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was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1954th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 954th year of the 2nd millennium, the 54th year of the 20th century, and the 5th year of the 1950s decade.
- January 1 – The Soviet Union ceases to demand war reparations from West Germany.
- January 7 – Georgetown-IBM experiment: The first public demonstration of a machine translation system, is held in New York at the head office of IBM.
- January 10 – BOAC Flight 781, a de Havilland Comet jet plane, disintegrates in mid-air due to metal fatigue and crashes in the Merranean near Elba. All 35 people on board are killed.
- January 12 – Avalanches in Austria kill more than 200.
- January 14 – Marilyn Monroe marries baseball player Joe DiMaggio at San Francisco City Hall.
- January 14 – The Hudson Motor Car Company merges with Nash-Kelvinator Corporation forming the American Motors Corporation.
- January 15 – Mau Mau leader Waruhiu Itote is captured in Kenya.
- January 17 – In Yugoslavia, Milovan Đilas, one of the leading members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, is relieved of his duties.
- January 20 – The US-based National Negro Network is established with forty-six member radio stations.
- January 21 – The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched in Groton, Connecticut, by First Lady of the United States Mamie Eisenhower.
- January 25 – The foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union meet at the Berlin Conference.
- April – Bill Haley & His Comets record "Rock Around the Clock", thus starting the rock and roll craze.
- April 1
- April 3 – Vladimir Petrov defects from the Soviet Union and asks for political asylum in Australia.
- April 4 – The legendary symphony conductor Arturo Toscanini experiences a lapse of memory during a concert. At this concert's end, his retirement is announced, and Toscanini never conducts in public again.
- April 7 – Dwight D. Eisenhower gives his "domino theory" speech during a news conference.
- April 8 – A Royal Canadian Air Force Canadair Harvard collides with a Trans-Canada Air Lines Canadair North Star over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, killing 37 people.
- April 11
- This day is denoted as the most boring day in the 20th century by True Knowledge, an answer engine developed by William Tunstall-Pedoe. No significant newsworthy events, births, or deaths are known to have happened on this day.
- In a general election in Belgium the dominant Christian Social Party won 95 of the 212 seats in the Chamber of Representatives and 49 of the 106 seats in the Senate. The government led by Jean Van Houtte lost their majority in parliament. The two other main parties, the Socialist and Liberal Party, subsequently formed a rare "purple" government with Achille Van Acker as Prime Minister.
- April 14
- April 16 – Vice President Richard Nixon announces that the United States may be “putting our own boys in Indochina regardless of Allied support”.
- April 22 – Senator Joseph McCarthy begins hearings investigating the United States Army for being "soft" on Communism.
- April 26
- April 28 – U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles accuses Communist China of sending combat troops to Indo-China to train the Viet Minh guerrillas.
- May 1 – The Unification Church is founded in South Korea.
- May 4 – General Alfredo Stroessner deposes Federico Chávez in a coup d'état in Paraguay; from August 15 he will hold the office of President until 1989.
- May 6 – Roger Bannister runs the first sub-four minute mile, in Oxford, England.
- May 7 – Vietnam War (run-up): The Battle of Dien Bien Phu ends in a French defeat (the battle began on March 13).
- May 8 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is formed in Manila, Philippines.
- May 11 – U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declares that Indochina is important but not essential to the security of Southeast Asia, thus ending any prospect of American intervention on the side of France.
- May 14
- May 15 – The Latin Union (Unión Latina) is created by the Convention of Madrid. Its member countries use the five Romance languages: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. It will suspend operations in 2012.
- May 17
- May 20 – Chiang Kai-shek is reelected as the president of the Republic of China by the National Assembly.
- May 22 – The common Nordic Labour Market act is signed.
- May 26 – A fire on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Bennington off Narragansett Bay, Massachusetts, kills 103 sailors.
- May 29
- July 1
- The Common Nordic Labor Market Act comes into effect.
- The United States officially begins using the international unit of the nautical mile, equal to 6,076.11549 ft. or 1,852 meters.
- July 4
- July 10 – Peter Thomson becomes the first Australian to win the British Open Golf Championship.
- July 15
- July 19 – Release of Elvis Presley's first single, "That's All Right", by Sun Records (recorded July 5 in Memphis, Tennessee).
- July 21 – First Indochina War: The Geneva Conference sends French forces to the south, and Vietnamese forces to the north, of a ceasefire line, and calls for elections to decide the government for all of Vietnam by July 1956. Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement leads to the establishment de facto of regimes of North Vietnam and South Vietnam, and the Vietnam War.
- July 31 – Italian mountaineers Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni become the first successfully to reach the summit of the Himalayan peak K2.
- September 3 – The last 'new' episode of The Lone Ranger radio program is broadcast, after 2,956 episodes over a period of 21 years. Reruns of old episodes continue to be transmitted.
- September 6 – The SEATO treaty is signed in Manila, Philippines.
- September 8 – The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) is established in Bangkok, Thailand.
- September 9 – The 6.7 Mw Chlef earthquake shakes northern Algeria with a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme). The shock destroyed Orléansville, left 1,243–1,409 dead, and 5,000 injured.
- September 9 – Cynthia Marie Craft (Doyle) was born.
- September 11 – The Miss America Pageant is broadcast on television for the first time.
- September 14
- September 15 – Black Wednesday in air travel: severe delays to flights due to bad weather along the East Coast of the United States.
- September 17 – William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies is published in London.
- September 25 – Footscray Football Club win their first Australian Football League Grand Final.
- September 26 – The Japanese ferry Tōya Maru sinks during a typhoon in the Tsugaru Strait. More than 1,100 people are killed. Seven other ships are wrecked and at least nine others seriously damaged.
- September 30 – The USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world, is commissioned into the U.S. Navy.
- November 1 – The FLN attacks representative and public buildings of the French colonial power.
- November 2
- November 3 – The first Godzilla film premieres in Tokyo.
- November 5 – Japan and Burma sign a peace treaty in Rangoon, to end their long-extinct state of war.
- November 10 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicates the USMC War Memorial (Iwo Jima memorial) at the Arlington National Cemetery.
- November 12 – The main immigration port-of-entry in New York Harbor at Ellis Island closes permanently.
- November 13 – Great Britain defeats France to capture the first ever Rugby League World Cup in Paris in front of around 30,000 spectators
- November 14 – Egyptian president Muhammad Naguib is deposed, and Gamal Abdel Nasser replaces him.
- November 22 – The U.S. Supreme Court decides the landmark case Berman v. Parker (348 U.S. 26), upholding the federal slum clearance and urban renewal programs.
- November 23 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises 3.27 points, or 0.86 percent, closing at an all-time high of 382.74. More significantly, this is the first time the Dow has surpassed its peak level reached just before the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
- November 30 – In Sylacauga, Alabama, a four-kilogram piece of the Hodges Meteorite crashes through the roof of a house and badly bruises a napping woman, in the first documented case of an object from outer space hitting a person.
- January 2 – Henry Bonilla, American politician
- January 3 – Ross the Boss, American heavy metal/punk guitarist
- January 4
- January 5 – Alex English, American basketball player
- January 6 – Anthony Minghella, British film and theatre director (d. 2008)
- January 7
- January 8 – Julieta Castellanos, Honduran sociologist
- January 12 – Howard Stern, American radio host
- January 13 – Trevor Rabin, South African–American musician
- January 14
- January 15 – Jose Dalisay, Jr., Filipino writer
- January 17 – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., American socialite and environmental activist
- January 19
- January 21 – Thomas de Maizière, German politician
- January 22 – Peter Pilz, Austrian politician
- January 23
- January 28
- January 29
- February 1 – Bill Mumy, American actor and musician
- February 2 – Christie Brinkley, American model
- February 4 – Andrei Karlov, Russian diplomat (d. 2016)
- February 7 – Dieter Bohlen, German music producer and singer-songwriter (Modern Talking, Blue System)
- February 9
- February 11 – Noriyuki Asakura, Japanese composer
- February 12
- February 13 – Donnie Moore, American baseball player (d. 1989)
- February 15 – Matt Groening, American cartoonist
- February 16 – Iain Banks, Scottish author (d. 2013)
- February 17
- February 18
- February 19
- February 20
- February 23 – Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine
- February 24 – Sid Meier, Canadian programmer and game designer, notable for the Civilization series
- February 25 – Gerardo Pelusso, Uruguayan football manager
- February 26 – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 12th President of Turkey
- May 1
- May 2 – Elliot Goldenthal, American composer
- May 6 – Angela Hernández Nuñez, Dominican writer
- May 7
- May 8
- May 13 – Johnny Logan, Australian-born Irish singer and composer, Eurovision Song Contest 1980, 1987 winner dubbed as "Mister Eurovision"
- May 14 – María Dolores Katarain ("Yoyes"), Spanish Basque separatist leader (d. 1986)
- May 19
- May 20 – David Paterson, American politician, Governor of New York
- May 22 – Shuji Nakamura, Japanese electronics engineer
- May 25
- May 26 – Danny Rolling, American murderer (d. 2006)
- May 27
- May 28
- June 2 – Chiyoko Kawashima, Retired Japanese voice actress
- June 4 – Kazuhiro Yamaji, Japanese actor and voice actor
- June 5 – Nancy Stafford, American actress and Christian author
- June 6 – Harvey Fierstein, American actor
- June 9
- June 10 – Kurt Walker, American ice hockey player (d. 2018)
- June 14 – Will Patton, American actor
- June 15
- June 16 – Sergey Kuryokhin, Russian pianist, composer, improvisor, performance artist and actor (d. 1996)
- June 19
- June 20
- June 21
- June 22
- June 23 – James Plaskitt, British politician
- June 24 – Chang San-cheng, Taiwanese politician
- June 25
- June 26 – Steve Barton, American actor (d. 2001)
- June 27
- June 28
- June 29
- June 30
- July 2
- July 4 – Anne Lambton, British actress
- July 5
- July 6 – Willie Randolph, American baseball player, coach, manager
- July 7 – Robert M. Price, American theologian and writer, Cthulhu Mythos scholar and or
- July 8 – Matthew Marsh, English actor
- July 9 – Kevin O'Leary, Canadian businessman, television personality, and political candidate
- July 10
- July 11 – Alejandro Camacho, Mexican actor and producer
- July 12
- July 13 – Sezen Aksu, Turkish singer
- July 15
- July 16
- July 17
- July 20
- Lo Ta-yu, Taiwanese singer and songwriter
- Wilson Casey, American syndicated columnist and entertainer
- July 21 – Otto Jespersen, Norwegian comedian, actor and television personality
- July 22 – Pierre Lebeau, Canadian actor
- July 24 – Jorge Jesus, Portuguese football player and coach
- July 25 – Walter Payton, African-American football player (d. 1999)
- July 26
- July 27
- July 28 – Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela (d. 2013)
- July 29 – Mark Gersmehl, American Christian musician
- September 1 – Dave Lumley, Canadian ice hockey player
- September 2
- September 6 – Carly Fiorina, American businesswoman, CEO of HP (1999-2005) and Senator Ted Cruz's running mate in the 2016 presidential election
- September 7
- September 9 – Mohsen Rezaee, Iranian politician
- September 10 – Mark W. Everson, American businessman; 46th Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (2003–07)
- September 13 – Steve Kilbey, Australian musician
- September 15 – Nava Semel, Israeli author and playwright (d. 2017)
- September 17 – Joël-François Durand, French composer
- September 18 – Dennis Johnson, American basketball player (d. 2007)
- September 21
- September 23 – Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair
- September 24 – Lilian Mercedes Letona, Salvadoran guerrilla (d. 1983)
- September 26 – Kevin Kennedy, American baseball manager and television host
- September 28 – Steve Largent, American football player and congressman
- September 29 – Cindy Morgan, American actress
- September 30 – Barry Williams, American actor
- October 1 – Martin Strel, Slovenian swimmer
- October 3
- October 5 – Wayne Watson, American Christian musician
- October 6 – Howard Hoffman, American voice actor
- October 7 – Robert A. Schuller, American televangelist and the son of Robert H. Schuller
- October 9
- October 10
- October 12 – Linval Thompson, Jamaican singer and producer
- October 13 – Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician who revealed secrets of its nuclear weapons program
- October 15
- October 18 – Yūji Mitsuya, Japanese voice actor
- October 19 – Ken Stott, Scottish actor
- October 22 – Ellen Gerstell, American voice actress
- October 23 – Ang Lee, Taiwanese film director
- October 24
- October 26
- October 30
- November 2 – Angela Webber, Australian author, television writer, producer and comedian (d. 2007)
- November 3
- November 5 – Mike Gabriel, American animator and film producer
- November 6 – Karin Fossum, Norwegian crime fiction writer
- November 7
- November 8
- Michael D. Brown, first Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response, a division of the United States' Department of Homeland Security
- Kazuo Ishiguro, Japanese-born British author, Nobel Prize laureate
- November 12 – Rhonda Shear, American television hostess, actress and comedian
- November 13 – Chris Noth, American actor
- November 14
- November 15
- November 16 – Bruce Edwards, American golf caddy (d. 2004)
- November 18 – John Parr, English rock singer and musician
- November 19
- November 20
- November 22 – Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy
- November 23
- November 26
- November 27
- November 28 – Marty Grabstein, American actor and voice actor
- November 29 – Joel Coen, American film director, producer, screenwriter and or
- December 1 – Bob Goen, American television personality and game show host
- December 2
- December 3 – Grace Andreacchi, American author
- December 4 – Tony Todd, American actor and producer
- December 6 – Beat Furrer, Swiss-born Austrian composer and conductor
- December 7 – Mark Hofmann, American forger and murderer
- December 10 – Jack Hues, English singer and musician (Wang Chung)
- December 11
- December 13 – John Anderson, American country music singer-songwriter
- December 14
- December 15 – Mark Warner, American politician
- December 18
- December 20
- December 21 – Chris Evert, American tennis player
- December 24 – José María Figueres, Costa Rican politician, President 1994–1998
- December 25 – Annie Lennox, British rock musician and was lead singer of Eurythmics
- December 26
- December 28
- December 29
- December 31 – Alex Salmond, Scottish politician
- May 1 – Tom Tyler, American actor (b. 1903)
- May 3 – Józef Garbień, Polish footballer and physician (b. 1896)
- May 5 – Henri Laurens, French sculptor and illustrator (b. 1885)
- May 6 – B. C. Forbes, Scottish-born publisher (b. 1880)
- May 14 – Heinz Guderian, German World War II general (b. 1888)
- May 15 – William March, American writer and soldier (b. 1893)
- May 19 – Charles Ives, American composer (b. 1874)
- May 22 – Chief Bender, Native-American baseball player (Philadelphia Athletics) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1884)
- May 25 – Robert Capa, Hungarian-born photojournalist (b. 1913)
- May 26 – Omer Nishani, former Chairman of the Presidium of the People's Assembly and head of State of Albania (b. 1887)
- June 7 – Alan Turing, British mathematician, cryptanalyst, and pioneer computer scientist (b. 1912)
- June 9 – Alain LeRoy Locke, American writer, philosopher and educator (b. 1885)
- June 22 – Don Hollenbeck, American newscaster (b. 1905)
- June 24 – Thomas Denman, 3rd Baron Denman, 5th Governor-General of Australia (b. 1874)
- June 27 – Alfredo Versoza, Filipino Roman Catholic bishop and Servant of God (b. 1877)
- June 30 – Andrass Samuelsen, 1st Prime Minister of Faroe Islands (b. 1873)
- September 1 – Bert Acosta, American aviator (b. 1895)
- September 2 – Franz Leopold Neumann, German- political activist and Marxist theorist (b. 1900)
- September 3 – Eugene Pallette, American actor (b. 1889)
- September 5 – Eugen Schiffer, German politician (b. 1860)
- September 6 – Edward C. Kalbfus, American admiral (b. 1877)
- September 7
- September 8 – André Derain, French artist, painter and sculptor (b. 1880)
- September 21 – Mikimoto Kōkichi, Japanese pearl farm pioneer (b. 1858)
- September 24 – Edward Pilgrim, British homeowner (suicide) (b. 1904)
- September 25 – Eugenio d'Ors, Spanish writer (b. 1881)
- September 27 – Maximilian von Weichs, German field marshal (b. 1881)
- September 28 – Bert Lytell, American actor (b. 1885)
- November 3 – Henri Matisse, French painter (b. 1869)
- November 10 – Édouard Le Roy, French philosopher and mathematician (b. 1870)
- November 13 – Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, German field marshal (b. 1881)
- November 15 – Lionel Barrymore, American actor (b. 1878)
- November 16 – Albert Francis Blakeslee, American botanist (b. 1874)
- November 17 – Yitzhak Lamdan, Russian-born Israeli poet and columnist (b. 1899)
- November 20 – Clyde Cessna, American aviator and aircraft designer and manufacturer, founder of the Cessna Aircraft Corporation (b. 1879)
- November 22
- November 28 – Enrico Fermi, Italian physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1901)
- November 29 – Dink Johnson, American musician (b. 1892)
- November 30 – Wilhelm Furtwängler, German conductor (b. 1886)