Timeline: 1977

President Carter

President James Earl Carter

Jan 1  In what is called the Bush War, rebels fighting the white regime in Rhodesia are operating from bases inside Zambia and Botswana. The white regime, led by Ian Smith, is forcing people to relocate to villages controlled by the government. The white regime is recruiting volunteers from overseas, including some military veterans from Australia and the United States.

Jan 18  Scientists identify a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the "Legionnaires' disease."

Jan 19  US President Gerald Ford pardons Iva Toguri D'Aquino, known in the United States as "Tokyo Rose".

Jan 19  Jimmy Carter succeeds Gerald Ford as the 39th President of the United States. He speaks of "a new beginning, a new dedication within our Government, and a new spirit among us all."

Jan 21  President Jimmy Carter gives a full pardon to those who evaded the draft during the war in Vietnam. The pardon does not extend to those who were in the military and refused to finish their tour of duty or received a less than honorable discharge.

Jan 23  Alex Haley's historical novel Roots begins as a series on ABC television.

Jan 24  Spain is in a transition to democracy. A few Spanish and Italian rightists belonging to an anti-Communist "black international" kill five and injure four leftists at an office in Madrid – to be known as the Massacre of Atocha.

Feb 2  Wearing a cardigan sweater, President Carter speaks to the nation via television about the need to conserve energy.

Feb 10  Soviet authorities are disturbed by the activities of "dissidents." They arrest Yuri Orlov, chairman of a group in the Soviet Union that is monitoring compliance with the Helsinki accords.

Feb 25  In Russia, a leading scientist and dissident, Andrei Sakharav, who has been harassed by authorities, has been photographed with a letter of support from President Carter. General Secretary Brezhnev is angered and sends Carter a message telling him that Sakharov is a "renegade who proclaimed himself an enemy of the Soviet state."

Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Dictator: Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Feb 1-28 The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, responds to President Carter's concern for human rights by releasing 357 political prisoners and allowing the Red Cross to visit prisons.

Mar 1 In Nicaragua, Roman Catholic bishops have accused the Somoza dictatorship of torture, rape and summary executions of civilians during the dictatorship's battle against leftist guerrillas.

Mar 15  Italian Tenor Luciano Pavarotti debuts in the United States in a PBS production of Puccini's La Boheme.

Mar 27  The worst air disaster ever. Passenger jets in the Canary Islands collide, killing 574. A seasoned and celebrated Dutch pilot tried to take off without having received clearance from the tower. Less importance given to rank in the cockpit might have saved the day.

Apr 10  In Spain, indignation over the Massacre of Atocha results in legalization of Spain's Communist party.

Apr 12  President Carter commutes the 20-year prison term of G. Gordon Liddy to eight years, 4 1/2 years of which he has already served.

Apr 12  Afghanistan's self-proclaimed president, Mohammed Daoud Khan, is on a neighborly visit to the Soviet Union. The Russians are unhappy with him for having purged leftists from his government and soviet advisors from his military. He is criticized for the anti-Communists he has appointed to his cabinet, for his criticism of Cuba, his friendliness with Iran and Saudi Arabia and his scheduled visit to Washington in 1978.

Apr 14  In Pakistan's major cities, people are demonstrating their displeasure at what they believe was wholesale fraud in last month's parliamentary elections. They demand the resignation of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Apr 18  President Carter describes his program for conservation. It is, he says. a problem that "is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century." He proposes to reduce energy demand, to increase coal production, insulate 90 percent of American homes and all new buildings and to use solar energy in more than 2.5 million houses.

May 25 In the US a movie called Star Wars opens and is destined to become a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

Jun 1 The US Defense Department is organizing deployment of a warhead capable of destroying Soviet missiles in their silos. White House Press Secretary Jody Powell announces administration willingness to undertake "serious negotiations" with the Soviet Union concerning deployment of the new warheads.

Ali Shariati

Ali Shariati, Iran's leading dissident

Jun 5  The first Apple II computers go on sale.

Jun ?  Dr. Ali Shariati, a popular Iranian sociologist with a doctorate from France's Sorbonne University, is Iran's leading opponent to the regime of the Shah of Iran. Shariati has spent 18 months in an Iranian prison for his opinions. He is released from prison but his activities are restricted and he is monitored by the secret police: SAVAK. Shariati moves to England. In three weeks he is dead, at the age of 44. His followers believe he was murdered by SAVAK. Shariati's death leaves the Ayatolah Khomeini as the most popular opposition leader against the Shah's rule – not as popular as he will be in 1979, the year of the Iranian revolution. Khomeini's education has been in religious schools only.

Jun 15  In Sweden, an international research body declares that an arms race is increasing the probability of nuclear war.

Jun 15  After 41 years of rule by Franco, Spain has its first democratic elections.

Jun 15  The Central Committee of Spain's Communist Party rejects Moscow's criticism of their secretary general, Santiago Carrillo, and vows to continue its independence.

Jun 19  In the Soviet Union, the Communist Party newspaper, Pravda, claims that US support for human rights is a cover for an arms buildup.

Jun 30  President Carter believes the program to build the B-1 bomber wastes taxpayer dollars. Affected communities defend the program, describing it as a social welfare issue: that jobs are at stake. Carter follows the advice of Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, who is supported by ranking military men. In the B1 Bomber's place, secret work is being done on a new stealth system that cannot be discussed, and there are plans for a fleet of modernized B-52s armed with air-launched Cruise missiles.

Jul 3   Opinion on the B-1 bomber has split roughly along party lines, with former President Gerald Ford calling it a mistake and Congressman Robert Dornan of California describing Moscow as jubilant over the decision.

Jul 5   Responding to civil disorder, Pakistan's General Zia-ul-Haq overthrows Prime Minister Bhutto and imposes Martial Law.

Jul 22  Deng Xiaoping, General Secretary of China's Communist Party until he was purged during the Cultural Revolution, returns as the Communist Party's most influential member, but without an official office.

Jul 30  In West Germany, leftist terrorists assassinate Jürgen Ponto, chairman of the Dresdner Bank.

Aug 4  In the US, the Department of Energy is formed, the result of President Carter having influenced Congress.

Aug 16  Elvis Presley's "fiancee," Ginger Allen, finds him unconscious on his bathroom floor. At a hospital he is pronounced dead, a victim of heart failure. He was 42.

Aug 18  In South Africa, police arrest Steve Biko at one of their roadblocks. Biko is a former medical student, a well known anti-apartheid activist and a writer.

Sep 7  President Carter and Panamanian president, Omar Torrijos Herrera, sign a treaty that provides for control of the Panama Canal to be given to Panama in 1999. Under the treaty the US retains the right to defend the canal from any threat that might interfere with its continued neutral service to ships of all nations. Some in the US are disturbed by what they perceive as Carter giving away the canal. Senate ratification of the treaty is pending. Senator Jesse Helms, the former governor of California, Ronald Reagan, Richard Viguerie and many other conservatives are opposed to the treaty. So too are student leftists in Panama. William F. Buckley will favor the treaty.

Sep 12  While in police custody, Steve Biko has been beaten to death.

Sep 1-31 Riots erupt in Kabul as students and government workers protest against the government of Mohammed Daoud Khan. The police crush the protests and several members of Afghanistan's Communist Party are arrested.

Andreas Baader

Andreas Baader, another failed revolutionary

October 13-17  Despite recent hijackings, poor airline security remains common, except for Israel's El Al airline. Four Palestinians hijack Lufthansa Airlines flight 181 from Mallorca to Frankfurt. The hijackers demand 15 million US dollars and the release from prison of 11 of Germany's Red Army Faction members. Members of the Red Army Faction kidnap a German, Hanns-Martin Schleyer. The plane refuels in Rome and in various countries is denied permission to land. It ends up in Somalia. The hijackers kill the pilot and throw his body onto the ground. Nine German commandos storm the plane. Three of the four hijackers are killed. A flight attendant is injured and the 86 passengers are successfully rescued. The Red Army Faction murders its hostage, Hanns-Martin Schleyer.

Oct 18 In the wake of failing to be released from prison, Red Army Faction members, Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe and Gudrun Ensslin commit suicide. Irmgard Möller tries but merely wounds herself. Years later Möller will take up the claims of faction followers that the deaths were extrajudicial killings – murders – without explaining why she would have been spared to tell about it.

Oct 26  Smallpox is considered eradicated – a success of vaccination.

Oct 31 In Iran late this month, the son of Ayatollah Khomeini has been found dead in his bed. Islam does not allow autopsy, and many suspect that SAVAK has murdered him.

Nov 4 A journalist asks the Shah of Iran what "scenarios" he fears most in the years to come. He replies: "Growing terrorism, permissive societies, democracies collapsing through lack of law and order."

Nov 9 Sadat tells Egypt's parliament that he is ready to go to Israel's "Knesset and discuss peace with them if need be."

Nov 11 Israel's prime minister, Menachem Begin, broadcasts to Egypt an invitation to Sadat. He says: "Let us say to one another, and let it be a silent oath by the peoples of Egypt and Israel: no more wars, no more bloodshed and no more threats."

Nov 15 The Shah of Iran visits President Carter. Tear gas envelopes the welcoming ceremony blown in from the nearby anti-Shah demonstration. President Carter believes that the Shah still has 2,500 political prisoners in his jails. Carter asks the Shah if there is anything he can do to alleviate the damage to Iran's reputation regarding human rights. The Shah says no, that he "must reinforce the Iranian laws, which are designed to combat Communism."

Nov 19-20  Anwar Sadat of Egypt visits Israel, the first Arab leader to do so in an official capacity. A 21-gun salute is fired in his honor. To Israel's Knesset he speaks of God, the blessings of peace and of a permanent peace settlement. Much of the Arab world is outraged by his visit.

Dec 4  The captain of Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 radios that an unidentified hijacker is aboard. The plane crashes without explanation, killing all 100 passengers and crew.

Dec 25  Charlie Chaplin dies. He was thought by many to be Jewish. My father (1907-62) despised him believing that he was. He was not, but Chaplin was too good of a man to deny it publicly.

Dec 31  In Teheran, President Carter visits the Shah of Iran and toasts him, describing Iran as "an island of stability." Carter tells the Shah of "the respect and the admiration and the love" that the Iranians had for him and says that "There is no leader whith whom I have a deeper sense of personal gratitude and personal friendship."

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