The United Arab Emirates is formed


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Original:
Year
1972
Month Day
December 21

On December 21, 1972, the United Arab Emirates is formed. The union of six small Gulf kingdoms—to which a seventh was soon added—created a small state with an outsized role in the global economy.

A number of kingdoms on the norther coast of the Arabian Peninsula came under British protection through a series of treaties beginning in 1820. Concerned with protecting trade routes and their prized colony of India, the British navy protected what became known as the Trucial States in exchange for their cooperation with British interests. During this period of British protection, the region’s vast oil reserves were discovered. As the Trucial States and nearby kingdoms like Bahrain and Qatar became major suppliers of oil, the British Empire’s influence receded due to a number of factors, the two World Wars chief among them. In 1968, the British government declared that it would end the protectorate, withdrawing its military and leaving the people of the region to their own devices.

Dwarfed by their neighbors in terms of size, population and military capabilities, the small kingdoms of the region attempted to organize themselves into a single political unit. The negotiations proved difficult, and Bahrain and Qatar elected to declare independence unilaterally. With the British treaty due to expire and both Iran and Saudi Arabia eyeing their territory and resources, the kingdoms of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai and Umm al-Quwain became the independent United Arab Emirates on this day in 1972. Ras al-Khaimah joined two months later.

Since then, the UAE has been a sovereign nation, enjoying the profits of its natural resources—its reserves of oil and natural gas are the seventh-largest in the world, and it has the seventh-highest GDP per capita. This wealth has turned the Emirates into a major hub of trade, travel, tourism and finance. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, is emblematic of the Emirates’ dramatic construction boom and rise to global prominence. Though its cities are some of the most modern in the world, the nation remains a monarchy governed by religious law—its president and prime minister are the absolute monarchs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively, and apostasy, homosexuality and even kissing in public are punishable by law.

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“American Pie” hits #1 on the pop charts


Year
1972
Month Day
January 15

On January 15, 1972, “American Pie,”, an epic poem in musical form that has long been etched in the American popular consciousness, hits #1 on the Billboard charts.

The story of Don McLean’s magnum opus begins almost 13 years before its release, on a date with significance well-known to any American who was alive and conscious at the time. Tuesday February 3, 1959, was the date of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson—a date that would be imbued with transcendent meaning by Don McLean when he labeled it “the Day the Music Died.” One might reasonably point out that the baby-boom generation has since invested its entire rock-and-roll experience with transcendent meaning, but don’t blame Don McLean for starting the trend. “American Pie” wasn’t written to be a generation-defining epic; it was written simply to capture McLean’s view of “America as I was seeing it and how I was fantasizing it might become.”

When asked to explain what exactly he was trying to say with some of his more ambiguous lyrics, McLean has generally declined. Many others have applied themselves to the task, however, and even today the Internet bristles with exhaustively reasoned interpretations of “American Pie” and its web of lyrical references to the youth culture of the 1950s and 60s. The meaning of the Stolen Crown and Marching Band may be of interest only to the most obsessive of baby boomers, but almost all of us know the chorus of “American Pie” better than we know our own national anthem, and the chances are good that our great-grandchildren will, too. Which isn’t bad for a song that was written and recorded by a struggling folk singer who merely hoped that it would “earn two or three thousand dollars and make survival for another year possible.”

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Japanese soldier found hiding on Guam


Year
1972
Month Day
January 24

After 28 years of hiding in the jungles of Guam, local farmers discover Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant who was unaware that World War II had ended.

Guam, a 200-square-mile island in the western Pacific, became a U.S. possession in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. In 1941, the Japanese attacked and captured it, and in 1944, after three years of Japanese occupation, U.S. forces retook Guam. It was at this time that Yokoi, left behind by the retreating Japanese forces, went into hiding rather than surrender to the Americans. In the jungles of Guam, he carved survival tools and for the next three decades waited for the return of the Japanese and his next orders. After he was discovered in 1972, he was finally discharged and sent home to Japan, where he was hailed as a national hero. He subsequently married and returned to Guam for his honeymoon. His handcrafted survival tools and threadbare uniform are on display in the Guam Museum in Agana.

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Pioneer 10 launched to Jupiter


Year
1972
Month Day
March 02

Pioneer 10, the world’s first outer-planetary probe, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. In December 1973, after successfully negotiating the asteroid belt and a distance of 620 million miles, Pioneer 10 reached Jupiter and sent back to Earth the first close-up images of the spectacular gas giant. In June 1983, the NASA spacecraft left the solar system and the next day radioed back the first scientific data on interstellar space. NASA officially ended the Pioneer 10 project on March 31, 1997, with the spacecraft having traveled a distance of some six billion miles.

Headed in the direction of the Taurus constellation, Pioneer 10 will pass within three light years of another star–Ross 246–in the year 34,600 A.D. Bolted to the probe’s exterior wall is a gold-anodized plaque, 6 by 9 inches in area, that displays a drawing of a human man and woman, a star map marked with the location of the sun, and another map showing the flight path of Pioneer 10. The plaque, intended for intelligent life forms elsewhere in the galaxy, was designed by astronomer Carl Sagan.

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Last lunar-landing mission ends


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Year
1972
Month Day
December 19

The Apollo lunar-landing program ends on December 19, 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 days before.

In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11. From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions, and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

READ MORE: The Wildest Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories

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Equal Rights Amendment passed by Congress


Year
1972
Month Day
March 22

On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment is passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states for ratification.

First proposed by the National Woman’s political party in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was to provide for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. More than four decades later, the revival of feminism in the late 1960s spurred its introduction into Congress. Under the leadership of U.S. Representative Bella Abzug of New York and feminists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, it won the requisite two-thirds vote from the U.S. House of Representatives in October 1971. In March 1972, it was approved by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states.

Hawaii was the first state to ratify what would have been the 27th Amendment, followed by some 30 other states within a year. However, during the mid-1970s, a conservative backlash against feminism eroded support for the Equal Rights Amendment, which ultimately failed to achieve ratification by the a requisite 38, or three-fourths, of the states.

Because of the rejection of the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual equality, with the notable exception of when it pertains to the right to vote, is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. However, in the late 20th century, the federal government and all states have passed considerable legislation protecting the legal rights of women. The Equal Rights Amendment, in its most recently proposed form, reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”

READ MORE: How Phyllis Schlafly Derailed the Equal Rights Amendment

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“Bloody Sunday” in Northern Ireland


Year
1972
Month Day
January 30

In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators are shot dead by British Army paratroopers in an event that becomes known as “Bloody Sunday.” The protesters, all Northern Catholics, were marching in protest of the British policy of internment of suspected Irish nationalists. British authorities had ordered the march banned, and sent troops to confront the demonstrators when it went ahead. The soldiers fired indiscriminately into the crowd of protesters, killing 13 and wounding 17.

The killings brought worldwide attention to the crisis in Northern Ireland and sparked protests all across Ireland. In Dublin, the capital of independent Ireland, outraged Irish citizens lit the British embassy aflame on February 2.

The crisis in Northern Ireland escalated in 1969 when British troops were sent to the British possession to suppress nationalist activity by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and to quell religious violence between Protestants and Catholics.

In April 1972, the British government released a report exonerating British troops from any illegal actions during the Londonderry protest. Irish indignation over Britain’s Northern Ireland policies grew, and Britain increased its military presence in the North while removing any vestige of Northern self-rule. On July 21, 1972, the IRA exploded 20 bombs simultaneously in Belfast, killing British military personnel and a number of civilians. Britain responded by instituting a new court system composed of trial without jury for terrorism suspects and conviction rates topped over 90 percent.

The IRA officially disarmed in September 2005, finally fulfilling the terms of the historic 1998 Good Friday peace agreement. It was hoped that the disarmament would bring with it an end to decades of politically motivated bloodshed in the region.

READ MORE: Irish Republican Army: The Troubles, Attacks, Hunger Strike

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President Nixon threatens President Thieu


Year
1972
Month Day
January 17

President Richard Nixon warns South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu in a private letter that his refusal to sign any negotiated peace agreement would render it impossible for the United States to continue assistance to South Vietnam.

Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had been working behind the scenes in secret negotiations with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris to reach a settlement to end the war. However, Thieu stubbornly refused to even discuss any peace proposal that recognized the Viet Cong as a viable participant in the post-war political solution in South Vietnam. As it turned out, the secret negotiations were not close to reaching an agreement because the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam in March 1972. With the help of U.S. airpower and advisers on the ground, the South Vietnamese withstood the North Vietnamese attack, and by December, Kissinger and North Vietnamese representatives were back in Paris and close to an agreement.

Among Thieu’s demands was the request that all North Vietnamese troops had to be withdrawn from South Vietnam before he would agree to any peace settlement. The North Vietnamese walked out of the negotiations in protest. In response, President Nixon initiated Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing campaign against Hanoi, to force the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. After 11 days of intense bombing, Hanoi agreed to return to the talks in Paris. When Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the main North Vietnamese negotiator, met again in early January, they quickly worked out a settlement. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 23 and a cease-fire went into effect five days later.

Again, President Thieu refused to sign the Accords, but Nixon promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the communists violated the terms of the peace treaty, and Thieu agreed to sign. Unfortunately for Thieu and the South Vietnamese, Nixon was forced from office by the Watergate scandal in August 1974, and no U.S. aid came when the North Vietnamese launched a general offensive in March 1975. South Vietnam succumbed in 55 days.

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Cambodians launch attack to retake Angkor Wat


Year
1972
Month Day
February 12

About 6,000 Cambodian troops launch a major operation to wrestle the religious center of Angkor Wat from 4,000 North Vietnamese troops entrenched around the famous Buddhist temple complex, which had been seized in June 1970. Fighting continued throughout the month. Even with the addition of 4,000 more troops, the Cambodians were unsuccessful, and eventually abandoned their efforts to expel the North Vietnamese.

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Bob Hope gives his last show in Vietnam


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Year
1972
Month Day
December 24

Comedian Bob Hope gives what he says is his last Christmas show to U.S. servicemen in Saigon. Hope was a comedian and star of stage, radio, television and over 50 feature films.

Hope was one of many Hollywood stars who followed the tradition of traveling overseas to entertain American troops stationed abroad. The 1972 show marked Hope’s ninth consecutive Christmas appearance in Vietnam. Hope endorsed President Nixon’s bombing of North Vietnam to force it to accept U.S. peace terms, and received South Vietnam’s highest civilian medal for his “anti-communist zeal.” Although some antiwar protesters criticized Hope for supporting government policies in Vietnam, the comedian said he believed it was his responsibility to lift spirits by entertaining the troops.

Also on this day: President Nixon suspends Operation Linebacker II for 36 hours to mark the Christmas holiday. The bombing campaign against North Vietnam had been operating since December 18, when Nixon initiated the campaign to force the North Vietnamese back to the Paris peace negotiations. On December 28, the North Vietnamese announced that they would return to Paris if Nixon ended the bombing. The bombing campaign was halted and the negotiators met during the first week of January. They quickly arrived at a settlement–the Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 23, and a cease-fire went into effect five days later.

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