1958 1959 1960 - 1961 - 1962 1963 1964
1930s 1940s 1950s - 1960s - 1970s 1980s 1990s
Events of 1961
- January 1 - The farthing, used since the 13th century, ceases to be legal tender in the United Kingdom.
- January 3 - President Dwight Eisenhower announces that the United States has severed diplomatic and consular relations with Cuba.
- January 7 - Following a 4-day conference in Casablanca, 5 African chiefs of state announce plans for a NATO-type African organization to ensure common defense. The Charter of Casablanca involves the Casablanca Group: Morocco, the United Arab Republic, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali.
- January 8 - In France, a referendum supports Charles de Gaulle's policies on independence for Algeria.
- January 9 - British authorities announce that they have discovered a large Soviet spy ring in London.
- January 17 - President Dwight Eisenhower gives his final State of the Union Address to Congress. In a Farewell Address the same day, he warns of the increasing power of a "military-industrial complex".
- January 17 - Patrice Lumumba is assassinated.
- January 20 - John F. Kennedy becomes the 35th President of the United States.
- January 24 - A U.S. B-52 Stratofortress, with two nuclear bombs, crashes near Goldsboro, North Carolina.
- January 25 - In Washington, DC John F. Kennedy delivers the first live presidential news conference. In it, he announces that the Soviet Union has freed the 2 surviving crewmen of a USAF RB-47 reconnaissance plane shot down by Soviet flyers over the Barents Sea July 1, 1960 (see RB-47H shot down).
- January 25 - Acting to halt 'leftist excesses,' a junta composed of 2 army officers and 4 civilians takes over El Salvador, ousting another junta that had ruled for 3 months.
- January 30 - President John F. Kennedy delivers his first State of the Union Address.
- January 31 - Ham the Chimp, a 37 pound male, is rocketed into space aboard Mercury-Redstone 2, in a test of the Project Mercury capsule, designed to carry United States astronauts into space.
- February 1 - The United States launches its first test of the Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile.
- February 3 - China buys grain from Canada for $60 million.
- February 4 - The Portuguese Colonial War begins in Angola.
- February 5 - February 9 - In Congo, President Joseph Kasavubu names Joseph Ileo as the new Prime Minister.
- February 12 - The U.S.S.R. launches Venera 1 towards Venus.
- February 13 - The Congo government announces that villagers have killed Patrice Lumumba.
- February 14 - Discovery of the chemical elements: Element 103, Lawrencium, is first synthesized in Berkeley, California.
- February 15 - President Kennedy warns the Soviet Union to avoid interfering with the United Nations pacification of the Congo.
- February 26 - Hassan II is pronounced King of Morocco.
- March 1 - President of the United States John F. Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps.
- March 1 - Uganda becomes self-governing by holding its first general elections.
- March 3 - Hassan II is crowned King of Morocco.
- March 8 - Max Conrad circumnavigates the earth in 8 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes, setting a new world record.
- March 8 - The first U.S. Polaris submarines arrive at Holy Loch.
- March 13 - Black and white £5 notes cease to be legal tender in the UK.
- March 13 - A dam bursts on the Dnieper River in the USSR, killing 145.
- March 13 - United States delegate to the UNSC Adlai Stevenson votes against Portuguese policies in Africa.
- March 13 - President of the United States John F. Kennedy proposes a long-term "Alliance for Progress" between the United States and Latin America.
- March 15 - South Africa withdraws from the Commonwealth of Nations.
- March 15 - The Union of Peoples of Angola, led by Holden Roberto, attacks strategic locations in the north of Angola. These events result in the beginning of the colonial war with Portugal.
- March 18 - A ceasefire takes effect in the Algerian War of Independence.
- March 29 - The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to vote in presidential elections.
- April 5 - The New Guinea Council of Western Papua is installed.
- April 11 - The trial of Adolf Eichmann begins in Jerusalem.
- April 12 - Vostok 1: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space.
- April 13 - In Portugal, a coup attempt against António de Oliveira Salazar fails.
- April 17 - The Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba begins; it fails by April 19.
- April 18 - Portugal sends to Angola its first military reinforcement.
- April 20 - Fidel Castro announces that the Bay of Pigs invasion has been defeated.
- April 22 - Algiers putsch: Four French generals who oppose de Gaulle's policies in Algeria fail in a coup attempt.
- April 24 - The Swedish ship Regalskeppet Vasa is removed from the water after being sunk 333 years earlier.
- May 4 - U.S. Freedom Riders begin interstate bus rides to test the new U.S. Supreme Court integration decision.
- May 5 - Mercury program: Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space aboard Mercury-Redstone 3.
- May 8 - Briton George Blake is sentenced to 42 years imprisonment for spying.
- May 14 - American civil rights movement: A Freedom Riders bus is fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama and the civil rights protestors are beaten by an angry mob.
- May 15 Heinrich Matthaei alone performs the Poly-U-Experiment and is the first human to recognize and understand the genetic code.
- May 16 - Park Chung Hee takes over in a military coup in South Korea.
- May 19 - Venera program: Venera 1 becomes the first man-made object to fly-by another planet by passing Venus (however, the probe had lost contact with Earth a month earlier and does not send back any data).
- May 21 - American civil rights movement: Alabama Governor John Patterson declares martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots break out.
- May 24 - American civil rights movement: Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for "disturbing the peace" after disembarking from their bus.
- May 25 - Apollo program: President Kennedy announces before a special joint session of Congress his goal to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
- May 27 - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaya, holds a press conference in Singapore, announcing his idea to form the Federation of Malaysia, comprising Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo (Sabah).
- May 28 - Peter Benenson's article "The Forgotten Prisoners" is published in several internationally read newspapers. This is later considered the founding of the human rights organization Amnesty International.
- May 30 - Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, totalitarian despot of the Dominican Republic since 1930, is killed in an ambush, putting an end to the second longest-running dictatorship in Latin American history.
- May 31 - In France, rebel generals Maurice Challe and Andre Zelelr are sentenced to 15 years in prison.
- May 31 - South Africa officially leaves the Commonwealth of Nations.
- May 31 - President John F. Kennedy and Charles De Gaulle meet in Paris.
- June 1 - Ethiopia experiences her most devastating earthquake of the 20th century, with a magnitude of 6.7. The town of Majete is destroyed, 45% of the houses in Karakore collapse, 17 kilometers of the main road north of Karakore are damaged by landslides and fissures, and 5,000 inhabitants in the area are left homeless.
- June 4 - Vienna summit: John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev meet during 2 days in Vienna. They discuss nuclear tests, disarmament and Germany.
- June 17 - A Paris-to-Strasbourg train derails near Vitry-le-François; 24 are killed, 109 injured.
- June 17 - The New Democratic Party of Canada is founded with the merger of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress.
- June 19 - The British protectorate ends in Kuwait and it becomes an emirate.
- June 21 - Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev requests asylum in France while in Paris with the Kirov Ballet.
- June 22 - Moise Tshombe is released for lack of evidence of connection to the murder of Patrice Lumumba.
- June 25 - Iraqi president Abdul Karim Kassem announces he is going to annex Kuwait.
- June 27 - Kuwait requests British help; the United Kingdom sends in troops.
- July 4 - The Soviet submarine K-19 reactor leak occurs in the North Atlantic.
- July 5 - The first Israeli rocket, Shavit 2, is launched.
- July 8 - A mine explosion in Czechoslovakia leaves 108 dead.
- July 21 - Mercury program: Gus Grissom, piloting the Mercury-Redstone 4 capsule Liberty Bell 7, becomes the second American to go into space (sub-orbital). Upon splashdown, the hatch prematurely opens, and the capsule sinks (it is recovered in 1999).
- July 31 - Ireland submits the first ever application to join the then European Economic Community.
- August 6 - Vostok 2: Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov becomes the first human in space in more than one day.
- August 7 - Vostok 2 with Titov onboard lands in Soviet Union.
- August 10 - Britain applies for membership in the European Economic Community.
- August 13 - Construction of the Berlin Wall begins, restricting movement between East Berlin and West Berlin and forming a clear boundary between West Germany and East Germany, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
- August 21 - Jomo Kenyatta is released from prison in Kenya.
- September 14 - The new military government of Turkey sentences 15 members of the previous government to death.
- September 17 - Military rulers in Turkey hang former president Adnan Menderes.
- September 17 - September 18 - UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld dies in an air crash en route to Katanga, Congo.
- September 21 - In France, the OAS slips an anti-de Gaulle message into TV programming.
- September 24 - The old Deutsche Opernhaus in the Berlin neighborhood of Charlottenburg is returned to its newly rebuilt house as the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
- September 28 - A military coup in Damascus, Syria effectively ends the United Arab Republic, the union between Egypt and Syria.
- October 9 - Digital photography (invented by Eugene F. Lally) is presented in a technical paper at the American Rocket Society's Space Flight Report to the Nation in New York.
- October 10 - A volcanic eruption on Tristan da Cunha causes the whole population to be evacuated.
- October 12 - The death penalty is abolished in New Zealand.
- October 17 - Paris massacre of 1961: French police in Paris attack about 30,000 protesting a curfew applied solely to Algerians. The official death toll is 3, but human rights groups claim 240 dead.
- October 19 - The Arab League takes over protecting Kuwait; the last British troops leave.
- October 27 - An armistice begins in Katanga, Congo.
- October 27 - Mongolia and Mauritania join the United Nations.
- October 27 - A standoff between Soviet and American tanks in Berlin, Germany heightens Cold War tensions.
- October 30 - Nuclear testing: The Soviet Union detonates a 58-megaton yield hydrogen bomb known as Tsar Bomba over Novaya Zemlya. It remains the largest ever man-made explosion.
- October 31 - Hurricane Hattie devastates Belize City, Belize killing over 270. After the hurricane, the capital moves to the inland city of Belmopan.
- October 31 - Joseph Stalin's body is removed from the Lenin Mausoleum.
- November 1 - The Interstate Commerce Commission's federal order banning segregation at all interstate public facilities officially comes into effect.
- November 2 - Kean opens at Broadway Theater in New York City for 92 performances.
- November 3 - The UN General Assembly unanimously elects U Thant acting Secretary General.
- November 9 - Neil Armstrong records a world record speed in a rocket plane of 6,587km/h flying a X-15.
- November 11 - Congolese soldiers murder 13 Italian United Nations pilots.
- November 11 - Stalingrad is renamed Volgograd.
- November 17 - Michael Rockefeller, son of New York Governor, and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, disappears in the jungles of New Guinea.
- November 18 - U.S. President John F. Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam.
- November 20 - The funeral of longtime House Speaker Sam Rayburn is held in Washington, DC. Two former Presidents (Truman, Eisenhower) and one future one (Lyndon B. Johnson) join President Kennedy in paying their respects.
- November 30 - The Soviet Union vetoes Kuwait's application for United Nations membership.
- December 1 - Netherlands New Guinea raises the new Morning Star flag and changes its name to West Papua.
- December 2 - Cold War: In a nationally broadcast speech, Cuban leader Fidel Castro declares he is a Marxist-Leninist, and that Cuba will adopt Communism.
- December 5 - U.S. President John F. Kennedy gives support to the Volta Dam project in Ghana.
- December 9 - Tanganyika gains independence and declares itself a republic, with Julius Nyerere as its first President.
- December 9 - The Australian government of Robert Menzies is re-elected for a sixth term.
- December 10 - The Soviet Union severs diplomatic relations with Albania.
- December 11 - The Vietnam War officially begins, as the first American helicopters arrive in Saigon along with 400 U.S. personnel.
- December 11 - Adolf Eichmann is pronounced guilty of crimes against humanity by a panel of 3 Israeli judges.
- December 15 - An Israeli war crimes tribunal sentences Adolf Eichmann to death.
- December 17 - India occupies Goa.
- December 17 - A circus tent fire in Niteroi, Brazil kills 323.
- December 19 - Goa is officially ceded to India after 400 years of Portuguese rule.
- December 19 - Indonesian president Sukarno announces that he will take West Irian by force if necessary.
- December 21 - In Congo, Katangan prime minister Moise Tshombe recognizes the Congolese constitution.
- December 23 - Luxembourg's national holiday, the Grand Duke's Official Birthday, is set on June 23 by Grand Ducal decree.
- December 30 - Congolese troops capture Albert Kalonji of South Kasai (who soon escapes).
- December 31 - The Marshall Plan expires, after having distributed more than $12 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Europe.
- January 20 - Dorothy Thompson, American journalist and wartime propagandist (b. 1893)
- January 31 - Eugene Dennis, American communist (b. 1905)
- June 6 - Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist (b. 1875)
- December 6 - Frantz Fanon, Black radical philosopher (b. 1925)