Today in History
December 17

1399 Tamerlane’s Mongols destroy the army of Mahmud Tughluk, Sultan of Delhi, at Panipat.
1861 The Stonewall Brigade begins to dismantle Dam No. 5 of the C&O Canal.
1886 At a Christmas party, Sam Belle shoots his old enemy Frank West, but is fatally wounded himself.
1903 Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft.
1927 U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg suggests a worldwide pact renouncing war.
1938 Italy declares the 1935 pact with France invalid because ratifications had not been exchanged. France denies the argument.
1939 In the Battle of the River Plate near Montevideo, Uruguay, the British trap the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. German Captain Langsdorf sinks his ship believing that resistance is hopeless.
1943 U.S. forces invade Japanese-held New Britain Island in New Guinea.
1944 The German Army renews the attack on the Belgian town of Losheimergraben against the defending Americans during the Battle of the Bulge.
1944 The U.S. approves an end to the internment of Japanese Americans. U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issues Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes effective January 2, 1945.
1948 The Smithsonian Institution accepts the Kitty Hawk – the Wright brothers’ plane.
1950 The French government appoints Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny to command their troops in Vietnam.
1952 Yugoslavia breaks relations with the Vatican.
1965 Ending an election campaign marked by bitterness and violence, Ferdinand Marcos is declared president of the Philippines.
1981 Red Brigade terrorists kidnap Brigadier General James Dozier, the highest-ranking U.S. NATO officer in Italy.
1989 The Simpsons, television’s longest-running animated series, makes its US debut.
1989 Fernando Color de Mello becomes Brazil’s first democratically elected president in nearly 30 years.
1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins Haiti’s first free election.
2002 Congolese parties of the Inter Congolese Dialogue sign a peace accord in the Second Congo War, providing for transitional government and elections within two years.
2010 Mohamed Bouazizi immolates himself, the catalyst for the Tunisian revolution and the subsequent Arab Spring.
Born on December 17
1778 Humphrey Davy, English chemist who discovered the anesthetic effect of laughing gas.
1807 John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet, abolitionist, reformer and founder of the Liberal Party.
1908 Willard Frank Libby, American chemist who won a Nobel Prize for his part in creating the carbon-14 method in dating ancient findings.
1929 William Safire, journalist and author.
1930 Bob Guccione, publisher; founder of Penthouse magazine.
1935 George Lindsey, comic actor best known for his role as Goober on The Andy Griffith Show.
1936 Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina), named to the Papacy March 13, 2013.
1937 Art Neville, singer, musician; member of The Neville Brothers and The Meters.
1937 Kerry Packer, Australian businessman who founded World Series Cricket.
1937 US Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller, deputy commander-in-chief for military operations with US Central Command (Forward) during the First Gulf War.
1945 Chris Matthews, news anchor, political commentator; host of Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC.
1962 Richard Jewell, police officer who discovered pipe bombs on the grounds of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and helped evacuate the area before the bombs exploded.
2007 James, Viscount Severn, son of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex; youngest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

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