On This Day … 20 August


  • AD 14 – Agrippa Postumus, maternal grandson of the late Roman emperor Augustus, is executed by his guards under mysterious circumstances while in exile.
  • 636 – Battle of Yarmouk: Arab forces led by Khalid ibn al-Walid take control of the Levant away from the Byzantine Empire, marking the first great wave of Muslim conquests and the rapid advance of Islam outside Arabia.
  • 917 – Battle of Acheloos: Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria decisively defeats a Byzantine army.
  • 1191 – Richard I of England initiates the Massacre at Ayyadieh, leaving 2,600-3,000 Muslim hostages dead.
  • 1308 – Pope Clement V pardons Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, absolving him of charges of heresy.
  • 1391 – Konrad von Wallenrode becomes the 24th Grand Master of the Teutonic Order.
  • 1467 – The Second Battle of Olmedo takes places as part of a succession conflict between Henry IV of Castile and his half-brother Alfonso, Prince of Asturias.
  • 1519 – Philosopher and general Wang Yangming defeats Zhu Chenhao, ending the Prince of Ning rebellion against the reign of the Ming dynasty’s Zhengde Emperor.
  • 1648 – A French victory over Spain at the Battle of Lens brings the Thirty Years’ War to a close.
  • 1707 – The first Siege of Pensacola comes to an end with the failure of the British to capture Pensacola, Florida.
  • 1710 – War of the Spanish Succession: A multinational army led by the Austrian commander Guido Starhemberg defeats the Spanish-Bourbon army commanded by Alexandre Maître, Marquis de Bay in the Battle of Saragossa.
  • 1794 – Northwest Indian War: United States troops force a confederacy of Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi warriors into a disorganised retreat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
  • 1858 – Charles Darwin first publishes his theory of evolution through natural selection in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace’s same theory.
  • 1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declares the American Civil War over.
  • 1914 – World War I: Brussels is captured during the German invasion of Belgium.
  • 1940 – World War II: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes the fourth of his famous wartime speeches, containing the line “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”.
  • 1944 – World War II: One hundred sixty-eight captured allied airmen, including Phil Lamason, accused by the Gestapo of being “terror fliers”, arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp.
  • 1944 – World War II: The Battle of Romania begins with a major Soviet Union offensive.
  • 1955 – Algerian War: Battle of Philippeville: In Morocco, a force of Berbers from the Atlas Mountains region of Algeria raid two rural settlements and kill 77 French nationals.
  • 1960 – Senegal breaks from the Mali Federation, declaring its independence.
  • 1968 – Cold War: Warsaw Pact troops invade Czechoslovakia, crushing the Prague Spring.
    • East German participation is limited to a few specialists due to memories of the recent war.
    • Only Albania and Romania refuse to participate.
  • 1988 – Iran-Iraq War: A ceasefire is agreed after almost eight years of war.
  • 1988 – The Troubles: Eight British soldiers are killed and 28 wounded when their bus is hit by an IRA roadside bomb in Ballygawley, County Tyrone.
  • 1991 – Dissolution of the Soviet Union, August Coup: More than 100,000 people rally outside the Soviet Union’s parliament building protesting the coup aiming to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • 1991 – Estonia, occupied by and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940, issues a decision on the re-establishment of independence on the basis of legal continuity of its pre-occupation statehood.
  • 1998 – US embassy bombings: The United States launches cruise missile attacks against alleged al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons plant in Sudan in retaliation for the 07 August bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • 2006 – Sri Lankan Civil War: Sri Lankan Tamil politician and former MP S. Sivamaharajah is shot dead at his home in Tellippalai.

People (Births)

  • 1778 – Bernardo O’Higgins, Chilean general and politician, 2nd Supreme Director of Chile (d. 1842).
  • 1833 – Benjamin Harrison, American general, lawyer, and politician, 23rd President of the United States (d. 1901).
  • 1912 – John H. Michaelis, American general (d. 1985).
  • 1927 – Peter Oakley, English soldier and blogger (d. 2014).
  • 1930 – Peter Randall, English sergeant (d. 2007).
  • 1956 – Desmond Swayne, English soldier and politician, Vice-Chamberlain of the Household.
  • 1973 – Scott Goodman, Australian swimmer.
  • 1989 – Silas Kiplagat, Kenyan runner.
  • 1990 – Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Dutch swimmer.

People (Deaths)

  • 917 – Constantine Lips, Byzantine admiral.
  • 1528 – Georg von Frundsberg, German knight and landowner (b. 1473).
  • 1648 – Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, English soldier and diplomat (b. 1583).
  • 1825 – William Waldegrave, 1st Baron Radstock, English admiral and politician, Governor of Newfoundland (b. 1753).
  • 1942 – István Horthy, Hungarian admiral and pilot (b. 1904).
  • 1951 – İzzettin Çalışlar, Turkish general (b. 1882).
  • 1971 – Rashid Minhas, Pakistani lieutenant and pilot (b. 1951).
  • 1997 – Norris Bradbury, American soldier, physicist, and academic (b. 1909).
  • 2006 – Bryan Budd, Northern Ireland-born English soldier, Victoria Cross recipient (b. 1977).
  • 2008 – Ed Freeman, American soldier and pilot, Medal of Honour recipient (b. 1927).
  • 2012 – Meles Zenawi, Ethiopian soldier and politician, Prime Minister of Ethiopia (b. 1955).
  • 2013 – John W. Morris, American general (b. 1921).
  • 2015 – Frank Wilkes, Australian soldier and politician (b. 1922).

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