Year
1975

Indonesia invades East Timor

Early in the morning, Indonesian forces launch a massive invasion of the former Portuguese half of the island of Timor, which lies near Australia in the Timor Sea.

The Portuguese departed East Timor in August 1975, and Indonesian troops soon began infiltrating the border from Indonesian West Timor. On November 28, the democratically elected government of East Timor, fearing an imminent Indonesian invasion, proclaimed the Democratic Republic of East Timor.

On the morning of December 7, Indonesia responded by initiating a naval bombardment of the city of Dili, followed by landings of paratroopers from the air and of marines on the beaches. On December 10, a second invasion force captured the second largest city, Baucau. Elsewhere, East Timorese resistance continued, but by 1978 the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia was essentially complete.

During the initial years of the Indonesian invasion and occupation, more than 100,000 East Timorese died as a direct result of the conflict. Most of the dead were civilians killed by the military or starved to death in internment camps or while hiding in the hills from the Indonesian military. Small groups of East Timorese guerrillas continued their resistance for decades. In 1996, Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to win independence for East Timor.

Indonesian dictator Suharto, who had ordered the 1975 invasion, was ousted from power in 1998, and East Timorese renewed their calls for independence. In 1999, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum, leading to bloody attacks by Indonesian militia forces. An Australian-led U.N. peacekeeping force was deployed to stop the violence, and in August 2001 East Timor held its first democratic elections to establish an autonomous government.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Pearl Harbor bombed

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious ...read more

The First State

In Dover, Delaware, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States. Less than four months before, the Constitution was signed by 37 of the original 55 ...read more

First execution by lethal injection

The first execution by lethal injection takes place at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Charles Brooks, Jr., convicted of murdering an auto mechanic, received an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol, the barbiturate that is known as a “truth serum” when ...read more

Earthquake devastates Armenia

In the Soviet Union, an earthquake of a 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale hits northwestern Armenia, affecting an area 50 miles in diameter. The initial earthquake was followed four minutes later by a powerful 5.8 magnitude aftershock. More than 20 towns and 342 villages were ...read more

Situation deteriorates in South Vietnam

The situation worsens in South Vietnam, as the Viet Cong attack and capture the district headquarters at An Lao and much of the surrounding valley 300 miles northeast of Saigon. South Vietnamese troops regained control only after reinforcements were airlifted into the area by ...read more

Willa Cather is born

On this day in 1873, Willa Cather is born in Winchester, Virginia. Cather was the first of seven children born to an old Virginia family dating back to colonial times. Her maternal grandfather served several terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. Her grandmother was a strong, ...read more

Earthquakes wreak havoc in Armenia

Two earthquakes hit Armenia on this day in 1988, killing 60,000 people and destroying nearly half a million buildings. The two tremors, only minutes apart, were measured at 6.9 and 5.8 in magnitude and were felt as far away as Georgia, Turkey and Iran. It was 11:41 a.m. when the ...read more

Commute of terror

Colin Ferguson opens fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train from New York City, killing 6 and injuring 19. Other train passengers stopped the perpetrator by tackling and holding him down. Ferguson later attributed the shooting spree to his deep-seated hatred of white ...read more

Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas

On this day in 1862, northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouriare secured for the Union when a force commanded by General James G. Blunt holds off a force of Confederates under General Thomas Hindman at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Hindman assembled a force at ...read more