Today in 1948 at Tokyo, Japan, Hideki Tojo was executed along with six other top Japanese leaders for their war crimes during World War II. Seven defendants were also found guilty of committing crimes against humanity, especially in regard to their systematic genocide of the Chinese people.
On November 12, death sentences were imposed on Tojo and the six other principals. Sixteen others were sentenced to life imprisonment, and two of the original 25 defendants were sentenced to lesser terms in prison.
In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed.
Today in 2009, Richard Heene, who carried out a hoax in which he told authorities his 6-year-old son Falcon had floated off in a runaway, saucer-shaped helium balloon, was sentenced to 90 days in jail in Fort Collins, Colorado. Heene’s wife Mayumi received 20 days of jail time for her role in the incident.
Suspicions that the entire “Balloon Boy” incident had been a hoax intensified after Falcon Heene told his parents during a live interview on CNN: “You guys said we did this for the show.” Mayumi Heene later confessed to police the incident had been staged to help the family get a reality TV show. (The Heenes had previously appeared on the program “Wife Swap.”)
Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public official, while Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of making a false report. In addition to jail time, the Heenes were required to perform community service and Richard Heene was later ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution for the search effort.
Today in 2986 the experimental aircraft Voyager landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, completing the first nonstop flight around the globe on one load of fuel. Piloted by Americans Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, Voyager took off from Edwards Air Force at 8:02 a.m. PST on December 14. By the time it returned, after flying 25,012 miles around the planet, it had just five gallons of fuel left in its remaining operational fuel tank.
Almost nine days to the minute after it lifted off, Voyager appeared over Edwards Air Force Base and circled as Yeager turned a primitive crank that lowered the landing gear. Then, to the cheers of 23,000 spectators, the plane landed safely with a few gallons of fuel to spare.
Voyager is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Today in 1944 Gen. Dwight Eisenhower endorsed the finding of a court-martial in the case of Eddie Slovik, who was tried for desertion, and authorized his execution, the first such sentence against a U.S. Army soldier since the Civil War, and the only man so punished during World War II.
Slovik was shipped to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had already suffered massive casualties in the fighting there and in Germany. He claimed he was “too scared and too nervous” to be a rifleman and threatened to run away if forced into combat. His admission was ignored and Slovik took off. One day later he returned and signed a confession of desertion, claiming he would run away again if forced to fight, and submitted it to an officer of the 28th. The officer advised Slovik to take the confession back, as the consequences would be serious. Slovik refused, and he was confined to the stockade.
The 28th Division had seen many cases of soldiers wounding themselves or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that would at least protect them from the perils of combat. So a legal officer of the 28th offered Slovik a deal: Dive into combat immediately and avoid the court-martial. Slovik refused. He was tried on November 11 for desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence: execution, “to be shot to death with musketry.”
Slovik’s appeal failed. It was held that he “directly challenged the authority” of the United States and that “future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge.” Slovik was to be made an example. One last appeal was made to General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander. Eisenhower upheld the sentence.
Slovik was shot to death by a 12-man firing squad in eastern France in January of 1945.
Today in 1783 following a triumphant journey from New York to Annapolis, Maryland, George Washington, appeared before Congress and voluntarily resigned his commission.
“Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take any leave of all the employments of public life.”
Washington had made his Farewell address to the Armies of the United States November 2, 1783, at Rock Hill (near Princeton), New Jersey.
General Washington’s respite proved extremely brief. He was unanimously elected to the first of two terms as president of the United States in 1788.
Washington was posthumously promoted to General of the Armies (five stars) by Congress in 1976.