Do You Remember All of the Events in “We Didn't Start the Fire?”

By: Gavin Thagard
Image: Corpus Christi Caller-Times / Associated Press via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

If one thing about history is true, it's that momentous events are always happening, no matter the era. Billy Joel proves that in his hit song "We Didn't Start the Fire," which details 117 events that played out between Joel's birth year in 1949 and the song's release in 1989. Have you heard the song, and do you know all of the events mentioned in it?

"We Didn't Start the Fire" received a lot of praise when it was released as part of the album "Storm Front," making its way to No. 1 in the charts and earning a nomination for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. But the song's impact went well beyond the praise laid upon it. The song became a symbol for a generation who lived under the pressure of the Cold War while roaming the country as part of the counterculture movement. 

Here's your chance to see how well you identify with this generation and the historical experiences they went through. From the after-effects of WWII through the end of the Reagan years, you'll have to remember a variety of topics. 

Get started and see how long you can hold your feet next to the fire. 

Harry S. Truman identified the next major concern following WWII as the spread of communism, which was particularly prevalent in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. To combat this, Truman issued the Truman Doctrine, giving any country facing suppressive regimes access to U.S. aid.

The Korean War started on June 25, 1950, when soldiers from North Korea crossed the 38th parallel. It took less than a month for the United States to enter the war on the side of South Korea, beginning the first military engagement of the Cold War.

The boxing match between "Sugar" Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta was named after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre that took place in Chicago in 1929, when members of the North Side Gang were slain by men dressed as police officers. The fight received the name because it took place in Chicago on February 14.

The musical talents of Liberace started at a young age when he was considered a child prodigy on the piano. He would go on to become a well-rounded performer, earning the nickname "Mr. Showmanship."

After the death of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin was able to eliminate his political rivals to seize full power in Russia, making him the dictator of the Soviet Union. During his reign, he transformed the country into an industrial powerhouse but at the cost of many lives.

Songwriters Max Freedman and James Myers wrote the song "Rock Around the Clock" in 1952. However, the song didn't become a cultural phenomenon until it was performed in 1954 by Bill Haley & His Comets.

James Dean starred in "Rebel Without a Cause" beside actor Sal Mineo, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as John "Plato" Crawford. Like Dean, Mineo would also die an early death when he was stabbed in West Hollywood.

The crisis at the Suez Canal was the result of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizing the canal for Egypt. The move angered the Israelis, who were backed by French and British forces.

Launched on October 4, 1957, Sputnik orbited the earth several times a day during its venture into outer space. It wasn't until January of the next year that the satellite returned to earth, deteriorating in the atmosphere.

Before the move to California, the Dodgers won a single World Series while they were located in Brooklyn. That 1955 championship team had Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball.

Before dying during a plane crash in 1959, Buddy Holly was an instrumental part of rock 'n' roll's development. Some of Holly's major hits included songs like "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue."

Alfred Hitchcock added an entire new level of suspense to film when he started making movies. "Psycho" might be the best example of his ability to craft suspense, but he also created thriller films such as "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest."

By 1961, the United States realized Fidel Castro, the dictator in Cuba, was a threat to U.S. security. In an effort to remove him from power, the CIA trained Cubans who had fled the country and sent them on an invasion that turned into a complete failure.

Known for his speed and agility, Floyd Patterson is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. However, Sonny Liston proved to be his weakness, knocking him out not once but twice in the first round.

Prior to becoming president, John F. Kennedy published a book titled "Profiles in Courage," which details eight short biographies from senators who went across party lines to do what was right for the country. The book earned a Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

The 1965 Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut provided married couples with the right to use birth control in private. Even with the ruling, 26 states refused to allow unmarried women access to it.

While living in France during WWI, Ho Chi Minh tuned into the Bolshevik Revolution taking place in Russia, where he would later travel. His travels eventually carried him back to Vietnam, where he founded the Viet Minh in 1941.

Drawing over 400,000 young Americans, Woodstock promoted itself as an event filled with peace and music. While there were no acts of violence, two people did die: one from a drug overdose and one when he was run over by a tractor while asleep.

On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon. Armstrong was followed onto the moon soon after by Buzz Aldrin. The two men completed President John F. Kennedy's 1961 proclamation that the U.S. would land a person on the moon by the end of the '60s.

Richard Nixon remains the only U.S. president to ever resign from office when he left in 1974. He was replaced by Gerald Ford, who finished out Nixon's term before losing the next election to Jimmy Carter.

Though it has roots that can be traced back to garage bands in the '60s, the first major punk rock scene began in New York in the mid-70s. The club CBGB in the Bowery District became the center of the movement.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter brought together Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David. The Camp David Accords that resulted initiated peace between the two nations for a time, though it wouldn't last.

Pat Sajak's career began as a news host on a radio station in Chicago, where he worked the night shift. He continued to work in radio for years until he was hired onto "Wheel of Fortune" in 1981.

Though the disease wasn't known by the name AIDS at the time, cases of the disease were first reported in 1981 in the United States. The disease primarily affected minority and gay communities, which was a major reason it was ignored by politicians.

The crack epidemic in the 1980s caused soaring crime rates across the United States, particularly in inner cities. The epidemic resulted in policies supported by the Ronald Raegan administration that were tough on crime and drugs.

Support for the Vietnam War remained relatively high throughout the '60s, as Americans feared that if Vietnam fell to communism then so would the rest of Asia. It wasn't until news outlets began depicting the atrocities of the war that U.S. support faded.

New Jersey wasn't the only state affected by the syringe tide, as illegally dumped medical waste also found its way to shores across New York and Connecticut. The event played a major role in the support for environmentalism that arose by the end of the '80s.

The music for "South Pacific" was created by the famous duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. The two creators also worked on several other musicals together, including "Carousel," "Oklahoma!" and "The Sound of Music."

The author of "The Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger, was a veteran of WWII, where he served in Europe during the advancement on Berlin. The theme of alienation depicted in the book is often thought to have been influenced by his time at war.

Before its downfall, Studebaker had a history of manufacturing that dated back to the company's founding in 1852. Obviously, there weren't motorized vehicles at the time, but the company did produce wagons used by farmers and miners.

Prior to his death from AIDS, Roy Cohn served as the advisor and lawyer to future Republican president Donald Trump. The end of his life and death are depicted in Tony Kushner's famous play "Angels in America."

Born on January 8, 1935, Elvis Presley had a twin brother who was born shortly before him. However, his brother, Jesse, was stillborn, leaving Elvis an only child throughout his life.

Buses in Alabama, along with other parts of the South, held tight segregated seating requirements, forcing African Americans to the back of the bus. Boycotts began in response to these requirements after the arrest of Rosa Parks, who refused to abide.

Built in Anaheim, California, the original Disneyland was built on 160 acres to entertain fans, adults and children alike. Though success would come, the first day was a disaster after thousands of counterfeited invitations were given out.

Joe DiMaggio played his entire MLB career with the New York Yankees from 1936 until 1951, though he did miss three years to serve in the military during WWII. The winner of nine World Series, his most famous accomplishment was his 56-game hitting streak that set an MLB record.

For many Americans post WWII, the United States was viewed more as a country to explore than to settle in. Jack Kerouac decided to share his travels around the country in his novel "On the Road," which became a defining work of the Beat Generation.

Two monkeys, Able and Baker, were sent into space aboard Jupiter AM-18, becoming the first official American astronauts. Both monkeys returned safely to earth after a 16-minute mission that carried them over 300 miles into the air.

First marketed by Wham-O in 1958, Hula-Hoops were finally patented in 1963 by Arthur Melin, a co-founder of the company. The toy was so popular that around 25 million were sold in the first four months.

Following WWII, Berlin was divided between communist Russia in the East and the democratic states in the West, becoming a symbolic representation of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was erected to keep East Germans from fleeing to West Germany due to economic woes.

The increased popularity of rock 'n' roll in the 1980s can largely be credited to the rise of MTV, which went on air in 1981. The television station was created to promote music and also incorporated music videos that launched the careers of many bands.

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