1976 1977 1978 - 1979 - 1980 1981 1982
1940s 1950s 1960s - 1970s - 1980s 1990s 2000s
Events of 1979
- January 1 - The United States and the People's Republic of China establish full diplomatic relations.
- January 4 - The State of Ohio agrees to pay $675,000 to families of the dead and injured in the Kent State shootings.
- January 7 - Vietnam and Vietnam-backed Cambodian insurgents announce the fall of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the collapse of the Pol Pot regime. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge retreat west to an area along the Thai border.
- January 8 - The French tanker Betelgeuse explodes at the Gulf Oil terminal at Bantry in Ireland; 50 are killed.
- January 16 - The Shah of Iran flees Iran with his family, relocating to Egypt after a year of turmoil.
- January 19 - Former U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell is released on parole after 19 months at a federal prison in Alabama.
- February 1 - Convicted bank robber Patty Hearst is released from prison after her sentence is commuted by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
- February 1 - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Tehran, Iran after nearly 15 years of exile.
- February 3 - Khomeini creates the Council of the Islamic Revolution.
- February 7 - Supporters of Khomeini take over the Iranian law enforcement, courts and government administration; the final session of the Iranian National Consultative Assembly is held.
- February 7 - Pluto moves inside Neptune's orbit for the first time since either was known to science.
- February 10-February 11 - The Iranian army mutinies and joins the Islamic Revolution.
- February 11 - Khomeini seizes power in Iran.
- February 12 - Prime Minister Hissène Habré starts the battle of N'Djamena in an attempt to overthrow Chad's President Félix Malloum.
- February 14 - In Kabul, Muslim extremists kidnap the American ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, who is later killed during a gunfight between his kidnappers and police.
- February 15 - A suspected gas explosion rocks a bank in Warsaw killing 49.
- February 17 - The People's Republic of China invades northern Vietnam, launching the Sino-Vietnamese War.
- February 22 - Saint Lucia becomes independent of the United Kingdom.
- March 1 - Scotland votes narrowly for home rule, which is not implemented, and Wales votes against it.
- March 13 - Maurice Bishop leads a successful coup in Grenada.
- March 14 - In China, a Hawker Siddeley Trident crashes into a factory near Beijing, killing at least 200.
- March 17 - The Penmanshiel Tunnel in the UK collapses, killing two workers.
- March 25 - The first fully functional space shuttle orbiter, Columbia, is delivered to the John F. Kennedy Space Center, to be prepared for its first launch.
- March 26 - In a ceremony at the White House, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel sign a peace treaty.
- March 28 - A nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, releases radiation.
- March 28 - In Britain, Jim Callaghan's government loses a motion of confidence by 1 vote, forcing a general election.
- March 30 - Airey Neave, World War Two veteran and Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman, is killed by an Irish National Liberation Army bomb in the British House of Commons car park.
- March 31 - The Royal Navy withdraws from Malta.
- April 1 - Iran's government becomes an Islamic Republic by a 98% vote, overthrowing the Shah officially.
- April 2 - Sverdlovsk Anthrax leak: A Soviet biowarfare laboratory at Sverdlovsk accidentally releases airborne anthrax spores, killing 66 plus an unknown amount of livestock.
- April 10 - A tornado hits Wichita Falls, Texas, killing 42 people (the most notable of 26 that hit that day).
- April 11 - Tanzanian troops take Kampala, the capital of Uganda; Idi Amin flees.
- April 17 - Schoolchildren in the Central African Empire are arrested (and around 100 killed) for protesting against compulsory school uniforms. An African judicial commission later determines that Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa "almost certainly" took part in the massacre.
- April 23 - Fighting in London between the Anti-Nazi League and the Metropolitan Police's Special Patrol Group results in the death of protestor Blair Peach.
- May 1 - Greenland gets home rule.
- May 4 - Conservatives win the British general election; Margaret Thatcher becomes the new prime minister.
- May 8 - The Manchester, England Woolworth's in city centre is seriously damaged by fire; 10 shoppers die.
- May 9 - Unabomber bomb injures Northwestern University graduate student John Harris.
- May 10 - The Federated States of Micronesia becomes self-governing.
- May 25 - American Airlines Flight 191: In Chicago, a DC-10 crashes during takeoff at O'Hare International Airport, killing 271 on board and two people on the ground.
- May 25 - John Spenkelink executed in Florida. First usage of electric chair in USA after the reintroduction of death penalty in 1976.
- June 1 - The first black-led government of Rhodesia in 90 years takes power, in succession to Ian Smith and under his power-sharing deal.
- June 2 - Pope John Paul II visits his native Poland, becoming the first Pope to visit a Communist country.
- June 3 - General elections are held in Italy.
- June 4 - Joe Clark becomes Canada's 16th and youngest Prime Minister.
- June 4 - Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings takes power in Ghana after military coup in which General Akuffo is overthrown.
- June 12 - Bryan Allen flies the man-powered Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel.
- June 18 - Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT II agreement in Vienna.
- June 20 - A Nicaraguan National Guard soldier kills ABC TV news correspondent Bill Stewart and his interpreter Juan Espinosa. Other members of the news crew capture the killing on tape.
- June 25 - Belgium: Supreme Allied Commander Alexander Haig escapes an assassination attempt by the Baader-Meinhof terrorist organization.
- July 3 - U.S. President Jimmy Carter signs the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.
- July 9 - A car bomb destroys a Renault owned by "Nazi hunters" Serge and Beate Klarsfeld at their home in France. A note purportedly from ODESSA claims responsibility.
- July 11 - NASA's first orbiting space station Skylab begins its fall to Earth, after being in orbit for 6 years and 2 months.
- July 12 - Kiribati declares independence from the United Kingdom.
- July 12 - Carmine Galante, boss of the Bonanno crime family, is assassinated.
- July 12 - A fire at a hotel in Saragossa, Spain leaves 72 dead. Worst hotel fire in Europe in decades.
- July 16 - Iraqi President Hasan al-Bakr resigns and Vice President Saddam Hussein replaces him.
- July 17 - Nicaraguan president General Anastasio Somoza Debayle resigns and flees to Miami, Florida.
- July 19 - The Marxist Sandinistas take control of Nicaragua.
- July 19 - Maria de Lurdes Pintasilgo becomes prime minister of Portugal.
- July 24 - The Soviet Union exchanges Gerald Brook for spies Peter and Helen Kroger with the United Kingdom.
- July 31 - Four hundred Iranian pilgrims are killed after clashes with Saudi security forces in Mecca.
- August 27 - Lord Mountbatten and 3 others are assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
- August 28 - The death toll of the previous day's IRA bombing reaches five when Lady Dowager Brabourne, 82, dies in hospital as a result of her injuries.
- September 1 - The U.S. Pioneer 11 becomes the first spacecraft to visit Saturn, when it passes the planet at a distance of 21,000 km.
- September 7 - The Chrysler Corporation asks the United States government for $1 billion to avoid bankruptcy.
- September 12 - Hurricane Frederic makes landfall at 10:00 p.m. on Alabama's Gulf Coast.
- September 20 - French paratroopers help David Dacko to overthrow Bokassa in the Central African Republic.
- September 22 - The South Atlantic Flash is observed near Bouvet Island, thought to be a nuclear weapons test.
- October 1 - Nigeria terminates military rule, and the Nigerian Second Republic is established.
- October 1-October 6 - Pope John Paul II visits the United States.
- October 15 - Black Monday events, in which members of a political group sack a newspaper office, unfold in Malta.
- October 16 - A tsunami in Nice, France kills 23 people.
- October 19 - 13 Marines die in a fire at Camp Fuji, Japan as a result of Typhoon Tip.
- October 26 - Park Chung-hee, the President of South Korea, was assassinated by the KCIA director Kim Jaegyu
- October 27 - Saint Vincent and the Grenadines gains independence.
- November 1 - Iran hostage crisis: Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urges his people to demonstrate on November 4 and to expand attacks on United States and Israeli interests.
- November 2 - French police shoot gangster Jacques Mesrine in Paris.
- November 3 - In Greensboro, North Carolina, 5 members of the Communist Workers Party are shot to death and 7 are wounded by a group of Klansmen and National Socialists, during a "Death to the Klan" rally.
- November 4 - Iran hostage crisis begins: 3,000 Iranian radicals, mostly students, invade the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 90 hostages (53 of whom are American). They demand that the United States send the former Shah back to Iran to stand trial.
- November 12 - Iran hostage crisis: In response to the hostage situation in Tehran, U.S. President Jimmy Carter orders a halt to all oil imports into the United States from Iran.
- November 14 - Iran hostage crisis: U.S. President Jimmy Carter issues Executive Order 12170, freezing all Iranian assets in the United States and U.S. banks in response to the hostage crisis.
- November 17 - Iran hostage crisis: Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini orders the release of 13 female and African American hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
- November 20 - A group of terrorists of around 200 militants occupy Mecca's Grand Mosque. They are driven out by French commandos (allowed into the city under these special circumstances despite their being non-Muslims) after bloody fighting that leaves 250 people dead and 600 wounded.
- November 23 - In Dublin, Ireland, Irish Republican Army member Thomas McMahon is sentenced to life in prison for the assassination of Lord Mountbatten.
- November 28 - Mount Erebus disaster: an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashes into Mount Erebus on a sightseeing trip, killing all 257 people on board.
- December 5 - Jack Lynch resigns as Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland; he is succeeded by Charles Haughey.
- December 21 - A ceasefire for Rhodesia is signed at London.
- December 24 - The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
- December 24 - The first European Ariane rocket is launched.
- December 26 - In Rhodesia, 96 Patriotic Front guerrillas enter the capital Salisbury to monitor a ceasefire that begins December 28.
- December 27 - The Soviet Union seizes control of Afghanistan, and Babrak Karmal replaces overthrown and executed President Hafizullah Amin.
- February 7 - Josef Mengele, German doctor (b. 1911)
- May 6 - James Madole, American leader of the National Renaissance Party (b. 1927)
- June 7 - Asa Earl Carter, author and segregationist (b. 1925)
- June 8 - Reinhard Gehlen, German military intelligence officer and Cold War spymaster (b. 1902)
- July 29 - Herbert Marcuse, New Left and Cultural Marxist theoretician (b. 1898)
- August 24 - Hanna Reitsch, German test pilot (b. 1912)
- October 27 - Father Coughlin, Roman Catholic priest and nationalist radio broadcaster (b. 1891)