1981 events in history

Jan 1 Palau achieves self-government though it is not independent from the United States
Jan 1 Greece is admitted into the European Community
Jan 2 One of the largest investigations by a British police force ends when serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper", is arrested in Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Jan 8 A local farmer reports a UFO sighting in Trans-en-Provence, France, claimed to be "perhaps the most completely and carefully documented sighting of all time"
Jan 10 Salvadoran Civil War: The FMLN launches its first major offensive, gaining control of most of Morazán and Chalatenango departments
Jan 15 John Paul II receives a delegation from Solidarity (Polish trade union) at the Vatican led by Lech Walesa
Jan 17 President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos lifts martial law eight years and five months after declaring it
Jan 18 Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield parachute off a Houston skyscraper, becoming the first two people to BASE jump from objects in all four categories: buildings, antennae, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs)
Jan 19 Iran Hostage Crisis: United States and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity
Jan 20 Twenty minutes after Ronald Reagan is inaugurated, at age 69 the oldest man ever to be inaugurated as U.S. President, Iran releases 52 American hostages
Jan 21 Production of the iconic DeLorean DMC-12 sports car begins in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland
Jan 25 Jiang Qing, the widow of Mao Zedong, is sentenced to death
Jan 28 Ronald Reagan lifts remaining domestic petroleum price and allocation controls in the United States helping to end the 1979 energy crisis and begin the 1980s oil glut
Feb 6 The National Resistance Army of Uganda launches an attack on a Ugandan Army installation in the central Mubende District to begin the Ugandan Bush War
Feb 8 Twenty-one association football spectators are trampled to death at Karaiskakis Stadium in Neo Faliro, Greece, after a football match between Olympiacos F.C. and AEK Athens FC
Feb 10 A fire at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel-casino kills eight and injures 198
Feb 11 100,000 US gallons (380 m3) of radioactive coolant leak into the containment building of TVA Sequoyah 1 nuclear plant in Tennessee, contaminating 8 workers
Feb 13 A series of sewer explosions destroys more than two miles of streets in Louisville, Kentucky
Feb 14 Stardust Disaster: A fire in a Dublin nightclub kills 48 people
Feb 23 In Spain, Antonio Tejero attempts a coup d'état by capturing the Spanish Congress of Deputies
Feb 24 An earthquake registering 6.7 on the Richter scale hits Athens, killing 16 people and destroying buildings in several towns west of the city
Mar 1 Provisional Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands begins his hunger strike in HM Prison Maze
Mar 5 The ZX81, a pioneering British home computer, is launched by Sinclair Research and would go on to sell over 1.5 million units around the world
Mar 6 After 19 years of presenting the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite signs off for the last time
Mar 27 The Solidarity movement in Poland stages a warning strike, in which at least 12 million Poles walk off their jobs for four hours
Mar 30 U.S. President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by John Hinckley, Jr. Another two people are wounded at the same time
Apr 3 The Osborne 1, the first successful portable computer, is unveiled at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco
Apr 4 The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force mounts an attack on H-3 Airbase and destroys about 50 Iraqi aircraft
Apr 9 The U.S. Navy nuclear submarine USS George Washington accidentally collides with the Nissho Maru, a Japanese cargo ship, sinking it
Apr 11 A massive riot in Brixton, South London, results in almost 300 police injuries and 65 serious civilian injuries
Apr 12 The first launch of a Space Shuttle (Columbia) takes place - the STS-1 mission
Apr 14 STS-1 – The first operational space shuttle, Columbia (OV-102) completes its first test flight
Apr 18 The longest professional baseball game is begun in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The game is suspended at 4:00 the next morning and finally completed on June 23
Apr 25 More than 100 workers are exposed to radiation during repairs of a nuclear power plant in Tsuruga, Japan
Apr 26 Dr. Michael R. Harrison of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center performs the world's first human open fetal surgery
Apr 27 Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse
May 5 Bobby Sands dies in the Long Kesh prison hospital after 66 days of hunger-striking, aged 27
May 6 A jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Ying Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 1,421 other entries
May 10 François Mitterrand wins the presidential election and becomes the first Socialist President of France in the French Fifth Republic
May 12 Francis Hughes starves to death in the Maze Prison in a Republican campaign for political prisoner status to be granted to Provisional IRA prisoners
May 13 Mehmet Ali Ağca attempts to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The Pope is rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic to undergo emergency surgery and survives
May 21 Irish Republican hunger strikers Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara die on hunger strike in Maze prison
May 21 The Italian government releases the membership list of Propaganda Due, an illegal pseudo-Masonic lodge that was implicated in numerous Italian crimes and mysteries
May 24 Ecuadorian president Jaime Roldós Aguilera, his wife, and his presidential committee die in an aircraft accident while travelling from Quito to Zapotillo minutes after the president gave a famous speech regarding the 24 de mayo anniversary of the Battle of Pichincha
May 25 In Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council is created between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
May 26 An EA-6B Prowler crashes on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68), killing 14 crewmen and injuring 45 others
May 26 Italian Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani and his coalition cabinet resign following a scandal over membership of the pseudo-masonic lodge P2 (Propaganda Due)
May 31 The burning of Jaffna library in Sri Lanka. It is one of the violent examples of ethnic biblioclasm of the twentieth century
Jun 5 The "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that five people in Los Angeles, California, have a rare form of pneumonia seen only in patients with weakened immune systems, in what turns out to be the first recognized cases of AIDS
Jun 6 Bihar train disaster: a passenger train travelling between Mansi and Saharsa, India, jumps the tracks at a bridge crossing the Bagmati river. The government places the official death toll at 268 plus another 300 missing; however, it is generally believed that the death toll is closer to 1,000