6 September 1970

Two passenger jets bound from Europe to New York are simultaneously hijacked by Palestinian terrorist members of the PFLP and taken to Dawson’s Field, Jordan.

Dawson's Field hijackings

Dawson's Field hijackings
Part of Black September in Jordan and spillover of Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon
LocationDawson's Field, Zarqa, Jordan
Coordinates32°06′21″N 36°09′24″E / 32.1059°N 36.1567°E / 32.1059; 36.1567Coordinates: 32°06′21″N 36°09′24″E / 32.1059°N 36.1567°E / 32.1059; 36.1567
Date6–13 September 1970 (1970-09-13)
TargetTWA 741, Swissair 100, El Al 219, Pan Am 93, BOAC 775
Attack type
4 successful aircraft hijackings, 1 foiled, hostage crisis
WeaponsFirearms and hand grenades
Deaths1 hijacker
PerpetratorsPopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
DefendersBar Lev, passengers and sky marshal (Flight 219)
MotiveRelease of Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Europe and Israel

In September 1970, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked four airliners bound for New York City and one for London. Three aircraft were forced to land at Dawson's Field, a remote desert airstrip near Zarqa, Jordan, formerly Royal Air Force Station Zerqa, which then became PFLP's 'Revolutionary Airport'. By the end of the incident, one hijacker had been killed and one injury reported. This was the second instance of mass aircraft hijacking, after an escape from communist Czechoslovakia in 1950.

On 6 September, TWA Flight 741 from Frankfurt (a Boeing 707) and Swissair Flight 100 from Zürich (a Douglas DC-8) were forced to land at Dawson's Field.[1][2] On the same day, the hijacking of El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam (another 707) was foiled: hijacker Patrick Argüello was shot and killed, and his partner Leila Khaled was subdued and handed over to British authorities in London. Two PFLP hijackers who were prevented from boarding the El Al flight, hijacked instead Pan Am Flight 93, a Boeing 747, diverting the large plane first to Beirut and then to Cairo, rather than to the small Jordanian airstrip. On 9 September, a fifth plane, BOAC Flight 775, a Vickers VC10 coming from Bahrain, was hijacked by a PFLP sympathizer and taken to Dawson's Field in order to pressure the British to free Khaled.

While the majority of the 310 hostages were transferred to Amman and freed on 11 September, the PFLP segregated the flight crews and Jewish passengers, keeping the 56 Jewish hostages in custody, while releasing the non-Jews. Six hostages in particular were kept because they were men and American citizens, not necessarily Jews: Robert Norman Schwartz, a U.S. Defense Department researcher stationed in Thailand; James Lee Woods, Schwartz's assistant and security detail; Gerald Berkowitz, an American-born Jew and college chemistry professor; Rabbi Abraham Harrari-Raful and his brother Rabbi Joseph Harrari-Raful, two Brooklyn school teachers; and John Hollingsworth, a U.S. State Department employee. Schwartz, whose father was Jewish, was a convert to Catholicism.[3][4][5] On 12 September, prior to their announced deadline, the PFLP used explosives to destroy the empty planes, as they anticipated a counterstrike.[1]

The PFLP's exploitation of Jordanian territory was an example of the increasingly autonomous Arab Palestinian activity within the Kingdom of Jordan – a serious challenge to the Hashemite monarchy of King Hussein. Hussein declared martial law on 16 September and from 17 to 27 September his forces deployed into Palestinian-controlled areas in what became known as Black September in Jordan, nearly triggering a regional war involving Syria, Iraq, and Israel.

A swift Jordanian victory, however, enabled a 30 September deal in which the remaining PFLP hostages were released in exchange for Khaled and three PFLP members in a Swiss prison.[1]


El Al Flight 219

El Al Flight 219
CGN 4X--ATB Dietrich Eggert.jpg
4X-ATB, the aircraft involved, in July 1970
Date6 September 1970
SummaryAttempted Hijacking
SiteEnglish Channel
Aircraft typeBoeing 707–458
OperatorEl Al Israel Airlines
Flight originLod International Airport
StopoverAmsterdam Schiphol Airport
DestinationJohn F. Kennedy Int'l Airport
Fatalities1 (hijacker)

El Al Flight 219 (type Boeing 707, serial 18071/216, registration 4X-ATB) originated in Tel Aviv, Israel, and was headed to New York City. It had 138 passengers and 10 crew members aboard. It stopped in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and was hijacked shortly after it took off from there by Patrick Argüello,[6] a Nicaraguan American, and Leila Khaled, a Palestinian.

The original plan was to have four hijackers aboard this flight, but two were prevented from boarding in Amsterdam by Israeli security—these two conspirators, traveling under Senegalese passports with consecutive numbers,[7] were prevented from flying on El Al on 6 September. They purchased first-class tickets on Pan Am Flight 93 and hijacked that flight instead.

Posing as a married couple, Argüello and Khaled boarded the plane using Honduran passports—having passed through a security check of their luggage—and were seated in the second row of tourist class. Once the plane was approaching the British coast, they drew their guns and grenades and approached the cockpit, demanding entrance. According to Khaled, in an interview in 2000,

"So half an hour (after take off) we had to move. We stood up. I had my two hand grenades and I showed everybody I was taking the pins out with my teeth. Patrick stood up. We heard shooting just the same minute and when we crossed the first class, people were shouting but I didn't see who was shooting because it was behind us. So Patrick told me 'go forward I protect your back.' So I went and then he found a hostess and she was going to catch me round the legs. So I rushed, reached to the cockpit, it was closed. So I was screaming 'open the door.' Then the hostess came; she said 'she has two hand grenades,' but they did not open (the cockpit door) and suddenly I was threatening to blow up the plane. I was saying 'I will count and if you don't open I will blow up the plane.'"[8]

After being informed by intercom that a hijacking was in progress, Captain Uri Bar Lev decided not to accede to their demands:

"I decided that we were not going to be hijacked. The security guy was sitting here ready to jump. I told him that I was going to put the plane into negative-G mode. Everyone would fall. When you put the plane into negative, it's like being in a falling elevator. Instead of the plane flying this way, it dives and everyone who is standing falls down."[6]

Bar Lev put the plane into a steep nosedive which threw the two hijackers off-balance. Argüello reportedly threw his sole grenade down the airliner aisle, but it failed to explode, and he was hit over the head with a bottle of whiskey by a passenger after he drew his pistol. Argüello shot steward Shlomo Vider and according to the passengers and Israeli security personnel, was then shot by a sky marshal.[7] His accomplice Khaled was subdued by security and passengers, while the plane made an emergency landing at London Heathrow Airport; she then claimed that Argüello was shot four times in the back after he and Khaled failed to hijack the airplane. Vider underwent emergency surgery and recovered from his wounds; Argüello died in the ambulance taking both him and Khaled to Hillingdon Hospital. Khaled was then arrested by British police.[9]

Nationalities on Flight 219

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
Israel 118 10 128
Netherlands 10 0 10
United States 9 0 9
Canada 1 0 1
Total 138 10 148

TWA Flight 741

TWA Flight 741
TWA Boeing 707 Volpati-1.jpg
A TWA Boeing 707 similar to the hijacked aircraft
Date6 September 1970
SiteBrussels, Belgium
Aircraft typeBoeing 707–331B
OperatorTrans World Airlines
Flight originLod International Airport
1st stopoverEllinikon International Airport
2nd stopoverFrankfurt International Airport
DestinationJohn F. Kennedy Int'l Airport
Survivors155 (all)

TWA Flight 741 (type Boeing 707, serial 18917/460, registration N8715T[10]) was a round-the-world flight carrying 144 passengers and a crew of 11. The flight on this day was flying from Tel Aviv to Athens, Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, and then to New York City, and was hijacked over Belgium on the Frankfurt-New York leg. In an interview for the film Hijacked, Flight 741's purser, Rudi Swinkles, recalled, "I saw a passenger running toward first class. I ran after him, and when he came to first class to the cockpit, he turned around, had a gun in his hand, and pointed the gun at me, and said, 'Get back, get back.' So right away, I dove behind the bulkhead first class divider, and I hid behind it, over here."[11]

It landed at Dawson's Field in Jordan at 6:45 p.m. local time.[12][13]

Hijackers gained control of the cockpit and a female stated, "This is your new captain speaking. This flight has been taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. We will take you to a friendly country with friendly people."[5]

Yitzchok Hutner[14] and Tova Kahn and her children were also on the plane.[15]

Nationalities on Flight 741

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
West Germany 16 2 18
Greece 2 0 2
Israel 55 0 55
India 3 0 3
Italy 1 0 1
Netherlands 1 0 1
United Kingdom 18 0 18
United States 51 9 60
Total 144 11 155

Swissair Flight 100

Swissair Flight 100
Douglas DC-8-53 HB-IDD SWR ZRH 02.08.65 edited-3.jpg
HB-IDD, the DC-8 involved, at Zurich Airport in 1965.
Date6 September 1970
SiteDijon, France
Aircraft typeDouglas DC-8-53
Aircraft nameNidwalden
Flight originZurich Kloten Airport
DestinationJohn F. Kennedy Int'l Airport
Survivors157 (all)

Swissair Flight 100 (type Douglas DC-8-53, registration HB-IDD, named Nidwalden) built in 1963 was carrying 143 passengers and 12 crew from Zürich-Kloten Airport, Switzerland, to New York JFK. The plane was hijacked over France minutes after the TWA flight. A male and a female seized the plane, one of them having a silver revolver. An announcement was made over the intercom that the plane had been taken over by the PFLP as it was diverted to Dawson's Field, increasing the hostage number to 306 hostages.[16][17][18]

Nationalities on Flight 100

[citation needed]

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
France 3 0 3
West Germany 25 0 25
Israel 20 0 20
Switzerland 57 10 67
United States 26 0 26
Other 14 2 16
Total 145 12 157

Pan Am Flight 93

Pan Am Flight 93
Boeing 747-121, Pan Am JP5891243.jpg
Boeing 747-121 (N750PA), similar to the hijacked plane in PA93.
Date6 September 1970
Aircraft typeBoeing 747–121
Aircraft nameClipper Fortune
OperatorPan American World Airways
Flight originBrussels Airport
StopoverAmsterdam Schiphol Airport
DestinationJohn F. Kennedy Int'l Airport
Survivors169 (all)

Pan Am Flight 93 (type Boeing 747, serial 19656/34, registration N752PA,[19] name Clipper Fortune) was carrying 152 passengers and 17 crew,[20] of which 85 were US citizens.[21] The flight was from Brussels, Belgium, to New York, with a stop in Amsterdam. The two hijackers bumped from the El Al flight boarded and hijacked this flight as a target of opportunity.

Flight director John Ferruggio recalled,

"We were ready for take off in Amsterdam, and the aircraft came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the runway. And Captain Priddy called me up into the cockpit and says, 'I'd like to have a word with you.' I went up to the cockpit, and he says, 'We have two passengers by the name of Diop and Gueye.' He says, 'Go down and try to find them in the manifest, because I would like to have a word with them.' ... So Captain Priddy sat them down at these two seats over here. He gave them a pretty good pat. They had a Styrofoam container in their groin area where they carried the grenade, and the 25-Cal. pistols. But this we found out much later."[11]

The plane first landed in Beirut, where it refueled and picked up several associates of the hijackers, along with enough explosives to destroy the entire plane. It then landed in Cairo after uncertainty whether the Dawson's Field airport could handle the size of the new Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Flight director John Ferruggio, who led the plane's evacuation, is credited with saving the plane's passengers and crew.[22] The plane was blown up at Cairo seconds after it had been evacuated. This was the first hull loss of a Boeing 747.[23] An audio recording of Feruggio's landing instructions to passengers was made by one of them and can be heard in a National Public Radio report.[24] The hijackers were arrested by Egyptian police.

Nationalities on Flight 93

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
Belgium 25 0 25
France 25 0 25
West Germany 10 0 10
Indonesia 2 0 2
Israel 2 0 2
Netherlands 35 3 38
Surinam 2 0 2
United Kingdom 2 0 2
United States 71 14 85
Total 152 17 169

BOAC Flight 775

BOAC Flight 775
G-ASGF Vickers Super VC-10 BOAC MAN 18JUN70 (5658918857).jpg
A BOAC Vickers VC10, a similar aircraft to that hijacked
Date9 September 1970
SitePersian Gulf
Aircraft typeVickers VC-10-1151
OperatorBritish Overseas Airways Corporation
Flight originSahar International Airport
1st stopoverBahrain International Airport
2nd stopoverBeirut International Airport
DestinationLondon Heathrow Airport
Survivors114 (all)

On 9 September a fifth plane, BOAC Flight 775, a Vickers VC10 (registration G-ASGN[25]), from Bombay (now Mumbai) to London via Bahrain and Beirut was hijacked after departing Bahrain and forcibly landed at Dawson's Field. This was the work of a PFLP sympathizer who wanted to influence the British government to free Leila Khaled.[26]

Footage of the plane taking off from Beirut for Dawson's Field is in the Pathe News archive.[27]

Nationalities on Flight 775

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
Albania 5 0 5
Denmark 15 0 15
France 25 0 25
West Germany 5 0 5
India 4 0 4
United Kingdom 25 9 34
United States 21 0 21
Total 105 9 114

Hostage accounts

The aircraft being blown up in front of international press on 12 September 1970.

Unnamed passengers later recounted their days as hostages.

Unknown speaker 1: "I was held hostage in the front of the plane by the Arabs. They wouldn't believe that I was an American citizen, because they saw my passport that I was in Israel two weeks before. They thought I was connected with the Israeli military, and I was held at gunpoint in front of the plane."

Unknown speaker 2: "Well, then they were told that we were being hijacked to Beirut, which we, we originally were, and everyone was to remain calm and do exactly what they said."

Unknown speaker 3: "I landed at the airport, we got off, and they told the captain that we had three minutes to evacuate; but I didn't think there were still a couple of people on board when they blew the, they blew the front part of the plane up. They had dynamite all over the front and the back of the plane. They brought on 20 kilos of plastic dynamite or something in Beirut."[28]

Days in the desert

Jordanian Army chief of staff Zaid ibn Shaker checks on the freed hostages, 25 September 1970.

On 7 September 1970, the hijackers held a press conference for 60 members of the media who had made their way to what was being called "Revolution Airport." About 125 hostages were transferred to Amman, while the American, Israeli, Swiss, and West German citizens were held on the planes.[29] Jewish passengers were also held. Passenger Rivke Berkowitz of New York, interviewed in 2006, recalled "the hijackers went around asking people their religion, and I said I was Jewish." Another Jewish hostage, 16-year-old Barbara Mensch (sister of Peter Mensch and sister-in-law of former UK MP Louise Mensch), was told she was "a political prisoner."[5]

As groups of the remaining passengers and crew were assembled on the sand in front of the media, members of the PFLP, among them Bassam Abu Sharif, made statements to the press. Sharif claimed that the goal of the hijackings was "to gain the release of all of our political prisoners jailed in Israel in exchange for the hostages."[11][30]

United States President Richard Nixon advised a direct military response to the hijackings.

In the United States, President Richard Nixon met with his advisers on 8 September and ordered United States Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to bomb the PFLP positions in Jordan. Laird refused[citation needed] on the pretext that the weather was unfavorable, and the idea was dropped. The 82nd Airborne Division was put on alert, the Sixth Fleet was put to sea, and military aircraft were sent to Turkey in preparation for a possible military strike.[31]

In contrast, British Prime Minister Edward Heath decided to negotiate with the hijackers, ultimately agreeing to release Khaled and others in exchange for hostages. This was bitterly opposed by the United States:

"Tensions between London and Washington are reflected in a bitterly acrimonious telephone conversation between top Foreign Office official Sir Denis Greenhill and senior White House aide Joseph Sisco. ... 'I think your government would want to weigh very, very carefully the kind of outcry that would occur in this country against your taking this kind of action.' Greenhill replied: 'Well, they do, Joe, but there is also an outcry in this country,' expressing concern that 'Israel won't lift a bloody finger and ... our people get killed. You could imagine how bad that would look, and if it all comes out that we could have got our people out but for the obduracy of you and other people so to speak. ... I mean people say, why the bloody hell didn't you try?'"[32]

On 9 September the United Nations Security Council demanded the release of the passengers, in Resolution 286. The following day, fighting between the PFLP and Jordanian forces erupted in Amman at the Intercontinental Hotel, where the 125 women and children were being kept by the PFLP, and the Kingdom appeared to be on the brink of full-scale civil war.[11] The destruction of the aircraft on 12 September highlighted the impotence of the Jordanian government in Palestinian-controlled areas, and the Palestinians declared the city of Irbid to be "liberated territory", in a direct challenge to Hussein's rule.

On 13 September the BBC World Service broadcast a government announcement in Arabic saying that the UK would release Khaled in exchange for the hostages.[33]

According to United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "At this point, whether because [American] readiness measures had given [King Hussein] a psychological lift or because he was reaching the point of desperation, Hussein resolved on an all-out confrontation with the fedayeen."[34]

Complicating the international crisis was the fact that Syria and Iraq, which had links with the USSR, had already threatened to intervene on behalf of Palestinian groups in any confrontation with the Kingdom of Jordan. According to British documents declassified under the "thirty year rule", an anxious King Hussein asked the UK and United States to pass a request to Israel to bomb Syrian troops if they entered Jordan in support of the Palestinians.[33] When a Syrian tank crossed the border, Israeli aircraft overflew the area in warning.

Resolution and consequences

King Hussein declared martial law on 16 September and initiated the military actions later known as the Black September conflict. Hostage David Raab described the Jordanian military actions:

"We were in the middle of the shelling since [neighbourhood in Amman] was among the Jordanian Army's primary targets. Electricity was cut off, and again we had little food or water. Friday afternoon, we heard the metal tracks of a tank clanking on the pavement. We were quickly herded into one room, and the guerrillas threw open the doors to make the building appear abandoned so it wouldn't attract fire. Suddenly, the shelling stopped."[29]

About two weeks after the start of the crisis, the remaining hostages were recovered from locations around Amman and exchanged for Leila Khaled and several other PFLP prisoners. The hostages were flown to Cyprus and then to Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport, where on 28 September they met President Nixon, who was conducting a State visit to Italy and the Vatican.[35] Speaking to reporters that day, Nixon noted he had told the released captives that

"[A]s a result of what they had been through... the possibility of reducing hijackings in the future had been substantially increased, because the international community was outraged by these incidents. Now we have not only mobilized guards on our planes, but we are developing facilities ... for the purpose of seeing that people who might be potential hijackers do not get on planes with weapons or explosive material."[36]

During the crisis, on 11 September President Nixon initiated a program to address the problem of "air piracy", including the immediate launch of a group of 100 federal agents to begin serving as armed sky marshals on U.S. flights.[7] Nixon's statement further indicated the U.S. departments of Defense and Transportation would determine whether X-ray devices then available to the military could be moved into civilian service.[37]

The PFLP officially disavowed the tactic of airline hijackings several years later, although several of its members and subgroups continued to hijack aircraft and commit other violent operations.[38]

Documentary film

In 2006, described the Dawson's Field hijackings in Hijacked, an hour-long episode of PBS's program American Experience, which he wrote and directed and which originally aired on 26 February 2006. Ziv included archival footage of the events and interviewed hijackers, hostages, members of the media, and politicians.


  1. ^ a b c BBC News, "On This Day: 12 September". "Hijacked jets destroyed by guerrillas". BBC News. 12 September 1970. Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  2. ^ Dawson's Field was named after Air Chief Marshal Sir Walter Dawson Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation – Air Chief Marshal Sir Walter Dawson refers
  3. ^ "Britain Releases Girl Guerilla". The Palm Beach Post. 1 October 1970. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Robert Schwartz; Defense Official Was Hostage in Hijacking". The Washington Post. 17 June 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Tugend, Tom (24 February 2006). "The Day a New Terrorism Was Born". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. ISSN 0888-0468. OCLC 13450863. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
  6. ^ a b Public Broadcasting Service website for Hijacked, "The American Hijacker". Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  7. ^ a b c Public Broadcasting Service, Hijacked website, "Flight crews and security". Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  8. ^ Baum, Philip. Aviation Security International September, 2000. "Leila Khaled: In her own words". Archived from the original on 24 March 2006. Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  9. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 707-458 4X-ATB London-Heathrow Airport (LHR)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  10. ^ "FAA Registry (N8715T)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  11. ^ a b c d Hijacked "Transcript". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2 May 2006.
  12. ^ Hijacked "Timeline and map". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  13. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 707-331B N8715T Zerqa RAF Station (Dawson's Field)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  14. ^ Terror in Black September: An Eyewitness Account in Middle East Forum
  15. ^ Hostages Tell Concerns Spokane Daily Chronicle, 12 September 1970
  16. ^ Terror in Black September: The First Eyewitness Account of the Infamous 1970 Hijackings by David Raab
  17. ^ "Entführung einer Swissair-DC-8 nach Zerqa" [Abduction of a Swissair DC-8 to Zerqa]. Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). NZZ. 5 September 2005.
  18. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-8-53 HB-IDD Zerqa RAF Station (Dawson's Field)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  19. ^ "FAA Registry (N752PA)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  20. ^ AP (7 September 1970). "4 Jets Hijacked". New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  21. ^ Raab, David (2007). Terror in Black September. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1-4039-8420-4.
  22. ^ Marquard, Bryan (22 June 2010). "John Ferruggio, at 84; hero of 1970 Pan Am hijacking". Boston Globe. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  23. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747-121 N752PA Cairo International Airport (CAI)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  24. ^ "The Skyjacking of 1970". NPR. 9 September 2003. Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  25. ^ "G-INFO Database". Civil Aviation Authority.
  26. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Vickers Super VC10-1151 G-ASGN Zerqa RAF Station (Dawson's Field)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  27. ^ "Pathe News film". Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  28. ^ "1970 Year in Review—Hijackings". UPI. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  29. ^ a b Raab, David. The New York Times Magazine, 22 August 2004. "Remembrance of terror past". Retrieved 2 May 2006.. Reprinted at http://www.terrorinblackseptember.com
  30. ^ Public Broadcasting Service, American Experience, "Hijacked:Journalists and the Hijacking". Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  31. ^ Hijacked "People and events". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  32. ^ Davis, Douglas. The Jerusalem Post, 2 January 2001. "Declassified documents show how UK gave in to terrorists". Archived from the original on 22 May 2006. Retrieved 1 May 2006.
  33. ^ a b UK Confidential, 1 January 2001 "Black September: Tough negotiations". BBC News. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 2 May 2006.
  34. ^ Kissinger, Henry. "Crisis and Confrontation". Time. 15 October 1979.. Time, 15 October 1979.
  35. ^ The Richard M. Nixon Library & Birthplace, "Nixon Papers, 1970". Retrieved 5 May 2006., PDF transcript "Exchange of remarks with released American hostages."
  36. ^ The Richard M. Nixon Library & Birthplace, "Nixon Papers, 1970". Retrieved 5 May 2006., PDF transcript Exchange of remarks with reporters at Leonardo da Vinci Airport about released American hostages. Archived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine 28 September 1970.
  37. ^ The Richard M. Nixon Library & Birthplace, "Nixon Papers, 1970". Retrieved 5 May 2006., PDF transcript "Statement announcing a program to deal with Airplane hijacking Archived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine" 11 September 1970.
  38. ^ "On This Day, 23 February 1972: Hijackers surrender and free Lufthansa crew". BBC News. 23 February 1972. Retrieved 11 April 2011. It later emerged the hijackers belonged to the PFLP (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and had been paid ,00m in ransom.

Further reading

  • Arey, James A. The Sky Pirates. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972.
  • Carlton, David. The West's Road to 9/11: Resisting, Appeasing and Encouraging Terrorism since 1970. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN 1-4039-9608-3. Cites the Western capitulation to the Dawson's field hijackings as the beginning of the rise of modern terrorism.
  • Jacobson, Sylvia R. (1972). "Individual and Group Responses To Confinement in a Skyjacked Plane" (PDF). Detroit: American Orthopsychiatric Association.
  • Phillips, David. Skyjack: The Story of Air Piracy. London: George G. Harrap, 1973.
  • Moss, Miriam. Girl on a Plane. London: Andersen Press, 2015. A fictionalised account by Moss, who, aged 15, was a passenger on BOAC Flight 775 from Bahrain.
  • Raab, David. Terror in Black September: The First Eyewitness Account of the Infamous 1970 Hijackings. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. ISBN 1-4039-8420-4.
  • Snow, Peter, and David Phillips. The Arab Hijack War: The True Story of 25 Days in September 1970. New York: Ballantine Books, 1971.

External links

2 September 1970

NASA announces the cancellation of two Apollo missions to the Moon, Apollo 15 (the designation is re-used by a later mission), and Apollo 19.

Canceled Apollo missions

Several planned missions of the Apollo crewed Moon landing program of the 1960s and 1970s were canceled for a variety of reasons, including changes in technical direction, the Apollo 1 fire, hardware delays, and budget limitations. After the landing by Apollo 12, Apollo 20, which would have been the final crewed mission to the Moon, was canceled to allow Skylab to launch as a "dry workshop" (assembled on the ground in an unused S-IVB Saturn IB second stage). The next two missions, Apollos 18 and 19, were later canceled after the Apollo 13 incident and further budget cuts. Two Skylab missions also ended up being canceled. Two complete Saturn Vs ended up going unused and are currently on display in the United States.

Planned missions prior to Apollo 1 fire

The prime crew for the second planned Apollo crewed flight prepares for mission simulator tests at the North American Aviation plant prior to the Apollo 1 fire. Left to right: Donn F. Eisele, Senior Pilot, Walter M. Schirra, Command Pilot, and Walter Cunningham, Pilot. (September 1966).

In September 1962, NASA planned to make four crewed low-Earth-orbital test flights of partially equipped Block I Command/Service Modules (CSM) using the Saturn I launch vehicle, designated SA-11 through SA-14, in 1965 and 1966. However, the limited payload capacity of the Saturn I compared to the uprated Saturn IB would have severely limited the systems carried, and thus the testing value of these flights. Therefore, NASA canceled these flights in October 1963,[1] and replaced them with two crewed Saturn IB missions, designated AS-204 and AS-205. These would be followed by the first uncrewed flight of the Lunar Module (LM) on AS-206, then the third crewed mission, designated AS-207/208, would use AS-207 to launch the crew in an improved Block II CSM, which would rendezvous and dock with the LM launched uncrewed on AS-208.

The crew selected on March 21, 1966, for AS-204 consisted of Command Pilot Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger Chaffee, who named their mission Apollo 1. AS-205 was to be named Apollo 2, and AS-207/208 would be Apollo 3.[2] The AS-205 crew were Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. However, AS-205 was later deemed unnecessary and officially canceled on December 22, 1966.

Schirra's crew then became the backup for Grissom's crew, and the crewed LM mission became the second crewed mission, redesignated AS-205/208 and crewed by Grissom's original backup crew: Command Pilot Jim McDivitt, CSM Pilot David Scott and LM Pilot Rusty Schweickart. They immediately began their training in the first Block II Command Module CM-101, as Grissom's crew were preparing for a February 1967 launch.

Then, on January 27, 1967, Grissom's crew was killed in a flash fire in their spacecraft cabin during a test on the launch pad, interrupting the program for 21 months to identify and fix the root causes of a major safety problem. This forced cancellation of plans to fly any Block I spacecraft with men, and effectively forced a "reboot" of all crewed mission plans.

Development missions after Apollo 1 fire

In September 1967, NASA created a list of remaining mission types necessary to achieve the first crewed lunar landing, each designated by a letter A through G, where G would be the first crewed landing. This list was later extended through letter J to cover follow-on lunar missions.

Two uncrewed Saturn V test launches (A missions) were flown as Apollo 4 and Apollo 6. A third test was planned but canceled as unnecessary.

The first development Lunar Module, LM-1 was flown uncrewed (B mission) as Apollo 5. A second uncrewed test was planned using LM-2 but was canceled as unnecessary. LM-2 was retrofitted to look like a production LM which would land men on the Moon and was donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where it is currently on display as a simulation of the Apollo 11 first landing.

Schirra's crew would fly the C mission, first crewed CSM (Block II CSM-101, retrofitted with the cabin safety improvements) as Apollo 7 in October 1968.

McDivitt's crew and mission were kept as the first crewed development LM flight (D mission); this was planned to be Apollo 8 in December 1968, now using a single Saturn V launch vehicle instead of two separate Saturn IB launches. The E mission was planned as an elliptical medium Earth orbit test of the operational LM with the CSM in a simulated lunar mission to an apogee of 4,600 miles (7,400 km), to be commanded by Frank Borman in March 1969.

Of all the components of the Apollo system, the LM had the most technical issues. It was behind schedule and when LM-3 was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in June 1968, over 101 separate defects were discovered. Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, which was the lead contractor for the LM predicted that the first man-rated LM, to be used for the D mission, would not be ready until at least February 1969, delaying the entire sequence.

George Low, the Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, proposed a solution in August 1968. Since the CSM would be ready three months before the Lunar Module, they could fly a CSM-only mission in December 1968. But instead of just repeating the C mission that would fly the CSM in Earth orbit, they could send the CSM all the way to the Moon and maybe even enter into orbit. This mission was dubbed "C-Prime" (an imaginary letter between C and D). This new mission would allow NASA to practice procedures for a lunar flight that would otherwise have to wait until Apollo 10, the F mission. There were also concerns from the Central Intelligence Agency that the Soviet Union was planning their own circumlunar flight for December to upstage the Americans once again (see Zond program). McDivitt's crew—who had grown accustomed to working with LM-3 and preparing for its flight—was kept on the D mission which now became Apollo 9, while Borman's crew would fly the CSM lunar orbit mission on Apollo 8, and the E mission was canceled.

The swap of crews was also decisive in who would be the first man to walk on the Moon. Pete Conrad was backup Commander for McDivitt's crew, and by the process of crew rotation, would have been in line for Commander of Apollo 11 three flights later. Neil Armstrong got this honor by virtue of being Borman's backup commander.

Follow-on lunar missions

NASA contracted to have 15 flight-worthy Saturn Vs produced. Apollo 11 achieved the first landing with the sixth Saturn V, leaving nine for follow-on landings. The following landing sites were chosen for these missions, planned to occur at intervals of approximately four months through July 1972.[3][4]

The last five missions were J-class missions using the Extended Lunar Module, capable of three-day stays on the Moon and carrying the Lunar Roving Vehicle:

As the later missions were up to three years out, little detailed planning was made, and a variety of landing sites were given for some flights. According to "NASA OMSF, Manned Space Flight Weekly Report" dated July 28, 1969, Apollo 18 would have landed at Schröter's Valley in February 1972, Apollo 19 in the Hyginus rille region in July 1972, and Apollo 20 in Copernicus crater in December 1972.

Other proposed landing sites and schedules for the last three missions included Gassendi crater (Apollo 18, July 1973), Copernicus (Apollo 19, December 1973), and Marius Hills or Tycho crater (Apollo 20, July 1974).[5]

As a number of ambitious Apollo Applications Programs were planned, it was still hoped in 1969 that further Saturn V launch vehicles could be contracted, allowing for more ambitious lunar missions.

In the NASA report "Scientific Rationale Summaries for Apollo Candidate Lunar Exploration Landing Sites" from March 11, 1970, Apollo 18 is targeted for Copernicus, and Apollo 19 is assigned Hadley rille (the eventual landing site of Apollo 15). The Apollo 20 mission had been canceled two months before, but the report still suggested its target, Hyginus rille, possibly as an alternative Apollo 19 landing site.[6]


On January 4, 1970, NASA announced the cancellation of Apollo 20 so that its Saturn V could be used to launch the Skylab space station as a "dry workshop" (assembled on the ground), instead of constructing it as a "wet workshop" from a spent S-IVB upper stage of a Saturn IB launch vehicle. Also, budget restrictions had limited the Saturn V production to the original 15.[7] NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low announced that the final three Moon landings were rescheduled for 1973 and 1974, following the three planned Skylab missions.[8] Chief Astronaut Deke Slayton moved Don L. Lind to Apollo Applications, stating that "with the cancellation of 20, I could see I just wasn't going to have a flight for him".[9]

Another lunar landing was lost in April 1970 when Apollo 13 had its in-flight failure, and the Fra Mauro landing site was reassigned to Apollo 14. Then on September 2, 1970, NASA announced it was canceling the H4 and J4 missions, due to more budget cuts. Skylab was also pushed out to 1973, and the final landing schedule became:

At the time, 35 of NASA's 49 active astronauts were waiting for a chance for a mission.[10]

In the closing days of the program, Apollo 17 LMP Harrison Schmitt aggressively lobbied for a crewed landing on the far side of the Moon, targeting the far side Tsiolkovskiy crater. Schmitt's ambitious proposal included the launch into lunar orbit of special communications satellites based on the existing TIROS satellites to allow contact with the astronauts during their powered descent and lunar surface operations. NASA administrators rejected these plans based on lack of funding and added risk.

In August 1971, President Richard Nixon even proposed to cancel all remaining lunar landings (Apollo 16 and 17). His Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Caspar Weinberger was opposed to this, persuading Nixon to keep the remaining Moon missions, but recommended that if such cancellation would happen that it be "on the ground that Apollo 15 was so successful in gathering needed data that we can now shift, sooner than previously expected, to the Space Shuttle, Grand Tour, NERVA, etc."[11]

Crew assignments

Slayton was the Director of Flight Crew Operations and effectively chose the crews for the flights. He did not intend to give astronauts two lunar landing commands but, according to historian Michael Cassutt, as late as the summer of 1969—when 10 landings were still scheduled—Slayton planned to give Lunar Module Pilots Fred Haise, Edgar Mitchell, and James Irwin the opportunity to walk again on the Moon as Commanders.[12] During the early Apollo missions he used a rotation system of assigning a crew as backup and then, three missions later, as the prime crew; however, by the later Apollo flights, this system was used less frequently as astronauts left the program, Slayton wanted to give rookies a chance, and astronauts did not want to take backup positions that no longer could lead to prime-crew spots.

A Gantt chart showing how astronaut assignments were deeply affected by cancelled Apollo missions.

In the case of Apollo 18 the crew was probably the Apollo 15 backup crew:[4]

When Apollo 18 was canceled, Schmitt was moved up to Apollo 17 under pressure from the scientific community, replacing Joe Engle. Schmitt, a geologist, became the only professional scientist and the twelfth man to walk on the Moon.

Slayton's intention for the Apollo 19 crew was the original (prior to cancellation) Apollo 16 backup crew:[4][13]

For Apollo 20 there is even more uncertainty. Based on normal crew rotation, the crew would likely have been:[4]

Another possibility would have been:[5]

  • Stuart Roosa or Edgar Mitchell (CDR)
  • Jack R. Lousma (CMP)
  • Don L. Lind (LMP)


Vance Brand and Don Lind, the crew for the unflown Skylab Rescue mission.

Skylab Rescue

One of the surplus CSMs, CSM-119, was modified to carry two additional crew and kept on standby for a potential rescue mission in case of issues on-board Skylab. During Skylab 3, a malfunction on the Apollo CSM docked to the station caused fears that the crew would not be able to return safely. CSM-119 was wheeled out to Launch Complex 39B on Saturn IB SA-209 during the mission and prepared for a possible launch. Two astronauts, Brand (commander) and Lind (command module pilot), would have flown the CSM to retrieve the three crew members. The problem was fixed without requiring a rescue flight. CSM-119 was returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building and remained on standby until the Skylab program ended.

CSM-119 was also held as a backup CSM for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.

Skylab 5

Skylab 5 would have been a short 20-day mission to conduct scientific experiments and boost Skylab into a higher orbit. Brand, Lind, and William B. Lenoir (science pilot) would have been the crew.[14]

Surplus hardware

LM-2 on display at the National Air and Space Museum
CSM-119 on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center
Saturn V at the Apollo/Saturn V Center
Rear view of Saturn V at the Apollo/Saturn V Center

Two complete Saturn Vs went unused after the Apollo program, SA-514 and SA-515, as well as the third stage of the SA-513. SA-513 was the launch vehicle originally planned for the Apollo 18 mission, which was used to launch Skylab.

  • A Saturn V on display at the Johnson Space Center is made up of the first stage of SA-514, the second stage of SA-515, and the third stage of SA-513. This display includes a production command/service module (CSM-115) which was never completed after funding was cut.
  • A Saturn V on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is made up of static test stage S-IC-T and the second and third stages of SA-514. The command module associated with the KSC Saturn V display is a boilerplate, BP-30. The stack was originally displayed outdoors in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building and was a stop for tour buses. It was later restored and moved indoors to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
  • The first stage from SA-515 resides at the INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi. The third stage was converted into a backup to the Skylab space station. It is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

The last complete, unflown Saturn IB, SA-209, kept on standby for a possible Skylab Rescue mission, is on display in the Rocket Garden of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, topped by an Apollo boilerplate in place of the rescue spacecraft. The second stage of SA-212 was converted into the prime Skylab space station. Two other surplus Saturn IBs (SA-213 and 214) were scrapped (also scrapped was the SA-212 first stage).

Likewise, the canceled flights' CSMs and LMs went either unused or were used for other missions:

  • After Apollo 15's original H mission was canceled, there was a surplus H mission CSM and Lunar Module. CSM-111 was used for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project. LM-9 is on display at the Kennedy Space Center (Apollo/Saturn V Center)
  • Apollo 18's CSM and LM were used by Apollo 17.
  • Apollo 19's CSM (#115) is displayed on the Saturn V located at the Johnson Space Center. Its LM (LM-13, originally assigned to Apollo 18) was only partially completed by Grumman, and was used as a prop for the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon in Moon exploration scenes. It is now on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island.
  • Apollo 20's CSM was never completed and was scrapped. The LM was also scrapped before completion, though there are some unconfirmed reports that some parts (in addition to parts from the LM test vehicle LTA-3) are included in the LM on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • The Skylab Rescue CSM-119 is on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.


  1. ^ Wade, Mark. "Apollo SA-11". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on June 17, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  2. ^ https://www.popsci.com/blog-network/vintage-space/what-happened-apollos-2-and-3
  3. ^ "Next Decade Challenges Man the Magnificent," Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 23, 1969, pE-2
  4. ^ a b c d "Apollo 18 through 20 - The Cancelled Missions", Dr. David R. Williams, NASA, accessed July 19, 2006.
  5. ^ a b "Apollo 18". Archived from the original on 2012-05-07.
  6. ^ Scientific rationale summaries for Apollo candidate lunar exploration landing sites - NASA Report. Downloaded from NASA Technical Reports Server December 14, 2007
  7. ^ "Peril Point at NASA". Time Magazine. Jan 26, 1970.
  8. ^ "Budget Cuts, Revisions Could Delay Apollo Flights," Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA), Jan. 6, 1970, pA-7
  9. ^ Slayton, D.K.; Cassutt, M. (1995). Deke ! U.S. Manned Space From Mercury To the Shuttle. Tom Doherty Associates. p. 252. ISBN 978-1-4668-0214-8.
  10. ^ "Waning Moon Program," Time Magazine, Sep. 14, 1970
  11. ^ "MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT" by Caspar Weinberger (via George Schultz), Aug 12, 1971, Page32(of39) [1]
  12. ^ Cassutt, Michael (2007-05-09). "Re: Don Lind and Tony England". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
  13. ^ Donald K. Slayton, "Deke!" (New York: Forge, 1994), 262
  14. ^ Wade, Mark. "Skylab 5". Astronautix. Archived from the original on 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-02-04.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

External links

21 July 1970

After 11 years of construction, the Aswan High Dam in Egypt is completed.

Aswan Dam

Aswan High Dam
The Aswan High Dam as seen from space
Aswan Dam is located in Egypt
Aswan Dam
Location of the Aswan Dam in Egypt
Official nameAswan High Dam
LocationAswan, Egypt
Coordinates23°58′14″N 32°52′40″E / 23.97056°N 32.87778°E / 23.97056; 32.87778Coordinates: 23°58′14″N 32°52′40″E / 23.97056°N 32.87778°E / 23.97056; 32.87778
Construction began1960
Opening date1970
Demolition dateN/A
Dam and spillways
Type of damEmbankment
ImpoundsRiver Nile
Height111 m (364 ft)
Length3,830 m (12,570 ft)
Width (base)980 m (3,220 ft)
Spillway capacity11,000 m3/s (390,000 cu ft/s)
CreatesLake Nasser
Total capacity132 km3 (107,000,000 acre⋅ft)
Surface area5,250 km2 (2,030 sq mi)
Maximum length550 km (340 mi)
Maximum width35 km (22 mi)
Maximum water depth180 m (590 ft)
Normal elevation183 m (600 ft)
Power Station
Commission date1967–1971
Turbines12×175 MW (235,000 hp) Francis-type
Installed capacity2,100 MW (2,800,000 hp)
Annual generation10,042 GWh (2004)[1]

The Aswan Dam, or more specifically since the 1960s, the Aswan High Dam, is an embankment dam built across the Nile in Aswan, Egypt, between 1960 and 1970. Its significance largely eclipsed the previous Aswan Low Dam initially completed in 1902 downstream. Based on the success of the Low Dam, then at its maximum utilization, construction of the High Dam became a key objective of the government following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952; with its ability to better control flooding, provide increased water storage for irrigation and generate hydroelectricity the dam was seen as pivotal to Egypt's planned industrialization. Like the earlier implementation, the High Dam has had a significant effect on the economy and culture of Egypt.

Before the High Dam was built, even with the old dam in place, the annual flooding of the Nile during late summer had continued to pass largely unimpeded down the valley from its East African drainage basin. These floods brought high water with natural nutrients and minerals that annually enriched the fertile soil along its floodplain and delta; this predictability had made the Nile valley ideal for farming since ancient times. However, this natural flooding varied, since high-water years could destroy the whole crop, while low-water years could create widespread drought and associated famine. Both these events had continued to occur periodically. As Egypt's population grew and technology increased, both a desire and the ability developed to completely control the flooding, and thus both protect and support farmland and its economically important cotton crop. With the greatly increased reservoir storage provided by the High Aswan Dam, the floods could be controlled and the water could be stored for later release over multiple years.

The Aswan Dam was designed by the Moscow-based Hydroproject Institute.[2]

Construction history

The earliest recorded attempt to build a dam near Aswan was in the 11th century, when the Arab polymath and engineer Ibn al-Haytham (known as Alhazen in the West) was summoned to Egypt by the Fatimid Caliph, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, to regulate the flooding of the Nile, a task requiring an early attempt at an Aswan Dam.[3] His field work convinced him of the impracticality of this scheme.[4]

Aswan Low Dam, 1898–1902

The British began construction of the first dam across the Nile in 1898. Construction lasted until 1902, and the dam was opened on 10 December 1902. The project was designed by Sir William Willcocks and involved several eminent engineers, including Sir Benjamin Baker and Sir John Aird, whose firm, John Aird & Co., was the main contractor.[5][6]

Aswan High Dam prelude, 1954–1959

In 1952, the Greek-Egyptian engineer Adrian Daninos began to develop the plan of the new Aswan Dam. Although the Low Dam was almost overtopped in 1946, the government of King Farouk showed no interest in Daninos's plans. Instead the Nile Valley Plan by the British hydrologist Harold Edwin Hurst to store water in Sudan and Ethiopia, where evaporation is much lower, was favored. The Egyptian position changed completely with the overthrow of the monarchy, led by the Free Officers Movement including Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Free Officers were convinced that the Nile Waters had to be stored in Egypt for political reasons, and within two months, the plan of Daninos was accepted.[7] Initially, both the United States and the USSR were interested in helping the development of the dam, but this movement happened in the midst of the Cold War, as well as of growing intra-Arab rivalries.

In 1955, Nasser was trying to portray himself as the leader of Arab nationalism, in opposition to the traditional monarchies, especially the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq following its signing of the 1955 Baghdad Pact. At that time the U.S. feared that communism would spread to the Middle East, and it saw Nasser as a natural leader of an anticommunist procapitalist Arab League. America and Britain offered to help finance construction of the High Dam, with a loan of $270 million, in return for Nasser's leadership in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. While opposed to communism, capitalism, and imperialism, Nasser presented himself as a tactical neutralist, and sought to work with both the U.S. and the USSR for Egyptian and Arab benefit.[8] After a particularly criticized raid by Israel against Egyptian forces in Gaza in 1955, Nasser realized that he could not legitimately portray himself as the leader of pan-Arab nationalism if he could not defend his country militarily against Israel. In addition to his development plans, he looked to quickly modernize his military, and he turned first to the U.S.

Egyptian President Nasser and Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev at the ceremony to divert the Nile during the construction of the Aswan High Dam on 14 May 1964. At this occasion Khrushchev called it "the eighth wonder of the world".

The American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and the American President Dwight Eisenhower told Nasser that the U.S. would supply him with weapons only if they were used for defensive purposes and accompanied by American military personnel for supervision and training. Nasser did not accept these conditions, but then he looked to the USSR for support. Although Dulles believed that Nasser was only bluffing and that the USSR would not aid Nasser, he was wrong— the USSR promised Nasser a quantity of arms in exchange for a deferred payment of Egyptian grain and cotton. On 27 September 1955, Nasser announced an arms deal, with Czechoslovakia acting as a middleman for the Soviet support.[9] Instead of attacking Nasser for turning to the Soviets, Dulles sought to improve relations with him. This explains the later offer of December 1955, in which the U.S. and Britain pledged $56 and $14 million respectively towards the construction of the dam.[10]

Gamal Abdel Nasser observing the construction of the dam, 1963

Though the Czech arms deal actually increased the American willingness to invest at Aswan, Great Britain cited the deal as a reason for reversing its promise of funds. What angered Dulles much more was Nasser's diplomatic recognition of China, which was in direct conflict with Dulles's policy of containment.[11] There are several other reasons why the U.S. decided to withdraw its offer of funding. Dulles believed that the USSR would not fulfill its commitment to help the Egyptians. He was also irritated by Nasser's neutrality and attempts to play both sides of the Cold War. At the time, other Western allies in the Middle East, including Turkey and Iraq, were irritated and jealous that Egypt, a persistently neutral country, was being offered so much aid.[12]

In June 1956, the Soviets offered Nasser $1.12 billion at 2% interest for the construction of the dam. On 19 July the U.S. State Department announced that American financial assistance for the High Dam was "not feasible in present circumstances."[10]

On 26 July 1956, with wide Egyptian acclaim, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal as well as fair compensation for the former owners. Nasser planned on the revenues generated by the canal helping to fund construction of the High Dam. When the Suez War broke out, the United Kingdom, France, and Israel seized the canal and the Sinai, but pressure from the U.S. and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere forced them to withdraw.

In 1958, the USSR went ahead in providing support for the High Dam project.

A view from the vantage point in the middle of High Dam towards the monument of Arab-Soviet Friendship (Lotus Flower) by architects Piotr Pavlov, Juri Omeltchenko and sculptor Nikolay Vechkanov

In the 1950s, archaeologists began raising concerns that several major historical sites, including the famous temple of Abu Simbel were about to be under water. A rescue operation began in 1960 under UNESCO (for details see below under Effects).

Construction and filling, 1960–1976

A central pylon of the monument to Arab-Soviet Friendship. The memorial commemorates the completion of the Aswan High Dam. The coat of arms of the Soviet Union is on the left and the coat of arms of Egypt is on the right.

The Soviets also provided technicians and heavy machinery. The enormous rock and clay dam was designed by the Soviet Hydroproject Institute along with some Egyptian engineers. 25,000 Egyptian engineers and workers contributed to the construction of the dams.

On the Egyptian side, the project was led by Osman Ahmed Osman's Arab Contractors. The relatively young Osman underbid his only competitor by one-half.[13]

  • 1960: Start of construction on 9 January[14]
  • 1964: First dam construction stage completed, reservoir started filling
  • 1970: The High Dam, as-Sad al-'Aali, completed on 21 July[15]
  • 1976: Reservoir reached capacity.


The Aswan High Dam is 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) long, 980 m (3,220 ft) wide at the base, 40 m (130 ft) wide at the crest and 111 m (364 ft) tall. It contains 43,000,000 cubic metres (56,000,000 cu yd) of material. At maximum, 11,000 cubic metres per second (390,000 cu ft/s) of water can pass through the dam. There are further emergency spillways for an extra 5,000 cubic metres per second (180,000 cu ft/s), and the Toshka Canal links the reservoir to the Toshka Depression. The reservoir, named Lake Nasser, is 550 km (340 mi) long and 35 km (22 mi) at its widest, with a surface area of 5,250 square kilometres (2,030 sq mi). It holds 132 cubic kilometres (1.73×1011 cu yd) of water.

A panorama of the Aswan Dam

Irrigation scheme

Green irrigated land along the Nile amidst the desert
Water balances
Main irrigation systems (schematically)

Due to the absence of appreciable rainfall, Egypt's agriculture depends entirely on irrigation. With irrigation, two crops per year can be produced, except for sugar cane which has a growing period of almost one year.

The high dam at Aswan releases, on average, 55 cubic kilometres (45,000,000 acre⋅ft) water per year, of which some 46 cubic kilometres (37,000,000 acre⋅ft) are diverted into the irrigation canals.

In the Nile valley and delta, almost 336,000 square kilometres (130,000 sq mi) benefit from these waters producing on average 1.8 crops per year. The annual crop consumptive use of water is about 38 cubic kilometres (31,000,000 acre⋅ft). Hence, the overall irrigation efficiency is 38/46 = 0.82 or 82%. This is a relatively-high irrigation efficiency. The field irrigation efficiencies are much less, but the losses are reused downstream. This continuous reuse accounts for the high overall efficiency.

The following table shows that the equal distribution of irrigation water over the branch canals taking off from the one main irrigation canal, the Mansuriya Canal near Giza, leaves much to be desired:[16]

Branch canal Water delivery in m3/feddan *
Kafret Nasser 4,700
Beni Magdul 3,500
El Mansuria 3,300
El Hammami upstream 2,800
El Hammami downstream 1,800
El Shimi 1,200
* Period 1 March to 31 July. 1 feddan is 0.42 ha or about 1 acre.
* Data from the Egyptian Water Use Management Project (EWUP)[17]

The salt concentration of the water in the Aswan reservoir is about 0.25 kilograms per cubic metre (0.42 lb/cu yd), a very low salinity level. At an annual inflow of 55 cubic kilometres (45,000,000 acre⋅ft), the annual salt influx reaches 14 million tons. The average salt concentration of the drainage water evacuated into the sea and the coastal lakes is 2.7 kilograms per cubic metre (4.6 lb/cu yd).[18] At an annual discharge of 10 cubic kilometres (2.4 cu mi) (not counting the 2 kilograms per cubic metre [3.4 lb/cu yd] of salt intrusion from the sea and the lakes, see figure "Water balances"), the annual salt export reaches 27 million ton. In 1995, the output of salt was higher than the influx, and Egypt's agricultural lands were desalinizing. Part of this could be due to the large number of subsurface drainage projects executed in the last decades to control the water table and soil salinity.[19]

Drainage through subsurface drains and drainage channels is essential to prevent a deterioration of crop yields from waterlogging and soil salinization caused by irrigation. By 2003, more than 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi) have been equipped with a subsurface drainage system and approximately 7.2 square kilometres (2.8 sq mi) of water is drained annually from areas with these systems. The total investment cost in agricultural drainage over 27 years from 1973 to 2002 was about $3.1 billion covering the cost of design, construction, maintenance, research and training. During this period 11 large-scale projects were implemented with financial support from World Bank and other donors.[20]


The High Dam has resulted in protection from floods and droughts, an increase in agricultural production and employment, electricity production, and improved navigation that also benefits tourism. Conversely, the dam flooded a large area, causing the relocation of over 100,000 people. Many archaeological sites were submerged while others were relocated. The dam is blamed for coastline erosion, soil salinity, and health problems.

The assessment of the costs and benefits of the dam remains controversial decades after its completion. According to one estimate, the annual economic benefit of the High Dam immediately after its completion was 255 million, $587 million using the exchange rate in 1970 of $2.30 per E£1): £140 million from agricultural production, £100 million from hydroelectric generation, £10 million from flood protection, and £5 million from improved navigation. At the time of its construction, total cost, including unspecified "subsidiary projects" and the extension of electric power lines, amounted to £450 million. Not taking into account the negative environmental and social effects of the dam, its costs are thus estimated to have been recovered within only two years.[21] One observer notes: "The impacts of the Aswan High Dam (...) have been overwhelmingly positive. Although the Dam has contributed to some environmental problems, these have proved to be significantly less severe than was generally expected, or currently believed by many people."[22] Another observer disagreed and he recommended that the dam should be torn down. Tearing it down would cost only a fraction of the funds required for "continually combating the dam's consequential damage" and 500,000 hectares of fertile land could be reclaimed from the layers of mud on the bed of the drained reservoir.[23]

Periodic floods and droughts have affected Egypt since ancient times. The dam mitigated the effects of floods, such as those in 1964, 1973, and 1988. Navigation along the river has been improved, both upstream and downstream of the dam. Sailing along the Nile is a favorite tourism activity, which is mainly done during the winter when the natural flow of the Nile would have been too low to allow navigation of cruise ships.[clarification needed] A new fishing industry has been created around Lake Nasser, though it is struggling due to its distance from any significant markets. The annual production was about 35 000 tons in the mid-1990s. Factories for the fishing industry and packaging have been set up near the Lake.[24]

Drought protection, agricultural production and employment

The Egyptian countryside benefited from the Aswan High Dam through improved irrigation as well as electrification, as shown here in Al Bayadiyah, south of Luxor.

The dams also protected Egypt from the droughts in 1972–73 and 1983–87 that devastated East and West Africa. The High Dam allowed Egypt to reclaim about 2.0 million feddan (840,000 hectares) in the Nile Delta and along the Nile Valley, increasing the country's irrigated area by a third. The increase was brought about both by irrigating what used to be desert and by bringing under cultivation of 385,000 ha that were previously used as flood retention basins.[25] About half a million families were settled on these new lands. In particular the area under rice and sugar cane cultivation increased. In addition, about 1 million feddan (420,000 hectares), mostly in Upper Egypt, were converted from flood irrigation with only one crop per year to perennial irrigation allowing two or more crops per year. On other previously irrigated land, yields increased because water could be made available at critical low-flow periods. For example, wheat yields in Egypt tripled between 1952 and 1991 and better availability of water contributed to this increase. Most of the 32 km3 of freshwater, or almost 40 percent of the average flow of the Nile that were previously lost to the sea every year could be put to beneficial use. While about 10 km3 of the water saved is lost due to evaporation in Lake Nasser, the amount of water available for irrigation still increased by 22 km3.[24] Other estimates put evaporation from Lake Nasser at between 10 and 16 cubic km per year.[26]

Electricity production

Power plant of the Aswan High Dam, with the dam itself in the background.

The dam powers twelve generators each rated at 175 megawatts (235,000 hp), with a total of 2.1 gigawatts (2,800,000 hp). Power generation began in 1967. When the High Dam first reached peak output it produced around half of Egypt's production of electric power (about 15 percent by 1998), and it gave most Egyptian villages the use of electricity for the first time. The High Dam has also improved the efficiency and the extension of the Old Aswan Hydropower stations by regulating upstream flows.[24]


A picture of the old Wadi Halfa town that was flooded by Lake Nasser.

Lake Nasser flooded much of lower Nubia and 100,000 to 120,000 people were resettled in Sudan and Egypt.[27]

View of New Wadi Halfa, a settlement created on the shore of Lake Nasser to house part of the resettled population from the Old Wadi Halfa town.

In Sudan, 50,000 to 70,000 Sudanese Nubians were moved from the old town of Wadi Halfa and its surrounding villages. Some were moved to a newly created settlement on the shore of Lake Nasser called New Wadi Halfa, and some were resettled approximately 700 kilometres south to the semi-arid Butana plain near the town of Khashm el-Girba up the Atbara River. The climate there had a regular rainy season as opposed to their previous desert habitat in which virtually no rain fell. The government developed an irrigation project, called the New Halfa Agricultural Development Scheme to grow cotton, grains, sugar cane and other crops. The Nubians were resettled in twenty five planned villages that included schools, medical facilities, and other services, including piped water and some electrification.

In Egypt, the majority of the 50,000 Nubians were moved three to ten kilometers from the Nile near Kom Ombo, 45 kilometers downstream from Aswan in what was called "New Nubia". Housing and facilities were built for 47 village units whose relationship to each other approximated that in Old Nubia. Irrigated land was provided to grow mainly sugar cane.[28][29]

Archaeological sites

The statue of Ramses the Great at the Great Temple of Abu Simbel is reassembled after having been moved in 1967 to save it from being flooded.

22 monuments and architectural complexes that were threatened by flooding from Lake Nasser, including the Abu Simbel temples, were preserved by moving them to the shores of the lake under the UNESCO Nubia Campaign.[30] Also moved were Philae, Kalabsha and Amada.[24]

These monuments were granted to countries that helped with the works:

These items were removed to the garden area of the Sudan National Museum of Khartoum:[31]

The Temple of Ptah at Gerf Hussein had its free-standing section reconstructed at New Kalabsha, alongside the Temple of Kalabsha, Beit el-Wali, and the Kiosk of Qertassi.

The remaining archaeological sites, including the Buhen fort or the cemetery of Fadrus have been flooded by Lake Nasser.

Loss of sediments

Lake Nasser behind the Aswan dam displaced more than 100,000 people and traps significant amounts of sediment.

Before the construction of the High Dam, the Nile deposited sediments of various particle size – consisting of fine sand, silt and clay – on fields in Upper Egypt through its annual flood, contributing to soil fertility. However, the nutrient value of the sediment has often been overestimated. 88 percent of the sediment was carried to the sea before the construction of the High Dam. The nutrient value added to the land by the sediment was only 6,000 tons of potash, 7,000 tons of phosphorus pentoxide and 17,000 tons of nitrogen. These amounts are insignificant compared to what is needed to reach the yields achieved today in Egypt's irrigation.[32] Also, the annual spread of sediment due to the Nile floods occurred along the banks of the Nile. Areas far from the river which never received the Nile floods before are now being irrigated.[33]

A more serious issue of trapping of sediment by the dam is that it has increased coastline erosion surrounding the Nile Delta. The coastline erodes an estimated 125–175 m (410–574 ft) per year.[34]

Waterlogging and increase in soil salinity

Before the construction of the High Dam, groundwater levels in the Nile Valley fluctuated 8–9 m per year with the water level of the Nile. During summer when evaporation was highest, the groundwater level was too deep to allow salts dissolved in the water to be pulled to the surface through capillary action. With the disappearance of the annual flood and heavy year-round irrigation, groundwater levels remained high with little fluctuation leading to waterlogging. Soil salinity also increased because the distance between the surface and the groundwater table was small enough (1–2 m depending on soil conditions and temperature) to allow water to be pulled up by evaporation so that the relatively small concentrations of salt in the groundwater accumulated on the soil surface over the years. Since most of the farmland did not have proper subsurface drainage to lower the groundwater table, salinization gradually affected crop yields.[25] Drainage through sub-surface drains and drainage channels is essential to prevent a deterioration of crop yields from soil salinization and waterlogging. By 2003, more than 2.0 million have been equipped with a subsurface drainage system at a cost from 1973 to 2002 of about $3.1 billion.[35]


Skin vesicles: a symptom of schistosomiasis. A more common symptom is blood in the urine.

Contrary to many predictions made prior to the Aswan High Dam construction and publications that followed, that the prevalence of schistosomiasis (bilharzia) would increase, it did not.[36] This assumption did not take into account the extent of perennial irrigation that was already present throughout Egypt decades before the high dam closure. By the 1950s only a small proportion of Upper Egypt had not been converted from basin (low transmission) to perennial (high transmission) irrigation. Expansion of perennial irrigation systems in Egypt did not depend on the high dam. In fact, within 15 years of the high dam closure there was solid evidence that biharzia was declining in Upper Egypt. S. haematobium has since disappeared altogether.[37] Suggested reasons for this include improvements in irrigation practice. In the Nile Delta, schistosomiasis had been highly endemic, with prevalence in the villages 50% or higher for almost a century before. This was a consequence of the conversion of the Delta to perennial irrigation to grow long staple cotton by the British. This has changed. Large scale treatment programmes in the 1990s using single dose oral medication contributed greatly to reducing the prevalence and severity of S. mansoni in the Delta.

Other effects

Sediment deposited in the reservoir is lowering the water storage capacity of Lake Nasser. The reservoir storage capacity is 162 km3, including 31 km3 dead storage at the bottom of the lake below 147 m above sea level, 90 km3 live storage, and 41 km3 of storage for high flood waters above 175m above sea level. The annual sediment load of the Nile is about 134 million tons. This means that the dead storage volume would be filled up after 300–500 years if the sediment accumulated at the same rate throughout the area of the lake. Obviously sediment accumulates much faster at the upper reaches of the lake, where sedimentation has already affected the live storage zone.[32]

Before the construction of the High Dam, the 50,000 km of irrigation and drainage canals in Egypt had to be dredged regularly to remove sediments. After construction of the dam, aquatic weeds grew much faster in the clearer water, helped by fertilizer residues. The total length of the infested waterways was about 27,000 km in the mid-1990s. Weeds have been gradually brought under control by manual, mechanical and biological methods.[24]

The catch of sardines in the Mediterranean off the Egyptian coast declined after the Aswan Dam was completed, but the exact reasons for the decline are still disputed.

Mediterranean fishing and brackish water lake fishery declined after the dam was finished because nutrients that flowed down the Nile to the Mediterranean were trapped behind the dam. For example, the sardine catch off the Egyptian coast declined from 18,000 tons in 1962 to a mere 460 tons in 1968, but then gradually recovered to 8,590 tons in 1992. A scientific article in the mid-1990s noted that "the mismatch between low primary productivity and relatively high levels of fish production in the region still presents a puzzle to scientists."[38]

A concern before the construction of the High Dam had been the potential drop in river-bed level downstream of the Dam as the result of erosion caused by the flow of sediment-free water. Estimates by various national and international experts put this drop at between 2 and 10 meters. However, the actual drop has been measured at 0.3–0.7 meters, much less than expected.[24]

The red-brick construction industry, which consisted of hundreds of factories that used Nile sediment deposits along the river, has also been negatively affected. Deprived of sediment, they started using the older alluvium of otherwise arable land taking out of production up to 120 square kilometers annually, with an estimated 1,000 square kilometers destroyed by 1984 when the government prohibited, "with only modest success," further excavation.[39] According to one source, bricks are now being made from new techniques which use a sand-clay mixture and it has been argued that the mud-based brick industry would have suffered even if the dam had not been built.[33]

Because of the lower turbidity of the water sunlight penetrates deeper in the Nile water. Because of this and the increased presence of nutrients from fertilizers in the water, more algae grow in the Nile. This in turn increases the costs of drinking water treatment. Apparently few experts had expected that water quality in the Nile would actually decrease because of the High Dam.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Aswan High Dam". Carbon Monitoring for Action. Archived from the original on 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
  2. ^ Smith, Jean Edward (2012). Eisenhower in War and Peace. Random House Publishing Group. p. 694. ISBN 9780679644293.
  3. ^ Rashed, Roshdi (2002-08-02), "Portraits of Science: A Polymath in the 10th Century", Science, Science magazine, 297 (5582): 773, doi:10.1126/science.1074591, PMID 12161634
  4. ^ Corbin, Henry (1993) [French 1964], History of Islamic Philosophy, Translated by Liadain Sherrard, Philip Sherrard, London; Kegan Paul International in association with Islamic Publications for The Institute of Ismaili Studies, p. 149, ISBN 0-7103-0416-1
  5. ^ Egypt bond Archived May 13, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Roberts, Chalmers (December 1902), "Subduing the Nile", The World's Work: A History of Our Time, V: 2861–2870, archived from the original on 2013-10-11, retrieved 2009-07-10
  7. ^ Collins, Robert O. (2000). "In Search of the Nile Waters, 1900–2000". The Nile: Histories, Cultures, Myths. Edited by Haggai Erlich and Israel Gershoni. Lynne Rienner. pp. 255–256.
  8. ^ Dougherty, James E. (March 1959), "The Aswan Decision in Perspective", Political Science Quarterly, The Academy of Political Science, 74 (1): 21–45, doi:10.2307/2145939, JSTOR 2145939
  9. ^ Smith, p. 242
  10. ^ a b Dougherty, p. 22
  11. ^ Smith, p. 247
  12. ^ Smith, Charles D. (2007). Palestine and the Arab–Israeli Conflict (Sixth ed.). Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 978-0-312-43736-7.
  13. ^ "Osman the Efficient". Archived from the original on 2010-10-30. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
  14. ^ Collins, Robert O. (2002). The Nile. Yale University Press. p. 181. ISBN 0-300-09764-6.
  15. ^ "1970: Aswan Dam Completed". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  16. ^ Impacts of the Irrigation Improvement Projects in Egypt. Egyptian-Dutch Advisory Panel and International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 1999. Download from:[1] Archived 2010-02-07 at the Wayback Machine , under nr. 4, or directly as PDF: [2] Archived 2008-02-28 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Egyptian Water Use Management Project (EWUP), 1984. Improving Egypt’s Irrigation System in the Old Lands, Final Report. Colorado State University and Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources
  18. ^ Egyptian Drainage Research Institute, DRI, yearbook 1995/1996
  19. ^ M.S.Abdel-Dayem, 1987. "Development of land drainage in Egypt." In: J.Vos (Ed.) Proceedings, Symposium 25th International Course on Land Drainage. ILRI publ. 42. International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  20. ^ Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Egyptian Public Authority for Drainage Projects, Drainage Research Institute, 2006: The National Drainage and Drainage Water Reuse Programs, Egypt[permanent dead link], Local Actions at the 4th World Water Forum, 2 March 2007, accessed 28 April 2010
  21. ^ Abul-Ata, Abdel Azim, "Egypt and the Nile after the Construction of the High Aswan Dam", Ministry of Irrigation and Land Reclamation, Cairo, 1978, quoted by Asit Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, 2004
  22. ^ Biswas, Asit K. (November–December 2002). "Aswan Dam Revisited: The Benefits of a Much-Maligned Dam". Development and Cooperation (6): 25–27. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  23. ^ Professor Fouad Ibrahim, an Egyptian geoscientist teaching in Germany in a 1982 article quoted by Peter Wald:"25 Years Later:The Aswan High Dam Has Proven its Worth", Development and Cooperation 2/96, p.20–21
  24. ^ a b c d e f M.A. Abu-Zeid & F. Z. El-Shibini: "Egypt's High Aswan Dam Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine", Water Resources Development, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 209–217, 1997
  25. ^ a b c Schamp, Heinz (1983). "Sadd el-Ali, der Hochdamm von Assuan (Sadd el-Ali, the High Dam of Aswan)". Geowissenschaften in Unserer Zeit (in German). 1 (2): 51–85.
  26. ^ M.A. Mosalam Shaltout, T. El Housry:Estimating the evaporation over Nasser Lake in the Upper Egypt from Meteosat observations, Advances in Space Research, 19 (3) (1997), pp. 515–518
  27. ^ Scudder, Thayer; Gay, John (2005), "A comparative survey of dam-induced resettlement in 50 cases" (PDF), in Scudder, Thayer (ed.), The Future of Large Dams: Dealing with Social, Environmental, Institutional and Political Costs, ISBN 1-84407-155-3
  28. ^ Scudder, Thayer (2003), The Aswan High Dam Case (PDF), pp. 11–12, archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-06-05, retrieved 2011-01-02
  29. ^ Stock, Jill Kamil ; photographs by Michael (1993). Aswan and Abu Simbel: history and guide. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. pp. 141–142. ISBN 977-424-321-8.
  30. ^ The Rescue of Nubian Monuments and Sites Archived 2016-12-22 at the Wayback Machine, UNESCO project site about Nubia Campaign.
  31. ^ Reis, Michael (1999), Who is who in Ancient Egypt, p.48 ISBN 0-415-15448-0
  32. ^ a b Abu Zeid, M.A. (September 1989). "Environmental impacts of the High Dam". Water Resources Development. 5 (3): 156.
  33. ^ a b Biswas, Asit K.; Tortajada, Cecilia (March 2004), Hydropolitics and Impacts of the High Aswan Dam, Mexico: Third World Centre for Water Management[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ Schwartz, Maurice L., ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of coastal science. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 358. ISBN 1-4020-1903-3.
  35. ^ Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Egyptian Public Authority for Drainage Projects, Drainage Research Institute, 2006: The National Drainage and Drainage Water Reuse Programs, Egypt, Local Actions at the 4th World Water Forum, March 2, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
  36. ^ Miller. F. DeWolfe et al. Schistosomiasis in Rural Egypt. 1978. United States Environment Protection Agency. EPA – 600/1-78-070.
  37. ^ Baraket, R. Epidemiology of Schistosomiasis in Egypt: Travel through Time: Review. Journal of Advanced Research (2013) 4, 425–432
  38. ^ El-Sayed, Sayed; van Dijken, Gert L. (1995), The southeastern Mediterranean ecosystem revisited: Thirty years after the construction of the Aswan High Dam, archived from the original on 2011-01-04, retrieved 2011-01-02
  39. ^ Scudder, Thayer (2003), The Aswan High Dam Case (PDF), p. 11, archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-06-05, retrieved 2011-01-02

External links

21 December 1970

First flight of F-14 Tomcat.

The F-14 Tomcat first flew on December 21, 1970 and entered service in September 1974. The Tomcat was a multi-role aircraft designed to be an air superiority fighter as well as a high speed interceptor to defend the carrier battle group from potential threats. In addition to carrying a wide variety of missiles the F-14 was also equipped with an internal 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling cannon to make it a more capable air combat fighter than the F-4 which did not have an internal gun.

The F-14 was a large aircraft having a wingspan of 64 feet with the wings unswept and a maximum weight in excess of 74,000 pounds. Powered by two GE F-110-GE-400 engines that created 56,000 pounds of thrust it had a ceiling of over 50,000 feet and a range of around 2000 miles.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Tomcat was its ability to carry the radar-guided AIM-54 Phoenix long-range air-to-air missile. The AIM-54 Phoenix missile system allowed the F-14 pilot to engage multiple targets at the same time. Carrying up to six AIM-54 missiles the Tomcats radar system could track 24 simultaneous targets up to 100 nautical miles. The F-14 was the first fighter aircraft to have this type of capability and the Tomcat was the only operation platform for the Phoenix.

Each Phoenix missile weighed 1000 pounds. 13 feet long and 15 inches wide the AIM-54 carried a 135 pound high explosive warhead. While the missile worked in testing the only reported combat events ended up in failure. In 1999 three Phoenix missiles were fired from F-14s at Iraqi Mig fighters with all three failing to hit the target.

On a more positive note, on January 4, 1989 while operating about 100 miles off the shores of Libya in the Gulf of Sidra the F-14 scored two Mig kills. The US carrier battle group had launched a group of A-6 Intruders with two F-14s as escort. Libya launched four Mig 23 aircraft apparently to intercept the Tomcats.

The two F-14s initially turned towards the Migs but on several occasions turned away to indicate they were not threatening them. After it became clear the Migs were not going to turn away, at a range of between 7-15 miles one of the F-14s launched two AIM-7M Sparrow radar guided missiles. Both missiles missed the Migs.

The two Migs continued their high speed approach. With about six miles between the opposing aircraft the two F-14s split apart and proceeded to take separate missile shots downing both Mig aircraft. The F-14s then returned to their ship. Reports are the two Libyan pilots were seen ejecting from their damaged aircraft.

The only foreign country to purchase the Tomcat was surprisingly Iran during the Shah years. In 1974 Iran picked the F-14 over the F-15 and purchased 80 aircraft and over 400 Phoenix missiles. The Iranian F-14s have reportedly been seen flying combat escort missions on Russian bombers in Syria in 2015.

The F-14 was retired from US Navy service in 2006. There were over 700 aircraft produced.

31 July 1970

The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy (Black Tot Day).

Black Tot Day 31 July 1970 is the name given to the last day on which the Royal Navy issued sailors with a daily rum ration the daily tot.

In the 17th century, the daily drink ration for English sailors was a gallon of beer. Due to the difficulty in storing the large quantities of liquid that this required, in 1655 a half pint of rum was made equivalent and became preferred to beer. Over time, drunkenness on board naval vessels increasingly became a problem and the ration was formalised in naval regulations by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740 and ordered to be mixed with water in a 4:1 water to rum ratio and split into two servings per day.

In the 19th century, there was a change in the attitude towards alcohol due to continued discipline problems in the navy. In 1824 the size of the tot was halved to a quarter pint in an effort to improve the situation. In 1850, the Admiralty’s Grog Committee, convened to look into the issues surrounding the rum ration, recommended that it be eliminated completely. However, rather than ending it the navy further halved it to an eighth of a pint per day, eliminating the evening serving of the ration. This led to the ending of the ration for officers in 1881 and warrant officers in 1918.

On 17 December 1969 the Admiralty Board issued a written answer to a question from the MP for Woolwich East, Christopher Mayhew, saying “The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual’s tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people’s lives may depend”. This led to a debate in the House of Commons on the evening of 28 January 1970, now referred to as the ‘Great Rum Debate’, started by James Wellbeloved, MP for Erith and Crayford, who believed that the ration should not be removed. The debate lasted an hour and 15 minutes and closed at 10:29pm with a decision that the rum ration was no longer appropriate.

31 July 1970 was the final day of the rum ration and it was poured as usual at 6 bells in the forenoon watch 11am after the pipe of ‘up spirits’. Some sailors wore black armbands, tots were ‘buried at sea’ and in one navy training camp, HMS Collingwood, the Royal Naval Electrical College at Fareham in Hampshire, there was a mock funeral procession complete with black coffin and accompanying drummers and piper. The move was not popular with the ratings despite an extra can of beer being added to the daily rations in compensation.

A special stamp was issued, available from Portsmouth General Post Office, with the slogan “Last Issue of Rum to the Royal Navy 31 July 1970”.

Black Tot Day was subsequently followed in two other Commonwealth navies the Royal Australian Navy having already discontinued the rum ration, in 1921: 31 March 1972 was the final day of the rum ration in the Royal Canadian Navy; and 28 February 1990 was the final day of the rum ration in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

11 April 1970

Apollo 13 is launched.

Apollo 13, NASA’s third crewed mission to the moon, launched on April 11, 1970. Two days later, on April 13, while the mission was en route to the moon, a fault in the electrical system of one of the Service Module’s oxygen tanks produced an explosion that caused both oxygen tanks to fail and also led to a loss of electrical power. The Command Module remained functional on its own batteries and oxygen tank, but these were usable only during the last hours of the mission. The crew shut down the Command Module and used the Lunar Module as a “lifeboat” during the return trip to Earth. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, and a shortage of potable water, the crew returned to Earth, and the mission was termed a “successful failure.”

This photograph of the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center at the Manned Spacecraft Center now Johnson Space Center, Houston, was taken on April 13, 1970, during the fourth television transmission from the Apollo 13 mission. Eugene F. Kranz foreground, back to camera, one of four Apollo 13 flight directors, views the large screen at front as astronaut Fred W. Haise Jr., Lunar Module pilot, is seen on the screen.

10 April 1970

Paul McCartney announces that he is leaving The Beatles.

The legendary rock band the Beatles spent the better part of three years breaking up in the late 1960s, and even longer than that hashing out who did what and why. And by the spring of 1970, there was little more than a tangled set of business relationships keeping the group together. Each of the Beatles was pursuing his musical interests outside of the band, and there were no plans in place to record together as a group. But as far as the public knew, this was just a temporary state of affairs. That all changed on April 10, 1970, when an ambiguous Paul McCartney “self-interview” was seized upon by the international media as an official announcement of a Beatles breakup.

The occasion for the statements Paul released to the press that day was the upcoming release of his debut solo album, McCartney.Nothing in Paul’s answers constituted a definitive statement about the Beatles’ future, but his remarks were nevertheless reported in the press under headlines like “McCartney Breaks Off With Beatles” and “The Beatles sing their swan song.” And whatever his intent at the time, Paul’s statements drove a further wedge between himself and his bandmates. In the May 14, 1970, issue of Rolling Stone, John Lennon lashed out at Paul in a way he’d never done publicly: “He can’t have his own way, so he’s causing chaos,” John said. “I put out four albums last year, and I didn’t say a word about quitting.”

By year’s end, Paul would file suit to dissolve the Beatles’ business partnership, a formal process that would eventually make official the unofficial breakup he announced on this day in 1970.

22 January 1970

The world’s first “jumbo jet”, The Boeing 747, enters commercial service.

Thanks to its distinctive hump, Boeing’s 747 “jumbo jet” is the world’s most recognised aircraft. Since its first flight, on 22nd January 1970, it has carried the equivalent of 80% of the world’s population.

In the 1960s air travel was booming. Thanks to falling ticket prices, more people than ever were able to take to the skies. Boeing set about creating the largest commercial aeroplane yet, to take advantage of the growing market.

Around the same time, Boeing won a government contract to build the first supersonic transport plane. Had it come to fruition, the Boeing 2707 would have travelled at three times the speed of sound, carrying 300 passengers.

This new and exciting project was a major headache for the 747. Joseph Stutter, chief engineer on the 747, struggled to maintain funding and support for his 4,500-strong team.

The supersonic project was eventually scrapped but not before it exerted a significant impact on the design of the 747. At the time, Pan Am was one of Boeing’s best clients and the airline’s founder, Juan Trippe, had a great deal of influence. He was convinced that supersonic passenger transport was the future and that aircraft like the 747 would eventually be used as freighters. As a result, the designers mounted the flight deck on top of the passenger deck in order to allow for a hinged nose for loading cargo. Increasing the width of the fuselage also made loading freight easier and, in a passenger configuration, made the cabin more comfortable. Initial designs for the upper deck produced too much drag, so the shape was extended and refined into a teardrop shape.

But what to do with this added space? Trippe persuaded Boeing to use the space behind the cockpit as a bar and lounge. He was inspired by the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser of the 1940s that featured a lower deck lounge. However most airlines later converted the space back into extra seating.

12 January 1970

The Nigerian Civil War ends as Biafra capitulates.

On this day in 1970, Biafra capitulates ending the civil war. The Civil war in Nigeria lasted for three years between 6 July 1967 – 12 January 1970

Also on this day in 2006, Governor Rasidi Ladoja of Oyo state was impeached on allegations of corruption. His impeachment was later reversed by the courts.

The Nigerian Civil War, commonly known as the Biafran War, was a war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. Biafra represented nationalist aspirations of the Igbo people, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government. The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain’s formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963. Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included a military coup, a counter-coup and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta played a vital strategic role.

Within a year, the Federal Military Government surrounded Biafra, capturing coastal oil facilities and the city of Port Harcourt. The blockade imposed during the ensuing stalemate led to severe famine. During the two and half years of the war, there were about 100,000 overall military casualties, while between 500,000 and 2 million Biafran civilians died from starvation.

In mid-1968, images of malnourished and starving Biafran children saturated the mass media of Western countries. The plight of the starving Biafrans became a cause célèbre in foreign countries, enabling a significant rise in the funding and prominence of international non-governmental organisations. Britain and the Soviet Union were the main supporters of the Nigerian government in Lagos, while France, Israel and some other countries supported Biafra. France and Israel provided weapons to both combatants.

4 September 1970

Salvador Allende is elected as the President of Chile.


Salvador Allende ran for the presidency for the first time in 1952 but was temporarily expelled from the Socialist Party for accepting the support of the outlawed Communists; he placed last in a four-man race. He ran again in 1958—with Socialist backing, as well as the support of the then-legal Communists—and was a close second to the Conservative-Liberal candidate, Jorge Alessandri. Again with the same support he was decisively defeated (1964) by the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei. For his successful 1970 campaign Allende ran as the candidate of Popular Unity, a bloc of Socialists, Communists, Radicals, and some dissident Christian Democrats, leading in a three-sided race with 36.3 percent of the vote. Because he lacked a popular majority, however, his election had to be confirmed by Congress, in which there was strong opposition from the right. Nevertheless, it was confirmed on October 24, 1970, after he had guaranteed support to 10 libertarian constitutional amendments demanded by the Christian Democrats.

Inaugurated on November 3, 1970, Allende began to restructure Chilean society along socialist lines while retaining the democratic form of government and respecting civil liberties and the due process of law. He expropriated the U.S.-owned copper companies in Chile without compensation, an act which set him seriously at odds with the U.S. government and weakened foreign investors’ confidence in his government. His government also took steps to purchase several important privately owned mining and manufacturing sectors and to take over large agricultural estates for use by peasant cooperatives. In an attempt to redistribute incomes, he authorized large wage increases and froze prices. Allende also printed large amounts of unsupported currency to erase the fiscal deficit created by the government’s purchase of basic industries. By 1972 Chile was suffering from stagnant production, decreased exports and private-sector investment, exhausted financial reserves, widespread strikes, rising inflation, food shortages, and domestic unrest. International lines of credit from the United States and western Europe had completely dried up. Allende’s inability to control his own radical left-wing supporters further incurred the hostility of the middle class. In foreign affairs, he established relations with China and Cuba.