On This Day … 17 March


  • 45 BC – In his last victory, Julius Caesar defeats the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the Younger in the Battle of Munda.
  • 180 – Commodus becomes sole emperor of the Roman Empire at the age of eighteen, following the death of his father, Marcus Aurelius.
  • 455 – Petronius Maximus becomes, with support of the Roman Senate, emperor of the Western Roman Empire; he forces Licinia Eudoxia, the widow of his predecessor, Valentinian III, to marry him.
  • 1001 – The Raja of Butuan in what is now the Philippines sends a tributary mission to the Song dynasty.
  • 1337 – Edward, the Black Prince is made Duke of Cornwall, the first Duchy in England.
  • 1452 – The Battle of Los Alporchones is fought in the context of the Spanish Reconquista between the Emirate of Granada and the combined forces of the Kingdom of Castile and Murcia resulting in a Christian victory.
  • 1560 – Fort Coligny on Villegagnon Island in Rio de Janeiro is attacked and destroyed during the Portuguese campaign against France Antarctique.
  • 1677 – The Siege of Valenciennes, during the Franco-Dutch War, ends with France’s taking of the city.
  • 1776 – American Revolution: The British Army evacuates Boston, ending the Siege of Boston, after George Washington and Henry Knox place artillery in positions overlooking the city.
  • 1780 – American Revolution: George Washington grants the Continental Army a holiday “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence”.
  • 1805 – The Italian Republic, with Napoleon as president, becomes the Kingdom of Italy, with Napoleon as King of Italy.
  • 1824 – The Anglo-Dutch Treaty is signed in London, dividing the Malay archipelago. As a result, the Malay Peninsula is dominated by the British, while Sumatra and Java and surrounding areas are dominated by the Dutch.
  • 1860 – The First Taranaki War begins in Taranaki, New Zealand, a major phase of the New Zealand Wars.
  • 1861 – The Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed.
  • 1891 – SS Utopia collides with HMS Anson in the Bay of Gibraltar and sinks, killing 562 of the 880 passengers on board.
  • 1921 – The Second Polish Republic adopts the March Constitution.
  • 1939 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanchang between the Kuomintang and Japan begins.
  • 1942 – Holocaust: The first Jews from the Lvov Ghetto are gassed at the Belzec death camp in what is today eastern Poland.
  • 1945 – The Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen, Germany, collapses, ten days after its capture.
  • 1947 – First flight of the B-45 Tornado strategic bomber.
  • 1948 – Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom sign the Treaty of Brussels, a precursor to the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO.
  • 1960 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Security Council directive on the anti-Cuban covert action program that will ultimately lead to the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • 1966 – Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the DSV Alvin submarine finds a missing American hydrogen bomb.
  • 1968 – As a result of nerve gas testing by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in Skull Valley, Utah, over 6,000 sheep are found dead.
  • 1973 – The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph Burst of Joy is taken, depicting a former prisoner of war being reunited with his family, which came to symbolise the end of United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
  • 1988 – Eritrean War of Independence: The Nadew Command, an Ethiopian army corps in Eritrea, is attacked on three sides by military units of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front in the opening action of the Battle of Afabet.
  • 2003 – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Robin Cook, resigns from the British Cabinet in disagreement with government plans for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
  • Evacuation Day (Suffolk County, Massachusetts): The holiday commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War.

People (Births)

  • 1537 – Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japanese daimyō (d. 1598).
  • 1611 – Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge, Swedish field marshal (d. 1662).
  • 1725 – Lachlan McIntosh, Scottish-American general and politician (d. 1806).
  • 1880 – Lawrence Oates, English lieutenant and explorer (d. 1912).
  • 1930 – James Irwin, American colonel, pilot, and astronaut (d. 1991).
  • 1936 – Ken Mattingly, American admiral, pilot, and astronaut.
  • 1941 – Wang Jin-pyng, Taiwanese soldier and politician.
  • 1945 – Michael Hayden, American general, 20th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

People (Deaths)

  • 45 BC – Titus Labienus, Roman general (b. 100 BC).
  • 180 – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (b. 121).
  • 1425 – Ashikaga Yoshikazu, Japanese shōgun (b. 1407).
  • 1704 – Menno van Coehoorn, Dutch soldier and engineer (b. 1641).
  • 1830 – Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, French general and politician (b. 1764).
  • 1926 – Aleksei Brusilov, Georgian-Russian general (b. 1853).
  • 1946 – Dai Li, Chinese general (b. 1897).
  • 1957 – Ramon Magsaysay, Filipino captain and politician, 7th President of the Philippines (b. 1907).
  • 2002 – Văn Tiến Dũng, Vietnamese general and politician, 6th Minister of Defence for Vietnam (b. 1917).
  • 2013 – William B. Caldwell III, American general (b. 1925).
  • 2016 – Meir Dagan, Israeli general (b. 1945).

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