On This Day (5 Feb 2017)

1941: Hitler tells Mussolini to pull his own weight

As Italian forces in Libya are continuously pushed back by British troops in the North African theatre of the Second World War, Hitler demands that Mussolini, or Il Duce (The Leader) as he is known in Italy, command his troops to resist. However, British troops continue to push westward, even threatening to break into Tunisia, forcing Mussolini to seek assistance from Hitler. Despite Hitler’s reluctant assistance, 20,000 men are killed or wounded and another 130,000 are taken prisoner in three months.

A contemporary image of British troops in Libya during the North African Campaign.


1975: North Vietnamese prepare for the final offensive

North Vietnamese Gen. Van Tien Dung leaves for South Vietnam to take charge of communist troops in preparation for a new offensive that will bring an end to the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese wanted to observe how South Vietnam and the United States would react to a major assault near Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, as the United States had recently promised to defend South Vietnam against any such attack. Saigon would fall on April 30 that year, marking the conclusion of the Vietnam War.

An iconic picture of the frenzied evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon, shortly before it fell.


1988: Manuel Noriega, the leader of Panama, is formally charged in court by the United States

Noriega, who was the de facto strongman of Panama since 1983, is charged with helping Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel to traffic cocaine and smuggling marijuana into the United States, as well as laundering millions of U.S. dollars. He denies the charges and threatens to expel 10,000 U.S. service personnel and their families who are stationed at the Panama Canal. As tensions continue to mount, the United States invades Panama in 1989, and Noriega is forcefully removed from power.

The smoldering ruins of a building during the fall of Panama to US invasion in 1989.


1989: Last Soviet forces depart Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan

A final withdrawal of Soviet troops from Kabul is conducted, marking the end of the decade-long Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, that began barely four years after the United States left Vietnam in defeat. Soviet losses number 13,000 dead and 22,000 wounded, in addition to massive financial costs that could no longer be endured by a state that was on the brink of collapse, suffering from immense social upheaval and economic turmoil. Within three years, the Soviet Union would cease to exist.

The last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan.


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