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1980: Olympic Boycott, Reagan Elected, Mount St. Helens

By Patrick Mondout

This year saw the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, the subsequent boycott of the Moscow Olympics by President Carter, and Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan in November. It also saw the eradication of Smallpox (according to the World Health Organization - though the U.S. and Russia continue to hoard samples) the continued Hostage Crisis in Iran, the bailout of Chrysler, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro found an inventive way to empty his prisons and fill the streets of Miami with criminals all at the same time. Between April and August, well over 100,000 Cubans crossed the Straits of Florida to the U.S. (where they automatically became eligible for citizenship in a controversial policy put in place in 1959) in what Carter administration officials at first said was proof of Castro's failed revolution. While Carter's people were busy spinning it as a "freedom flotilla", Castro began sending as many undesirables as possible to America. Realizing he was losing votes in the other 49 states, Carter reversed course and called the action illegal and began sending the refugees to detention camps.

Major Events

January 6: Jilted Jean Harris kills Dr. Herman Tarnower, her lover and creator of the Scarsdale Diet.
January 7
: Loan guarantees of $1.5B are announced by President Carter that will keep Lee Iacocca's Chrysler from liquidation.
January 20: The Pittsburgh Steelers win their fourth world championship in six years with a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV.
January 26: Following the peace accords started a few years earlier, Israel and Egypt announce they have establish diplomatic relations.
February 3: News leaks of the FBI sting on members of Congress known as Abscam.
March 14: The US Olympic boxing team is killed along with 59 others in a plane crash near Warsaw, Poland.
March 21: President Carter announces the United States will boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
April 7: Over six months after the taking of the American hostages in Iran, the Carter administration breaks off relations with Iran and imposes economic sanctions.
April 17: White rule in Rhodesia ends as it becomes black-ruled Zimbabwe.
April 25: President Carter orders a rescue mission to free the hostages in Iran. The operation is a fiasco and results in the deaths of eight servicemen after a pair of helicopters were collided in the Iranian desert.
May 9: A portion of the Sunshine Skyway Bride in Tampa, Florida collapses after being hit by a Liberian freighter resulting in 35 deaths.
May 4: Yugoslavian President Josip Tito dies at age 87.
May 18: Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington state killing 59 and sending ash everywhere.
June 1: Newsjunkies became insomniacs as Ted Turner's Cable News Network (CNN) - a 24 hour news channel - debuted.
July 17: Saddam Hussein succeeds Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr as president.
July 26: The Shah of Iran dies of cancer in Egypt.
August 4-11: Hurricane Allen slams the Caribbean and Texas leaving 272 dead.
September 24: Saddam Hussein's Iraq invades its neighbor, Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, starting eight years of hostilities between the two Persian Gulf nations. The U.S. supports the former in what it believes to be the lesser of two evils.
November 4: Former movie star Ronald Reagan easily defeats incumbent Jimmy Carter for the presidency.
November 12: NASA's Voyager I reaches Saturn and returns stunning images of the ringed planet.
November 21: A fire at the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada kills 87 people.
December 8: Beatle John Lennon is gunned down outside his apartment in Manhattan by a deranged fan. 


Carter's decision to boycott the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow proved to be one he would regret.

Courtesy of DOD

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