On This Day … 31 December

Events

  • 406 – Vandals, Alans and Suebians cross the Rhine, beginning an invasion of Gaul.
  • 535 – Byzantine general Belisarius completes the conquest of Sicily, defeating the Gothic garrison of Palermo (Panormos), and ending his consulship for the year.
  • 870 – Battle of Englefield: The Vikings clash with ealdorman Aethelwulf of Berkshire. The invaders are driven back to Reading (East Anglia); many Danes are killed.
  • 1229 – James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon, enters Medina Mayurqa (now known as Palma, Spain), thus consummating the Christian reconquest of the island of Majorca.
  • 1501 – The First Battle of Cannanore commences, seeing the first use of the naval line of battle.
  • 1600 – The British East India Company is chartered.
  • 1757 – Empress Elizabeth I of Russia issues her ukase incorporating Königsberg into Russia.
  • 1759 – Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.
  • 1775 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Quebec: British forces repulse an attack by Continental Army General Richard Montgomery.
  • 1857 – Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of the Province of Canada.
  • 1862 – American Civil War: Abraham Lincoln signs an act that admits West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.
  • 1862 – American Civil War: The Battle of Stones River begins near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
  • 1878 – Karl Benz, working in Mannheim, Germany, files for a patent on his first reliable two-stroke gas engine. He was granted the patent in 1879.
  • 1879 – Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
  • 1942 – USS Essex, first aircraft carrier of a 24-ship class, is commissioned.
  • 1944 – World War II: Operation Nordwind, the last major Wehrmacht offensive on the Western Front, begins.
  • 1946 – President Harry S. Truman officially proclaims the end of hostilities in World War II.
  • 1951 – Cold War: The Marshall Plan expires after distributing more than US$13.3 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Western Europe.
  • 1963 – The Central African Federation officially collapses, subsequently becoming Zambia, Malawi and Rhodesia.
  • 1965 – Jean-Bédel Bokassa, leader of the Central African Republic army, and his military officers begin a coup d’état against the government of President David Dacko.
  • 1981 – A coup d’état in Ghana removes President Hilla Limann’s PNP government and replaces it with the Provisional National Defence Council led by Flight lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.
  • 1983 – In Nigeria, a coup d’état led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari ends the Second Nigerian Republic.
  • 1991 – All official Soviet Union institutions have ceased operations by this date, five days after the Soviet Union is officially dissolved.
  • 1992 – Czechoslovakia is peacefully dissolved in what is dubbed by media as the Velvet Divorce, resulting in the creation of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
  • 1994 – The First Chechen War: The Russian Ground Forces begin a New Year’s storming of Grozny.
  • 1998 – The European Exchange Rate Mechanism freezes the values of the legacy currencies in the Eurozone, and establishes the value of the euro currency.
  • 1999 – The first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, resigns from office, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the acting President and successor.
  • 1999 – The US government hands control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama.
    • This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties.
  • 1999 – Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacking ends after seven days with the release of 190 survivors at Kandahar Airport, Afghanistan.
  • 2000 – The last day of the 20th Century and 2nd Millennium.

People (Births)

  • 695 – Muhammad bin Qasim, Syrian general (d. 715).
  • 1585 – Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, Spanish general and politician, 24th Governor of the Duchy of Milan (d. 1645).
  • 1738 – Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, English general and politician, 3rd Governor-General of India (d. 1805).
  • 1763 – Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, French admiral (d. 1806).
  • 1815 – George Meade, American general and engineer (d. 1872).
  • 1880 – George Marshall, American general and politician, 50th United States Secretary of State, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1959).
  • 1908 – Simon Wiesenthal, Ukrainian-Austrian Nazi hunter and author (d. 2005).
  • 1911 – Dal Stivens, Australian soldier and author (d. 1997).
  • 1912 – John Frost, Indian-English general (d. 1993).
  • 1939 – Willye White, American sprinter and long jumper (d. 2007).
  • 1950 – Inge Helten, German sprinter.
  • 1962 – Chris Hallam, English-Welsh swimmer and wheelchair racer (d. 2013).
  • 1973 – Curtis Myden, Canadian swimmer.
  • 1974 – Mario Aerts, Belgian cyclist.
  • 1975 – Sander Schutgens, Dutch runner.
  • 1980 – Carsten Schlangen, German runner.
  • 1981 – Margaret Simpson, Ghanaian heptathlete.
  • 1992 – Amy Cure, Australian track cyclist.

People (Deaths)

  • 669 – Li Shiji, Chinese general (b. 594).
  • 1568 – Shimazu Tadayoshi, Japanese daimyō (b. 1493).
  • 1575 – Pierino Belli, Italian commander and jurist (b. 1502).
  • 1775 – Richard Montgomery, American general (b. 1738).
  • 1890 – Pancha Carrasco, Costa Rican soldier (b. 1826).
  • 1964 – Henry Maitland Wilson, English field marshal (b. 1881).
  • 1990 – Vasily Lazarev, Russian physician, colonel, and astronaut (b. 1928).
  • 2010 – Raymond Impanis, Belgian cyclist (b. 1925).
  • 2014 – Valerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington, British soldier and politician (b. 1915).
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