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What Happened on December 20?

  • South Carolina seceded from the US. (1860) South Carolina's secession started a wave of secessions across the Deep South, which helped set the stage for the start of the American Civil War. It was actually not the first time South Carolina had seceded. In the Nullification Crisis of 1832, South Carolina had briefly seceded from the US because of federal/state tensions, but was quickly brought back into the fold by then-President Andrew Jackson. The second secession in 1860 would not end so quickly.

  • The French handed New Orleans over to the US. (1803) This was the last part of the Louisiana Purchase, in which France sold the territory of Louisiana to America. The territory covered modern Louisiana to Idaho. The citizens of New Orleans were not pleased with the change, and wept when the French flag was replaced with that of the US. For the first few years of their membership in the US, New Orleans was rife with racial tensions, rioting and political unrest.

  • The Berlin Wall opened for the first time. (1963) Construction on the Wall began in 1961 but on this day in 1963, about 170,000 people were allowed to cross over to visit relatives on one-day passes. Emotions ran high as families and friends reunited for a short time before the wall closed again. The Wall finally "came down" in 1989.

  • The First Battle of Champagne began. (1914) The battle marked the first major Allied attack after the beginning of trench warfare, and was the first major battle of World War I. The fighting lasted for over two months, with neither side gaining much ground. It eventually ended when the French calli off the attack.

  • Bob Hope became an American citizen. (1920) Hope was actually born in Britain, though his family moved to Cleveland when he was four. When his father became naturalized in 1920, Bob and his six brothers became American citizens as well. Hope went on to become one of the most well-loved American entertainers in history.

  • British emigrants left with the Virginia Company heading towards America. (1602) These three ships of pilgrims would go on to found Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in America.

  • The US invaded Panama. (1989) US forces began "Operation Just Cause" to overthrow Dictator Manuel Noriega. Noriega was captured and found guilty of drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering. Both the European and South American communities strongly protested the US invasion, saying it was a violation of international law.

  • Elvis Presley was drafted. (1957) Fans sent hundreds of thousands of letters to the Army asking for them to excuse him, but Presley preferred to serve. He was sworn in as a private and served in Germany before being sent back to the US. There, in the US, he met his future wife, Priscilla, at an off-base party. Presley's military service further established his status in most Americans' minds as a national icon.

  • Elizabeth II became the oldest UK monarch. (2007) Elizabeth turned 81 years and 243 days old, surpassing Queen Victoria, the previous oldest monarch in Britain. Buckingham palace had the time calculated down to the hour, though no major celebrations were held to mark the occasion.

  • The first international sled-dog mail delivery service began in Maine. (1928) The sled-dog service ran between Lewiston, Maine, and Montreal, Canada, and hit 118 cities along the way before returning to Maine some months later.

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