1943: David Cobb, the first U.S. serviceman hanged in World War II Britain

David Cobb, Private, Company C, 827th Engineer Battalion (Aviation), on March 12, 1943 achieved the milestone distinction of becoming the first U.S. soldier executed in Great Britain.

On December 27, 1942 — a mere 11 days after arriving in Britain — Cobb was ordered by a Lt. Robert Cobner to surrender his weapon when the private popped off to him during a routine inspection. Instead, Cobb shot Cobner dead.

He was hanged by the British executioner Thomas Pierrepoint at Shepton Mallet prison — a fortress dating to 1610 and still in use to the present day. The U.S. Army employed part of the prison during World War II to carry out 18 military executions; over half of these men were, like Cobb, black.

4 thoughts on “1943: David Cobb, the first U.S. serviceman hanged in World War II Britain”

  1. Once the war ended, my father found himself on the island of Guam, and I remember him telling me that despite the fact that the marines still had their hands full routing out Japanese soldiers still running around the large island shooting at Americans, some rear echelon folks had time to rape women, and two were hanged for it while my dad was there.

    He also told me that one Saturday while he was taking a nap in his bunk in an otherwise empty Quonset hut, he was awakened by someone almost violently shaking him, and when he opened his eyes, an MP was point a .45 caliber pistol in his face, saying to the woman :Is this the guy?!” Apparently, the woman in question, who was obviously distraught, had just been raped and she stated she saw the man run into the area where the Quonset huts were located. When she told the MP it wasn’t him, the guy lowered the pistol and walked out the door with the victim following close behind him.

    I have often thought that, had she “identified” my father being the one who attacked her, he likely would have been hanged. To survive the Second World War, only to be hanged for something you didn’t do, would be a terrible thing indeed.

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