Today In History Spotlights Dec. 20, 1989, US Invasion of Panama Begins

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Today’s History Spotlight

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The US Invasion of Panama begins. Officially known as Operation Just Cause, President George H. W. Bush ordered troops to Panama following several years of tension between the US and Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega. On December 16, 1989, a stationed US Marine was shot and killed by the Panamanian Defense Force, and Noriega declared that a state of war existed between the US and Panama.

President Bush authorized the invasion by stating that Noriega’s forces were threatening American lives in Panama, and that Noriega’s rule was permitting Panama to be a large center for drug trafficking to the US. Noriega had previously been a Cold War asset for the US government. The invasion ended on January 31, 1990, with Noriega’s capture.

What Happened On This Day – December 20

  • 2007 Queen Elizabeth becomes the longest-living British monarch. The previous longest living monarch – Queen Victoria – died on Jan 22, 1901, when she was 81 years, 7 months, and 29 days old. Queen Elizabeth, who was born on 21 April 1926, turned 81 years, 7 months and 30 days on this day.
  • 1999 Portuguese transfer sovereignty of Macau to China. Portugal ruled over the special administrative region of China from the mid-16th century to 1999. Macau has a high degree of independence from China, and has control over its legal system, monetary system, and immigration policy.
  • 1989 United States’ invasion of Panama begins. Also known as Operation Just Cause, the invasion took place under the leadership of President George H. W. Bush and led to the deposing of the dictator, Manuel Noriega. The invasion ended on January 31, 1990.
  • 1973 Spanish Prime Minister Carrero Blanco assassinated. A confidant of dictator Francisco Franco, Blanco was assassinated by the Basque nationalist and separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or ETA.
  • 1803 Louisiana Purchase completed. The United States was officially handed over the territory of Louisiana by the French. The French had regained control of the territory that spans over 15 present-day states and 2 Canadian territories in 1800. In 1762, Spain had taken over the territory.

Births On This Day – December 20

  • 1976 Aubrey Huff – American baseball player
  • 1966 Matt Neal – English race car driver
  • 1946 Uri Geller – Israeli psychic
  • 1905 Bill O’Reilly – Australian cricketer
  • 1868 Harvey Samuel Firestone – American businessman, founded the Firestone Tire, Rubber Company

Deaths On This Day – December 20

  • 1996 Carl Sagan – American astronomer, author
  • 1976 Richard J. Daley – American politician, 48th Mayor of Chicago
  • 1968 John Steinbeck – American author, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1812 Sacagawea – American member of the Lewis, Clark Expedition
  • 1722 Kangxi – Emperor of China

The sections “What Happened On This Day,” “Births On This Day,” and “Deaths On This Day” originally appeared at and is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Garrett Smith
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