January 1, 1979 - United States and China begin diplomatic relations.
Iran - the Shah of Iran leaves the country in January and relocates in Egypt. February 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 15 years in exile. February 11, 1979, the he seized control of Iran.
Three Mile Island - the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania suffered a radioactive accident when a feed water pump failed. In order to prevent the core from totally melting down, the plant released pressure and ultimately radiation. A partial meltdown of the core did occur.
USA - the Susan B. Anthony one-dollar coin is issued.
Notable Deaths -
* Giro d'Italia Champion: Vasco Bergamaschi (Ita), 1909-1979, he was Giro Champion in 1935.
21-year-old English punk rock musician Sid Vicious, 1957-1979, a member of the Sex Pistols, died of a drug overdose.
Dr. Josef Mengele, 1911-1979, was a Nazi doctor during WW2, who performed medical experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz prison camp. He died after a stroke while swimming in the ocean and drowned.