By the Associated Press
Today in History
Today is Thursday, Dec. 24, the 358th day of 2015. There are seven days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 24, 1955, the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, found itself fielding phone calls from children wanting to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus after a newspaper ad mistakenly gave the Center’s number; the result was a tradition continued by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) of tracking Santa’s location the night before Christmas.
On this date:
In 1814, the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 following ratification by both the British Parliament and the U.S. Senate.
In 1851, fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroying about 35,000 volumes.
In 1865, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, that was the original version of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” had its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt.
In 1914, during World War I, impromptu Christmas truces began to take hold along parts of the Western Front between British and German soldiers.
In 1939, Pope Pius XII delivered a Christmas Eve address in which he offered a five-point program for peace and denounced “premeditated aggressions.”
In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe as part of Operation Overlord.
In 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve telecast.
In 1974, Cyclone Tracy began battering the Australian city of Darwin, resulting in widespread damage and causing some 65 deaths.
In 1980, Americans remembered the U.S. hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds — one second for each day of captivity.
In 1990, actor Tom Cruise married his “Days of Thunder” co-star, Nicole Kidman, during a private ceremony at a Colorado ski resort (the marriage ended in 2001).
In 1995, fire broke out at the Philadelphia Zoo, killing 23 rare gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs.
Ten years ago: Iraq’s governing Shiite coalition called on Iraqis to accept results showing the religious bloc leading in parliamentary elections and moved ahead with efforts to form a “national unity” government. Michael Vale, the actor best known for portraying sleepy-eyed Fred the Baker in Dunkin’ Donuts commercials, died in New York at age 83.
Five years ago: Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas Eve with an evening Mass amid heightened security concerns following package bombings at two Rome embassies and Christmas Eve security breaches at the Vatican the previous two years. John Warhola (cq), the older brother who helped raise pop art icon Andy Warhol and later helped establish the Andy Warhol Museum, died in Pittsburgh at age 85.
One year ago: Sony Pictures broadly released “The Interview” online — an unprecedented counterstroke against the hackers who’d spoiled the Christmas opening of the comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A Jordanian pilot, Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, was captured by the Islamic State group after his warplane crashed in Syria; he was later killed. TCU’s Gary Patterson was named The Associated Press college football coach of the year. Western Kentucky held on to defeat Central Michigan 49-48 in a wild inaugural Bahamas Bowl.
Today’s Birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 97. Author Mary Higgins Clark is 88. Federal health official Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is 75. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 71. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 70. Actress Sharon Farrell is 69. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is 69. Actor Grand L. Bush is 60. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 60. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 59. The former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai (HAH’-mihd KAHR’-zeye), is 58. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 58. Actor Anil Kapoor is 56. Actor Wade Williams is 54. Designer Kate Spade is 53. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 52. Actor Mark Valley is 51. Actor Diedrich Bader is 49. Actor Amaury Nolasco is 45. Singer Ricky Martin is 44. Author Stephenie Meyer is 42. “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is 41. Actor Michael Raymond-James is 38. Rock singer Louis Tomlinson (One Direction) is 24.