Today in history
Today is Friday, Dec. 7, the 342nd day of 2012. There are 24 days left in the year.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as part of its plan to conquer Southeast Asian territories; the raid, which claimed some 2,400 American lives, prompted the United States to declare war against Japan the next day.
In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1796, electors chose John Adams to be the second president of the United States.
In 1808, electors chose James Madison to be the fourth president of the United States.
In 1836, Martin Van Buren was elected the eighth president of the United States.
In 1842, the New York Philharmonic performed its first concert.
In 1909, chemist Leo H. Baekeland received a U.S. patent for Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic.
In 1911, China abolished the requirement that men wear their hair in a queue, or ponytail.
In 1946, fire broke out at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta; the blaze killed 119 people, including hotel founder W. Frank Winecoff.
In 1972, America’s last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, was seriously wounded by an assailant who was then shot dead by her bodyguards.
In 1982, convicted murderer Charlie Brooks Jr. became the first U.S. prisoner to be executed by injection at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.
In 1987, 43 people were killed after a gunman aboard a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner in California apparently opened fire on a fellow passenger, the pilots and himself, causing the plane to crash. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev set foot on American soil for the first time, arriving for a Washington summit with President Ronald Reagan.
In 1993, gunman Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train, killing six people and wounding 19. (Ferguson later was sentenced to a minimum of 200 years in prison.)
Ten years ago: Iraq handed over its long-awaited arms declaration to the United Nations, denying it had doomsday weapons. President Saddam Hussein grudgingly apologized to Kuwait for his 1990 invasion. Shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth, bringing an astronaut and pair of cosmonauts home from a 6-month space station voyage. Bombs tore through four movie theaters in Bangladesh, killing 19. Miss Turkey Azra Akin won the Miss World contest in London, bringing to a close an international pageant that had incited deadly rioting in Nigeria, the original site of the event.
Five years ago: Congressional Democrats demanded a full Justice Department investigation into whether the CIA had obstructed justice by destroying videotapes documenting the harsh 2002 interrogations of two alleged terrorists. Two window washers fell 47 stories from a Manhattan skyscraper when their scaffolding failed; Edgar Moreno was killed, but his brother, Alcides, miraculously survived.
One year ago: Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governor whose three-year battle against criminal charges became a national spectacle, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Veterans from Pearl Harbor observed the 70th anniversary of Japan’s attack with a solemn ceremony at the site of the bombing. Veteran character actor Harry Morgan, 96, died in Brentwood, Calif.
Today’s Birthdays: Actor Eli Wallach is 97. Linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky is 84. Bluegrass singer Bobby Osborne is 81. Actress Ellen Burstyn is 80. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is 75. Broadcast journalist Carole Simpson is 72. Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is 65. Actor-director-producer James Keach is 65. Country singer Gary Morris is 64. Singer-songwriter Tom Waits is 63. Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, is 60. Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird is 56. Actress Priscilla Barnes is 55. Former “Tonight Show” announcer Edd Hall is 54. Rock musician Tim Butler (The Psychedelic Furs) is 54. Actor Patrick Fabian is 48. Actor Jeffrey Wright is 47. Actor C. Thomas Howell is 46. Producer-director Jason Winer is 40. NFL player Terrell Owens is 39. Rapper-producer Kon Artis is 38. Pop singer Nicole Appleton (All Saints) is 37. Latin singer Frankie J is 36. Country singer Sunny Sweeney is 36. Actress Shiri Appleby is 34. Pop-rock singer/celebrity judge Sara Bareilles (TV: “The Sing-off”) is 33. Singer Aaron Carter is 25.