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.
  • 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 (by Polish soldiers and civilians) 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: On “Bloody Sunday” in Dublin, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassinated a group of British Intelligence agents, and British forces killed 14 civilians at a Gaelic football match at Croke Park.
  • 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 (refer to Korean War).
  • 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.
  • 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 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, is killed in a shoot-out with the Mexican Army and the police.
  • 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).
  • 1902 – Mikhail Suslov, Russian soldier, economist, and politician (d. 1982).
  • 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, US Navy SEAL, and author.
  • 1948 – Michel Suleiman, Lebanese general and politician, 16th President of Lebanon.
  • 1967 – Toshihiko Koga, Japanese martial artist.
  • 1976 – Mihaela Botezan, Romanian long-distance runner.
  • 1986 – Kristof Goddaert, Belgian cyclist (d. 2014).
  • 1990 – Dani King, English cyclist.
  • 1991 – Almaz Ayana, Ethiopian sprinter.

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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