December 20th: The Louisiana Purchase Is Completed, Invasion of Panama and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on December 20th in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1803 – The Louisiana Purchase is completed by the ceremony held in New Orleans
As Napoleon, then the First Consul of the French Republic was in a war with Great Britain, he desperately needed money to fund his army. So, even despite the will of Napoleon to save French possessions in North America, it became clear to him he wouldn’t be possible, thus the decision was made to sell French Louisiana to the newborn American nation. And Americans have always been good at buying territories for nothing, or, at least, for a relatively small cost.
The acquisition of the Louisiana territory (overall – about 828,000 sq miles, or - 2,140,000 sq kilometers) was one of the biggest economic and political wins in U.S. History, since they gained it for only fifty million francs ($11,250,000) and a cancellation of debts worth eighteen million francs ($3,750,000) for a total of sixty-eight million francs ($15 million, which is an equivalent to about $600 billion given the GDP of 2017). And this territory was quite huge!
The Louisiana territory included land from fifteen present U.S. states (most of which are traditional Republican strongholds today) and two Canadian provinces. The territory contained land that forms Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River (plus New Orleans); and small portions of land within the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The deal was completed December 20, 1803 with the ceremony marking the transfer of this land to the U.S. held in New Orleans.
1952 - Moses Lake C-124 crash
A true tragedy occurred to a United States Air Force Douglas C-124 Globemaster II military transport aircraft as it crashed near Moses Lake, Washington on December 20, 1952. Of the 115 people on board (mostly – military personnel), 87 died and 28 survived. The reason of the catastrophe was the loss of control due to inadvertent gust lock engagement.
Interesting, the flight was part of "Operation: Sleigh Ride," a USAF airlift program to bring U.S. servicemen fighting in the Korean War home for Christmas, so to some extent this was a loss of personnel during the Forgotten War, even despite the fact it happened in the state of Washington. The chronology of the disaster is the following: at around 18:30 PST, the C-124 lifted off from Larson Air Force Base near Moses Lake, Washington en route to Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. Just seconds after taking off, the left wing struck the ground and the aircraft cartwheeled, broke up, and exploded. The catastrophe still remains the deadliest one ever to occur in the state of Washington.
1989 – The U.S. Invasion of Panama
Almost thirty years ago Panama was added to the list of countries America brutally invaded and bombed into the Stone Age throughout the 20th century. Yet, the crisis in relations had lasted for two years, since 1987. Back in September of 1987 the U.S. Senate passed a resolution urging Panama to re-establish a civilian government. Panama, in its turn, protested alleged U.S. violations of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties. Panama, being a strategically important country in the region with the Canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific splitting its territory in two parts, simply couldn’t be “independent” by the mere definition of American geopolitical doctrine.
In May 1989 the Civilian elections were held in Panama, and the opposition alliance tally showed their candidate, Guillermo Endara, beating the legitimate Panamian leader Manuel Noriega's candidate, Carlos Duque, by a 3 to 1 margin. Due to fraud and bias the election was declared invalid two days later by Noriega, but of course when it comes to the support of “the opposition” that might become a future puppet government of some state – America becomes truly interested and unstoppable.
Probably, the decision to invade Panama so as to overthrow Manuel Noriega was made in the beginning of the summer 1989, as the U.S. began conducting joint training and freedom of movement exercises (Operation Sand Flea and Operation Purple Storm). Additional transport units began repeatedly traveling from bases in the territorial U.S. to bases in Panama, and back, for this express purpose. Noriega survived numerous coup attempts staged by the Americans, the opposition got weaker day by day, so December 20, 1989 marked the day of the American invasion of Panama.
Washington D.C. war hawks (and President George H. W. Bush ) eventually overthrew the legitimate leader of Panama, Manuel Noriega and sentenced him to prison due to “war crimes,” but the operation cost the Americans 23 killed and 325 wounded soldiers, while the Panamanian side suffered up to 314 soldiers killed and many more deceased civilians.
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on December 20th, at least in our view.