January 1 - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America comes into existence, creating the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.
January 3 - Margaret Thatcher becomes the longest-serving British Prime Minister in the 20th Century.
January 26 - Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera has its first performance on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre in New York.
February 3 - Iran-Contra Affair: The United States House of Representatives rejects President Ronald Reagan's request for $36.25 million to aid Nicaraguan Contras.
February 5 - Manuel Noriega is indicted on drug smuggling and money laundering charges.
February 29 - South African archbishop Desmond Tutu is arrested along with 100 clergymen during a five-day anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town
March 5 - Constitution of Turks and Caicos Islands is restored and revised.
March 6 - Three unarmed members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army are killed by the SAS on the territory of Gibraltar in the conclusion of Operation Flavius.
March 7 - Colombia becomes a member of the Berne Convention copyright treaty.
March 11 - Iran–Iraq War: Iran and Iraq agree to stop attacking civilian centers.
March 15 - The Halabja poison gas attack of the Iran–Iraq War begins.
March 16 - Iran-Contra Affair: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
March 16 - Halabja poison gas attack: The Kurdish town of Halabjah in Iraq was attacked with a mix of poison gas and nerve agents, killing 5000 people and injured about 10000 people.
March 17 - A Colombian Boeing 727 jetliner, Avianca Flight 410, crashes into a mountainside near the Venezuelan border killing 143.
March 17 - Eritrean War of Independence: The Nadew Command, an Ethiopian army corps in Eritrea, is attacked on three sides by military units of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) in the opening action of the Battle of Afabet.
March 20 - Eritrean War of Independence: Having defeated the Nadew Command, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front enters the town of Afabet, victoriously concluding the Battle of Afabet.
March 25 - The Candle demonstration in Bratislava is the first mass demonstration of the 1980s against the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
April 4 - Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona is convicted in his impeachment trial and removed from office.
April 14 - The USS Samuel B. Roberts strikes a mine in the Persian Gulf during Operation Earnest Will.
April 14 - In a United Nations ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, the Soviet Union signs an agreement pledging to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
April 16 - In Forlì, Italy, Red Brigades kill Italian Senator Roberto Ruffilli, an advisor to Prime Minister Ciriaco de Mita.
April 18 - The United States launches Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian naval forces in the largest naval battle since World War II.
April 23 - Pink Floyd's album Dark Side of the Moon leaves the charts for its first time after spending a record of 741 consecutive weeks (over 14 years) on the Billboard 200.
April 25 - In Israel, John Demjanuk is sentenced to death for war crimes committed in World War II.
April 28 - Near Maui, Hawaii, flight attendant Clarabelle "C.B." Lansing is blown out of Aloha Flight 243, a Boeing 737, and falls to her death when part of the plane's fuselage rips open in mid-flight.
April 30 - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opens World Expo '88, Brisbane, Australia.
May 4 - The PEPCON disaster rocks Henderson, Nevada, as tons of space shuttle fuel detonates during a fire.
May 6 - An airplane flying from Namsos to Brønnøysund in Norway crashes into the side of the Torghatten mountain, killing all 36 passengers and crew.
May 8 - A fire at Illinois Bell's Hinsdale Central Office triggers an extended 1AESS outage once considered the 'worst telecommunications disaster in US telephone industry history' is still the worst to occur on Mother's Day.
May 9 - The new Australian Parliament House opens in Canberra.
May 14 - Carrollton bus collision: a drunk driver going the wrong way on Interstate 71 near Carrollton, Kentucky, United States hits a converted school bus carrying a church youth group. The crash and ensuing fire kill 27.
May 15 - Soviet war in Afghanistan: After more than eight years of fighting, the Red Army begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
May 16 - A report by United States' Surgeon General C. Everett Koop states that the addictive properties of nicotine are similar to those of heroin and cocaine.
May 24 - Section 28 is passed as law by Parliament in the United Kingdom.
May 29 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan begins his first visit to the Soviet Union as he arrives in Moscow for a superpower summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
June 12 - The Republic of Ireland beats England 1-0 at Euro88 thanks to a headed goal by Ray Houghton. This is Ireland's first competitive match at a major football tournament.
June 23 - James Hansen testifies to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that it was 99% probable that global warming had begun.
June 30 - French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church.
July 3 - United States Navy warship USS Vincennes shoots down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people aboard.
July 3 - The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey is completed, providing the second connection between the continents of Europe and Asia over the Bosporus.
July 6 - The Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea is destroyed by explosions and fires. 167 oil workers are killed, making it the world's worst offshore oil disaster.
July 23 - General Ne Win, effective ruler of Burma since 1962, resigns after pro-democracy protests.
July 31 - 32 people are killed and 1,674 injured when a bridge at the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal collapses in Butterworth, Malaysia.
August 1 - Rush Limbaugh begins his national radio show.
August 6 - The Tompkins Square Park Police Riot in New York City spurs reform of the NYPD, who were responsible for the melee that transpired the night of August 6-7.
August 7 - Rioting in New York City's Tompkins Square Park.
August 8 - The lights are turned on at Wrigley Field for the first time, making it the last major league stadium to host night games. (The game, against the Philadelphia Phillies, is rained out after three-and-a-half innings.)
August 10 - Japanese American Internment: US President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing $20,000 payments to Japanese-Americans who were either interned in or relocated by the United States during World War II.
August 17 - Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel are killed in a plane crash.
August 20 - "Black Saturday" of the Yellowstone fire in Yellowstone National Park
August 20 - Peru becomes a member of the Berne Convention copyright treaty.
August 20 - Iran–Iraq War: a cease-fire is agreed after almost eight years of war.
August 26 - Mehran Karimi Nasseri arrives at Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
August 28 - Ramstein airshow disaster: three aircraft of the Frecce Tricolori demonstration team collide and the wreckage falls into the crowd. 75 are killed and 346 seriously injured.
September 7 - Abdul Ahad Mohmand, the first Afghan in space, returns aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz TM-5 after 9 days on the Mir space station.
September 13 - Hurricane Gilbert is the strongest recorded hurricane in the Western Hemisphere (based on barometric pressure).
September 18 - End of pro-democracy uprisings in Myanmar after a bloody military coup by the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Thousands, mostly monks and civilians (primarily students) are killed by the Tatmadaw.
September 19 - Greg Louganis suffers a head injury while qualifying for the Seoul Olympics. He goes on to win two Gold medals.
September 23 - José Canseco of the Oakland Athletics becomes the first member of the 40-40 club.
September 27 - The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi is founded.
September 29 - Space Shuttle: NASA launches STS-26, the return to flight mission, after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
October 4 - U.S. televangelist Jim Bakker is indicted for fraud.
October 5 - The Chilean opposition coalition Concertación (center-left) defeat Augusto Pinochet in his re-election intentions. Next year a general election was called.
October 12 - Two officers of the Victoria Police are gunned down executional style in the Walsh Street police shootings, Australia.
October 29 - Pakistan's General Rahimuddin Khan resigns from his post as Governor of Sindh, following the efforts by President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan to limit the powers Rahimuddin had accumulated.
October 30 - Philip Morris buys Kraft Foods for U.S. $13.1 billion.
November 2 - The Morris worm, the first internet-distributed computer worm to gain significant mainstream media attention, is launched from MIT.
November 3 - Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries try to overthrow the Maldivian government. At President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's request, the Indian military suppresses the coup attempt within 24 hours.
November 15 - In the Soviet Union, the unmanned Shuttle Buran is launched on her first and last space flight.
November 15 - Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: An independent State of Palestine is proclaimed by the Palestinian National Council.
November 15 - The first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, is launched in the Netherlands.
November 16 - The Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR declares that Estonia was "sovereign" but stopped short of declaring independence.
November 16 - In the first open election in more than a decade, voters in Pakistan elect populist candidate Benazir Bhutto to be Prime Minister of Pakistan.
November 18 - War on Drugs: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs a bill into law allowing the death penalty for murder in regards to drug traffickers.
November 19 - Serbian communist representative and future Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic publicly declared that Serbia was under attack from Albanian separatism in Kosovo as well as internal treachery within Yugoslavia and foreign conspiracy to destroy Serbia and Yugoslavia.