World History 1977

About the history of the world in 1977, the Great Winter of '77, first free election in Spain, Egypt recognizes Israel.



* World military spending exceeded $300 billion, or $12,330 for every man in uniform.

Jan.--Feb. The Great Winter of '77: Arctic air swept deep into the U.S. to plunge the country into its severest winter in history. Major rivers froze over for the first time in decades, locking in barges carrying much-needed fuel as well as rock salt for roads. One freighter cutting its way up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh with fuel oil and lubricants came to an unscheduled stop near Cincinnati when Sunday strollers on the frozen river crossed its path. Dairy farmers were reported dumping millions of gallons of milk, unable to transport it to market. Several cities hit all-time-low record temperatures: Miami Beach, +25 deg. F; Palm Beach, +27 deg.; Cincinnati, 25 deg. And in Wisconsin the mercury fell to-60 deg. There was even frost in Frostfree, Fla.

Jan. 17 The U.S. ended its 10-year moratorium on capital punishment as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, 36, faced a firing squad in Utah.

Feb. 3 Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam killed off his military rivals in Addis Abada to become Ethiopia's undisputed dictator.

Mar. 21 India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was repudiated at the polls in the country's first election following Gandhi's 18-month emergency rule there. Moraji Desai, 81, a political prisoner freed from jail just two months before, became the new prime minister.

May--June In the Netherlands, 13 Moluccan terrorists held a trainload of 51 hostages while 4 other Moluccans kept students and teachers prisoner at a nearby school. For nearly three weeks the siege lasted, with the kidnappers demanding the release of 21 fellow Moluccan radicals being held in Dutch jails. Unwilling to meet the demand, Dutch authorities launched a sunrise strike on both train and school. As the last submachine gun crackled to silence and the air cleared from camouflage smoke bombs dropped by Dutch Starfighter jets, the body count began: six terrorists and two hostages dead; one Moluccan, two marines, and nine captives wounded.

June Spain held its first free election since the Spanish Civil War of 41 years before and handed the government to Adolfo Suarez Gonzalez, 44, leader of the moderate Democratic Center Union.

June France relinquished its last African colony and gave the world a new nation--the Republic of Djibouti, a circle of ground about the size of New Hampshire located at the elbow of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden approach to the Indian Ocean.

Aug.23 In 1959, an English industrialist, Henry Kremer, offered an $86,000 prize to the first person or persons who could make a human-powered airplane that could do a figure-eight around two pylons while maintaining a minimum altitude of 10 ft. Paul MacCready, Jr. and Dr. Peter Lissaman, aerodynamic engineers, led a team in building the Gossamer Condor, a 70-lb. airplane made of balsa wood, aluminum tubing, piano wire, styrofoam, cardboard, and Mylar, with a wingspread of 96 ft., to be driven aloft by a bicycle pedal-and-chain system at 11 mph. On this date, after 430 test flights, a Bakersfield, Calif. cyclist, Bryan Allen, pumped the Gossamer Condor in to the air, negotiated a figure-eight around the pylons, which were half a mile apart, in 6 min. 22.5 sec., and won the prize for the team.

Nov. 19 Pres. Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt, in a gray business suit and polka-dot tie, arrived in Israel to be greeted by Prime Minister Menahem Begin, a 72-member Israeli honor guard, and a fanfare of trumpets. Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel since the nation's founding in 1948 and in effect the first to offer it recognition as an independent state.

Dec.9 Kenneth Le Vasseur, 26, a research laboratory worker, was found guilty by a Honolulu jury after a seven-day trial and convicted of first-degree theft because 10 months earlier he had stolen two dolphins, Puka and Kea, from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and had set the dolphins free in the Pacific Ocean. Le Vasseur had stolen the dolphins and liberated them because, he said, he did not like the experiments being done on them, he felt the laboratory conditions were unsanitary, and because the female dolphins had become his friends and deserved to live in freedom. The prosecutor had argued, "We are not here to debate a moral question but to decide if there has been a crime of first-degree theft."

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