Today in History: 21st of January


On this day in history...


South Africa’s Coalbrook mine disaster

On the 21st of January 1960, a massive underground collapse occurred at the Coalbrook mine, just outside of Sasolburg, Free State, resulting in the deaths of 435 miners.

The cause of the collapse was believed to be due to the failure of hundreds of pillars which themselves collapsed under the pressure of the tunnel roof.

This disaster is regarded as South Africa’s worst in the country’s mining history.

Caption: Colabrook memorial. Image courtesy of:


The Battle for Khe Sanh in Vietnam ignites

On the 21st of January 1968, North Vietnamese forces would begin bombarding a United States Marines garrison and their South Vietnamese allies, at Khe Sanh, a remote base in Vietnam, in what would become one of the most intense battles of the Vietnam War.

The siege would last 77 days with The United States Air force dropping between 80 000 to 100 000 tons of explosive ordnances around the area during the battle, adding up to an average of 1000 to 1300 tons per day.

Caption: Khe Sanh, 1968. Image Courtesy of:


Toyota officially takes over GM as the world’s largest car manufacturer

On the 21st of January 2009, Toyota officially passed General Motors (GM) to become the world’s largest car manufacturer upon announcing its overall sales for 2008.

This came in the wake of the fact that GM had dominated the automotive industry for several decades prior to the 2009 change.

Today, Toyota remains the largest automotive manufacturer in the world with it being the top-selling brand in South Africa.

Caption: Toyota Logo. Image courtesy of:


Launch of the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus

On the 21st of January 1954, the United States launched the world’s first nuclear-powered ship, the USS Nautilus, into the Thames River, Connecticut.

She was “christened”, with a bottle of champagne, by the then First Lady and wife of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mamie Eisenhower.

The submarine would be commissioned at the end of September 1954 and would begin running on nuclear power as of mid-January 1955.

Caption: Nautilus being launched. Image courtesy of: