Leonard Siffleet about to be beheaded with a sword by a Japanese soldier, 1943

Leonard Siffleit was an Australian Special Forces radio operator who was sent on a mission to Papua New Guinea to establish a coast viewing station.

In September 1943, his patrol was sent to Japanese-occupied New Guinea to regroup the Japanese forces stationed there. Siffleet and two other Australian soldiers were captured by local natives friendly to the Japanese and handed over to the Japanese.

All three men were interrogated, tortured and confined for nearly two weeks before being taken to Etape Beach on the afternoon of 24 October 1943.

Surrounded by Japanese and native spectators and blindfolded, he was shot to the ground and beheaded, on the orders of Vice-Admiral Michiyaki Kamada of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The officer who killed Siffleet, Yasuno Chikao, gave a personal description to photograph him in the act.

At the end of the war, Chicao was captured, put on trial for war crimes, and sentenced to death; His sentence was commuted to ten years' imprisonment, and upon completion of his sentence, he returned to Japan.

The execution of prisoners by beheading was not an unusual practice by the Japanese. Under the Code of Bushido, which was in line with the Japanese military at the time, the act of beheading a captured enemy actually restored some lost respect for the enemy, as the warriors were considered humiliated if they found themselves alive. allowed to be caught.

In the eyes of Bushido followers, this "disgraceful surrender" justified the horrific treatment of Allied prisoners captured at the hands of the Japanese.

A 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 killed by a Japanese soldier. Published in LIFE magazine, it became one of the most iconic photographs of the war.

Siffleet is commemorated at the Lae Memorial in Lae, Papua New Guinea, along with all other Commonwealth War dead from action in the region, who have no known graves. In May 2015 a memorial park was also dedicated in memory of Syphilit in Etape.

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