Today in History - Dec. 23

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2009 12:02 AM

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 23, the 357th day of 2009. There are 8 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 23, 1968, 82 crew members of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.

On this date:

In 1783, George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Va.

In 1788, Maryland passed an act to cede an area "not exceeding ten miles square" for the seat of the national government; about two-thirds of the area became the District of Columbia.

In 1823, the poem "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" was published anonymously in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel; the verse, more popularly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," was later attributed to Clement C. Moore.

In 1893, the Engelbert Humperdinck opera "Haensel und Gretel" was first performed, in Weimar, Germany.

In 1928, NBC set up a permanent, coast-to-coast network.

In 1941, during World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.

In 1948, former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed in Tokyo.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson held an unprecedented meeting with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican.

In 1975, Richard S. Welch, the Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Athens, Greece, was shot and killed outside his home by the militant group November 17.

In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first nonstop, non-refueled, round-the-world flight as it landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Ten years ago: President Bill Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, 80, a black sailor court-martialed for mutiny during World War II after he and other sailors refused to load live ammunition following a deadly explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near San Francisco that had claimed more than 300 lives. (Meeks died in 2003 at age 83.) The Nasdaq composite index briefly crossed 4,000 and closed at a record high for the 58th time in 1999.

Five years ago: Democrat Christine Gregoire won the Washington governor's race by 130 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast, according to final recount results announced from Seattle's King County. Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland pleaded guilty to a corruption charge (he was later sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison _ he served 10 months). Assailants claiming to be members of a revolutionary group opposed to the death penalty ambushed a bus in Honduras, killing 28 people, including six children. Two men were convicted in Houston for their role in a smuggling attempt that resulted in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants crammed in a tractor-trailer. (Fredy Giovanni Garcia-Tobar was later sentenced to 15 years in prison; Victor Jesus Rodriguez, 20 years and seven months.)

One year ago: Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, founder of an investment fund that lost $1.4 billion in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, was discovered dead after committing suicide at his Madison Avenue office. A military-led group seized control of the airwaves in Guinea and declared a coup after the death of the country's longtime dictator, Lansana Conte.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Gerald S. O'Loughlin is 88. Actor Ronnie Schell is 78. Emperor Akihito of Japan is 76. Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung is 74. Actor Frederic Forrest is 73. Actor James Stacy is 73. Rock musician Jorma Kaukonen is 69. Rock musician Ron Bushy is 68. Actor-comedian Harry Shearer is 66. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark is 65. Actress Susan Lucci is 63. Singer-musician Adrian Belew is 60. Rock musician Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) is 53. Actress Joan Severance is 51. Singer Terry Weeks is 46. Rock singer Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) is 45. The first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is 42. Actor Corey Haim is 38. Rock musician Jamie Murphy is 34. Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield is 32. Actress Estella Warren is 31. Actress Anna Maria Perez de Tagle is 19.

Thought for Today: "You can always spot a well-informed man _ his views are the same as yours." _ Ilka Chase, author, actress and humorist (1905-1978).