In 1785, the American Continental Navy fleet was organized, consisting of two frigates, two brigs and three schooners. Sailors were paid $8 a month.
In 1864, after his Civil War march across Georgia, Union Gen. William T. Sherman sent U.S. President Abraham Lincoln this message: I beg to present you as a Christmas present the city of Savannah.
In 1894, French Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason by a military court-martial on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial and sentenced to life in prison for his alleged crime of passing military secrets to the Germans.
In 1944, ordered to surrender by Nazi troops who had his unit trapped during the Battle of the Bulge, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division replied with one word: Nuts!
In 1956, the first gorilla to be born in captivity arrived into the world at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio.
In 1971, the U.N. General Assembly chose Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim to lead the United Nations.
In 1972, 5,000 people died when a series of earthquakes left the Nicaraguan capital of Managua in ruins.
In 1984, subway vigilante Bernard Goetz shot four would-be hold-up men on a New York City subway. He ended up serving eight months in prison for carrying an illegal weapon but was cleared of assault and attempted murder charges.
In 1986, political dissident and Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner, were allowed to return to Moscow after seven years of internal exile.
In 1989, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, the last hard-line communist holdout against East Bloc reforms, fell from power in the face of massive demonstrations