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|Centuries:||19th century – 20th century – 21st century|
|Decades:||1940s 1950s 1960s – 1970s – 1980s 1990s 2000s|
|Years:||1969 1970 1971 – 1972 – 1973 1974 1975|
|1972 by topic:|
|Birth and death categories|
|Establishments and disestablishments categories|
|Works and introductions categories|
|Ab urbe condita||2725|
|British Regnal year||20 Eliz. 2 – 21 Eliz. 2|
|Chinese calendar|| 辛亥年十一月十五日
— to —壬子年十一月廿六日
|- Vikram Samvat||2028–2029|
|- Shaka Samvat||1894–1895|
|- Kali Yuga||5073–5074|
|- Ǹrí Ìgbò||972–973|
|Japanese calendar|| Shōwa 47
|Julian calendar||Gregorian minus 13 days|
|Minguo calendar||ROC 61
|Thai solar calendar||2515|
Year 1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. Within the context of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) it was the longest year ever, as two leap seconds were added during this 366-day year, an event which has not since been repeated. (If its begin and end are defined using mean solar time (the legal time scale) then its duration was 31622401.141 seconds of Terrestrial Time (or Ephemeris Time), which is slightly shorter than 1908).
- January 1
- Kurt Waldheim becomes Secretary General of the United Nations.
- January 2 – Pierre Hotel Robbery: Six men rob the safety deposit boxes of The Pierre Hotel in New York City for at least $4 million.
- January 3
- MGM's 1951 Show Boat is presented on television by NBC for the first time. This marks the first complete network telecast of any version of Show Boat (it had already been filmed as a part-talkie in 1929, and as a full-sound musical in 1936).
- January 4
- The first scientific hand-held calculator ( HP-35) is introduced (price $395).
- Rose Heilbron becomes the first woman judge at the Old Bailey in London.
- January 5 – U.S. President Richard Nixon orders the development of a space shuttle program.
- January 7
- An Iberian Airlines passenger plane crashes into a 250-meter peak on the island of Ibiza; 104 are killed.
- Howard Hughes speaks by telephone to denounce Clifford Irving's supposed biography of him.
- January 9 – The RMS Queen Elizabeth is destroyed by fire in Hong Kong harbour.
- January 10 – Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returns Bangladesh from Pakistan
- January 13 – Prime Minister of Ghana Kofi Abrefa Busia is overthrown in a military coup.
- January 14 – Queen Margrethe II of Denmark succeeds her father, King Frederick IX, on the throne of Denmark.
- January 19 – The Libertarian enclave Minerva on a platform in the South Pacific, sponsored by the Phoenix Foundation, declares independence. Soon neighboring Tonga annexes the area and dismantles the platform.
- January 20
- January 21
- January 24 – Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi is discovered in Guam; he had spent 28 years in the jungle.
- January 25 – Shirley Chisholm, the first African American Congresswoman, announces her candidacy for President.
- January 26
- January 28 – Richard Chanfray claims he is the Count of St Germain on French television.
- January 30
- January 31 – King Birendra succeeds his father as King of Nepal.
- February 2
- A bomb explodes at the British Yacht Club in West Berlin, killing Irwin Beelitz, a German boat builder.
- The German militant group Movement 2 June announces its support of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
- Anti-British riots take place throughout Ireland. The British Embassy in Dublin is burned to the ground, as are several British-owned businesses.
- The last draft lottery is held, a watershed event in the wind-down of military conscription in the United States during the Vietnam era. These draft candidates are never called to duty.
- February 3 – February 13 – The 1972 Winter Olympics are held in Sapporo, Japan.
- February 4 – Mariner 9 sends pictures as it orbits Mars.
- February 5
- U.S. airlines begin mandatory inspection of passengers and baggage.
- Bob Douglas becomes the first African American elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
- February 9 – The British government declares a state of emergency over a miners' strike.
- February 15
- President of Ecuador José María Velasco Ibarra is deposed for the fourth time.
- Phonorecords are granted U.S. federal copyright protection for the first time.
- February 17 – Volkswagen Beetle sales exceed those of the Ford Model T when the 15,007,034th Beetle is produced.
- February 18 – The California Supreme Court voids the state's death penalty, commuting all death sentences to life in prison.
- February 19 – Asama-Sansō incident: Five United Red Army members break into a lodge below Mount Asama, taking the wife of the lodge keeper hostage.
- February 21 – The Soviet unmanned spaceship Luna 20 lands on the Moon.
- February 21 – February 28 – U.S. President Richard M. Nixon makes an unprecedented 8-day visit to the People's Republic of China and meets with Mao Zedong.
- February 22
- Aldershot bombing: An Official IRA bomb kills 7 in Aldershot, England.
- A Lufthansa plane is hijacked and taken to Aden. Passengers are released after a ransom of 16 million German marks is agreed.
- February 23 – Angela Davis is released from jail. A Caruthers, California farmer, Rodger McAfee, helps her make bail.
- February 24 – North Vietnamese negotiators walk out of the Paris Peace Talks to protest U.S. air raids.
- February 26
- A coal sludge spill kills 125 people in Buffalo Creek, West Virginia.
- Luna 20 comes back to Earth with 55 grams (1.94 oz) of lunar soil.
- February 28 – The Asama-Sanso incident ends in a standoff between five members of the Japanese United Red Army and the authorities, in which two policemen are killed and 12 injured.
- March 1
- The Thai province Yasothon is created after being split off from the Ubon Ratchathani Province.
- The Club of Rome publishes its report Limits to Growth.
- March 2
- March 3 – Sculpted figures of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson are completed at Stone Mountain in the U.S. state of Georgia.
- March 4
- March 5 – Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis leaves the Greek Communist Party.
- March 13
- The United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China elevate diplomatic exchanges to the ambassadorial level after 22 years.
- Clifford Irving admits to a New York court that he had fabricated Howard Hughes' "autobiography".
- March 16 – The first building of the Pruitt–Igoe housing development is destroyed.
- March 19 – India and Bangladesh sign a friendship treaty.
- March 22 – The 92nd U.S. Congress votes to send the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the states for ratification.
- March 24
- March 25
- Après Toi sung by Vicky Leandros (music by Klaus Munro & Mario Panas, lyric by Klaus Munro & Yves Dessca) wins the Eurovision Song Contest 1972 for Luxembourg.
- Bewitched starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargent aired its final episode, "The Truth, Nothing but the Truth, So Help Me Sam" on ABC.
- March 26
- An avalanche on Mount Fuji kills 19 climbers.
- The last trolleybus system in the United Kingdom closes in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire after over 60 years of operation.
- After fourteen years, the last of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts is telecast by CBS. This last concert is devoted to Gustav Holst's The Planets.
- March 30 – Vietnam War: The Easter Offensive begins after North Vietnamese forces cross into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of South Vietnam.
- April 7 – Vietnam War veteran Richard McCoy, Jr. hijacks a United Airlines jet and extorts $500,000; he is later captured.
- April 10
- The U.S. and the Soviet Union join some 70 nations in signing the Biological Weapons Convention, an agreement to ban biological warfare.
- A 7.0 Richter scale earthquake kills 5,000 people in the Iranian province of Fars.
- The 44th Annual Academy Awards are held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
- April 13 – The Universal Postal Union decides to recognize the People's Republic of China as the only legitimate Chinese representative, effectively expelling the Republic of China administering Taiwan.
- April 16
- April 17 – The first Boston Marathon in which women are officially allowed to compete.
- April 22 – Sylvia Cook and John Fairfax finish rowing across the Pacific.
- April 26 – The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar enters service with Eastern Airlines.
- April 27 – A no-confidence vote against German Chancellor Willy Brandt fails under obscure circumstances.
- April 29 – The fourth anniversary of the Broadway musical Hair is celebrated with a free concert at a Central Park bandshell, followed by dinner at the Four Seasons. There, 13 Black Panther protesters and the show's co-author, Jim Rado, are arrested for disturbing the peace and for using marijuana.
- The Burundian Genocide against the Hutu begins; more than 500,000 Hutus die.
- May 2 – Fire in a silver mine in Idaho kills 91.
- May 5 – An Alitalia DC-8 crashes west of Palermo, Sicily; 115 die.
- May 7 – General elections are held in Italy.
- May 8 – U.S. President Richard Nixon orders the mining of Haiphong Harbour in Vietnam.
- May 13 – Fire in a nightclub atop the Sennichi department store in Osaka, Japan, kills 115.
- May 15
- Okinawa is returned to Japan after 27 years of United States Military occupation.
- Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama is shot by Arthur Herman Bremer at a Laurel, Maryland political rally.
- May 16 – The first financial derivatives exchange, the International Monetary Market (IMM), opens on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
- May 18 – Four troopers of both SAS and SBS are parachuted onto the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, 1,000 miles (1,600 km) off Britain in the Atlantic, after a bomb threat and ransom demand, which turns out to be bogus.
- May 19 – Three out of 6 bombs explode in the Springer Press building in Hamburg, Germany, injuring 17; the Red Army Faction claims responsibility.
- May 21 – In Rome, Laszlo Toth attacks Michelangelo's " Pietà" statue with a sledgehammer, shouting that he is Jesus Christ.
- May 22
- May 23 – The Tamil United Front (now known as Tamil United Liberation Front), a pro-Tamil organization, is founded.
- May 24
- Rangers lift the Cup Winners Cup, defeating Dynamo Moscow in the final at the Nou Camp. Their supporters invade the pitch, with the team banned from defending the trophy the following season.
- A Red Army Faction bomb explodes in the Campbell Barracks of the U.S. Army Supreme European Command in Heidelberg, West Germany; 3 U.S. soldiers (Clyde Bonner, Ronald Woodard and Charles Peck) are killed.
- The Magnavox Odyssey video game system is first demoed, marking the dawn of the video game age; it goes on sale to the public in August.
- May 26
- Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT I treaty in Moscow, as well as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and other agreements.
- The Watergate first break-in, the "Ameritas dinner", fails.
- Wernher von Braun retires from NASA, frustrated by the agency's unwillingness to pursue a manned trans-orbital space program.
- Willandra National Park is established in Australia.
- May 27 – A second Watergate break-in attempt fails.
- May 30
- The Angry Brigade goes on trial in the United Kingdom.
- Three Japanese Red Army members kill 24 and injure 100 in Lod Airport, Israel.
- June – Iraq nationalizes the Iraq Petroleum Company.
- June 2 – Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe, Holger Meins and some other members of Red Army Faction are arrested in Frankfurt am Main after a shootout.
- June 3 – Sally Priesand becomes the first female U.S. rabbi.
- June 4 – Angela Davis is found not guilty of murder.
- June 5 – June 16 – The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment is held in Stockholm, Sweden
- June 8 – Seven men and 3 women hijack a plane from Czechoslovakia to West Germany.
- June 9 – The Black Hills flood kills 238 in South Dakota.
- June 14 – June 23 – Hurricane Agnes kills 117 on the U.S. East Coast.
- June 15 – Ulrike Meinhof and Gerhard Müller of the Red Army Faction are arrested in a teacher's apartment in Langenhagen, West Germany.
- June 15 – June 18 – The first U.S. Libertarian Party National Convention is held in Denver, Colorado.
- June 16 – 108 die as two passenger trains hit the debris of a collapsed railway tunnel near Soissons, France.
- June 17
- June 18
- Staines air disaster: 118 die when a Trident 1 jet airliner crashes 2 minutes after take off from London Heathrow Airport.
- West Germany beats the Soviet Union 3–0 to win Euro 72.
- Hong Kong's worst flooding and landslides in recorded history with 653.2 millimetres (25.72 in) of rainfall in the previous three days. 67 people died due to building collapses in Mid-levels districts landslide and building collapses, with a further 83 due to flooding-related fatalities. It is the second worst fatality due to building collapses, and the worst flooding in Hong Kong's recorded history.
- June 23 – Watergate Scandal: U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman are taped talking about using the C.I.A. to obstruct the F.B.I.'s investigation into the Watergate break-ins.
- June 26 – Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney co-found Atari.
- June 28 – U.S. President Richard Nixon announces that no new draftees will be sent to Vietnam.
- June 29 – Furman v. Georgia: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that capital punishment is unconstitutional.
- June 30 – The International Time Bureau adds the first leap second (23:59:60) to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) at the end of the month.
- July – U.S. actress Jane Fonda tours North Vietnam, during which she is photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.
- July 1
- The Canadian ketch Vega, flying the Greenpeace III banner, collides with the French naval minesweeper La Paimpolaise while in international waters, to protest French nuclear weapon tests in the South Pacific.
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms becomes independent from the IRS.
- July 2 – Following Pakistan's surrender to India in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, both nations sign the historic Simla Agreement, agreeing to settle their disputes bilaterally.
- July 4 – The first Rainbow Gathering is held in Colorado.
- July 8 – The U.S. sells grain to the Soviet Union for $750 million.
- July 10 – India's news agency reports that at least 24 people have been killed in separate incidents, in the Chandka Forest in India, by elephants crazed by heat and drought.
- July 10 – July 14 – The Democratic National Convention meets in Miami Beach. Senator George McGovern, who backs the immediate and complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam, is nominated for President. He names fellow Senator Thomas Eagleton as his running mate.
- July 15 – The Pruitt–Igoe housing development is demolished in Saint Louis, Missouri.
- July 17 – The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle makes its first flight.
- July 18 – Anwar Sadat expels 20,000 Soviet advisors from Egypt.
- July 21
- Bloody Friday: 22 bombs planted by the Provisional IRA explode in Belfast, Northern Ireland; nine people are killed and 130 seriously injured.
- Comedian George Carlin is arrested by Milwaukee police for public obscenity, for reciting his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" at Summerfest.
- A collision between two trains near Sevilla, Spain kills 76 people.
- July 23 – The United States launches Landsat 1, the first Earth-resources satellite.
- July 25 – U.S. health officials admit that African-Americans were used as guinea pigs in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.
- July 29 – A national dock strike begins in Britain.
- July 31 – The Troubles, Northern Ireland:
- Operation Motorman, 4:00 AM: British Army begins to regain control of the " no-go areas" established by Irish republican paramilitaries in Belfast, Derry (" Free Derry") and Newry.
- Claudy bombing (“Bloody Monday”), 10:00 AM: Three car bombs in Claudy, County Londonderry, kill nine. It becomes public knowledge only in 2010 that that a local Catholic priest was an IRA officer believed to be involved in the bombings but his role was covered up by the authorities.
- August 1 – U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, withdraws from the race after revealing he was once treated for mental illness.
- August 4
- Arthur Bremer is jailed for 63 years for shooting George Wallace.
- Dictator Idi Amin declares that Uganda will expel 50,000 Asians with British passports to Britain within 3 months.
- A huge solar flare (one of the largest ever recorded) knocks out cable lines in U.S. It begins with the appearance of sunspots on August 2; an August 4 flare kicks off high levels of activity until August 10.
- August 10 – A brilliant, daytime meteor skips off the Earth's atmosphere due to an Apollo asteroid streaking over the western US into Canada.
- August 12 – The last U.S. ground troops are withdrawn from Vietnam.
- August 14 – An East German Ilyushin airliner crashes near East Berlin; all 156 onboard perish.
- August 16 – As part of a coup attempt, members of the Royal Moroccan Air Force fire upon, but fail to bring down, Hassan II of Morocco's plane while he is traveling back to Rabat.
- August 21 – The Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida renominates U.S. President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew for a second term.
- August 22 – John Wojtowicz, 27, and Sal Naturile, 18, hold several Chase Manhattan Bank employees hostage for 17 hours in Gravesend, Brooklyn, N.Y, an event later dramatized in the film Dog Day Afternoon.
- August 26 – September 11 – The 1972 Summer Olympics are held in Munich, West Germany.
- September 1
- September 4 – The first episode of The Price Is Right is hosted on CBS by Bob Barker. Gambit and The Joker's Wild also premiere.
- September 5 – September 6 – Munich Massacre: Eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich are murdered after 8 members of the Arab terrorist group Black September invade the Olympic Village; 5 guerillas and 1 policeman are also killed in a failed hostage rescue.
- September 10 – The Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi wins the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and becomes the youngest Formula One World Champion.
- September 14 – West Germany and Poland renew diplomatic relations.
- September 17 – Uganda announces that there are Tanzanian troops in its territory.
- September 18 – São Paulo Metro is inaugurated in Brazil.
- September 19 – A parcel bomb sent to the Israeli Embassy in London kills 1 diplomat.
- September 21 – Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos issues Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law.
- September 24 – An F-86 fighter aircraft leaving an air show at Sacramento Executive Airport fails to become airborne and crashes into a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, killing 12 children and 11 adults.
- September 25 – Norwegian EC referendum, 1972: Norway rejects membership in the European Economic Community.
- September 27 – The Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China is signed in Beijing.
- September 28 – The Canadian national men's hockey team defeats the Soviet national ice hockey team in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series (French: La Série du Siècle, Russian: Суперсерия СССР — Канада), 6–5, to win the series 4–3–1.
- September 29 – Sino-Japanese relations: Japan normalizes diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China after breaking official ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan).
- October – The government of former President of Somalia Mohamed Siad Barre formally introduces the Somali alphabet as Somalia's official writing script.
- October 1
- The first publication reporting the production of a recombinant DNA molecule marks the birth of modern molecular biology methodology.
- Alex Comfort's bestselling manual The Joy of Sex is published.
- October 2 – Denmark joins the European Community; the Faroe Islands stay out.
- October 5 – The United Reformed Church is founded out of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches.
- October 6 – A train crash in Saltillo, Mexico kills 208 people.
- October 8 – R. Sargent Shriver is chosen to replace Thomas Eagleton as the U.S. vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.
- October 12 – En route to the Gulf of Tonkin, a racial riot involving more than 200 sailors breaks out aboard the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk; nearly 50 sailors are injured.
- October 13 – Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571: A Fairchild FH-227D passenger aircraft transporting a rugby union team crashes at about 14,000' in the Andes mountain range, near the Argentina/Chile border. Sixteen of the survivors are found alive December 20 but they have had to resort to cannibalism to survive.
- October 16
- A plane carrying U.S. Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana and 3 other men vanishes in Alaska. The wreckage has never been found, despite a massive search at the time.
- Rioting Maze Prison inmates cause a fire that destroys most of the camp.
- October 17 – Elizabeth II visits Yugoslavia.
- October 25
- The first female FBI agents are hired.
- Belgian Eddy Merckx sets a new world hour record in cycling in Mexico City.
- October 26 – Following a visit to South Vietnam, U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger suggests that "peace is at hand."
- October 28 – The Airbus A300 flies for the first time.
- October 29 – The Black September group hijacks a Lufthansa Boeing 727 over Turkey, demanding the release of 3 comrades still held for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games.
- October 30
- U.S. President Richard Nixon approves legislation to increase Social Security spending by US$5.3 billion.
- A commuter train collision in Chicago kills 45, injures hundreds.
- At a scientific meeting in Honolulu, Herbert Boyer and Stanley N. Cohen conceive the concept of recombinant DNA. They publish their results in November 1973 in PNAS. Separately in 1972, Paul Berg also recombines DNA in a test tube. Recombinant DNA technology has dramatically changed the field of biological sciences, especially biotechnology, and opened the door to genetically modified organisms.
- The Nishitetsu Lions baseball club, part of the NPB's Pacific League, is sold to the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation, a subsidiary of Nishi-Nippon Railroad. The team is renamed the Taiheiyo Club Lions.
- November 5 – A group of Amerindians occupies the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
- November 7 – U.S. presidential election, 1972: Republican incumbent Richard Nixon defeats Democratic Senator George McGovern in a landslide (the election had the lowest voter turnout since 1948, with only 55 percent of the electorate voting).
- November 11 – Vietnam War – Vietnamization: The United States Army turns over the massive Long Binh military base to South Vietnam.
- November 14 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 1,000 (1,003.16) for the first time.
- November 16 – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopts the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
- November 19 – Seán Mac Stíofáin, a leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, is arrested in Dublin after giving an interview to RTÉ.
- November 22 – Vietnam War: The United States loses its first B-52 Stratofortress of the war.
- November 28 – The last executions in Paris, France. Roger Bontems and Claude Buffet – the Clairvaux Mutineers – were guillotined at La Sante Prison by chief executioner Andre Obrecht (already suffering from Parkinson's Disease). Bontems had been found innocent of murder by the court, but as Buffet's accomplice was condemned to death anyway. President Georges Pompidou, in private an abolitionist, upheld both death sentences in deference to French public opinion.
- November 29
- November 30
- Vietnam War: White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler tells the press that there will be no more public announcements concerning United States troop withdrawals from Vietnam due to the fact that troop levels are now down to 27,000.
- Cod War: British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home says that Royal Navy ships will be stationed to protect British trawlers off Iceland.
- December 2 – Edward Gough Whitlam becomes the first Labor Party Prime Minister of Australia for 23 years. He is sworn in on 5 December and his first action using executive power is to withdraw all Australian personnel from the Vietnam War.
- December 7
- December 8
- United Airlines Boeing 737 from Washington National to Chicago Midway crashes short of the runway, killing 43 of 61 passengers and 2 people on the ground.
- Over $10,000 cash is found in the purse of Watergate conspirator Howard Hunt's wife.
- International Human Rights Day is proclaimed by the United Nations.
- December 11
- Apollo 17 lands on the Moon.
- The film Man of La Mancha, based on the hit musical, begins a roadshow run in New York City. Most critics savage it, partly because the cast is made up of mostly non-singing actors who nevertheless sing in the film. The only actor to have his singing voice dubbed is Peter O'Toole, who stars as Cervantes and Don Quixote. Gino Conforti is the only member of the original cast to repeat his role. The film is a box office flop, but more than twenty years later, its reputation starts to improve when it is released on video and public response is enthusiastic.
- December 14 – Apollo program: Eugene Cernan is the last person to walk on the moon, after he and Harrison Schmitt complete the third and final Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) of Apollo 17. This is the last manned mission to the moon of the 20th Century.
- December 15
- The Commonwealth of Australia ordains equal pay for women.
- The United Nations Environment Programme is established as a specialized agency of the United Nations.
- December 16
- The Constitution of Bangladesh comes into effect.
- The Portuguese army kills 400 Africans in Tete, Mozambique.
- December 19 – Apollo program: Apollo 17 returns to Earth, concluding the program of lunar exploration.
- December 21
- East Germany and West Germany recognize each other.
- ZANLA troopers attack Altera Farm in north-east Rhodesia.
- December 22
- Two small earthquakes are felt at about 9:30 and 10:15 local time in Managua, Nicaragua.
- Australia establishes diplomatic relations with China and West Germany.
- A peace delegation that includes singer-activist Joan Baez and human rights attorney Telford Taylor visit Hanoi to deliver Christmas mail to American prisoners of war (they will be caught in the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam).
- December 23
- A 6.25 Richter scale earthquake in Nicaragua kills 5,000–12,000 people in the capital, Managua; President Somoza is later accused of pocketing millions of dollars worth of foreign aid intended for relief.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers win their first ever post-season NFL game, defeating the Oakland Raiders 13–7, on a last second play that becomes known as The Immaculate Reception.
- December 24 – Swedish Prime minister Olof Palme compares the American bombings of North Vietnam to Nazi massacres. The U.S. breaks diplomatic contact with Sweden.
- December 25 – The Christmas bombing of North Vietnam causes widespread criticism of the U.S. and President Richard Nixon.
- December 26 – Former United States President Harry S. Truman dies in Kansas City, Missouri.
- December 28 – The bones of Martin Bormann are identified in Berlin.
- December 29 – Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashes into the Everglades in Florida, killing 101 of 176 on board.
- December 31
- Roberto Clemente dies in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico while en route to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
- An extra leap second (23:59:60) is added to end the year.
- The US ban on the pesticide DDT takes effect.
- The International Year of the Book is designated by UNESCO.
- The last major epidemic of smallpox in Europe breaks out in Yugoslavia.
- The United Kingdom begin to train Special Air Service for anti-terrorist duties.
- The first women are admitted to Dartmouth College.
- Colombian looters find Ciudad Perdida but keep it a secret until the government reveals it in 1975.
- The Yellow River dries up for the first time in known history.
- Worship of Norse gods is officially approved in Iceland.
- The Climatic Research Unit is founded by climatologist Hubert Lamb at the University of East Anglia.
- The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia bans the cultural organization Matica hrvatska, founded in 1842.
- The German company SAP is founded.
- January 1 – Maurice Chevalier, French entertainer (b. 1888)
- January 6 – Chen Yi, Chinese communist military commander and politician (b. 1901)
- January 7 – John Berryman, American poet and scholar (b. 1914)
- January 8
- January 9 – Ted Shawn, American dancer (b. 1891)
- January 10 – Aksel Larsen, Danish politician (b. 1897)
- January 14 – King Frederick IX of Denmark (b. 1899)
- January 16 – Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., American record producer ( Alvin and the Chipmunks) (b. 1919)
- January 17
- January 18 – Clarence Earl Gideon, Defendant during civil rights court case ( Gideon v. Wainwright) (b. 1910)
- January 24 – Jerome Cowan, American actor (b. 1897)
- January 26 – Mahalia Jackson, African-American gospel singer (b. 1911)
- February 2 – Jessie Royce Landis, American actress (b. 1896)
- February 3 – John Litel, American actor (b. 1892)
- February 5 – Marianne Moore, American poet (b. 1887)
- February 7 – Walter Lang, American film director (b. 1896)
- February 11 – Jan Wils, Dutch architect (b. 1891)
- February 19 – John Grierson, Scottish documentary filmmaker (b. 1898)
- February 20
- February 21 – Zhang Guohua, Chinese general and politician (b. 1914)
- February 22 – Tedd Pierce, American animator (b. 1906)
- February 27 – Pat Brady, American actor (b. 1914)
- March 13 – Tony Ray-Jones, British photographer (b. 1941)
- March 20 – Marilyn Maxwell, American actress (b. 1921)
- March 21 – David McCallum, Sr., British violinist and father of actor David McCallum (b. 1897)
- March 24 – Cristobal Balenciaga, Spanish couturier (b. 1895)
- March 27
- March 29 – J. Arthur Rank, British industrialist and film producer (b. 1888)
- April 2 – Gil Hodges, American baseball player (b. 1924)
- April 3 – Ferde Grofé, American composer (b. 1882)
- April 4
- April 5
- April 7
- April 8 – Andrea Feldman, American actress (b. 1948)
- April 9 – James F. Byrnes, United States Secretary of State and Justice of the Supreme Court (b. 1879)
- April 11 – George H. Plympton, American screenwriter (b. 1889)
- April 13 – Dorothy Dalton, American actress (b. 1893)
- April 16 – Yasunari Kawabata, Japanese writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1899)
- April 25 – George Sanders, British actor (b. 1906)
- April 26 – Fernando Amorsolo, Filipino painter (b. 1892)
- April 27 – Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaian politician (b. 1909)
- April 30 – Gia Scala, English actress (b. 1934)
- May 2 – J. Edgar Hoover, American Federal Bureau of Investigation director (b. 1895)
- May 3 – Bruce Cabot, American actor (b. 1904)
- May 4 – Edward Calvin Kendall, American chemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1886)
- May 5
- May 6 – Deniz Gezmiş, Turkish revolutionary (b. 1947)
- May 13 – Dan Blocker, American actor (Bonanza) (b. 1928)
- May 18 – Sidney Franklin, American film director (b. 1893)
- May 22
- May 23 – Richard Day, Canadian art director (b. 1896)
- May 24
- May 28 – The Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII; b. 1894)
- May 29 – Prithviraj Kapoor, Indian actor and director (b. 1901)
- May 31 – Walter Freeman, American physician (b. 1895)
- June 12
- June 13
- June 22 – Vladimir Durković, Serbian footballer (b. 1937)
- June 25 – Jan Matulka, American painter, (b. 1890)
- July 2 – Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (b. 1876)
- July 6 – Brandon De Wilde, American actor (b. 1942)
- July 7 – King Talal, King of Jordan (b. 1909)
- July 21 – Ralph Craig, American athlete (b. 1889)
- July 24 – Lance Reventlow, American playboy and race car driver (b. 1936)
- July 28 – Helen Traubel, American soprano (b. 1903)
- August 7
- August 11 – Max Theiler, South African virologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1899)
- August 14 – Oscar Levant, American pianist and actor (b. 1906)
- August 16 – Pierre Brasseur, French actor (b. 1905)
- August 19 – James Patterson, American actor (b. 1932)
- August 20 – Harold Rainsford Stark, American admiral (b. 1880)
- August 26 – Francis Chichester, British sailor and aviator (b. 1901)
- August 28 – Prince William of Gloucester (b. 1941)
- September 5 ( Munich massacre):
- September 6 ( Munich massacre):
- Luttif Afif and four other Palestinian terrorists
- David Mark Berger, Israeli weightlifter (b. 1944)
- Ze'ev Friedman, Israeli weightlifter (b. 1944)
- Yossef Gutfreund, Israeli wrestling referee (b. 1932)
- Eliezer Halfin, Israeli wrestler (b. 1948)
- Amitzur Shapira, Israeli athletics coach (b. 1932)
- Kehat Shorr, Israeli shooting coach (b. 1919)
- Mark Slavin, Israeli wrestler (b. 1954)
- Andre Spitzer, Israeli fencing coach (b. 1945)
- Yakov Springer, Israeli weightlifting judge (b. c. 1921)
- September 8 – Warren Kealoha, American Olympic swimmer (b. 1904)
- September 11 – Max Fleischer, American animator (b. 1883)
- September 12 – William Boyd, American actor (b. 1895)
- September 14 – Lane Chandler, American actor (b. 1899)
- September 15 – Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. 1887)
- September 17 – Akim Tamiroff, Russian actor (b. 1899)
- September 19 – Robert Casadesus, French pianist (b. 1899)
- September 21 – Henry de Montherlant, French writer (b. 1896)
- September 26
- October 1 – Louis Leakey, British paleontologist (b. 1903)
- October 5 – Ivan Yefremov, Soviet paleontologist and science fiction author (b. 1907)
- October 9 – Miriam Hopkins, American actress (b. 1902)
- October 16 – Leo G. Carroll, English actor (b. 1886)
- October 20 – Harlow Shapley, American astronomer (b. 1885)
- October 24
- October 26 – Igor Sikorsky, Russian aviation engineer (b. 1889)
- October 28 – Mitchell Leisen, American film director (b. 1898)
- October 29 – Victor Milner, American cinematographer (b. 1893)
- November 1 – Ezra Pound, American poet (b. 1885)
- November 5 – Reginald Owen, English actor (b. 1887)
- November 12 – Rudolf Friml, Czech composer (b. 1879)
- November 13 – Margaret Webster, American actress (b. 1905)
- November 14 – Martin Dies, Jr., American politician (b. 1900)
- November 18 – Danny Whitten, American musician (b. 1943)
- November 23 – Marie Wilson, American actress (b. 1916)
- November 25 – Henri Coandă, Romanian aerodynamics pioneer (b. 1886)
- November 28 – Havergal Brian, English composer (b. 1876)
- November 29 – Carl Stalling, American composer (b. 1891)
- November 30 – Hans Erich Apostel, Austrian composer (b. 1901)
- December 2
- December 3 – Bill Johnson, American musician (b. 1872)
- December 6 – Janet Munro, British actress (b. 1934)
- December 9
- December 12 – Thomas H. Robbins, Jr., American admiral (b. 1900)
- December 15 – Edward Earle, Canadian actor (b. 1882)
- December 21 – Paul Hausser, German Waffen SS general (b. 1880)
- December 22 – Jimmy Wallington, American radio personality (b. 1907)
- December 24
- December 25 – C. Rajagopalachari, Indian politician and freedom-fighter. Last Governor-General of India (1948–50) (b. 1878)
- December 26 – Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (b. 1884)
- December 27 – Lester B. Pearson, 14th Prime Minister of Canada, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1897)
- December 31 – Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican Major League Baseball player (b. 1934)
- Physics – John Bardeen, Leon Neil Cooper, John Robert Schrieffer
- Chemistry – Christian B. Anfinsen, Stanford Moore, William H. Stein
- Physiology or Medicine – Gerald M. Edelman, Rodney R. Porter
- Literature – Heinrich Böll
- Peace – not awarded
- Economics – John Hicks, Kenneth Arrow
Other academic awards
- Turing Award – Edsger W. Dijkstra