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24th December

1524 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama died in Cochin, India.

1809 * Kit Carson, US frontiersman, scout and national hero.

1814 The War of 1812 between America and Britain ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

1818 * James Joule, English physicist who worked on laws on the conservation of energy.

1851 The entire Library of Congress in the US was destroyed by fire.

1871 The first performance of Verdi's opera Aida was presented in Cairo, Egypt.

1905 * Howard Hughes, US tycoon who produced films and designed aircraft.

1922 * Ava Gardner (Lucy Johnson), US actress and star of the film Barefoot Contessa (1954).

1944 The Germans flew the first jet aircraft for wartime use.

1962 More than 1,000 men taken prisoner at the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba return to the United States in time for Christmas.

1965 A huge meteorite weighing about 100lbs landed in Leicestershire.

1968 The Apollo 8 spacecraft and its crew Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, become the first manned space mission to orbit the Moon.

1974 Former UK Labour minister John Stonehouse was been found in Australia after apparently faking his own death.

1979 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan.

1979 The first European-built rocket, Ariane 1, successfully blasted off into space.

1988 Three North Sea oil fields were shut down after a giant floating storage vessel, the Medora, broke free of its moorings in gale-force winds.

1997 Cabinet minister Jack Straw's son William was arrested on suspicion of selling drugs.

xxxx * = Date of birth

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