Today in History

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Posted: Dec 17, 2016 12:01 AM

Today in History

Today is Saturday, Dec. 17, the 352nd day of 2016. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conducted the first successful manned powered-airplane flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.

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 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 1969, the U.S. Air Force closed its Project "Blue Book" by concluding there was no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings. An estimated 50 million TV viewers watched singer Tiny Tim marry his fiancee, Miss Vicky (Budinger), on NBC's "Tonight Show."

In 1975, Lynette Fromme was sentenced in Sacramento, California, to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Gerald R. Ford. (Fromme was paroled in Aug. 2009.)

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 1986, Eugene Hasenfus, the American convicted by Nicaragua for his part in running guns to the Contras, was pardoned, then released.

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). Six Red Cross workers were slain by gunmen in Chechnya. Kofi Annan of Ghana was appointed United Nations secretary-general.

Ten years ago: Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped some 30 people at the Red Crescent offices in downtown Baghdad (about half were released the same day). Searchers on Mount Hood in Oregon found the body of missing climber Kelly James (two other climbers, Brian Hall and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, were never found). Dodgers reliever Larry Sherry, the most valuable player of the 1959 World Series, died in Mission Viejo (vee-AY'-hoh), California, at age 71. Yul Kwon, a management consultant from San Mateo, California, emerged as the winner of CBS' "Survivor: Cook Islands."

Five years ago: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (kim jawng eel) died after more than a decade of iron rule; he was 69, according to official records, but some reports indicated he was 70. Advocates for immigrants gathered outside Alabama's state Capitol in Montgomery to call for repeal of a controversial law they said harkened back to the state's segregationist past.

One year ago: Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged that he sometimes used a personal, unsecured email account to conduct official business after he took office, a practice he called "entirely my mistake." Representatives of Libya's s two rival factions signed a U.N.-brokered deal to form a unity government.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 86. Pope Francis is 80. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 80. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 79. Actor Bernard Hill is 72. Actor Ernie Hudson is 71. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 71. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 70. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 69. Actor Wes Studi is 69. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 68. Actor Joel Brooks is 67. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 67. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 65. Actor Bill Pullman is 63. Actor Barry Livingston is 63. Country singer Sharon White is 63. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 60. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 58. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 55. Country musician Tim Chewning is 54. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 50. Country musician Duane Propes is 50. Actress Laurie Holden is 47. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 46. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 46. Actress Claire Forlani is 45. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 43. Actress Sarah Paulson is 42. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 42. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 42. Actress Milla Jovovich (YO'-vuh-vich) is 41. Singer Bree Sharp is 41. Singer-songwriter Ben Goldwasser (MGMT) is 34. Rock singer Mikky Ekko is 33. Actress Shannon Woodward is 32. Actress Emma Bell is 30. Actress Vanessa Zima is 30. Rock musician Taylor York (Paramore) is 27. Actor Graham Rogers is 26. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 22.

Thought for Today: "Democracy is not an easy form of government, because it is never final; it is a living, changing organism, with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order." — Ilka Chase, American author, actress, humorist (1905-1978).