This Day in History - January 21Monday, January 21, 2019
1990: East Germany's Communist Party expels Egon Krenz, the leader who oversaw opening of Berlin Wall.
1521: Pope Leo X excommunicates German reformer Martin Luther.
1606: England's Parliament imposes severe penalties against Roman Catholics.
1643: Dutch mariner Abel Tasman discovers Tonga in the Pacific.
1732: Russia gives up claims to certain Persian territories under Treaty of Riascha.
1793: France's King Louis XVI, condemned for treason, is executed on the guillotine.
1861: Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and four other Southerners whose states had seceded from the Union resign from the US Senate.
1908: New York City women are prohibited from smoking in public. (Although the measure was vetoed two weeks later by Mayor George B McClellan Jr, at least one woman, Katie Mulcahey, was arrested and spent a night in jail after being unable to pay a US$5 fine.)
1910: The Great Paris Flood begins as the rain-swollen Seine River burst its banks, sending water into the French capital.
1919: Sinn Fein Congress in Dublin, Ireland, adopts Declaration of Independence.
1924: Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin dies at age 53. First Nationalist Chinese Congress at Canton admits Communists and welcomes Russian advisers.
1937: Count Basie and his band record One O'Clock Jump for Decca Records (on this date in 1942, they re-recorded the song for Okeh Records).
1942: German forces launch new offensive in western African desert in World War II.
1945: The Brazilian Expeditionary Force leads an allied attack on Monte Castelo in Italy, the only participation of South American troops in World War II.
1949: Chiang Kai-Shek resigns from China presidency following Nationalist Party reversals.
1950: Former State Department official Alger Hiss, accused of being part of a Communist spy ring, is found guilty in New York of lying to a grand jury. (Hiss, who proclaimed his innocence, served less than four years in prison.) George Orwell (Eric Blair), author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, dies in London at age 46.
1954: The first atomic submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched at Groton, Connecticut. (However, the Nautilus did not make its first nuclear-powered run until nearly a year later.)
1968: Thirty-one North Korean commandos attempt to attack South Korea's presidential palace. All but one die in gunfights; thirty-four South Koreans are killed. The Battle of Khe Sanh begins during the Vietnam War as North Vietnamese forces attack a US Marine base; the Americans were able to hold their position until the siege was lifted. An American B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed in Greenland, killing one crew member and scattering radioactive material.
1976: The supersonic Concorde jet is put into service by Britain and France.
1977: US President Jimmy Carter pardons almost all Vietnam War draft evaders.
1982: Convict-turned-author Jack Henry Abbott is found guilty in New York of first-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of waiter Richard Adan in 1981. (Abbott was later sentenced to 15 years to life in prison; he committed suicide in 2002.)
1991: Latvia's Parliament forms volunteer home guard and authorities bolster defences at public buildings hours after Soviet commandos stage pre-dawn assault on republic's police headquarters.
1992: UN Security Council urges Libya to surrender two agents indicted by United States in bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
1993: A supertanker carrying 296 million litres (78 million gallons) of crude oil burns and leaks oil after slamming into another ship off Indonesia's northern tip.
1995: Pope John Paul II ends his 11-day Asia tour in Sri Lanka on a note of controversy, when Buddhist leaders boycott a meeting with him to protest his views of their religion.
1996: Winning 88 per cent of the vote, Yasser Arafat emerges from the first Palestinian election with a mandate to lead his people to independence.
1997: Speaker Newt Gingrich is reprimanded and fined as the House voted for the first time in history to discipline its leader for ethical misconduct.
1998: Pope John Paul II arrives on a historic five-day visit to communist Cuba.
1999: Raul Salinas de Gortari, the brother of the ex-president of Mexico, is sentenced to 50 years in prison for having a political opponent murdered.
2000: Hundreds of Ecuadorean-Indian protesters, outraged by the president's plan to make the US dollar Ecuador's currency, declare a new government. The vice-president later replaces the president.
2002: Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships seize Palestinian-controlled West Bank city of Tulkarem, occupying the entire city and imposing a 24-hour curfew on its 45,000 residents. Sultry singer Peggy Lee dies in Bel Air, California, at age 81.
2005: A European probe to Saturn's largest moon finds a freezing, primitive but active world that, like Earth, seems to be doused with rains that gouge out rivers, erode rocks and form pools.
2006: A whale stranded in the River Thames is hauled onto a barge and moved toward the sea while thousands of Londoners flock to the shore to see the rescue operation.
2007: Venzuelan President Hugo Chavez tells US officials to “Go to hell, gringos!” and calls Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “missy” on his weekly radio and TV show, lashing out at Washington for what he called unacceptable meddling in his country's affairs. Sudanese government planes breach a ceasefire by bombing villages in northern Darfur, days after President Omar al-Bashir vows to adhere to a truce brokered by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and others during a visit. Lovie Smith becomes the first black head coach to make it to the Super Bowl when his Chicago Bears won the NFC championship, beating the New Orleans Saints 39-14; Tony Dungy becomes the second when his Indianapolis Colts took the AFC title over the New England Patriots, 38-34.
2008: Four bomb blasts hit the ordinarily peaceful Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, wounding one person, days after it announced the date of an election to end a century of absolute royal rule.
2009: The US Senate confirms Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
2010: A bitterly divided US Supreme Court vastly increases the power of big business and labour unions to influence government decisions by freeing them to spend their millions directly to sway elections for president and Congress, reversing a century-long trend to limit their role. Dozens of Palestinians enraged by France's sympathy for an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants ambush the French foreign minister's motorcade in the Gaza Strip, pelting it with eggs and hurling a shoe that narrowly misses hitting her.
2011: Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that he personally held peace talks recently with the insurgent faction Hizb-i-Islami, appearing to assert his own role in a US-led bid for negotiations to end the country's decade-long war. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman seriously wounded in a shooting rampage, is transferred from the University Medical Center trauma facility in Tucson to Texas Medical Center in Houston to undergo months of therapy.
2012: Final results show that Islamists win nearly three-quarters of the seats in parliament in Egypt's first election since the ouster of authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.
2015: The leader of a German organisation against the perceived “Islamisation” of Europe provokes a firestorm after a picture surfaces showing him with a Hitler moustache and hair combover.
John Fitch, US naval engineer (1743-1798); Leo Delibes, French composer (1836-1891); Telly Savalas, US actor (1924-1994); Benny Hill, English comedian (1925-1992); Placido Domingo, Spanish tenor (1941- ); Geena Davis, US actress (1956- ); Charlotte Ross, US actress (1968- )