On This Day … 31 July


  • 30 BC – Battle of Alexandria: Mark Antony achieves a minor victory over Octavian’s forces, but most of his army subsequently deserts, leading to his suicide.
  • 1201 – Attempted usurpation by John Komnenos the Fat for the throne of Alexios III Angelos.
  • 1423 – Hundred Years’ War: Battle of Cravant: The French army is defeated by the English at Cravant on the banks of the river Yonne.
  • 1498 – On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.
  • 1588 – The Spanish Armada is spotted off the coast of England.
  • 1618 – Maurice, Prince of Orange disbands the waardgelders militia in Utrecht, a pivotal event in the Remonstrant/Counter-Remonstrant tensions.
  • 1655 – Russo-Polish War (1654–67): The Russian army enters the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilnius, which it holds for six years.
  • 1712 – Action of 31 July 1712 (Great Northern War): Danish and Swedish ships clash in the Baltic Sea; the result is inconclusive.
  • 1715 – Seven days after a Spanish treasure fleet of 12 ships left Havana, Cuba for Spain, 11 of them sink in a storm off the coast of Florida. A few centuries later, treasure is salvaged from these wrecks.
  • 1741 – Charles Albert of Bavaria invades Upper Austria and Bohemia.
  • 1763 – Odawa Chief Pontiac’s forces defeat British troops at the Battle of Bloody Run during Pontiac’s War.
  • 1777 – The U.S. Second Continental Congress passes a resolution that the services of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette “be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States.”
  • 1856 – Christchurch, New Zealand is chartered as a city.
  • 1904 – Russo-Japanese War: Battle of Hsimucheng: Units of the Imperial Japanese Army defeat units of the Imperial Russian Army in a strategic confrontation.
  • 1913 – The Balkan States sign an armistice in Bucharest.
  • 1917 – World War I: The Battle of Passchendaele begins near Ypres in West Flanders, Belgium.
  • 1919 – German national assembly adopts the Weimar Constitution, which comes into force on 14 August.
  • 1932 – The NSDAP (Nazi Party) wins more than 38% of the vote in German elections.
  • 1938 – Bulgaria signs a non-aggression pact with Greece and other states of Balkan Antanti (Turkey, Romania, Yugoslavia).
  • 1938 – Archaeologists discover engraved gold and silver plates from King Darius the Great in Persepolis.
  • 1941 – The Holocaust: Under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring, orders SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish question.”
  • 1941 – World War II: The Battle of Smolensk concludes with Germany capturing about 300,000 Soviet Red Army prisoners.
  • 1945 – Pierre Laval, the fugitive former leader of Vichy France, surrenders to Allied soldiers in Austria.
  • 1948 – USS Nevada is sunk by an aerial torpedo after surviving hits from two atomic bombs (as part of post-war tests) and being used for target practice by three other ships.
  • 1970 – Black Tot Day: The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy.
  • 1972 – The Troubles: In Operation Motorman, the British Army re-takes the urban no-go areas of Northern Ireland. It is the biggest British military operation since the Suez Crisis of 1956, and the biggest in Ireland since the Irish War of Independence. Later that day, nine civilians are killed by car bombs in the village of Claudy.
  • 1975 – The Troubles: three members of a popular cabaret band and two gunmen are killed during a botched paramilitary attack in Northern Ireland.
  • 1991 – The United States and Soviet Union both sign the START I Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the first to reduce (with verification) both countries’ stockpiles.
  • 2006 – Fidel Castro hands over power to his brother, Raúl.
  • 2007 – Operation Banner, the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland, and the longest-running British Army operation ever, comes to an end.
  • Ka Hae Hawaiʻi Day (Hawaii, United States), and its related observance:
    • Sovereignty Restoration Day (Hawaiian sovereignty movement).
  • Warriors’ Day (Malaysia).

People (Births)

  • 1803 – John Ericsson, Swedish-American engineer, co-designed the USS Princeton and the Novelty Locomotive (d. 1889).
  • 1816 – George Henry Thomas, American general (d. 1870).
  • 1826 – William S. Clark, American colonel and politician (d. 1886).
  • 1837 – William Quantrill, American captain (d. 1865).
  • 1839 – Ignacio Andrade, Venezuelan general and politician, 25th President of Venezuela (d. 1925).
  • 1921 – Donald Malarkey, American sergeant and author (d. 2017).
  • 1928 – Bill Frenzel, American lieutenant and politician (d. 2014).
  • 1961 – Frank Gardner, English captain and journalist.

People (Deaths)

  • 54 BC – Aurelia Cotta, Roman mother of Gaius Julius Caesar (b. 120 BC).
  • 910 – Feng Xingxi, Chinese warlord.
  • 975 – Fu Yanqing, Chinese general (b. 898).
  • 1358 – Étienne Marcel, French rebel leader (b. 1302).
  • 1653 – Thomas Dudley, English soldier and politician, 3rd Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony (b. 1576).
  • 1762 – Luis Vicente de Velasco e Isla, Spanish sailor and commander (b. 1711).
  • 1805 – Dheeran Chinnamalai, Indian soldier (b. 1756).
  • 1875 – Andrew Johnson, American general and politician, 17th President of the United States (b. 1808).
  • 1917 – Francis Ledwidge, Irish soldier and poet (b. 1881).
  • 1943 – Hedley Verity, English cricketer and soldier (b. 1905).
  • 1942 – Francis Younghusband, British Army Officer, explorer and spiritual writer (b.1863).
  • 1953 – Robert A. Taft, American soldier and politician (b. 1889).
  • 1971 – Walter P. Carter, American soldier and activist (b. 1923).
  • 1981 – Omar Torrijos, Panamanian general and politician, Military Leader of Panama (b. 1929).
  • 1992 – Leonard Cheshire, English captain and pilot (b. 1917).
  • 2001 – Francisco da Costa Gomes, Portuguese general and politician, 15th President of Portugal (b. 1914).
  • 2013 – Michel Donnet, English-Belgian general and pilot (b. 1917).
  • 2013 – John Graves, American captain and author (b. 1920).
  • 2015 – Richard Schweiker, American soldier and politician, 14th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (b. 1926).

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