On this date in history:
In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1909, Leo Baekeland patented the process for making Bakelite, giving birth to the modern plastics industry.
In 1941, Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, catapulting the United States into World War II. The attack killed 2,403 people, wounded hundreds, destroyed 188 planes and crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7 a date which will live in infamy.
In 1972, Apollo 17 was launched on the last scheduled manned mission to the moon. Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Jack Schmitt left a commemorative plaque on the lunar surface as they left.
In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor after the latter declared itself a democratic republic in the wake of Portugal's departure from the island. More than 100,000 East Timorese died in the conflict, most of whom were civilians placed in internment camps or killed by the Indonesian military.
In 1982, the first execution by lethal injection took place at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.
In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet leader to officially visit the United States since 1973.
In 1988, an estimated 25,000 people died in a powerful earthquake in Armenia.
In 1992, the destruction of a 16th-century mosque by militant Hindus touched off five days of violence across India that left more than 1,100 people dead.
In 1993, U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary revealed the United States had conducted 204 underground nuclear tests from 1963 to 1990 without informing the public.
In 1993, Colin Ferguson opened fire on a New York commuter train, killing six people and injuring 19 others. The shooter, who was from Jamaica, blamed his hatred of white people.
In 2004, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan's first popularly elected president.
In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft crashed near Islamabad, killing 48 people. Among the dead was pop-star-turned-Muslim-cleric Junaid Jamshed.
In 2016, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattled Indonesia's Aceh province, killing nearly 100 people.
In 2020, the International Olympic Committee announced that break dancing would be added to the medal events program at the 2024 Paris Games.
In 2022, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was removed from office after attempting to dissolve Congress. The National Police arrested and held him in pretrial custody.
Copyright 2023 by United Press International