During the Second World War and for years afterwards, US servicemen serving abroad suffered capital punishment if they were found guilty of either rape or murder. So it was that on Thursday, April 13th, 1961, John Bennett, a black US private, was hanged at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He had been found guilty of raping and attempting to murder by drowning an 11-year-old Austrian girl while stationed in Salzburg in December 1954.

Bennett was sentenced to death by court martial only two months after the incident, but it was another six years before he was hanged. This was despite pleas for clemency from the victim and her family, who opposed the death penalty on principle – pleas ignored by President John Kennedy.

Bennett’s last words, directed to a small gathering of witnesses who braved a downpour in the prison yard, were, “May God have mercy on your souls.”