12 December 2007

This day in history: 12 Dec

1781: A Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt, in HMS Victory, defeated a French fleet in the Second Battle of Ushant.

1862: Ironclad river gunboat USS Cairo (Lt Cmdr Thomas O Selfridge Jr) became the first armoured ship to be sunk by an electrically detonated mine, in the Yazoo River near Vicksburg MS.

1901: Guglielmo Marconi may have received (there is controversy) the first trans-Atlantic radio signal, transmitted from Cornwall, at Signal Hill near St John's, Newfoundland.

1937: Three people were killed and eleven wounded when Japanese aircraft sank the gunboat USS Panay (PR 5) on the Yangtze River in China.

1939: Finnish forces defeated those of the Soviet Union in the Battle of Tolvajärvi, their first major victory of the conflict.

1941: 54 Japanese bombers, escorted by A6M Zero fighters, raided Batangas Field, Philippines. Five Filipino pilots, flying Boeing P-26 Peashooters, fended them off with the loss of one man, Lt Cesar Basa.

That same day, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia declared war on the United States and Great Britain; Haiti, El Salvador and Panama declared war on Germany and Italy; and Romania declared war on the United States.

And in New York City, the US Coast Guard took possession of the French Line's luxury liner SS Normandie. The ship was renamed USS Lafayette (AP 53), but was destroyed by a fire two months later whilst being converted into a troop transport.

1985: All 256 people on board died when Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland. 236 of those were killed were members of the 3d Battalion, 502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.

In addition to Lt Basa (1915-1941), Charles Goodnight (1836–1929), Douglas Fairbanks (1883–1939) and Stuart Roosa (1933–1994) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood (1724–1816), Stand Watie (1806–1871), Gerd von Rundstedt (1875-1953), Edward G Robinson (1893-1973), Patrick O'Brian CBE (1914–2000), Frank Sinatra (1915–1998), Dan DeCarlo (1919-2001), Honor Blackman (1927-TBD) and Connie Francis (1938-TBD).

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