February 1961

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February 1, 1961: U.S. launches first Minuteman ICBM
February 14, 1961: New element created

The following events occurred in February, 1961

February 1, 1961 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • The United States launched its first test of the Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 11:00 am, and traveled 4,000 miles in less than 15 minutes to a target in the Atlantic Ocean.[1]
  • Moore Air Base became inactive, along with the 78th Fighter Group of the US Air Force.

February 2, 1961 (Thursday)[edit]

February 3, 1961 (Friday)[edit]

  • Operation Looking Glass began, as the first of a series of Boeing EC-135 jets went into the air on orders of the Strategic Air Command. For more than 30 years, an EC-135 was always in the air, with the capability of taking direct control of the United States' bombers and missiles in the event of the destruction of the SAC's command post near Omaha. As one jet "Doomsday Plane" was preparing to land, another was already aloft. The program continued, with E4A jets later replacing the EC-135s, until the fall of the Soviet Union.[4]
  • French interior designer Stéphane Boudin made his first visit to the White House, to plan the refurnishing of the U.S. President's residence at the request of the new First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.[5]
  • China bought $60 million worth of grain from Canada.
  • Died: Anna May Wong, 65, Chinese-American movie star

February 4, 1961 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The Portuguese Colonial War began in Angola with a co-ordinated attack by 180 MPLA guerillas in Luanda. In a morning raid, armed groups attacked the prison, the police barracks, a police patrol and the radio station. The attacks failed, and armed white Angolan residents exacted revenge on Luanda's black neighborhoods, but the battle inspired a 14-year long campaign to liberate Portugal's colonies.[6]
  • Sputnik 7 was launched by the Soviet Union and placed into Earth orbit. Although reported as a success, in that it was the heaviest object (14,300 pounds) into orbit at that time, the Soviets did not mention that their intent had been to send the first Earth craft to the planet Venus, a detail revealed in 1962 by the American space agency, NASA. [7]
  • Died: Alphonse Picou, 82, American jazz clarinetist

February 5, 1961 (Sunday)[edit]

February 6, 1961 (Monday)[edit]

February 7, 1961 (Tuesday)[edit]

February 8, 1961 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • At a press conference to announce that Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker would be coming to the United States on February 20, President Kennedy mispronounced the Canadian leader's name multiple times. Kennedy had asked Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who in turn had asked Assistant for European Affairs Foy D. Kohler, who suggested the German pronunciation "Dee-fen-bawk-er"; Diefenbaker's name was misspelled by various news sources as "Diffenbaker", "Diefenbacker", "Diefenbacon" and even (by UPI) "Fifenbaker". [8] Privately, the Prime Minister, whose name was pronounced "Dee-fen-bay-ker", was enraged at what he viewed as being mocked by the American President. [9]

February 9, 1961 (Thursday)[edit]

  • An IL-18 plane carrying future Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. At the time Brezhnev was the ceremonial President of the Soviet Union, to the Guinea Republic for a state visit, was attacked by three French Vautour fighter jets. One of the Vautours fired bursts of tracer bullets as a warning across. [10] The French Foreign Ministry apologized, but said that Brezhnev's plane, which landed safely in Morocco, had strayed into French Algerian airspace. [11]
  • The Beatles performed at the Cavern Club for the first time.
  • Died: Millard Tydings, 70, American politician

February 10, 1961 (Friday)[edit]

February 11, 1961 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Melbourne Cricket Ground had its largest ever crowd for a cricket match, 90,800 people, attending the test match between Australia and West Indies.
  • A plebiscite was conducted in the north and south parts of the British Cameroons over whether to join the Federation of Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon that had recently become independent of France. Residents of the Southern Cameroons voted 233,571 to 97,741 in favor of union with Cameroon, while in the Northern Cameroons, the result was 146,296 to 97,659 in favor of integration with Nigeria.[13]
  • Robert C. Weaver became the first African-American to lead a major U.S. government agency, becoming Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency on appointment by President Kennedy. When the HHFA was raised to cabinet level status on January 18, 1966, Weaver became the first African-American cabinet member, under President Lyndon Johnson, as the first U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.[14]
  • Died: Kate Carew, 33, American caricaturist

February 12, 1961 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Eight days after launching the seven ton Sputnik 5, the U.S.S.R. used the orbiting satellite as a launch platform from which to fire a rocket carrying the interplanetary space probe, Venera 1, towards the planet Venus. The U.S. had launched Pioneer V toward Venus in March to [15] Contact with the satellite was lost after it traveled 4,650,000 miles, but the probe came within 62,000 miles of the second planet, and is believed to still be in orbit around the Sun.[16]

February 13, 1961 (Monday)[edit]

  • At Elisabethville, The Congo, Katangan Interior Minister Godefroid Munongo informed reporters, "I have called you together to announce the death of Patrice Lumumba and his accomplices," then went on to say that the group had been massacred the day before "by the inhabitants of a little village" days after escaping from prison. As it turned out, Lumumba had been executed by a Katangan firing squad a month earlier, on January 17. The confirmation of Lumumba's death stirred rioting in the Congo and around the world.[17]
  • Hunting for geodes in the Coso Mountains near Olancha, California, rock collectors Wally Lane, Mike Mikesell and Virginia Maxey found a 500,000-year-old rock containing the "Coso artifact", a metal object that resembled, anachronistically, a spark plug. The rock and the ancient spark plug have not been seen since 1969.[18]

February 14, 1961 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Element 103, Lawrencium, was first synthesized by a team of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. Using the cyclotron at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, scientists Albert Ghiorso, Torbjorn Sikkeland, Almon E. Larsh and Robert M. Latimer bombarded Californium with Boron-10 and Boron-11 nuclei, combining the protons of the 98th and 5th elements to create a new element with 103 protons. After spending two months confirming their finding, the team made their announcement on April 13.[19]
  • A day after the news of Patrice Lumumba's death, thousands of protesters attacked Belgium's embassies worldwide. The embassy in Moscow was attacked by a mob of thousands of Russian, Asian and African students, while the one in Belgrade was ransacked following a protest by 30,000 people. African students in New Delhi wrecked furniture at the embassy there. The next day, a group of 24 protestors fought with guards at the United Nations Security Council [20] One reporter felt that the Moscow riots, with marchers from that city's People's Friendship University, "showed signs of careful planning" and that it had been orchestrated by the Soviet government.[21]
  • The Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand (ZAR) became the official currency of South Africa, replacing the South African pound at a 2:1 ratio.[22]
  • James E. Webb took office as administrator of NASA, serving until 1968.[23]

February 15, 1961 (Wednesday)[edit]

February 16, 1961 (Thursday)[edit]

February 17, 1961 (Friday)[edit]

February 18, 1961 (Saturday)[edit]

February 19, 1961 (Sunday)[edit]

  • A seven-year old boy in Arizona survived a 275 foot fall into an irrigation well, and was rescued after ranch employees tied together multiple ropes. Harry Stage had broken both legs and his pelvis after falling through the 16 inch pipe. [27]
  • Belgium's King Baudouin dissolved Parliament and ordered new elections to be conducted on March 26. [28]
  • Born: Justin Fashanu, English footballer, in Hackney, London (died 1998)

February 20, 1961 (Monday)[edit]

  • Jerry Garcia, an 18-year old drifter who had been discharged from the U.S. Army, survived a car accident in Palo Alto, California. He would later describe the event as "the slingshot for the rest of my life". "Before then I was always living at less than capacity," he would write later. "Then I got serious." Garcia would go on to found the Grateful Dead. [29]
  • Born: Imogen Stubbs, British actress, in Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Died: Percy Grainger, 78, Australian composer; and Romany Marie, 75, American restaurateur and bohemian personality

February 21, 1961 (Tuesday)[edit]

February 22, 1961 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • Come Blow Your Horn, the first play written by Neil Simon, made its debut at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway. Running for 677 performances, the play was the first in a string of hits for Simon. [32]
  • Fans of the television soap opera The Edge of Night were horrified when Sara Lane Karr, the show's leading female character, died of injuries sustained on the Monday episode. After CBS received multiple calls from distressed viewers, the actress who played the role, Teal Ames, appeared as herself the next day to explain that she was alive, and that her character had been written out of the series at her own request. [33]
  • Born: Clifford Meth, American writer, in Queens, New York; and Jean-Christophe Novelli, French celebrity chef, in Arras
  • Died: Nick LaRocca, 71, jazz cornettist

February 23, 1961 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Duncan Carse was dropped off alone at the British Antarctic island of South Georgia, for an eighteen month attempt to become a latter-day Robinson Crusoe. HMS Owen brought him to the uninhabited south side of the island with 12 tons of supplies and a prefabricated hut, at Ducloz Head. The hut and much of the supplies would be swept away by a wave on May 20, forcing Carse to survive on what he had been able to save. He would finally be able to signal a ship, the Petrel, on September 13. [34]
  • Geoffrey Charles Lawrence became acting Chief Minister of Zanzibar, then still under British control.

February 24, 1961 (Friday)[edit]

  • The bodies of former Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy, Colonel Pál Maléter and journalist Miklós Gimes - all of whom had been executed for treason on June 16, 1958, after the failure of the 1956 Hungarian revolution - were exhumed from the courtyard of the prison where they had been hanged, taken from their coffins, rolled up in tar paper, and buried in an unmarked grave in Budapest. Even their names were altered in cemetery records, with Nagy identified as a woman named Piroska Borbiro. [35] After the downfall of Communism in Hungary in 1989, the three bodies were exhumed, and buried with full honors on June 16, 1989, thirty-one years after their executions. [36]
  • Iranian Airways and Pars Airways merged to form a single national airline for the nation, Iran Air. [37]

February 25, 1961 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Paul Bikle set a record for altitude for a sailplane, reaching 46,266 feet (14,102 meters) after catching a Sierra Wave in the skies near California's Mount Whitney. [38] The record remained unbroken more than 50 years later. [39]
  • The last public trams in Sydney, Australia, ceased operation, bringing to an end the Southern Hemisphere's largest tramway network. [40]
  • India's Orissa state was placed under president's rule after Chief Minister Harekrushna Mahatab resigned because of non-cooperation among the state's political parties. Direct rule continued for 14 months until new state legislature elections could be held. [41]
  • Born: Davey Allison, American NASCAR driver, in Hollywood, Florida (killed in helicopter crash, 1993)

February 26, 1961 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Tyazhely Sputnik (literally "heavy satellite"), at seven tons the largest object to be launched into outer space when it went up on February 4, reentered the atmosphere over Siberia.[42] The failure of the mission was disguised as a test by the Soviet Union authorities. [43]
  • Died: King Mohammed V of Morocco, 51, suffered a fatal heart attack after undergoing a minor operation at the clinic in his palace at Rabat. His son, Hassan II was proclaimed his successor.[44]

February 27, 1961 (Monday)[edit]

February 28, 1961 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Under United States law, 38 U.S.C. §101 (29)(A), the Vietnam Era refers to "The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period." [46]
  • East Germany abruptly ended its program of researching, designing and building aircraft, with the passage of a resolution by the Central Committee of the ruling SED Party. "Huge resources were wasted as a result of this about-face," noted one commentator.[47]
  • The Saarlouis electric tramway closed after nearly 48 years in operation.
  • Born: Mark Ferguson, New Zealand actor and TV presenter, in Sydney, Australia


  1. ^ "The MINUTEMAN Ballistic Missile Test Program", Federation of American Scientists; "US Minuteman Missile Lands on Ocean Target", Milwaukee Journal, February 1, 1961, p1
  2. ^ Neil A. Hamilton and Ian C. Friedman, Presidents: A Biographical Dictionary (Infobase Publishing, 2009) p406
  3. ^ "Santa Maria Passengers Go Ashore", Milwaukee Journal, February 2, 1961, p1
  4. ^ "America's Top Secret Doomsday Plane", by Kenneth J. Stein, Popular Mechanics (May 1994) pp 38-41
  5. ^ James A. Abbott, Elaine M. Rice, Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration (John Wiley and Sons, 1997) p68
  6. ^ "Angola: Revolts, 1961", in Encyclopedia of African History, Volume 1 (Kevin Shillington, ed.) (CRC Press, 2005) p143; "Angola Crushes Armed Uprising", New York Times, February 5, 1961, p1
  7. ^ "U.S. Reports Five Russian Space Failures", St. Petersburg (FL) Times, September 6, 1962, p1
  8. ^ Sean M. Maloney, Learning to Love the Bomb: Canada's Nuclear Weapons During the Cold War (Potomac Books, 2007) p232
  9. ^ Arthur Slade, John Diefenbaker ((Dundurn Press, 2001) p103
  10. ^ R.A. Medvedev, Personality and Epoch: Political Portrait of L.I. Brezhnev (1991); "Plane Attack Shocks Moscow", Miami News, February 10, 1961, p1
  11. ^ "French Try To Soothe Red Anger", Miami News, February 11, 1961, p1
  12. ^ Daniel M. Dumych, Images of America, Volume 2: Niagara Falls, Volume 2 (Arcadia Publishing, 1998) p128
  13. ^ Rose Ngomba-Roth, The Challenges of Conflict Resolution in Africa: The Case of Cameroon-Nigerian Border Conflict (LIT Verlag Münster, 2008) p86
  14. ^ "Black Firsts: Politics, Entertainment, Sports and Other Fields", by Lerone Bennett Jr., Ebony Magazine (March 1982) p128
  15. ^ Robert Silverberg, First American Into Space (Monarch Books, 1961) pp36-37; "7-Ton Sputnik Is Fired", Miami News, February 4, 1961, p1; "RUSS FIRE VENUS SHOT-- Piggyback Space Station Rides Sputnik", Milwaukee Sentinel, February 13, 1961, p1
  16. ^ R. K. Renfield and Richard K. Stinson, Venus (Rosen Publishing Group, 2004 ) pp 14-15
  17. ^ "Lumumba Dead; Reported Massacred By Villagers", Toledo Blade, February 13, 1961, p1; Robert Hopkins Miller, Vietnam and Beyond: A Diplomat's Cold War Education (Texas Tech University Press, 2002) p43
  18. ^ Greg Bishop, et al., Weird California (Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2006) p32
  19. ^ "Isotope Found Of 'Dead' Element-- 4 Nuclear Scientists Make 'Lawrencium'", Toledo Blade, April 13, 1961, p2
  20. ^ "Students Riot in Moscow", Pittsburgh Press, February 14, 1961, p1; "Mob Battles Guards Over Congo Debate", February 15, 1961, p1
  21. ^ "Rigged Riots Blast West In Moscow", Milwaukee Sentinel, February 15, 1961, p1
  22. ^ John Allen, Apartheid South Africa: An Insider's Overview of the Origin and Effects of Separate Development (iUniverse, 2005) p350
  23. ^ Craig Nelson, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon (Penguin, 2010)
  24. ^ "U.S. ICE TEAM KILLED IN CRASH", Pittsburgh Press, February 15, 1961, p1
  25. ^ USS South Dakota/USS Huron
  26. ^ Lawrence S. Wittner, Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970 (Stanford University Press, 1997) p188
  27. ^ "Injured Boy In Well Minds Dad And Lives", Miami News, February 20, 1961, p1
  28. ^ "Parliament Dissolved By Belgian King", Toledo Blade, February 20, 1961, p2
  29. ^ Blair Jackson, Garcia: An American Life (Penguin, 2000) p32
  30. ^ Jane Boulden, Peace Enforcement: The United Nations Experience in Congo, Somalia, and Bosnia (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001) p29
  31. ^ Biteghe 1990, p. 59
  32. ^ James Fisher, Historical Dictionary of Contemporary American Theater, 1930-2010 (Scarecrow Press, 2011) p170
  33. ^ "Actress Wants To Leave So TV Show Arranges "Death", Ocala (FL) Star-Banner, February 28, 1961, p6; Hal Erickson, Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows: Factual and Fictional Series About Judges, Lawyers and the Courtroom, 1948-2008 (McFarland, 2009) p95
  34. ^ Robert K. Headland, The Island of South Georgia (Cambridge University Press Archive, 1992) p103
  35. ^ Paul Lendvai, One Day That Shook the Communist World: The 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Its Legacy (Princeton University Press, 2008) p224
  36. ^ "Hungarian Who Led '56 Revolt Is Buried as a Hero", New York Times, June 17, 1989
  37. ^ "About IranAir"
  38. ^ "Attempt on Gliding Altitude Record", Flying Magazine (October 1983); Al Blackburn, Aces Wild: The Race for Mach 1 (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) p201
  39. ^ Aéronautique Internationale verified records (accessed April 6, 2012)
  40. ^ Peter Spearritt, Sydney's Century: A History (UNSW Press, 1999) p141
  41. ^ Meera Srivastava, Constitutional Crisis in the States in India (Concept Publishing Company, 1980) p50
  42. ^ "Sputnik 7". NSSDC (NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center). Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  43. ^ Welsey T. Huntress, Jr. and Mikhail Ya. Marov, Soviet Robots in the Solar System: Mission Technologies and Discoveries (Springer, 2011) p98
  44. ^ "Morocco's King Dies; Led Freedom Fight; Country in Mourning", Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette, February 27, 1961, p1
  45. ^ "Harvard Prof. Kissinger New Kennedy Consultant", Boston Globe, February 28, 1961, p8; "'Limited War' Expert Named Kennedy Aide", Oxnard (CA) Press-Courier, February 28, 1961, p2
  46. ^ Cornell University Law School
  47. ^ Dolores L. Augustine, Red Prometheus: Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990 (MIT Press, 2007) p119