This Month In History: December


Moss Ballin, Reporter

Often regarded as a dark, and gloomy month, December can be a little depressing at times. So it’s not that surprising that it has a dark and gloomy history as well. This month is filled with events that are not only infamous, but a little mysterious to the average person.

December 7, 1941

On December 7, 1941, the naval base at Pearl Harbor was bombed by about 360 Japanese war planes. 

Despite suspecting an attack from Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t increase security at the O’ahu base. If anything, the base was especially vulnerable, as it was Sunday morning, and many military personnel were off base attending religious services.

When two radar operators discovered the oncoming aircrafts, they were told not to sound the alarm. The base was expecting a flight of B-17s from the U.S., so they assumed that it wasn’t the attack that it was. This error made the result a devastating surprise.

When the 360 Japanese war planes came down on Pearl Harbor, they destroyed 200 aircrafts, 5 battleships, and 3 destroyers. There were 7 other ships that were sunk or damaged, and 2,400 Americans killed. It’s safe to say that the damage was completely catastrophic. The one thing they didn’t lose were their pacific fleet carriers, as all three were at sea on training maneuvers.

The Japanese, however, only lost 5 midget submarines, 30 planes, and less than 100 people. 

The day after the attack, Roosevelt spoke to congress, and began the process of officially entering America into the war against Japan, Italy, and Germany, which is better known as World War II.


December 19, 1998

On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached on two articles of impeachment, after 14 hours of debate in the House of Representatives.

President Clinton began his affair with 21-year-old unpaid intern Monica Lewinsky in November of 1995. This affair lasted for a year and a half, until around the time Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon in 1997. It was also around this time that Lewinsky began sharing details about the affair with Pentagon coworker Linda Tripp, who soon began secretly recording their interactions. 

Lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing Clinton on sexual harassment charges, subpoenaed Lewinsky in December. Lewinsky denied that she had ever had relations with Clinton at first, but on January 16, 1998, she was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel. Here, they offered her full immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution. 

After working out the immunity agreements, Lewinsky testified in front of the grand jury on August 6. Later, on August 17, Clinton testified as well, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to testify before a grand jury investigating him.

On September 19, American Lawyer Kenneth Starr submitted the Starr Report, which contained 18 boxes of supporting evidence, and outlined a case for impeachment on 11 grounds. The house authorized an impeachment inquiry on October 8 and approved three articles of impeachment on December 11.  

Then on December 19, 1998, the house impeached President Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice and lying under oath to a grand jury.


December 23, 1888

On December 23, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh, a renowned Dutch painter, cut off the lower part of his left ear.

Vincent Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands on March 30, 1853, but moved to France with his brother in 1886. While living with his brother, Theo, he relied on him financially, as he wasn’t very successful.

In 1888, he moved away from his brother, to Arles. Here, he hoped to be less of a burden to his brother and support himself.

Paul Gauguin, a french artist, came to live with Van Gogh in Arles, and they worked together for almost two months. However, tensions developed between the two and culminated in a fight on December 23. This argument ended when Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a knife but then turned it on himself, cutting his ear lobe. 

Directly after the incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in Arles, and later checked himself into a mental institution in Saint Remy.

While Van Gogh struggled with severe depression, and wasn’t successful during his lifetime, his paintings are now famous around the world. Including the self-portrait that he created to document this incident, titled Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear.


While December can either be an exciting or deeply somber month, it ends off the year nicely. Throughout history, December has always been an interesting time, and it has so much to offer for everyone.