Executions of Allied Flyers In Wartime Japan

Sandra Wilson

1Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

The executions of captured Allied air crew who had crash landed in Japan constituted a distinct category among war crimes committed by Japanese military personnel in the Second World War. During the intense bombing of the Japanese main islands in the last year of the conflict, over 700 Allied planes, mostly B29 bombers, crashed in Japan. Official U.S. sources identified about 450 survivors, who were then taken prisoner. Captured airmen brought the enemy directly to the Japanese people for the first time. They were captured in non-battle zones and were often highly visible to Japanese civilians; they were sometimes captured by civilians or civil police. The fate of the prisoners was closely connected with the endgame of the Pacific conflict. Some were court-martialled by Japanese authorities and then executed but others were summarily executed, in a context in which air raids were a constant occurrence, an Allied invasion was expected in the near future, and transport and communication were disrupted. Fed by press and military insistence on the idea that the air crew were war criminals who had engaged in indiscriminate bombing, Japanese public opinion was extremely hostile to the air crew.


Sandra Wilson is Academic Chair of History at Murdoch University and is a specialist on modern Japan. She has written widely on Japanese nationalism and, with Cribb, Trefalt and Aszkielowicz, is the author of the book Japanese War Criminals (2017).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd