Sandy Hook shooting occurs in Newtown, Connecticut

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gunman-kills-students-and-adults-at-newtown-connecticut-elementary-school

On this day in 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza killed 20 first graders and six school employees before turning a gun on himself. Earlier that day, he killed his mother at the home they shared.

The Sandy Hook shooting was, at the time, the second-deadliest mass shooting in the United States after the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, in which a gunman killed 32 students and teachers before committing suicide.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot through a plate-glass window next to Sandy Hook’s locked front entrance in order to gain access to the school. Hearing the noise, the school principal and school psychologist went to investigate and were shot and killed by Lanza, who was armed with a semiautomatic rifle, two semiautomatic pistols and multiple rounds of ammunition. Lanza also shot and wounded two other Sandy Hook staff members.

He then entered two first-grade classrooms, where he gunned down two teachers and 15 students in one room and two teachers and five students in the other room. The children Lanza murdered, 12 girls and 8 boys, were 6 and 7 years old. Twelve first-graders from the two classrooms survived.

When Lanza heard the police closing in on him, he killed himself in a classroom at approximately 9:40 a.m.

Police soon learned that sometime earlier that morning, before arriving at Sandy Hook, Lanza had shot and killed his 52-year-old mother at their home. She owned the weapons her son used in his deadly rampage.

Investigators determined that Lanza, who had attended Sandy Hook as a boy, acted alone in planning and carrying out the attack, but they were unable to find a motive for his actions or discover why he had targeted Sandy Hook.

In November 2013, the Connecticut State’s Attorney released a report noting that Lanza had “significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and to interact with others.” However, mental-health professionals who had worked with him “did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior,” according to the report.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, President Barack Obama called for new gun-safety measures; however, his primary legislative goal, expanded background checks for gun buyers, was blocked by the U.S. Senate.

The community of Newtown, which has some 27,000 residents and is located about 45 miles southwest of Connecticut’s capital, Hartford, eventually decided to tear down Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was razed in the fall of 2013; a new school will be built on the same site.

Peace negotiations in Paris deadlocked

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/peace-negotiations-in-paris-deadlocked

Peace negotiations are hopelessly deadlocked after a six-hour meeting between North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. After the meeting, Kissinger flew to the United States to confer with President Richard Nixon.

The main point of contention was who would have political power in South Vietnam if a cease-fire were announced. The North Vietnamese negotiators demanded the following in the case of a cease-fire: the dissolution of the government of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, the disbanding of the South Vietnamese army, and the installation of a coalition government. The U.S. refused to consider the North Vietnamese demands and steadfastly supported Thieu and his government.

At the same time, the South Vietnamese were making their own demands. Over 100,000 North Vietnamese troops had occupied territory in South Vietnam during the 1972 Easter Offensive. Nguyen Van Thieu demanded that the North Vietnamese recognize Saigon’s sovereignty over South Vietnam, which would make the continued presence of the North Vietnamese troops in the south illegal. The North Vietnamese refused Thieu’s demands, saying that they would not recognize Thieu’s government and would not remove their troops. They walked out of the negotiations.

Nixon issued an ultimatum to Hanoi to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.” When the North Vietnamese rejected Nixon’s demand on December 18, the president gave the order to launch Operation Linebacker II, an intensified bombing campaign of North Vietnam that became known as the “Christmas bombing.” Over the next 11 days–with the exception of Christmas Day–the bombing continued unabated, with an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs dropped over North Vietnam. On December 28, North Vietnamese officials agreed to Nixon’s conditions for reopening the negotiations; the next day, the president called an end to Linebacker II.

The Rape of Nanking

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-rape-of-nanking

During the Sino-Japanese War, Nanking, the capital of China, falls to Japanese forces, and the Chinese government flees to Hankow, further inland along the Yangtze River.

To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners,” massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Matsui was found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed.

Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits goes to #1

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/kenny-rogers-greatest-hits-goes-to-1

Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits, which soared all the way to the top of the Billboard 200 pop album chart on this day in 1980, marking Kenny’s arrival as a crossover superstar.

By 1980, Kenny Rogers already had seven #1 country singles under his belt, including “Lucille,” “The Gambler” (1978) and “Coward Of The County” (1979). All three of those songs, as well as “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer,” his 1980 duet with Kim Carnes, had also reached the top 10 on the Billboard pop charts, but it was a brand-new song on Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits that would help propel that album to 12-times Platinum status and give Rogers his only solo #1 pop hit: the Lionel Richie-penned “Lady.” (A simultaneous country chart-topper, “Lady” also gave Richie, the former Commodores frontman, his only share of a country #1.)

For several years following the success of his Greatest Hits album, Kenny Rogers remained a hot item on both the pop and country charts, his biggest crossover hits coming with two 1983 duets written by prominent songwriters: “We’ve Got Tonight,” written by Bob Seger and performed with Sheena Easton (#1 Country, #6 Pop); and “Islands In The Stream,” written by Barry Gibb and performed with Dolly Parton (#1 Country, Pop and Adult Contemporary). And while Rogers would cease to be a factor on the pop charts after 1984, he would go on to earn five further country #1 hits: “Crazy” (a 1985 cover of the Willie Nelson-penned classic); “Morning Desire” and “Tomb Of The Unknown Love” (both 1987); “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine” (1987, with Ronnie Milsap); and “Buy Me A Rose” (1999, with Alison Kraus and Billy Dean).

Al Gore concedes presidential election

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/al-gore-concedes-presidential-election

Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on this day in 2000.

In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White House, Gore said that while he was deeply disappointed and sharply disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict that ended his campaign, ”partisan rancor must now be put aside.”

“I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College” he said. “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Gore had won the national popular vote by more than 500,000 votes, but narrowly lost Florida, giving the Electoral College to Bush 271 to 266.

Gore said he had telephoned Bush to offer his congratulations, honoring him, for the first time, with the title ”president-elect.”

”I promised that I wouldn’t call him back this time” Gore said, referring to the moment on election night when he had called Bush to tell him he was going to concede, then called back a half hour later to retract that concession.

Gore only hinted at what he might do in the future. ”I’ve seen America in this campaign and I like what I see. It’s worth fighting for—and that’s a fight I’ll never stop.”

Among the friends and family beside Gore were his wife, Tipper, and his running mate, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and his wife, Hadassah.

A little more than an hour later, Bush addressed the nation for the first time as president-elect, declaring that the “nation must rise above a house divided.” Speaking from the podium of the Texas House of Representatives, Bush devoted his speech to themes of reconciliation following one of the closest and most disputed presidential elections in U.S. history. ”I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation,” Bush said.

Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, took office onJanuary 20, 2001. They were re-elected in 2004 over Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards.

President Wilson makes first U.S. presidential trip to Europe

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-wilson-makes-first-u-s-presidential-trip-to-europe

After nine days at sea aboard the SS George Washington,Woodrow Wilson arrives at Brest, France, on December 13, 1918, and travels by land to Versailles. There, he headed the American delegation to the peace conference seeking a definitive end to World War I. The visit marked the first official visit by a U.S. president to Europe.

Although the president’s political opponents criticized his European visit as a sign of egotism, Wilson worked tirelessly during the proceedings to orchestrate an agreement that would encourage a lasting peace in Europe. During the stay, Wilson also led the effort for the establishment of the League of Nations, an international organization designed to seek diplomatic solutions to future conflicts.

At Versailles, Wilson’s hopes for a “just and stable peace” were opposed by the other victorious Allies, and the final treaty, which called for stiff war reparations from the former Central Powers, would be regarded with increasing bitterness in Germany in the years to come. President Woodrow Wilson was awarded the 1920 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace to Europe.

Tasman discovers New Zealand

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/tasman-discovers-new-zealand

Dutch navigator Abel Tasman becomes the first European explorer to sight the South Pacific island group now known as New Zealand. In his sole attempt to land, several of Tasman’s crew were killed by warriors from a South Island tribe, who interpreted the Europeans’ exchange of trumpet signals as a prelude to battle. A few weeks earlier, Tasman had discovered Tasmania, off the southeast coast of Australia. Tasman had named the island Van Diemen’s Land, but, like the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia, it was later renamed Tasmania in the explorer’s honor.

New Zealand, named after the Dutch province of Zeeland, did not attract much additional European attention until the late 18th century, when English explorer Captain James Cook traveled through the area and wrote detailed accounts of the islands. Whalers, missionaries, and traders followed, and in 1840 Britain formally annexed the islands and established New Zealand’s first permanent European settlement at Wellington.

Saddam Hussein captured

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/saddam-hussein-captured

After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured on this day in 2003. Saddam’s downfall began on March 20, 2003, when the United States led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than 20 years.

Saddam Hussein was born into a poor family in Tikrit, 100 miles outside of Baghdad, in 1937. After moving to Baghdad as a teenager, Saddam joined the now-infamous Baath party, which he would later lead. He participated in several coup attempts, finally helping to install his cousin as dictator of Iraq in July 1968. Saddam took over for his cousin 11 years later. During his 24 years in office, Saddam’s secret police, charged with protecting his power, terrorized the public, ignoring the human rights of the nation’s citizens. While many of his people faced poverty, he lived in incredible luxury, building more than 20 lavish palaces throughout the country. Obsessed with security, he is said to have moved among them often, always sleeping in secret locations.

In the early 1980s, Saddam involved his country in an eight-year war with Iran, which is estimated to have taken more than a million lives on both sides. He is alleged to have used nerve agents and mustard gas on Iranian soldiers during the conflict, as well as chemical weapons on Iraq’s own Kurdish population in northern Iraq in 1988. After he invaded Kuwait in 1990, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 1991, forcing the dictator’s army to leave its smaller neighbor, but failing to remove Saddam from power. Throughout the 1990s, Saddam faced both U.N. economic sanctions and air strikes aimed at crippling his ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. With Iraq continuing to face allegations of illegal oil sales and weapons-building, the United States again invaded the country in March 2003, this time with the expressed purpose of ousting Saddam and his regime.

Despite proclaiming in early March 2003 that, “it is without doubt that the faithful will be victorious against aggression,” Saddam went into hiding soon after the American invasion, speaking to his people only through an occasional audiotape, and his government soon fell. After declaring Saddam the most important of a list of his regime’s 55 most-wanted members, the United States began an intense search for the former leader and his closest advisors. On July 22, 2003, Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay, who many believe he was grooming to one day fill his shoes, were killed when U.S. soldiers raided a villa in which they were staying in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Five months later, on December 13, 2003, U.S. soldiers found Saddam Hussein hiding in a six-to-eight-foot deep hole, nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit. The man once obsessed with hygiene was found to be unkempt, with a bushy beard and matted hair. He did not resist and was uninjured during the arrest. A soldier at the scene described him as “a man resigned to his fate.”

Saddam is now in Iraqi custody with U.S. security and faces trial in front of a special tribunal on several criminal cases pending against him. The first began in October 2005. On November 5 of the next year, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. After an unsuccessful appeal, he was executed on December 30, 2006. Despite a prolonged search, weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq.

First export of American furs

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-export-of-american-furs

Under the care of Robert Cushman, the first American furs to be exported from the continent leave for England aboard the Fortune.

One month before, Cushman and the Fortune had arrived at Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts with 35 settlers, the first new colonists since the settlement was founded in 1620. During Cushman’s return to England, the Fortune was captured by the French, and its valuable cargo of furs was taken. Cushman was detained on the Ile d’Dieu before being returned to England.

Within a few years of their first fur export, the Plymouth colonists, unable to make their living through cod fishing as they had originally planned, began concentrating almost entirely on the fur trade. The colonists developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were in turn profitably sold in England to pay the Plymouth Colony’s debts and buy necessary supplies.

Drake sets out

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/drake-sets-out

English seaman Francis Drake sets out from Plymouth, England, with five ships and 164 men on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World and explore the Pacific Ocean. Three years later, Drake’s return to Plymouth marked the first circumnavigation of the earth by a British explorer.

After crossing the Atlantic, Drake abandoned two of his ships in South America and then sailed into the Straits of Magellan with the remaining three. A series of devastating storms besieged his expedition in the treacherous straits, wrecking one ship and forcing another to return to England. Only The Golden Hind reached the Pacific Ocean, but Drake continued undaunted up the western coast of South America, raiding Spanish settlements and capturing a rich Spanish treasure ship.

Drake then continued up the western coast of North America, searching for a possible northeast passage back to the Atlantic. Reaching as far north as present-day Washington before turning back, Drake paused near San Francisco Bay in June 1579 to repair his ship and prepare for a journey across the Pacific. Calling the land “Nova Albion,” Drake claimed the territory for Queen Elizabeth I.

In July, the expedition set off across the Pacific, visiting several islands before rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and returning to the Atlantic Ocean. On September 26, 1580, The Golden Hind returned to Plymouth, England, bearing treasure, spice, and valuable information about the world’s great oceans. Drake was the first captain to sail his own ship all the way around the world–the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan had sailed three-fourths of the way around the globe earlier in the century but had been killed in the Philippines, leaving the Basque navigator Juan Sebastián de Elcano to complete the journey.

In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake, the son of a tenant farmer, during a visit to his ship. The most renowned of the Elizabethan seamen, Sir Francis Drake later played a crucial role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.