B-17 Nine-O-Nine

Dec 292014
One Way Ticket to Hell

One Way Ticket to Hell

One of the things I love about America is our willingness to stand up to threats.  Not only to stand up against them, but to respond to them head on.  In a class book from Pampa Army Air Field1 published near the end of 1943, I noticed something.

One Way Ticket to Hell” it said, and there was space to write one’s name.  “This ticket entitles the above pilot to a one way trip to Hell.  Ticket also entitles bearer to stop over enroute at Japan to enjoy the AAF Stag Party on the Roof Garden at Tokyo.”  It’s signed, “Here’s lookin’ down your chimney, Tojo.”

Strange, I thought at first.  Then I did a little digging and found a news report from April 22, 1943.

Japanese propaganda radio broadcasts declared that every American flyer participating in future bombing raids on Japan has a one way ticket to hell.  This was taken to imply that captured airmen would be executed, which was the fate of some of Major General Doolittle’s raiders from the previous April.2

The cadet pilots of basic-flight training class 44-E were obviously eager to get their “one way ticket to hell.”  Their response was “Wilco–Class 44-E,” meaning “will comply.”  This was a bit of humor in one sense, but I imagine, deadly seriousness in the truest sense.


  1. Army Air Forces Collection, “Gig Sheet, The: Class 44-E, Pampa Army Air Field, Pampa, Texas” (item 000431), AAF Collection, http://AAFCollection.info/items/list.php?item=000431 (accessed 29 December 2014), page 15.
  2. Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday, April 23, 1943, page 7, column 3.

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