During WWII, American and Japanese forces battle over many tiny islands throughout the South Pacific. On September 2, 1944, the U.S. Navy had engaged in a bombing raid over Chichi-Jima Island, which is 700 miles away from Tokyo.
At least 25,000 Japanese soldiers defended the island against American flyboys; a term used to describe a male involved in aviation, such as a pilot. During the battle, the Japanese shot down ten flyboys over the ocean.
One pilot went down several miles away from the island but he wasn’t close enough to swim to the island. He climbed onto a raft and floated to safety. Japanese boats pursued the pilot and fired at him. But the USS Finback, an American submarine, warded off enemy forces and rescued the injured pilot.
He was a bloody mess with a horrific head wound and nausea, but he survived. Lady Luck had smiled on him. Another pilot named William L. Connell from Seattle parachuted onto the island and became a prisoner of war until 1945.
Meanwhile, the other eight flyboys landed near the island and swam to it. Japanese forces captured and executed them. The U.S. government notified the families about their deceased sons and life continued. The rescued flyboy survived and became successful.
Cannibalism and murder
The truth remained unknown until 2003 when an author named James Bradley brought the truth to life. I found the truth so disturbing that I wonder if it should have stayed buried. Details behind the eight dead flyboys remained hidden by the U.S. government for nearly six decades. The details were so horrible the government didn’t want to share the gory details with the families.
Japanese captors had beaten the eight flyboys and then either beheaded or stabbed them to death. But even more disturbing was that four of the men became dinner. Yes, you read that correctly. Island surgeons butchered four of the Americans and served their thighs and livers for dinner. Japanese officers ate the human flesh with soy sauce, vegetables and then washed it down with Sake, a popular Japanese rice wine.
The eight murdered flyboys were:
- Radioman Jimmy Dye (New Jersey)
- Pilot Floyd Hall (Missouri)
- Pilot Warren Hindenlang (Massachusetts).
- Gunner Glenn Frazier (Kansas)
- Radioman Marve Mershon (California)
- Pilot Warren Earl Vaughn (Texas)
- Radioman Dick Woellhof (Kansas)
- Gunner Grady York (Florida)
War crimes committed by the Japanese army
In 1947, during a trial, the U.S. government tried 30 Japanese officers for war crimes and convicted five of the 30. The convicted officers were hanged. So who was the Navy pilot rescued by the American submarine?
He was George Herbert Walker Bush, who became the U.S. President from 1989 to 1993. He died on November 30, 2018. Like many other Americans, he never knew what happened to his fellow flyboys. He had assumed they died in captivity like the rest of the American public.
But the truth rarely stays buried for long. Thankfully, parents of the eight flyboys never learned the truth about their sons. Author James Bradley shared the details with family members and George H.W. Bush about his fellow flyboys. I didn’t provide all the gory details of this story because I found them too disturbing. But you can always read Flyboys by James Bradley for more details.
For his part in the raid, Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor. It’s difficult to grasp that he survived because of where he landed after escaping from his plane. Had he landed a few miles closer to the island he likely would have ended up on the dinner menu. You may think he cheated death, but I disagree. He was destined for greatness and made the most of his life after his rescue. He was blessed with 94 years of life.