Moments in Time

This Week in History

The Strike That Ignited War on Japan

USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
December 2017

• On Dec. 4, 1872, a British brig spots the Mary Celeste, an American vessel, sailing erratically near the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Not a soul was onboard. Based on the last entry in the captain's log, the ship had been adrift for 11 days.

• On Dec. 5, 1933, national prohibition of alcohol in America comes to an end as Utah becomes the 36th state to repeal the 18th Amendment. Mississippi, the last dry state in the Union, did not end Prohibition until 1966.

• On Dec. 6, 1961, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff authorizes combat missions by Operation Farm Gate pilots. It gave U.S. pilots the go-ahead to undertake combat missions against the Viet Cong as long as one Vietnamese national was aboard the aircraft for training purposes.

• On Dec. 7, 1941, 353 Japanese warplanes attack the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, destroying 19 ships and killing more than 2,300 Americans. The following day, the U.S. declared war on Japan.

• On Dec. 8, 1881, a fire at the luxurious Ring Theater in Vienna, Austria, kills at least 620 people and injures hundreds more. The fire started when a stagehand inadvertently lit some prop clouds hanging over the stage.

• On Dec. 9, 1950, Harry Gold – who confessed to being a courier between a British scientist with information on the atomic bomb and Soviet agents – is sentenced to 30 years in prison. Gold's arrest was part of a massive FBI investigation into Soviet espionage.

• On Dec. 10, 1970, the defense opens its case in the murder trial of Lt. William Calley, a platoon leader in Vietnam. Calley, who had led his troops to kill 22 innocent Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai, was sentenced to 20 years, but was paroled by President Richard Nixon in 1974.


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