December 22, 1988 – PanAm flight 103 bound for New York, exploded and rained burning debris down on the Scottish village of Lockerbee, killing all 258 people aboard and some 15 on the ground. U.S. Intelligence had issued warnings earlier in the month that just such an attack was possible. Employees at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were advised to avoid PanAm flights from Frankfurt and airport security there was beefed up. It all began with an anonymous telephone tip on December 5, when a call came to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki Finland warned that a bomb would be placed aboard a PanAm flight from Frankfurt to the U.S. “sometime” but gave no exact of when. The caller went on to say the bomb would be carried aboard by a Finnish woman and that the people plotting this were associated with Abu Nidal, the world’s most notorious terrorist. The caller then mentioned a specific Arab name, which Finnish Police told U.S. officials this was a person of interest and was known to them as a terrorist. What wasn’t known was whether or not Finnish police did anything to apprehend and question this person, prior to the crash. Police were almost certainly looking for the suspect while U.S. officials were combing the passenger lists to see if anyone matching the callers description of a Finnish passenger showed up.
Earlier in the day, a man called news agencies in London claiming the crash victims were executed in retaliation for a U.S. warships mistaken identity and downing of an Iranian passenger plane over the Persian Gulf earlier in the year, killing all 290 people.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Royal Air Force and Scottish police were scouring the hills and countryside around Lockerbee for bodies, wreckage and the two flight recorders. They found the data recorder which charted the 54 minutes the plane was in the air before crashing, and then they found the cockpit voice recorder where anything the pilot and crew said could be heard.
There was more going on this day, but the tragedy and the shock made everything else seem less important, on this December 22, 1988, as reported on The CBS World News Roundup.