American US Navy Lt. Stephen Decatur led a successful raid into Tripoli harbor to burn the U.S.S. Philadelphia so the captured ship, which had fallen into pirate hands, could not be used against them during the First Barbary War. Together with a crew of 84 men, Decatur sailed into the harbor pretending to be lost and stormed the Philadelphia. They set it ablaze and fled, barely escaping being caught in the flames themselves… (1804)

ship burning uss philadelphia

His spirited initiative made Decatur an instant hero and earned him a promotion to captain at age 25. The young officer would later go on to become one of America’s great naval heroes during the War of 1812.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Gallaudet University (then known as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind) received its U.S. funding charter as an educational institution, becoming the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world (1857)
  • The A-note above middle C was standardized to a frequency of 435 Hz, by French law (1859)
  • Lithuania defied the German empire and declared its Independence, governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital (1918)
  • British Egyptologist Howard Carter unsealed the treasure-filled burial chamber of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun—and later he ensured the artifacts remained in country, in the National Egyptian Museum (1923)
  • Canadians were granted Canadian citizenship, after 80 years of being issuing British passports (1947)
  • The first 911 emergency phone system was instituted by officials in Haleyville, Alabama (1968)
  • The Kyoto Protocol came into force following Russian ratification (2005)

And, on this day in 2005, Musician Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, was awarded substantial damages from The Sunday Times and The Sun, after they had printed articles alleging he was involved in terrorism.


Both newspapers apologized for the “false and highly defamatory allegations,” and paid his legal bills. The 56-year-old musician gave the money to Tsunami relief projects.

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