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This Day in History: December 12


1781 – American Revolutionary War: Second Battle of Ushant: A British fleet led by HMS Victory defeats a French fleet.

1787 – Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the United States Constitution, five days after Delaware became the first.

1862 – American Civil War: USS Cairo sinks on the Yazoo River, becoming the first armored ship to be sunk by an electrically detonated mine.

1870 – Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina becomes the second black U.S. congressman, the first being Hiram Revels.

1917 – In Nebraska, Father Edward J. Flanagan founds Boys Town as a farm village for wayward boys.

1937 – Second Sino-Japanese War: USS Panay incident: Japanese aircraft bomb and sink U.S. gunboat USS Panay on the Yangtze river in China.

1941 – World War II: Fifty-four Japanese A6M Zero fighters raid Batangas Field, Philippines. Jesús Villamor and four Filipino fighter pilots fend them off; César Basa is killed.

1941 – World War II: The United Kingdom declares war on Bulgaria. Hungary and Romania declare war on the United States. India declares war on Japan.

1941 – Adolf Hitler declares the imminent extermination of the Jews at a meeting in the Reich Chancellery

1942 – World War II: German troops begin Operation Winter Storm, an attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad.

1946 – A fire at a New York City ice plant spreads to a nearby tenement, killing 37 people.

1950 – Paula Ackerman, the first woman appointed to perform rabbinical functions in the United States, leads the congregation in her first services.

2000 – The United States Supreme Court releases its decision in Bush v. Gore.


1745 – John Jay, American jurist and politician, 1st Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1829)

1805 – William Lloyd Garrison, American journalist and activist, founded The Liberator (d. 1879)

1805 – Henry Wells, American businessman, co-founded Wells Fargo and American Express (d. 1878)

1849 – William Kissam Vanderbilt, American businessman and horse breeder (d. 1920)

1915 – Frank Sinatra, American singer, actor, and producer (d. 1998)

1923 – Bob Barker, American game show host and producer

1927 – Robert Noyce, American inventor and businessman, co-founded the Intel Corporation (d. 1990)

1937 – Buford Pusser, American police officer (d. 1974)

1938 – Connie Francis, American singer and actress

1940 – Dionne Warwick, American singer and actress

1952 – Cathy Rigby, American gymnast and actress

1957 – Sheila E., American singer-songwriter, drummer, and actress



1921 – Henrietta Swan Leavitt, American astronomer and academic (b. 1868)

1929 – Charles Goodnight, American cattle rancher (b. 1836)

1939 – Douglas Fairbanks, American actor, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1883)

1994 – Stuart Roosa, American colonel, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1933)

1994 – Donna J. Stone, American poet and philanthropist (b. 1933)

1996 – Vance Packard, American journalist, author, and critic (b. 1914)

1999 – Joseph Heller, American novelist, short story writer, and playwright(b. 1923)

2007 – Ike Turner, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1931)

2014 – Norman Bridwell, American author and illustrator, created Clifford the Big Red Dog (b. 1928)