- 1787 – Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the United States Constitution.
- 1869 – American outlaw Jesse James commits his first confirmed bank robbery in Gallatin, Missouri.
- 1917 – World War I: The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.
- 1941 – World War II: Attack on Pearl Harbor – The Imperial Japanese Navy carries out a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet and its defending Army and Marine air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (For Japan's near-simultaneous attacks on Eastern Hemisphere targets, see December 8.)
- 1963 – Instant replay makes its debut during an American Army–Navy football game.
- 1972 – Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, is launched. The crew takes the photograph known as The Blue Marble as they leave the Earth.
- 1982 – In Texas, Charles Brooks, Jr., becomes the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the United States.
- 1987 – Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 crashes near Paso Robles, California, killing all 43 on board, after a disgruntled passenger shoots his ex-boss traveling on the flight, then shoots both pilots and himself.
- 1988 – Yasser Arafat recognizes the right of Israel to exist.
- 1993 – The Long Island Rail Road massacre: Passenger Colin Ferguson murders six people and injures 19 others on the LIRR in Nassau County, New York.
- 1995 – The Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter, a little more than six years after it was launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis during Mission STS-34.
- 1999 – A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.: The Recording Industry Association of America sues the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster, alleging copyright infringement.
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