Who has been executed for incompetence?

Has it ever actually happened that a sovereign (or someone with a lot of political power) had someone else duly executed, and the reason for the execution was simply that the victim had been incompetent at some task or other the sovereign had ordered them to do?

You see this in bad movies… has it ever really happened?

The Carthaginian general Hannibal Gisco, who lost pretty much every battle he fought in the First Punic War, was crucified for incompetence.

After the Swedes lost the battle of Villmanstrand to the Russians in 1741, the two commanding Swedish generals, Henrik von Buddenbrock, and Charles Lewenhaupt were executed for not coming to the town’s defense quickly enough.

Then there’s the famous Admiral Byng, who was executed by the British after the French took Minorca, leading Voltaire to comment in his book Candide, that the British kill an Admiral from time to time to encourage the others.

What constitutes incompetence? Sir Walter Raleigh, after several unsuccessful expeditions to the New World and being accused of treason, was allowed a final chance by being given a new expedition to Venezuela. He screwed that one up too (his men killed some Spaniards, outraging the Spanish ambassador), and he was executed when he returned to England.

I did not know that! Apparently, he had gotten the death penalty once before but got pardoned by King James. That guy sure had a lot going on in his life.

You sure didn’t want to be on Stalin’s shit list.

I once read* of some Asian bigwig who, after his riverboat ran aground, had the captain decapitated on deck.

*probably in Smithsonian Magazine.

I think it is more typical to execute people for failure at what they were supposed to do, with incompetence being implied.

A high ranking Soviet general http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitry_Pavlov_(general) and a few of his underlings were executed within a months after the German invasion of 1941 because the forces under his command got rapidly crushed. The question of whether he was in fact incompetent, unlucky or various other alternatives remains open in Russian historiography; there certainly were much more obviously incompetent but politically connected military bigshots who were demoted but not punished for the disasters of 1941. Whatever the case may be, it’s a pretty clear case of scapegoating at a desperate time as a way to encourage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Byng the others; I don’t recall people being executed for the very bloody debacles of the Winter War with Finland.

IIRC, in the 1980s, some bridge or something similar, in China collapsed. The government executed the designers/engineers by hanging. Don’t know if it was for incompetence or ‘corruption,’ or what.

Best wishes,

Didn’t the Chinese recently execute some people over the melamine contamination of their milk supply? The article I read said they were sentenced to death but I am not sure if it was carried out. It also contradicted itself as to whether the people responsible failed to detect melamine that was put in by a middle man or whether they were complicit before the fact.

What are you looking for. Incompetance being the official reason? Or the real reason with something else as an excuse. The former would be very very very rare as it would really be counterproductive. While the latter would be see more.

I was thinking of that too, and I know at least one former minister was executed, but I think the OP is looking more for summary executions - Queen of Hearts style “Off with their heads!”, while the people involved in that scandal were convicted in a court of law. I doubt they had their due process rights violated any more than the average criminal in that country. And corruption was the larger part, but I do wonder if they had to competence to run the ministry legitimately.

The Chinese emperors were known to show their displeasure in very certain terms at times.


Indeed so.

In 406 BC after the Battle of Arginusae, which Athens won, six generals were tried and executed for not rescuing men whose ships sunk in a storm. There were no doubt political considerations as these men had political enemies.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arginusae#Trial_of_the_generals
Not sure if it’s true but I used to work with someone who had been in the Egyptian army in the 1970s when tensions were still hot between Egypt and Israel. He said the Egyptians had once set up a base near the border to monitor Israeli activities. The Egyptians made a mistake and didn’t have the radar coverage properly done. The Israelis figured this out, sent a fleet of helicopters at sand dune level and raided the base, capturing secret documents. The Egyptians shot the colonel responsible for this blunder.

When I was in business school, I took classes in quality management and operations. They told us a story about how communist China had a huge waiting list for refrigerators and that the quality of the products coming from the factory was so poor that they almost all broke in no time at all.

So the government supposedly took the management out and executed them by firing squad. I always suspected the story was bullshit…

In his novel Aztec, Gary Jennings writes of a Revered Speaker (emperor) who personally executed several aqueduct engineers on the spot when there was a serious problem with the aqueduct which supplied Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. In context this seems to have been more about assuaging the gods than about punishing the engineers (although it was that, too). Jennings did a lot of research for the book but I don’t know if that particular incident was fictional.

Imperial China. Many, many incidents I’m aware of in which court officials were executed for basically performing their duties poorly. Most commonly for losing battles. Was it like, “You fools! <slash>”? Well…actually, sometimes yeah. Mostly the leader wouldn’t get their hands dirty, but they would clearly be delivering the death sentence.

How about as a scapegoat?

I’d be willing to bet there was more than one Russian officer who didn’t survive his incompetence.
General of the Army Dmitri Pavlov, was executed for incompetence.

There’s conflicting reports on this one… in '87 during the Iran Iraq War, an Iraqi Mirage fired two Exocet missles into the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf, killing 37 sailors. Initial reports weer that Sadam Hussein had the pilot beheaded. Later, an Iraqi ex-Air Force commander said that wasn’t true.