February 28 Events in History

February 28 has been a witness to a mosaic of pivotal moments in history, each contributing to the rich tapestry of our global narrative.

From the decisive Battle of Zama in 202 BC to the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, we delve into moments of triumph, tragedy, innovation, and profound change.

Join us as we uncover the stories and legacies of this day in history, reflecting on their impact and the lessons they continue to teach us.

February 28th – On this Day in History

202 BC – In the Battle of Zama, Scipio Africanus defeats Hannibal, marking the end of the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage

The Battle of Zama marked the definitive end of the Second Punic War, a conflict between the ancient superpowers of Rome and Carthage.

This battle was fought near Zama, now in Tunisia, and is particularly notable for the confrontation between two of history’s greatest military leaders: Hannibal Barca of Carthage and Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus of Rome.

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Despite Hannibal’s tactical genius and his previous successes in Italy, Scipio’s strategic acumen and his ability to adapt Carthaginian battle techniques led to a decisive Roman victory. This battle not only secured Rome’s dominance over the western Mediterranean but also marked the beginning of Rome’s rise as a global power.


1525 – The Aztec king Cuauhtémoc is executed by the order of Hernán Cortés, marking the end of Aztec resistance to Spanish rule

Cuauhtémoc was the last Aztec emperor, who took power in 1520 just as the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was laying siege to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán. Despite his valiant efforts to repel the Spanish invaders, Cuauhtémoc was captured in 1521 when Tenochtitlán fell.

Also Read: February 29th Events in History

For several years, he was kept alive and sometimes paraded as a puppet leader while the Spanish consolidated their control over the former Aztec empire.

In 1525, on suspicion of plotting a rebellion, Cortés ordered Cuauhtémoc’s execution. His death symbolized the end of the Aztec empire and the complete domination of Mexico by Spain.

1784 – John Wesley charters the Methodist Church

John Wesley, an English cleric and theologian, was instrumental in founding the Methodist movement, which emerged from the broader Anglican tradition.

Despite facing resistance and skepticism from many within the Anglican Church, Wesley’s evangelical zeal and commitment to preaching a methodical approach to faith and salvation resonated with many.

In 1784, Wesley took a significant step by chartering the Methodist Church, thereby formalizing its separation from the Church of England. This move not only helped to solidify Methodist identity but also contributed to its rapid expansion, especially in the United States.

1827 – The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is incorporated, becoming the first railroad in America offering commercial transportation of both people and freight

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) holds the distinction of being the first chartered railroad in the United States, marking the beginning of what would become the American railroad era. The B&O was incorporated for the purpose of creating a rail link between the port of Baltimore, Maryland, and the Ohio River.

This initiative was partly a response to the economic challenge posed by the Erie Canal, which connected New York City with the Great Lakes and provided a more direct trade route to the west.

The development of the B&O Railroad was a monumental engineering endeavor and it played a crucial role in the economic expansion of the United States by facilitating the transportation of goods and people across vast distances.

1844 – A gun on USS Princeton explodes while the boat is on a Potomac River cruise, killing six people, including two United States Cabinet members

The USS Princeton was one of the most advanced naval warships of its time, outfitted with the latest in armament and steam-powered propulsion. Its design included two large cannons, named the “Peacemaker” and the “Oregon.”

During a demonstration cruise on the Potomac River, attended by many notable guests including President John Tyler, members of the Cabinet, and foreign dignitaries, the Peacemaker cannon exploded while being fired. The explosion killed Secretary of State Abel P.

Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, and four others, while injuring 20. This tragic event was one of the earliest major disasters in the history of the U.S. Navy and had significant repercussions, including impacting Tyler’s presidency and causing a temporary setback in naval innovation.

USS Princeton

1870 – The Bulgarian Exarchate is established by a decree of Sultan Abdülaziz of the Ottoman Empire

The foundation of the Bulgarian Exarchate was a significant religious and political event in the history of the Balkans, marking a crucial step towards Bulgarian national revival and independence. Prior to its establishment, Bulgarians were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Greek-dominated Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

This situation was a source of discontent among Bulgarians, who sought church services in their language and leaders of their own nationality. The Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz’s decree allowed for the creation of the Bulgarian Exarchate, effectively recognizing a separate Bulgarian church.

This move was controversial and led to the excommunication of the Bulgarian Exarchate by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Nonetheless, it was a critical milestone in the consolidation of Bulgarian national identity and the struggle for independence from Ottoman rule.

1897 – Queen Ranavalona III, the last monarch of Madagascar, is deposed by a French military force, beginning the French colonial rule over the island

Queen Ranavalona III was the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Madagascar. Her deposition by French colonial forces marked the end of the Merina monarchy and the beginning of French colonial rule over Madagascar. Despite efforts to modernize the kingdom and resist colonial pressures, Madagascar became a French protectorate in 1885.

Continued resistance and the queen’s attempt to seek international support for Madagascar’s sovereignty led to a French military invasion in 1895. By 1897, the French had abolished the monarchy, exiling Ranavalona III to Algiers, where she lived until her death.

Her deposition symbolized the end of Madagascar’s independence and the imposition of direct colonial administration by France, which significantly altered the island’s cultural, social, and political landscape.

1922 – The United Kingdom ends its protectorate over Egypt through a unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence

The unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence by the United Kingdom in 1922 was a pivotal moment in Egyptian history, marking the end of British protectorate status which had been imposed in 1914 at the outset of World War I. This declaration came after years of nationalist agitation in Egypt for sovereignty and self-determination.

While the declaration granted Egypt nominal independence, the British retained significant control over the country’s defense, foreign affairs, and the Suez Canal. The move was partly motivated by British desires to quell nationalist unrest and secure their strategic interests in the region.

Though a step towards full sovereignty, true independence and the end of British military presence in Egypt would not be fully realized until the mid-20th century.

Reichstag fire

1933 – Gleichschaltung: The Reichstag Fire Decree is passed in Germany a day after the Reichstag fire, nullifying many German civil liberties

The Reichstag Fire Decree was a critical step in the Nazi Party’s consolidation of power in Germany. Issued by President Paul von Hindenburg on the pretext of combating communist insurrection following the mysterious burning of the Reichstag (German parliament) building, the decree suspended most civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and the right to assembly.

This decree allowed for the arrest of political opponents, notably communists, and the suppression of political dissent, thereby crippling opposition to the Nazi Party.

The Reichstag Fire Decree, under the guise of protecting the nation, effectively paved the way for the establishment of a totalitarian regime by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, leading to the dismantling of democratic institutions in Germany.

1935 – DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invents nylon

Wallace Carothers, a chemist working for DuPont, made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of synthetic polymers by inventing nylon. This invention was the result of extensive research into polymers, which aimed to create a synthetic replacement for silk. Nylon became the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer.

Its initial application was in the manufacture of toothbrush bristles, followed by its famous use in women’s stockings, marketed as “nylons,” which became wildly popular. The invention of nylon had a profound impact on the textile industry and beyond, heralding the dawn of a new era in synthetic materials.

Its strength, elasticity, and resistance to abrasion and chemicals have made it an essential material in a vast array of products, ranging from clothing and household items to automotive parts and military equipment.

1947 – The February 28 Incident: In Taiwan, civil disturbances between the Taiwanese locals and the Nationalist Chinese government lead to a brutal crackdown by the government, resulting in thousands of deaths

The February 28 Incident, or the 228 Incident, was a tragic and tumultuous period in Taiwan’s history that began in 1947. Following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, Taiwan was handed over to Nationalist China (Kuomintang, KMT) control.

The incident started as a confrontation between government agents and a cigarette vendor in Taipei, which escalated into widespread protests against the KMT’s repressive rule and mismanagement. The government’s response was a brutal crackdown, with troops being deployed to suppress the unrest.

Thousands of Taiwanese people, including intellectuals and leaders of the protest movement, were killed or disappeared. The 228 Incident had a long-lasting impact on Taiwan, leading to martial law that lasted until 1987 and deeply affecting cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China. It remains a sensitive and significant part of Taiwan’s struggle for identity and self-determination.

1953 – James Watson and Francis Crick tell friends they have determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement takes place on April 25 following publication in April’s Nature (pub. April 2)

On February 28, 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick made a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough by determining the double helix structure of DNA. This discovery took place at the University of Cambridge, England, and was the culmination of work by many scientists, including Rosalind Franklin, whose X-ray diffraction images of DNA were critical to Watson and Crick’s model.

Understanding the structure of DNA was a pivotal moment in biology and genetics, as it provided the key to understanding how genetic information is stored, replicated, and transmitted in living organisms.

The discovery has had profound implications for numerous fields, including medicine, forensics, and biotechnology, and laid the foundation for the modern era of genetic research, including the Human Genome Project.

1972 – President Richard Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai sign the Shanghai Communiqué, agreeing to work towards the normalization of relations between the United States and China

During President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1972, the United States and China issued the Shanghai Communiqué, a diplomatic statement that marked a significant step toward normalizing relations between the two countries.

This communiqué outlined the shared interests of the US and China and their intention to work towards reducing the risk of international conflict. It acknowledged the major issue of Taiwan, with the United States recognizing the “One China” principle but also expressing the hope that the Taiwan question would be resolved peacefully.

The Shanghai Communiqué was a cornerstone in thawing the Cold War-era tensions and led to increased economic and cultural exchanges between the US and China, altering the strategic balance of the Cold War.

1986 – Olof Palme, prime minister of Sweden, is assassinated in Stockholm

Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden, was assassinated on February 28, 1986, while walking home from a movie theater in Stockholm with his wife.

Palme was a prominent figure in Swedish and international politics, known for his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War, his support for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and his efforts towards nuclear disarmament. His murder shocked Sweden and the world, leading to a massive investigation that has gone through numerous twists and turns over the years.

Despite various theories and suspects, the case remained unsolved for decades, casting a long shadow over Swedish society and its sense of security. In recent years, there have been significant developments in the investigation, but the case has deeply influenced Swedish politics and the country’s view on safety and openness.

1991 – The first Gulf War ends with the liberation of Kuwait and the retreat of Iraqi forces

The first Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, concluded on February 28, 1991, with the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The conflict began in August 1990 when Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait, leading to widespread condemnation and the formation of a coalition force led by the United States.

After a series of aerial and ground attacks, coalition forces quickly drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, restoring its sovereignty. The war was notable for its extensive use of precision-guided munitions and was one of the first conflicts to be covered extensively on live television.

The end of the Gulf War marked a significant moment in post-Cold War international relations and had lasting impacts on the Middle East, including ongoing military presence and subsequent conflicts in the region.

1993 – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempts to raid the ranch of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, leading to a 51-day siege

The Waco Siege began on February 28, 1993, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) attempted to raid the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco, Texas, leading to a deadly shootout. The Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh, were suspected of weapons violations.

The ATF’s failed raid resulted in the deaths of four agents and six Branch Davidians, leading to a 51-day siege by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The standoff ended tragically on April 19, 1993, when the compound caught fire under controversial circumstances, leading to the deaths of 76 people inside, including Koresh.

The Waco Siege became a symbol of government overreach for some and a cautionary tale about the dangers of religious extremism and militarization of law enforcement for others. It has had a profound impact on American culture, law enforcement tactics, and anti-government movements.

1997 – In North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, two heavily armed bank robbers battle with officers from the Los Angeles Police Department

The North Hollywood shootout was a confrontation between two heavily armed bank robbers, Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu, and officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, on February 28, 1997.

The robbers were wearing body armor and armed with fully automatic rifles. After a failed bank robbery, they engaged in a shootout with responding officers, which was broadcast live on television.

The intense battle lasted for 44 minutes, wounding 12 police officers and eight civilians. Both robbers were eventually killed. The shootout led to significant changes in law enforcement tactics and policies, including the arming of police officers with more powerful weapons and the formation of patrol rifle programs.

1998 – Kosovo War: Serbian police begin the offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo

In the early stages of the Kosovo War, Serbian police forces launched an offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo, an autonomous province of Serbia in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The conflict escalated from a Kosovo-Albanian campaign for independence from Serbia, growing into a wider war in the late 1990s.

The offensive on February 28 was part of a series of clashes that intensified throughout 1998, leading to a humanitarian crisis and the displacement of thousands of Kosovo Albanian civilians. The situation eventually prompted NATO intervention in 1999, culminating in a 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

The war concluded with the Kumanovo Treaty, leading to the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and the establishment of a United Nations-led interim administration in the province.

2004 – Over one million Taiwanese participating in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally form a 500-kilometer-long human chain to commemorate the February 28 Incident in 1947

The 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally was a peaceful political demonstration in Taiwan on February 28, 2004, commemorating the 228 Incident of 1947 and advocating for peace across the Taiwan Strait.

Approximately one million Taiwanese people joined hands to form a human chain stretching 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) from the northern tip of Taiwan to the southernmost point.

This rally was organized by the Pan-Green Coalition, primarily the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to express opposition to China’s missile threats and advocate for Taiwan’s peaceful and democratic future. The event highlighted the island’s ongoing struggle for international recognition and the complexities of Taiwan-China relations.

2013 – Pope Benedict XVI resigns as the pope of the Catholic Church, becoming the first pope to do so since Gregory XII in 1415

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11, 2013, becoming the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. His resignation officially took effect on February 28, 2013.

Citing advanced age and deteriorating strength, both physically and mentally, as the reasons for his decision, Benedict’s resignation was a historic moment for the Catholic Church. It sparked widespread discussion about the demands of the papacy and the possibility of future popes resigning due to age or health issues.

Benedict’s resignation led to the conclave that elected Pope Francis as his successor, marking a significant transition in the leadership of the Catholic Church and highlighting themes of humility and renewal within the papacy.