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The Year 1969, in 5 Facts

Back in 1969, the global population was a comfortable 3.6 billion — a long way from today’s 8.1 billion. In the United States, 202 million people (versus some 341 million today) were going about their business. Glue sticks had just been invented and Nutter Butter was first put on sale. “Michael” and “Lisa” were the most popular baby names, the movie Oliver! won Best Picture at the 41st Academy Awards, and the New York Mets provided one of baseball’s greatest upsets when they won the World Series four games to one against the Baltimore Orioles. 

Some 650 million people watched the moon landing

n July 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins traveled to space on the first crewed mission to land on the moon. Back on Earth, meanwhile, an estimated 650 million people worldwide — about a fifth of the global population — were glued to their television sets to watch events unfold. The moon landing itself was broadcast live to the world on July 21 as the images were beamed back to Earth. Engineers at three tracking stations — one in the U.S. and two in Australia — busily converted the raw feed into a format compatible with terrestrial broadcasts, providing arguably the most historic TV broadcast in history. 

Woodstock and the final performance of The Beatles

The Beatles played their last official live concert on August 29, 1966, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, but it wasn’t their final public performance. That came in January 1969, when the Fab Four played their now-iconic rooftop concert on top of Apple Studios in London. The impromptu gig was the last show of their career, and later that year they released their 11th and final studio album, Abbey Road. While one era was coming to an end, across the pond a plethora of bands were either breaking into the big time or solidifying their star status at one of the most famous music festivals in history: Woodstock. More than 400,000 people showed up to the event, many without tickets, and the whole thing looked destined to descend into chaos, especially with a lack of security in place and heavy rainfall that turned the festival site into mud. The audience didn’t seem to mind, however, and they ended up witnessing now-legendary performances from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane. 

Nixon, his “silent majority” speech, and the Vietnam War

By the end of 1969, about 45,000 Americans had been killed in action in Vietnam. Criticism of the war was growing stronger, culminating in the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, a massive nationwide demonstration that took place on October 15. With an estimated 2 million participants, it remains one of the largest protests in American history. In response, President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on November 3. He called for national solidarity for the war effort, famously asking the “great silent majority” of the American people for their support as he worked for “peace with honor” in Vietnam. He also outlined a program of “Vietnamization” that would see a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and hand over operations to South Vietnamese forces. Despite widespread anti-war feelings, polls taken after the speech found that 77% of the American public was in support of Nixon’s policy in Vietnam. A month after the speech, the U.S. conducted its first draft lottery to determine who would be called up for military service in Vietnam. 

First Boeing 747 flight ushers in age of the jumbo jet

On February 9, 1969, the Boeing 747 made its first flight, heralding a new age of the wide-body jet. After almost a year of further testing, the 747 flew its first commercial flight on January 22, 1970, carrying 335 passengers and 20 crew members from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Heathrow Airport in London. The commercial jet opened up the airways to middle-class passengers, and soon airports around the world were adapting and growing in size to accommodate the 747 and the hordes of passengers each flight could carry. Airport boarding lounges, customs and immigration areas, and ground crews all had to be expanded and upgraded to facilitate the dawn of the jumbo jet. 

Project Blue Book Left 701 UFO Cases as “Unidentified”

In the 1940s, a spate of UFO sightings across the U.S. — many of which are now considered the archetypes of alien encounters — resulted in a U.S. Air Force investigation called Operation Sign in 1948. This operation expanded and, in 1952, Project Blue Book was born. It went on to become the federal government’s longest-running UFO investigation, with reports compiled on 12,618 UFO sightings. When Project Blue Book came to an end in 1969, the vast majority of these strange events were officially marked as “identified,” and their causes attributed to known astronomical, atmospheric, or artificial (human-made) phenomena. Not everything was neatly cleared away, however, as 701 sightings remained officially “unidentified,” providing plenty of fodder for ufologists and budding Fox Mulders. 

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And women couldn’t have credit cards or take out loans in their names. They also couldn’t make decisions about their reproductive health without their husbands either.

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Right. And before that they couldn't vote and even earlier they couldn't go to college. Interesting how things tend to get better with the passage of time. When we know better, we do better. The future remains bright. For all of us.

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I guess most of us weren't aware of '69 even if we were alive. When the moon landing was going down, I was sneaking into the Tiger (GA) Drive-In with a buddy and some girls from Lake Rabun. My priorities were skewed. But I was only 17.

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