13 June 1971

Vietnam War: The New York Times begins publication of the Pentagon Papers.

The Pentagon Papers were a classified study of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. Commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967, the study was officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force.”

Purpose and Content: The study aimed to provide a comprehensive history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. It included detailed analyses, policy decisions, and military strategies over several administrations, from Truman to Johnson. The documents revealed a pattern of governmental deception about the war’s progress and the likelihood of success.

Leak and Publication: Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst, and Pentagon employee, became disillusioned with the war and decided to make the classified documents public. In 1971, he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers. The Times began publishing excerpts in June 1971.

Government Reaction: The Nixon administration attempted to block further publication through legal action, arguing that the release of the documents posed a threat to national security. This led to a landmark Supreme Court case, New York Times Co. v. United States, which resulted in a ruling that upheld the First Amendment right of the press to publish the material.

Impact: The release of the Pentagon Papers significantly eroded public trust in the U.S. government and fueled anti-war sentiment. It highlighted the extent of governmental secrecy and misinformation regarding the Vietnam War.

Aftermath: Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act, but the charges were dismissed in 1973 due to governmental misconduct, including illegal wiretapping and evidence tampering. The Pentagon Papers have since been fully declassified and are available to the public.

6 December 1971

Pakistan severs diplomatic relations with India, initiating the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, also known as the Bangladesh Liberation War, was a conflict between India and Pakistan that took place in December 1971. The primary cause of the war was the political and economic discrimination faced by the Bengali-speaking population in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) by the central government in West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan).

Political Background:
East and West Pakistan were geographically separated by around 1,600 kilometers, and there were significant cultural, linguistic, and economic differences between the two regions.
The central government in West Pakistan was accused of exploiting East Pakistan economically and politically, leading to growing discontent and demands for autonomy in the East.

Language Movement and Six-Point Movement:
The Language Movement of 1952 in East Pakistan marked a turning point, as it advocated for the recognition of Bengali as an official language.
The Six-Point Movement of 1966, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan based on six specific points, including control over their economy and military.

1970 General Elections:
The 1970 general elections in Pakistan resulted in a clear victory for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League, which won a majority of seats, primarily in East Pakistan.
The central government’s reluctance to transfer power to the Awami League further escalated tensions.

Operation Searchlight:
As negotiations between East and West Pakistan faltered, the Pakistani military launched Operation Searchlight on March 25, 1971, to suppress political dissent and the independence movement in East Pakistan.
The operation resulted in widespread atrocities, including mass killings and displacement.

India’s Involvement:
The humanitarian crisis in East Pakistan led to an influx of refugees into India, creating a severe humanitarian challenge.
As the situation deteriorated, India actively supported the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army), composed of Bengali nationalists and military defectors, who were fighting against the Pakistani military.

Declaration of Independence:
On December 16, 1971, the Mukti Bahini, with the support of the Indian military, achieved a decisive victory, leading to the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh.
The Instrument of Surrender was signed by the Pakistani military, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh.

International Response:
The international community witnessed the events in South Asia with concern, and there were varying degrees of support for both sides.
The United States and China supported Pakistan, while the Soviet Union supported India.

31 July 1971

The Apollo 15 astronauts become the first to ride in a lunar rover.

Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission in NASA’s Apollo program, which aimed to land astronauts on the Moon and conduct scientific experiments. It was the first of the “J-Series” missions, designed to include a more advanced scientific payload than previous missions.

Launch and Crew:
Apollo 15 was launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 26, 1971, aboard the Saturn V rocket. The crew consisted of three astronauts:

David R. Scott – Mission Commander
Alfred M. Worden – Command Module Pilot
James B. Irwin – Lunar Module Pilot

Lunar Landing and Exploration:
After a journey of about three days, Apollo 15 entered lunar orbit on July 29, 1971. On July 30, the Lunar Module (LM) named “Falcon” separated from the Command Module (CM) “Endeavour” and descended to the Moon’s surface. The landing site was located in the Hadley-Apennine region, an area of highlands near the edge of the Mare Imbrium.

Apollo 15’s extended stay on the lunar surface and its use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) allowed the astronauts to explore more of the Moon’s surface than previous missions. During their time on the Moon, Scott and Irwin conducted three moonwalks (EVA – Extravehicular Activities). They spent a total of about 18.5 hours on the lunar surface, covering a distance of approximately 17.5 miles (28 kilometers) with the rover.

Scientific Contributions:
Apollo 15 was notable for its extensive scientific payload and focus on lunar geology. The astronauts collected a significant amount of lunar samples, totaling about 170 pounds (77 kilograms). They also conducted a range of experiments, including the use of a drill to obtain core samples, the study of lunar rilles, and the deployment of various scientific instruments.

Perhaps the most famous scientific discovery during Apollo 15 was the “Genesis Rock,” a piece of ancient lunar crust believed to be around 4.1 billion years old, making it one of the oldest lunar samples collected during the Apollo missions.

Return to Earth:
After completing their mission on the Moon, the lunar module ascent stage rendezvoused and docked with the command module in lunar orbit. The crew then returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, 1971.

Significance:
The Apollo 15 mission was considered highly successful, achieving its scientific goals while demonstrating advanced capabilities in lunar exploration. It also provided valuable experience in the use of the lunar rover, which was used on the later Apollo missions to cover more significant distances on the Moon.

12 July 1971

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is flown for the first time.

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is an official flag of Australia that represents the Aboriginal people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Australian continent. It holds significant cultural and historical importance for Aboriginal communities and is widely recognized as a symbol of their identity and heritage.

The design of the flag was created by Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from Central Australia, and it was first flown on National Aboriginal Day in Adelaide on July 12, 1971. It was later proclaimed as an official flag of Australia on July 14, 1995, under the Australian Flags Act 1953.

The flag features a horizontal divided design with a black upper half, a red lower half, and a yellow circle in the center. The black represents the Aboriginal people, the red represents the earth and their spiritual connection to the land, and the yellow circle represents the sun, which is a powerful symbol in Aboriginal culture.

The flag has gained widespread recognition and is used by Aboriginal people and organizations across Australia to promote unity, pride, and recognition of their rights and culture. It is commonly seen at events, protests, and celebrations related to Aboriginal issues and heritage. The flag has become an important symbol of Aboriginal identity and is often displayed alongside the Australian national flag and Torres Strait Islander flag at official ceremonies and public institutions.

While the Australian Aboriginal Flag is widely embraced and celebrated, there have been ongoing debates and discussions about the flag’s copyright and ownership. In 2019, the Australian government recognized the flag as a “flag of national significance” and entered into an agreement with Harold Thomas to ensure that the flag is freely available for all Australians to use, while also protecting the rights and interests of the Aboriginal community.