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September 1961

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September 1, 1961: Eritrea (green) begins 29 year fight for independence from Ethiopia
September 18, 1961: UN Secretary-General Hammarskjöld killed in plane crash
September 9, 1961: USS Long Beach, world's first nuclear-powered surface ship, commissioned
September 17, 1961: Turkey's ex-premier Menderes revived from drug overdose, then hanged

The following events occurred in September 1961:

September 1, 1961 (Friday)


September 2, 1961 (Saturday)


September 3, 1961 (Sunday)

  • United Kingdom Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and United States President John F. Kennedy issued a joint proposal to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, "that their three governments agree, effective immediately, not to conduct nuclear tests which take place in the atmosphere and produce radioactive fall-out", and dropping previous requests for inspection.[14] Khrushchev rejected the proposal, but the U.S., USSR and the UK would later sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963.[15]
  • The minimum wage in the United States was raised to $1.15 an hour. All covered persons hired on or after that date would still receive the previous minimum of $1.00 an hour.[16] Minimum wage 50 years later would be $7.25 an hour.
  • The Vencedor, a boat carrying more than 200 persons on a Sunday excursion to a festival in La Bocana, Colombia, sank off the coast of Buenaventura, drowning an estimated 150 people.[17]
  • Australian racing driver Bill Pitt, driving a Jaguar Mark 1 3.4, won the 1961 Australian Touring Car Championship at the Lowood circuit in Queensland.[18]
  • Died: Richard Mason, 26, a British explorer who had been leading the 10-man Iriri River Expedition in Central Brazil. While returning to the base camp in the Amazon jungle, 20 miles (32 km) from Cachimbo, Mason was ambushed by a hunting party of at least 15 members of the Panará tribe, who had had no previous contact with the outside world. In accordance with their customs, the Panará laid their weapons next to Mason's body— 15 clubs, and 40 "seven foot long bamboo arrows".[19][20]

September 4, 1961 (Monday)


September 5, 1961 (Tuesday)

  • Marxist Cheddi Jagan was sworn in as the first Premier of British Guiana (now Guyana), after his Progressive Peoples Party won the nation's first general elections since Britain had allowed the colony internal self-government.[28]
  • The first Football League Cup competition in England was won in Birmingham by Aston Villa over Rotherham United in the second leg of the two-match series. Playing at Millmoor in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Rotherham had won the first match, 2–0, on August 22. Because scoring was based on the aggregate of the scores of the two matches, Aston Villa needed to score at least two goals more than Rotherham to avoid losing. At the end of 90 minutes, Aston Villa was ahead 2–0 and the aggregate was 2–2, requiring extra time. Peter McParland scored in the 109th minute for Aston Villa's 3–2 victory in the sum of two games.
  • Skyjacking, the act of hijacking an airplane, was made a federal crime by the United States, punishable by 20 years to life in prison, and, in some cases, execution. The law also provided a penalty of $1,000 for illegally carrying a concealed weapon onto an aircraft, and up to five years in prison for giving false information to investigators.[29]
  • U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would end its own moratorium on nuclear testing after three years, stating, "We have no other choice." The announcement followed the third atomic test in the Soviet Union in one week.[30]
  • The first of three rocket sled tests were conducted by NASA at the Naval Ordnance Test Station to study the Project Mercury launch vehicle-spacecraft, clamp-ring separation.[31]
  • The United States reactivated Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base in response to the Berlin Crisis.
  • Born: Marc-André Hamelin, Canadian pianist and composer; in Montreal[32]

September 6, 1961 (Wednesday)

  • Afghanistan broke off diplomatic relations with Pakistan.[33] With the border closed at the time that the Afghans were preparing to ship their two major export crops (grapes and pomegranates) through Pakistan to India, the Soviet Union offered to ship the perishables by air. Relations were restored in May 1963, but Afghanistan had become dependent on the Soviets for aid.[34]
  • A secured telephone line between the White House in Washington, D.C., and the Admiralty House in London, was set up in order for the U.S. president and the British prime minister to communicate directly, in real time, with their conversations scrambled. President Kennedy and Prime Minister Macmillan would use the line for the first time in October.[35]
  • The National Reconnaissance Office began operations in Chantilly, Virginia as a secret U.S. intelligence agency, jointly operated by the CIA and the U.S. Air Force to coordinate satellite surveillance. The existence of the NRO was not publicly revealed until 1992, after the end of the Cold War.[36]
  • The Soviet Union began high-altitude nuclear tests, by launching two missiles from Kapustin Yar. A 10.5-kiloton weapon was exploded at an altitude of 14 miles (23 km), and a 40-kiloton weapon at 26 miles (42 km) above the Earth. The United States had done similar testing in 1958.[37]

September 7, 1961 (Thursday)

  • American comedian Jack Paar, host of The Tonight Show on NBC television, taped part of his show in front of the Berlin Wall, bringing with him seven U.S. Army officers and another 50 soldiers, along with jeeps and guns. The incident outraged members of Congress and prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Defense. A lieutenant colonel was removed from command, and another colonel admonished, but both were cleared three weeks later after a later investigation "showed the two had done nothing wrong".[38][39][40][41] The Tonight Show broadcast on September 12, using the footage, was called by one critic "as dreary and dull as the Berlin weather".[42]
  • Tom and Jerry make a return with their first cartoon short since 1958, Switchin' Kitten. The new creator, Gene Deitch, makes 12 more Tom and Jerry shorts through 1962.[43]
  • Died: Pieter Gerbrandy, 76, Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1940 to 1945[44]

September 8, 1961 (Friday)

  • France's President Charles de Gaulle escaped an assassination attempt as his limousine took him from Paris to his country home at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. A bomb with 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of plastique had been placed on the President's route between the cities of Nogent-sur-Seine and Romilly-sur-Seine, and an inflammable mixture exploded in flames as the car passed over. The plastique failed to detonate.[45] There were as many as 30 attempts to kill de Gaulle, of which this attempt and an August 22, 1962, machine gunning of his limousine, came closest to success. After the 1962 attempt, de Gaulle pushed through major constitutional reforms to increase his power.[46]
  • German authors K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernstein published Perry Rhodan, der Erbe des Universums (Perry Rhodan, the Heir of the Universe), introducing the first adventure of the space opera series Perry Rhodan. By the end of the 20th century, Rhodan would appear in more than 2000 novels.[47]
  • A report was made on possible technical advances as a result of the Project Mercury development program.[31]
  • Born: Gina Belafonte, American actress, film and stage producer; in New York City, to singer and actor Harry Belafonte[48]

September 9, 1961 (Saturday)


September 10, 1961 (Sunday)

  • While driving a Ferrari during the F1 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Germany's Wolfgang von Trips, 33, crashed into the infield, killing 18 spectators and himself. Eleven bystanders died at the scene, while 7 more of the 26 injured died later. The crash happened on the second lap, when Von Trips was struck from behind by Jim Clark's Lotus. The race continued for the next two hours, with the bodies of the dead covered with newspapers, not moved until after the race's end. Prior to the final race of the season, Von Trips had been in the lead for the World Driving Championship. The race win, and the title, went instead to Phil Hill.[54][55][56]
  • The crash of a chartered Presidential Airlines DC-6 killed all 83 persons on board, shortly after the plane took off from Shannon Airport in Ireland. The passengers were mostly women and children of U.S. Army personnel, on their way back to the United States.[57]
  • Born: Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Spanish Galician politician who was president of the Regional Government of Galicia from 2009 to 2022; in Ourense, Spain
  • Died: Bob Hayward, 33, considered at the time the world's foremost hydroplane racer, was killed while racing at the Silver Cup Regatta on the Detroit River. Piloting the boat Miss Supertest II, Hayward was attempting to pass two other competitors as they approached a curve in the river, ran out of room, and turned hard right to avoid a collision. The hydroplane, going at 135 miles per hour (217 km/h), went out of control. Hayward, who had won the Harmsworth Cup for Canada the month before, died instantly of a broken neck.[58]

September 11, 1961 (Monday)

Destruction after America's largest evacuation

September 12, 1961 (Tuesday)

African and Malagasy Union

September 13, 1961 (Wednesday)


September 14, 1961 (Thursday)

Ex-President Bayar, spared

September 15, 1961 (Friday)

  • Citing U.S. Congressman Chet Holifield of California as their source, Miami News columnists Robert S. Allen and Paul Scott, broke the frightening story that the Soviet Union planned to explode a nuclear warhead on the Moon. Firing nuclear-tipped rockets at Earth's satellite in 1961 and 1962, according to the story, the Soviets planned to use the explosions on the lunar surface for scientific purposes, with the goal of landing a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon by 1965.[85]
  • Two weeks after the Soviet Union resumed nuclear testing, the United States carried out Operation Nougat and exploded a nuclear bomb for the first time since October 30, 1958. While the Soviet tests were atmospheric, the American tests were conducted underground at the Nevada Test Site.[86]
  • In Ireland, the Government of the 16th Dáil left office, as Ireland's parliament adjourned for the last time prior to the October 4 election.
  • Born: Dan Marino, American NFL quarterback, 1984 NFL Most Valuable Player and enshrinee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; in Pittsburgh

September 16, 1961 (Saturday)

  • A U.S. Navy aircraft attempted a weather control experiment by dropping eight canisters of silver iodide around the eyewall of Hurricane Esther, testing the hypothesis that a storm could be weakened by cloud seeding. The size of the hurricane's eye was observed to increase with an accompanying decrease in wind speed, and Project Stormfury was commenced the following year. Data was collected on four hurricanes between 1963 and 1971, ultimately showing that observed decreases in wind speed had been the result of natural changes rather than seeding.[87]
  • Typhoon Nancy struck Osaka and the island of Honshu in Japan (where it was referred to as the Muroto II Typhoon), with winds of 135 miles per hour. The typhoon killed 203 people and caused $500,000,000 in damage.[88]
  • Born: Andrey Illarionov, Russian economist; in Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
  • Died:
    • Hasan Polatkan, 46, former Finance Minister of Turkey. Both Zorlu and Polatkan were hanged at the prison on the island of Yassıada after being sentenced to death on charges of malfeasance in office.[89]
    • Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, 51, former Foreign Minister of Turkey

September 17, 1961 (Sunday)

  • In the West German federal election, the CDU/CSU coalition led by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer lost 28 seats and its absolute majority in the Bundestag, finishing with 242 of the 499 seats, while the Social Democratic Party and Free Democratic Party had 190 and 67 seats respectively. The Bundestag re-elected Adenauer as Chancellor on November 7 after he forged a deal with the FDP.[90][91]
  • Five of the 26 hikers in a tour group at Zion National Park in the U.S. state of Utah were killed by a flash flood. The bodies of Walter Scott, 48, Steve Florence, 13, and Ray Nichols, 17, were discovered the following day. A skull fragment discovered in the Virgin River in 2006 was identified in 2012 as belonging to Alvin Nelson, 17. The body of Frank Johnson, 17, was never found.[92]
  • The Minnesota Vikings played their first regular season NFL game and beat the Chicago Bears in an upset, 37–13. The Bears' coach George Halas would later describe losing to an expansion team as "the most embarrassing defeat of his life".[93]
  • The NBC sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?, about two New York City policemen (Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne, who later appeared on The Munsters), premiered.
  • Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 706 crashed shortly after taking off from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, killing all 37 people on board.[94]
  • Died: Adnan Menderes, 62, who had been the first Prime Minister of Turkey to be democratically elected, serving until his overthrow in 1960, was executed for treason. Menderes had attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills at his prison cell on Yassiada Island. A team of physicians saved his life, then brought him back to consciousness long enough to be transported to the gallows on the island of İmralı.[89][95]

September 18, 1961 (Monday)

Dag Hammarskjöld's Grave

September 19, 1961 (Tuesday)

A roadside marker commemorating the incident
  • In one of the first reported cases of an "alien abduction", Betty Hill and Barney Hill were returning from a vacation in Canada to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on U.S. Route 3. South of Lancaster, the Hills would later report, they encountered a U.F.O., and had no immediate memory of what happened later until the details were brought out with the aid of hypnotism. In 1966, author John Fuller would turn their story into a best-selling book called The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours "Aboard a Flying Saucer".[105] The Hills' story would become the first of many tales of abduction by extraterrestrials. In 1975, Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones would portray the Hills in The UFO Incident. Barney would die in 1969, while Betty survived until 2004.[106][107]
West Indies Federation

September 20, 1961 (Wednesday)

Original sign with seal from the CIA's first building

September 21, 1961 (Thursday)


September 22, 1961 (Friday)

  • The ICC ruled that, effective November 1, all interstate buses in the United States were required to display signs that provided "Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin, by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission." In the same order, the ICC prohibited interstate buses from using "any terminal facilities which are so operated, arranged, or maintained as to involve any separation of any portion thereof, or in the use thereof on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin." The order was a victory for the Freedom Riders, who suspended further plans to challenge racial segregation on buses and bus terminals.[125]
  • At 3:45 a.m., Antonio Abertondo arrived in Dover and became the first person to swim across the English Channel and right back again, resting for only ten minutes between crossings. Abertondo had departed England on September 20 at 8:35 a.m., arriving nearly 19 hours later in Wissant on the coast of France. After his brief break, Abertondo began his swim back to England.[126][127]
  • The Space Task Group announced that a 30-inch (760 mm) diameter balloon would be installed in the Mercury spacecraft to allow for ship recovery should the helicopter be forced to drop the spacecraft, as happened during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery operations.[31]
  • President Kennedy signed legislation permanently funding the Peace Corps, one week after the House of Representatives had approved the bill, 287–97. The Senate had previously approved the legislation by voice vote.[128][129]
  • Dominic Abata was elected leader of the breakaway cab drivers and mechanics' union in Chicago.[130]
  • Died: Marion Davies, 64, American socialite and film actress[131]

September 23, 1961 (Saturday)


September 24, 1961 (Sunday)


September 25, 1961 (Monday)

  • President Kennedy addressed the United Nations about the need for nuclear disarmament, declaring that "Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate that day when this planet may no longer be inhabitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us."[138]
  • Wisconsin became the first state in the United States to require the installation of seat belts as standard equipment in motor vehicles, as Governor Gaylord Nelson signed into law a bill directing that all 1962 and later model cars and trucks were required to include the safety belts before they could be sold.[139] In the first six months that the law was in effect, all but one belt wearer had survived a car accident in the state.[140]
  • By a margin of almost 80%, voters in Rwanda said "no" to continuing the monarchy in a referendum conducted in advance of the African nation's scheduled independence. The Parmehutu (Parti du Mouvement de l' Emancipation Hutu) political party, composed of the majority Hutu tribe, won 35 of the 44 seats in the first Parliament.[141]
  • The Hustler, a film about pool players, starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason, was released by 20th Century Fox. "The movie transformed American culture in an instant," noted one historian. "Pool halls, pool playing, pool players— all of it, very suddenly, very unexpectedly— became hip."[142]
  • Department of the Army Message 578636 designated the green beret as the exclusive headgear of the U.S. Army Special Forces, giving the group their nickname of the "Green Berets".[143]
  • In Tacoma, Washington, KBTC-TV went on the air for the first time, as KTPS-TV.
  • Born:
  • Died: Herbert Lee, 49, American civil rights activist and charter member of the NAACP in Mississippi.[144] While delivering cotton near Liberty, he was shot and killed by Mississippi state representative E. H. Hurst.

September 26, 1961 (Tuesday)


September 27, 1961 (Wednesday)


September 28, 1961 (Thursday)

  • The United Arab Republic, which had united Egypt and Syria under Egyptian rule in 1958, was brought to an end when Lt. Col. Abd al-Karim al-Nahlawi led a coup in Damascus and announced that Syria would leave the UAR. President Nasser sent a force of 2,000 Egyptian paratroopers to crush the revolt, but rescinded the order when Syrian commanders in Aleppo and Latakia supported the insurrection. Nasser's chief aide in Syria, Marshal Abd al-Hakim Amer, was put on a plane and sent back to Cairo.[153][154] The next day, Dr. Maamun al-Kuzbari was named to head the interim government as premier.[155]
  • The NBC network medical drama Dr. Kildare, based on a series of novels and films, premiered and began a run of five seasons. The show was followed the same evening by the first episode of the American situation comedy Hazel, based on a cartoon panel by Ted Key in The Saturday Evening Post and starring veteran actress Shirley Booth as the title character, a live-in maid. Hazel would run for five seasons.
  • The word "ain't" was accepted into the English language with the publication of the Third Edition of the Merriam-Webster, the first completely new edition since 1944. Merriam President Gordon J. Oallan had announced the controversial decision on September 6, noting that "ain't" was one of thousands of new words that had been added.[156]
  • Born: Quentin Kawānanakoa, American politician and member of the House of Kawānanakoa, member of the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999; in Monterey, California

September 29, 1961 (Friday)

  • Operating in secrecy, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sent a 26-page private letter to President Kennedy, expressing his regrets over the harsh treatment he had given to Kennedy at their Vienna summit, and seeking a way to resolve the Berlin Crisis. Using the analogy of "Noah's Ark, where both the 'clean' and the 'unclean' found sanctuary" for the world, Khrushchev wrote that regardless of what each side thought of the other, both sides "are all equally interested in one thing, and that is that the Ark should successfully continue its cruise." Concealed in a newspaper, the letter was handed by KGB agent Georgi Bolshakov to presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger in a hotel room in New York City. Kennedy responded with an equally private letter on October 16.[157]
  • Minutes after Fidel Castro announced that he was going to "clean up" Havana, the last casinos in Cuba were closed. At the time of the revolution, there had been 25 gambling casinos. Five were left, all in government-operated hotels, at the time of the order.[158]
  • Forty-year-old Hawaiian Keo Nakama became the first person to swim from the island of Molokai to Oahu. It took him 15+12 hours to cross the treacherous 27-mile (43 km) Ka Iwa Channel.[159]
  • Born: Julia Gillard, Welsh-born Australian politician and the 27th Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013; in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales[160]

September 30, 1961 (Saturday)



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