U.S. Army Air Force Lt. Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, is led from a Japanese transport plane after he and the other seven flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo. Hite was co-pilot of crew 16 (B-25B s/n 40-2268 Bat out of Hell, 34th Bomb Squadron) of the "Doolittle Raiders". After about 45 days in Japan, all eight were taken back to China by ship and imprisoned in Shanghai. On 15 October 1942 three were executed, one died in captivity. The four others, including Hite, were liberated on 20 August 1945.

Many Allied airmen captured by the Japanese on land or at sea were executed in accordance with official Japanese policy. During the Battle of Midway in June, 1942, three American airmen who were shot down and landed at sea were spotted and captured by Japanese warships. After brief interrogations, two airmen were killed, their bodies then tied to five-gallon kerosene cans filled with water and dumped overboard from destroyer Makigumo; the third was killed and his body dumped overboard from Arashi.

On August 13, 1942, Japan passed the Enemy Airmen's Act, which stated that Allied pilots who bombed non-military targets in the Pacific Theater and were captured on land or at sea by Japanese forces were subject to trial and punishment despite the absence of any international law containing provisions regarding aerial warfare. This legislation was passed in response to the Doolittle Raid, which occurred on April 18, 1942, in which American B-25 bombers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities. According to the Hague Convention of 1907 (the only convention which Japan had ratified regarding the treatment of prisoners of war), any military personnel captured on land or at sea by enemy troops were to be treated as prisoners of war and not punished for simply being lawful combatants. Eight Doolittle Raiders captured upon landing in China (and unaware of the existence of the Enemy Airmen's Act) were the first Allied pilots to be brought before a kangaroo court in Shanghai under the act, charged with alleged (but unproven) strafing of Japanese civilians during the Doolittle Raid. The eight pilots were forbidden to give any defense and, despite the lack of legitimate evidences, were found guilty of participating in aerial military operations against Japan. Five pilots' sentences were commuted to life imprisonment; the other three were taken to a cemetery outside Shanghai, where they were executed by firing squad on October 14, 1942.

The Enemy Airmen's Act contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Allied airmen throughout the Pacific War. An estimated 132 Allied airmen shot down during the bombing campaign against Japan in 1944–1945 were summarily executed after short kangaroo trials ordrumhead courts-martial. Imperial Japanese military personnel deliberately killed 33 American airmen at Fukuoka, including fifteen who were beheaded shortly after the Japanese Government's intention to surrender was announced on August 15, 1945. Mobs of civilians also killed several Allied airmen before the Japanese military arrived to take the airmen into custody. Another 94 airmen died from other causes while in Japanese custody, including 52 who were killed when they were deliberately abandoned in a prison during the bombing of Tokyo on May 24–25, 1945.



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