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This Day in History: January 31


1801 – John Marshall is appointed the Chief Justice of the United States.

1846 – After the Milwaukee Bridge War, Juneautown and Kilbourntown unify as the City of Milwaukee.

1848 – John C. Frémont is court-martialed for mutiny and disobeying orders.

1865 – American Civil War: The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery and submits it to the states for ratification.

1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Robert E. Lee becomes general-in-chief.

1917 – World War I: Germany announces that its U-boats will resume unrestricted submarine warfare after a two-year hiatus.

1930 – 3M begins marketing Scotch Tape.

1942 – World War II: Allied forces are defeated by the Japanese at the Battle of Malaya and retreat to the island of Singapore.

1943 – World War II: German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrenders to the Soviets at Stalingrad, followed 2 days later by the remainder of his Sixth Army, ending one of the war's fiercest battles.

1944 – World War II: American forces land on Kwajalein Atoll and other islands in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.

1944 – World War II: During the Anzio campaign the 1st Ranger Battalion (Darby's Rangers) is destroyed behind enemy lines in a heavily outnumbered encounter at Battle of Cisterna, Italy.

1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War.

1945 – World War II: About 3,000 inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp are forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.

1949 – These Are My Children, the first television daytime soap opera is broadcast by the NBC station in Chicago.

1950 – United States President Harry S. Truman announces a program to develop the hydrogen bomb.

1957 – Eight people on the ground in Pacoima, California are killed following the mid-air collision between a Douglas DC-7 airliner and a Northrop F-89 Scorpion fighter jet.

1958 – The first successful American satellite detects the Van Allen radiation belt.

1961 – Project Mercury: Mercury-Redstone 2: Ham the Chimp travels into outer space.

1968 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong attack the United States embassy in Saigon, and other attacks, in the early morning hours, later grouped together as the Tet Offensive.

1971 – Apollo program: Apollo 14: Astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell, aboard a Saturn V, lift off for a mission to the Fra Mauro Highlands on the Moon.

1971 – The Winter Soldier Investigation, organized by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to publicize war crimes and atrocities by Americans and allies in Vietnam, begins in Detroit.

1990 – The first McDonald's in the Soviet Union opens in Moscow.

1995 – President Bill Clinton authorizes a $20 billion loan to Mexico to stabilize its economy.

2000 – Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash: An MD-83, experiencing horizontal stabilizer problems, crashes in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Point Mugu, California, killing all 88 aboard.

2010 – Avatar becomes the first film to gross over $2 billion worldwide.

2011 – A winter storm hits North America for the second time in the same month, causing $1.8 billion in damage across the United States and Canada and killing 24 people.


1752 – Gouverneur Morris, American lawyer, politician, and diplomat, United States Ambassador to France (d. 1816)

1835 – Lunalilo of Hawaii (d. 1874)

1868 – Theodore William Richards, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1928)

1872 – Zane Grey, American author (d. 1939)

1914 – Jersey Joe Walcott, American boxer and police officer (d. 1994)

1919 – Jackie Robinson, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 1972)

1923 – Norman Mailer, American journalist and author (d. 2007)

1925 – Benjamin Hooks, American minister, lawyer, and activist (d. 2010)

1931 – Ernie Banks, American baseball player and coach (d. 2015)

1947 – Nolan Ryan, American baseball player

1964 – Dawn Prince-Hughes, American anthropologist and ethologist

1981 – Justin Timberlake, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor (*NSYNC)


1945 – Eddie Slovik, American soldier (b. 1920)

1954 – Edwin Howard Armstrong, American engineer, invented FM radio (b. 1890)

1955 – John Mott, American activist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)

1956 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright, created Winnie-the-Pooh (b. 1882)

1974 – Samuel Goldwyn, Polish-American film producer, co-founded Goldwyn Pictures (b. 1882)

1976 – Ernesto Miranda, American criminal, inspired the Miranda rights (b. 1941)

2007 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (b. 1944)