The year 1972: 10 Facts And Historical Events That Happened

Let’s travel back in time to 1972, a magnificent year that was filled to the brim with invention, controversy, and transformational events. History changed in fascinating ways throughout this period of global change and critical turning points. 1972 pulsated with energy and excitement, from the enthralling Olympic Games competition to the turbulent political scene.

So buckle up and get ready to learn about a spectacular year that will live on in history by fastening your seatbelts. Welcome to 1972, a year in which people dared to push boundaries, explore the unknown, and seek knowledge.

1. Beginning of the Watergate controversy – June 17, 1972

President Nixon.jpg Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, P, via Wikimedia Commons

President Richard Nixon’s administration in the United States was embroiled in the Watergate controversy from 1972 to 1974, which forced Nixon to resign. The Nixon administration’s efforts to hide its involvement in the break-in at the DNC headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, led to the controversy.

The Department of Justice and the media established a link between the cash discovered on the five suspects at the time of their detention and the Committee for the Re-Election of the President after their arrest. Additional inquiries and information presented during the burglars’ subsequent trials prompted the House of Representatives to give the U.S. House Judiciary Committee expanded investigative powers

The Senate established the U.S. Senate Watergate Committee, which held hearings. There was a voice-activated recording system in the Oval Office, according to witnesses, and Nixon approved plans to hide the role of his administration in the break-in. 

Nixon’s administration rejected the investigation’s inquiries throughout, which created a constitutional crisis. PBS carried the Senate Watergate hearings “gavel-to-gavel” across the country, piquing the public’s curiosity.

Later in 1973, a number of significant disclosures and heinous presidential acts hindering the probe led the House to start the impeachment process against Nixon. Nixon was ordered to give the Oval Office tapes to government investigators by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read On Top 8 Facts about Richard Nixon

2. The Munich Olympics massacre – 5 September 1972 

The Munich massacre was a terrorist attack committed by eight members of the Palestinian militant group Black September during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. They broke into the Olympic Village, murdered two members of the Israeli Olympic team, and kidnapped nine other people.

The two Palestinian Christian villages whose residents were driven out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War were given the names “Iqrit” and “Biram” by Black September for the operation. Luttif Afif, who led the Black September, also served as their mediator. Neo-Nazis from West Germany helped the group logistically.

Afif demanded the release of the hostages as well as the two West German convicts who served as the Red Army Faction’s founders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, as well as the 234 Palestinian detainees who were being held in Israeli prisons. Five of the eight Black September members were murdered when West German police ambushed the terrorists, but all of the hostages died since the rescue effort was unsuccessful.

3. The Vietnam War continues 

U. S. Special Forces on the combat patrol mission – Vietnam, 1964.jpg U.S. Army Audiovisual Center, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pentagon Papers were disclosed to The New York Times in 1971. The Department of Defense ordered a top-secret history of American involvement in Vietnam, which revealed a long history of official lies by the American government. The Supreme Court decided that it was legal to publish it.

The Easter Offensive of 1972, a sizable conventional PAVN assault on South Vietnam, put Vietnamization to the test once more. The PAVN swiftly took control of the northern provinces and, along with other forces, launched an offensive from Cambodia, posing a danger to split the nation in half. American airpower retaliated, starting Operation Linebacker, and the offensive was stopped while U.S. military withdrawals continued.

The conflict was a major issue in the 1972 U.S. presidential election because Nixon’s rival, George McGovern, called for an early end to the conflict. Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, engaged in ongoing, covert discussions with Lê c Th of North Vietnam, and the two came to an agreement in October 1972.

When the peace agreement was discovered, President Thieu ordered adjustments to be made, and when North Vietnam made the pact’s details public, the Nixon administration said they were doing so to humiliate the president.

When Hanoi insisted on additional adjustments, the negotiations came to a standstill. Nixon commanded Operation Linebacker II, a huge bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong from December 18 to 29, 1972, in an effort to show his support for South Vietnam and compel Hanoi to the bargaining table once more. Nixon put pressure on Thieu to abide by the agreement’s provisions or else the United States might take military action in retaliation.

Read On Top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know about the Vietnam War

4. The Pioneer 10 spacecraft was launched into space- on March 3, 1972

Pioneer 10 on its kickmotor.jpg NASA Ames Research Center (NASA-ARC), via Wikimedia Commons

The first trip to Jupiter was successfully completed by the NASA spacecraft Pioneer 10, which was launched in 1972. The first of five man-made objects, Pioneer 10, attained the necessary escape velocity to leave the Solar System. The NASA Ames Research Center in California oversaw the development of this space exploration project. Production of the space probe was handled by TRW Inc.

Pioneer 10’s 2.74-meter-diameter parabolic dish high-gain antenna was mounted on a hexagonal bus, and the spacecraft was spin-stabilized around the antenna’s axis. Four radioisotope thermoelectric generators that at launch produced a total of 155 watts were used to power it.

A Cape Canaveral, Florida-based Atlas-Centaur expendable vehicle launched on March 3, 1972, at 1:49 UTC. It was the first spacecraft to go through the asteroid belt between July 15, 1972, and February 15, 1973. On November 6, 1973, Jupiter was first photographed at a distance of 25,000,000 kilometres (16,000,000 miles), and roughly 500 photos were sent back. On December 3, 1973, the planet and the spacecraft made their closest approach at a distance of 132,252 kilometres (82,178 mi).

5. The Equal Rights Amendment passes in the U.S. Congress- March 22, 1972

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) supporters campaigned for ratification in every state in the US from the 1960s to the 1980s. The Equal Rights Amendment was initially drafted by Alice Paul and presented to the US Congress in 1923. In the next seven years up to thirty-eight states to approve the amendment.

The amendment was unamended when it was adopted by the Senate on March 22, 1972, but attempts to ratify it in the state of Utah were continually unsuccessful.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the main opponents of the ERA, was one of the organizations that established and took positions on both sides of the debate. The Church collaborated with other anti-ERA organizations while organizing women and other church members in opposition. 

6. President Nixon announces further withdrawal f American troops from Vietnam – on 29 August 1972

Vice President Nixon and wife- Jacksonville, Florida.jpg, via Wikimedia Commons

During the Vietnam War, key statements and discussions took place in a succession of crucial developments. Henry Kissinger, then-secretary of state, announced plans for $7.5 billion in aid to Vietnam on July 26, 1971, along with a vow to remove all American soldiers within nine months.

Following this, President Richard Nixon said on January 13, 1972, that he intended to withdraw 70,000 American troops from Vietnam, which accounted for half of the remaining forces. On February 21, 1972, President Nixon met Mao Zedong for the first time as the head of the Chinese Communist Party, which was a historic occasion.

Moving forward, President Nixon announced intentions to reduce the number of American troops in South Vietnam to 49,000 by July 1, 1972, on April 20, 1972. Finally, on August 29, 1972, President Nixon announced a further withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam with the goal of reducing the total to just 27,000 by December 1. These changes represented evolving tactics and denoted progress away from the Vietnam War.

7. The Apollo 17 mission – on 7 December 1972

Apollo 17 Pre-Launch – GPN-2000-000636.jpg NASA/photographer unknown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The last mission of NASA’s Apollo program, Apollo 17 (December 7–19, 1972), marked the last occasion that humans stepped foot on the Moon or left low Earth orbit. While Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans orbited above, Commander Gene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt conducted a lunar landing.

Schmitt, who replaced Joe Engle because NASA was under pressure to send a scientist to the Moon, was the only geologist with a professional license to set foot there. A number of novel experiments were carried out as a result of the mission’s strong focus on science, including a biological experiment involving five mice that were transported in the command module.

Read On Everything You Need to Know about the First Moon Landing by NASA’s Apollo 11 Mission in 1969

8. Founding of Atari – On 27 June 1972

Atari Pong and Computer Space.jpg Digital Game Museum, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since the name Atari was first used in 1972, various organizations have held it. Through a subsidiary called Atari Interactive, the French business Atari SA (formerly Infogrames) currently owns it. The original Atari, Inc. was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game systems, and home computers.

It was established in Sunnyvale, California, in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. From the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s, the company’s products, including Pong and the Atari 2600, helped shape the electronic entertainment industry.

9. The Bloody Sunday incident in Northern Ireland – On 30 January 1972

The Bogside Massacre, also known as Bloody Sunday, occurred on January 30, 1972, when British forces opened fire on 26 unarmed citizens participating in a protest march in the Bogside neighbourhood of Derry, Northern Ireland. In total, fourteen persons passed away: thirteen were fatally injured, and the injuries resulted in the death of another man four months later.

Some of the victims were shot while attempting to aid the wounded, while others were shot while running from the soldiers. Others were hurt by rubber bullets, batons, or shrapnel; two were struck by British Army vehicles; and some were beaten.

10. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) agreement is signed – 26 May

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) agreement signing. jpg National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Agreement, or SALT I, was signed on May 26, 1972. SALT I permitted the addition of new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers only after the equivalent number of older intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and SLBM launchers had been removed, freezing the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at current levels.

SALT I also restricted land-based ICBMs that could be launched from the continental US’ northeastern border to the Soviet Union’s continental western frontier. Additionally, SALT I restricted NATO and the US to operate no more than 50 SLBM-capable submarines with a combined total of 800 SLBM launchers.

The year 1972 saw important innovations and changes in a range of fields. The establishment of Atari, as well as the memorable meeting between President Nixon and Mao Zedong, served as emblems of diplomatic and technological progress. Troop withdrawal plans in the Vietnam War reflected changing military tactics as well as a desire for peace.

Cultural landmarks and a strong spirit endured. The echoes of 1972 remind us that significant events have the power to alter the course of history, prompting us to reflect on their significance and the long-term effects they have had on our world. Progress, resiliency, and the yearning for new horizons all collided in that year, leaving a lasting mark on humanity’s collective memory.

Read On 10 Presidents & Politicians that Shaped the Cold War

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