Year
1937

The Rape of Nanking

During the Sino-Japanese War, Nanking, the capital of China, falls to Japanese forces, and the Chinese government flees to Hankow, further inland along the Yangtze River.

To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners,” massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Matsui was found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Saddam Hussein captured

After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured on this day in 2003. Saddam’s downfall began on March 20, 2003, when the United States led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than ...read more

Al Gore concedes presidential election

Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on this day in 2000. In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White ...read more

Drake sets out

English seaman Francis Drake sets out from Plymouth, England, with five ships and 164 men on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World and explore the Pacific Ocean. Three years later, Drake’s return to Plymouth marked the first circumnavigation of ...read more

First export of American furs

Under the care of Robert Cushman, the first American furs to be exported from the continent leave for England aboard the Fortune. One month before, Cushman and the Fortune had arrived at Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts with 35 settlers, the first new colonists since ...read more

Tasman discovers New Zealand

Dutch navigator Abel Tasman becomes the first European explorer to sight the South Pacific island group now known as New Zealand. In his sole attempt to land, several of Tasman’s crew were killed by warriors from a South Island tribe, who interpreted the Europeans’ exchange of ...read more

Peace negotiations in Paris deadlocked

Peace negotiations are hopelessly deadlocked after a six-hour meeting between North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. After the meeting, Kissinger flew to the United States to confer with President Richard Nixon. The main point of ...read more

Pistons and Nuggets play record-breaking game

On December 13, 1983, the Detroit Pistons defeat the Denver Nuggets by a score of 186-184 in triple overtime, in the highest scoring game in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Both teams entered the game on a three-game losing streak. With Denver leading by ...read more

Wilson arrives in France

On this day in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson arrives in France to take part in World War I peace negotiations and to promote his plan for a League of Nations, an international organization for resolving conflicts between nations. Wilson had initially tried to keep America out of ...read more

Joseph Walker born in Tennessee

Joseph Reddeford Walker, one of the greatest trailblazing mountain men and the first Anglo-American to see Yosemite, is born in Tennessee. Although he had little formal education, Walker was an exceptionally intelligent explorer and leader, possessing an extraordinary ability to ...read more

Dick Van Dyke born

On this day in 1925, Dick Van Dyke, the quintessential “nice guy” actor who would become known for his performances in such movie classics as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as the popular 1960s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, is born in West Plains, Missouri. ...read more

Texas Seven prison break

On this day in 2000, seven convicts break out of a maximum-security prison in South Texas, setting off a massive six-week manhunt. The escapees, dubbed the “Texas Seven” by the media, overpowered civilian employees and prison guards in the maintenance shop where they worked and ...read more

Battle of Fredericksburg

On this day in 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia repulses a series of attacks by General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The defeat was one of the most decisive loses for the Union army, and it dealt a serious ...read more