On This Day … 13 December


  • 1577 – Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.
  • 1636 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organisation is recognised today as the founding of the National Guard of the United States.
  • 1642 – Abel Tasman is the first recorded European to sight New Zealand.
  • 1643 – English Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.
  • 1758 – The English transport ship Duke William sinks in the North Atlantic, killing over 360 people.
  • 1862 – American Civil War: At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeats Union Major General Ambrose Burnside.
  • 1867 – A Fenian bomb explodes in Clerkenwell, London, killing six.
  • 1937 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanking: The city of Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under the command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to the Japanese.
    • This is followed by the Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese troops rape and slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians.
  • 1938 – The Holocaust: The Neuengamme concentration camp opens in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg, Germany.
  • 1939 – World War II: Battle of the River Plate: Captain Hans Langsdorff of the German Deutschland-class cruiser (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee engages with Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles.
  • 1943 – World War II: The Massacre of Kalavryta by German occupying forces in Greece.
  • 1949 – The Knesset votes to move the capital of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
  • 1960 – While Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visits Brazil, his Imperial Bodyguard seizes the capital and proclaims him deposed and his son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, Emperor.
  • 1974 – Malta becomes a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • 1974 – North Vietnam launches the Spring Offensive, which results in the collapse of South Vietnam.
  • 1981 – General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland, largely due to the actions by Solidarity.
  • 1988 – PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat gives a speech at a UN General Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, after United States authorities refused to grant him a visa to visit UN headquarters in New York.
  • 1989 – The Troubles: Attack on Derryard checkpoint: The Provisional Irish Republican Army launches an attack on a British Army temporary vehicle checkpoint near Rosslea, Northern Ireland.
    • Two British soldiers are killed and two others are wounded.
  • 2001 – Sansad Bhavan, the building housing the Indian Parliament, is attacked by terrorists. Twelve people are killed, including the terrorists.
  • 2003 – Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn: Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.
  • Martial Law Victims Remembrance Day (Poland).
  • Nanking Massacre Memorial Day (China).

People (Births)

  • 1856 – Svetozar Boroević, Croatian-Austrian field marshal (d. 1920).
  • 1887 – Alvin C. York, American colonel, Medal of Honour recipient (d. 1964).
  • 1906 – Laurens van der Post, South African-English soldier and author (d. 1996).
  • 1919 – Hans-Joachim Marseille, German captain and pilot (d. 1942).
  • 1926 – George Rhoden, Jamaican runner.
  • 1980 – Danil Haustov, Estonian swimmer.
  • 1983 – Otylia Jędrzejczak, Polish swimmer.
  • 1983 – Janeth Jepkosgei, Kenyan runner.
  • 1984 – Hanna-Maria Seppälä, Finnish swimmer.
  • 1986 – Mathieu Gnanligo, Beninese sprinter.
  • 1989 – Hellen Onsando Obiri, Kenyan runner.

People (Deaths)

  • 1814 – Charles-Joseph, 7th Prince of Ligne, Belgian-Austrian field marshal (b. 1735).
  • 1862 – Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, American general, lawyer, and politician (b. 1823).
  • 1945 – Irma Grese, German concentration camp guard (b. 1923).
  • 1945 – Josef Kramer, German concentration camp commandant (b. 1906).
  • 1945 – Elisabeth Volkenrath, Polish-German concentration camp supervisor (b. 1919).
  • 1969 – Raymond A. Spruance, American admiral and diplomat, United States Ambassador to the Philippines (b. 1886).
  • 1998 – Richard Thomas, Royal Naval Officer (b. 1922).
  • 2018 – Noah Klieger, Israeli journalist and Holocaust survivor (b. 1926).

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