On This Day … 13 December


  • 1636: The Massachusetts Bay Colony organises three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organisation is recognised today as the founding of the National Guard of the United States.
  • 1643: English Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.
  • 1862: American Civil War: At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeats Union Major General Ambrose Burnside.
  • 1867: A Fenian bomb explodes in Clerkenwell, London, killing six.
  • 1937: Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanking: The city of Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under the command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to the Japanese. This is followed by the Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese troops rape and slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians.
  • 1938: The Holocaust: The Neuengamme concentration camp opens in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg, Germany.
  • 1939: World War II: Battle of the River Plate: Captain Hans Langsdorff of the German Deutschland-class cruiser (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee engages with Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles.
  • 1943: World War II: The Massacre of Kalavryta by German occupying forces in Greece.
  • 1960: While Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visits Brazil, his Imperial Bodyguard seizes the capital and proclaims him deposed and his son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, Emperor.
  • 1967: Constantine II of Greece attempts an unsuccessful counter-coup against the Regime of the Colonels.
  • 1981: General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland, largely due to the actions by Solidarity.
  • 1989: The Troubles: Attack on Derryard checkpoint: The Provisional Irish Republican Army launches an attack on a British Army temporary vehicle checkpoint near Rosslea, Northern Ireland. Two British soldiers are killed and two others are wounded.
  • 2001: Sansad Bhavan, the building housing the Indian Parliament, is attacked by terrorists. Twelve people are killed, including the terrorists.
  • 2003: Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn: Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.
  • Martial Law Victims Remembrance Day, Dzień Pamięci Ofiar Stanu Wojennego, set on the anniversary of declaration of Martial law in Poland, established in 2002.
  • Nanking Massacre Memorial Day: New holiday established in 2014 to honor the thousands of Chinese lives lost during the events of the 1938 Nanking Massacre.
  • Dia do Marinheiro (English: Sailor’s Day): Brazilian Navy.

People (Births)

  • 1856: Svetozar Boroević, Croatian-Austrian field marshal (d. 1920).
  • 1887: Alvin C. York, American colonel, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964).
  • 1906: Laurens van der Post, South African-English soldier and author (d. 1996).
  • 1919: Hans-Joachim Marseille, German captain and pilot (d. 1942).

People (Deaths)

  • 1721: Alexander Selkirk, Scottish sailor (b. 1676).
  • 1814: Charles-Joseph, 7th Prince of Ligne, Belgian-Austrian field marshal (b. 1735).
  • 1862: Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, American general, lawyer, and politician (b. 1823).
  • 1945: Irma Grese, German concentration camp guard (b. 1923).
  • 1945: Josef Kramer, German concentration camp commandant (b. 1906).
  • 1945: Elisabeth Volkenrath, Polish-German concentration camp supervisor (b. 1919).
  • 1969: Raymond A. Spruance, American admiral and diplomat, United States Ambassador to the Philippines (b. 1886).
  • 1998: Richard Thomas, Royal Naval Officer (b. 1922).

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