The United States and the People’s Republic of China officially established diplomatic relations. The United States declared that it “recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.”
An accident at a nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, caused the release of radioactive gases. The plant narrowly avoided a meltdown when the reactor was shut down. It was the most serious nuclear power accident in American history and prompted many companies to drop nuclear energy projects.
President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, which would have limited the number of strategic nuclear missiles in each country. Congress never approved the treaty.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion fell under the Constitutional right to privacy. The Court mandated federal protection for pregnancy termination during the first trimester and allowed state laws limiting it during the second and third trimesters.
President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977. The treaties provided for an end to US control over the canal by the year 2000, with the US reserving the authority to defend the canal as an internationally used waterway.
The New York Times published the first of a series of articles on the Pentagon Papers, a Department of Defense report on US involvement in Vietnam. The documents revealed government deception about its actions during the previous three decades.