Year
1987

Superpowers agree to reduce nuclear arsenals

At a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign the first treaty between the two superpowers to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals. Previous agreements had merely been attempts by the two Cold War adversaries to limit the growth of their nuclear arsenals. The historic agreement banned ground-launched short- and medium-range missiles, of which the two nations collectively possessed 2,611, most located in Europe and Southeast Asia.

The pact was seen as an important step toward agreement on the reduction of long-range U.S. and Soviet missiles, first achieved in 1991 when President George H. Bush and Gorbachev agreed to destroy more than a quarter of their nuclear warheads. The following year, Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to drastically reduce their number of long-range missiles to around 3,000 launching systems each by the year 2003. In 2001, after a decade of arms control stalemate, President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin made a preliminary agreement to further reduce their nuclear arsenals to around 2,000 long-range missiles each.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

NAFTA signed into law

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Clinton said he hoped the agreement would encourage other nations to work toward a broader world-trade pact. NAFTA, a trade pact between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, eliminated ...read more

Mary Queen of Scots born

In Linlithgow Palace in Scotland, a daughter is born to James V, the dying king of Scotland. Named Mary, she was the only surviving child of her father and ascended to the Scottish throne when the king died just six days after her birth. Mary’s French-born mother, Mary of Guise, ...read more

John Lennon shot

John Lennon, a former member of the Beatles, the rock group that transformed popular music in the 1960s, is shot and killed by an obsessed fan in New York City. The 40-year-old artist was entering his luxury Manhattan apartment building when Mark David Chapman shot him four times ...read more

The United States declares war on Japan

On this day, as America’s Pacific fleet lay in ruins at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt requests, and receives, a declaration of war against Japan. Leaning heavily on the arm of his son James, a Marine captain, FDR walked haltingly into the House of Representatives at ...read more

Operation Tiger Hound launched

In some of the heaviest raids of the war, 150 U.S. Air Force and Navy planes launch Operation Tiger Hound to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the lower portion of the Laotian panhandle, from Route 9 west of the Demilitarized Zone, south to the Cambodian border. The purpose of ...read more

Nixon declares Vietnam War is ending

At a news conference, President Richard Nixon says that the Vietnam War is coming to a “conclusion as a result of the plan that we have instituted.” Nixon had announced at a conference in Midway in June that the United States would be following a new program he termed ...read more

Theater fire kills hundreds in Vienna

A fire at the Ring Theater in Vienna, Austria, kills at least 620 people and injures hundreds more on this day in 1881. The luxurious, ornate theater hosted the most popular performances of the day. On December 8, it was featuring the second night of Jacques Offenbach’s opera Les ...read more

John Lennon is murdered

Singer John Lennon is shot and killed by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment building in New York City. After committing the murder, Chapman waited calmly outside, reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman was a troubled individual who was obsessed with Holden ...read more

Chinese Nationalists move capital to Taiwan

As they steadily lose ground to the communist forces of Mao Zedong, Chinese Nationalist leaders depart for the island of Taiwan, where they establish their new capital. Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek left for the island the following day. This action marked the beginning of ...read more