THE EXECUTION of - Flight Lieutenant William Ellis NEWTON - VC
The following is taken from THE WEBB REPORT headed -
Salamaua - beheading of Australian airman.
A Captured Japanese document reads as follows :-
29th Mar 1943. All four of us (Technician KUROKAWA, NISHIGUCHI, YAWATA and myself) assembled in front of the HQ at 1500 hours. One of the two members of the crew of the Douglas which was shot down by A/A on the 18th, and who had been under cross-examination by the 7th Base Force for some days, had been returned to the SALAMAUA Garrison, and it had been decided to kill him. TAI Commander KOMAI, when he came ot the observation station today, told us personally that, in accordance with the compassionate sentimentsof Japanese BUSHIDO, he was going to kill the prisoner himself with his favourite sword. So we gathered to observe this. After we had waited a little more than ten minutes, the truck came along.
The prisoner, who is at the side of the guard house, is given his last drink of water, etc. The Chief Medical Officer, TAI Commander KOMAI and HQ Platoon Commander came out of the Officer's mess, wearing their military swords. The time has come. so the prisoner, with his arms bound and his long hair now cropped very close, totters foward. He probably suspects what is afoot; but he is more compased than I thought he would be. Without more ado, he is put on the truck and we set out to our desination.
I have a seat next to the Chief Medical Officer; about ten guards ride with us. To the pleasant rumble of the engine, we run swiftly along the road in the growing twilight. The glowing sun has set behind the western hills, gigantic clouds rise before us, and the dusk is falling all around. It will not be long now. As I picture the scene we are about to witness, my heart beats faster.
I glance at the prisoner: he has probably resigned himself to his fate. As though saying farewell to the world, as he sits in the truck he looked about, at the hills, at the sea and seems deep in thought. I feel a surge of pity and turn my eyes away.
As we passed by the place where last year our lamented HAN was cremated Technician NISHIGUCHI must have been thinking about him too, for he remarked "It's a long time since we were here last". It certainly is a long time. We could see the place every day from the observation post, but never got a chance to come. It is nearly a year since the HAN leader was cremated. I was moved in spite of myself, and as I passed the place I closed my eyes and prayed for the repose of SHIMIZU's soul.
The truck runs along the sea shore. We have left the navy guard sector behind us and now come into the Army guard sector. Here and there we see sentries in the grassy fields, and I thank them in my heart for their toil as we drive on. They must have got it in the bombing the night before last - there are great holes by the side of the road, full of water from the rain. In a little over twenty minutes, we arrived at our destination, and all get off.
TAI Commander KOMAI stands up and says to the prisoner , "We are now going to kill you". When he tells the prisoner that in accordance with Japanese Bushido he would be killed with a Japanese sword, and that he would have two or three minutes grace, he listens with bowed head. The Fight Lieutenant (translator's note: in Japanese, 'TAII' - this refers to the prisoner) says a few words in a low voice. Apparently he wants to be killed with one stroke of the sword. I hear him say the word "One" (Translators's note: in English). The TAI Commander beomes tense and his face stiffens as he replies "Yes" (Translators note: in English).
Now the time has come, and the prisoner is made to kneel on the bank of a bomb crater filled with water. He is apparently resigned: the precaution is taken of surrounding him with guards with fixed bayonets, but he remains calm. He even stretches out his neck, and is very brave. When I put myself in the prisoner's place, and think that in one more minute it will be goodbye to this world, although the daily bombings have filled me with hate, ordinary human feelings make me pity him.
The TAI Comander has drawn his favourite sword. It is the famous Osamune sword which he showed us at the observation post. It glitters in the light and sends a cold shiver down my spine. He taps the prisoner's neck lightly with the back of the blade, then raises it above his head with both arms and brings it down with a sweep.
I have been standing with my muscles tensed, but in that moment I closed my eyes.
"SSSH....... It must be the sound of blood spurting form the arteries. With a sound as though something watery had been cut, the body falls forward. It is amazing - he had kille him with one stroke. The onlookers crowd forward. The head detached from the trunk, rolls in front of it. SSH ! SSH! The dark blood gushes out.
All is over. The head is dead white, like a dool. The savageness which I felt only a little while ago is gone, and now I feel nothing but the true compassion of Japanese Bushido. A senior Corporal laughs loudly, "Well he will enter Nirvana now!" Then a superior seaman of the medical unit takes the Chief Medical Officer's sword and, intent on paying off old scores, turns the headless body over on its back, and cuts the abdomen open with one clean stroke. They are thick-skinned, these Keto (Translator's note: "Hairy foreigner" - common term of opprobrium for a white man) - even the skin of their bellies are thick. Not a drop of blood comes out of the body. It is pushed over into the crater at once and is buried.
Now the wind blows mournfully and I see the scene again in my mind's eye. We get onto the trucks again and start back. It is dark now. We gor off in front of the HQ. I say goodbye to TAI Commander KOMAI, and climb up the hill with Technician KUROKAWA. This will be something to remember all my life. If ever I get back alive it will make a good story to tell, so I have written it down.
At Salamaua observation post, 30 Mar '43, 0110 hours, to the sound of the midnight waves.
NOTE - The prisoner killed today was an Air Force Flight-Lieutenant (Translator's note "TAII') from MORESBY. He was a young man, 23 this year, said to have been an instructor to the A.T.O. at Moresby.
William Ellis Newton VC
250748 Flight Lieutenant William Ellis NEWTON
No. 22 Squadron, R.A.A.F
16 March, 1943, on Salamaua Isthmus, New Guinea
Flight Lieutenant Newton served in New Guinea from May 1942 to March
1943 and completed 52 operational sorties. When leading an attack on 16
1943 his Boston aircraft was hit repeatedly and although it was
crippled he managed to return the aircraft to base and make a
successful landing. He
returned next day to the same location. His aircraft was again hit and
it burst into flames.
"Flight Lieutenant Newton maintained control and calmly turned his
aircraft away and flew along the shore. He saw it as his duty to keep
the aircraft in
the air and to take his crew as far away as possible from the enemy's
positions. With great skill he brought his blazing aircraft down on the
members of the crew extricated themselves and were seen swimming to
shore. One of them was Flight Lieutenant Newton. He was captured and
later executed on 29 March,
1943, at Salamaua, New Guinea. "Without regard to his own safety, he
had done all that man could do to prevent his crew falling into enemy
hands. Flight Lieutenant
Newton's many examples of conspicuous bravery have rarely been equalled
and will serve as a shining inspiration to all who follow him."
[London Gazette: 19 October, 1943]
William Ellis NEWTON was born at St. Kilda, Victoria
on 8th June, 1919. His body was recovered when Salamaua was recaptured
troops and he was buried in the Lae War Cemetery, New Guinea.
Date of birth: 08 June 1919 Place of birth: St Kilda, VIC Date of death: 29 March 1943 Place of death: Salamaua Ithmus, New Guinea
Newton was born on 8 June 1919 at St Kilda, Melbourne. He attended the
Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, becoming a keen sportsman
who played cricket for the Victorian second eleven. He was working in a
Melbourne silk warehouse when the Second World War began and he
enlisted in the RAAF on 5 February 1940.
commissioned and qualified as a pilot, Newton became a flight
instructor before being posted to 22 Squadron, based in Port Moresby,
in May 1942. He flew 52 operations in Boston dive bombers, consistently
displaying a determination to destroy his target. Fellow airmen dubbed
him "the firebug", claiming that wherever Newton flew he left a fire
burning behind him.
On 16 March 1943, Newton was leading an
attack against Japanese positions at Salamaua in New Guinea. As he
dived through heavy anti-aircraft fire his aircraft was hit, although
he was able to bomb before pulling away and coaxing his badly damaged
aircraft safely back to Port Moresby. Two days later he returned to
Salamaua again hitting his target and again being hit by heavy
ground-fire. This time Newton's aircraft caught fire but he managed to
ditch the burning aircraft in the sea, about 900 metres offshore. Two
of the Boston's three crew members were seen to make it ashore by other
Newton was one of them. He was captured by
the Japanese along with Flight Sergeant J. Lyon. Both men were sent to
Lae where Lyon was later executed. Newton was returned to Salamaua and
on 29 March 1943 and was ordered by his captors to trample on the
Australian National Flag on the pain of death. Twice he refused and was
summarily executed. His death became linked with that of another
Australian, Len Siffleet, a special operations sergeant who had also
been captured in New Guinea. A photograph of Siffleet's beheading was
found by American soldiers in April 1944 and was believed for many
years to have shown Newton's execution. While no photograph of his
death is known to exist, the story of Newton's execution circulated in
Australian newspapers after it was translated from the captured diary
of a Japanese soldier who had witnessed the incident.
fearless approach to operational flying and the manner in which he
attempted to save his crew by piloting their burning aircraft as far
from Japanese positions as possible earned Newton the Victoria Cross,
the only such award made to a member of the RAAF in the Pacific
theatre. After the war, Newton's body was located and buried in the Lae
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