On This Day … 31 March


  • 1146 – Bernard of Clairvaux preaches his famous sermon in a field at Vézelay, urging the necessity of a Second Crusade. Louis VII is present, and joins the Crusade.
  • 1774 – American Revolutionary War: The Kingdom of Great Britain orders the port of Boston, Massachusetts closed pursuant to the Boston Port Act.
  • 1822 – The massacre of the population of the Greek island of Chios by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire following an attempted rebellion, depicted by the French artist Eugène Delacroix.
  • 1854 – Commodore Matthew Perry signs the Convention of Kanagawa with the Tokugawa Shogunate, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade.
  • 1885 – The United Kingdom establishes the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
  • 1899 – Malolos, capital of the First Philippine Republic, is captured by American forces.
  • 909 – Serbia formally withdraws its opposition to Austro-Hungarian actions in the Bosnian Crisis.
  • 1917 – According to the terms of the Treaty of the Danish West Indies, the islands become American possessions.
  • 1918 – Massacre of ethnic Azerbaijanis is committed by allied armed groups of Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Bolsheviks. Nearly 12,000 Azerbaijani Muslims are killed.
  • 1921 – The Royal Australian Air Force is formed.
  • 1942 – World War II: Japanese forces invade Christmas Island, then a British possession.
  • 1945 – World War II: A defecting German pilot delivers a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft, to the Americans, the first to fall into Allied hands.
  • 1957 – Elections to the Territorial Assembly of the French colony Upper Volta are held. After the elections PDU and MDV form a government.
  • 1964 – Brazilian General Olímpio Mourão Filho orders his troops to move towards Rio de Janeiro, beginning the coup d’état.
  • 1968 – American President Lyndon B. Johnson speaks to the nation of “Steps to Limit the War in Vietnam” in a television address. At the conclusion of his speech, he announces: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”
  • 1991 – 1991 Georgian independence referendum: Nearly 99 percent of the voters support the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.
  • 1992 – The USS Missouri, the last active United States Navy battleship, is decommissioned in Long Beach, California.
  • 1992 – The Treaty of Federation is signed in Moscow.
  • 2004 – Iraq War in Anbar Province: In Fallujah, Iraq, four American private military contractors working for Blackwater USA, are killed after being ambushed.
  • 2018 – Start of the 2018 Armenian revolution.

People (Births)

  • 1536 – Ashikaga Yoshiteru, Japanese shōgun (d. 1565).
  • 1813 – Félix María Zuloaga, Mexican general and unconstitutional interim president (1858 and 1860–1862) (d. 1898).
  • 1874 – Benjamín G. Hill, Mexican revolutionary general, governor of Sonora (d. 1920).
  • 1912 – William Lederer, American soldier and author (d. 2009).
  • 1915 – Shoichi Yokoi, Japanese sergeant (d. 1997).
  • 1926 – Rocco Petrone, American colonel and engineer (d. 2006).
  • 1927 – Vladimir Ilyushin, Russian pilot (d. 2010).
  • 1948 – Al Gore, American soldier and politician, 45th Vice President of the United States and Nobel Prize laureate.

People (Deaths)

  • 1723 – Edward Hyde, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, English soldier and politician, 14th Colonial Governor of New York (b. 1661).
  • 1939 – Ioannis Tsangaridis, Greek general (b. 1887).
  • 1944 – Mineichi Koga, Japanese admiral (b. 1885).
  • 1970 – Semyon Timoshenko, Soviet Commander during the Winter War and the Eastern Front of World War II (b. 1894).
  • 2004 – Scott Helvenston, American soldier (b. 1965).
  • 2011 – Mary Greyeyes, the first First Nations woman to join the Canadian Armed Forces (b. 1920).

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