Firing Squads

April 17th, 2006  

Topic: Firing Squads

Sometimes, I think a little too much but I was wondering how a firing squad was picked. I know they have been around since guns but are the members selected from soldiers who didn't serve with the guy? An enemy would be a little easier to shoot but even then, not by some soldiers. I've wondered if they just asked for volunteers, "hey anybody up for shooting ol' Jake full of holes while he's tied to a post?" Was there a reward of some kind?

I guess, most of all could you do it not knowing the reason you're killing a fellow soldier who fought with you for years?
April 17th, 2006  
I think you would find in the British Army, it was you, you and you. the way that every one is selected to volunteer.
April 17th, 2006  
The Cooler King
Missileer, I am guessing that the firing squad was picked just like any other detail. There has only been one such execution since the Civil War. Private Eddie Slovik was executed in WWII for desertion. Slovik's was the only one of 49 death sentences carried out in WWII.
April 18th, 2006  
A Can of Man
The much watered down version of this dillema would be the MP... a soldier who's job is to capture other soldiers... mostly dudes who are trying to have fun on a weekend pass.
April 18th, 2006  
It was originally the role of the corporals. Hence the term corporal punishment. In the Napolean army you would have never faced a firing squad you would have been shot or bayonete dthe moment you ran by the corporal at the rear of your formation.

By 1916 things had changed...

"A member of one of the battalions of the 30th Division was courtmartialled for cowardice. The man was only a recently-arrive reinforcement, but had not been able to explain how he got lost in the attack. He was found guilty. The battalion was paraded; the accused man brought forward and the sentence announced: execution by firing squad.

His comrades were quite convinced that, after the abortive attack, someone in authority had decided to make an example of one man, and that this poor wretch had been chosen.

Six privates had already been given a day's rations and sent to a remote village; they were the firing party. That night the condemned man and his escort of military policemen joined them. Early next morning, the firing party went out to a nearby quarry. Their rifles were taken away and later returned, loaded: one with a blank round, the others with live ones. No one knew who had the blank round.

The condemned man refused to walk to the quarry and had to be dragged there. He was then tied to a chair, blindfolded, and a white hankerchief pinned over his heart. The officer gave the firing party their orders: "Aim straight. I don't want to have to finish him off."

After the crash of the volley, the prisoner was found to be alive, though badly hurt. I watched, sickened as the oficer drew his revolver, put it to the man's head and pulled the trigger. Military justice, 1916 style, had been done."

* Private Paddy Kennedy, 3rd Manchester Pals, 30th Div.

From "The First Day on the Somme", Martin Middlebrook, publ.WW Norton,

ISBN 393 05442-X, 1972.

Like Le said in the British Army it was privates chosen but it was the non-com who finished the job when things went sour.
April 18th, 2006  
What I find strange is the use of the blank cartridge.

Many believe that by having one blank cartridge. The shooters wont know who fired the killing shot.

But you can easliy tell the difference between a blank and a live round. Blanks produce no recoil and they also sound different from live ammunition.

So in reality, any soldier would know that he fired the blank.
April 18th, 2006  
Rob Henderson
I thought only one was a live round...I thought the rest had blanks but the man who was "chosen" to kill him...But still, I guess anyone would be able to tell...
April 19th, 2006  
If you read that link in my previous post the author makes the same observation and he surmises that this is in fact an urban myth. There is no blank but the troops are told there is in order to lessen the horror of shooting a comrade.
April 19th, 2006  
It's not a urban myth. It is a true practice within Law Enforcement and the US Military.

Back in the before the US Sumpreme Court made Capital Punishment illegal for that period of time in the 1970s. Many states still used firing squad as a means if capital punishment. The rifles were either Lever Action .30-30s or Bolt Action Rifles in 7.62X51mm or .30-06. Six officer would be issued a rifle and one would have a blank cartridge.

There is one state in the USA that still uses death by firing squad as it's legal means of capital punishment.

And the Military can no no longer use the blank cartridge because of the fact that the standard rifle is the M16, which would require a blank adaptor for it to cycle the round.

Now, most police departments use a semi-automatic rifle. Either the M1A, AR-15, or Mini-14 for it's use. The bolt action rifle as become a sniper's weapon in both law enforcement and the military.
April 20th, 2006  
Catergorically agree this was a proven method of execution, and as for how the firing squad was drawn there where many methods. If the soldier had let down the lads and there was enough animosity toward the individual then it would be chosen from that unit,if an example was being made to that specific unit then it would be picked from that particular unit by its own commanding officer. If it was a general example i.e for the benefit of that Army then whoever was the duty rear lads got it. It was not as arbitry as we think there where many reasons(believed)why executions where deemed necessary at that time. After all total war means total war.