- The tenure of President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) was
marked by great achievements in foreign policy: he improved relations with two Communist
powers, the Soviet Union and China, and ended the Vietnam War. He was also the only
president in US history to resign from office, as he faced likely removal for his role in
the Watergate scandal. His Watergate actions and subsequent cover-up attempts have been
credited with causing Americans to become cynical about their government in Washington
It was the first year the modern state of Israel had sent athletes to the Olympics; but
the cooperative spirit of the Games was shattered when eight Palestinian terrorists killed
two members of the Israeli team and took nine athletes and coaches hostage. An Israeli
commando unit moved in, killing five terrorists and capturing the other three, but it was
too late to save the hostages from death.
- Spitz Scores 7 Golds
U.S. Swimmer Mark Spitz wins seven gold medals at the Munich Olympic Games.
- During the Arab-Israeli War in October 1973, Middle East
members of OPEC issued an embargo against the sale of crude oil to Israel's Western
allies. In the United States, gasoline became scarce and prices jumped 40 percent,
crimping the American economy. The embargo, which ended on March 18, 1974, had another
effect: America was reminded of its dependence on foreign oil.
- Israel Wins Yom Kippur War
A surprise attack by Arab countries catches Israel with its guard down but it recovers and
wins the war.
- U.S. Leaves Vietnam
The last U.S. troops leave Vietnam after Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho sign treaty in
- Ali regained the heavyweight crown from Foreman with an
eighth-round knockout. Ali had been stripped of the title in 1967 for refusing to join the
US Army after being drafted, claiming conscientious-objector status. After losing the
title to Leon Spinks in February 1978, the charismatic Ali took it back in a rematch,
becoming the first three-time heavyweight champ.
- Masked and bare-bottomed, students from Cal Poly State
University "streak" down a sidewalk and into a bar in San Luis Obispo,
California, in March 1974. Streaking - running naked through a public place - became a
nationwide fad in the spring of 1974. Streakers found their way into state dinners,
sporting events, and even onto the stage at the Academy Awards.
- American diplomats stay in Saigon but South
Vietnamese forces begin to crumble.
- Watergate Sinks Nixon
President Richard Nixon, overcome by the Watergate scandal, resigns.
- Ali Rumbles in the Jungle
In Kinshasa, Zaire, fast-talking, hard-hitting Muhammad Ali beats the favored George
Foreman for the heavy-weight boxing championship title.
- The South Vietnamese forces collapsed and the Vietnam War
- Saigon Falls
North Vietnamese tanks rumble into Saigon, causing panic. U.S. helicopters take out the
remaining American personnel and selected
Vietnamese families in a flurry of chaos.
- Pol Pot Sows Killing Fields
Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge communist rebels, takes over Phnom Penh, Cambodia,
evacuates the city and begins a policy of forced labor or execution of "class
- Billie Jean King (1943- ), Wimbledon title in 1975,
helped establish a womens professional tennis tour, with prize money more equitable
to that enjoyed by the men. She was number one in the world five times (1966-1968, 1972,
and 1974), and in 1971 she became the first female athlete to break the $100,000 mark for
a years earnings. She still holds the record for total Wimbledon titles with 20 -
six in singles, 10 in doubles, and four in mixed doubles.
Elegant underdog Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) stunned enfant terrible Jimmy Connors (1952- ) at
the 1975 Wimbledon final. The young, impetuous Connors was nearly unbeatable at the time,
with a record of 99-4 the year before. The match was a battle of opposite styles - and
litigants. Connors had sued the Association of Tennis Pros (headed by Ashe) for refusing
to let him play in the French Open (Connors had refused to join the ATP). Connors
eventually dropped the suit shortly after dropping this match.
Speed is power. When the Concorde, a supersonic airplane developed jointly by Britain and
France, began regular service in 1976, it revolutionized air travel - at least for the
very rich. A jaunt between Paris and Washington, DC, took only 3 1/2 hours, just half the
time of the same flight on a Boeing 747. The planes travel at 650 miles per hour and carry
80 to 100 passengers, all in first-class seating. Only 16 planes were built before the
program ended in 1979, but flights are still available.
- Revolt Against Apartheid
South African police shoot into a crowd in Soweto, sparking a general revolt against
- Olympic Darling Gets Perfect Score
In Montreal, Canada, gymnast Nadia Comaneci of Romania earns the first perfect
Olympic history after her routine on the uneven bars.
Droids C3P0 (left) and R2D2 ponder their plight in this desert scene from George Lucas'
1977 blockbuster film Star Wars. The futuristic film portrays a young hero's struggle
against the forces of evil. The movie was a pioneer in computer-enhanced special effects,
and though it cost $9.5 million to make, it was the largest-grossing movie of the 1970s,
earning over $175 million. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi
(1983) followed, and the force goes on with a 1999 "prequel."
In 1977, Jim Jones, head of the San Francisco-based People's Temple, moved some of his
members to the jungles of Guyana after allegations of illegal activities. The new commune
was called Jonestown. But amid rumors of civil-rights abuses, in 1978 California Rep. Leo
Ryan led an unofficial group to investigate. They were ambushed by Jonestown security
guards; Ryan and four others died. Within days, the cult - 914 people, including 276
children - committed mass suicide by consuming cyanide-laced punch.
Saturday Night Fever (1977), a film about the New York City disco scene starring John
Travolta, can be credited for launching disco as a nationwide phenomenon. Even the
soundtrack made history: for five years it was the top-selling album ever, and it changed
the way films were marketed. And the indelible image of the white-suited Travolta in macho
pose, one arm raised defiantly, popularized the wide lapels, polyester, and neck chains of
- Egyptian President Meets Israelis
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, pleading for peace, becomes the first Arab leader to meet
with Israeli Knesset.
- Pole Becomes Pope
Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is named Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pontiff in
- Test Tube Baby Born
Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube baby," is born in Great Britain
- A chilling sign of the times announces the closure of the
observation center for the Three Mile Island nuclear plant following an accident on March
28, 1979. A pump failed in the reactor cooling system, shutting down the plant and
threatening a nuclear meltdown. When radioactive water evaporated into the atmosphere,
pregnant women and young children who lived nearby were evacuated from the region. The
accident caused little damage outside the plant, but it dealt the nuclear industry a
- Radical Iranians Seize Hostages
Students storm the U.S. embassy in Iran and take 100 Americans hostages. The Americans
will be held for 444 days before being released.
- Nuclear Accident Spreads Fear
An accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant is quickly brought
under control but increases fear of a nuclear meltdown.
- Walkman Bursts onto Scene
Sony introduces the personal stereo, known as