1920: Frank Campione, “are they really going to hang me?” 1975: The Balibo Five, before the invasion of East Timor

1942: Three Doolittle raiders

October 15th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1942, three captured American airmen who had bombed Japan in the Doolittle Raid were shot in Tokyo.

The Doolittle Raid — named for its commander, Jimmy Doolittle — was America’s April 1942 retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor a few months before.

The mission: bomb the Japanese homeland.

Later in the war, American advances in the Pacific would enable the Yankee to do this regularly. In 1942, it was all but a suicide mission.

The plan involved launching 16 B-25s from an aircraft carrier — an unprecedented feat in itself — to fly light with arms and heavy with fuel to just make it 400 miles to Honshu, and with any luck on to China before the tanks ran dry.

Considering that the bombers had to launch in a panic when the carrier group was spotted a couple hundred miles too early, the raid’s success was downright miraculous: all 16 bombers made it on to (or near enough) the mainland without being shot down, where the crews bailed out and, for the most part, escaped to allied forces. Jimmy Doolittle would title his autobiography I Could Never Be So Lucky Again.

But not all were quite as lucky as Lt. Col. (later, General) Doolittle.

Farrow (left) and Hallmark. Spatz was a member of Farrow’s crew, and is pictured center in that plane’s crew shot here.

Two (out of eighty) drowned when their ride was ditched in the drink. Eight others were captured by the Japanese.

Four of those eight captives would survive the war to tell the tale. A fifth died in captivity. And the other three — pilots William Farrow and Dean Edward Hallmark, and (for somewhat unclear reasons) gunner Harold Spatz — were shot this day in a Shanghai cemetery following a sketchy military trial which condemned them for hitting civilian targets.

Designed largely for its psychological effect, the morale-boosting Doolittle raid has attracted interest from countless other sources who treat it in greater depth. DoolittleRaid.com and DoolittleRaider.com both provide detailed online information about the raid.

For more traditional media, one could do worse than bomber pilot Ted Lawson’s book, and its subsequent propaganda film adaptation, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,Shot,Soldiers,Torture,USA,War Crimes,Wartime Executions

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3 thoughts on “1942: Three Doolittle raiders”

  1. Bryan Moon says:

    For additional resources on the Doolittle Raid, please visit
    http://www.DoolittleArtifacts.com
    Very nice summary of the Doolittle Raid.

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