On this day in history: December
- 1990Shortly after 11 a.m. on 1 December 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole – it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years.
The Channel Tunnel, or "Chunnel," was not a new idea. It...Read more »
- 2001On this day in 2001, the Enron Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history.
An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Houston Natural Gas and Internorth. Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, Enron rose as high as number seven...Read more »
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- 1991On this day in 1991, Islamic militants in Lebanon release kidnapped American journalist Terry Anderson after 2,454 days in captivity.
As chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Anderson covered the long-running civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). On 16 March 1985, he was kidnapped on a west Beirut street while leaving a tennis court. His captors took him to the southern...Read more »
- 1945At 2:10 p.m., five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers comprising Flight 19 take off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine three-hour training mission. Flight 19 was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base. They never returned.
Two hours after the flight...Read more »
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- 1941At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably...Read more »
- 1980John Lennon, a former member of the Beatles, the rock group that transformed popular music in the 1960s, is shot and killed by an obsessed fan in New York City. The 40-year-old artist was entering his luxury Manhattan apartment building when Mark David Chapman shot him four times at close range with a .38-caliber revolver. Lennon, bleeding profusely, was rushed to the hospital but died en route...Read more »
On this day in 1992, 1,800 United States Marines arrive in Mogadishu, Somalia, to spearhead a multinational force aimed at restoring order in the conflict-ridden country....Read more »
The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be "annually distributed...Read more »
After ruling for less than a year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. On the evening of 11 December, he gave a radio address in which he explained, "I have found it impossible to...Read more »
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- 2003After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured on this day in 2003. Saddam's downfall began on 20 March 2003, when the United States led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than 20 years.
Saddam Hussein was born into a poor family in Tikrit, 100 miles outside of Baghdad, in 1937. After...Read more »
- 1911Norwegian Roald Amundsen becomes the first explorer to reach the South Pole, beating his British rival, Robert Falcon Scott.
Amundsen, born in Borge, near Oslo, in 1872, was one of the great figures in polar exploration. In 1897, he was first mate on a Belgian expedition that was the first ever to winter in the Antarctic. In 1903, he guided the 47-ton sloop Gjöa through the Northwest...Read more »
- 2001On this day in 2001, Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after a team of experts spent 11 years and $27 million to fortify the tower without eliminating its famous lean.
In the twelfth century, construction began on the bell tower for the cathedral of Pisa, a busy trade centre on the Arno River in western Italy, some 50 miles from Florence. While construction was still in progress,...Read more »
- 1773In Boston Harbour, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships and dump 342 chests of tea into the harbour.
The midnight raid, popularly known as the "Boston Tea Party," was in protest of the British Parliament's Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and...Read more »
- 1903Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the petrol-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.
Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after...Read more »
- 1620On 18 December 1620, passengers on the British ship Mayflower come ashore at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.
The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to...Read more »
- 1998After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term.
In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old...Read more »
- 1957On this day in 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army.
With his suggestive style – one writer called him "Elvis the Pelvis" – a hit movie, ‘Love Me Tender’ (1956), and a string of gold records including ...Read more »
- 1988On this day in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain's...Read more »
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- 1888On this day in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France. He later documented the event in a painting titled ‘Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear’. Today, Van Gogh is regarded as an artistic genius and his masterpieces sell for record-breaking prices; however, during his...Read more »
- 1865In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the Ku Klux Klan. The first incarnation of the KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government's progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African...Read more »
- 1914Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I in the region of Ypres, Belgium cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols, including ‘Stille Nacht’ (‘Silent Night’). At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even heard brass bands...Read more »
- 2004On the day after Christmas in 2004, a massive undersea earthquake occurs just off the coast of Indonesia at a few minutes before 8 a.m. local time. With a magnitude of 9.3, the quake was the most powerful of the last 40 years and the second largest earthquake in recorded history. It set off a deadly tsunami that, in the final estimate, killed an estimated 230,000 people and wreaked untold...Read more »
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- 1895On this day in 1895, the world's first commercial movie screening takes place at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The film was made by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, two French brothers who developed a camera-projector called the Cinematographe. The Lumiere brothers unveiled their invention to the public in March 1895 with a brief film showing workers leaving the Lumiere factory. On 28 December, the...Read more »
- 1890On this day in 1890, in the final chapter of America's long Indian wars, the U.S. Cavalry kills 146 Sioux at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
Throughout 1890, the U.S. government worried about the increasing influence at Pine Ridge of the Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had...Read more »
- 1922In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established, comprising a confederation of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in 1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics). Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be...Read more »
- 1999On this day in 1999, the United States, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, officially hands over control of the Panama Canal, putting the strategic waterway into Panamanian hands for the first time. Crowds of Panamanians celebrated the transfer of the 50-mile canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and officially opened when the SS Arcon sailed through on 15 August 1914...Read more »