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This Day in History: December 7


1776 – Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, arranges to enter the American military as a major general.

1787 – Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the United States Constitution.

1862 – American Civil War: Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

1869 – American outlaw Jesse James commits his first confirmed bank robbery in Gallatin, Missouri.

1917 – World War I: The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.

1930 – W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts telecasts video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers. The telecast also includes the first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, who sponsored the radio show.

1941 – World War II: Attack on Pearl Harbor – The Imperial Japanese Navy carries out a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet and its defending Army and Marine air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (For Japan's near-simultaneous attacks on Eastern Hemisphere targets, see December 8.)

1946 – A fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, kills 119 people, the deadliest hotel fire in U.S. history.

1963 – Instant replay makes its debut during an American Army–Navy football game.

1972 – Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, is launched. The crew takes the photograph known as The Blue Marble as they leave the Earth.

1982 – In Texas, Charles Brooks, Jr., becomes the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the United States.

1987 – Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 crashes near Paso Robles, California, killing all 43 on board, after a disgruntled passenger shoots his ex-boss traveling on the flight, then shoots both pilots and himself.

1993 – The Long Island Rail Road massacre: Passenger Colin Ferguson murders six people and injures 19 others on the LIRR in Nassau County, New York.

1995 – The Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter, a little more than six years after it was launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis during Mission STS-34.

1999 – A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.: The Recording Industry Association of America sues the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster, alleging copyright infringement.

2005 – Rigoberto Alpizar, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 924 who allegedly claimed to have a bomb, is shot and killed by a team of U.S. federal air marshals at Miami International Airport.


1923 – Ted Knight, American actor (d. 1986)

1928 – Noam Chomsky, American linguist and philosopher

1942 – Harry Chapin, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1981)

1947 – Johnny Bench, American baseball player and sportscaster

1956 – Larry Bird, American basketball player and coach


1902 – Thomas Nast, German-American cartoonist (b. 1840)

1941 – Attack on Pearl Harbor:

          Mervyn S. Bennion, American captain (b. 1887)

          Frederick Curtice Davis, American soldier (b. 1915)

          Julius Ellsberry, American soldier (b. 1922)

          John C. England, American soldier (b. 1920)

          Edwin J. Hill, American sailor (b. 1894)

          Ralph Hollis, American soldier (b. 1906)

          Herbert C. Jones, American soldier (b. 1918)

          Isaac C. Kidd, American admiral (b. 1884)

          Robert Lawrence Leopold, American soldier (b. 1916)

          Herbert Hugo Menges, American soldier (b. 1917)

          Thomas James Reeves, American soldier (b. 1895)

          Aloysius Schmitt, American priest and sailor (b. 1909)

          Robert R. Scott, American sailor (b. 1915)

          Peter Tomich, American sailor (b. 1893)

          Robert Uhlmann, American soldier (b. 1919)

          Franklin Van Valkenburgh, American captain (b. 1888)

          Eldon P. Wyman, American soldier (b. 1917)

1975 – Thornton Wilder, American novelist and playwright (b. 1897)

1985 – Potter Stewart, American soldier and jurist (b. 1915)

1989 – Haystacks Calhoun, American wrestler and actor (b. 1934)