On This Day … 17 March


  • 45 BC – In his last victory, Julius Caesar defeats the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the Younger in the Battle of Munda.
  • 180 – Commodus becomes sole emperor of the Roman Empire at the age of eighteen, following the death of his father, Marcus Aurelius.
  • 1337 – Edward, the Black Prince is made Duke of Cornwall, the first Duchy in England.
  • 1400 – Turko-Mongol emperor Timur sacks Damascus.
  • 1776 – American Revolution: The British Army evacuates Boston, ending the Siege of Boston, after George Washington and Henry Knox place artillery in positions overlooking the city.
  • 1805 – Napoleonic Wars: The Italian Republic, with Napoleon as president, becomes the Kingdom of Italy, with Napoleon as King of Italy.
  • 1824 – The Anglo-Dutch Treaty is signed in London, dividing the Malay archipelago. As a result, the Malay Peninsula is dominated by the British, while Sumatra and Java and surrounding areas are dominated by the Dutch.
  • 1860 – The First Taranaki War begins in Taranaki, New Zealand, a major phase of the New Zealand Wars.
  • 1861 – The Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed.
  • 1891 – SS Utopia collides with HMS Anson in the Bay of Gibraltar and sinks, killing 562 of the 880 passengers on board.
  • 1942 – World War II: Holocaust: The first Jews from the Lvov Ghetto are gassed at the Belzec death camp in what is today eastern Poland.
  • 1945 – World War II: The Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen, Germany, collapses, ten days after its capture.
  • 1948 – Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom sign the Treaty of Brussels, a precursor to the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO.
  • 1960 – US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Security Council directive on the anti-Cuban covert action programme that will ultimately lead to the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • 1966 – Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the DSV Alvin submarine finds a missing American hydrogen bomb.
  • 1968 – As a result of nerve gas testing by the US Army Chemical Corps in Skull Valley, Utah, over 6,000 sheep are found dead.
  • 1973 – The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph Burst of Joy is taken, depicting a former prisoner of war being reunited with his family, which came to symbolise the end of United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
  • 1988 – Eritrean War of Independence: The Nadew Command, an Ethiopian army corps in Eritrea, is attacked on three sides by military units of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front in the opening action of the Battle of Afabet.
  • 2003 – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Robin Cook, resigns from the British Cabinet in disagreement with government plans for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
  • 2016 – Rojava conflict: At a conference in Rmelan, the Movement for a Democratic Society declares the establishment of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
  • Evacuation Day (Suffolk County, Massachusetts).

People (Births)

  • 1537 – Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japanese daimyō (d. 1598),
  • 1611 – Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge, Swedish field marshal (d. 1662).
  • 1725 – Lachlan McIntosh, Scottish-American general and politician (d. 1806).
  • 1834 – Gottlieb Daimler, German engineer and businessman, co-founded Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (d. 1900).
  • 1880 – Lawrence Oates, English lieutenant and explorer (d. 1912).
  • 1885 – Ralph Rose, American track and field athlete (d. 1913).
  • 1930 – James Irwin, American colonel, pilot, and astronaut (d. 1991).
  • 1936 – Ken Mattingly, American admiral, pilot, and astronaut.
  • 1941 – Wang Jin-pyng, Taiwanese soldier and politician.
  • 1970 – Darren Kenny, British Paralympic cyclist.
  • 1997 – Katie Ledecky, American swimmer.

People (Deaths)

  • 45 BC – Titus Labienus, Roman general (b. 100 BC),
  • 45 BC – Publius Attius Varus, Roman governor of Africa.
  • 1270 – Philip of Montfort, French knight and nobleman.
  • 1425 – Ashikaga Yoshikazu, Japanese shōgun (b. 1407).
  • 1704 – Menno van Coehoorn, Dutch soldier and engineer (b. 1641).
  • 1830 – Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, French general and politician (b. 1764).
  • 1926 – Aleksei Brusilov, Georgian-Russian general (b. 1853).
  • 1957 – Ramon Magsaysay, Filipino captain and politician, 7th President of the Philippines (b. 1907).
  • 1986 – Clarence D. Lester, African-American fighter pilot (b.1923).
  • 2002 – Văn Tiến Dũng, Vietnamese general and politician, 6th Minister of Defence for Vietnam (b. 1917).
  • 2012 – Margaret Whitlam, Australian swimmer and author (b. 1919).
  • 2013 – William B. Caldwell III, American general (b. 1925).
  • 2014 – Marek Galiński, Polish cyclist (b. 1974).
  • 2016 – Meir Dagan, Israeli general (b. 1945).

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