Today in history
Today is Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2017. There are 14 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 17, 1967, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, 59, disappeared while swimming in the ocean off Cheviot Beach in Victoria state; despite an extensive search, his body was never found (Holt was succeeded as premier by John McEwen).
On this date:
In 1777, France recognized American independence.
In 1865, Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, known as the “Unfinished” because only two movements had been completed, was first performed publicly in Vienna 37 years after the composer’s death.
In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conducted the first successful manned powered-airplane flights near Kitty Hawk, N.C., their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.
In 1925, Col. William “Billy” Mitchell was convicted at his court-martial in Washington of insubordination for accusing senior military officials of incompetence and criminal negligence; he was suspended from active duty.
In 1939, the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled by its crew, ending the World War II Battle of the River Plate off Uruguay.
In 1944, the U.S. War Department announced it was ending its policy of excluding people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.
In 1957, the United States successfully test-fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
In 1979, Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally injured after leading police on a chase with his motorcycle in Miami. (Four white police officers accused of beating McDuffie were later acquitted, sparking riots.)
In 1981, members of the Red Brigades kidnapped Brig. Gen. James L. Dozier, the highest-ranking U.S. Army official in southern Europe, from his home in Verona, Italy. (Dozier was rescued 42 days later.)
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in separate ceremonies. (After approval by the legislative bodies of the leaders’ respective countries, the treaty came into force on Jan. 1, 1994.)
In 1996, Peruvian guerrillas took hundreds of people hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima (all but 72 of the hostages were later released by the rebels; the siege ended April 22, 1997, with a commando raid that resulted in the deaths of all the rebels, two commandos and one hostage). Kofi Annan of Ghana was appointed United Nations secretary-general.
In 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died after more than a decade of iron rule; he was 69, according to official records, but some reports indicated he was 70.
Ten years ago: President George W. Bush, addressing a Rotary Club meeting, tried to reassure an edgy public that the economy was “pretty good” despite the mix of a failing housing market, a national credit crunch and surging energy costs. Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed a measure making New Jersey the first state to abolish the death penalty in more than 40 years. NBC announced that Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien were planning to return to their late-night shows in early 2008, even as a writers’ strike continued.
Five years ago: Newtown, Conn., began laying its dead to rest, holding funerals for two 6-year-old boys, the first of the 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. A pair of NASA spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, were deliberately crashed into a mountain near the moon’s north pole, ending a mission that peered into the lunar interior. Longtime U.S. senator and World War II hero Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, died in Bethesda, Md, at age 88.
One year ago: President-elect Donald Trump said he intended to nominate Mick Mulvaney, a conservative Republican congressman from South Carolina, to be the White House budget director. Three-year-old Acen King was fatally shot in a road-rage incident in Little Rock, Ark., while riding in a car with his grandmother; a suspect faces a first-degree murder charge. Dr. Henry Heimlich, the surgeon who created the life-saving Heimlich maneuver for choking victims, died in Cincinnati at age 96.
Today’s Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 87. Pope Francis is 81. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 81. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 80. Actor Bernard Hill is 73. Actor Ernie Hudson is 72. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 72. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 71. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 70. Actor Wes Studi is 70. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 68. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 66. Actor Bill Pullman is 64. Actor Barry Livingston is 64. Country singer Sharon White is 64. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 61. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 59. Actress Laurie Holden is 48. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 47. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 47. Actress Claire Forlani is 46. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 44. Actress Sarah Paulson is 43. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 43. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 43. Actress Milla Jovovich is 42. Singer Bree Sharp is 42. Actress Emma Bell is 31. Actress Vanessa Zima is 31. Rock musician Taylor York (Paramore) is 28. Actor Graham Rogers is 27.
Thought for Today: “A fool and his money are soon parted, but you never call him a fool till the money is gone.” — Author unknown.