January 1981

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January 20, 1981: Reagan inaugurated as 40th U.S. President
January 20, 1981: American hostages leave Iran after 444 days

The following events occurred in January 1981:

January 1, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

Republic of Palau

January 2, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

January 3, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Salvadoran labor leader José Rodolfo Viera, and two American representatives from the AFL-CIO, Michael P. Hammer and Mark David Pearlman, were assassinated at the Sheraton Hotel in San Salvador, by two members of the El Salvador National Guard.[6] The gunmen, José Dimas Valle Acevedo and Santiago Gómez González, testified later that they had been ordered to carry out the murders after the victims had been recognized by businessman Hans Christ at the hotel's restaurant, and were sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1986. They were released after less than two years.[7]
  • Born: Eli Manning, American NFL quarterback for the New York Giants, MVP in Super Bowl XLII (2008); in New Orleans
  • Died: Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, 97, the last survivor of the 42 grandchildren of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom

January 4, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

  • The most expensive non-musical Broadway production to that date, The Monster Revived: Frankenstein, Victor Gialanella's adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, was shown for the first time, and the last. Premiering at the Palace Theatre (Broadway) after the expense of two million dollars, the play was poorly reviewed and closed after one performance.[8]

January 5, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

January 6, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

January 7, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • After investment analyst Joseph Granville sent an overnight telegram to his customers with two words— "Sell everything!"— the New York Stock Exchange had its biggest trading day up to that time, with 92,890,000 shares changing hands.[16]
  • Died: Clair L. Farrand, 85, American inventor with over 1,000 electronics patents, including the radio loudspeaker N.Y. Times obituary

January 8, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Trans-en-Provence Case: In what has been described as "perhaps the most completely and carefully documented sighting of all time", retired contractor Renato Nicolai witnessed what he believed to be French military aircraft on a test flight. After police forwarded the report to GEPAN, an investigative unit of the France's space agency CNES, found traces of metal throughout the area where the UFO had been observed.[17]
  • Born: Xie Xingfang, Chinese badminton player, and women's singles champion in 2005 and 2006; in Guangzhou
  • Died: Matthew Beard, 56, African-American actor who portrayed "Stymie" in The Little Rascals.

January 9, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

  • Abscam Scandal: U.S. Representative Raymond F. Lederer (D-Pa.), the only one of the six indicted Abscam defendants to have won re-election to Congress in spite of the scandal, was convicted on charges of bribery and conspiracy. A jury in New York returned the verdict after watching a videotape of Lederer accepting $50,000 in cash in an FBI sting.[18] Despite conviction on a felony, Lederer served for three more months until resigning on April 29, after the House Ethics Committee recommended his expulsion from the U.S. House of Representatives.[19]
  • A fire killed 31 elderly residents of the Beachview Rest Home in Keansburg, New Jersey. Another 78 patients and employees escaped the blaze.[20]
  • Born: Euzebiusz Smolarek, Polish footballer, in Łódź

January 10, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Salvadoran Civil War: The FMLN launched a guerilla war against the government of El Salvador which would last for eleven years. At 6:30 pm, after radio stations in San Salvador were seized and FMLN leader Cayetano Carpio announced "The hour... for the taking of power by the people... has arrived." and attacks were launched at multiple locations.[21] One estimate is that 80,000 people, almost 2% of El Salvador's population of 4.5 million, were killed in the course of attacks and reprisals.[22]
  • Died:

January 11, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Iran hostage crisis: Iran dropped a demand that the United States deposit 24 billion dollars in gold into an Algerian bank as a condition of the release of 52 U.S. Embassy workers being held hostage in Tehran, settling instead for the release of the nearly 8 billion dollars of Iranian assets that had been frozen in American banks.[23]
  • Born: Jamelia, British singer, as Jamelia Niela Davis in Smethwick, West Midlands
  • Died: Beulah Bondi, 92, American actress (Ma Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life)

January 12, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

  • At 1:30 am, the Macheteros, a separatist group in Puerto Rico raided Air National Guard's Muñiz Air Base after midnight and set explosives that destroyed nine jet fighters (8 A-7 Corsair IIs and an F-104 Starfighter).[24]
  • The television series Dynasty began a nine-year run on the ABC network. The prime time soap opera, described by New York Times TV critic Tom Buckley as "An embarrassingly obvious knockoff of Dallas",[25] starred Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington, who briefly brought back the popularity of women's wear with padded shoulders. Dynasty was the #1 rated TV program in the United States during the 1983-84 television season.[26]

January 13, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Donna Griffiths, a 12-year-old girl in Pershore, Worcestershire, in the United Kingdom, began sneezing, and continued to sneeze repeatedly, for 978 consecutive days. Initially sneezing twice every minute, her rate would eventually slow to once every five minutes. Donna would have her first day without sneezing on September 16, 1983.[27]
  • Died: Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen, 82, American surgeon and inventor who created the suction procedure used in gastrointestinal surgery.

January 14, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

January 15, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

January 16, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

  • Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, who had served as a British MP and an advocate for the rights of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, was shot multiple times, along with her husband, by Protestant gunmen of the paramilitary group Ulster Freedom Fighters who had invaded their home. Five days later, Protestant leader Norman Stronge, who had been the last leader of the Northern Ireland parliament, was shot and killed, along with his son, by an eleven-member Irish Republican Army unit, at their home, Tynan Abbey.[31]
  • Died: Bernard Lee, 73, English actor who portrayed "M" in multiple James Bond films

January 17, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

January 18, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

  • BASE jumping was founded by Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield as they jumped off of the 72nd floor of the Texas Commerce Tower in Houston and parachuted to the ground, after having jumped from an antenna, a bridge and a cliff.[34]
  • New Cross Fire: At Deptford, a mostly black neighborhood in London, thirteen young black British persons died in a fire during a 16th birthday party for one of the victims, Yvonne Ruddock.[35] The fire, believed by many in the black community to have been set by racists, was cited as a factor in the 1981 Brixton riot three months later.[36]

January 19, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

January 20, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Iran hostage crisis: On Jimmy Carter's last day as 39th President of the United States, he had hoped that the 52 American hostages in Iran would be allowed to leave before his term expired at noon. At 6:18 am Washington time, the escrow papers were completed to transfer $7,970,000,000 in Iranian assets from U.S. banks to the Bank of England. At 8:04 am EST, the Algerian intermediaries notified both the U.S. and Iran that the transfer was complete. The Boeing 727 carrying the hostages, Air Algérie Flight 133, was boarded at 8:20 pm Tehran time (11:50 am EST), but did not depart until 35 minutes later, after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office as the 40th U.S. President.[38] The plane left Iranian airspace an hour, landing in Athens for refueling, then arriving at Algiers at 2:10 am local time the next day, where the former hostages were transferred to two Medevac planes and flown to Wiesbaden Army Airfield in West Germany.[39]
  • Born:

January 21, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

The DeLorean
  • The very first DeLorean DMC-12 automobile was produced in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland. The sports car was stainless steel and had gull-wing doors, and was immortalized in Back to the Future.[40]
  • In his first full day at the White House as National Security Advisor to President Reagan, Richard V. Allen accepted at least $1,000 and watches from the Japanese women's magazine Shufo no tomo in return for arranging an interview with First Lady Nancy Reagan.[41] After the matter came to light, Allen was forced to resign on January 4, 1982.[42]
  • Feodor Fedorenko, who had come to the U.S. in 1949 after earlier having been a supervisor of the Treblinka extermination camp, lost his citizenship when the United States Supreme Court affirmed prior rulings by a 7-2 vote.[43] Fedorenko was deported to the Soviet Union in 1984, where he was executed for treason in 1987.[44]
  • Two commercial divers, Philip Robinson and Jim Tucker, were rescued from a crippled diving bell in the East Shetland Basin by an underwater transfer to another diving bell. This was the first through-water transfer in the history of diving.[45]
  • Born:

January 22, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

January 23, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

  • South Korea's President Chun Doo-hwan commuted the 1980 death sentence that had been given to Kim Dae-jung, who had run for President in 1971, and then kidnapped from Japan in 1973. The next day, President Chun announced the end of the state of martial law that had been in effect since 1979. Kim would be released in 1983, and in 1997, would be elected President of South Korea.[48]
  • Seven construction workers in Fresno County, California, were killed when an elevator platform at PG&E's Helms Creek plant collapsed at 10:25 pm, ninety minutes before their workweek was to end. The men fell 300 feet (91 m) to their deaths.[49]
  • The city of Huber Heights, Ohio, was incorporated.
  • Died: Samuel Barber, 70, American classical composer

January 24, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • François Mitterrand was nominated by France's Socialist Party as its candidate for President in the 1981 elections.[50]
  • The British Labour Party special conference at Wembley decided that leadership elections should be by an electoral college limited to only 30 percent of members of parliament.[51]
  • 1981 Dawu earthquake: A 6.8 magnitude quake in Sichuan, China, killed 150 people and injured 300. The quake struck at 5:13 a.m. local time (2113 GMT on January 23).[52]
  • Died: Captain Joseph Mokoa, General Josephat Mayomokola, Joseph Baissa, Dr. Jean-Bruno Dédéavodé, Robert Boukendé and Pierre Koba. All were executed by a firing squad for crimes committed during the reign of terror by Bokassa I of the Central African Empire. Bokassa himself, who had been sentenced to death in absentia, remained free in Côte d'Ivoire.[53]

January 25, 1981 (Sunday)[edit]

January 26, 1981 (Monday)[edit]

  • Chandler v. Florida: The United States Supreme Court ruled in an 8-0 decision that it was not a denial of due process to allow live television coverage of court proceedings, overruling its 1965 decision in Estes v. Texas.[58]

January 27, 1981 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Tampomas II disaster: 580 people drowned when the Indonesian passenger ferry KM Tampomas II sank in the Java Sea during a storm. Of the 1,136 passengers and crew, 566 were rescued, including 152 who were found in lifeboats days afterward. Operated by the Pelni line, the ship was a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferryboat that had caught fire midway through its voyage from Jakarta to Makassar. The fire was extinguished, but the engines failed and the ship was adrift and awaiting a rescue when a storm arose. Before the ship could be fully evacuated, it capsized, going completely beneath the waters at 1:42 in the afternoon Central Indonesian time (0542 GMT).[59]

January 28, 1981 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • President Reagan signed Executive Order 12287, immediately ending all United States federal price and allocation controls on gasoline and fuel oil. Price controls had been in effect since 1971.[60] Although the short-term effect was a rise in gas prices, American oil companies increased their production and created an oil glut by summer.[61]
  • Paquisha War: Ecuador and Peru fought a war after Ecuadorian forces had established an outpost 40 miles (64 km) into territory that had been lost to Peru in 1942. Despite initial reports by Peru of hundreds of deaths on both sides, Ecuador acknowledged that two of its soldiers were killed, and Peru had one killed and three wounded.[62]
  • Born: Elijah Wood, American actor (The Lord of the Rings), in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

January 29, 1981 (Thursday)[edit]

January 30, 1981 (Friday)[edit]

January 31, 1981 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Thought by scientists to have been extinct since 1895, the golden-fronted bowerbird (Amblyornis flavifrons) was discovered to have survived. American ornithologist Jared Diamond of UCLA discovered the home ground of the golden-fronted bowerbird at the Foja Mountains. Diamond photographed several of the birds, then lost his film when his boat capsized and had to make a second expedition. The rediscovery was confirmed at a November 10, 1981, press conference at the National Geographic Society in Washington, which, with the World Wildlife Fund, had co-sponsored Diamond's research.[65]
  • The first parade to honor veterans of the Vietnam War was organized by the veterans themselves, in Indianapolis, eight years after the conflict ended. Hundreds of vets, wrote a New York Times reporter, "marched Saturday in counterpoint to the heroic reception of the former American hostages... offering themselves the parade they said nobody gave them when they came home from war." [66]
  • CCM Robert K. Jones, the last of the American "NAP"s, retired from the U.S. Navy. The "Naval Aviation Pilots" were enlisted men rather than Navy, Marine or Coast Guard officers.[67]
  • Born: Justin Timberlake, American musician, in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Died: Cozy Cole, 71, American jazz drummer


  1. ^ "Sugar Bowl win gives Georgia national title", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 2, 1981, p8
  2. ^ "Greece is 10th Member of the Common Market", New York Times, January 2, 1981
  3. ^ "Changes in the Federal and State Minimum Wages, 1954 to the Present", p7
  4. ^ "Veteran African leader quits", Montreal Gazette, December 31, 1980, p12; Jim Hudgens and Richard Trillo, The Rough Guide to West Africa (Rough Guides, 2003) p170
  5. ^ Brian Lane, Chronicle of Murder: A Chronological Analysis of Murder (Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004) pp375-376
  6. ^ "Two Americans, Salvadoran official, slain in El Salvador", Milwaukee Sentinel, January 5, 1981, p1
  7. ^ "Michael Peter Hammer", ArlingtonCemetery.net
  8. ^ "Frankenstein Has Premiere at Palace, New York Times, January 5, 1981; "Frankenstein Closes at the Palace", New York Times, January 6, 1981; Frankenstein 1981 "Economic downturn hits Broadway: A history of flops" The Telegraph (London), December 10, 2008
  9. ^ Saskia Gieling, Religion and War in Revolutionary Iran (I.B.Tauris, 1999) pp20-22
  10. ^ Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams By M. J. Simpson, Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams (Justin, Charles & Co., 2005) p166
  11. ^ Libya, Chad OK Plan To Merge Into One Nation", Toledo (OH) Blade, January 7, 1981, p1
  12. ^ Terry M. Mays, Africa's First Peacekeeping Operation: The OAU in Chad, 1981-1982 (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002) pp62-63
  13. ^ "Death Toll Rises to 230 In Amazon Boat Disaster", New York Times, January 10, 1981
  14. ^ "Gain of 12 Sends Dow Past 1,000 to Best Closing Level in 4 Years", Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1981, p2
  15. ^ "Reagan, Bush Won, Mondale Announces", Toledo Blade, January 7, 1981, p1
  16. ^ "Biggest Volume in History— 93 Millions Shares Traded— Analyst's Tip Sends Dow Diving", Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1981, p1
  17. ^ "When UFOs Land", by Jim Wilson, Popular Mechanics (May 2001) p66; "Panel Urges Study Of UFO Reports; Unexplained Phenomena Need Scrutiny, Science Group Says", Washington Post, June 29, 1998, pA-1
  18. ^ "Lederer Convicted in ABSCAM; Phila. Democrat Guilty of Bribery, Three Other Charges", Philadelphia Inquirer, January 10, 1981, pA-1.
  19. ^ "Rep. Lederer Quits, Citing ABSCAM Conviction", Boston Globe, April 30, 1981, p1
  20. ^ "Nursing home blaze death toll set at 29", Montreal Gazette, January 12, 1981, p2
  21. ^ Tommie Sue Montgomery, Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace (2d.Ed.) (Westview Press, 1995) p112; "Junta repulses 'final offensive'", Syracuse Herald-American, January 11, 1981, p1
  22. ^ Karl R. DeRouen and Uk Heo, Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts Since World War II, Volume 2 (ABC-CLIO, 2007) p345
  23. ^ "Iran drops $24 billion demand", Syracuse Herald-American, January 12, 1981, p1
  24. ^ "9 jet fighters destroyed by Puerto Rican leftists", Syracuse Herald-Journal, January 12, 1981, p1
  25. ^ "Premiere of 'Dynasty', A TV Series on an Oil Family", by Tom Buckley, New York Times, January 12, 1981
  26. ^ David Mansour, From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005) p135
  27. ^ "'It's got to stop sometime,' says schoolgirl, after sneezing twice a minute for 298 days," Miami News, November 7, 1981, p14A; "Achoo! U.", Star-News (Wilmington, NC), April 15, 1996, pD-1
  28. ^ "Long-Wear Contact Lenses Approved by U.S. Agency", New York Times, January 15, 1981
  29. ^ Museum of Broadcast Communications, Encyclopedia of Television (2d.Ed) (CRC Press, 2004) pp1089–1091
  30. ^ Robert J. Thompson, Television's Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER (Syracuse University Press, 1997) p30
  31. ^ "Ulster's Bernadette Devlin Shot", Pittsburgh Press, January 17, 1981, p5; "Top Protestant dies in IRA revenge raid", Montreal Gazette, January 23, 1981, p11; Ed Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA (W.W. Norton, 2002) p320
  32. ^ "Marcos lifts Filipino martial law", Milwaukee Journal, January 17, 1981, p2
  33. ^ Al Hidell and Joan D'Arc, The Conspiracy Reader: From the Deaths of JFK and John Lennon to Government-Sponsored Alien Cover-Ups (Citadel Press, 1998); "Milestones", TIME Magazine, February 2, 1981
  34. ^ "The Ground's the Limit", by Harry Hurt III, Texas Monthly (December 1981) p178
  35. ^ "Petrol bomb theory after blaze kills nine at all-night party", The Guardian, January 19, 1981
  36. ^ "23 years on, new inquest opens into black youths killed in fire", by Terri Judd, The Independent (London), February 3, 2004
  37. ^ "U.S., Iran sign hostage agreement", Winnipeg Free Press, January 19, 1981, p1
  38. ^ Jimmy Carter, Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a President, excerpt in TIME Magazine, October 18, 1982
  39. ^ "Yesterday's chronology of events, AP report January 21, 1981
  40. ^ AROnline.co.UK
  41. ^ "$10,000 White House puzzle: How much was Allen given?", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane WA), November 22, 1981, p3
  42. ^ "Allen resigns; Clark appointed adviser", Milwaukee Sentinel, January 5, 1982, p1
  43. ^ "Loses citizenship", Syracuse Herald-Journal, January 21, 1981, p1
  44. ^ Timothy L. H. McCormack and Gerry J. Simpson, eds., The Law of War Crimes: National and International Approaches (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1997), p91
  45. ^ Smart, Michael (2011). Into the Lion's Mouth: The Story of the Wildrake Diving Accident. Medford, Oregon: Lion's Mouth Publishing. pp. 275–276. ISBN 978-0-615-52838-0. 
  46. ^ Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger, Tor!: The Story of German Football (WSC Books, 2003) p229
  47. ^ "ASME's Top 10 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years", ABCNews.go.com
  48. ^ Jürgen Kleiner, Korea: A Century of Change (World Scientific, 2001) pp186-188; "After 456 Days of Martial Law, Restrictions Lifted In South Korea", Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, January 25, 1981, p3
  49. ^ "Fall kills 7 workers", Syracuse Herald-Journal, January 24, 1981, p1
  50. ^ David S. Bell, François Mitterrand: A Political Biography (Polity, 2005) p82
  51. ^ Peter Dorey, British Politics Since 1945 (Wiley-Blackwell, 1995) p183
  52. ^ "Significant Earthquakes of the World" Archived 2012-10-11 at the Wayback Machine., USGS.gov; "Quake kills at least 100 in China", Milwaukee Sentinel, January 24, 1981
  53. ^ "6 complices de Bokassa sont exécutés à Bangui", Le Devoir, January 24, 1981, p22; Brian Titley, Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002) p154
  54. ^ Geoff Eley, Forging democracy: the history of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2002) p463
  55. ^ "Plunkett Passes Raiders to a 2d Super Bowl, 27-10", Syracuse Herald-Journal, January 26, 1981, p1
  56. ^ 300,000 greet the 52", Syracuse Herald-Journal, January 26, 1981, p1
  57. ^ Alan Lawrance, China Under Communism (Routledge, 1998) pp104-105
  58. ^ Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981); "High Court Decides States Can Permit Televising of Trials", New York Times, January 27, 1981, p1
  59. ^ "570 die as ship sinks in Java Sea", The Gazette (Montreal), January 28, 1981, p1; Translation of "Tampomas Deritamu Duka Bangsa", September 30, 2007,
  60. ^ "Reagan Lifts Oil Controls", Pittsburgh Press, January 28, 1981, p1
  61. ^ Timothy J. Botti, Envy of the World: A History of the U.S. Economy & Big Business (Algora Publishing, 2006) p392
  62. ^ "Many Deaths Reported In Peru-Ecuador Conflict", New York Times, January 30, 1981; "Cease-fire is verified between Ecuador, Peru", Star-News (Wilmington, NC), February 4, 1981, p4
  63. ^ Francisco J. Romero Salvadó, Twentieth-century Spain : politics and society in Spain, 1898-1998 (Palgrave, 1999) p175
  64. ^ Hilton Hamann, Days of the Generals: The untold story of South Africa's apartheid-era military generals (Zebra Press, 2001) p132
  65. ^ "Thought extinct, bird found in New Guinea", Edmonton Journal, November 11, 1981, pF7
  66. ^ "Vietnam Vererans Parade in Shadow of 52 Hostages", by Iver Peterson, New York Times, February 1, 1981, p22; Elizabeth Becker, When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution (Public Affairs, 1998) p461
  67. ^ (Bluejacket.com