Today in History
On Dec. 23, 1972, in what became known as football's "Immaculate Reception," Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers caught a pass thrown by Terry Bradshaw and scored a touchdown after the ball had been deflected during a collision between Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders and the Steelers' John Fuqua; the Steelers won the game (and an AFC divisional playoff) 13-7, despite controversy over the exact circumstances of the play.
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 2/3 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, the National Broadcasting Company 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 1962, Cuba began releasing prisoners from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion under an agreement in which Cuba would receive more than $50 million worth of food and medical supplies.
In 1968, 82 crew members of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.
In 1972, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Nicaragua, destroying most of the capital, Managua; the disaster claimed some 5,000 lives.
In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, non-refueled round-the-world flight as it returned safely to Edwards Air Force Base in California.
In 1991, fire destroyed a house in Corsicana, Texas, killing three young children; their father, Cameron Todd Willingham, was convicted of starting the blaze and was executed in 2004, although some experts raised questions about whether the fire had been deliberately set.
Ten years ago: Senate Republicans unanimously elected Bill Frist to succeed Trent Lott as their leader in the next Congress. A Ukrainian passenger plane crashed in central Iran during a flight from Turkey, killing 44 people.
Five years ago: The New England Patriots set an NFL record with their 15th win, the best start in league history, as they beat the Miami Dolphins 28-7. Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson died in Mississauga, Canada, at age 82. Choreographer Michael Kidd died in Los Angeles. (His age was reported as 88 or 92.) Britain's Queen Elizabeth II launched her own special Royal Channel on YouTube.
One year ago: After days of stalemate and rancor, the U.S. Congress approved a two-month renewal of payroll tax cuts for 160 million workers and unemployment benefits for millions. Two car bombers blew themselves up in Damascus outside the heavily guarded compounds of Syria's intelligence agencies, killing at least 44 people and wounding dozens more in a brazen attack on the powerful security directorates.
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