Summer of 1969

One of my current projects is a book titled The Summer of 1969: Events that Shaped the World, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. While reading John Updike’s Rabbit Redux, I was struck by how busy the summer was. Next thing I knew, I was brainstorming a table of contents.

I start at the beginning of the summer and proceed day by day, with one of Ralph Abernathy’s 44 arrests during his time as a leader in the African American civil rights movement; Cleveland, Ohio’s polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire; and Judy Garland’s death at the beginning. The book proceeds through the summer, wrapping up with the escalation of the American war or drugs, the London Street Commune bringing awareness to homelessness in the United Kingdom, and Willie Mays joining Major League Baseball’s 600 Home Run club. The events cover 44 countries and progress in the women’s, LGBTQ+, environmental, civil rights, neurodiversity, peace, and decolonization movements. I make sure to balance politics and international relations with plenty of music, sports, and film history. I’m finished with the writing and editing, so the next step is to look for an agent.

The book includes the following 127 chapters:

June 21 (Summer Solstice) – Civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy arrested in South Carolina protest

June 22 – Cuyahoga River Fire

June 22 – Judy Garland dies

June 22 – Corrective Move in Yemen

June 23 – Warren Burger becomes Chief Justice of Supreme Court in USA

June 24 – United Kingdom severs diplomatic ties with Rhodesia

June 25 – Peru announces plan to take control of foreign-owned, and large domestically-owned, lands

June 25 – Canadian government proposes to abolish the Indian Act

June 26 – Argentines protest against foreign investment by burning Nelson Rockefeller in effigy

June 27 – El Salvador and Honduras sever diplomatic ties in buildup to Futbol War

June 27 – North Vietnam victorious in Campaign Toan Thang in Laos

June 28 – Stonewall Uprising in New York

June 28 – Malay-Indian race riots in Sentul

June 29 – Former prime minister of Zaire Moise Tshombe dies during extradition process for alleged assassination

June 30 – Spain returns Ifni province to Morocco

Charles was invested as Prince of Wales on July 1, officially placing him next in line for the throne.

June 30 – Nigeria cuts off Red Cross aid to Biafra state

June 30 – Ted Kaczynski (Unabomber) quits job at UC Berkeley


July 1 – Charles invested as Prince of Wales

July 1 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono in car crash

July 3 – Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) dies at age 27

July 4 – Release of “Give Peace a Chance”

July 4 – Russian nuclear test

July 4 – “Annual Reminder” picket in Philadelphia helps kick off LGBTQ liberation movement

July 4 – Ohio Fireworks Derecho

July 4 – Two people attacked by Zodiac killer; one dies

July 5 – Tom Mboya, Kenyan Minister of Justice, assassinated

July 7 – Charles Evers becomes first African American mayor of a biracial Mississippi town

July 8 – USA begins withdrawing troops from Vietnam

July 9 – United States Department of Agriculture stops use of DDT and several other chemicals

July 10 – Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, in coma after drug overdose

July 11 – David Bowie releases “Space Oddity”

July 12 – Rioting in Northern Ireland; start of The Troubles

July 13 – Russia launches unmanned ship to moon

July 13 – Al Pacino makes film debut in Me, Natalie

July 14 – Easy Rider released

July 14 – USA withdraws all bills higher than $100 from circulation

Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin

July 14 – Act of Free Choice voting begins in West Papua

July 15 – Woodstock festival banned from Wallkill, New York

July 16 – Apollo 11 launched

July 17 – Leo Kanner publicly recants “refrigerator mother” theory

July 18 – Joe Namath threatened with ban from NFL; sells bar linked to criminals

July 18 – Chappaquiddick accident

July 20 – Apollo 11 lands on moon

July 22 – Juan Carlos named next leader of Spain

July 23 – MLB All Star Game

July 24 – Muhammad Ali sentenced for refusing induction into army

July 24 – Jennifer Lopez born

July 25 – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young perform for the first time

July 25 – Nixon Doctrine: Asian allies of USA responsible for their own defense

July 25 – Ted Kennedy pleads guilty to leaving scene of an accident

July 26 – Yangjiang Earthquake

July 27 – Triple H born

July 28 – Major League Baseball announces plans to induct Negro League players into Hall of Fame

July 29 – Mariner 6 sends photos of Mars

July 31 – Racial disturbances in Baton Rouge; National Guard mobilizes

July 31 – UK eliminates halfpenny

July 31 – Elvis Presley returns to live performances

July 31 – First visit of a pope to Africa


August 2 – Richard Nixon visits Romania

August 2 – Soviet defector Anatoly Kuznetsov speaks out against censorship of his memoir, Babi Yar

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, site of an annual observance of the anniversary of the bombing of the city

August 3 – National Academy of Sciences pushes for exploration of outer planets

August 3 – Israel reasserts ownership of Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Peninsula

August 4 – West Germany extends war crimes statute of limitations to enable continued prosecution of Nazis

August 5 – The Stooges release debut album

August 5 – Willie Stargell hits home run out of Dodger Stadium

August 5 – Ulster Volunteer Force bombs television studio in Northern Ireland

August 6 – Commemoration in Hiroshima on 24th anniversary of atomic bombing

August 7 – Tests indicate no life on moon, but possibility on Mars

August 8 – Beatles’ Abbey Road picture taken

August 9 – Disneyland opens Haunted Mansion

August 9 – Manson Family kills Sharon Tate and friends

August 9 – Archaeologists announce possible breakthrough in search for Noah’s Ark

August 12 – Boston Celtics sold

August 12 – Battle of the Bogside begins

August 13 – Battle during Sino-Soviet border conflict

August 15 – Woodstock Festival opens

August 16 – Day Two of Woodstock

August 17 – Day Three of Woodstock

August 17 – Hurricane Camille hits Mississippi coast

August 17 – Third heart transplant patient dies, having survived 19 months

August 17 – American helicopter shot down in North Korea

August 20 – Former Portugese Prime Minister Antonio Salazar shows he is unaware he has been deposed

August 21 – Al Aqsa Mosque fire

August 21 – Protests in Prague commemorating anniversary of Soviet invasion

August 21 – The Gap opens first store

August 22 – Tran Van Huong resigns as Prime Minister of Republic of Vietnam

August 22 – Cuban Diplomat Expelled from the United States

August 23 – Egyptian President Nasser calls for war against Israel

Rocky Marciano, 49-0 boxer

August 23 – Omani governor arrested and killed in Dhofar Rebellion

August 24 – V. V. Giri becomes fourth president of India

August 25 – Soldiers from Company A refuse to follow orders in Vietnam

August 25 – Fifteen prisoners executed in Iraq

August 27 – Bobby Seale indicted for murder of suspected Black Panther informant

August 27 – Failed launch of Pioneer E

August 29 – TWA flight hijacked and diverted to Syria

August 29 – First multiparty election in Republic of Ghana

August 31 – Rocky Marciano dies


September 1 – Muammar Gaddafi takes power in Libya following coup

September 1 – First UFO encounter and abduction to be confirmed true

September 2 – Ho Chi Minh dies

September 2 – First ATM in United States

September 2 – First information exchanged between two computers

September 4 – American ambassador kidnapped in Brazil

September 5 – Lt. William Calley charged for My Lai Massacre

September 6 – Cabaret closes its original Broadway run after 1,165 shows

September 7 – French-English equality in Canada

September 9 – Two-plane collision kills 83 in Indiana

September 9 – Rod Laver wins all four tennis Grand Slam events

September 10 – New York Mets move into first place

September 11 – Parliamentary Elections Conclude in Afghanistan

September 13 – Scooby Doo, Where Are You! premieres

September 13 – Ethiopian plane taken by Eritrean hijackers

September 13 – Klaus-Jürgen Kluge killed while trying to cross Berlin Wall

September 14 – Female suffrage in Schaffhausen, Switzerland rejected in referendum

September 14 – First commercial crossing of Northwest Passage completed

September 16 – Rosalio Muñoz, figure in Chicano Movement, accuses U.S. government of genocide

1969 was the beginning of the end for The Beatles.

September 17 – Richard Nixon pushes for 10% increase in social security benefits

September 18 – Attack on Hindu temple triggers Gujarat Riots

September 19 – USSR responds to American speech before United Nations, disagreeing on road to peace in Vietnam

September 20 – Last Warner Brothers cartoon (Injun Trouble) released

September 20 – John Lennon tells Beatles he is leaving the group

September 20 – “Sugar Sugar” reaches #1 for The Archies

September 21 – The Woody Allen Special airs

September 21 – Ted Green’s skull shattered in violent hockey fight

September 21 – Police evict London Street Commune squatters

September 21 – United States launches “Operation Intercept” in fight against marijuana

September 22 – Willie Mays becomes second to hit 600 career home runs


Here’s a sample chapter to show you what to expect:

September 1

First UFO Encounter Confirmed to Be True

Humanity has always wondered about what exists beyond Earth. The sky has been seen as the home of gods and mysterious visions. People have long speculated that life exists on worlds beyond our own and that the residents of these distant planets may have the technology to visit Earth. Perhaps the first recorded sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) comes from an Ancient Egyptian text from approximately 1480 B.C. The significance of the papyrus was supposedly not noticed until 1933, when Vatican museum director Alberto Tulli saw it in a store and copied it. The text described a “circle of fire” in the sky, which many people have interpreted as a UFO. Because the papyrus may not have been authentic, Tulli changed parts of the text into a hieroglyphic shorthand, and nobody else has reported seeing the original, Tulli’s transcription is often viewed as inauthentic.

Visions in the sky have been common in literature, although they do not necessarily signify extraterrestrial life. Near the origin date of Tulli’s papyrus, the account of Moses in the Bible describes God sending a pillar of fire in the sky for the Israelites to follow after escaping from slavery in Egypt. The Book of Ezekiel discusses a vision that Ezekiel states is of God but has been interpreted as a UFO. He writes that he saw “an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures.” Other events have been recorded by everyone from Roman historians to Christopher Columbus, who reported seeing “a light glimmering at a great distance” from the Santa Maria.

Even before the founding of the United States, reports existed of strange sights, including in a 1639 record kept by Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop. America has long been the home to the most alleged UFO encounters, which increased substantially since the publication of novels by such writers as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, who discussed interplanetary travel or alien races. The first widely circulated story came from Kenneth Arnold, who claimed in June 1947 to have seen nine objects in the sky near Mount Rainier in Washington. The “saucer-like” shapes he described came to be known in popular culture as “flying saucers.”

The same month, remnants of a “flying disc” were discovered near Roswell, New Mexico. This led to speculation that a UFO had crashed in America, but the Air Force quickly stated that the discovery was simply a weather balloon. Nevertheless, Roswell has been closely associated with alien encounters by those who suspect that the government discovered actual evidence of extraterrestrial life and created the balloon story as a distraction. Beginning in 1955, the development of Area 51, a secret facility in Nevada, also raised suspicion that the government used it to house a collection of spaceships and aliens. The refusal of the CIA to acknowledge the site’s existence for over half a century helped spur belief that this was part of a research project designed to develop vehicles or communication devices to contact other worlds.

The 1950s and 1960s brought an increase in UFO reports, as well as accounts of alien contact with humans. George Adamski gained fame when he claimed that he met an alien named Orthon who had landed in California. The alien looked much like a human but communicated through telepathy. He later stated that other alien ships had continued to appear to him, and he circulated a picture of a ship from his second encounter, but this was stated by cynics to be a close-up photograph of a lamp.

Other people claimed to have been forcibly abducted by aliens, including Brazilian farmer Antônio Vilas-Boas, who stated that he was forced to enter a spaceship and have sex with a female extraterrestrial. In the United States, Betty and Barney Hill made headlines after they claimed to have been abducted from their vehicle in New Hampshire in 1961. The couple initially had no memory of the event, but, after undergoing hypnosis, they recalled being examined and probed by the aliens. Although they became quite famous for their story, many people came to doubt their story, particularly after they reported over 100 more UFO encounters.

The United States Air Force investigated thousands of reported encounters from 1947 to 1969, during Project Sign, Project Grudge, and Project Blue Book. They concluded that none of the information supported a conclusion that aliens had visited Earth. In May 1969, partially driven by the government decision to end Project Blue Book, civilians founded their own research network, known as the Midwest UFO Network (MUFON). As it became more active, the organization was renamed the Mutual UFO Network. The group trains investigators, who respond to UFO reports, gather data, and share findings. It is one of several such organizations and has remained active since its inception.

On September 1, 1969, nine-year-old Thomas Reed was in a car with his brother Matthew, his mother Nancy, and his grandmother Marian in Western Massachusetts. They were returning from a horse show at the Ski Butternut area to Sheffield on Route 7. Just past the covered Sheffield Bridge, the family saw a light rise above the trees near the Housatonic River. They felt the air pressure change significantly, making them feel lighter, and the world went silent. The car stopped, and the family was suddenly inside a large building, similar to an airplane hangar. Other creatures that looked like large insects were also in the building, and Thomas was separated from his family. He walked toward a distant light and sat on a table, where he was approached by a being about five feet tall with a head shaped like a football. A cage was lowered over top of him, and he remembers his head being bumped. He has no memories of what happened next, but he then found himself back in the family car.

Two hours had passed, and the car had turned around. Nancy’s body was rigid in the passenger seat while Matthew was unconscious. Marian was out of the car and walking as if in a trance. Thomas chased her and called her, but she did not respond. The family was disturbed and traumatized by the incident, and Nancy sold their house, from which Thomas and Matthew had also reported being abducted by extraterrestrials in 1966 and 1967. Nancy married an attorney and told him about other encounters dating back as much as 15 years prior to the incident by Sheffield Bridge, but he urged her not to make them public at that point.

Responses to the family’s report were mixed. The glowing light was also seen by forty people in four nearby towns, although nobody else reported an experience similar to the Reeds. People who doubted the story visited the mother’s diner to ridicule her, and Thomas was bullied at school. Former friends distanced themselves from the family. It was not until the 1980s when the case began to be taken seriously. Thomas’s father Howard met another lawyer, Robert Bletchman, who collected evidence and testimonies. Other witnesses to the light were interviewed, and Thomas passed a polygraph test with results shown to be over 99% accurate.

The Great Barrington Historical Society examined the proof of the encounter in 2015 and held a vote. Three members of the nine board members objected, but a decision was made to deem the encounter authenticated. This marked the first time a historical society had verified any such encounter. Both the encounter and Thomas were later inducted as part the Massachusetts state history, accompanied by citations signed by Governor Charles Baker. A 5,000 pound monument was installed near the location of the 1969 encounter.

The Reed family’s story offered proof of extraterrestrial life to people who believed them, although they have many detractors. While the debate about alien life continues, such incidents aroused great interest among researchers. The Reeds’ encounter has been overshadowed by other encounters, including future president Jimmy Carter’s alleged sighting of a UFO the following month.

MUFON continues to investigate tens of thousands of reports, and aliens continue to feature prominently in literature, television, and film. The genre saw a resurgence in popularity in the mid-1990s with the television series The X-Files along with such movies as Species, Independence Day, Men in Black, and The Fifth Element leading up to a reboot of the Star Wars franchise in 1999. The United States government acknowledged the existence of Area 51 for the first time in 2013, providing more evidence to believers in visitors from other planets, although nobody outside the government knows the exact function of the site. No definitive answer exists, but, in the State of Massachusetts, the Reed family’s abduction on September 1, 1969, is officially recognized as “historically significant and true.”

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image credits:

Prince Charles – Allen Warren image (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Apollo 11 astronauts – NASA image (Public Domain)

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park – BriYYZ image (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Rocky Marciano – Mohamed Said Momo image (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

The Beatles – Photographer unknown (Public Domain)