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Timeline: 1979

Jan 1  An expectation of a decline in the production of gas has created a run on gas to buy it while it's cheaper. This is reducing supply, a rise in gas prices, speculation on gas as a commodity, and it will be spurring inflation in energy importing countries.

Jan 1  The United States and China establish full diplomatic relations.

Jan 7  Vietnam and its Cambodian allies announce the fall of Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge retreats to the forests along the border of Thailand. Prince Sihanouk is siding with the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese.

Jan 16  The Shah and his family have left for Egypt. In Iran, streets are crowded with joyous people shouting "Shah raft, Shah raft!" (the Shah is gone).

Feb 1  Patty Hearst is released from prison. Her seven-year sentence for bank robbery has been commuted by President Carter.

Prime Minister Bakhtiar

Iran's Prime Minister Bakhtiar, Sorbonne University PhD, and anti-fascist underground vet.

Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini

Feb 1  In the spirit of a new freedom for Iran, Prime Minister Bakhtiar has allowed the Ayatollah Khomeini to return. Millions greet Khomeini, who calls for expelling all foreigners from Iran.

Feb 8  The Carter administration believes its negotiations with the Somoza regime have failed. It announces that the US is severing longstanding military ties with Nicaragua and ordering US personnel serving in Nicaragua to return to the United States.

Feb 11  Khomeini has been demanding Bakhtiar's resignation. Youthful Khomeini supporters seize weapons and take control of the streets. Bakhtiar goes underground and will resurface in Paris in July. US citizens who have been working in Iran begin to leave, joining many wealthy Iranians who for weeks have been emigrating.

Feb 12  In Rhodesia, insurgents use surface-to-air missiles to shoot down another Rhodesian airliner. This time they kill 58. White Rhodesians are becoming less willing to continue the war. But Rhodesia's military presses on.

Feb 14  In Kabul, Afghanistan, extremists kidnap and kill US Ambassador Adolph Dubs.

Feb 15  China's 1950 treaty with the Soviet Union expires. China chooses this day to send about 80,000 soldiers and 300 tanks into northern Vietnam. China describes as reasons for the attack Vietnam's mistreatment of its ethnic Chinese minority and Vietnamese occupation of the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China. Some people believe that China wants to punish Vietnam for its war against the Khmer Rouge and to teach the Vietnamese that they should consider China's desires concerning the region.

Feb 22  The US announces that its aid to Afghanistan will be drastically cut.

Feb 22  The Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia becomes independent from Britain.

Mar 16  The Chinese in Vietnam have suffered against Vietnam's military. They withdraw. Their casualties will be estimated at more than 60,000, including about 26,000 killed.

Mar 10-20  Afghan army officers in the city of Herat mutiny and they are crushed.

Mar 13  On the island of Grenada, in the Caribbean, a Marxist, Maurice Bishop, overthrows Eric Gairy, who had a reputation for corruption and authoritarianism. It has been claimed that Bishop made his move believing Gairy was going to attack Bishop's movement. The coup is popular. Bishop will replace parliament with worker's councils and transform Grenada into a socialist state with collective farms but also free enterprise and trade with the United States.

Mar 20  In Moscow, President Taraki of Afghanistan requests Soviet troops. He is told by Brezhnev that Soviet forces "would only play into the hands of our enemies – both yours and ours." Brezhnev advises Taraki to go slow with social reforms and to seek broad support for his regime. He advises Taraki to remove Prime Minister Amin. He promises Taraki military equipment.

Mar 26  President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel sign a peace treaty in Washington. The main features of the treaty are recognition of each other's country and an end to the state of war engendered by Egypt since 1948.

Mar 28  A cooling malfunction at a nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, in Pennsylvania, causes a partial core meltdown. An above normal amount of radiation is released.

Apr 5  President Carter is in his third-year in office. Responding to growing energy shortages, he announces a plan for gradual decontrol of oil prices, and he proposes a windfall profits tax. The average price of crude oil is $15.85 per barrel.

Emperor Bokassa

Emperor Bokassa

Apr 6  Measurements of radiation in milk from Pennsylvania and New Jersey indicate to the New York State Health Department that the accident at Three Mile Island constituted "no public health concern whatsoever."

Apr 11 Idi Amin of Uganda has been at war against Tanzania, where anti-Amin Ugandans gathered. On this day, Tanzanian forces and Ugandan exiles force Amin to flee Uganda's capital city, Kampala. Amin is headed for Libya. Eventually he will find asylum in Saudi Arabia.

Apr 17  The newly converted Roman Catholic emperor, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, since 1966 has ruled in what is now called the Central African Empire. He dislikes schoolchildren protesting against the compulsory wearing of school uniforms. The children are arrested and around 100 of them are massacred.

Apr 20  A rabbit chased by hounds swims toward President Carter's boat, while he is fishing. Carter fends off the rabbit with a paddle. The press describes Carter as having been attacked by a killer swamp rabbit. The incident is called "Paws" with the movie "Jaws" in mind.

Margaret Thatcher

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Pope Jean Paul

In June, millions cheer John Paul's first visit to Poland as Pope.

Lining up for gas

Lining up for gas, June 15

May 1  Greenland gets home rule. Greenland became an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. It was granted home rule by the Folketing (Danish parliament) in 1978. The law went into effect on May 1, 1979. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, remains Greenland's Head of State. Greenland's voters subsequently chose to leave the European Economic Community upon achieving self-rule.

May 4  Britain has been suffering through high unemployment and collapsing public services. Labor Unions have been striking for higher wages, troubling the Labor government of James Callaghan. Margaret Thatcher has promised to end economic decline and reduce the size of government. She becomes the new prime minister.

May 21  Mexico breaks diplomatic relations with Nicaragua and urges the US to end all remaining assistance programs to the Somoza regime.

May 24  About 300 Sandinista insurgents are reported to have entered Nicaragua from Costa Rica.

Jun 1  The Sandinistas start their all-out military offensive against the Somoza regime.

Jun 1  In Rhodesia, whites have allowed blacks who are not involved in the Bush War to run for political office and to share power with the whites (who are 22 to 1 minority in the country). The majority black political parties have boycotted the elections. A black United Methodist Church bishop, Abel Muzorewa, is declared prime minister. Britain does not recognize his government as legitimate. The insurgency against white rule in Rhodesia continues.

Jun 3  An off-shore exploritory oil well explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 miles from the coast of the Mexican state of Campeche (on the Yucatan Peninsula). It will take Mexico's oil company, Premex, more than nine months to stop oil from gushing into the gulf. The oil will reach the shore of Texas and it will ruin fishing off the coast of Campeche well into the 21st century.

Jun 15  The US has people bumper to bumper in long lines waiting to buy gas.

Jun 18  The Soviet Union's Leonid Brezhnev and US President Carter sign the SALT II agreement in Vienna, an agreement to limit the number of missile launching facilities.

Jun 20  While a camera is rolling, a Nicaraguan National Guard soldier kills ABC TV news correspondent Bill Stewart and his interpreter Juan Espinosa.

Jun 30  President Carter's approval rating has dropped to 25 percent, lower than President Nixon's during the Watergate scandal.

Jul 3  President Carter signs a directive for secret aid to the opponents of Afghanistan's government. His National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, tells Carter that this aid will induce a Soviet military intervention. He wants to draw the Russians into a disaster – its Vietnam War.

Jul 15  President Carter makes his so-called malaise speech. The speech is his response to his question why the nation has been unable to resolve its energy problem. He speaks of our "erosion of confidence in the future" and says that we can develop a new unity of purpose and new confidence. He concludes: "Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail."

Jul 16  In Iraq, President Hasan al-Bakr resigns and is replaced by the acting president, Vice President Saddam Hussein.

Jul 17  The dictator Anastasio Somoza flees from Nicaragua to his Florida island villa in the United States. There he declares that a Communist conspiracy has driven him from power. Much of Latin America is pleased by the fall of Somoza.

Jul 19  Marxist Sandinistas take power in the capital city, Managua.

Jul 31  Former governor of California, Ronald Reagan, visits the underground nerve center of US missile defense, NORAD, in Colorado. In response to a question from Reagan, the NORAD commander tells him that if the Soviets drop a missile next to the base "It would blow us away." Reagan is surprised and his interest in protection against nuclear strikes is intensified.

Aug 6  Paul Volcker takes office as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve (the "Fed"). There is hope that he will succeed in reducing inflation.

Aug 9  The first British nudist beach is established in Brighton, many years after nude beaches were established in France and near San Francisco, California, and two years after the opening of a nude beach in Australia. Prime Minister Thatcher takes no responsibility for it, although it occurs under her watch.

Aug 27  Provisional Irish Republic Army terrorists have planted a 50-pound bomb on Lord Mountbatten's 30-foot sailboat. It is detonated by radio control . Mountbatten, a grandson 14 and his 15-year old friend are also killed, along with the 83-year-old mother-in-law of Mountbatten's eldest daughter. Other bombs planted by the Provisional IRA terrorists kill18 British soldiers in Northern Ireland.

Sep 6  Rhodesia announces that its forces are staging a land and air attack against troops and installations of the Mozambican Army as well as insurgent bases inside Mozambique.

President Amin of Afghanistan

President Amin of Afghanistan, a Columbia University graduate, accused by the Russians of of being a CIA agent.

Sep 11  The Carter administration warns Congress that failure by the United States to supply aid to Nicaragua could push the new leadership there toward Communism.

Sep 16  In Afghanistan, squabbling within the Taraki regime results in Taraki's death. Vice President Hafizullah Amin takes power.

Oct 6  The energy crisis continues. Inflation in the US has been running at an annual rate of 10.75 percent, unprecedented for peacetime.

Oct 9  In Afghanistan, Amin announces that his predecessor, Taraki, died from "a severe and prolonged illness."

Oct 26  South Korea's president, Park Chung Hee, is assassinated by his KCIA chief, Kim Jaekyu.

Nov 4  The US has informed the Khomeini regime in Iran that the former Shah of Iran, Pahlavi, has come to the United States from Mexico to receive medical treatment. Pahlavi has serious illnesses, including cancer. About 3,000 youthful Iranians invade the US Embassy and take 53 Americans and others hostage. They are outraged over Pahlavi having entered the US, and they demand that the United States send Pahlavi to Iran to stand trial.

Nov 1-31  Afghans have been fleeing to Iran and Pakistan and organizing resistance against what they view as the "atheistic" and "infidel" Communist Amin regime. President Amin launches a successful military operation against anti-government forces in Paktria Province (next to Pakistan) obliterating a few villages. He also attempts to appease opinion by promising more religious freedom and to repair mosques. He begins distributing the Koran. He refers to Allah in his speeches and describes his revolution as "totally based on the principles of Islam."

Nov 20  According to the Muslim calendar it is the beginning of a new century. Juhayman bien Seif al Uteybi believes in signs of the coming of the Mahdi. Around 200 of his heavily armed Sunni followers, with an appointed young Mahdi, take over the crowded Grand Mosque in Mecca, believing that with God they are overthrowing the Saudi government, which they believe to be corrupt and in league with the devil.

Nov 21  The Carter administration suspects that the seige at Mecca is a creation of Iran's Ayatolah Khomeini. Iran's foreign ministry complains that "Zionist and US circles" are associating the uprising with Iran. Then Khomeini accuses the US and Israel of orchestating what he describes as the despicable horrors at the Grand Mosque at Mecca. A wave of anti-US demostrations and attacks against US embassies sweeps across the Muslim world, first on this day in Pakistan.

Nov 24  Pope Jean Paul II is visiting Turkey. There, Mehmet Ali Agca escapes from prison and describes the Pope's visit as part of the infidel plot in Mecca and the Pope as masquerading as a man of faith. He warns that "the crusaders" will pay for this. It is Agca who will shoot and wound the Pope, in 1981.

Nov 25-30 In Saudi Arabia's eastern oil producing region, along the Persian Gulf, youths belonging to the county's Shiite minority rebel. The Saudi government blacks out all news of the uprising. With armored personnel carriers, machine guns, helicopter gunships and artillery, the Saudi National Guard crushes the rising. The older generation of Shiite leaders in the area successfully sue for peace.

Dec 4 The Carter administration responds to anti-US demonstrations and the siege at Mecca with a formulation that will be called the Carter Doctrine, intended to demonstrate US strength and commitment to the defense of countries in the Persian Gulf region that are of "vital interest" to the United States. Within a few days US negotiators will fly to Oman to discuss establishing a military base. It is the beginning of an increased military presence in the Gulf region.

Dec 4  The Saudi Press Agency issues a statement by Prince Nayef that "the purge of renegades" from the Grand Mosque has been completed. Many pilgrims have died, their number to be officially declared as 26. Independent observers and witnesses estimate that more than 1,000 have died.

Dec 4  US officials announce that the Soviet Union is giving low-key support to US efforts to release the hostages in Iran.

Dec 10  In response to the siege at Mecca, the Carter administration has dispatched the carrier USS. Kitty Hawk and a battle group from the Philippines to the Persian Gulf. Military leadership in the Soviet Union, initially cool to the idea of sending troops into Afghanistan has decided that if the US can make such a deployment tens of thousands of kilometers from its territory why should the Soviet Union not be able to defend its positions in neighboring Afghanistan. The Soviet military begins to assemble a force of 75,000 to 80,000 along the Afghan-Soviet border.

Babrak Kamal

Babrak Kamal subsequent
President of Afghanistan

Dec 12  At South Korea's headquarters and Ministry of Defense, a bloody shoot out leaves Chun Doo-hwan and close friends in control of South Korea's military.

Dec 24  The Soviet Union begins sending troops into Afghanistan.

Dec 27  It will be said that on this day in Afghanistan, Soviet KGB agents in Afghan uniforms, storm the presidential palace and kill President Amin and around 200 of his guards. It is to be said that Amin lied about Taraki's death back in September, Taraki having been shot. Amin had carried out purges within the ruling political party, the PDPA (People Democratic Party of Afghanistan). The Soviet Union had been happy with Taraki and believed that Amin was responsible for having created instability. The Soviet government describes Amin as having been the head of "a bloody dynasty" and an agent of "United States imperialism."

Dec 29  Another member of the PDPA, who had been in safe exile as the ambassador to the Czech Republic, becomes President of Afghanistan: Babrak Kamal.

Dec 31  President Carter tells ABC News that the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan has "made a more dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate goals are than anything they've done in the previous time I've been in office."

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