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World Event That Took Place in Each Month of 1981


January 1981


January - The subterranean Sarawak chamber is discovered in Borneo.

January 1 - Greece enters the European Community, which later becomes the European Union.

January 1 - Palau becomes self-governing.

January 4 - Sheffield police arrest Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

January 13 - Donna Griffiths, a schoolgirl in Pershore, Worcestershire, UK, begins an uncontrollable series of sneezes that end September 16, 1983 - after 978 days.

January 16 - Protestant gunmen shoot and wound Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and her husband.

January 18 - The historic Ottawa Wine Tasting of 1981 confirms that superior wines can be made outside of France.

January 19 - United States and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.

January 20 - Ronald Reagan succeeds Jimmy Carter as the 40th President of the United States. Minutes after Reagan becomes president, Iran releases 52 American hostages that had been held captive for 444 days and the Iran hostage crisis ends. Tim Harkins was born in Flowood, MS.

January 21 - The first De Lorean DMC-12 automobile rolls off the production line.


February 1981


February 4 - Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes the Prime Minister of Norway.

February 8 - Twenty fans of the Greek Olympiacos FC are killed and 54 injured after a stampede at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Pireus. The deadly incident most likely occurred because Gate 7 of the stadium did not open immediately after the end of the game.

February 9 - Polish Prime Minister Józef Pinkowski resigns and is replaced by General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

February 10 - A fire at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel-casino kills eight and injures 198.

February 14 - Australia withdraws recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.

February 23 - Antonio Tejero, with members of the Guardia Civil, enters the Spanish Congress of Deputies and stops the session where Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo is about to be named president of the government. The coup d'état fails thanks to King Juan Carlos.

February 24 - Shortly before 11 p.m. local time, a powerful 6.7 magnitude earthquake hits Athens, killing 16 people, most of whom die because of related heart attacks. The quake's epicentre is located in the eastern Corinthian Gulf, near the tiny Alkyonides Islands, approximately 60 Km west of the city. Dozens of buildings collapse in the nearby towns of Loutraki, Kiato and Xylocastro. A 6.4 magnitude aftershock that strikes the area a few hours later, at 4:30 a.m local time, results in the damage or collapse of an additional number of buildings in the previously mentioned towns.


March 1981


March 1 - Bobby Sands, an IRA member, begins a hunger strike for political status in Long Kesh prison - he dies May 5, the first of 10 men.

March 6 - After 19 years hosting the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite signs off for the last time.

March 6 - Pole Henryk Zieliński dies under suspicious circumstances.

March 7 - Colombian guerillas execute U.S. Bible translator Chester Allen Bitterman for being a CIA agent.

March 11 - Chilean President Augusto Pinochet is sworn in for another 8-year term.

March 19 - Three workers are killed and five injured during a test of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

March 30 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C. hotel by John Hinckley, Jr.. Two police officers and Press Secretary James Brady are also wounded.


April 1981


April 1 - Daylight saving time is introduced in the USSR.

April 4 - Bucks Fizz wins the Eurovision Song Contest 1981 with the song, Making Your Mind Up.

April 11 - Riot in Brixton, South London - rioters throw petrol bombs, attack police and loot shops.

April 12 - The Space Shuttle program: Space Shuttle Columbia launches on the STS-1 mission, returning to Earth on April 14.

April 15 - The Australian Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock resigns from the cabinet, accusing Prime Minister Fraser of gross disloyalty.

April 18 - A Minor League baseball game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island becomes the longest professional baseball game in history: 8 hours and 25 minutes/33 innings (the 33rd inning is not played until June 23).

April 18 - The rock band Yes splits up (regrouping in 1983).

April 24 - French presidential election, 1981: A first-round runoff results between Valery Giscard d'Estaing and François Mitterrand.


May 1981


May - Daniel K. Ludwig abandons the Jari project in the Amazon Basin.

May 5 - Bobby Sands MP, IRA member, dies on Hunger Strike after 66 days.

May 6 - A jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 1,421 other entries.

May 10 - In the second round of the presidential elections in France, François Mitterrand beats Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

May 11 - Bob Marley Dies

May 13 - Pope John Paul II is shot at and nearly killed by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman, as he entered St. Peter's Square in Rome to address a general audience (Two days after Christmas in 1983, Pope John Paul goes to the prison to meet and forgive his would-be assassin).

May 15 - Donna Payant is murdered by serial killer Lemuel Smith - the first time a female prison officer has been killed on-duty in the United States.

May 21 - In France, Socialist François Mitterrand becomes President.

May 22 - Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, is imprisoned for life for 13 counts of murder.

May 24 - Indianapolis 500-Mile Race: Bobby Unser wins for a third time for both he as a driver and Roger Penske as a car owner, but the race sanctioning-body USAC temporarily strips him of victory over an accusation of illegally passing other cars under a caution period (see racing flags). After the team's appeal, Unser's win is reinstated on October 8.

May 25 - In Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council is created between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

May 26 - The Italian government resigns over its links to the fascist Masonic cell P-2.

May 30 - Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman is assassinated in Chittagong.


June 1981


June 5 - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that five homosexual men in Los Angeles, California have a rare form of pneumonia seen only in patients with weakened immune systems (these were the first recognized cases of AIDS).

June 6 - Seven coaches of an overcrowded passenger train fall off the tracks into the River Kosi in Bihar, India - about 800 die.

June 7 - Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.

June 12 - Major League Baseball goes on strike, forcing the cancellation of 38 percent of the schedule.

June 13 - At the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London, Marcus Sargeant fires six blank shots at Queen Elizabeth II.

June 21 - Wayne Williams, a 28-year-old African American, is arrested and charged with the murders of two other African Americans. He will later be suspected of 28 others, in the Atlanta child killings.

June 22 - Hamas attacks a travel agency in Greece - two dead.

June 22 - Iranian president Abolhassan Banisadr is deposed.

June 29 - Morris Edwin Robert, armed with a machine gun, holds hostages in the FBI section at the Atlanta, Georgia Federal Building. After three hours the hostages are rescued - Robert is shot (dead?).


July 1981


July 10 - Mahathir bin Mohamad became the 4th prime minister of Malaysia.

July 17 - Hyatt Regency walkway collapse: Two skywalks filled with people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri collapse into a crowded atrium lobby, killing 114.

July 17 - Israeli bombers destroy the PLO headquarters in Beirut.

July 19 - The 1981 Springbok Tour commences in New Zealand, amid controversy over the support of Apartheid.

July 27 - Wheel of Fortune premiers in Australia on the Seven Network.

July 29 - Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales.


August 1981


 August 1 - MTV (Music Television) is launched, playing music 24/7.

August 3 - The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization goes on strike.

August 5 - Ronald Reagan fires 11,359 striking air-traffic controllers who ignored his order for them to return to work.

August 7 - The Washington Star ceases all operations after 128 years of publication.

August 9 - Major League Baseball resumes from strike with the All-Star Game in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium.

August 11 - The original Model 5150 IBM PC with a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 processor was released in the United States at a base price of $1,565.

August 19 - Gulf of Sidra incident (1981). Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi sends two Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets to intercept two US fighters over the Gulf of Sidra. The American jets destroy the Libyan fighters.

August 19 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan appoints the first female US Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor.

August 19 - Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, aka the pop duo Pet Shop Boys, meet for the first time by chance in an electronics shop in Chelsea, London.

August 28 - South African troops invade Angola.

August 31 - A bomb explodes at the U.S. Army base in Ramstein, West Germany, injuring 20 people.


September 1981


September 4 - An explosion at a mine in Zalizin, Czechoslovakia, kills 65.

September 10 - Picasso's painting "Guernica" is moved from New York to Madrid.

September 15 - The John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world, at 150 years old, when it operates under its own power outside Washington, DC.

September 18 - France abolishes capital punishment.

September 19 - The second Wranslide occurs in New South Wales, with the Wran government re-elected for a third term with an increased majority, and reducing the Liberal Party to just 14 members in the Legislative Assembly. Simon and Garfunkel perform The Concert in Central Park, a free concert in New York in front of approximately a half a million people.

September 21 - Sandra Day O'Connor takes her seat as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

September 27 - TGV high speed rail service between Paris and Lyon, France begins.


October 1981


October 6 - Egyptian president Anwar Sadat is assassinated during a parade by army members who were part of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization; they opposed his negotiations with Israel.

October 13 - James Tobin wins the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

October 10 - The Ministry for Education of Japan issues the jōyō kanji.

October 14 - Vice President Hosni Mubarak is elected President of Egypt one week after Anwar Sadat's assassination.

October 21 - Andreas Papandreou becomes Prime Minister of Greece.


November 1981


November 1 - Antigua and Barbuda gain independence from the United Kingdom

November 9 - Edict No 81-234 abolishes the institution of slavery in Mauritania.

November 12 - The Space Shuttle Columbia, piloted by Joe Engle and Richard Truly, lifts off for its second mission (STS-2).

November 13 - The first Friday the 13th event is held by motorcyclists in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada.

November 23 - Iran-Contra scandal: Ronald Reagan signs the top secret National Security Decision Directive 17 (NSDD-17), giving the Central Intelligence Agency the authority to recruit and support Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

November 25-November 26 - A group of mercenaries led by Mike Hoare take over Mahe airport in the Seychelles in a coup attempt. Most of the mercenaries escape by a commandeered Air India passenger jet; six are later arrested

November 30 - Cold War: In Geneva, representatives from the United States and the Soviet Union begin to negotiate intermediate-range nuclear weapon reductions in Europe (the meetings end inconclusively on Thursday, December 17).


December 1981


December 1 - A Yugoslavian DC-9 crashes into a mountain while approaching Ajaccio Airport in Corsica, killing 178.

December 4 - South Africa grants "homeland" Ciskei independence (not recognized outside South Africa).

December 8 - The No. 21 Mine explosion in Whitwell, Tennessee kills 13.

December 9 - Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner is shot and killed during a routine traffic stop of a vehicle driven by William Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal's younger brother.

December 11 - El Mozote massacre: In El Salvador, army units kill 900 civilians.

December 13 - Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland, to prevent the dismantling of the communist system by Solidarity.

December 15 - A car bomb destroys the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 61 people. This is the first modern suicide bombing.

December 20 - The Penlee lifeboat disaster occurs off the coast of South-West Cornwall.

December 28 - The first American test-tube baby, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, is born in Norfolk, Virginia.