Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

March 19, 2014

Meeting a Real American Hero at MWHS

— On Friday, March 7, the Mineral Wells High Social Studies department was honored to welcome combat war hero, author and guest speaker, Lt. Fiske Hanley II.  

A Texas native, Lieutenant Hanley, a B-29 navigator and Japanese POW in World War II, recounted his experiences living in the “Front Row Seat of History” during World War II.

Less than 12 hours after receiving his degree in aeronautical engineering at Texas Tech, Fiske Hanley was on a train bound for basic training as an Air Force Aviation Cadet. Nine months later he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Assigned as a B-29 flight engineer, he was attached to the 504th Bombardment Group (VH).

In January 1945, they flew their new B-29 to Tinian Island in the Pacific and began bombing missions over Japan. During the seventh mission, their plane was shot down. Lieutenant Hanley arrived on Japanese soil via parachute and thus began his harrowing experience as an Accused American War Criminal.  

Captured by the Japanese Kempeitai (secret military police), Fiske was kept in the overcrowded, filthy dungeon cells in Tokyo across from the Emperor’s Palace. Unfortunately, he was not afforded POW status (due to the Japanese bitterness involving the fire bombings they had recently undergone a few weeks earlier). Instead, he was designated as “Special Prisoner” (essentially a war criminal) to be tried and executed for the killing of innocent women and children. While awaiting trial he was treated inhumanely. He was beaten, tortured, starved on half POW rations, issued no clothes or basic hygienic needs, denied medical treatment and was continually threatened with death.

Fortunately, Lt. Fiske Hanley was rescued at the end of the war in spite of orders from Japanese leaders that all of the special prisoners were to be executed. Fiske spent more than 150 days as a POW and weighed only 70 pounds when he was liberated. He witnessed WWII come to a close on the deck of a ship in Tokyo Bay when the peace treaty was signed.

At 94, Lt. Fiske Hanley II is now a retired Aeronautical Engineer and researcher/historian and resides in Fort Worth, Texas. He is part of the “Living History” program sponsored by the Joe Foss Institute.  This institute was established to educate the youth on the importance of America’s unique freedoms and to inspire them to public service.  Their trained veteran speakers share personal stories while delivering educational material covering history, civics, government and public service.