On this day, May 31 …
2014: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, is freed by the Taliban in exchange for five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Bergdahl, who’d gone missing in June 2009, would later plead guilty to endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan.)
Also on this day:
- 1859: The Big Ben clock tower in London goes into operation, chiming for the first time.
- 1889: Some 2,200 people in Johnstown, Pa., perish when the South Fork Dam collapses, sending 20 million tons of water rushing through the town.
- 1879: The original Madison Square Garden opens at Madison Square in New York City.
- 1949: Former State Department official and accused spy Alger Hiss goes on trial in New York, charged with perjury. (The jury would deadlock, but Hiss was convicted in a second trial.)
- 1990: “Seinfeld” begins airing as a regular series on NBC.
- 2003: A police officer in the small town of Murphy, N.C., apprehends Eric Rudolph, the suspect in a deadly bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Rudolph, who was also charged in three other bombing incidents in 1997 and 1998, had evaded authorities for five years.
- 2005: Former FBI official W. Mark Felt steps forward as “Deep Throat,” the secret Washington Post source during the Watergate scandal.
- 2009: Dr. George Tiller, a provider of late-term abortions, is fatally shot in a Wichita, Kan., church. (Gunman Scott Roeder would later be convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.)
- 2018: The Trump administration imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe, Mexico and Canada in a move that draws immediate vows of retaliation.