The Execution of Leonard Siffleet


Australian Sergeant Leonard Siffleet was part of a special forces reconnaissance unit in New Guinea, then occupied by Japanese Imperial forces. He and two Ambonese companions were captured by partisan tribesmen and handed over to the Japanese. All three men were interrogated, tortured and confined for approximately two weeks before being taken down to Aitape Beach on the afternoon of 24 October 1943.

There, on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, bound, blindfolded, and surrounded by Japanese and native onlookers, they were forced onto the ground and executed by beheading, on the orders of Vice-Admiral Michiaki Kamada. The officer who executed Siffleet asked a private to photograph him in the act. It was a gruesome depiction of brutal realities on the ground: in Europe, the mortality rate of the Allied prisoners of war was 1.1%, while it was 37% for the Allied prisoners of Japanese in the Pacific.

The photograph of Siffleet’s execution was discovered on the body of a dead Japanese major near Hollandia by American troops in April 1944. It is believed to be the only surviving depiction of a western prisoner of war being executed by a Japanese soldier. As a part of a propaganda effort, it was published in many newspapers and in LIFE (May 14, 1945). LIFE wrote: “The Japanese are strangely sentimental and moral about this sort of murder finding it “in accordance with the compassionate mercy of Bushido”.

The photo was originally thought to depict Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton, VC, who had been captured in Salamaua, Papua New Guinea, and beheaded on 29 March 1943. Siffleet’s executioner, Yasuno Chikao, has been variously reported as having died before the end of the war, and as having been captured and sentenced to be hanged, with his sentence subsequently commuted to 10 years imprisonment.


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8 thoughts on “The Execution of Leonard Siffleet

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    1. ha shithead like you ,,go back to where you came from , septic tank ,rot bastard inshala ha hate oz ok piggy

    2. A photo of a man being beheaded, and you call him brutal? Its been 4 years since you left that message. I hope that in the years since, you have received the mental health help you desperately needed.

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