This Week in History April 22-26

PHOTO: Emmanuelle Chriqui and schoolteacher Joseph Montana celebrate Earth Day with the Environmental Media Association at Cochran Middle School on April 18, 2013 in Los Angeles.
Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images

From Earth Day to the Iran Hostage Crisis, April has seen some of the best and the worst incidents history has to offer. Take a look at what has happened in decades and centuries past for the week of April 22 to 26.

PHOTO: Emmanuelle Chriqui and schoolteacher Joseph Montana celebrate Earth Day with the Environmental Media Association at Cochran Middle School on April 18, 2013 in Los Angeles.
Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images
April 22

1970: First Earth Day Celebration

Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., planted the seeds for modern environmental initiatives when he started a grassroots movement to get people aware of the political implications of environmental protection.

The first Earth Day had thousands of participants from colleges, universities, primary and secondary schools across U.S. communities, and in Washington, D.C., 20 million peaceful protesters took to the streets to advocate for environmental reform.

Since its inception, Earth Day has spread to 192 countries around the world and is celebrated by millions of people each year through the nonprofit Earth Day Network organization.

1945: Hitler Admits Defeat

After no German defense was offered to the Russian assault at Eberswalde, Germany, Adolf Hitler admitted that the war was lost. At the time, a Soviet unit liberated a German prisoner-of-war camp, cementing Hitler's beliefs. A week after admitting defeat, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 with his mistress-turned-wife Eva Braun

PHOTO: Sirhan Sirhan, charged with the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy during a campaign stop in California, on June 13, 1968.
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April 23

1791: President James Buchanan Is Born

The future 15th president of the United States was born in Cove Gap, Pa., on April 23, 1791. Buchanan served one presidential term from 1857 to 1861. His presidency was marked by corruption and his failure to address the nation's problems pertaining to slavery.

Buchanan mistakenly thought the national slavery debate would end if he pressured the Supreme Court to rule that Congress had no right to outlaw slavery. He was apathetic to Southern states' threats of secession, which did little to propel his popularity and led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican.

Buchanan retired in Lancaster, Pa., and later, in his memoirs, blamed abolitionists for the start of the civil war. He died in 1868.

1969: Sirhan Sirhan Receives Death Penalty

On this day, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to the death penalty. Sirhan was a Palestinian immigrant who said he killed Robert Kennedy because of his support for Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Almost a year prior to Sirhan's sentence, Robert Kennedy won the California Democratic presidential primary on June 5, 1968 and was heading off stage when Sirhan shot him. Kennedy died the next day. He was 42 years old.

Sirhan's lawyers argued that he was mentally unstable at the time of the murder. Sirhan was convicted on April 17, 1969 and given the death penalty a few days later. In 1972, Sirhan's sentence was commuted to life in prison in light of the California's Supreme Court's abolishment of the death penalty.

PHOTO: An U.S. hostage is paraded by his captors in the compound of the US Embassy Tehran, Iran on Nov. 8, 1979.
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April 24

1800: Library of Congress Created

President John Adams approved a $5,000 purchase of books that he deemed could be useful to Congress. This purchase included 964 books and nine maps. When the British Army attacked Washington, the Library of Congress was one of the buildings lost.

Thomas Jefferson also advocated for the expansion of the library when he was in office, and sold his personal library to make up for the books lost in the fire. However, another fire destroyed these volumes in 1851. Congress quickly worked to replace the books that were lost, and the library was restored within a few years.

Today, the Library of Congress has more than 17 million books and millions of other artifacts, including film, audio and video recordings.

1980: Iran Hostage Rescue Mission Ends in Disaster

The Iran Hostage Crisis was going into its sixth month with no resolve in sight, prompting President Jimmy Carter on April 24, 1980, to order a military mission to save the 52 hostages.

The operation, which played out over the following 24 hours, was largely unsuccessful. Three rescue helicopters failed and another helicopter crashed into a transport plane, injuring five soldiers and killing eight.

The crisis began when Iranian mobs swarmed the U.S. embassy in Tehran out of anger for U.S. support of the shah, who was unpopular in Iran. The Ayatollah Khomeni, Iran's religious leader at the time, allowed some hostages, mainly women and minorities, to be freed, saying they were among those persecuted by the U.S. government.

The hostages were not rescued for another 270 days, well after Carter's bid for a second term failed. More than a year after their capture, the hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981.

PHOTO: Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, in 1945.
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April 25

1947: President Truman Opens the White House Bowling Alley

On this day in 1947, President Harry Truman opened the first White House bowling alley. The alley featured two lanes and was located in the West Wing. The construction of the bowling alley was meant to be a present for Truman's 63rd birthday celebration, according to Smithsonian magazine. Although Truman did not use the alley often, a group of White House employees formed a White House bowling league in 1950. These teams included everyone from household staff to Secret Service agents.

PHOTO: Former California Govermor Arnold Schwarzenegger (L) and Maria Shriver (R) arrive at After-School All-Stars Hoop Heroes Salute launch party at Katsuya on Feb. 18, 2011 in Los Angeles
Chelsea Lauren/FilmMagic/Getty Images
April 26

1984: President Reagan Visits China

President Ronald Reagan became the second president to visit China, on this day in 1984 (the first presidential visit was conducted in 1972 by Richard Nixon). On this trip, Reagan met with Chinese President Li Xiannian to discuss the growing economic relationship between the China and the United States.

Xiannian also took the opportunity to discuss his disapproval of U.S. support of nationalists in Taiwan, an issue that continues to be a point of contention today. Although Reagan impressed Chinese dignitaries with his attempts to speak Chinese, there was little progress on diplomatic issues between the two leaders.

1986: Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger Marry

Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger joined in matrimony on this day in 1986. Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was the sister of former president John F. Kennedy and part of a long lineage of Democrats. Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant, had been known to campaign for Republican candidates since being naturalized in 1983. The couple met at a celebrity tennis tournament and married almost a decade later. They had four children together: Katherine, Christina, Patrick and Christopher.

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