On This Day … 21 November


  • 1386 – Timur of Samarkand captures and sacks the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, taking King Bagrat V of Georgia captive.
  • 1620 – Plymouth Colony settlers sign the Mayflower Compact (11 November, O.S.)
  • 1676 – The Danish astronomer Ole Rømer presents the first quantitative measurements of the speed of light.
  • 1783 – In Paris, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes, make the first untethered hot air balloon flight.
  • 1861 – American Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis appoints Judah Benjamin Secretary of War.
  • 1877 – Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a machine that can record and play sound.
  • 1894 – Port Arthur, China, falls to the Japanese, a decisive victory of the First Sino-Japanese War; Japanese troops are accused of massacring the remaining inhabitants.
  • 1905 – Albert Einstein’s paper that leads to the mass–energy equivalence formula, E = mc², is published in the journal Annalen der Physik.
  • 1910 – Sailors on board Brazil’s warships including the Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Bahia, violently rebel in what is now known as the Revolta da Chibata (Revolt of the Lash).
  • 1916 – Mines from SM U-73 sink the HMHS Britannic, the largest ship lost in the First World War.
  • 1918 – The Flag of Estonia, previously used by pro-independence activists, is formally adopted as the national flag of the Republic of Estonia.
  • 1918 – A pogrom takes place in Lwów (now Lviv); over three days, at least 50 Jews and 270 Ukrainian Christians are killed by Poles.
  • 1920 – Irish War of Independence: In Dublin, 31 people are killed in what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
  • 1944 – World War II: American submarine USS Sealion sinks the Japanese battleship Kongō and Japanese destroyer Urakaze in the Formosa Strait.
  • 1950 – Two Canadian National Railway trains collide in northeastern British Columbia in the Canoe River train crash; the death toll is 21, with 17 of them Canadian troops bound for Korea.
  • 1962 – The Chinese People’s Liberation Army declares a unilateral ceasefire in the Sino-Indian War.
  • 1967 – Vietnam War: American General William Westmoreland tells news reporters: “I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”
  • 1969 – US President Richard Nixon and Japanese Premier Eisaku Satō agree on the return of Okinawa to Japanese control in 1972.
    • The US retains rights to bases on the island, but these are to be nuclear-free.
  • 1969 – The first permanent ARPANET link is established between UCLA and SRI.
  • 1970 – Vietnam War: Operation Ivory Coast: A joint United States Air Force and Army team raids the Sơn Tây prisoner-of-war camp in an attempt to free American prisoners of war thought to be held there.
  • 1971 – Indian troops, partly aided by Mukti Bahini (Bengali guerrillas), defeat the Pakistan army in the Battle of Garibpur.
  • 1972 – Voters in South Korea overwhelmingly approve a new constitution, giving legitimacy to Park Chung-hee and the Fourth Republic.
  • 1985 – United States Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard is arrested for spying after being caught giving Israel classified information on Arab nations.
    • He is subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
  • 1986 – National Security Council member US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and his secretary start to shred documents allegedly implicating them in the Iran-Contra affair.
  • 1995 – The Dayton Agreement is initialled at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio, ending three and a half years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • 2002 – NATO invites Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to become members.
  • 2002 – Arturo Guzmán Decena, founder of Los Zetas and high-member of the Gulf Cartel, was killed in a shoot-out with the Mexican Army and the police.
  • 2015 – The government of Belgium imposed a security lockdown on Brussels, including the closure of shops, schools, public transportation, due to potential terrorist attacks.
  • 2017 – Robert Mugabe formally resigns as President of Zimbabwe, after thirty-seven years in office.
  • Air Assault Forces Day (Ukraine).
  • Armed Forces Day (Bangladesh).
  • Armed Forces Day (Greece).

People (Births)

  • 1760 – Joseph Plumb Martin, American sergeant (d. 1850).
  • 1811 – Ludwik Gorzkowski, Polish politician, physicist and revolutionary activist (d. 1857).
  • 1811 – Zeng Guofan, Chinese general and politician, Viceroy of Liangjiang (d. 1872).
  • 1902 – Mikhail Suslov, Russian soldier, economist, and politician (d. 1982).
  • 1917 – Chung Il-kwon, Korean politician, diplomat, and soldier (d.1994).
  • 1925 – Veljko Kadijević, Croatian general and politician, 5th Federal Secretary of People’s Defence (d. 2014).
  • 1933 – Henry Hartsfield, American colonel, pilot, and astronaut (d. 2014).
  • 1940 – Richard Marcinko, American commander and author.
  • 1948 – Michel Suleiman, Lebanese general and politician, 16th President of Lebanon.
  • 1976 – Mihaela Botezan, Romanian long-distance runner.
  • 1981 – Ainārs Kovals, Latvian javelin thrower.
  • 1986 – Kristof Goddaert, Belgian cyclist (d. 2014).

People (Deaths)

  • 1942 – J. B. M. Hertzog, South African general and politician, 3rd Prime Minister of South Africa (b. 1866).
  • 1945 – Alexander Patch, American general (b. 1889).
  • 1957 – Francis Burton Harrison, American general and politician, 6th Governor-General of the Philippines (b. 1873).
  • 1992 – Kaysone Phomvihane, Laotian soldier and politician, 2nd President of Laos (b. 1920).
  • 2005 – Alfred Anderson, Scottish soldier (b. 1896).
  • 2013 – Tôn Thất Đính, Vietnamese general (b. 1926).
  • 2014 – John H. Land, American soldier and politician (b. 1920).
  • 2014 – Robert Richardson, English general (b. 1929).

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