Key events that shaped our social, political and cultural history
By Arfa Shahid
December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Bombed
The Battle of Pearl Harbor was a surprise military attack by the Japanese against a docked U.S. fleet at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which led to the U.S.’s entry into World War II. On the morning of December 7 at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes descended on the American naval base in a ferocious assault. Over 2,400 Americans were killed and more than 1,100 others were wounded. Japanese losses were light in comparison: 29 aircrafts and five midget submarines were lost and 64 servicemen killed. The Japanese intended the attack as a preventive measure to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with the military actions of Japan planned in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the U.K., Netherlands and U.S. The surprise attack came as a profound shock to the U.S., which declared war on Japan the following day.
December 12, 1980: Da Vinci Notebook Sells for Over $5 million
On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon, President of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Armand Hammer paid $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique. On November 11, 1994, the Hammer Codex was sold to an anonymous bidder—soon identified as Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft—at a New York auction for a new record high price of $30.8 million. Gates restored the title of Leicester Codex and has since loaned the manuscript to a number of museums for public display.
December 9, 1987: Intifada Begins in Gaza Strip
The first Palestinian uprising “Intifada” began a day after an Israeli truck crashed into a station wagon carrying Palestinian workers in the Jabalya refugee district of Gaza, killing four and wounding 10. Gazans saw the incident as a deliberate act of retaliation against the killing of an Israeli man in Gaza several days prior to December 9. Palestinians took to the streets, burning tires and throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli military. At Jabalya, an Israeli army patrol car fired on Palestinian attackers, killing a 17-year-old boy and wounding 16 others. The next day, crack Israeli paratroopers were sent into Gaza to quell the violence, and riots spread to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Although December 9, marked the formal beginning of the Intifada, small-scale riots had been steadily escalating for months. The grassroots uprising soon came under the control of Palestinian leaders who formed the Unified National Command of the Uprising, which had ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Affluent Palestinians and women’s groups joined militant groups in strikes, boycotts, and other sophisticated tactics in their effort to win Palestinian self-rule.