February 1981

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February 9, 1981: General Jaruzelski takes over in Poland
February 5, 1981: Toxic waste renders government building uninhabitable for 13 years

The following events occurred in February 1981:

February 1, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

February 2, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

February 3, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

February 4, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

February 5, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

February 6, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

February 7, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • 1981 Bangalore circus fire: A fire broke out during a matinee performance of the Venus Circus in Bangalore, India, with the big top tent burning while 2,000 people attended. Seventy persons, mostly children, were killed during the panic.[11]
  • A Tupolev Tu-104 carrying 70 (or 52) Soviet military officers from Leningrad to Vladivostok, crashed during a takeoff, killing all persons aboard, including 24 admirals and generals. The fatalities, which the Soviet government acknowledged four days later, included Admiral Emil Spiridonov, Commander of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, and Lt. Gen. Georgi Pavlov, Commander of the Pacific Air Wing.[12]

February 8, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Karaiskakis Stadium disaster: At a soccer football match at Piraeus, Greece, 21 people were killed and 54 seriously injured. Olympiakos F.C. had defeated visiting AEK Athens F.C., 6–0, and fans rushing to a blocked stadium exit were trampled. This still stands as the worst tragedy in the history of Greek sport.[13]
  • The decapitated body of 29-year-old Leroy Carter, Jr., was found in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the apparent victim of a ritual killing. Carter had apparently been sleeping near the park's Alvord Lake when he was attacked. Reportedly, the head had been removed "with precision style" and the mutilated bodies of a several chickens were located fifty yards away. [14] Carter's severed head was located near the lake six weeks later, but the murder remains unsolved. [15]

February 9, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

February 10, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Eight people died and 350 were injured at a fire that broke out at 8:00 pm on the 8th floor of the Las Vegas Hilton hotel, and then spread upward to the 22 stories above. Philip Bruce Cline, a 23-year-old busboy who had at first been praised for alerting guests to the blaze, was later convicted of arson and murder, and received eight life sentences to prison.[17]

February 11, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • A misunderstanding at the Sequoyah Nuclear Generating Station Unit #1 near Chattanooga, Tennessee led to a nuclear accident in which 105,000 gallons of radioactive water flooded the containment building and contaminated thirteen Tennessee Valley Authority employees. After being asked to verify that a containment spray valve was properly closed, an auxiliary operator opened the valve instead, diverting the water to a sprinkler system and giving the persons inside "a chilly but slightly radioactive shower".[18]
  • Died: Charles F. Fogarty, 59, Chairman and CEO of Texasgulf, Inc., along with seven others in the crash of a company aircraft. The plane crashed at 6:45 pm as it approached Westchester, Connecticut, on the way back from Toronto.

February 12, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

  • The discovery, of a previously unknown symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was announced in Munich by Dr. Robert Münster, a spokesman for the Bavarian State Library. Written 216 years earlier, in 1765, when Mozart was nine years old, Symphony in F major, K. Anh. 223 (19a)[19] was purchased by the library from an unidentified seller who had found it "among some private papers in Bavaria last fall".[20]

February 13, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

  • Australian press baron Rupert Murdoch purchased the venerable (founded 1785) London newspaper, The Times, and its companion publication, The Sunday Times, after three weeks of negotiation with union leaders. The papers' owner, the Thomson Organization, had announced it would cease publication of both newspapers on Saturday, March 14, if a buyer could not be found.[21]

February 14, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Stardust fire: Forty-nine people were killed and 214 injured in a fire at the Stardust Cabaret discothèque in Dublin. More than were 700 people were present for a Valentine's Day party when flames were observed at 2:00 a.m.[22] Although a 1982 investigation concluded that the fire was intentionally set, a reopened inquiry ruled out arson in 2009.[23]

February 15, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

February 16, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

  • Twenty minutes before Pope John Paul II arrived at to celebrate mass with 70,000 people at Pakistan's National Stadium in Karachi, a hand grenade exploded in a stairway behind the VIP grandstand, killing the man who had been carrying it.[25] The Pope was on the first stop of a 12-day tour of Asia, after departing Rome earlier that day. After delivering the mass, he flew on to Manila.

February 17, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

February 18, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • In a 35-minute speech to a joint session of Congress, President of the United States Ronald Reagan outlined the details of a package of reforms that would reduce both inflation and unemployment by reducing federal government spending and cutting the federal income tax rate.[27] The annual inflation rate, 13.58% at the beginning of 1981, had dropped to 6.16% by 1983 and 1.91% by 1987.[28] The unemployment rate, 7.5% when Reagan took office, rose to a high of 10.8% at the end of 1982, falling to 5.3% at the end of Reagan's term.[29]
  • Born:
  • Died: Jack Northrop, 85, founder of Lockheed Corporation and Northrop Corporation

February 19, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Entertainer Frank Sinatra was cleared of longstanding rumors that he had ties to organized crime, 18 years after the Nevada Gaming Commission had revoked his license to operate a casino. In 1963, mobster Sam Giancana had visited Sinatra's Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe, and the license had been suspended. A factor in the Commission's 4-1 vote in favor of Sinatra was a statement of support from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, with an attorney authorized to say that Reagan "considers him an honorable person — completely honest and loyal".[30]

February 20, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

  • A collision between Aerolíneas Argentinas Flight 342 and the antenna on Tower One of the World Trade Center was averted when an alert air traffic controller, Donald Zimmerman, ordered the pilot to turn right and to climb. With 58 persons on board, the Boeing 707 had descended to 1,500 feet (460 m) in a heavy fog. At 10:05 pm, the plane had been 75 seconds away from impact when Zimmerman was able to contact the pilot.[31]
  • Died: Nicolas de Gunzburg, 76, French fashion editor for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar

February 21, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • In a broadcast made from Radio Veritas in Manila, Pope John Paul II made what was described as "the most far-reaching call for interfaith dialogue ever made by a pontiff", proposing to meet with representatives of the world's major religions. "The church of Jesus Christ in this age experiences a profound need to enter into contact and dialogue with all these religions," said the Pope, and that Christians must commit to discussions "so that mutual understanding and collaboration may grow, so that moral values may be strengthened, so that God may be praised in all creation".[32]

February 22, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Amateur pilot Charles Newton and his wife Judy were flying in a small engine plane when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Mrs. Newton, who didn't know how to fly and wasn't sure of her location, was saved after a flight instructor in Statesville, North Carolina, Phillip Hazel, took the air in a plane of his own. After locating her, Mr. Hazel then gave Mrs. Newton step-by-step instructions on airplane flight and guided her to a safe landing at the Statesville airport.[33]
  • Born: Jeanette Biedermann, German singer and actress, in West Berlin
  • Died: Joe Smith, 97, American comedian who teamed with Charlie Dale (1885–1971) as the comic duo Smith & Dale.

February 23, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

  • 23-F: At 6:25 pm, the Congress of Deputies of Spain was taken over by 200 members of the Guardia Civil, led by Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero Molina, who seized control of the Cortes building and took 347 legislators hostage. The Deputies were voting on whether to approve Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as the new Prime Minister. The attempted coup failed seven hours later after King Juan Carlos refused to cooperate with the plotters, and then received the support of the rest of the military. The King appeared on television at 1:24 the next morning and announced the end of the crisis. Lt. Col. Tejero, Lt. Gen. Jaime Milans del Bosch, and the King's aide, General Alfonso Armada, were later arrested.[34]
  • Died: Shep Fields, 70, American band leader

February 24, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • The element Bohrium (Bh), with 107 protons, was confirmed for the first time, by a team of scientists in Darmstadt, led by Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Münzenberg. The isotope Bh-262 was the fusion of Bismuth-209 and Chromium-54.[35]
  • For the first time, the seat of a member of the United States Congress was declared vacant by reason of disability. Gladys Noon Spellman, U.S. Representative from Maryland, had been comatose since suffering a stroke shortly before her re-election in November. By voice vote, with no objection, the House of Representatives passed a resolution noting that "Mrs. Spellman has been unable to take the oath of office due to a decapacitating illness" and that her position should be declared vacant.[36] Steny Hoyer was elected on May 19 to succeed Spellman, who never recovered and lived until 1988.[37]
  • At Buckingham Palace, Britain's Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer confirmed that they were engaged and that they would be married in late July.[38]
  • An earthquake in Greece, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, struck at 10:53 pm local time, killing 16 people and injured more than 400.[39]
  • Born: Lleyton Hewitt, Australian professional tennis player, ranked #1 in the world by the ATP from 2001 to 2003; in Adelaide

February 25, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • A bank robbery was made of a branch of the New York Bank for Savings at Rockefeller Center, by a 9-year-old boy who used a .22 caliber pistol and got away with $118, then surrendered to the FBI two days later.[40] "Robert M." was tried in the state's juvenile court system and found guilty of bank robbery on June 8[41] and placed on supervised probation in the custody of his family.[42]
  • Marking what a music commentator later suggested as the "official date of death" of disco music, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that after two years, there would no longer be a Grammy Award for the genre.[43]
  • Born: Park Ji-Sung, South Korean footballer, in Seoul

February 26, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Joey Coyle, an unemployed longshoreman in Philadelphia, was driving behind an armored car when its doors opened and two bags of money fell out. Coyle retrieved the bags and found that he was in possession of more than $1,200,000 in cash. Over the next six days, he spent or gave away an estimated $196,000 before being caught by the FBI. He was later acquitted of theft, and his story was the basis for the 1993 film Money for Nothing.[44]
  • A new record for penalty minutes in a National Hockey League game was set when the Boston Bruins hosted the Minnesota North Stars. The first fight, between Boston's Steve Kasper and the Stars' Greg Smith, broke out seven seconds into the game. Eventually seven Minnesota and five Boston players were ejected, Stars' coach Glen Sonmor fought with a fan, and 406 minutes were assessed. The Bruins won, 5-1.[45] The record stood for 23 years until broken on March 5, 2004, in the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, with 419 minutes assessed.[46]

February 27, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

  • A daring prison escape was carried out in France when a pair of men forced helicopter pilot Claude Fourcade to fly to Fleury-Mérogis Prison, where armed robbers Gerard Dupre and Daniel Beaumont were incarcerated. At gunpoint, Fourcade landed at a soccer field on prison grounds, took off again with Dupre and Beaumont on board, eluded a chase by police helicopters, and landed at a Paris athletic field where the gang escaped in a waiting car.[47] Dupre was recaptured in Paris on March 6[48] while Beaumont was arrested in Spain on four months later on July 9.[49]
  • Born: Josh Groban, American singer, in Los Angeles

February 28, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • 1981 Irish hunger strike: At the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, IRA member Bobby Sands ate an orange, and then refused to eat again until the inmates were allowed to wear civilian clothing. Other IRA prisoners joined the hunger strike along the way. Sands died on May 5, 1981, and nine other inmates starved themselves to death until the strike was halted in October.[50]


  1. ^ "The Underarm incident", Melbourne Cricket Club
  2. ^ "Rookie Leads N.F.C. In Pro Bowl Victory", New York Times, February 2, 1981, pC-3
  3. ^ "Cook beats four others in golf playoff", Milwaukee Journal, February 3, 1981, p6
  4. ^ "Woman will lead Norway", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 4, 1981, p2
  5. ^ "GOP'er is accused of sodomy", Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, February 5, 1981, p3
  6. ^ "Hinson Resigns From House", New York Times, March 18, 1981
  7. ^ "National Parks". wiienvis.nic.in. Retrieved 2016-11-10. 
  8. ^ "Spill closes offices", Syracuse Herald-Journal, February 5, 1981, pD-1; "Office complex cleanup to take years", Syracuse Herald-Journal, February 17, 1981, pA-2; "Unions Question Safety of Move Into Cleaned-Up Office Building", New York Times, September 11, 1994; "State Building Finally Reopens in Binghamton", The Buffalo News, October 12, 1994
  9. ^ Andrew Rice, The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda (St. Martin's Press, 2009) p216
  10. ^ Kitty Kelley, The Royals(Warner Books, 1977) p366
  11. ^ "58 in India Are Killed, By Fire in a Circus Tent", New York Times, February 8, 1981; "Fire tragedy: A wake-up call for all companies", IndianExpress.com, March 8, 2010
  12. ^ "Top Soviet Navy Officers Are Killed in Air Crash" New York Times, February 11, 1981
  13. ^ "19 soccer fans killed in rush", The Milwaukee Journal, February 9, 1981, p2; Bill Murray, The World's Game: A History of Soccer (University of Illinois Press, 1998) p191
  14. ^ "Ritual beheading in S.F. park", San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, CA), February 9, 1981, p2
  15. ^ "Carter, Leroy", in Michael Newton, The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes (Infobase Publishing, 2009) p70
  16. ^ "Defense chief takes Polish premier's job", Milwaukee Journal, February 10, 1981, p1
  17. ^ "Ex-Busboy Gets 8 Life Terms In Las Vegas Hilton Hotel Fire", New York Times, March 26, 1982
  18. ^ "Chilling results", New Scientist, December 10, 1981, p765; "Operator Error Blamed For a Nuclear Accident", New York Times, February 15, 1981
  19. ^ Neal Zaslaw, ed., The Compleat Mozart: a guide to the musical works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (W. W. Norton & Company, 1990) p165
  20. ^ "Early Mozart Symphony Discovered in Bavaria", Toledo Blade, February 14, 1981, p1
  21. ^ "London Times is rescued as Aussie clinches deal", The Deseret News (Salt Lake City), February 13, 1981, p2
  22. ^ "49 die in Dublin fire", Milwaukee Journal, February 14, 1981, p1
  23. ^ http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0123/stardust.html "'No evidence' of arson in Stardust fire" RTE News, January 23, 2009
  24. ^ "The King Does It Again", Reading (Pa.) Eagle, February 16, 1981, p20
  25. ^ "Karachi Blast Kills 1 Before Pope's Mass", Pittsburgh Press, February 16, 1981, p1
  26. ^ Kenneth R. Mayer, With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power (Princeton University Press, 2002) p127
  27. ^ "President Proposes 83 Major Program Cuts; Tells Congress U.S. Faces Day of Reckoning", New York Times, February 18, 1981, p1; Between Promise and Policy: Ronald Reagan and Conservative Reformism (Lexington Books, 2001) p208
  28. ^ Historical US Inflation Rate 1914-Present, InflationData.com
  29. ^ Bureau of Labor Statistics[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "Sinatra Cleared of Crime Ties, Given Gaming License", The Blade (Toledo, OH), February 19, 1981, p4
  31. ^ "Too low airliner nearly hits World Trade Center", St. Petersburg Times, February 26, 1981, p1; "Traffic cops of the sky", The Spokesman-Review, June 20, 1981, pC-1
  32. ^ "Pope Urges Major-Faiths Dialogue", The Day (New London, CT), February 22, 1981, pA-7
  33. ^ "Woman Lands Plane After Her Husband Dies", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 25, 1981, p10-D
  34. ^ Spain: The Franquista Coup That Failed, TIME Magazine, March 9, 1981; Víctor M. Pérez-Díaz, The Return of Civil Society: The Emergence of Democratic Spain (Harvard University Press, 1993) pp203-204
  35. ^ "Bohrium and Hassium", by Peter Armbruster, in Chemical & Engineering News
  36. ^ "Rep. Spellman's Seat Held Vacant Over Illness Since Heart Attack", New York Times, February 25, 1981
  37. ^ Women in Congress, 1917-1990 (DIANE Publishing, 1997) p246
  38. ^ "World's most eligible bachelor picks Lady Diana", Milwaukee Journal, February 24, 1981, p1
  39. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Archived October 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ^ "Boy Surrenders In Bank Holdup", Ocala (FL) Star-Banner, February 27, 1981, p5A
  41. ^ "Boy, 10, Found Guilty Of Holding Up a Bank", New York Times, June 9, 1981
  42. ^ "THE CITY: Bank Robber, 10, Gets Probation", New York Times, July 18, 1981
  43. ^ "Rap, metal awards a risk", by Bruce Britt, Los Angeles Daily News in Spokane Chronicle February 22, 1989, p26
  44. ^ "Stroke of luck changed man's life - but for the worse", The Milwaukee Journal, August 16, 1993, pA-5
  45. ^ "North Stars, Bruins stick to fighting", Milwaukee Journal, February 27, 1981, p10; "Six Records Set for Penalties", New York Times, February 28, 1981
  46. ^ Don Weekes, The Big Book of Hockey Trivia (Greystone Books, 2005) p345
  47. ^ Prison break in France MJ02/27 "Chopper Takes Inmates From Jail", Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal, February 28, 1981, p1
  48. ^ "Copter Escapee Caught in Paris", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 7, 1981, p5
  49. ^ "French escapee captured", Spokane Daily Chronicle, July 9, 1981, p10
  50. ^ David Beresford, Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997) p57