This Day in History July 31st

This day in history

July 31 is the 212th day of the year (213th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 153 days remaining until the end of the year.



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Marc Antonius

In 30 BC,  Battle of Alexandria: Mark Antony achieves a minor victory over Octavian‘s forces, but most of his army subsequently deserts, leading to his suicide.

In 432,  Pope Sixtus III begins his reign as Catholic Pope.

In 781,  The oldest recorded eruption of Mount Fuji (Traditional Japanese date: July 6, 781).

In 1009,  Pope Sergius IV becomes the 142nd pope, succeeding Pope John XVIII.

In 1201,  Attempted usurpation by John Komnenos the Fat for the throne of Alexios III Angelos.

In 1423,  Hundred Years’ War: Battle of Cravant: The French army is defeated by the English at Cravant on the banks of the river Yonne.

In 1451,  Jacques Cœur is arrested by order of Charles VII of France.

In 1492,  The Jews are expelled from Spain when the Alhambra Decree takes effect.

In 1498,  On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.

In 1588,  The Spanish Armada is spotted off the coast of England.

In 1655,  Russo-Polish War (1654–67): The Russian army enters the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilnius, which it holds for six years.

In 1658,  Aurangzeb is proclaimed Moghul emperor of India.

In 1667,  Second Anglo-Dutch War: Treaty of Breda ends the conflict.

In 1703,  Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but is pelted with flowers.

In 1712,  Action of 31 July 1712 (Great Northern War): Danish and Swedish ships clash in the Baltic Sea; the result is inconclusive.

In 1715,  Seven days after a Spanish treasure fleet of 12 ships left Havana, Cuba for Spain, 11 of them sink in a storm off the coast of Florida. A few centuries later, treasure is salvaged from these wrecks.

In 1741,  Charles Albert of Bavaria invades Upper Austria and Bohemia.

In 1763,  Odawa Chief Pontiac‘s forces defeat British troops at the Battle of Bloody Run during Pontiac’s War.

In 1777,  The U.S. Second Continental Congress passes a resolution that the services of Gilbert du Motier “be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States.”

In 1790,  The first U.S. patent is issued, to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a potash process.

In 1856,  Christchurch, New Zealand is chartered as a city.

In 1865,  The first narrow-gauge mainline railway in the world opens at Grandchester, Queensland, Australia.

In 1874,  Dr. Patrick Francis Healy became the first Black man to be inaugurated as president of a predominantly White American university.

In 1902,  Chester Bond gave a barbecue to friends at his farm two miles south of Jackson, Tennessee.

In 1904,  Russo-Japanese War: Battle of Hsimucheng: Units of the Imperial Japanese Army defeat units of the Imperial Russian Army in a strategic confrontation.

In 1913,  The Balkan States sign an armistice in Bucharest.

In 1919,  German national assembly adopts the Weimar Constitution, which comes into force on August 14.

In 1930,  The radio mystery program The Shadow airs for the first time.

In 1931New York, New York experimental television station W2XAB (now known as WCBS) begins broadcasts.

In 1932,  The NSDAP (Nazi Party) wins more than 38% of the vote in German elections.

In 1938,  Bulgaria signs a non-aggression pact with Greece and other states of Balkan Antanti (Turkey, Romania, Yugoslavia).

In 1938,  Archaeologists discover engraved gold and silver plates from King Darius the Great in Persepolis.

In 1941,  The Holocaust: Under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring, orders SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish question.”

In 1945,  Pierre Laval, the fugitive former leader of Vichy France, surrenders to Allied soldiers in Austria.

In 1948,  At Idlewild Field in New York, New York International Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) is dedicated.

In 1948,  USS Nevada is sunk by an aerial torpedo after surviving hits from two atomic bombs (as part of post-war tests) and being used for target practice by three other ships.

In 1950,  United Nations Security Council Resolution 85 relating to Korean War is adopted.

In 1954,  First ascent of K2, by an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio.

In 1956Jim Laker becomes the first man to take all 10 wickets in a Test match innings as he returns figures of 10/53 in the Australian 2nd innings. This combined with his 9/37 in the first innings gave him match figures of 19/90 in the 4th Test at Old Trafford.

In 1961,  At Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, the first All-Star Game tie in Major League Baseball history occurs when the game is stopped in the ninth inning because of rain.

In 1964,  Ranger program: Ranger 7 sends back the first close-up photographs of the moon, with images 1,000 times clearer than anything ever seen from earth-bound telescopes.

In 1970,  Black Tot Day: The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy.

In 1971,  Apollo program: Apollo 15 astronauts become the first to ride in a lunar rover.

In 1971, Free Bird was composed by  Allen Collins who wrote the initial chords, for two years after that vocalist Ronnie Van Zant insisted that there were too many for him to create a melody in the belief that the melody needed to change alongside the chords. After Collins played the unused sequence at rehearsal one day, Van Zant asked him to repeat it, then wrote out the melody and lyrics in three or four minutes. Allen Collins‘s girlfriend, Kathy, whom he later married, asked him “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” Collins noted the question and it eventually became the opening line of “Free Bird”. The song is dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman by the band in their live shows. “Free Bird” is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and at number 193 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In 1972,  The Troubles: In Operation Motorman, the British Army re-takes the urban no-go areas of Northern Ireland. It is the biggest British military operation since the Suez Crisis of 1956, and the biggest in Ireland since the Irish War of Independence. Later that day, nine civilians are killed by car bombs in the village of Claudy.

In 1973,  A Delta Air Lines jetliner, flight DL 723 crashes while landing in fog at Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts killing 89.

In 1975,  The Troubles: three members of a popular cabaret band and two gunmen are killed during a botched paramilitary attack in Northern Ireland.

A photographic portrait of Chiune Sugihara.In 1986,  Chiune Sugihara, Japanese diplomat (b. 1900) dies. He was a Japanese government official who served as vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania. During the Second World War, Sugihara helped some six thousand Jews flee Europe by issuing transit visas to them so that they could travel through Japanese territory, risking his job and his family’s lives. The fleeing Jews were refugees from German-occupied Western Poland and Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland, as well as residents of Lithuania. A few decades after the war, in 1985, the State of Israel honored Sugihara as one of the Righteous Among the Nations (Hebrewחסידי אומות העולם) for his actions. He is the only Japanese national to have been so honored.

In 1988,  Thirty-two people are killed and 1,674 injured when a bridge at the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal collapses in Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia.

In 1991,  The United States and Soviet Union both sign the START I Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the first to reduce (with verification) both countries’ stockpiles.

In 1992,  Georgia joins the United Nations.

In 1992,  Thai Airways International Flight 311 crashes into a mountain north of Kathmandu, Nepal killing all 113 people on board.

In 1999,  Discovery Program: Lunar Prospector: NASA intentionally crashes the spacecraft into the Moon, thus ending its mission to detect frozen water on the moon’s surface.

In 2006,  Fidel Castro hands over power to brother Raúl Castro.

In 2007,  Operation Banner, the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland, and the longest-running British Army operation ever, comes to an end.

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Phelps at the 2016 Summer Olympics

In 2012,  Michael Phelps breaks the record set in 1964 by Larisa Latynina for the most medals won at the Olympics.

In 2014,  Gas explosions in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung kill at least 20 people and injure more than 270.

In 2015, A New York judge ruled  that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, are not “legal persons,” as claimed by an animal rights group that asked the court to set them free. The Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in March arguing that the 8-year-old chimps were intelligent creatures, so keeping them at the State University of New York at Stony Brook amounted to illegal imprisonment. The Florida nonprofit group said it would appeal the ruling.

In 2016, Seymour Papert, South African mathematician (b. 1928) dies at his home in Blue Hill, Maine, on July 31, 2016. He was a South African-born American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator, who spent most of his career teaching and researching at MIT. He was one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, and of the constructionist movement in education. He was co-inventor, with Wally Feurzeig and Cynthia Solomon, of the Logo programming language.

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