Anyone ever been executed for sleeping on the job?

This Wikipedia article makes the following claim:

Has this ever been enforced? I can’t imagine it and I really can’t imagine it being enforced today. It seems like it it’s one of those laws/codes passed when it was country first and humanity a close second. Would it ever hold up in today’s more civil-minded world?

It happened twice in the British Army in World War One (only a blog but I have heard the same figures from more reliable sources, but can’t find a link to them).

I imagine it was also pretty common in other armys during WW2, and even later than that.

Not sure where you found that but I think I can asnwer this. I was in the Air Force in the 1990’s and I can tell you that I saw SP’s sleeping on duty “several” times. Some of the guard shacks are in remote areas and some cant hep but fall asleep. However, it was not wartime.

I was in a communications squadron, working 3rd shift ( 6 - 6) and I had an airman sneak off and go to sleep behind some equipmenet racks. He was completely worthless.

So, to answer your question, the miltary DOES NOT enforce it. However, if you are a marine in Iraq you might be held to higher standards. It will be interesting to see what additional responses you get.


There’s a really sad YA novel about it, I believe in WWI. It did indeed happen in the 20th century.

There was a very good reason for such a draconian sentence. A sentry asleep on duty could have been responsible for the whole unit being slaughtered by a surprise enemy attack. Far less likely, of course, these days, with electronic surveilance, etc, which is why such a penalty would be out of place now.

Isn’t that the case with alot of military crimes. Isn’t the difference between AWOL and desertion to do with your proximity to the front ?

Isn’t the difference between AWOL and desertion to do with your proximity to the front ?

Not that I am aware of.
does that count?

ok not quite the same

According to wikipedia that is a factor:

I can certainly imagine it. In the right circumstances I might kill him myself.

Say, a sleeping sentry allowed an enemy infiltration of a camp in the middle of the night, resulting in the deaths of his fellow soldiers.

Or a sleeping sentry failed to see a small boat approaching a warship, which exploded and sunk the ship.

Or a sleeping sentry failed to spot a fire starting in a barracks, again killing his comrades.

Military sentry duty is not always like the night watchman job at a junkyard, especially in wartime.

Abraham Lincoln was notorious for commuting the death sentences of sleeping sentries. You can read the story of one such here.

Yeah, there’s a billion silent films of Lincoln pardoning sentries.

I always laughed when the enemy did it for us.

Way back when in a place I was, the camp CO was kinda hard ass about that. One poor idiot had guard duty the last night before rotation back to the states. The CO himself caught him. He did 6 months bad time in barbwire city before he got to rotate back. Bawhahahaha

My dad was a US marine in the late 40s in China. He said the standard was if someone could walk up and snatch your rifle away, you were considered asleep at your post, so they would wrap the strap around their hand and kind of have a standing nap. He said they would also hold a lit cigarette between your fingers and it would burn down to your fingers and wake you up before you slept more than a few minutes. No one was getting executed of course, but they would beat the living crap out of you when he was in the service.

The Romans executed sleeping sentries.