This Day in History — December 13

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Today is the 347th day of 2018. There are 18 days left in the year.


1989: South African President F W de Klerk meets for the first time with imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, at de Klerk's office in Cape Town.


1577: Sir Francis Drake of England sets out with five ships on a nearly three-year journey that would take him around the world.

1642: Dutch Mariner Abel Tasman discovers New Zealand.

1789: Austrian Netherlands declares independence as Belgium.

1808: Madrid capitulates to Napoleon Bonaparte.

1862: Confederate forces deal Union troops a major defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia during the American Civil War.

1877: Urged by Russia, Serbia launches a new war against Turkey, aimed at winning the remaining Slav-populated areas in southern Balkans.

1897: Russian forces occupy Port Arthur on Yellow Sea.

1916: About 9,000 Austro-Hungarian troops are killed in avalanche in the Alps.

1918: US President Woodrow Wilson arrives in France, becoming the first chief executive to visit Europe while in office.

1928: George Gershwin's An American in Paris is publicly performed for the first time at Carnegie Hall in New York.

1937: Japanese troops take Nanking in China and proceed to massacre an estimated 300,000 Chinese civilians.

1944: During World War II, the US cruiser Nashville is badly damaged in a Japanese kamikaze suicide attack that claims 138 lives.

1950: South Africa refuses to place south-west Africa (Namibia) under UN trusteeship.

1957: An estimated 1,062 people are killed by an earthquake in western Iran. Farsinaj, a village at the epicentre of the temblor, is completely destroyed.

1972: US Apollo 17 astronauts, on last US moon mission, unveil plaque dedicated to peace on lunar surface.

1974: Egypt demands 50-year freeze on Israel's population as condition for peace in Middle East.

1981: Communist authorities impose martial law in Poland to crush the Solidarity labour movement. Martial law formally ends in 1983.

1990: African National Congress President Oliver Tambo arrives in South Africa after 30 years in exile.

1991: Leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan agree that they will join new Commonwealth of Independent States.

1992: Islamic militants kidnap an Israeli soldier in Lebanon and threaten to kill him if Sheik Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Hamas movement, is not freed from jail. The soldier is found dead two days later.

1994: President Sam Nujoma and his governing party are declared winners of Namibia's first post-independence election.

1999: New York City police officer Justin Volpe is sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in sodomising a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, with a broken broomstick.

2001: The United States formally withdraws from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; in India, five suicide attackers storm Parliament, killing seven people. All of the attackers are eventually killed.

2003: US forces capture former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a small underground hideout near the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Although Hussein was armed, no shots were fired as he was taken into custody.

2004: Bucharest mayor and reformist Opposition candidate Traian Basescu wins an unexpected victory in Romania's presidential run-off election, ending a decade of rule by successors to this country's former communist regime.

2006: The UN Human Rights Council votes to send a team of investigators to the war-torn region of western Sudan to report on civilian deaths, rapes and destruction of villages.

2007: EU leaders sign the Lisbon Treaty — a slimmed-down version of the aborted EU Constitution. The 50-article charter creates the post of EU president and overhauls voting rules.

2008: The Indian navy captures 23 pirates who threatened a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden, and a German naval helicopter thwarts another attack on a freighter being chased by speedboats off Yemen.

2009: An attacker hurls a statuette at Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, striking the leader in the face at the end of a rally and leaving the stunned 73-year-old media mogul with a broken nose and bloodied mouth.

2010: Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the nuclear disaster that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago.

2011: Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace pioneer Burt Raton are building the world's biggest plane to help launch cargo and astronauts into space, in the latest of several ventures fuelled by technology tycoons clamouring to write the next chapter in US space history

2012: A European court issues a landmark ruling that condemns the CIA's so-called extraordinary renditions programmes and bolsters those who say they were illegally kidnapped and tortured as part of an overzealous fight against terrorism.


Heinrich Heine, German poet (1797-1856); Ernst Werner von Siemens, German engineer (1816-1892); Emily Carr, Canadian painter/writer (1871-1945); Carlos Montoya, Spanish-American flamenco guitarist (1903-1993); Christopher Plummer, Canadian-born actor (1929- ); Dick Van Dyke, US actor (1925- ); Steve Buscemi, US actor (1957- )

— AP

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