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1989: Tiananmen Square, Fall of the Berlin Wall

By Patrick Mondout

The student uprising in Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall (and communism in general), and the Exxon oil spill in Alaska were the major stories of 1989.

Major Stories

January 4: US Navy fighters shoot down two Libyan fighters over the Mediterranean.
January 7
: Japan's Emperor Hirohito dies. Crown Prince Akihito assumes the throne.
January 10
: The first Cuban soldiers withdraw from Angola under the terms of an agreement from December 1988.
January 11
: The NCAA approves Proposition 42 banning scholarships to entering freshmen who do not meet minimum academic requirements.
January 11
: President Reagan delivers his farewell address to the nation.
January 12
: President-elect Bush completes appointments to his new cabinet by naming William Bennett to the new post of Office of National Drug Control Policy and by naming James Watkins as secretary of energy.
January 13
: Subway vigilante Bernhard H. Goetz is sentenced to one year in jail and fined $5,000 for illegal gun possession.
January 16
: A Hispanic policemen shot a black motorcyclist in Miami sparking two nights of rioting.
January 20
: George Bush Sr. is inaugurated as the 41st President of the United States.
January 22
: The San Francisco 49ers defeat the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl XXIII.
January 23
: An earthquake in the Soviet republic of Tajikistan leaves more than 275 dead.
January 24
: Convicted serial killer Ted Bundy is executed in Florida's electric chair.
February 2
: Last of the Soviet Union's forces leave Kabul, ending an unsuccessful invasion begun nine years earlier.
February 7
: Congress rejects a proposed 51% pay raise for itself, federal judges, and other high-ranking officials.
February 10
: Former Jesse Jackson Presidential Campaign Chairman Ron Brown becomes the first African-American to lead a major U.S. political party when he is named chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
February 14
: Union Carbide settles with the government of India to the tune of  $470M for its role in the 1984 Bhopal tragedy.
February 14: Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Salmon Rushdie’s death for the latter's writing of The Satanic Verses.
February 14: The Global Positioning System (GPS) is literally launched when the first of 24 GPS satellites is rocketed into orbit.
February 15: Though troops have been gone for nearly two weeks, the Soviet Union officially announces that all troops are out of Afghanistan.
February 16: Accident investigators announce Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged by a bomb hidden inside a portable radio.
March 4: Warner Communications and Time announce plans to merge forming Time-Warner.
March 23: A near-Earth orbit asteroid comes within 800,000 miles of Earth (though it is not discovered until March 31).
March 24
: The Exxon oil tanker Valdez runs aground causing a major oil spill in Alaska
June 3: Massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing happens in full view of the world with television cameras rolling..
June 4: Solidarity, which had earlier been outlawed by the communist leaders of Poland, wins the first free Polish election since World War II.
August 20: Lyle and Erik Menendez murdered their wealthy parents with shotguns hoping to get their inheritances early. They were convicted of first-degree murder on March 20, 1996 and are serving life sentences.
September 16-22: Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean & Southeast U.S. leaves 504 dead.
November 7: The "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez receives a death sentence.
November 9: East Germany opens its side of the Berlin Wall allowing its citizens to travel freely to the West for the first time in decades since the early 1960s. Germans begin tearing down the wall later that day.
November 30: The Red Army assassinated Deutsche Bank Chairman Alfred Herrhausen in Frankfurt.
December 25: Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena are executed on television following a popular uprising.


An East German security guard faces off with West Berliners sitting atop the Soviets' infamous Berlin Wall. Within hours after the photograph was taken Nov. 10, 1989, West and East Berliners joined in tearing down the 28-year-old barrier.

Courtesy of DOD

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