The Purple Heart (1944)

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It’s true we Americans don’t know very much about you Japanese, and never did. And now I realise you know even less about us. You can kill us, all of us, or part of us, but if you think that will put fear into the United States of America and stop them from sending other flyers to bomb you, you’re wrong, dead wrong. They’ll come by night and by day, thousands of them. They’ll blacken your skies and burn your cities and make you beg for mercy. This is your war. You wanted it. You asked for it. You started it. Now you’re going to get it. And it won’t be finished until your dirty little empire is wiped off the face of the earth.

Dana Andrews as Captain Harvey Ross, speech before sentence, Purple Heart (1944)

Released on March 8, 1944, the film The Purple Heart (1944) is a dramatization of the show trial the Japanese held of the captured Doolittle raiders.  Eight of the raiders were captured.  Of the captured raiders, three were executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942 following the show trial.  They were the first of approximately 132 American airmen executed after capture by the Japanese government.  Contrary to the film, the details were not released by the Japanese, the three condemned raiders were not tried in a civilian court but by a drumhead courtmartial consisting of Japanese officers.  The men executed were First Lieutenant William G. Farrow, Sergeant Harold A. Spatz and First Lieutenant Dean E. Hallmark.

The remaining five POWs were placed on starvation rations, with one of them dying prior to liberation by the Allied forces at the end of the War.  Jacob DeShazer, one of the POWs, came back to Japan as a missionary in 1948 and worked there for 30 years spreading the Gospel.

The film is strangely prophetic in regard to the bombing campaign that would bring the Japanese Empire to its knees.  Until 1945 the bombing campaign against Japan had been ineffective, due to lack of air bases close to Japan and the scattered nature of Japanese industry in Japanese cities throughout residential areas.   Precision daylight bombing as performed by the US Army Air Corps in the European Theater was useless under those conditions. After General Curtis E. Lemay was appointed commander of the XX Bomber Command in the Marianas in January 1945 that all changed.  Lemay hit upon the idea of stripping all superfluous equipment, including machine guns, off his B-29s, packing them with incendiary bombs, topping off the gas tanks in midair after take off, and having them fly so high that the Japanese could not intercept them,  He then conducted massive incendiary raids on Japanese cities which, by the end of war, killed around half a million Japanese civilians and left five million homeless.  Some 40% of Japanese urban areas in 66 cities went up in flames, along with most Japanese war industry.  Lemay intended to destroy every Japanese urban center, and he would have if the War had not ended swiftly after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, August 9, 1945.

 

“Don’t let this get you down. Just remember God will make everything right and that I’ll see you all again in the hereafter. . . . Read “Thanatopsis” by Bryant if you want to know how I am taking this. My faith in God is complete, so I am unafraid.”

From a letter by First Lieutenant William G. Farrow to his mother.

 

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4 Comments

  1. “We, the people” are the constitutional Posterity of George Washington and all of our Founding Fathers who inscribed our Founding Principles. “We, the people” are all future generations who share our Founding Principles and belong to George Washington’s constitutional Posterity.
    It is fitting that the image of George Washington is portrayed on the Purple Heart for he is still our leader in the fight for Freedom and Justice
    Disciplined barbarians who coveted Hawaii from the beginning as a stepping stone to world domination, the Japanese were to be stopped; had to be stopped.
    Patriots are sovereign persons who sacrifice to safeguard and protect Truth, Justice and Freedom for themselves and for the whole world. May God bless and keep them. Rest in peace.

  2. It has been my understanding that, for the most part, that precision bombing in Word War II was more of a myth than a reality in real world combat conditions. The Navy had to give up using the Norden bombsight and switch to dive bombing. According to the Wikipedia article on the Norden bombsight
    *
    URL:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norden_bombsight
    *
    the circular error probable in 1945 was 900 feet. The article said that a 500 pound bomb had a lethal radius of 60 to 90 feet.
    *
    According to an Air Force magazine article titled “Daylight Precision Bombing”
    *
    URL: http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/October%202008/1008daylight.aspx
    *
    the Hiroshima a-bomb fell 800 feet from the aiming point, and the Nagasaki a-bomb fell 1,500 feet from the aiming point. The article stated that the jet stream over Japan was a problem for high altitude bombing missions. The article also stated that it wasn’t until the Gulf War that bombing truly attained pickle barrel levels of accuracy.

  3. It has been my understanding that, for the most part, that precision bombing in Word War II was more of a myth than a reality in real world combat conditions.

    Pretty much. Remarkable accuracy could be achieved by some bomber crews under the right conditions, but accuracy was more of an art than a science with WWII tech.

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