On This Day … 31 January


  • 1208 – Battle of Lena takes place between King Sverker II of Sweden and his rival, Prince Eric, whose victory puts him on the throne as King Eric X of Sweden.
  • 1504 – The Treaty of Lyon ends the Italian War, confirming French domination of northern Italy, while Spain receives the Kingdom of Naples.
  • 1578 – The Battle of Gembloux is a victory for Spanish forces led by Don John of Austria over a rebel army of Dutch, Flemish, English, Scottish, German, French and Walloons.
  • 1606 – Gunpowder Plot: Four of the conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, are executed for treason by hanging, drawing and quartering, for plotting against Parliament and King James.
  • 1846 – After the Milwaukee Bridge War, the United States towns of Juneautown and Kilbourntown unify to create the City of Milwaukee.
  • 1848 – John C. Frémont is court-martialed for mutiny and disobeying orders.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery and submits it to the states for ratification.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Robert E. Lee becomes general-in-chief.
  • 1891 – History of Portugal: The first attempt at a Portuguese republican revolution breaks out in the northern city of Porto.
  • 1900 – Datu Muhammad Salleh is killed in Kampung Teboh, Tambunan, ending the Mat Salleh Rebellion.
  • 1915 – World War I: Germany is the first to make large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.
  • 1917 – World War I: Germany announces that its U-boats will resume unrestricted submarine warfare after a two-year hiatus.
  • 1918 – A series of accidental collisions on a misty Scottish night leads to the loss of two Royal Navy submarines with over a hundred lives, and damage to another five British warships.
  • 1919 – The Battle of George Square takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, during a campaign for shorter working hours.
  • 1929 – The Soviet Union exiles Leon Trotsky.
  • 1942 – World War II: Allied forces are defeated by the Japanese at the Battle of Malaya and retreat to Singapore.
  • 1943 – World War II: German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrenders to the Soviets at Stalingrad, followed 2 days later by the remainder of his Sixth Army, ending one of the war’s fiercest battles.
  • 1944 – World War II: American forces land on Kwajalein Atoll and other islands in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.
  • 1944 – World War II: During the Anzio campaign the 1st Ranger Battalion (Darby’s Rangers) is destroyed behind enemy lines in a heavily outnumbered encounter at Battle of Cisterna, Italy.
  • 1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War.
  • 1945 – World War II: About 3,000 inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp are forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.
  • 1945 – World War II: The end of fighting in the Battle of Hill 170 during the Burma Campaign, in which the British 3 Commando Brigade repulsed a Japanese counterattack on their positions and precipitated a general retirement from the Arakan Peninsula.
  • 1946 – Cold War: Yugoslavia’s new constitution, modeling that of the Soviet Union, establishes six constituent republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia).
  • 1950 – Cold War: US President Harry S. Truman announces a program to develop the hydrogen bomb.
  • 1951 – United Nations Security Council Resolution 90 relating to Korean War is adopted.
  • 1968 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong guerrillas attack the United States embassy in Saigon, and other attacks, in the early morning hours, later grouped together as the Tet Offensive.
  • 1968 – Nauru gains independence from Australia; celebrated as Independence Day.
  • 1971 – The Winter Soldier Investigation, organised by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to publicise war crimes and atrocities by Americans and allies in Vietnam, begins in Detroit.
  • 1978 – The Crown of St. Stephen (also known as the Holy Crown of Hungary) goes on public display after being returned to Hungary from the United States, where it was held after World War II.

People (Births)

  • 1543 – Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japanese shōgun (d. 1616).
  • 1920 – Stewart Udall, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 37th United States Secretary of the Interior (d. 2010).
  • 1950 – Alexander Korzhakov, Russian general and bodyguard.

People (Deaths)

  • 1561 – Bairam Khan, Mughalan general (b. 1501).
  • 1606 – Guy Fawkes, English conspirator, leader of the Gunpowder Plot (b. 1570).
  • 1606 – Ambrose Rookwood, English Gunpowder Plot conspirator (b. 1578).
  • 1606 – Thomas Wintour, English Gunpowder Plot conspirator (b. 1571).
  • 1794 – Mariot Arbuthnot, English admiral and politician, 12th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia (b. 1711).
  • 1815 – José Félix Ribas, Venezuelan soldier (b. 1775).
  • 1828 – Alexander Ypsilantis, Greek general (b. 1792).
  • 1844 – Henri Gatien Bertrand, French general (b. 1773).
  • 1954 – Vivian Woodward, English captain and footballer (b. 1879).
  • 1966 – Arthur Percival, English general (b. 1887).
  • 1989 – William Stephenson, Canadian captain and spy (b. 1896).
  • 2002 – Gabby Gabreski, American colonel and pilot (b. 1919).
  • 2015 – Richard von Weizsäcker, German captain and politician, 6th President of Germany (b. 1920).

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