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This Day in History: December 20


1606 – The Virginia Company loads three ships with settlers and sets sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase is completed at a ceremony in New Orleans.

1860 – South Carolina becomes the first state to attempt to secede from the United States.

1924 – Adolf Hitler is released from Landsberg Prison

1941 – World War II: First battle of the American Volunteer Group, better known as the "Flying Tigers" in Kunming, China.

1942 – World War II: Japanese air forces bomb Calcutta, India.

1946 – The popular Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life is first released in New York City.

1951 – The EBR-1 in Arco, Idaho becomes the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity powered four light bulbs.

1952 – A United States Air Force C-124 crashes and burns in Moses Lake, Washington killing 87.

1967 – A Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Metroliner exceeds 155 mph on their New York Division, also present day Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

1968 – The Zodiac Killer kills Betty Lou Jenson and David Faraday in Vallejo, California.

1971 – The international aid organization Doctors Without Borders is founded by Bernard Kouchner and a group of journalists in Paris, France.

1989 – United States invasion of Panama: The United States sends troops into Panama to overthrow government of Manuel Noriega. This is also the first combat use of purpose-designed stealth aircraft.

1991 – A Missouri court sentences the Palestinian militant Zein Isa and his wife Maria to death for the honor killing of their daughter Palestina.

1995 – NATO begins peacekeeping in Bosnia.


1740 – Arthur Lee, American physician and diplomat (d. 1792)

1833 – Samuel Mudd, American physician (d. 1883)

1868 – Harvey Samuel Firestone, American businessman, founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (d. 1938)

1881 – Branch Rickey, American baseball player and manager (d. 1965)

1888 – Fred Merkle, American baseball player and manager (d. 1958)

1914 – Harry F. Byrd, Jr., American lieutenant, publisher, and politician (d. 2013)

1959 – Trent Tucker, American basketball player and sportscaster


1812 – Sacagawea, American explorer (b. 1788)

1820 – John Bell, American farmer (b. 1750)

1961 – Moss Hart, American director and playwright (b. 1904)

1968 – John Steinbeck, American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)

1971 – Roy O. Disney, American banker and businessman, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (b. 1893)

1976 – Richard J. Daley, American lawyer and politician, 48th Mayor of Chicago (b. 1902)

1996 – Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist (b. 1934)