What happened on your birthday?

more events on December 31

  • 2007

    The British Army’s longest continual operation, Operation Banner (1969-2007), ends as British troops withdraw from Northern Ireland.

  • 2006

    Edvard Munch’s famed painting The Scream recovered by Norwegian police. The artwork had been stolen on Aug. 22, 2004.

  • Fidel Castro temporarily hands over power to his brother Raul Castro.

  • 2005

    Infanta Leonor of Spain, second in line of succession to the Spanish throne.

  • 2002

    Former Enron Corp. CEO Andrew Fastow convicted on 78 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, obstruction of justice and wire fraud; the Enron collapse cost investors millions and led to new oversight legislation.

  • 2000

    Soyuz TM-31 launches, carrying the first resident crew to the International Space Station.

  • 1999

    EgyptAir Flight 990 crashes into Atlantic Ocean killing all 217 people on board.

  • NASA purposely crashes its Discovery Program’s Lunar Prospector into the moon, ending the agency’s mission to detect frozen water on Earth’s moon.

  • 1998

    Iraq announces it will no longer cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors.

  • 1997

    New York Yankees retire Don Mattingly’s #23 (first baseman, coach, manager).

  • Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a Paris car crash along with her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul while fleeing paparazzi.

  • 1994

    The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announces a “complete cessation of military operations,” opening the way to a political settlement in Ireland for the first time in a quarter of a century.

  • Last Russian troops leave Estonia and Latvia.

  • 1991

    The US and the USSR sign a long-range nuclear weapons reduction pact.

  • Albania offers a multi-party election for the first time in 50 years.

  • 1990

    Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. become first father and son to play on same team simultaneously in professional baseball (Seattle Mariners).

  • East and West Germany sign the Treaty of Unification (Einigungsvertrag) to join their legal and political systems.

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina declares independence from Yugoslavia.

  • 1988

    Bridge collapse at Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal in Butterworth, Malaysia, kills 32 and injures more than 1,600.

  • President Ronald Reagan arrives in Moscow, the first American president to do so in 14 years.

  • 1987

    Longest mine strike in South Africa’s history ends, after 11 people were killed, 500 injured and 400 arrested.

  • An F4 tornado in Edmonton, Alberta kills 27 and causes $330 million in damages; the day is remembered as “Black Friday.”

  • 1986

    A Russian cargo ship collides with cruise ship Admiral Nakhimov, killing 398.

  • 1985

    Police capture Richard Ramirez, dubbed the “Night Stalker” for a string of gruesome murders that stretched from Mission Viejo to San Francisco, Cal.

  • 1984

    Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated in New Delhi by two Sikh members of her bodyguard.

  • 1981

    Lech Walesa announces an accord in Poland, giving Saturdays off to laborers.

  • 1980

    Polish government forced to sign Gdansk Agreement allowing creation of the trade union Solidarity.

  • President Jimmy Carter deregulates the banking industry.

  • 1979

    Zimbabwe proclaims its independence.

  • 1977

    Cambodia breaks relations with Vietnam.

  • 1976

    Ernesto Miranda, famous from the Supreme Court ruling on Miranda vs. Arizona is stabbed to death.

  • 1974

    Israel and Syria sign an agreement on the Golan Heights.

  • 1971

    Saigon begins the release of 1,938 Hanoi POW’s.

  • Apollo 15 astronauts take a drive on the moon in their land rover.

  • 1970

    Queen Rania of Jordan (nee Rania al Yassin), wife of King Abdullah II.

  • Deborah Ann “Debbie” Gibson, singer, songwriter, record producer, actress; youngest artist ever to write, produce and perform a Billboard #1 single (“Foolish Beat”).

  • Lonnie McLucas convicted of torturing and murdering fellow Black Panther Party member Alex Rackley in the first of the New Haven Black Panther Trials.

  • U.S. forces in Vietnam down a MIG-21, the first since September 1968.

  • 1969

    John Lennon and Yoko Ono record “Give Peace a Chance.”

  • 1968

    The bombing of North Vietnam is halted by the United States.

  • The Dasht-e Bayaz 7.3 earthquake in NE Iran completely destroys five villages and severely damages six others.

  • In Vietnam, the Tet Offensive begins as Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers attack strategic and civilian locations throughout South Vietnam.

  • 1967

    President Lyndon Johnson signs the Consular Treaty, the first bi-lateral pact with the Soviet Union since the Bolshevik Revolution.

  • 1966

    An estimated 200,000 anti-war demonstrators march in New York City.

  • U.S. planes resume bombing of North Vietnam after a 37-day pause.

  • 1965

    California becomes the largest state in population.

  • US Congress creates Department of Housing & Urban Development.

  • J.K. Rowling, author (Harry Potter series).

  • 1962

    Federation of Malaysia formally proposed.

  • Adolf Eichmann, the former SS commander, is hanged near Tel Aviv, Israel.

  • 1961

    Larry Mullen Jr., musician; drummer for U2 band.

  • Sir Peter Jackson, New Zealand film director, producer, screenwriter (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit)

  • A concrete wall replaces the barbed wire fence that separates East and West Germany, it will be called the Berlin wall.

  • 1960

    The South African government declares a state of emergency after demonstrations lead to the deaths of more than 50 Africans.

  • 1955

    The Supreme Court orders that states must end racial segregation “with all deliberate speed.”

  • 1954

    The siege of Dien Bien Phu, the last French outpost in Vietnam, begins after the Viet Minh realize it cannot be taken by direct assault.

  • 1952

    The United States explodes the first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific.

  • 1951

    The 1st Marine Division begins its attack on Bloody Ridge in Korea. The four-day battle results in 2,700 Marine casualties.

  • Evonne Goolagong, Australian tennis player.

  • 1950

    Antonio Taguba, retired US Army major general best known for authoring the Taguba Report on abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; Taguba is the second American citizen of Philippine birth to reach the rank of general in the US Army.

  • Jane Pauley, journalist; co-host of The Today Show (1976–1989) and Dateline NBC (1992–2003).

  • Paris protests the Soviet recognition of Ho Chi Minh‘s Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

  • 1949

    Richard Gere, actor (Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman).

  • Six of the 16 surviving Union veterans of the Civil War attend the last-ever encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, held in Indianapolis, Indiana.

  • Winston Churchill declares that the A-bomb was the only thing that kept the Soviet Union from taking over Europe.

  • 1948

    Lowell Ganz, screenwriter, (A League of Their Own) director, producer, actor.

  • Al Gore, Vice President to President William J. Clinton (1993-2001).

  • The Soviet Union begins controlling the Western trains headed toward Berlin.

  • 1945

    Itzhak Perlman, violinist.

  • Van Morrison, Irish singer, songwriter.

  • The United States and Britain bar a Soviet supported provisional regime in Warsaw from entering the U.N. meeting in San Francisco.

  • 1944

    Hungary declares war on Germany.

  • The British Eighth Army penetrates the German Gothic Line in Italy.

  • The Soviet army takes Kovno, the capital of Lithuania.

  • U.S. troops under Vice Adm. Spruance land on Kwajalien atoll in the Marshall Islands.

  • 1943

    The Battle of Stalingrad ends as small groups of German soldiers of the Sixth Army surrender to the victorious Red Army forces.

  • 1942

    After five months of battle, Emperor Hirohito allows the Japanese commanders at Guadalcanal to retreat.

  • David Ogden Stiers, actor; best known for his role as stuffy Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H* TV series (1977–1983).

  • The British army under General Bernard Law Montgomery defeats Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the Battle of Alam Halfa in Egypt.

  • Japanese forces begin the evacuation of Guadalcanal.

  • 1941

    General MacArthur reports that U.S. lines in Manila have been pushed back by the Japanese.

  • After 14 years of work, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is completed.

  • An armistice is arranged between the British and the Iraqis.

  • 1940

    Joseph Avenol steps down as Secretary-General of the League of Nations.

  • La Guardia airport in New York officially opens to the public.

  • 1939

  • 1937

    Tom Paxton, folk singer, songwriter, musician; received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2009).

  • 1936

    Michael Landon, actor (Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie TV series).

  • Marva Collins, innovative educator who started Chicago’s one-room school, Westside Preparatory.

  • Marge Piercy, poet and novelist.

  • 1935

    Eldridge Cleaver, political activist and author of Soul on Fire.

  • The Soviet premier tells Japan to get out of Manchuria.

  • 1933

    To relieve rampant unemployment, Congress authorizes the Civilian Conservation Corps .

  • 1932

    Adolf Hitler‘s Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) doubles its strength in legislative elections.

  • 1931

    Dan Rather, journalist; anchor of CBS Evening News (1981–2005).

  • 1930

    Brewery heir Adolphus Busch is kidnapped.

  • Michael Collins, U.S. astronaut.

  • Clint Eastwood, American film actor and director.

  • 1928

    Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera opens in Berlin.

  • Horace Silver, jazz pianist, composer and bandleader.

  • The first flight over the Pacific takes off from Oakland.

  • 1926

    John Fowles, English novelist (The Collector, The French Lieutenant’s Woman).

  • 1925

    Charles Moore, influential post-modern architect.

  • Julian Beck, theater manager.

  • Benjamin Hooks, civil rights leader.

  • 1923

    The Sahara is crossed by an automobile for the first time.

  • 1921

    Whitney Young, Jr., civil rights leader and executive director of the National Urban League.

  • Great Britain declares a state of emergency because of the thousands of coal miners on strike.

  • 1919

    The Communist Labor Party is founded in Chicago, with the motto, “Workers of the world unite!”

  • Primo Levi, Italian writer and scientist (Survival in Auschwitz).

  • Jackie Robinson, first African-American baseball player in the modern major leagues.

  • 1918

    Daniel Schorr, journalist.

  • Alan Jay Lerner, playwright and lyricist (Brigadoon, Camelot).

  • Daylight Savings Time goes into effect throughout the United States for the first time.

  • 1917

    William H. McNeil, historian (The Rise of the West).

  • The third Battle of Ypres commences as the British attack the German lines.

  • The United States purchases the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million.

  • Germany resumes unlimited sub warfare, warning that all neutral ships that are in the war zone will be attacked.

  • 1916

    British and German fleets fight in the Battle of Jutland.

  • General John Pershing and his army rout Pancho Villa‘s army in Mexico.

  • President Woodrow Wilson refuses the compromise on Lusitania reparations.

  • 1915

    The Germans torpedo the British liner Persia without any warning killing 335 passengers.

  • A German zeppelin makes an air raid on London.

  • Henry Morgan, comedian, radio performer.

  • German U-boats sink two British steamers in the English Channel.

  • Germans use poison gas on the Russians at Bolimov.

  • 1914

    Octavio Paz, Mexican diplomat and Nobel Prize-winning writer.

  • 1913

    The 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for direct election of senators, is ratified.

  • 1912

    Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist.

  • 1911

    Helene Dutrieu wins the Femina aviation cup in Etampes. She sets a distance record for women at 158 miles.

  • The German Reichstag exempts royal families from tax obligations.

  • 1910

    John B. Moisant and Arch Hoxsey, two of America’s foremost aviators, die in separate plane crashes.

  • 1909

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) holds its first conference.

  • 1908

    Simon Wiesenthal, survivor of the Nazi Holocaust who dedicated his life to tracking down former Nazis.

  • William Saroyan, author and playwright (The Human Comedy).

  • 1907

    William Shawn, longtime editor of The New Yorker.

  • 1905

    Sanford Meisner, influential acting teacher.

  • 1904

    The Trans-Siberian railroad connecting the Ural mountains with Russia’s Pacific coast, is completed.

  • 1903

    Arthur Godfrey, radio and television personality.

  • 1902

    Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet, journalist and short story writer.

  • The Boer War ends with the Treaty of Vereeniging.

  • 1901

    Jean Dubuffet, French sculptor and painter.

  • 1900

    U.S. troops arrive in Peking to help put down the Boxer Rebellion.

  • 1899

    Lynn Riggs, writer, her book Green Grow the Lilacs was adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein to become Oklahoma.

  • 1898

    Norman Vincent Peale, American religious leader.

  • 1896

    Ethel Waters, actress and blues singer.

  • 1894

    Fred Allen [John Florence Sullivan], American comedian.

  • 1891

    Great Britain declares territories in Southern Africa up to the Congo to be within its sphere of influence.

  • 1889

    George Catlett Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II, Secretary of State under Truman, won Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan.

  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania is destroyed by a massive flood.

  • The Eiffel Tower in Paris officially opens on the Left Bank as part of the Exhibition of 1889.

  • 1887

    Chiang Kai-Shek, Chinese Nationalist.

  • 1885

    Dubose Heyward, novelist, poet and dramatist best know for Porgy which was the basis for the opera Porgy and Bess.

  • 1882

    Belle and Sam Starr are charged with horse stealing in the Indian territory.

  • 1880

    The first electric street lights ever installed by a municipality are turned on in Wabash, Indiana.

  • 1879

    New York’s Madison Square Garden opens its doors for the first time.

  • 1878

    Jack Johnson, first Africa-American boxer to become the world heavyweight champion.

  • 1875

    Former president Andrew Johnson dies at the age of 66.

  • 1870

    Maria Montessori, educator and founder of the Montessori schools.

  • 1869

    Henri Matisse, French artist.

  • 1867

    S.S. Kresge, American businessman.

  • 1865

    House of Representatives approves a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.

  • 1864

    Nevada becomes the 36th state.

  • At the Democratic convention in Chicago, General George B. McClellan is nominated for president.

  • 1862

    Union General William Rosecrans‘ army repels two Confederate attacks at the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stone’s River).

  • At the Battle of Fair Oaks, Union General George B. McClellan defeats Confederates outside of Richmond.

  • Skirmishing between Rebels and Union forces takes place at Island 10 on the Mississippi River.

  • 1860

    Juliette Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.

  • 1854

    Sir Dugald Clerk, inventor of the two-stroke motorcycle engine.

  • 1852

    The richest year of the gold rush ends with $81.3 million in gold produced.

  • 1838

    A mob of about 200 attacks a Mormon camp in Missouri, killing 20 men, women and children.

  • 1837

    William Clarke Quantrill, Confederate raider during the American Civil War.

  • 1836

    The first monthly installment of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens is published in London.

  • 1835

    A man with two pistols misfires at President Andrew Jackson at the White House.

  • 1819

    Walt Whitman, American poet.

  • 1816

    George Henry Thomas, Union general during the American Civil War.

  • 1815

    George Gordon Meade, Union general who defeated Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg.

  • 1811

    Théophile Gautier, French poet, novelist and author of Art for Art’s Sake.

  • Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, chemist, inventor of the Bunsen burner.

  • 1809

    Nikolai V. Gogol, Russian writer (The Inspector General, Dead Souls).

  • Edward Fitzgerald, American writer.

  • 1803

    Congress ratifies the purchase of the entire Louisiana area in North America, adding territory to the U.S. which will eventually become 13 more states.

  • John Ericsson, naval engineer and inventor, developed the screw propeller.

  • 1802

    Benoit Fourneyron, inventor of the water turbine.

  • Captain Meriwether Lewis leaves Pittsburgh to meet up with Captain William Clark and begin their trek to the Pacific Ocean.

  • 1797

    Franz Schubert, Austrian composer (C Major Symphony, The Unfinished Symphony).

  • 1795

    John Keats, poet.

  • 1790

    The U.S. Patent Office opens.

  • In Paris, France, Maximilien Robespierre is elected president of the Jacobin Club.

  • 1788

    The Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart dies.

  • 1779

    Russia and Turkey sign a treaty by which they promise to take no military action in the Crimea.

  • 1776

    Abigail Adams writes to husband John that women are “determined to foment a rebellion” if the new Declaration of Independence fails to guarantee their rights.

  • 1775

    George Washington orders recruiting officers to accept free blacks into the army.

  • 1760

    Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, drives the French army back to the Rhine River.

  • 1756

    The British at Fort William Henry, New York, surrender to Louis Montcalm of France.

  • 1734

    Robert Morris, signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

  • 1732

    Franz Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer.

  • 1720

    Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of James II, known as the Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

  • 1703

    English novelist Daniel Defoe is made to stand in the pillory as punishment for offending the government and church with his satire The Shortest Way With Dissenters.

  • 1693

    John Harrison, Englishman who invented the chronometer.

  • 1678

    The Godiva procession, commemorating Lady Godiva’s legendary ride while naked, becomes part of the Coventry Fair.

  • 1621

    Andrew Marvell, English poet and politician.

  • 1620

    Virginia colony leaders write to the Virginia Company in England, asking for more orphaned apprentices for employment.

  • 1606

    Guy Fawkes is hanged, drawn and quartered for his part in the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up Parliament.

  • 1596

    René Descartes, French philosopher and scientist.

  • 1547

    In France, Francis–king since 1515–dies and is succeeded by his son Henry II.

  • 1517

    Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg in Germany. Luther’s theories and writings inaugurate Protestantism, shattering the external structure of the medieval church and at the same time reviving the religious consciousness of Europe.

  • 1469

    Manuel I, King of Portugal (1495-1521).

  • 1433

    Sigismund is crowned emperor of Rome.

  • 1303

    The War of Vespers in Sicily ends with an agreement between Charles of Valois, who invaded the country, and Frederick, the ruler of Sicily.

  • 1282

    The great massacre of the French in Sicily The Sicilian Vespers comes to an end.

  • 904

    Arabs capture Thessalonica.