Air France Flight 139 was carrying 246 passengers and 12 crew on a routine flight from Athens to Paris when it was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells. They took the flight to Benghazi in Libya, where it refueled (and a single hostage was released) and then on to Entebbe Airport in Uganda the following day – where Idi Amin’s regime was only too happy to give them aid and support. The hostages were moved from the plane to the airport terminal, and in the following week, more than half the remaining hostages were released, leaving 106, most of them Israelis (and a majority of the crew, who would not abandon their responsibility to the hostages).
As diplomatic talks stalled, and Amin permitted additional terrorists to join the hijackers, the Israeli government decided to take decisive action. On July 4, Israeli forces raided the terminal, freeing the majority of the remaining hostages. Four hostages died (including one who had been released and was then in a Ugandan hospital), and one of the Israeli soldiers was also slain. Seven of the eight hijackers and 45 Ugandan soldiers were also killed. The crew members of the Air France flight, who had remained at their posts throughout it all, were decorated as heroes in France.
It is one of few truly great unsolved crimes. The facts are as follows:
The man who gave his name as ‘Dan Cooper’ (the ‘DB’ monicker is based on later errors in the media, but has become more widely known) boarded Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle. Using the threat of a bomb in his suitcase, Cooper hijacked the plane shortly after take off.
It landed in Seattle, where Cooper released the passengers unharmed in exchange for his ransom demands being met: $200,000 in unmarked bills and 4 parachutes. After taking on these items, Cooper directed the crew to take off once more, and fly to Reno, Nevada.
During this second flight, he sent all the crew to the cockpit, and parachuted from the plane with the money. He was never apprehended, and although approximately $5000 was later found in the area that he parachuted into, nothing else ever was. Cooper has never been identified, and his true name may never be known. The FBI has stated that it believes him to have died upon landing, and decayed to nothing before he could be found. Of course, they also claimed that he was rude and abusive in conversations with them, which is at variance with the recollections of the crew members who heard these conversations, so it’s possible that the Bureau may be engaged in a certain amount of ass-covering.
A British explorer who, along with his fellow explorer Richard Burton, was among those to search for the source of the Nile, John Hanning Speke was the lucky one who actually found it. In 1856, he and Burton had journeyed to East Africa and worked their way inland looking for evidence of the Nile. They were the first Europeans to sight Lake Tanganyika, but that Burton fell ill.
Pressing on without him, Speke was the first European to find Lake Victoria, and named it in honour of his Queen. He returned to England before Burton, and became famous on the strength of this discovery, but history remembers Burton better (as he was a better writer, a more daring explorer, and a more shameless self-publicist). Speke is remembered in Uganda, one of the countries that the lake’s shores touch, with a mountain named after him.