It's been 75 years since America showed what it is really made of during one of it's darkest hours. It was 1942. The Japs kicked our ass at Pearl Harbor and then proceeded to run roughshod over the Pacific. Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle came up with the idea to attack Japan with B-25's launched from the deck of an aircraft carrier. A suicide mission that might actually be crazy enough to work. The rest is history. The Japs couldn't believe that we dared to bomb their homeland. It boosted morale at home and showed the Japs there was going to be a fight after all. It nudged them into attacking Midway and the rest is history, as they say. What is often forgotten is the brutality suffered by the captured pilots and those who helped the others escape in China.
Historynet.com tells the gruesome story:
Those fliers who had evaded capture began their trek to Chungking. Chinese country folk were startled, day by day, as Caucasian men wearing brown leather jackets and torn trousers materialized on rocky landscapes or on the outskirts of villages. Peasants, woodcutters, and farmers looked at the alien beings with curiosity and fear. Many had never before seen an American.
The fliers viewed the local populace with similar trepidation. There being no clear battle lines, they worried that they were walking into the hands of the Japanese.
The Americans were walking wounded: men with wrenched backs, cracked ribs, burned legs, and bloodied noses. Haggard and mud-spattered, they sought the help of those who gathered to stare at them.
Guerrillas led the aviators from one settlement to another. Missionaries gave them refuge. ‘Along the way,’ said Travis Hoover, ‘a Chinese aeronautical engineering student named Tung-sheng Liu showed up. He was on the run from the Japanese. He spoke English. He became our guide and interpreter–and saved our lives.’
Whole towns turned out to see the visitors. ‘I walked through villages, heading west,’ recalls Frank Kappeler. ‘Friendly Chinese followed me. Before long, my caravan was two hundred strong. I felt like Lawrence of Arabia.’
The fliers made their various ways into the heartland–by foot, riding shaggy ponies, and on river boats, charcoal-burning trucks, rickshas, and even sedan chairs borne by field workers. During a three-week period, groups of Raiders finally straggled into Chungking and journey’s end. There grateful Chinese leaders bestowed decorations upon them.
Newspaper headlines of the raid electrified America. New York Times: ‘japan reports tokyo, yokohama bombed by ‘enemy planes’ in daylight.’ Columbus Evening Dispatch: ‘u.s. warplanes rain bombs on leading cities of jap empire.’ New York Daily News: ‘u.s. bombs hit 4 jap cities.’...
Enraged Japanese military leaders took out their wrath for the raid on the people of East China. More than six hundred air raids on towns and villages signaled the start of the retribution.
The Japanese made it a point to burn to the ground those villages through which the airmen had passed. ‘They killed my three sons,’ related one aged Chinese man. ‘They killed my wife. They drowned my grandchildren in the well.’ Catching a villager who had sheltered an American pilot, Japanese soldiers wrapped him in a kerosene-soaked blanket, then forced his wife to set it afire.
One hundred thousand Japanese troops shot, bayoneted, raped, drowned, and beheaded Chinese civilians and soldiers in numbers estimated in the tens of thousands. It was their way of warning the Chinese against helping American fliers in the future.
The epilogue to the Tokyo Raid was bitter. The Japanese held Barr, DeShazer, Farrow, Hallmark, Hite, Meder, Nielsen, and Spatz. They would make them pay, man by man....
The interrogators struck the prisoners. They shouted the same questions at them again and again: ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘Are you Army soldiers?’ ‘Why were you in China?’
‘I would give name, rank, and serial number,’ recalls Nielsen. ‘They would hit me. I would say, ‘Lieutenant Chase J. Nielsen, 0-419938.’ They would hit me.’
The Japanese interrogators stretched Hallmark on a rack. They put bamboo poles behind Hite’s knees, forced him to squat, and then jumped up and down on his thighs. They suspended Nielsen by handcuffs from a peg on a wall, so that his toes barely touched the floor.
The captors bound wet towels over the mouths and noses of the eight fliers, nearly suffocating them. They placed pencils between their fingers, then crushed their fingers together. The soldiers stretched the men out on the floor, forced them to swallow water, then jumped on their stomachs. As many as five guards worked over each prisoner at a time.
The torture continued for more than three weeks. Resisting, the fliers told the interrogators their planes had come from a Pacific island. From China. From the Aleutian Islands. ‘I was blindfolded,’ recalls DeShazer. ‘They hit me. They asked, ‘How do you pronounce the letters h-o-r-n-e-t?’ ‘Who is Doolittle?’ ‘How long is the deck of an aircraft carrier?’ They hit me again.’
Then, one day the soldiers brought in maps and charts obtained from the wreckage of a B-25. They had tortured the men in order to corroborate what they had known all along: the B-25s had taken off from the USS Hornet.
Bloodied and bowed, the prisoners at last told of the raid. On May 22, the fliers were given documents written in Japanese. These were confessions of war crimes against civilians. Each man was seated at a table and told to sign–or be executed on the spot. Incapable of further resistance, the prisoners signed the false confessions.
On June 19, 1942 the battered Americans were transferred to a prison in Shanghai. ‘We were bitten by bugs, rats, and lice,’ remembers Hite. ‘Our faces and hands swelled from the bites. The toilet facility was a bucket.’
Urine and excrement covered much of the floor. Hallmark lay in a corner, stricken by dysentery. His fellow prisoners dragged him to the bucket as often as every fifteen minutes. After a time, they became too weak to help him.
The men had not washed, shaved, or changed clothes since their last day aboard the Hornet. They were forced to sit cross-legged. If a guard saw a prisoner shift position, he poked him with a pole.
On August 28, the Americans were taken into a small courtroom, where they underwent a mock trial before five Japanese officers. Hallmark lay on a stretcher. Barr was too weak to stand.
The ‘trial’ lasted twenty minutes. The judge read the verdict. The prisoners asked him what their sentences were. The interpreter would not tell them. Unknown to the fliers, all had been condemned to death.
On October 14, Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz were taken into a room, one by one, and told that they were to be executed the next day. The officer said they could write letters to their families.
Twenty-three-year-old Bill Farrow wrote, in part, to his mother in Darlington, South Carolina: ‘Just remember that God will make everything right and that I will see you again in the hereafter.’
To his father and mother in Robert Lee, Texas, Dean Hallmark said: ‘Try to stand up under this and pray. I don’t know how to end this letter except by sending you all my love.’
Twenty-one-year-old Harold Spatz wrote to his father in Lebo, Kansas: ‘I want you to know that I died fighting like a soldier. My clothes are all I have of any value. I give them to you. And Dad, I want you to know I love you. May God bless you.’
After the war the letters were found in Japanese military files. The prison officials had never sent them.
On October 15, 1942, a black limousine entered the First Cemetery grounds outside of Shanghai. Farrow, Hallmark, and Spatz were brought out. Prison guards marched the men to three small wooden crosses situated twenty feet apart. The three Americans were made to kneel with their backs against the crosses. Guards removed the handcuffs and tied the prisoners’ wrists to the cross-pieces. They wrapped the upper portions of the men’s faces with white cloth, marking black ‘X’s just above the noses. A six-man firing squad took positions twenty feet in front of the Americans. At the count, they pulled the triggers. There was no need to fire a second time.
The next day, the five other Americans–DeShazer, Hite, Meder, Nielsen, and Barr–were led into the courtroom. The presiding officer read a long statement. They had been found guilty of bombing schools and hospitals and machine-gunning civilians, but the emperor had commuted their death sentences to life in prison.
Four days after the execution of Farrow, Hallmark, and Spatz, Japanese English-language broadcasts reported that ‘cruel, inhuman, and beastlike American pilots’ had been’severely punished.’ The reports noted the names of the three men, but did not say what their punishment had been.....
The captors told their captives that Japan was winning the war. The fliers would die in a Japanese prison. If, somehow, America won the war, they were to be beheaded..... Rest of article.