1399: Tamerlane’s Mongols destroy the army of Mahmud Tughluk, Sultan of Delhi, at Panipat.
1861: The Stonewall Brigade begins to dismantle Dam No. 5 of the C&O Canal.
1886: At a Christmas party, Sam Belle shoots his old enemy Frank West, but is fatally wounded himself.
1903: Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft.
1927: U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg suggests a worldwide pact renouncing war.
1938: Italy declares the 1935 pact with France invalid because ratifications had not been exchanged. France denies the argument.
1939: In the Battle of River Plate near Montevideo, Uruguay, the British trap the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. German Capt. Hans Langsdorf sinks his ship, believing that resistance is hopeless.
1943: U.S. forces invade Japanese-held New Britain Island in New Guinea.
1944: The U.S. approves an end to internment of Japanese Americans. U.S. Maj. Gen. Henry C. Pratt issues Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes effective Jan. 2, 1945.
1944: The German Army renews the attack on the Belgian town of Losheimergraben against the defending Americans during the Battle of the Bulge.
1948: The Smithsonian Institution accepts the Kitty Hawk - the Wright brothers’ plane.
1950: The French government appoints Marshal Jean de Lattre de Tassigny to command their troops in Vietnam.
1952: Yugoslavia breaks relations with the Vatican.
1965: Ending an election campaign marked by bitterness and violence, Ferdinand Marcos is declared president of the Philippines.
1981: Red Brigade terrorists kidnap Brig. Gen. James Dozier, the highest-ranking U.S. NATO officer in Italy.
1989: Fernando Color de Mello becomes Brazil’s first democratically elected president in nearly 30 years.
1989: “The Simpsons,” television’s longest-running animated series, makes its U.S. debut.
1990: Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins Haiti’s first free election.
2002: Congolese parties of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue sign a peace accord in the Second Congo War, providing for transitional government and elections within two years.
2010: Mohamed Bouazizi immolates himself, the catalyst for the Tunisian revolution and the subsequent Arab Spring.
Born on December 17
1778: Humphrey Davy, English chemist who discovered the anesthetic effect of laughing gas.
1807: John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet, abolitionist, reformer and founder of the Liberal Party.
1908: Willard Frank Libby, American chemist who won a Nobel Prize for his part in creating the carbon-14 method in dating ancient findings.
1929: William Safire, journalist and author.
1930: Bob Guccione, publisher; founder of Penthouse magazine.
1935: George Lindsey, comic actor best known for his role as Goober on ““The Andy Griffith Show.”
1936: Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina), named to the papacy March 13, 2013.
1937: U.S. Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller, deputy commander-in-chief for military operations with U.S. Central Command (Forward) during the First Gulf War.
1937: Art Neville, singer, musician; member of The Neville Brothers and The Meters.
1937: Kerry Packer, Australian businessman who founded World Series Cricket.
1945: Chris Matthews, news anchor, political commentator; host of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC.
1962: Richard Jewell, police officer who discovered pipe bombs on the grounds of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and helped evacuate the area before the bombs exploded.
2007: James, Viscount Severn, son of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex; youngest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.