Published: 1972
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
President Nixon told a White House news conference on June 29, 1972 that the Vietnam War could be over --if the talks "go forward in a constructive and serious way" -- by January 20, 1973, whn his term of office ends. (UPI Photo/Files)

Announcer: Some of men's oldest legends deal with the forces of nature gone wild or malevolent, especially floods. 1972 provided the stuff for some local legends. In June, cloudbursts swelled streams in South Dakota's Black Hills. Above Rapid City, a dam gave way.

Unknown Speaker: "Mister, the only thing above water is the hilltops. I guess it just ... I guess we gotta couple troubles."

Announcer: Some 200 persons died in the flash flooding, which Rapid City Mayor Don Barnett said meteorologists attributed to a freak storm.

Mayor Don Barnett: "What they've told us here is a one-in-a, a once-every-100-year type of phenomenon."

Announcer: For those who survived, even that would be far too often.

Unknown Speaker: "My house is no more. You can see it over there, there's the, well, there just isn't anything."

Unknown Speaker: "A man knocked at our door and said, 'Get out as fast as you can.' We grabbed the children and my dad's crippled and we picked him up and put him in the car, and just as we drove out the driveway, a big trailer started floating right across the pathway, and we just made it up the hill and that was all it was. Everything was gone."

Announcer: Hurricane Agnes was a bigger storm. It gave more warning as it drenched the East Coast from Florida to New England, killing 118 persons. Although weakening, Agnes did her worst in Pennsylvania. In Harrisburg, the waters lapped onto Capital Hill and flooded parts of the Governor's Mansion nearby. UPI's Sally Fritz covered a fire there from a rowboat.

Sally Fritz: "There is a whole block of homes that is burning adjacent to the Governor's Mansion. They're in about six feet of water, and fireman cannot reach them. They're trying to drag in two hoses, but it's not gonna work; the -- the whole block is gone. The only way to reach these homes is by rowboat."

Announcer: Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre and much of the rest of the region were still trying to clean up as the year ended.

Other disasters were hidden from the light of day: Only 2 of 93 men survived a Kellogg, Idaho mine fire. Nine died in a Blacksville, West Virginia pit. In Rhodesia, more than 460 lost their lives at the Hwange colliery. A plane crash in Russia killed more than 160 persons; another in England over 100. Separate train and plane crashes in Chicago claimed nearly another 100 lives.

Even space saw another near-tragedy. Apollo XVI had to be waved off its lunar landing on the scheduled pass because of a malfunction. That ended happily as successful burn on the next orbit put men on the moon again.

Unknown Speaker: "Come on, let her down. You leveled off. Let her on down. Okay, seven, six percent, plenty fast. Contact."

Announcer: The next-to-the-last scheduled moon flight, with the final mission launched in December. Only the Skylab and Space Shuttle projects remain on the man-mission list for the immediate future.

Mariner probed more of Mars' secrets in 1972, and Pioneer began the long journey to Jupiter. Eventually, it will become the first object to leave the solar system.

Other firsts: baseball had its first player strike; Bobby Fischer became the first American to hold an official world chess championship. For a time, Fischer delayed the match in Reykjavik and chanced a loss to Boris Spassky by staging what amounted to a strike.

West Coast dockers and their counterparts in Britain struck and threw shipping schedules into disarray.

A British coal strike produced a state of emergency there, and pilots around the world staged a one-day walkout which was banned in the U.S. to demand action against skyjackers.

It took a particularly bizarre, late-fall incident to bring the U.S. and Cuba to talks on their differences about handling air pirates. But by early December, the State Department was optimistic about an anti-skyjack agreement.

A madman attacked and severely damaged Michelangelo's Pieta at the Vatican, and an earthquake in Iran claimed an estimated 4,000 lives.

Announcer: Despite everything -- Ulster, Munich, flood, disaster, the small or large losses in each of our lives -- there is this: someday 1972 will be part of the good old days.

1972 in Review written and produced by Walt Wheeler and the United Press International Audio Network; technical supervision by Fred Shoratino. I'm Ed Karrins.