1931: Xiang Zhongfa, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party

Add comment June 24th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1931, Chiang Kai-shek had the former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party executed.

Xiang Zhongfa was a dock worker unionist from Hanchuan who came to the fore of the workers’ movement within the CCP during the 1920s.

The Party at that time was united in a common front with the nationalist Kuomintang — an alliance that was destroyed suddenly in April 1927 when the KMT leader Chiang suddenly purged the Communists. This split precipitated the generation-long Chinese Civil War through which the Communists would eventually come to master China.

Soviet sponsorship had been essential to the CCP’s early growth. In the months after the KMT arrangement went by the boards, Chinese Communist leaders were summoned by the Comintern to Moscow where Xiang made a good impression on a hodgepodge Sixth Congress held “in the absence of key Party figures, such as Mao, Peng Pai and Li Weihan; and packed with Chinese students from Soviet universities to make up the delegate count.” (Phillip Short) Though he wound up the titular General Secretary, party leadership at the top level remained in the hands of other men, like Zhou Enlai and Qu Qiubai … while effective leadership in the field was largely in the hands of unit commanders themselves, like Mao.

A rocky early trail along the party’s long march to leadership of China and beyond … but Xiang was not made to enjoy it. During the war, he was arrested in Shanghai by the nationalists, interrogated, and delivered to the KMT’s executioners in the early hours of June 24. Orthodox party historiography holds him in disgrace for allegedly betraying the cause to his captors, speedily and cravenly (his Wikipedia entry reflects this); there are historians who dispute this belief, however.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,No Formal Charge,Politicians,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Torture,Wartime Executions

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

1932: Yoon Bong-Gil, nationalist assassin

Add comment December 19th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1932, the Japanese shot Korean Yoon (or Yun) Bong-Gil for bombing a parade dais in Shanghai.

A parade to celebrate the emperor’s birthday may be standard enough fare on the home front, but in a China being swallowed by said emperor’s empire it was a provocative act.

In the first months of 1932, Japan had merrily exploited — or incited — anti-Japanese incidents in Shanghai as pretext for an imperialist mini-war, won handily by Japan.

When the aggressors presented their celebratory pageant of arms in the city’s Hongkou Park (today, Lu Xun Park), our young Korean terrorist* “threw a narrow tin box high in the air. In an ear-splitting roar, the grandstand flew apart like a mechanical toy.” (Time magazine, excerpted in this useful Axis History Forum thread.) All seven of the Japanese VIPs on the dais were casualties, and two of them died: one instantly and another succumbing to his injuries a month later.

“A young Korean patriot has accomplished something tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers could not do,” remarked an admiring Chiang Kai-shek. Coming just months after another Korean activist had taken a whack at Hirohito in Tokyo, the generalissimo couldn’t help but appreciate his brothers in resisting colonization.

For this accomplishment Chiang would later go to bat for postwar Korean independence. But for his part, the patriotic Yoon got only a free trip to Japan for military trial and execution.

When calling in Seoul, drop by a well-appointed memorial hall dedicated to Yoon’s memory … or, at the national cemetery where Yoon’s remains were repatriated in 1946.

You’ll find another subtle memorial to this incident in pictures from the decks of the USS Missouri, where a Japanese delegation surrendered to end World War II on September 2, 1945. Leading the delegation is a distinguished gentleman with a top hat and a cane: it is Mamoru Shigemitsu, walking with an artificial leg thanks to Yoon Bong-Gil’s bomb 13 years before.**


Mamoru Shigemitsu aboard the USS Missouri.

* Note: calling Yoon Bong-Gil a “terrorist” is controversial in Korea. We use the word without moral censure.

** Mamoru Shigemitsu had been Japan’s ambassador to China at the time of the assassination bid.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,China,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Japan,Korea,Martyrs,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Separatists,Shot,Terrorists

Tags: , , , , , ,

1942: Three Doolittle raiders

3 comments 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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

1968: Lin Zhao, martyr poet

8 comments April 29th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1968, a “rightist” student whose critique of the Cultural Revolution was not blunted by the rigors of imprisonment was informed that her jail sentence had been changed to execution — which was immediately imposed at Shanghai’s Longhua Airport.

Utterly obscure at her death, Lin Zhao’s memory was tended by those closest to her, passed down like samizdat to latterly emerge out of Mao’s shadow.

An impassioned young intellectual at Peking University and a dedicated Communist with an irrepressible sense of justice, Lin Zhao once called Mao the “red star in my heart” and actually supervised the execution of a landlord during the country’s land reform push in the early 1950s.

But she also refused to temper or retract her criticisms of China’s path when the government abruptly reversed its brief flirtation with pluralism.

In 1960, after circulating a petition for fallen Communist (but not orthodox Maoist) Marshal Peng Dehuai, Lin was arrested, and eventually sentenced to a 20-year term.

It is here that the judicious person discovers the error of her ways, and accepts such terms as she can make for herself.

Not Lin Zhao.

Lin kept writing. Poetry, political manifestos, letters to the newspaper — hundreds of thousands of “reactionary” words. When they took away her ink, she opened her veins and wrote in blood.

By the end, official maltreatment and Lin’s own hunger strikes had wasted her away to less than 70 pounds. She was literally plucked from her prison hospital bed on this date by soldiers who drug her (gagged) to a show trial and execution. But like Marshal Peng, she never bent.

“Better to be destroyed,” she told her doctor, “than give up one’s principles.” (He’s quoted in Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China.)

Somehow, many of her hematic scribblings (saved by the prison, for possible use against her down the road) were smuggled out to her loved ones.* Somehow, they made their way to filmmaker Hu Jie, who put Lin Zhao back on the cultural map with the banned but well-received 2004 documentary Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul (or In Search of Lin Zhao’s Soul).

This movie can actually be seen in its entirety in 10-minute installments on YouTube as of this writing.

Lin Zhao was posthumously exonerated by a Shanghai court in 1981. Despite Hu Jie’s efforts, she is still little known in her country, or abroad.

Phosphorescent green light never goes out
And lighting up souls every night
Preserving the soul
Letting go the crippled body
Burning into ashes in misfortune
Someday with a red flower on the head
Recognizing the blood stains
Just as copying a bright red flower
Impossible to paint the real color

One of Lin Zhao’s poems, inscribed on her tomb

* Stanford’s Hoover Institution also holds a collection of Lin Zhao papers.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,Executioners,History,Intellectuals,Martyrs,Posthumous Exonerations,Power,Shot,Women,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1947: Ding Mocun, not as hot a lay in real life

Add comment July 5th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1947, Ding Mocun was shot for “conspiring with a foreign government to overthrow China” in Shanghai by the Kuomintang.

This former Communist turned right-wing radical may be most readily recognizable outside China as the real-life inspiration behind Ang Lee’s steamy 2007 art-house menace to undergarments Lust, Caution.

Based on a story by Eileen Chang (or Zhang Ailing), Lust, Caution fictionalizes Mocun’s real-life escape from an attempted assassination in 1939.

That incident was authored by Ding’s young plaything, who turned out to have a very serious side indeed. (Ding had her shot.)

While the attempt on the turncoat spy’s life really happened, there’s some dispute over whether Chang really had this particular woman strongly in mind over the twenty-plus years she composed her story. There’s more about the evolution of the fictional story here, but you’ll need Chinese skills to follow the links to Chang’s evolving text.

At any rate, Ding’s actual death would come by order of a more august character: Chiang Kai-shek.

Why so many people out to get him?

Despite his nationalist credentials, when Ding lost a party struggle in 1938, he found a gig with the collaborationist government of Japanese-occupied China running a nasty intelligence unit that made nationalists and Communists disappear. That’s the sort of resume anyone would be touching up come the mid-1940’s, and Ding went with a revision (not widely credited, though it has its advocates) that he was secretly passing information to the nationalist resistance all along. And as the nationalists and Communists turned on one another in the postwar power vacuum, it looked like his usefulness to the Kuomintang might get him off the hook after all.

It worked for a while, but Chiang — or so goes the story — caught a tabloid expose about Ding catching R&R at a lake when he’d used a medical pass to get out of prison, and impulsively ordered him shot.

Perhaps Ding’s status as official evildoer vis-a-vis a China whose messy birth many are old enough to remember helps account for the resonance of literary works that engage him as a human being. In a nonfiction vein, Konrad Lawson’s layered critique of the pro-Ding apologia linked above thoughtfully evokes the complexity of Ding’s era and the challenges it poses for historiography.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Treason

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Calendar

March 2019
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Archives

Categories

Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!