On This Day … 17 December


  • 546: Siege of Rome: The Ostrogoths under king Totila plunder the city, by bribing the Byzantine garrison.
  • 920: Romanos I Lekapenos is crowned co-emperor of the underage Constantine VII.
  • 942: Assassination of William I of Normandy.
  • 1398 : Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud’s armies in Delhi are defeated by Timur.
  • 1583: Cologne War: Forces under Ernest of Bavaria defeat troops under Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg at the Siege of Godesberg.
  • 1718: War of the Quadruple Alliance: Great Britain declares war on Spain.
  • 1777: American Revolution: France formally recognises the United States.
  • 1807: Napoleonic Wars: France issues the Milan Decree, which confirms the Continental System.
  • 1812: War of 1812: U.S. forces attack a Lenape village in the Battle of the Mississinewa.
  • 1819: Simón Bolívar declares the independence of Gran Colombia in Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar in Venezuela).
  • 1862: American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.
  • 1903: The Wright brothers make the first controlled powered, heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • 1926: Antanas Smetona assumes power in Lithuania as the 1926 coup d’état is successful.
  • 1927: Indian revolutionary Rajendra Lahiri is hanged in Gonda jail, Uttar Pradesh, India, two days before the scheduled date.
  • 1928: Indian revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru assassinate British police officer James Saunders in Lahore, Punjab, to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai at the hands of the police. The three were executed in 1931.
  • 1935: First flight of the Douglas DC-3.
  • 1938: Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.
  • 1939: World War II: Battle of the River Plate: The Admiral Graf Spee is scuttled by Captain Hans Langsdorff outside Montevideo.
  • 1941: World War II: Japanese forces land in Northern Borneo.
  • 1943: All Chinese are again permitted to become citizens of the United States upon the repeal of the Act of 1882 and the introduction of the Magnuson Act.
  • 1944: World War II: Battle of the Bulge: Malmedy massacre: American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Joachim Peiper.
  • 1947: First flight of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber.
  • 1948: The Finnish Security Police is established to remove communist leadership from its predecessor, the State Police.
  • 1950: The F-86 Sabre’s first mission over Korea.
  • 1957: The United States successfully launches the first Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • 1960: Troops loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia crush the coup that began December 13, returning power to their leader upon his return from Brazil. Haile Selassie absolves his son of any guilt.
  • 1969: Project Blue Book: The United States Air Force closes its study of UFOs.
  • 1981: American Brigadier General James L. Dozier is abducted by the Red Brigades in Verona, Italy.
  • 1983: Provisional IRA members detonate a car bomb at Harrods Department Store in London. Three police officers and three civilians are killed.
  • 2002: Second Congo War: The Congolese parties of the Inter Congolese Dialogue sign a peace accord which makes provision for transitional governance and legislative and presidential elections within two years.

People (Births)

  • 1239: Kujō Yoritsugu, Japanese shōgun (d. 1256).
  • 1840: Nozu Michitsura, Japanese field marshal (d. 1908).
  • 1893: Charles C. Banks, English captain and pilot (d. 1971).
  • 1894: Patrick Flynn, Irish-American runner and soldier (d. 1969).
  • 1905: Simo Häyhä, Finnish soldier and sniper (d. 2002).
  • 1912: Edward Short, Baron Glenamara, English captain and politician, Lord President of the Council (d. 2012).
  • 1928: Eli Beeding, American captain and pilot (d. 2013).
  • 1937: Calvin Waller, American general (d. 1996).
  • 1942: Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian general and politician, 7th Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  • 1987: Chelsea Manning, American soldier and intelligence analyst.

People (Deaths)

  • 942: William I, duke of Normandy.
  • 1721: Richard Lumley, 1st Earl of Scarbrough, English soldier and politician, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (b. 1640).
  • 1830: Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan general and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (b. 1783).
  • 1857: Francis Beaufort, Irish hydrographer and officer in the Royal Navy (b. 1774).
  • 1929: Manuel de Oliveira Gomes da Costa, Portuguese general and politician, 10th President of Portugal (b. 1863).
  • 1942: Allen Bathurst, Lord Apsley, English lieutenant and politician (b. 1895).
  • 2011: Kim Jong-il, North Korean commander and politician, 2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea (b. 1941).
  • 2012: Daniel Inouye, American captain and politician (b. 1924).
  • 2014: Lowell Steward, American captain (b. 1919).
  • 2014: Ivan Vekić, Croatian colonel, lawyer, and politician, Croatian Minister of the Interior (b. 1938).
  • 2016: Benjamin A. Gilman, American soldier and politician (b. 1922).

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