the military, with responsibility over all Soviet ballistic missiles. The SRF is now administered by the Russian Federation.[37]
  • Gus Hall was elected the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States, at the CPUSA's 17th National Convention, held in Harlem.[38] Hall led the CPUSA until his death in 2000.

December 15, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • John L. Lewis announced that he would retire as President of the United Mine Workers of America, after 40 years.[39]
  • Major Joseph W. Rogers became the first person to travel faster than 1,500 miles per hour, and almost reached 2,500 kilometers per hour, breaking the world speed record at 1,525.96 mph (2,455.79 km/h), in an F-106 Delta Dart jet fighter.[40]

December 16, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]


December 17, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]


December 18, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • Abd al-Karim Qasim, Iraq's leader, declared that the Khūzestān Province of Iran "was part of Iraqi territory". Tensions over the disputed territory finally triggered the Iran–Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.[47]
  • Project SCORE launched the first communications satellite from Cape Canaveral. Newsmen did not learn until two hours after the missile launch that it was putting a payload in orbit. A recording of President Eisenhower saying "Peace on Earth, good will toward men", was relayed and returned from the satellite.[48]
  • DESY, Germany's particle physics research center (Deutsches Elektronen SYnchroton), was founded in Hamburg.[49]
  • Filming began for the infamous "shower scene" from Psycho and continued for five days.[50]

December 19, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

Scorpion, lost in 1968
Scorpion, lost in 1944
  • The nuclear submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was launched from Groton. Elizabeth Morrison, whose father had died in the 1944 loss, with all hands, of the previous submarine USS Scorpion (SS-278), christened the sub. The new USS Scorpion was lost with all hands on May 22, 1968.[51]
  • Walker family murders: In Osprey, Florida, Christine Walker, her husband Cliff, and her two children were murdered. The case has never been solved.[52][53]
  • Born: Waise Lee, Chinese action film star, in Hong Kong
  • Died: Walter Williams, 105, who claimed to have been the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War, died in Houston, and was eulogized nationwide.[54] However, not everyone believed that Williams was 117 or that he had served in the Confederate army. In September 1960, researcher Lowell K. Bridwell would concluded that there was no evidence to prove Williams's claimed service or his 1842 birthdate. In 1991, researcher William Marvel, writing for the magazine Blue and Gray, would determine from census records that Williams had been born in 1854 and was only ten years old when the war ended.[55]

December 20, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Nine people were killed and 21 injured when a cattle truck struck a Greyhound Scenicruiser bus near Tucson, Arizona. The force of the impact was severe enough that calves were hurled into the bus.[56]

December 21, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

December 22, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

December 23, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • At Stanford University, heart surgeon Dr. Richard Lower, with the assistance of Dr. Norman Shumway, performed a successful heart transplant of one dog's heart into the heart of another dog. Previously, the longest that a host animal had survived with a transplanted heart had been 7 12 hours. The mongrel survived for eight days before being painlessly put to sleep on December 31 because of an infection. One of the breakthroughs made by Dr. Lower was the prevention of venous clots by leaving part of the original heart auricles in the host.[61]
  • Died: Lord Halifax (Edward Wood), 78, Viceroy of India 1926–1929 and British Foreign Secretary 1938–1940

December 24, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

December 25, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • In Seoul, South Korea, General Carter B. Magruder, Commander of the United Nations Forces, warned that "North Korean forces have large caliber artillery for which atomic warheads might be provided." General Magruder did not elaborate further on the North Korean "atomic cannon".[65]
  • Born: Michael P. Anderson, American shuttle astronaut, in Plattsburgh, New York. In 2003, he was killed in the last mission of the shuttle Columbia.

December 26, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Twelve days after it was first seen by humans, the Heritage Range in Antarctica was visited for the first time, by a team led by Campbell Craddock, Edward C. Thiel, and Edwin S. Robinson, who landed near Pipe Peak.[66]
  • Nelson Rockefeller announced that he would not seek the Republican Party nomination for 1960.[67]

December 27, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

December 28, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • In Jersey City, New Jersey, 69-year-old Matthew Jaksch was robbed by two men as he was going to the bank. Taken in the robbery were two relics from the Crucifixion, which had been given to Jaksch's Austrian ancestors by Pope Benedict XIV: a piece of a thorn from the Crown of Thorns ($40,000) and a splinter from the Cross ($30,000).[69]
  • Tom Landry, defensive coach for the Giants, was signed as the new coach of the Dallas Rangers, which were seeking admission as the NFL's 13th team. Landry coached the renamed Dallas Cowboys for 29 seasons.[70]
  • The city of Lawndale, California, was incorporated, following a December 1 referendum where the vote in favor of becoming a city was 1,892 to 572. Chester Brown was sworn in as the first mayor at a ceremony at Will Rogers School.[71]
  • Died:

December 29, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

Professor Feynman

December 30, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

Senator Humphrey
The first nuclear missile sub

December 31, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Charles Maillefer patented the barrier screw, which increased the quality of plastic products manufactured through the process of extrusion.[78]
  • Michel Debré, the Prime Minister of France, proposed legislation that ended the "school war" (guerre scolaire) between France's public and private (mostly Catholic) schools. Under the "loi-Debré" that passed, the church schools could receive state support provided that they entered into an "association contract" with the government setting academic standards.[79]
  • Born:


  1. ^ Jeff Rubin, Antarctica (Lonely Planet, 2008), p339
  2. ^ "Humble Pie", by Joseph Nocera, in Texas Monthly (January 1986), pp 68, 104
  3. ^ [1]; "Plane Hits Mountain in Snowstorm", Oakland Tribune, December 1, 1959, p1
  4. ^ Jean-Michel Hervouet, Hydrodynamics of Free Surface Flows: Modelling With the Finite Element Method (Wiley, 2007.), pp281–282; "The Valley of Death", Time Magazine, December 14, 1959
  5. ^ Dick de Mildt, In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide in the Reflection of their Post-war Prosecution in West Germany (Martinus Nijhoff, 1996), p256
  6. ^ Avery N. Gilbert, What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life (Crown Publishers, 2008), pp159–162
  7. ^ "Chronology", The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1961, pp150–151
  8. ^ Colin Burgess and Chris Dubbs, Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle (Springer, 2007) pp172–176; "Sam Got Down", Time Magazine, December 14, 1959
  9. ^ "SYRACUSE DRUBS UCLA, 36–8" The Post-Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.), December 6, 1959, p1
  10. ^ "Nation Votes Syracuse University Best On Gridiron", Syracuse Herald Journal, December 8, 1959, p.33
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Pro Football Hall of Fame – The Beginning", by Chris Willis, The Coffin Corner (October 1994)
  13. ^ Charles W. Davis, Subic Bay Travel & Diving Guide (Encyclea Publications, 2007) pp32–33
  14. ^ Matthew Evangelista, Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2002), pp100–101
  15. ^ "CBS-TV Chief Resigns in Quiz Row", Oakland Tribune, December 8, 1959, p1; Gary R. Edgerton, The Columbia History of American Television (Columbia University Press, 2007), p201
  16. ^ Accident Database,
  17. ^ "Ike Mobbed by Million In New Delhi Greeting", Oakland Tribune, December 9, 1959, p1
  18. ^ Mohammad Khalid Ma'aroof, Afghanistan in World Politics: A Study of Afghan-U.S. Relations (Advent Books, 1987), pp59–60
  19. ^ "Gale Turns Ship Over; Toll Grows", Oakland Tribune, December 9, 1959, p1
  20. ^ Lynn Pan, Sons of the Yellow Emperor: A History of the Chinese Diaspora (Kodansha International, 1994), pp216–217
  21. ^ "Iceland", in An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Conflict and Conflict Resolution, 1945–1996 (Greenwood Press, 1998), p299; "ICELAND: Pulling Out", Time Magazine, December 21, 1959
  22. ^ Hennig Melber, "Namibia, land of the brave", in Rethinking Resistance: Revolt and Violence in African History (Brill, 2003), p318
  23. ^ "DePaul Tops B.G. Five; Princes Win", Marysville (Ohio) Journal-Tribune, December 11, 1959, p16
  24. ^ Charles Rosen, The Wizard of Odds: How Jack Molinas Almost Destroyed the Game of Basketball (Seven Stories Press, 2001), p274
  25. ^ "Martial Law Ordered in Meat Strike", Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1959, p1; "Court Ends Wilson Closure", December 23, 1959, p4
  26. ^ Lars Schoultz, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic: The United States and the Cuban Revolution (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), p192
  27. ^ Kalu Ezera, Constitutional Developments in Nigeria (Cambridge University Press, 1964)
  28. ^ Federico N. Videla Escalada, Aeronautical Law (Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1979), p94
  29. ^ Niklas Reinke, The History of German Space Policy: Ideas, Influences, and Interdependence 1923–2002 (Beauchesne, 2007), p52
  30. ^ Mike Gruntman, Blazing the Trail: The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2004), pp247–48
  31. ^ "Invasion of Paraguay Repulsed", Oakland Tribune, December 12, 1959, p1
  32. ^ Farid Mirbagheri, Cyprus and International Peacemaking (Routledge, 1998), p17
  33. ^ Michael Sragow, Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon Books, 2008), p312
  34. ^ The Post-Standard (Syracuse), December 14, 1959, p1
  35. ^ James P. Harrison, Mastering the Sky: A History of Aviation From Ancient Times to the Present (Greenhill, 2000), p98; "Pilot Tells of Setting New Altitude Mark", Oakland Tribune, December 14, 1959, p1
  36. ^ Gerald F. Webers, et al., Geology and Paleontology of the Ellsworth Mountains, West Antarctica (Geological Society of America, 1992), p. xi
  37. ^ Norman Polmar and Kenneth J. Moore, Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines (Brassey's, 2004), p167
  38. ^ "U.S. Communists Elect A Leader", Reno Evening Gazette, December 14, 1959, p1
  39. ^ Melvyn Dubofsky and Warren Van Tine, John L. Lewis: A Biography (University of Illinois Press, 1986), p368
  40. ^ "U.S. Jet Sets 1,520.9-M.P.H. Speed Record", Oakland Tribune, December 16, 1959, p1; David Donald, Convair F-106 Delta Dart: The Ultimate Interceptor (Airtime Publishing Inc, 2003), p232
  41. ^ Encyclopedia of Chicago online
  42. ^ Curt Johnson, The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone (Da Capo Press, 1998), p352; "Touhy Is Killed In Ambush", Reno Gazette, December 17, 1959, p1; "Death on the Steps", Time Magazine, December 28, 1959
  43. ^ Peter J. Herzog, Japan's Pseudo-democracy(Routledge, 1993), p236
  44. ^ China Airlines website
  45. ^ Gary Fishgall, Gregory Peck: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 2002), p211
  46. ^ Ross Davies, Bruno Sammartino (Rosen, 2001), p23
  47. ^ Farhang Rajaee, The Iran–Iraq War (University Press of Florida, 1993), pp. 111–112
  48. ^ "Atlas is Fired on Full Test", Bridgeport Telegram, December 19, 1959, p. 1
  49. ^ DESY website
  50. ^
  51. ^ Edward Offley, Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon: The Untold Story of the USS Scorpion (Basic Books, 2007), pp55–56
  52. ^ "Osprey Family Wiped Out", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 21, 1959, p1
  53. ^ Doig, Matthew (2005-12-18). "The Walker Murders Unsolved". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  54. ^ "Death Takes Last Civil War Veteran", Oakland Tribune, December 20, 1959, p1
  55. ^ "Fake War Stories Exposed", The Weekly Standard, November 13, 2005
  56. ^ Carlton Jackson, Hounds of the Road: A History of the Greyhound Bus Company (Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1984), p120
  57. ^ "Shah Weds Farah In Moslem Rites", Oakland Tribune, December 21, 1959, p1
  58. ^ Bruce Pegg, Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry (Routledge, 2002), p117
  59. ^ "Ike Pledges U.S. Troop Pullout for Morocco", Oakland Tribune, December 22, 1959, p1
  60. ^ "President, King Mohammed To Discuss Morocco Bases", Stars and Stripes (Pacific), December 22, 1959, p4
  61. ^ "Dog With Heart Transplant Still Alive At Stanford", Tucson Daily Citizen, December 31, 1959, p2; "Dog With Transplanted Heart Killed", Citizen, January 1, 1960, p7
  62. ^ George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Perennial, 2005), pp151–152
  63. ^ Tshilemalema Mukenge, Culture and Customs of the Congo (Greenwood Press, 2002), p49
  64. ^ Michael E. Staub, Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish liberalism in Postwar America (Columbia University Press, 2002), pp62–63
  65. ^ "General Warns on Korea A-Cannon", Oakland Tribune, December 25, 1959, p1
  66. ^ Webers, at p. xi
  67. ^ "Rockefeller Quits Presidential Race", Oakland Tribune, December 26, 1959, p1
  68. ^ "Colts Trounce Giants in Title Game, 31–16", The Post-Standard (Syracuse), December 28, 1959, p12
  69. ^ "Relics of Christ's Crucifixion Valued at $90,000 Stolen", Oakland Tribune, December 29, 1959, p1
  70. ^ "Landry Signed By Dallas Club", Bridgeport (Ct.) Telegram, December 29, 1959, p24
  71. ^ James Osborne, Images of America: Lawndale (Arcadia Publishing, 2006) p99
  72. ^ Linda Williams and Wade Adams, Nanotechnology Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2007), p10; Transcript
  73. ^ Herbert F. York, Arms and the Physicist (American Institute of Physics, 1995), p93
  74. ^ Michael Eury, The Justice League Companion (TwoMorrows, 2005), p12
  75. ^ "Humphrey in Race for Presidency", Oakland Tribune, December 30, 1959, p1
  76. ^ "Polaris-Firing Nuclear Sub Washington Commissioned", Oakland Tribune, December 30, 1959, p1
  77. ^ Amos J. Peaslee and Dorothy Peaslee Xydis, International Governmental Organizations: Constitutional Documents (Nijhoff, 1974), p815
  78. ^ Chris Rauwendaal, Polymer Extrusion (Hanser Gardner Publications, 2001), p478
  79. ^ "Catholic Schooling in France: Understanding the 'La Guerre Scolaire'", Fr. Hugues Derycke, in International Handbook of Catholic Education (Springer, 2007), pp331–332