Interesting article from the BBC about the German spies executed at the Tower of London during World War One.
Check out the audio link too for a step by step account of the dreadful deed
US World War II Private Eddie Slovik became the only deserter out of 21,000 soldiers to be executed.
General Eisenhower is said to have given the go-ahead so his death could be used as an example to others.
Previously while training, Slovik had asked to be transferred to a non-combat post. But he had been refused, because they needed men on the frontline.
‘I am so unlucky’ he shrewdly wrote to his wife in 1944, before he’d even been posted anywhere. And how right he was. Of the 21,000 soldiers who were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, 49 received the death penalty. But only Edward Donald Slovik actually came face to face with the firing squad, as he became the only US soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War, which ended in 1865.
He was shot on this day in 1945, and to make matters worse his poor wife had absolutely no idea.
To find out more about this fascinating case check out William Bradford Huie’s book, The Execution of Private Slovik.
Polish right-winger Eligiusz Niewiadomski was executed in 1923 for assassinating Poland’s first President.
He was sentenced to death for shooting Gabriel Narutowicz at an art exhibition in Warsaw.
Known for his modernist paintings, art critic Niewiadomski was a member of the right-wing National Democratic Party in the early 1900s. But he became disaffected after they lost the first election.
Poland was a young nation and went on to elect its first President in the shape of Narutowicz. Indeed he was inaugurated on 16 December 1922. But a mere five days later, he was dead.
Niewiadomski was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by a firing squad. His execution took place at the Citadel in Warsaw and he was buried at the city’s Powązki Cemetery.
Firing squads ceased to be offered as a death penalty method following John Albert Taylor’s execution in Utah in 1996.
Taylor was executed by firing squad in Utah on 26 January 1996 in an alleged sensational bid to embarrass the largely Mormon political population. A commentator at the time said ‘he wanted to cause more trouble for the state’.
Taylor purported that he didn’t want the lethal injection because he didn’t want to flap around ‘like a dying fish’, but many believe it is because he was making a point.
You see, the Mormons were desperately trying to phase out firing squads as a method of ‘blood atonement’, ie, a death for a death. It was felt that the execution method was anachronistic – it no longer seemed fitting in the modern day.
Similarly, Utah was keen to stop offering death by firing squad, because it enabled murderers to exit in a blaze of glory.
Cue, paedophile Taylor, who was convicted of the 1988 rape of 11-year-old Charla King who he then strangled to death. His own fingerprints were found on the cord wound tight around the child’s neck, linking him unequivocally to the murder. And in turn, the murder led to his death penalty.
Five rifles were used to put Taylor the death and, according to the ‘New York Times’, the shooters apparently took aim at a white circle on his blue jumpsuit, which helped them target his heart.
The execution took place within the confines of the Utah-based prison, but not without controversy. The 36-year-old is currently the last person to have been executed in the United States by firing squad, and the penalty only remains legal in Idaho and Oklahoma.
Three First World War soldiers were posthumously pardoned 90 years on, after they’d been executed for so-called cowardice in 1917.
Around 300-plus soldiers were shot for cowardice during the World War I. But it was these three young servicemen, in particular, who were to represent those ranks who were branded deserters.
For years the families of those men were ashamed to even mention their ancestors – why? Because threre was a stigma attached to having a so-called war coward in the family. And so they were all but erradicated from the families’ history. But their army lives were far from shameful, as younger relatives were to find out.
Lance Corporal Peter Goggins and Sergeant Joseph “Will” Stones, both County Durham men, plus Corporal John McDonald from Sunderland, were done for deserting their posts. In actual fact, they were told to retreat 20 yards to a reserve trench, when they came under heavy artillery fire.
The most heart-rending story was that of Stones (pictured), who had actually earned three awards for bravery during his three years’ service. He was done for slinging his gun away when he’d actually thrown it at Germans as they rushed him. He then legged it to warn the rest of his troops on the instruction of his officer, who was wounded. But his actions backfired when he was branded a coward instead.
The irony is that these soldiers survived the hostile enemy attacks only to be shot by their fellow men for retreating. They were court martialled and found guilty. The soldiers were then put in chains, blindfolded and tied to stakes, where they were shot at dawn.
Just under 90 years on, after tireless campaigning from newer members of the family, these three men plus others were reprieved and granted pardons posthumously. Their names now take pride of place alongside other men’s names who died for their country.
‘Let’s do it’, said Gary Mark Gilmore as he faced his firing squad on this day in 1977.
The American murderer was sentenced to death for killing a Utah motel manager Bennie Bushnell in 1976.
Gilmore had the choice of hanging or being shot and he chose the latter.
As is the rule in Utah, and so no one would carry the can for Gilmore’s death, one of the five-man firing squad had a gun loaded with blanks in a grim take on Russian roulette. Within a year of the death penalty having been made legal again, he became the first person to executed.
Despite having a body riddled with bullets, Thai prisoner Ginggaew had to be executed twice to finish off the job.
A maid and a nanny, Ginggaew had to be executed by firing squad twice for her part in the kidnap and stabbing of her employers’ son in Thailand.
In a dispute over pay, Ginggaew’s boyfriend came up with the plan to kidnap the son and hold him to ransom. But the plot failed.
Incensed, the six-strong gang turned on the boy and stabbed him to death, despite Ginggaew’s protestations.
Three of the members got the death penalty, including Ginggaew, who hadn’t actually killed anyone. She was hauled up in front of a firing squad and guns containing 10 bullets were emptied into her. Seemingly dead they dragged her bloodied corpse out to the morgue and quickly moved on to the next execution.
It was only then that they noticed Ginggaew trying to lift her stricken body off the morgue slab. Said one of the executioners present, ‘The escorts rushed back into the room. One of them turned her over and put pressure on her chest to make the blood gush out faster. Another tried to strangle her. But…it was wrong of them to kill her in this manner.’ So they stopped and only once they’d executed the next victim did they bring her back in and do the job again, this time with 15 bullets.