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Suicide Rations: 1945

Suicide Rations: 1945

March 1945. "Tuskegee Airmen series. 'Escape kits' (cyanide) being distributed to fighter pilots at air base in Ramitelli, Italy." Theodore G. Lumpkin Jr., seated, with (L-R): Joseph L. "Joe" Chineworth, Memphis, Class 44-E; Robert C. Robinson, Asheville, Class 44-G; Driskell B. Ponder, Chicago, 43-I; Robert W. Williams, Ottumwa, Iowa, 44-E. Gelatin silver print by Toni Frissell. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

One plausible explanation

Gullible stateside reporter...

[Definitely does not apply to Toni Frissell. The LOC file attributes the identity of the airmen in part to Frissell's notes, but not the caption specifically. - tterrace]

"Could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff"

Maps, gum, matches, Hershey bars, etc.

Benzedrine tablets ("pep pills," heh heh!) were commonly included, but I agree that the Library of Congress caption is in error about Cyanide.

[The LOC caption appears to be the sole source of all online references to cyanide supposedly being included in 'escape kits.' - tterrace]

WWII "suicide pills"

William Sterling Parsons and several other crew members of the B-29 Super-fortress bombers sent to drop atomic bombs on Japan in World War II were issued with lethal pills, though all aircraft returned safely and none of the pills were used. This was in case they were captured and then tortured by the enemy to reveal classified information regarding (at the time) atomic weapons.

Handsome Rakes, ALL!

PLEASE add them to the aforementioned category!

We Americans Are Better Than That

No American fighting man in WWII was issued a "suicide pill" when going into action in uniform. Yes, Jewish flyers could have their dog tags altered to get their religion "changed" while flying over German territory but the American fighting man then and now does not go into action with suicide as an available option. Pilots and crewmen from an aircraft carried sidearms as a means to resist when shot down.

You screwed up Shorpy and my old man with the two Purple Hearts out of WWII ain't happy. My one Heart out of Vietnam as a Marine isn't thrilled either.

[Note the quotation marks; this is the caption attached to the photo in the Library of Congress archive. - tterrace]

Lt. William A Johnston, USAAF

I had the pleasure to know Tuskegee Airman Lt. William A "Billy" Johnston (1925-2005) of Pennsylvania. He matriculated with class 45-D, too late to join the war. When I knew him in the 1970s, he had a Cessna O-2 Skymaster that he flew from Oberlin, OH to St. Mary's County Maryland (among other places). He had striking, honey-colored eyes. In the attached photo, he's posing in the cockpit of a Curtiss P-40N Warhawk.

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