1620 – 103 Mayflower pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
1816 – Indiana was admitted to the Union as the 19th state. Indiana is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of North America. Since its founding as a territory, settlement patterns in Indiana have reflected regional cultural segmentation present in the Eastern United States; the state’s northernmost tier was settled primarily by people from New England and New York, Central Indiana by migrants from the Mid-Atlantic states and from adjacent Ohio, and Southern Indiana by settlers from the Southern states, particularly Kentucky and Tennessee.
1862 – The Union Army of the Potomac occupies Fredericksburg, Virginia, as General Ambrose Burnside continues to execute his plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond. Unfortunately for the Union, the occupation did not happen until three weeks after Burnside’s army had arrived at Falmouth, just across the river from Fredericksburg. Due to a logistical error, pontoon bridges had not been available so the army could not cross; the delay allowed Confederate General Robert E. Lee ample time to post his Army of Northern Virginia along Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg. Burnside replaced General George McClellan as head of the Army of the Potomac in early November. He devised a plan to move his army quickly down the Rappahannock River, cross the river, and race Lee’s army south to Richmond. Everything went according to plan as the Yankees sped south from Warrenton, Virginia. Burnside surprised Lee with his swiftness–the leading Union corps covered 40 miles in two days. The entire army was at Falmouth by November 19. Although ready to cross the Rappahannock, the army did not begin receiving the pontoon bridges until the end of the month due to mistakes made by the engineering corps. The delay allowed Lee to move his troops into position on the opposite side of the river. President Lincoln visited his army at the end of November, and, realizing that the element of surprise was lost, characterized Burnside’s plan as “somewhat risky.” On December 11, Burnside’s engineers finally began to assemble the bridges. Confederate snipers in Fredericksburg picked away at the builders, so Yankee artillery began a barrage that reduced to rubble many of the buildings along the river. Three regiments ran the sharpshooters out of the town, and the bridge was completed soon after. By evening on the 11th, the Union army was crossing the Rappahannock. By the next day, the entire army was on the other side and Burnside planned the actual attack. The Battle of Fredericksburg, which took place on December 13, was an enormous defeat for the Army of the Potomac. Ten percent of Burnside’s soldiers were casualties. Lee lost less than 5,000 men while Burnside lost 12,600.
1863 – Union gunboats Restless, Bloomer and Caroline entered St. Andrew’s Bay, Fla., and began bombardment of both Confederate Quarters and Saltworks.
1864 – Commander Preble, commanding the Naval Brigade fighting ashore with the forces of Major General Foster up the Broad River, South Carolina, reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren concerning a unique “explosive ball” used by Confederate forces against his skirmishers: ”It is a conical ball in shape, like an ordinary rifle bullet. The pointed end is charged with a fulminate. The base of the ball separately from the conical end, and has a leaden standard or plunger. The explosion of the charge drives the base up, so as to flatten a thin disk of metal between it and the ball, the leaden plunger is driven against the fulminate, and it explodes the ball. . . . It seems to me that use of such a missile is an unnecessary addition to the barbarities of war.”
1872 – Already appearing as a well-known figure of the Wild West in popular dime novels, Buffalo Bill Cody makes his first stage appearance on this day, in a Chicago-based production of The Scouts of the Prairie. Unlike many of his imitators in Wild West shows and movies, William Frederick Cody actually played an important role in the western settlement that he later romanticized and celebrated. Born in Iowa in 1846, Cody joined the western messenger service of Majors and Russell as a rider while still in his teens. He later rode for the famous Pony Express, during which time he completed the third longest emergency ride in the brief history of that company. During the Civil War, Cody joined forces with a variety of irregular militia groups supporting the North. In 1864, he enlisted in the Union army as a private and served as a cavalry teamster until 1865. Cody began to earn his famous nickname in 1867, when he signed on to provide buffalo meat for the workers of the Eastern Division of the Union Pacific Railroad construction project. His reputation for skilled marksmanship and experience as a rapid-delivery messenger attracted the attention of U.S. Army Lieutenant General Philip Sheridan, who gave Cody an unusual four-year position as a scout-a testament to Cody’s extraordinary frontier skills. Cody’s work as a scout in the western Indian wars laid the foundation for his later fame. From 1868 to 1872, he fought in 16 battles with Indians, participating in a celebrated victory over the Cheyenne in 1869. One impressed general praised Cody’s “extraordinarily good services as trailer and fighter . . . his marksmanship being very conspicuous.” Later, Cody again gained national attention by serving as a hunting guide for famous Europeans and Americans eager to experience a bit of the “Wild West” before it disappeared. As luck would have it, one of Cody’s customers was Edward Judson, a successful writer who penned popular dime novels under the name Ned Buntline. Impressed by his young guide’s calm competence and stories of dramatic fights with Indians, Buntline made Cody the hero of a highly imaginative Wild West novel published in 1869. When a stage version of the novel debuted in Chicago as The Scouts of the Prairie, Buntline convinced Cody to abandon his real-life western adventures to play a highly exaggerated version of himself in the play. Once he had a taste of the performing life, Cody never looked back. Though he continued to spend time scouting or guiding hunt trips in the West, Cody remained on the Chicago stage for the next 11 years. Buffalo Bill Cody was the hero of more than 1,700 variant issues of dime novels, and his star shone even more brightly when his world-famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show debuted in 1883. The show was still touring when Buffalo Bill Cody died in 1917.
1901 – Marconi sent his 1st transatlantic radio signal from Cornwall to Newfoundland.
1927 – Nearly 400 world leaders signed a letter to President Calvin Coolidge asking the U.S. to join the World Court.
1928 – Police in Buenos Aires thwarted an attempt on the life of President-elect Herbert Hoover.
1930 – This day brought another ominous sign that the nation was sliding towards a prolonged and difficult economic slump, as New York’s branch of Bank of the United States announced that it had gone belly-up. Up until its downfall, the Bank held the savings of some 400,000 depositors, including a number of immigrants; its subsequent demise imperiled the finances of roughly one-third of New York and stood as the nation’s single worst bank failure.
1937 – Italy withdrew from the League of Nations.
1939 – Actress Marlene Dietrich records her hit song “Falling in Love Again.” Dietrich also became a U.S. citizen in 1939. Born in Berlin, Dietrich came to the United States in 1930 to make movies after considerable success on the German screen. She allegedly refused several offers to return to Germany to star in Nazi films. She became a U.S. citizen in 1939 and worked tirelessly during and after World War II to sell war bonds and entertain troops. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom and named Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.
1941 – Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. Shortly afterward, the US Congress issues a declaration of war against Germany and Italy.
1941 – A Japanese invasion fleet attacked Wake Island, which was defended by 439 US marines, 75 sailors and 6 soldiers. The defenders sank 4 Japanese ships, damaged 8 and destroyed a submarine.
1941 – Guam was occupied by Japanese troops.
1941 – Buick lowered its prices to reflect the absence of spare tires or inner tubes from its new cars. Widespread shortages caused by World War II had led to many quotas and laws designed to conserve America’s resources. One of these laws prohibited spare tires on new cars. Rubber, produced overseas, had become almost impossible to get. People didn’t mind the spare-tire law too much, though. They were too busy dealing with quotas for gasoline, meat, butter, shoes, and other essentials.
1941 – Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict. The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, he was uncertain as to how the war would be engaged. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor answered that question. On December 8, Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America. Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort. But Hitler thought otherwise. He was convinced that the United States would soon beat him to the punch and declare war on Germany. The U.S. Navy was already attacking German U-boats, and Hitler despised Roosevelt for his repeated verbal attacks against his Nazi ideology. He also believed that Japan was much stronger than it was, that once it had defeated the United States, it would turn and help Germany defeat Russia. So at 3:30 p.m. (Berlin time) on December 11, the German charge d’affaires in Washington handed American Secretary of State Cordell Hull a copy of the declaration of war. That very same day, Hitler addressed the Reichstag to defend the declaration. The failure of the New Deal, argued Hitler, was the real cause of the war, as President Roosevelt, supported by plutocrats and Jews, attempted to cover up for the collapse of his economic agenda. “First he incites war, then falsifies the causes, then odiously wraps himself in a cloak of Christian hypocrisy and slowly but surely leads mankind to war,” declared Hitler-and the Reichstag leaped to their feet in thunderous applause.
1942 – Japanese Admiral Tanaka’s “Tokyo Express” again attempts the delivery of supplies to the Japanese forces on Guadalcanal. The cargo is dropped over board and only 1/4 of it reaches the troops on shore. Machine gun fire from US PT boats sinks much of it. One of the Japanese destroyers is sunk by the defenders as well.
1943 – The US 5th Army continues its Italian offensive without decisive gains and its momentum is wearing down.
1943 – U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, demanded that Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria withdraw from the war.
1944 – Forces of the US 7th Army enter Haguenau in Alsace and advances southeast of Rohrbach. There are German counterattacks against the US 3rd Army bridgeheads over the Saar River which are repulsed.
1944 – Over 2000 USAAF bombers of the 8th and 15th Air Forces attack various rail targets in Germany as well as an oil plant and ordnance depots near Vienna (annexed Austria).
1945 – B-29 Superfortress shattered all records by crossing the U.S. in five hours and 27 minutes.
1950 – The 1st Marine Division completed its breakout from the Chosin/Changjin Reservoir entrapment and began its march to join the rest of X Corps at Hungnam.
1950 – U.S. Navy Air Task Group 1, operating from the USS Valley Forge, flew its first combat mission of the Korean War, striking coastal rail lines and bridges in northeast Korea. This was the first of the Air Task Groups formed when Carrier Air Groups proved ineffective combat organizations when flown from Essex -class carriers.
1954 – First supercarrier of 59,630 tons, USS Forrestal (CVA-59), launched at Newport News, VA.
1961 – The ferry-carrier USS Core arrives in Saigon with the first US helicopter units, 33 Vertol H-21C Shawnees and 400 air and ground crewmen to operate and maintain them. Their assignment will be airlifting South Vietnamese Army troops into combat.
1969 – Paratroopers from the U.S. Third Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, depart from Vietnam. The unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968 as an emergency measure in response to the Communist 1968 Tet Offensive. Landing at Chu Lai, the unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) and given the mission of protecting the ancient capital of Hue in the region just south of the Demilitarized Zone. In September 1968, the Third Brigade was moved south to counter enemy forces around Saigon. It was assigned to the Capital Military Assistance Command and ordered to secure the western approaches to the city to prevent ground and rocket attacks against the Saigon-Tan Son Nhut airport complex. When the situation in South Vietnam stabilized, the Third Brigade was withdrawn as part of the second increment of U.S. troop withdrawals called for under President Nixon’s Vietnamization program. The brigade returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where it rejoined the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the United States Army strategic reserve.
1972 – Challenger, the Lunar Lander for Apollo 17, touched down on the Moon’s surface. It was the last time that men visited the Moon. The last two men to walk on the surface of the moon were Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan. Cernan and Schmitt conducted the longest lunar exploration of the Apollo program (75 hours), driving the lunar rover about 36 kilometers (22 miles) in all, ranging as far as 7.37 kilometers (4.5 miles) from the lunar module Challenger and collecting some 243 pounds of soil and rock samples.
1978 – Massive demonstrations took place in Tehran against the Shah. In Isfahan, Iran, 40 people were killed and 60 wounded during riots against the Shah.
1985 – Hugh Scrutton is killed in his computer store in Sacramento, California, by a mail package that explodes in his hands. By the time he was finally apprehended, the “Unabomber”-so named because his earliest attacks were directed at universities-had been responsible for the deaths of 3 people and the injuries of 23 others. The Unabomber detonated his first bomb on May 26, 1978, at Northwestern University. Over the next 15 years, his sporadic attacks kept his identity a mystery to FBI investigators, but in the mid-1990s, he appeared to want more publicity. He increased the frequency of his attacks and sent a letter to The New York Times claiming responsibility on behalf of “FC,” which was later revealed to be the “Freedom Club.” In late 1994, the Unabomber became very active; Thomas Mosser was killed in his home in New Jersey in December 1994 by a mail bomb, and four months later, another bomb killed Gilbert Murray, a lobbyist for the timber industry. During this time, the Unabomber also began to send notes to the press declaring the “principles” behind his terrorist attacks. When the Unabomber threatened to blow up an airplane flying out of Los Angeles International Airport in 1995, the FBI made his capture a top priority. A sketch of the suspect, who appeared menacing in a hood and sunglasses, was circulated in newspapers and on television. The Unabomber claimed that he would stop the bomb spree if the national press published his manifesto. Eventually, The New York Times and The Washington Post agreed to publish an excerpt, which contained mostly rants against technology and environmental destruction. When he read it, David Kaczynski realized that it bore a distinct similarity to writings by his brother, Ted, a former university professor who had dropped out of society and was living in a remote shack in Montana. David Kaczynski contacted the FBI with his suspicions on the condition-later broken-that the FBI would not seek the death penalty against his brother. After two months of surveillance, the FBI finally arrested Ted Kaczynski in 1996. Inside his cabin were bombs and writings that tied him to the crimes. In January 1998, while awaiting trial, Kaczynski tried to commit suicide in his cell. Still, he resisted his lawyer’s attempts to plead insanity and instead pleaded guilty. Although prosecutors originally sought the death penalty, Kaczynski eventually accepted a life sentence with no right to appeal.
1987 – NATO allies urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the intermediate-range missile treaty quickly and underscored their support by pledging to let the Soviet Union inspect missile bases in five European countries.
1990 – Hundreds of foreigners flew out of Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, ending four months of captivity following Iraq’s invasion of its oil-rich neighbor.
1994 – A Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Tokyo was bombed. A Japanese passenger was killed and 10 people were injured. Later US prosecutors accused Ramzi Ahmed Yousef of placing the bomb and of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Yousef denied placing the airline bomb because he was imprisoned at the time.
1997 – Russia announced that it would terminate a recently negotiated 10-year contract with the US on uranium sales, and planned to sell its uranium on the open market. The decision could bring Russia an extra $500 million.
1998 – The Mars Climate Orbiter blasted off on a 9 ½ month journey to the Red Planet. The probe disappeared in September 1999, apparently destroyed because scientists had failed to convert English measures to metric values.
2000 – The space shuttle Endeavour landed in Florida following its mission to install solar panels on the int’l. space station.
2000 – A US Marine Osprey aircraft crashed in North Carolina and all 4 people aboard were killed. The fleet was grounded the next day.
2000 – In Iraq Saddam Hussein sent troops into the northern Kurdish zone. Kurds and other non-Arab Iraqis were being displaced further north.
2001 – In the first criminal indictment stemming from Sept. 11, a US grand jury in Virginia charged Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, with conspiring to murder thousands in the suicide hijackings.
2001 – US bombers continued to hit sites at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, as a deadline for al Qaeda surrender passed.
2001 – Australia reported that an Australian citizen, David Hicks (26), who had trained with the al Qaeda, had been captured in Afghanistan.
2001 – Pakistani officials said 2 nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid, talked with Osama bin Laden last August in Kabul about nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
2002 – The United States let an intercepted shipment of North Korean missiles proceed to the Persian Gulf country of Yemen a day after the vessel was detained.
2002 – A congressional report found that intelligence agencies that were supposed to protect Americans from the Sept. 11 hijackers failed to do so because they were poorly organized, poorly equipped and slow to pursue clues that might have prevented the attacks.
2002 – A US Black Hawk helicopter on routine training crashed and killed five American soldiers in the hills of central Honduras.
2002 – Yemen said Scud missiles found hidden aboard a North Korean ship seized by Spain and the United States were destined for its army and demanded them back. Pres. Bush ordered them released. Bush later created a coalition of members to block arms shipments “of proliferation concern.”
2003 – US officials delayed a conference for companies seeking $18.6 billion in reconstruction contracts in Iraq by eight days until Dec. 19.
2003 – Pentagon officials said efforts to create a new Iraqi army to help take over the country’s security have suffered a setback with the resignations of a third of the soldiers trained.
2003 – Uzbekistan said it will let the US station troops to help fight terrorism, but would not permit permanent deployment.
2004 – In Iraq insurgents killed 5 Iraqi police officers in Baghdad.
2006 – The Space Shuttle Discovery successfully docks with the International Space Station with the crew to spend a week rewiring the space station.
2011 – Former leader of Panama Manuel Noriega is extradited home from France and the United States where he has been serving jail sentences for the past 22 years to serve more time for his role in the murder of political opponents.
2012 – Barack Obama, the President of the United States, recognises Syria’s rebel opposition as the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people.
2014 – The Obama Administration orders the closing of the last US-run detention facility in Afghanistan at Bagram Airfield.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company E, 21st Massachusetts Infantry. Place and date. At Fredericksburg, Va., 11 December 1862. Entered service at: West Boylston, Mass. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 30 March 1866. Citation: Seized the colors of his regiment, the color bearer having been shot down, and bore them to the front where both his arms were carried off by a shell.