1865 - Slavery was abolished in the United States with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution being ratified.
1898 - A new automobile speed record was set at 39 mph (63 kph).
1903 - The Panama Canal Zone was acquired 'in perpetuity' by the U.S. for an annual rent.
1916 - During World War I, after 10 months of fighting the French defeated the Germans in the Battle of Verdun.
1940 - Adolf Hitler signed a secret directive ordering preparations for a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Operation "Barbarossa" was launched in June 1941.
1944 - The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained.
1950 - NATO foreign ministers approved plans to defend Western Europe, including the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary.
1969 - Britain's Parliament abolished the death penalty for murder.
1972 - The United States began the heaviest bombing of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The attack ended 12 days later.
1973 - The IRA launched its Christmas bombing campaign in London.
1979 - The sound barrier was broken on land for the first time by Stanley Barrett when he drove at 739.6 mph.