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US Troops search civilians at Krefeld, 1945

US Troops search civilians at Krefeld, 1945



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US Troops search civilians at Krefeld, 1945

Here we see US troops from the 9th Army searching German civilians in Krefeld, on the west bank of the Rhine. The city fell to the Americans on 3 March 1945.


The Desperate Breakthrough at the Halbe Pocket – How A German General Neglected Hitler’s Orders to Save His Men

During the last days of WWII, anyone with any sense in the German Army was aware of the fact that the lives of their soldiers were being given as offerings to the enemy by their fanatical leader, Adolf Hitler.

Hitler’s days were already numbered on April 24, 1945, when the battle of Halbe Pocket commenced, but the lives of soldiers of the Wehrmacht’s 9th Army could yet be saved.

At least that was what the commander in chief of the 9th Army, General Theodor Busse, considered his duty, despite the Fuhrer’s orders. During the next seven days, Busse attempted a breakthrough from the pocket, hoping to escape the Red Army and surrender to the Allies, seeking better POW treatment.

The battle which took place on the outskirts of Berlin between April 24 and May 1, 1945, was indeed a bloodbath, as the ill-equipped and tired remnants of the 9th Army opposed the vast numbers of troops of the 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian Fronts led by the veteran-commander, Marshal Ivan Konev.

Busse’s men had already suffered a significant blow during the Battle of Seelow Heights, which was still raging when they were cut off and encircled. The 9th Army was a force of 80,000 strong, but with no more than 79 tanks and about 150 armored vehicles.

The Spree Forest in which the Wehrmacht soldiers were trapped proved to be an unforgiving terrain ― lakes, forests, and marshes, all of which slowed down any movement and offered a false sense of safety.

After two attempts to break the encirclement had failed, Busse was desperate. Desperate, but not defeated. On the night of April 28, another mass breakout bore fruit.

A bloody corridor was achieved after members of the 9th Army broke through the 50th Guards Rifle Division. The small victory was costly but necessary. The men’s morale was boosted, as they continued to push westwards.

During the day, the Soviets reinforced their flanks and started a barrage of Katyusha rockets, pouring on the retreating Germans.

Once the corridor was created, discipline was lost. Scattered all over a wide area around Halbe, the rearguard was holding the retreat at Storkow, while the vanguard managed to reach and link up with the 12th Army, under the command of General Walther Wenck at Beelitz. Between the two, there was 80 km of open space.

Russian Marshall Konev coined a strategy in which he used the large stretch of the 9th Army, by splitting the retreating column of Germans into segments. He intended to channel large groups of soldiers, isolate them and hunt them down while minimizing his own casualties and annihilating their enemy.

The Germans had only one strategy ― retreat as far as possible from the Red Army positions and reach the Allied frontline on the west.

The situation was developing fast, turning the Germans to desperate measures. Members of the SS and their Wehrmacht counterparts soon turned to infighting. Each branch accused the other of helping their own while ignoring to help the others escape.

Some children, who had been drafted into the 9th Army as part of their last line of defense, were hidden in civilian buildings. They abandoned their uniforms attempting to avoid death or capture.

In one case, the frightened children sought refuge together with around 40 civilians in a basement of one of the houses. An SS soldier who discovered them during the chaotic retreat decided to be their judge and jury, for their action was in his fanatic eyes nothing but treason.

He pointed his Panzerfaust at the cellar, intending to execute capital punishment upon the little deserters. Luckily he was shot by a Wehrmacht soldier who happened to be passing by and had enough reason preserved in him, despite witnessing the horrors of the war enough to turn any emotions blunt.

In the next few days, the situation went from confused to crazy. The fighting continued, but there was no clear line of front, just some resisting pockets without any proper chain of command.

A large column of about 25,000 troops was still moving, reaching the all-but shattered 12th Army, and regrouping at Beelitz.

The rest of the 9th Army was once again surrounded west of Luckenwalde, 10 kilometers from the 12th Army with whom they were supposed to link up. The Soviet 4th Guards Tank Army pushed on, spicing their attacks with artillery and assault aircraft, leaving many dead on both sides.

Even though Hitler’s direct orders regarding the 9th Army were to combine forces with the 12th Army and push on, both Busse and Walther Wenck decided to combine forces to establish a corridor towards Allied positions and evacuate as many soldiers and civilians to the west side of the Elbe river as they could.

The remnants of German troops reached the partially destroyed bridge at Tangermünde between May 4 and May 7, 1945, successfully surrendering to the American forces.

This direct violation of Hitler’s orders managed to save up to 25,000 soldiers and several thousand civilians. In the words of Antony Beevor, an English historian, and author:

The most astonishing part of the story is not the numbers who died or were forced to surrender but the 25,000 soldiers and several thousand civilians who succeeded in getting through three lines of Soviet troops.


GIs in Germany: First Impressions of the Former Third Reich

By VE-Day, 1.6 million American soldiers stood on German soil. Their first months in the land of their former enemy were marked by a number of surprising observations and interactions.

In the spring of 1945, British and American forces fought their way into the heart of western Germany. Although the first German city to fall to American forces, Aachen, had been captured in October 1944, the invasion of the Third Reich began in earnest in March 1945 when the western Allies crossed the Rhine River. By the time the Nazi government unconditionally surrendered on May 8, British, French, Soviet, and American forces controlled virtually all of Germany.

American soldiers and tank destroyers make their way through the ruins of Düsseldorf. While Allied bombers had destroyed the centers of most German cities, many smaller towns escaped destruction. Courtesy of US Army.

In the seven months that American GIs fought on German soil, they formed their initial impressions of Germany, a country most soldiers previously knew only through wartime propaganda and interactions with captured German soldiers. The Germany that American soldiers saw in the spring of 1945 provoked strong reactions among their ranks and surprised them in a number of ways. The most frequently repeated observations among American soldiers were the material wealth of the country, the friendliness of civilians, and the curious absence of Nazis.

COMFORTABLE HOMES

The first thing that many American GIs noticed about Germany was its beauty. The majority of German cities, crossroads, and bridges had been destroyed by Allied bombing raids, but the bulk of Germany’s rural areas and suburbs had escaped relatively unscathed. Nineteen year old Private Richard Kingsbury of the 94th Infantry Division remembered how in southern Germany, “The frequent hills were covered with aromatic pine forests so thick with trees that they were dark and cool despite the brightest sunshine. Clear bubbling streams ran down the hills into wide lovely valleys, all intensively cultivated. The quaint little towns looked like illustrations from Grimm’s fairy tales.” Soldiers entering German houses found them richly appointed with modern furniture, paintings, china, and furs. German civilians appeared well-fed and clothed, a fact that drew frequent comments from GIs who had observed the hardships the war wrought on the populations of France and England.

Above is Kufstein am Inn and below is Kohlstoff bei Kiefersfelden. American soldiers were impressed by the beauty of the German countryside. One GI brought home these pictures which were printed as souvenirs. Images courtesy of Tyler Bamford.

Germany’s prosperity inspired anger in many American soldiers. Prior to entering Germany, GIs already resented the Germans for starting the war. After GIs saw the affluence of German homes, however, many of the conquerors became even more bitter toward German civilians. American conquerors assumed that the Germans looted much of this material abundance from countries under their dominion. In addition, Americans encountered millions of malnourished and mistreated Displaced Persons—men, women, and children who were forced to work as slaves in German factories and fields. As a result, American soldiers became more willing to destroy and loot German property. American Lieutenant Colonel James H. Polk confided to his wife that seeing the wealth of Germany made him “want to burn every town to the ground. I really want to shell every place before it is occupied just to bring home to the women and children what a hell Germany has inflicted upon the world.” Nor was Polk alone in expressing vindictive sentiments. “My soul is bubbling with joy,” wrote Second Lieutenant Preston Price to his family. “Why? Because this is Germany that is getting blasted. Those refugees are Germans—those houses in ruins are German—those prisoners you see are Germans…. This is the payment for the destroyed Liege, Rotterdam, London, and all the rest.”

For most American soldiers, Germany was their first time in an Axis country. They no longer felt compelled to respect private property and relished the opportunity to make Germans suffer the same discomforts they had endured for years. Lieutenant Charles Marshall recounted how “In France we had come as liberators. Here in Germany we had come as conquerors. In France we were guests, even though we had to shoot our way into the country and take our hosts’ feelings and customs into account. German sensibilities, on the other hand, were of no importance, and in no way was this more evident than in the manner in which soldiers were billeted.”

In Allied nations, soldiers were forbidden from requisitioning private homes. That changed when soldiers crossed the German border. Private Richard Mullan of the 16th Armored Infantry Battalion told his parents how whenever his unit entered a German village, “We just tell the Burgermeister that we want the best house in town with plenty of mattresses to sleep on, and they get it or else.” For most GIs, this was the first time they had slept under a roof in months. They helped themselves to food, liquor, and valuables with little sympathy for the families they dispossessed. Lieutenant Charles Marshall reasoned that “Since the GI knew that the Germans had looted the countries they had invaded, and since he had been taught to hate the Germans, he could see nothing wrong in looting from them.”

FRIENDLY CIVILIANS

Although many American soldiers initially held hostile attitudes toward the German population, relations between the two groups rapidly improved. GIs quickly noticed the abundance of German women. The large number of smartly dressed women, together with the near total absence of German men between the ages of 15 and 50, inevitably led to thousands of dates and relationships. These interactions proliferated despite US Army regulations meant to prevent socializing between American forces and Germans.

Even before American units began entering Germany in large numbers, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force issued orders forbidding all fraternization between American soldiers and German civilians except in the course of official business. Popular opinion in the United States was a significant influence in shaping this policy. Many Americans back home worried that GIs fraternizing with German prisoners of war and civilians would lead to leniency toward former Nazis. This fear peaked in early May 1945, when American news outlets reported that high-ranking American officers were regularly socializing with captured Nazi leaders including Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. As GIs encountered large numbers of civilians, however, the soldiers were surprised by the fact that Germans displayed few outward signs of hatred toward the victors. “It’s hard for me not to smile back at them,” confessed Private Richard Mullan.

GIs interactions with German children also undermined American soldiers’ support for the fraternizing ban. Soon after the fighting ended, young children began crowding around GIs and begging for candy. Even battle-hardened veterans could not resist the children’s entreaties and freely distributed the chocolate bars and gum from their military rations. As Sergeant Gerald Raftery told his wife, “the temptation to fraternize at least with the children is omnipresent and not always resisted. I doubt if any threat of fine or reduction [in rank] could prevent GI’s candy from reaching kids who look as though they would like some.” Allied commanders feared that GIs would become too enamored with their former enemies, but many soldiers thought that kindness toward civilians, and especially children, was the best way to begin reeducating Germans.

In response, US Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall directed Eisenhower to make it clear that non-fraternization orders were being enforced. In the wake of such directives, one general declared that American soldiers should not even “initiate a smile” or “give gum to babies,” but other officers took a more pragmatic approach to the widespread practice. Major William Hill of the 28th Infantry Division reasoned that “soldiers are going to have their fling regardless of rules or orders.” Indeed, GIs employed a number of clever measures to skirt the restrictions. Some provided Allied uniforms for their German dates to wear.

Others forged documents for German women stating they were Displaced Persons. The widespread unpopularity of the non-fraternization order made it virtually impossible for commanding officers to enforce. Even worse, soldiers with stellar combat records began accumulating disciplinary records for being caught by the military police with German civilians. Consequently, the policy began to unravel in the summer of 1945. On June 11, 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower lifted the ban on American soldiers fraternizing with German children. The following month, he permitted soldiers “to engage in conversation with adult Germans on the streets and in public places.”

ABSENCE OF NAZIS

American soldiers found it easy to fraternize with the majority of Germans they encountered because there was a curious absence of Nazis among German civilians. Before GIs entered Germany, they had expected to meet a civilian population full of devoted Nazi adherents. Indeed, the fanatical resistance by remnants of the German Wehrmacht and SS convinced GIs they would “have to fight to the bitter end and occupy the whole of Germany and kill every fanatic in the country before it will be over.” Yet to American soldiers’ surprise, few Germans they encountered outside of the armed forces and party administration professed Nazi sympathies once their forces had been defeated. The first reason for this lack of Nazis owed to the fact that many Nazis perished with the Reich rather than live under American occupation.

As Americans entered German towns and cities for the first time, they found thousands of men, women, and children who had committed suicide rather than surrender. In the city of Leipzig, members of the 2nd and 69th Infantry Divisions found a tragic scene when they entered the City Hall. Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White described the scene: “Inside was a Baroque office, hung with sentimental landscapes and furnished in the heavy style which represented the nineteenth century German’s idea of luxury. Reclining on the ponderous leather furniture was a family group, so intimate, so lifelike, that it was hard to realize that these people were no longer living.” The city treasurer, mayor, and commander of the Volkssturm had all taken their lives together with their families. Across Germany, similar scenes played out in which SS soldiers, administrators, and common citizens all took their own lives. Ahead of the Allied invasion of Germany, Nazi propagandists had assured their countrymen that American soldiers would torture and kill them and their families, prompting mass suicides throughout the Reich.

Another reason for the lack of Nazis was their relative scarcity even before the war. In the last free election in Germany, Adolf Hitler received just a third of all votes cast. By 1945 only about eight million Germans belonged to the Nazi party, out of a total population of approximately 80 million people. Many later justified their membership by saying they would have lost their jobs and businesses if they had not joined the party. Thousands more Germans simply lied about their Nazi activities or fled the country. In fact, the Allies had such difficulty determining which Germans should staff the postwar German government that occupation forces resorted to using lie detector tests.

Finally, there was a host of Germans who remained unrepentant for their Nazi activities or professed no knowledge of the regime’s crimes. German industrialist Alfred Krupp, whose family owned the largest arms manufacturing company in Europe, told Margaret Bourke-White that the slave laborers in his factories “had come voluntarily, and had been quite well off, as they had been fed more than German labor had.” Krupp admitted to hearing rumors about concentration camps but claimed that this was the work of a few madmen in the regime and that it was not his job to investigate the rumors. He had conveniently not witnessed Nazi guards murdering workers from his factories who had outlived their usefulness.

An American soldier gives cigarettes to a few of the more than 30,000 liberated concentration camp inmates at Dachau on April 29, 1945. GIs had a hard time believing Germans who protested they did not know about the camps. Dachau was just ten miles from Munich. Courtesy US Army.

Allied bombing raids provided a convenient rationale for Germans who wished to paint themselves as the victims. Even after American soldiers forced German civilians to tour liberated concentration camps, German civilians and Nazi administrators insisted they had no prior knowledge of the camps and refused to believe that the Führer had ordered such atrocities. In March 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Polk angrily recorded how two German women “cried violently when we threw them out” of their house. They could not understand the Americans’ cruelty and exclaimed “The Germans never harmed anyone.”

Even though the majority of Germans claimed to disapprove of Hitler’s regime after the war, many wanted to ignore the uncomfortable truth about their own actions. During Hitler’s time in power, even Nazi opponents had sometimes applauded Hitler’s actions, such as the unification of Germany and Austria. German civilians had known about the thousands of concentration camps, millions of slave laborers, and aggressive wars their nation started, yet most took no actions to stop the war or save their Jewish, Roma, homosexual, and Slavic neighbors. Sergeant Henry Giles summed up many soldiers’ feelings when he wrote,

“It’s hard for me to understand how a whole country, a nation, could be so uncivilized as to do such things as this. Even if the civilians didn’t do it themselves, they put up with it. Let it happen. And how could one lunatic man and his gang of thugs get such a hold on people he could get by with just anything he wanted to do. It beats me.”

It was left to war’s victors to decide how to reeducate and rebuild the German nation in such a way that it would never again threaten peace in Europe. Despite political proposals for harsh postwar treatment of Germany, soldiers’ impressions of Germany as a country of predominantly women and children helped soften their attitudes toward the German people and paved the way for a more lenient occupation and friendly postwar German-American relations.

Ernie Pyle: The Voice of the American Soldier in World War II

Newspaper correspondent Ernie Pyle became a national folk hero by reporting on the average soldier in World War II.

This article is part of an ongoing series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II made possible by Bank of America.

Tyler Bamford

Tyler Bamford was the Sherry and Alan Leventhal Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy at The National WWII Museum from 2019-2021. He obtained his PhD in history from Temple University and his BA in history from Lafayette College.


Contents

War crimes are defined as acts which violate the laws and customs of war established by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, or acts that are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I and Additional Protocol II. [4] The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 extends the protection of civilians and prisoners of war during military occupation, even in the case where there is no armed resistance, for the period of one year after the end of hostilities, although the occupying power should be bound to several provisions of the convention as long as "such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory." [5] [6]

Philippine–American War Edit

Following the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States as part of the peace settlement. This triggered a conflict between the United States Armed Forces and revolutionary First Philippine Republic under President Emilio Aguinaldo, and the Moro fighters.

War crimes committed by the United States Army in the Philippines include the March across Samar, which led to the court martial and forcible retirement of Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith. [1] Smith instructed Major Littleton Waller, commanding officer of a battalion of 315 U.S. Marines assigned to bolster his forces in Samar, regarding the conduct of pacification, in which he stated the following:

"I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States." [7] [8] [9]

Since it was a popular belief among the Americans serving in the Philippines that native males were born with bolos in their hands, Major Littleton Waller asked:

"I would like to know the limit of age to respect, sir."

"Ten years", Smith responded.

"Persons of ten years and older are those designated as being capable of bearing arms?"

"Yes." Smith confirmed his instructions a second time. [7] [8] [9]

A sustained and widespread massacre of Filipino civilians followed. All food and trade to Samar were cut off, with the intention of starving the revolutionaries and the civilian populace into submission. Smith's strategy on Samar involved widespread destruction of land and towns to force inhabitants to stop supporting the guerrillas and turn to the Americans out of fear of starvation. He used his troops in sweeps of the interior in search for guerrilla bands and in attempts to capture Philippine General Vicente Lukbán, but he did nothing to prevent contact between the guerrillas and the townspeople. American columns marched across the island, destroying homes and shooting people and draft animals. The exact number of Filipino civilians killed by US troops will never be known. Littleton Waller, in a report, stated that over an eleven-day period his men burned 255 dwellings, shot 13 carabaos, and killed 39 people. [10] An exhaustive research made by a British writer in the 1990s put the figure at about 2,500 dead Filipino historians believe it to be around 50,000. [11] As a consequence of his order in Samar, Smith became known as "Howling Wilderness Smith". [12]

Regarding the massacres in Bud Dajo, Major Hugh Scott, the District Governor of Sulu Province, where the incidents occurred, recounted that those who fled to the crater "declared they had no intention of fighting, ran up there only in fright, and had some crops planted and desired to cultivate them." [13] The description of the engagement as a "battle" is disputed because of both the overwhelming firepower of the attackers and the lopsided casualties. The author Vic Hurley wrote, "By no stretch of the imagination could Bud Dajo be termed a 'battle'". [14] Mark Twain strongly condemned the incident in several articles he published, [15] [16] and commented: "In what way was it a battle? It has no resemblance to a battle. We cleaned up our four days' work and made it complete by butchering these helpless people." [17]

A higher percentage of Moros were killed than in other incidents now considered massacres. For example, the highest estimate of Native Americans killed at the Wounded Knee Massacre is 300 out of 350, a death rate of 85%, whereas in Bud Dajo, there were only six Moro survivors out of a group estimated at 1,000, a death rate of over 99%. As at Wounded Knee, the Moro group included women and children. Moro men in the crater who had arms possessed melee weapons. While fighting was limited to ground action on Jolo, use of naval gunfire contributed significantly to the overwhelming firepower brought to bear against the Moros. During the engagement, 750 men and officers, under the command of Colonel J.W. Duncan, assaulted the volcanic crater of Bud Dajo (Tausūg: Būd Dahu), which was populated by 800 to 1,000 Tausug villagers. [18] [19] [20]

On March 2nd, 1906, Wood ordered Colonel J.W. Duncan of the 6th Infantry Regiment, which was stationed at Zamboanga, the provincial capital, to lead an expedition against Bud Dajo. The assault force consisted of 272 men of the 6th Infantry, 211 dismounted men of the 4th Cavalry, 68 men of the 28th Artillery Battery, 51 men of the Philippine Constabulary, 110 men of the 19th Infantry and 6 sailors from the gunboat Pampanga. The battle began on March 5th, as mountain guns fired 40 rounds of shrapnel into the crater. During the night, the Americans hauled mountain guns to the crater's edge with block and tackle. At daybreak, the American guns, both the mountain guns and the guns of the Pampanga, opened fire on the Moros' fortifications in the crater. American forces then placed a "Machine Gun. in a position where it could sweep the crest of the mountain between us and the cotta," murdering all Moros in the crater. [21]

One account claims that the Moros, armed with knives and spears, refused to surrender and held their positions. Some of the defenders rushed the Americans and were cut down by artillery fire. The Americans charged the surviving Moros with fixed bayonets, and the Moros fought back with their kalis, barung, improvised grenades made with black powder and seashells. Despite the inconsistencies among various accounts of the battle, one in which all occupants of Bud Dajo were gunned down, another in which defenders resisted in fierce hand-to-hand combat, all accounts agree that few, if any, Moros survived. [18]

In response to criticism, Wood's explanation of the high number of women and children killed stated that the women of Bud Dajo dressed as men and joined in the combat, and that the men used children as living shields. [19] [22] Hagedorn supports this explanation, by presenting an account of Lieutenant Gordon Johnston, who was allegedly severely wounded by a female warrior. [23]

A second explanation was given by the Governor-General of the Philippines, Henry Clay Ide, who reported that the women and children were collateral damage, having been killed during the artillery barrages. [19] These conflicting explanations of the high number of women and child casualties brought accusations of a cover-up, further adding fire to the criticism. [19] Furthermore, Wood's and Ide's explanation are at odds with Colonel J.W. Duncan's post-action report authored on March 12th, 1906, describing the placement of a machine-gun at the edge of the crater to fire upon the occupants. Following Duncan's reports, the high number of non-combatants killed can be explained as the result of indiscriminate machine-gun fire. [21]

Despite President McKinley's proclamation of "benevolent assimilation" of the Philippines as a U.S. Territory, American treatment of Philippine soldiers and civilians was far from being benevolent. General Elwell Stephen Otis controlled the flow of information by journalists, often through violent methods, in order to maintain American support for the war. Following the Battle of Manila, Aguinaldo switched his tactics from conventional warfare to guerrilla warfare, causing American generals to adopt harsher methods of warfare as well. [24]

Orders given by Otis and General Arthur MacArthur Jr. oversaw the complete destruction of many villages, and the capture and execution of their civilians, in order to incite conflict by Philippine soldiers. Despite Otis' restriction on journalism, many reports by both American and Filipino journalists indicate that American treatment of Filipino prisoners was very harsh, as many were starved and tortured, and many others were executed. [24]

A report written by General J.M. Bell in 1901 states: "I am now assembling in the neighborhood of 2,500 men who will be used in columns of about fifty men each. I take so large a command for the purpose of thoroughly searching each ravine, valley and mountain peak for insurgents and for food, expecting to destroy everything I find outside of towns. All able bodied men will be killed or captured. . These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense and they should have it for the good of all concerned." [25]

World War II Edit

Pacific theater Edit

On January 26, 1943, the submarine USS Wahoo fired on survivors in lifeboats from the Japanese transport Buyo Maru. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood asserted that the survivors were Japanese soldiers who had turned machine-gun and rifle fire on the Wahoo after she surfaced, and that such resistance was common in submarine warfare. [26] According to the submarine's executive officer, the fire was intended to force the Japanese soldiers to abandon their boats and none of them were deliberately targeted. [27] Historian Clay Blair stated that the submarine's crew fired first and the shipwrecked survivors returned fire with handguns. [28] The survivors were later determined to have included Allied POWs of the Indian 2nd Battalion, 16th Punjab Regiment, who were guarded by Japanese Army Forces from the 26th Field Ordnance Depot. [29] Of 1,126 men originally aboard Buyo Maru, 195 Indians and 87 Japanese died, some killed during the torpedoing of the ship and some killed by the shootings afterwards. [30]

During and after the Battle of the Bismarck Sea (March 3–5, 1943), U.S. PT boats and Allied aircraft attacked Japanese rescue vessels as well as approximately 1,000 survivors from eight sunken Japanese troop transport ships. [31] The stated justification was that the Japanese personnel were close to their military destination and would be promptly returned to service in the battle. [31] Many of the Allied aircrew accepted the attacks as necessary, while others were sickened. [32]

American servicemen in the Pacific War deliberately killed Japanese soldiers who had surrendered, according to Richard Aldrich, a professor of history at the University of Nottingham. Aldrich published a study of diaries kept by United States and Australian soldiers, wherein it was stated that they sometimes massacred prisoners of war. [33] According to John Dower, in "many instances . Japanese who did become prisoners were killed on the spot or en route to prison compounds." [34] According to Professor Aldrich, it was common practice for U.S. troops not to take prisoners. [35] His analysis is supported by British historian Niall Ferguson, [36] who also says that, in 1943, "a secret [U.S.] intelligence report noted that only the promise of ice cream and three days leave would . induce American troops not to kill surrendering Japanese." [36] : 150

Ferguson states that such practices played a role in the ratio of Japanese prisoners to dead being 1:100 in late 1944. That same year, efforts were taken by Allied high commanders to suppress "take no prisoners" attitudes [36] : 150 among their personnel (because it hampered intelligence gathering), and to encourage Japanese soldiers to surrender. Ferguson adds that measures by Allied commanders to improve the ratio of Japanese prisoners to Japanese dead resulted in it reaching 1:7, by mid-1945. Nevertheless, "taking no prisoners" was still "standard practice" among U.S. troops at the Battle of Okinawa, in April–June 1945. [36] : 181 Ferguson also suggests that "it was not only the fear of disciplinary action or of dishonor that deterred German and Japanese soldiers from surrendering. More important for most soldiers was the perception that prisoners would be killed by the enemy anyway, and so one might as well fight on." [36] : 176

Ulrich Straus, a U.S. Japanologist, suggests that Allied troops on the front line intensely hated Japanese military personnel and were "not easily persuaded" to take or protect prisoners, because they believed that Allied personnel who surrendered got "no mercy" from the Japanese. [37] : 116 Allied troops were told that Japanese soldiers were inclined to feign surrender in order to make surprise attacks, [37] : 116 a practice which was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1907. [38] Therefore, according to Straus, "Senior officers opposed the taking of prisoners on the grounds that it needlessly exposed American troops to risks . " [37] : 116 When prisoners were taken at Guadalcanal, Army interrogator Captain Burden noted that many times POWs were shot during transport because "it was too much bother to take [them] in". [37] : 117

U.S. historian James J. Weingartner attributes the very low number of Japanese in U.S. prisoner of war compounds to two important factors, namely (1) a Japanese reluctance to surrender, and (2) a widespread American "conviction that the Japanese were 'animals' or 'subhuman' and unworthy of the normal treatment accorded to prisoners of war. [39] : 55 The latter reason is supported by Ferguson, who says that "Allied troops often saw the Japanese in the same way that Germans regarded Russians—as Untermenschen (i.e., "subhuman")." [36] : 182

Mutilation of Japanese war dead Edit

In the Pacific theater, American servicemen engaged in human trophy collecting. The phenomenon of "trophy-taking" was widespread enough that discussion of it featured prominently in magazines and newspapers. Franklin Roosevelt himself was reportedly given a gift of a letter-opener made of a Japanese soldier's arm by U.S. Representative Francis E. Walter in 1944, which Roosevelt later ordered to be returned, calling for its proper burial. [40] : 65 [41] : 825 The news was also widely reported to the Japanese public, where the Americans were portrayed as "deranged, primitive, racist and inhuman". This, compounded by a previous Life magazine picture of a young woman with a skull trophy, was reprinted in the Japanese media and presented as a symbol of American barbarism, causing national shock and outrage. [42] [41] : 833

War rape Edit

U.S. military personnel raped Okinawan women during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. [43]

Based on several years of research, Okinawan historian Oshiro Masayasu (former director of the Okinawa Prefectural Historical Archives) writes:

Soon after the U.S. Marines landed, all the women of a village on Motobu Peninsula fell into the hands of American soldiers. At the time, there were only women, children, and old people in the village, as all the young men had been mobilized for the war. Soon after landing, the Marines "mopped up" the entire village, but found no signs of Japanese forces. Taking advantage of the situation, they started 'hunting for women' in broad daylight, and women who were hiding in the village or nearby air raid shelters were dragged out one after another. [44]

According to interviews carried out by The New York Times and published by them in 2000, several elderly people from an Okinawan village confessed that after the United States had won the Battle of Okinawa, three armed Marines kept coming to the village every week to force the villagers to gather all the local women, who were then carried off into the hills and raped. The article goes deeper into the matter and claims that the villagers' tale—true or not—is part of a "dark, long-kept secret" the unraveling of which "refocused attention on what historians say is one of the most widely ignored crimes of the war": 'the widespread rape of Okinawan women by American servicemen." [45] Although Japanese reports of rape were largely ignored at the time, academic estimates have been that as many as 10,000 Okinawan women may have been raped. It has been claimed that the rape was so prevalent that most Okinawans over age 65 around the year 2000 either knew or had heard of a woman who was raped in the aftermath of the war. [46]

Professor of East Asian Studies and expert on Okinawa, Steve Rabson, said: "I have read many accounts of such rapes in Okinawan newspapers and books, but few people know about them or are willing to talk about them." [46] He notes that plenty of old local books, diaries, articles and other documents refer to rapes by American soldiers of various races and backgrounds. An explanation given for why the US military has no record of any rapes is that few Okinawan women reported abuse, mostly out of fear and embarrassment. According to an Okinawan police spokesman: "Victimized women feel too ashamed to make it public." [46] Those who did report them are believed by historians to have been ignored by the U.S. military police. Many people wondered why it never came to light after the inevitable American-Japanese babies the many women must have given birth to. In interviews, historians and Okinawan elders said that some of those Okinawan women who were raped and did not commit suicide did give birth to biracial children, but that many of them were immediately killed or left behind out of shame, disgust or fearful trauma. More often, however, rape victims underwent crude abortions with the help of village midwives. A large scale effort to determine the possible extent of these crimes has never been conducted. Over five decades after the war had ended, in the late-1990s, the women who were believed to have been raped still overwhelmingly refused to give public statements, instead speaking through relatives and a number of historians and scholars. [46]

There is substantial evidence that the U.S. had at least some knowledge of what was going on. Samuel Saxton, a retired captain, explained that the American veterans and witnesses may have intentionally kept the rape a secret, largely out of shame: "It would be unfair for the public to get the impression that we were all a bunch of rapists after we worked so hard to serve our country." [46] Military officials formally denied the mass rapes, and all surviving related veterans refused request for interviews from The New York Times. Masaie Ishihara, a sociology professor, supports this: "There is a lot of historical amnesia out there, many people don't want to acknowledge what really happened." [46] Author George Feifer noted in his book Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, that by 1946 there had been fewer than 10 reported cases of rape in Okinawa. He explained it was "partly because of shame and disgrace, partly because Americans were victors and occupiers. In all there were probably thousands of incidents, but the victims' silence kept rape another dirty secret of the campaign." [47]

Some other authors have noted that Japanese civilians "were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy." [48] [49] According to Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden, the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned." [50]

There were also 1,336 reported rapes during the first 10 days of the occupation of Kanagawa prefecture after the Japanese surrender. [43]

European theater Edit

In the Laconia massacre, U.S. aircraft attacked Germans rescuing survivors from the sinking British troopship in the Atlantic Ocean. Pilots of a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-24 Liberator bomber, despite knowing the U-boat's location, intentions, and the presence of British seamen, killed dozens of Laconia's survivors with bombs and strafing attacks, forcing U-156 to cast its remaining survivors into the sea and crash dive to avoid being destroyed.

During the Allied invasion in Sicily, some massacres of civilians by US troops were reported, including the Vittoria one, where 12 Italians died (including a 17-year-old boy), [51] and in Piano Stella, where a group of peasants was murdered. [52]
The "Canicattì massacre" involved the killing of Italian civilians by Lieutenant Colonel George Herbert McCaffrey a confidential inquiry was made, but McCaffrey was never charged with any offense relating to the massacre. He died in 1954. This fact remained virtually unknown in the U.S. until 2005, when Joseph S. Salemi of New York University, whose father witnessed it, reported it. [53]

In the "Biscari massacre", which consisted of two instances of mass murder, U.S. troops of the 45th Infantry Division killed roughly 75 prisoners of war, mostly Italian. [54] [55]

According to an article in Der Spiegel by Klaus Wiegrefe, many personal memoirs of Allied soldiers have been wilfully ignored by historians until now because they were at odds with the "greatest generation" mythology surrounding World War II. However, this has recently started to change, with books such as The Day of Battle, by Rick Atkinson, in which he describes Allied war crimes in Italy, and D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, by Antony Beevor. [56] Beevor's latest work suggests that Allied war crimes in Normandy were much more extensive "than was previously realized". [57]

Historian Peter Lieb has found that many U.S. and Canadian units were ordered not to take enemy prisoners during the D-Day landings in Normandy. If this view is correct, it may explain the fate of 64 German prisoners (out of the 130 captured) who did not make it to the POW collecting point on Omaha Beach on the day of the landings. [56]

Near the French village of Audouville-la-Hubert, 30 Wehrmacht prisoners were massacred by U.S. paratroopers. [57]

In the aftermath of the 1944 Malmedy massacre, in which 80 American POWs were murdered by their German captors, a written order from the headquarters of the 328th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment, dated 21 December 1944, stated: "No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoner but [rather they] will be shot on sight." [58] Major-General Raymond Hufft (U.S. Army) gave instructions to his troops not to take prisoners when they crossed the Rhine in 1945. "After the war, when he reflected on the war crimes he authorized, he admitted, 'if the Germans had won, I would have been on trial at Nuremberg instead of them. ' " [59] Stephen Ambrose related: "I've interviewed well over 1000 combat veterans. Only one of them said he shot a prisoner . Perhaps as many as one-third of the veterans. however, related incidents in which they saw other GIs shooting unarmed German prisoners who had their hands up." [60]

"Operation Teardrop" involved eight surviving captured crewmen from the sunken German submarine U-546 being tortured by U.S. military personnel. Historian Philip K. Lundeberg has written that the beating and torture of U-546's survivors was a singular atrocity motivated by the interrogators' need to quickly get information on what the U.S. believed were potential missile attacks on the continental U.S. by German submarines. [61]

Among American WWII veterans who admitted to having committed war crimes was former Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran. In interviews with his biographer Charles Brandt, Sheeran recalled his war service with the Thunderbird Division as the time when he first developed a callousness to the taking of human life. By his own admission, Sheeran participated in numerous massacres and summary executions of German POWs, acts which violated the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and the 1929 Geneva Convention on POWs. In his interviews with Brandt, Sheeran divided such massacres into four different categories.

1. Revenge killings in the heat of battle. Sheeran told Brandt that, when a German soldier had just killed his close friends and then tried to surrender, he would often "send him to hell, too." He described often witnessing similar behavior by fellow GIs. [62] 2. Orders from unit commanders during a mission. When describing his first murder for organized crime, Sheeran recalled: "It was just like when an officer would tell you to take a couple of German prisoners back behind the line and for you to 'hurry back'. You did what you had to do." [63] 3. The Dachau massacre and other reprisal killings of concentration camp guards and trustee inmates. [64] 4. Calculated attempts to dehumanize and degrade German POWs. While Sheeran's unit was climbing the Harz Mountains, they came upon a Wehrmacht mule train carrying food and drink up the mountainside. The female cooks were first allowed to leave unmolested, then Sheeran and his fellow GIs "ate what we wanted and soiled the rest with our waste." Then the Wehrmacht mule drivers were given shovels and ordered to "dig their own shallow graves." Sheeran later joked that they did so without complaint, likely hoping that he and his buddies would change their minds. But the mule drivers were shot and buried in the holes they had dug. Sheeran explained that by then, "I had no hesitation in doing what I had to do." [65]

Rape Edit

Secret wartime files made public only in 2006 reveal that American GIs committed 400 sexual offenses in Europe, including 126 rapes in England, between 1942 and 1945. [66] A study by Robert J. Lilly estimates that a total of 14,000 civilian women in England, France and Germany were raped by American GIs during World War II. [67] [68] It is estimated that there were around 3,500 rapes by American servicemen in France between June 1944 and the end of the war and one historian has claimed that sexual violence against women in liberated France was common. [69]

Korean War Edit

The No Gun Ri massacre refers to an incident of mass killing of an undetermined number of South Korean refugees by U.S. soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment (and in a U.S. air attack) between 26–29 July 1950 at a railroad bridge near the village of Nogeun-ri, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Seoul. In 2005, the South Korean government certified the names of 163 dead or missing (mostly women, children, and old men) and 55 wounded. It said that many other victims' names were not reported. [70] The South Korean government-funded No Gun Ri Peace Foundation estimated in 2011 that 250–300 were killed. [71] Over the years survivors' estimates of the dead have ranged from 300 to 500. This episode early in the Korean War gained widespread attention when the Associated Press (AP) published a series of articles in 1999 that subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. [72]

Vietnam War Edit

The My Lai massacre was the mass murder of 347 to 504 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam, almost entirely civilians, most of them women and children, conducted by U.S. soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division, on 16 March 1968. Some of the victims were raped, beaten, tortured, or maimed, and some of the bodies were found mutilated. The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village during the Vietnam War. [73] [74] Of the 26 U.S. soldiers initially charged with criminal offenses or war crimes for actions at My Lai, only William Calley was convicted. Initially sentenced to life in prison, Calley had his sentence reduced to ten years, then was released after only three and a half years under house arrest. The incident prompted widespread outrage around the world, and reduced U.S. domestic support for the Vietnam War. Three American Servicemen (Hugh Thompson, Jr., Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn), who made an effort to halt the massacre and protect the wounded, were sharply criticized by U.S. Congressmen, and received hate mail, death threats, and mutilated animals on their doorsteps. [75] Thirty years after the event their efforts were honored. [76]

Following the massacre a Pentagon task force called the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group (VWCWG) investigated alleged atrocities by U.S. troops against South Vietnamese civilians and created a formerly secret archive of some 9,000 pages (the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group Files housed by the National Archives and Records Administration) documenting 320 alleged incidents from 1967–1971 including 7 massacres (not including the My Lai Massacre) in which at least 137 civilians died 78 additional attacks targeting noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted and 141 incidents of U.S. soldiers torturing civilian detainees or prisoners of war. 203 U.S. personnel were charged with crimes, 57 were court-martialed and 23 were convicted. The VWCWG also investigated over 500 additional alleged atrocities but could not verify them. [77] [78]

War on Terror Edit

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. Government adopted several new measures in the classification and treatment of prisoners captured in the War on Terror, including applying the status of unlawful combatant to some prisoners, conducting extraordinary renditions and using torture ("enhanced interrogation techniques"). Human Rights Watch and others described the measures as being illegal under the Geneva Conventions. [79]

Command responsibility Edit

A presidential memorandum of February 7, 2002, authorized U.S. interrogators of prisoners captured during the War in Afghanistan to deny the prisoners basic protections required by the Geneva Conventions, and thus according to Jordan J. Paust, professor of law and formerly a member of the faculty of the Judge Advocate General's School, "necessarily authorized and ordered violations of the Geneva Conventions, which are war crimes." [80] : 828 Based on the president's memorandum, U.S. personnel carried out cruel and inhumane treatment on captured enemy fighters, [80] : 845 which necessarily means that the president's memorandum was a plan to violate the Geneva Convention, and such a plan constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, according to Professor Paust. [80] : 861

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others have argued that detainees should be considered "unlawful combatants" and as such not be protected by the Geneva Conventions in multiple memoranda regarding these perceived legal gray areas. [81]

Gonzales' statement that denying coverage under the Geneva Conventions "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act" suggests, to some authors, an awareness by those involved in crafting policies in this area that U.S. officials are involved in acts that could be seen to be war crimes. [82] The U.S. Supreme Court challenged the premise on which this argument is based in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which it ruled that Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions applies to detainees in Guantanamo Bay and that the military tribunals used to try these suspects were in violation of U.S. and international law. [83]

Human Rights Watch claimed in 2005 that the principle of "command responsibility" could make high-ranking officials within the Bush administration guilty of the numerous war crimes committed during the War on Terror, either with their knowledge or by persons under their control. [84] On April 14, 2006, Human Rights Watch said that Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be criminally liable for his alleged involvement in the abuse of Mohammed al-Qahtani. [85] On November 14, 2006, invoking universal jurisdiction, legal proceedings were started in Germany—for their alleged involvement of prisoner abuse—against Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, George Tenet and others. [86]

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is seen by some as an amnesty law for crimes committed in the War on Terror by retroactively rewriting the War Crimes Act [87] and by abolishing habeas corpus, effectively making it impossible for detainees to challenge crimes committed against them. [88]

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told The Sunday Telegraph in 2007 that he was willing to start an inquiry by the International Criminal Court (ICC), and possibly a trial, for war crimes committed in Iraq involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair and American President George W. Bush. [89] Though under the Rome Statute, the ICC has no jurisdiction over Bush, since the U.S. is not a State Party to the relevant treaty—unless Bush were accused of crimes inside a State Party, or the UN Security Council (where the U.S. has a veto) requested an investigation. However, Blair does fall under ICC jurisdiction as Britain is a State Party. [90]

Shortly before the end of President Bush's second term in 2009, news media in countries other than the U.S. began publishing the views of those who believe that under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the U.S. is obligated to hold those responsible for prisoner abuse to account under criminal law. [91] One proponent of this view was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Professor Manfred Nowak) who, on January 20, 2009, remarked on German television that former president George W. Bush had lost his head of state immunity and under international law the U.S. would now be mandated to start criminal proceedings against all those involved in these violations of the UN Convention Against Torture. [92] Law professor Dietmar Herz explained Nowak's comments by opining that under U.S. and international law former President Bush is criminally responsible for adopting torture as an interrogation tool. [92]

Haditha killings Edit

On November 19, 2005 in Haditha, Iraq, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich led Marines from the 3rd battalion into Haditha. In Al-Subhani, a neighborhood in Haditha, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas (20 years old) was killed by a roadside bomb. [93] Later in the day, 24 Iraqi women and children were found dead and suspicion fell on Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich and his marines. Wuterich acknowledged in military court that he gave his men the order to "shoot first, ask questions later" [94] after the roadside bomb explosion. Wuterich told military judge Lt. Col. David Jones "I never fired my weapon at any women or children that day." On January 24, 2012, Frank Wuterich was given a sentence of 90 days in prison along with a reduction in rank and pay. Just a day before, Wuterich pled guilty to one count of negligent dereliction of duty. [93] No other marine that was involved that day got any jail time.


Crimes committed by the United States during WW2

When thinking about war crimes in World War II, the Holocaust, the Nazi Party, and the Nuremberg trials come to mind.

War crimes perpetrated by the Allies are something that most are not aware of. While it can be argued that the war crimes committed by the United States were not as heinous as those of Germany, they were still devastating.

Mass rape in Asia and Europe

One of the tragic tolls of war that is often glossed over is rape. This is an odious crime, and historians agree that American soldiers raped tens of thousands of women. These rapes occurred both during the war and in its immediate aftermath.

Precise estimates are impossible to obtain, but the book Taken By Force estimates approximately 11,000 women were raped in Germany between 1945 and 1946.

While fraternization with German women was forbidden, one American commander stated that copulation without conversation was not fraternization.

Germany was not the only country in which these atrocities occurred. The allied country of France also suffered from this war crime. Hundreds of French women reported being raped by American soldiers during the country’s liberation from German occupation.

U.S. 28th Infantry Division on the Champs Élysées in the “Victory Day” parade on 29 August 1944.

The attitude of American troops was no different in the Pacific. An estimate states that 10,000 women were raped on Okinawa alone. The rapes did not stop after the Japanese surrender, as 1,336 incidents were reported in the first ten days after the surrender in Kanagawa.

A young ethnic Chinese woman from one of the Imperial Japanese Army’s “comfort battalions” is interviewed by an Allied officer. North Korean nurses captured by South Korean and US soldiers. Captured North Korean women were sometimes raped by US soldiers.

Mutilation in the Pacific

After Pearl Harbor, the United States started military campaigns in the Pacific. The primary enemy was Japan and many soldiers on both sides perished. The war crimes committed by US soldiers during this campaign are clearly documented.

The worst was the mutilation of Japanese corpses to take trophies such as their skulls. The practice was widespread among the troops, and reached a point where the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet ordered directives against it in 1942 and 1944.

News of the Bataan Death March sparked outrage in the US, as shown by this propaganda poster

U.S. government propaganda poster from WWII featuring a Japanese soldier depicted as a rat

In Trophies of War, history professor James Weingartner states that mutilation was not uncommon. The Nevada Daily Mail ran a story in 1944 about Francis Walter presenting President Roosevelt with a letter opener made from a Japanese soldier’s arm.

Charles Lindbergh was once asked if he was carrying bones on his way home from the Pacific. The customs agent told him that the practice was so common that this had become a routine question.

The bombing of Dresden

In February 1945, British and American bombers started the Dresden bombing campaign, which lasted for three days and nights. While this was not the worst bombing mission of the war, 25,000 people were killed.

Dresden after the bombing raid.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Historians who believe the bombing of Dresden is a war crime point out that the target was civilians and done as a show of might to the Soviet Union.

A British Royal Air Force memo which was issued to the bombers appears to support this theory. The memo stated that the campaign would show the Russians what Bomber Command was capable of. The fact that industrial targets in the city were unscathed also lends credibility to this view.

Dresden, 1945, view from the city hall (Rathaus) over the destroyed city.Photo: Deutsche Fotothek‎ CC BY-SA 3.0

There were two official inquiries by the United States into the bombing. Both found the action to be justified, but they are largely dismissed by scholars today. The reports are seen as a whitewashing of the bombing by one of the perpetrators.

Frauenkirche ruins with a figure of Martin Luther that survived the bombings.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-60015-0002 / Giso Löwe / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Operation Teardrop

Operation Teardrop was the US answer to Adolf Hitler’s U-boats in the North Atlantic. The campaign went largely according to plan and international law. There is only one incident that went so far out of hand that it ended up being a war crime.

In 1945, U-546 sank the USS Frederick C. Davis, killing 126 of the crewmen. When the U-boat was then sunk by the USS Flaherty, 32 survivors were taken prisoner. All of the prisoners should have been sent to a prisoner of war camp, but 8 were pulled aside for interrogation.

A life raft carrying survivors from U-546 in the midst of a group of U.S. Navy destroyer escorts on April 24, 1945

The 8 prisoners were repeatedly beaten, subjected to exhaustive physical strain, and placed in solitary confinement. The torture continued for over two weeks until Germany surrendered. After the surrender, the prisoners were moved to Fort Hunt where they were again subjected to harsh treatment and conditions.

A survivor of the German submarine U-546 comes aboard USS Bogue

Concentration camp slaughter

While we understand in hindsight how brutal the Holocaust was, liberating Allied troops had to experience the literal aftermath of it. There is no way to understand the shock and horror they might have felt when confronted with concentration camps. The question is whether this excuses the war crimes they committed as a result.

When American soldiers liberated the Dachau concentration camp, they found thirty-nine railway boxcars filled with corpses. The surrender of the camp was quick and painless, but that gruesome discovery left the soldiers thirsty for vengeance. What happened next varies, depending on whose account you read.

Gates at the main entrance to Dachau concentration camp, 1945

According to commanding officers at the scene, 12 to 16 German prisoners were executed by machine gun. Approximately 30 more Germans were executed that day, according to Lt. Col. Felix Sparks. First Lt. Howard Buechner alleges that 520 Germans were killed, with 346 of them being a mass execution.

“No Mercy!”, by Arland B. Musser.Rather than taking them as POW’s, U.S. troops executed about 60 SS officers upon liberating Dachau.Photo: Tractatus CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Biscari massacre

When the Allies invaded Sicily, they found their first triumph in their campaign to take Europe back. The problem came just 4 days later with the largest massacre to be committed by American soldiers. The killings have become known as the Biscari massacre, named for the airfield the Americans were trying to capture.

On July 14, 1943, American troops slaughtered 73 prisoners of war in 2 incidents. The first incident occurred under the command of Sergeant Horace West. His men stormed the airfield and took more than 40 prisoners. A few were sent for questioning while the others were lined up and executed via machine gun.

Later that day, Captain John Compton and his men took 36 prisoners. The American interpreter asked the prisoners if they had been shooting, since many were dressed in civilian clothing. He received no answer. However, Compton’s lieutenant told him that they had. This prompted Compton to give the order to shoot the prisoners.


Records of Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army (World War II)

Established: Headquarters European Theater of Operations U.S. Army (HQ ETOUSA) established in London by General Order 3, HQ ETOUSA, June 8, 1942, succeeding Headquarters U.S. Army in the British Isles (HQ USABI), established in London by General Order 1, HQ USABI, January 8, 1942. Until establishment of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF SEE RG 331), February 13, 1944, HQ ETOUSA participated in operational planning for Allied invasion of western Europe. Performed administrative and service functions for U.S. Army troops, equipment, and facilities in United Kingdom and Iceland, 1942-45 North Africa, November 1942-February 1943 and western Europe, June 6, 1944- July 1, 1945. Moved from London to Valognes, France, September 1, 1944 and to Paris, September 14, 1944. Redesignated HQ USFET, with main headquarters at Frankfurt, Germany, and rear headquarters at Paris, effective July 1, 1945, by General Order 130, HQ ETOUSA, June 20, 1945. HQ USFET redesignated Headquarters European Command (HQ EUCOM), effective March 15, 1947, by General Order 48, HQ USFET, March 10, 1947.

Related Records:
Records of Naval Operating Forces, RG 313.
Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.
Records of U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Organizations (World War II and Thereafter), RG 338.
Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations, RG 342.
Records of U.S. Army Forces in the China-Burma-India Theaters of Operations, RG 493.

498.2 Records of headquarters organizations
1941-47

Textual Records: Decimal correspondence, interrogation reports, personnel rosters, awards files, and other records, 1941-47, of the General Staff Secretary the following general staff sections: G-1 (Personnel), G-2 (Intelligence), G-3 (Operations), and G-4 (Logistics) the following special staff sections for administrative matters: Adjutant General (including the Postal Division), Civil Affairs, Finance, Historical, Judge Advocate General, Provost Marshal, and Public Relations the following special staff sections for technical matters: Engineer, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Signal, Surgeon General (Medical), and Transportation the General Board the General Purchasing Agency Theater Service Forces European Theater and Communications Zone ETOUSA. Administrative file of the Historical Division, ETOUSA/USFET, 1942-46, containing summary historical reports on ETOUSA/USFET headquarters organizations and subordinate commands. Subject file of the Office of the Chief Surgeon, HQ ETOUSA, 1942- 45. Subject file of the Office of the Chief of Transportation, HQ ETOUSA/USFET, 1942-46.

498.3 Records of Headquarters MIS-X (Military Intelligence Service, Escape and Evasion Section) Detachment
1943-47

History: Headquarters 6801st MIS-X Detachment established at Le Vesinet, France, effective May 2, 1945, by General Order 36, Headquarters Military Intelligence Service (HQ MIS) ETOUSA, May 6, 1945. Responsible for compiling information, for reward purposes, on civilians in the formerly occupied areas of western Europe who had assisted downed Allied airmen in escaping and evading the enemy. Redesignated 7709th MIS-X Detachment, effective November 1, 1946, by letter of HQ USFET, October 17, 1946. Abolished, effective January 31, 1947, by HQ USFET radio message CM-IN 251, February 1, 1947.

Textual Records: Escape and evasion reports, 1943-45. Case files on French, Dutch, and Belgian civilians ("Helpers' Files"), 1945-47 (272 ft.), with index.

498.4 Other records
1939-48

Textual Records: British Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (BIOS) technical and intelligence reports, 1939-48.

Maps and Charts (847 items): Normandy landing beaches and defenses (including the Maginot Line), transportation routes, topography, river crossings, military situations, and administrative boundaries, primarily in France, the Low Countries, and Germany, 1943-45.

Photographic Prints (2,900 images, previously in RG 332): Compiled by the American Graves Registration Command, European Theater (a USFET subordinate command), containing views of U.S. military cemeteries in the Azores, Belgium, England, Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (including scenes of Gen. George S. Patton's interment at the U.S. military cemetery in Hamm, following his death on December 21, 1945), in albums, 1944- 45 (MC).

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


Casualties

Casualties are the brutal reality of warfare. The number of deaths resulting from the Second World War remains uncertain, but was around 70 million persons. Of these, around 22 million were military deaths while the remainder were civilians killed during military operations, through famine, or in crimes against humanity. This represents about 3% of the total world population at the time. Casualties in the Pacific War numbered around 36 million or 50% of the total casualties of the Second World War.

Total casualties in Asia and the Pacific by nation and type

Nation
Killed or missing
Wounded
Prisoners of war
Civilian deaths
Australia
9,470 13,997 21,726
China
4,000,000
3,000,000

18,000,000
India 1
6,860 24,200
68,890 2,000,000
Japan
1,740,000 94,000 41,440 2
393,400
Netherlands East Indies


37,000
4,000,000
Philippines



1,000,000
United Kingdom 1 5,670 12,840 50,016
United States
111,606 253,142 21,580

Blank entries indicate that estimates are unavailable, but the numbers likely are small.
1 Includes only losses in ground combat.
2 Prior to 15 August 1945.

In the broadest sense, military casualties include all losses of military personnel, whether from death or wounds in combat, surrender, illness, accidents, or desertion. About 4% of U.S. troops were unavailable for combat at any given moment during the war. In the Pacific, with its poor living conditions, the great majority of these were not combat-related. Over the course of the Second World War, the U.S. Army recorded about 17 million hospital admissions globally for illness or accident, versus about a million combat casualties. Indeed, in the early days of the war, the Allied armies experienced about 100 casualties from heat or disease for every combat casualty.

A similar picture is given by the casualty statistics of 20 Indian Division. During one six-month period, there were 2345 battle casualties, 1118 malaria and typhus cases, 697 cases of dysentery, 205 cases of venereal disease, 210 cases of skin disease, 170 psychiatric casualties, 100 accidents, 321 minor injuries, and 2784 other hospital admissions (Hastings 2007.) This was not unusual. During the first six months of 1944, 14 Army experienced 40,000 combat casualties and 282,000 casualties from illness.

About 24.2% of Japanese soldiers and 19.7% of Japanese sailors died during the Second World War, contrasted with 3.66% of U.S. Marines, 2.5% of U.S.soldiers, and 1.5% of U.S. sailors. Casualties in China were immense even before war broke out in the Pacific: The Japanese had suffered over 180,000 dead (including 48,344 dead from illness) and over 323,700 wounded (including 36,470 permanently disabled) by October 1941.

Civilian casualties are difficult to quantify. Civilian deaths resulting directly from military action or massacre are clearly attributable to the war, but deaths from disease, famine, or other hardship are more ambiguous, since these also occur in peacetime. The best one can do is to estimate excess deaths, which is the number of deaths during the war beyond what would have been expected under peacetime conditions. Such estimates are inherently uncertain. The civilian Indian deaths in the table above are primarily from the Bengal famine of 1943, for which estimates of excess deaths range from 1.5 to 3 million. The civilian Chinese deaths are the best estimate from recent archival research (cited by Hsiung and Levine 1992) but may be an overestimate (Mitter [2013] estimates 14 to 20 million total Chinese dead), while the estimate of Japanese civilian casualties, coming primarily from the strategic bombing campaign, is likely an underestimate. The figure for the Netherlands East Indies, arising from famine and forced labor, is also highly uncertain.

Combat Casualties. In the Western military tradition, armed forces attempted to impose their will on the enemy through the use of their firepower to inflict casualties. A unit was usually rendered hors de combat long before its casualty rate approached 100%. This was true even of the Japanese, whose resignation to death in battle astonished Westerners.

In the Allied armies, approximately three men were wounded in action for every man who was killed on the battlefield or died of his wounds. This relatively high survival rate was made possible by advances in medicine that meant that a wounded man who survived long enough to reach a field hospital had an excellent chance of recovery. The corresponding figure for the Japanese Army is nothing short of appalling: The state of Japanese military medicine and the nature of Japanese tactics (such as staging massed frontal assaults or fighting to the death in hopeless defensive positions) translated into a 95% death rate among combat casualties.

Statistics for 6 Army on Leyte indicate that almost half of all fatal wounds were from small arms fire, and a little more than half of fatal small arms wounds were from hits to the torso, with head wounds accounting for about 20% of fatalities. On the other hand, the majority of nonfatal wounds were inflicted by shell or grenade fragments.

Some idea of U.S. casualty rates can be gleaned from the following table of total wartime casualties for some of the divisions that served in the Pacific (Frank 1999).

Casualties in selected U.S. divisions


Division
Total Battle
Casualties
Killed or
Died of Wounds

Wounded

Other

Campaigns
25
5,432
1,500
3,928
4
New Guinea, Luzon, southern Philippines
33
2,426
524
1.896
6
New Guinea, Luzon
40
3,025
748
2,273
4
Bismarcks, southern Philippines, Luzon
41
4,260
962
3,287
11
New Guinea, Luzon, southern Philippines
43
6,026
1,414
4,609
3
Guadalcanal, northern Solomons, New Guinea, Luzon
77
7,461
1,857
5.534
70
Eniwetok, Guam, Leyte, Okinawa
81
2,314
517
1,793
4
Palau, Leyte
Americal
4,050
1,168
2,876
6
Guadalcanal
1 Cavalry
4,055
971
3,075
9
New Guinea, Bismarcks, Leyte, Luzon
11 Airborne
2,431
620
1,806
5
New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon
2 Marine
12,770
2,795
9,975
0
Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa
3 Marine
10,416
2,371
8.045
0
Bougainville, Guam, Iwo Jima
5 Marine
9,573
2,414
7.159
0
Iwo Jima
Total
74,239
17,861
56,256
122

The total dead or missing were 41,592 for all U.S. Army ground troops in the Pacific and southeast Asia, with another 145,706 wounded. The Marine Corps and attached Navy corpsmen suffered total casualties of 23,160 killed or missing and 67,199 wounded.

Average casualty rates for U.S. units in combat are tabulated below, in rates per thousand men committed per day ( ibid .)

Average casualty rates for U.S. ground combat units

It is notable that the fraction of fatal casualties in the more intense combat (24%) is significantly greater than in the more protracted combat (17%). This likely reflects the higher reliance on artillery rather than small arms to wear down the enemy in extended campaigns.

Western air and naval forces tended to suffer a much higher percentage of deaths among their combat casualties than did Western ground forces. The U.S. Navy lost 31,157 killed in action out of a total of 62,858 combat casualties in the Pacific, a figure of nearly 50%. The U.S. Army Air Forces lost 15,694 dead and missing out of a total of 24,230 casualties in the Pacific, a figure of 65%.

Total U.S. combat casualties in the war against Japan were thus 111,606 dead or missing and another 253,142 wounded.

Japanese military casualties from 1937-1945 have been estimated at 1,834,000, of which 1,740,000 were killed or missing. Some 388,600 of these were incurred in China, another 210,830 in southeast Asia, and the rest in the Pacific. Of these, some 300,386 were naval fatalities, and some 334 Japanese warships were sunk during the war.

Chinese military casualties are uncertain, but a reasonable estimate is about four million dead and three million wounded.

In the Pacific, the British lost 5,670 dead or missing and 12,840 wounded, the Australians 9,470 dead or missing and 13,997 wounded, and India 6,860 dead and 24,200 wounded. The figures for Britain and India are from Ellis (1985) and are for ground forces only, to which should be added at least 1100 sailors lost with Force Z and in other naval actions in the Far East. Ellis' figure may be a serious underestimate, and total combined British and Indian combat dead in the Far East may have been as high as 28,000 (Street 2012, private communication).

Civilian casualties were very heavy in certain theaters of the Pacific War. Japan suffered at least 393,400 civilian deaths and another 275,000 civilians wounded. The best recent estimate of Chinese civilian deaths, calculated from archival records, stands at 18 million. These dwarf the civilian casualties of the other Allies, though these were sometimes locally heavy, as at Manila. The war in China also produced an estimated 95 million refugees.

Combat Fatigue. A significant percentage of casualties in combat were psychological casualties, as much as 30% for poorly led and poorly trained troops, such as 43 Division at New Georgia. A more typical figure was 5% to 10%. Japanese troops were not immune to combat fatigue, but because of differences in culture and military tradition, it manifested itself differently. Japanese troops who broke down psychologically were very likely to commit suicide, either directly (such as with their own grenades) or indirectly (such as by banzai charges into massed Allied fire.)

Surrender. Large numbers of Allied troops were forced to surrender during the first months of the war, when they were caught up in Japan's carefully prepared opening offensive. Almost a third of all Allied prisoners of war died in Japanese camps by the time the war ended, a reflection of the brutal treatment they received from their captors. Commonwealth forces actually suffered more deaths in Japanese POW camps than in combat. The British lost 50,016 prisoners of war in southeast Asia, the Australian 21,726, and the Indians 68,890. The American forces lost 21,580 prisoners of war, most of them in the Philippines.

Once the Allied counteroffensive got under way, surrender by Allied troops became a rare phenomenon.

Few Japanese troops surrendered before August 1945. As the Allied counteroffensive rolled forward, and Japanese garrisons were trapped on small islands from which there was no escape, Japanese garrisons literally fought to the death. Typically just 1 to 3 percent of a trapped garrison would surrender, while the remainder died in combat or committed suicide. The impression that the Japanese were more willing to surrender as the war became hopeless was largely an illusion. The Allies were taking more prisoners, but they were also fighting larger enemy forces, and the 1 to 3 percent figure held up to the end of hostilities.

Of those Japanese taken prisoner, it is estimated that only one-third were actively looking for the opportunity to surrender. The remainder were capture while too sick or badly wounded to resist or because they stumbled into Allied positions and were taken by surprise.

Surrender may have been considerably more common among reservists in China. Historian Kawano Hitoshi (in Peattie et al. 2011) reports that 37 Division, a Class C "security" division in China, had approximately 7000 men taken prisoner over the course of the war. I have found no statistics from the Chinese side on the numbers of prisoners of war taken or their fate.

Illness. Illness accounted for the overwhelming majority of Allied casualties during the Pacific War. Malaria was the main culprit, but dengue, scrub typhus, and other tropical diseases, together with FUO ("Fever of Undetermined Origin", which sometimes was a symptom of combat fatigue), took their toll as well. American hospitalizations for illness worldwide numbered around 15 million.

Stavation . Deaths from starvation were not unknown among the Americans during the Bataan campaign, but the great majority of armed soldiers who died of starvation were Japanese or Chinese. The Allied strategy of leapfrogging strong Japanese garrisons left these isolated from resupply, and since surrender was unthinkable to their commanders, these garrisons were forced into a Stone Age existence of trying to grow sufficient food for survival in the jungle. It is likely that most of Adachi's 18 Army , cut off in New Guinea, died of starvation. Hyakutake's 17 Army in Bougainville suffered a similar fate. Overall, an appalling 60% of Japan's military dead were lost to starvation.

Chinese logistics were grossly inadequate throughout the war, and some observers reported corruption in the form of commanding officers stealing the money allocated to their formations for rations. However, Chinese military deaths due to starvation are impossible to quantify due to lack of any but anecdotal information.

The majority of those who starved during the Pacific War were civilians. These included somewhere between 1.5 million and 3 million Indians in the Bengal famine of 1943, which was a consequence of the loss of rice imports from Japanese-occupied Burma, the worldwide shortage of shipping, and incompetence on the part of the British-led administration. Millions more died in China (including at least two million in Honan province alone) and in southeast Asia from shortages brought about by the rapacious demands of the Japanese occupation.

Accidents. In the U.S. Army worldwide, accidents accounted for about 2 million hospitalizations. Air operations were especially hazardous. Some 13,000 American airmen were killed accidentally, while the Royal Air Force lost 787 officers and 4540 other ranks to accidents.

Absence Without Leave and Desertion. Absence without leave was failure to report for duty. This became desertion if the soldier or sailor intended to permanently separate himself from the armed forces. Though desertion in time of war was universally regarded as a capital offense, no American serviceman in the Pacific Theater (and only one in Europe) suffered the ultimate penalty for desertion.

In the U.S. Army, a division shipping for an amphibious assault typically found about 1% of its personnel absent without leave. In the Marine Corps, the figure was sometimes as low as 0.1%, a reflection of the superior esprit de corps of the all-volunteer force. Leckie (1962) claims that the number of men absent without leave from 1 Marine Division when it shipped out for Guadalcanal was less than a dozen.

A secret Japanese Army report in 1942 claimed that desertions to the enemy in China peaked at just 35 men in 1939 (CINCPAC 1945). However, the same report made it clear that being captured while unconscious from wounds was considered desertion! The reality was that desertion was far more common than Japanese military leaders were willing to admit. Kawano (in Peattie et al. 2011) reports that 37 Division, a Type C "security division" in China, suffered about 750 desertions over the course of the war, of whom perhaps 100 joined the Chinese Communist 8 Route Army. Collie and Marutani (2009) interviewed a Japanese veteran of the Kokoda campaign who was pressed into service as a light machine gunner to replace a soldier who "had gone to the rear without permission." U.S. forces on Okinawa discovered large numbers of young men with concealed weapons among the native Okinawans, but it was not clear how many were Okinawan conscripts who had truly deserted or Japanese guerrillas. Desertion became a serious concern of Japanese commanders in Burma from 1944 on.

I have found one documented case of Japanese soldiers deserting to the Americans. A handful of enlisted men from a communications unit on Okinawa, who were privy to more information on the course of the war than the average Japanese soldier, concluded that "they might be better off if Japan were defeated Japan might then become one of the states of the United States or a republic like France" (Straus 2003). The men slipped away from their unit, took a small boat to the nearby island of Kume Jima, were picked up by a Japanese naval unit from which they deserted a second time, and surrendered to the first Americans they could find.

Desertions from the Chinese Army are almost impossible to quantify but were likely a huge drain on manpower. Initially, desertion was quite low, and MacKinnon (2008) asserts that "High casualty figures, not high desertion rates, characterized the Chinese side during the battle for control fo the central Yangzi valley." However, by the time of Pearl Harbor, the percentage of conscripts had increased greatly and desertions became very common. According to Larrabee (1987), following the collapse of the Allied defense in Burma, Chinese deserters took to banditry and terrorized refugees attempting to escape to India. Stilwell's headquarters claimed that Chinese pack animals were often in very poor shape because "The Chinese are very reluctant to graze their animals for fear of losing both the animals and the soldiers through desertion" (Romanus and Sunderland 1952), and there was a real danger of mass desertion during the peak of the Japanese Ichi-go offensive.


American Involvement in Wars From Colonial Times to the Present

America has been involved in wars large and small since before the founding of the nation. The first such war, sometimes called Metacom’s Rebellion or King Philip's War, lasted 14 months and destroyed 14 towns.   The war, tiny by today's standards, ended when Metacom (the Pokunoket chief called "King Philip" by the English), was beheaded.

The most recent war, America's engagement in Afghanistan, is the most protracted war in U.S. history. A response to devastating coordinated terrorist attacks on American soil on Sept. 11, 2001, this war began the following month when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in search of Taliban forces and members of al-Qaeda. U.S. troops remain there to this day.

Wars over the years have changed dramatically, and American involvement in them has varied as well. For example, many of the earliest American wars were fought on American soil. Twentieth-century wars such as World Wars I and II, by contrast, were fought overseas few Americans on the homefront saw any type of direct engagement during these. While the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 resulted in thousands of American deaths, the most recent war fought on American soil was the Civil War, which ended in 1865.


Also in Oral history interviews of the University of California, Los Angeles Holocaust Testimonies Project

Contains interviews with 59 Holocaust survivors in the Los Angeles, California area recorded by the University of California, Los Angeles Holocaust Testimonies Project in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Oral history interview with Edgar Aftergood

Edgar Aftergood, born in Berlin, Germany in 1923, describes his memories of the day Hitler came to power his parents studying music as a child experiencing antisemitism his parents moving the family back to Warsaw, Poland in 1934 life in Warsaw the bombardment of Warsaw in 1939 his father being hit by a soldier the creation of the ghetto and conditions there living in a hospital with his family and seeing Dr. Janusz Korczak his outspoken aunt, Dr. Anna Heller having to report to work camps in 1942 playing music and being in a study group concerts in the ghetto going through a selection his sister’s death his father’s connections to people outside the ghetto hiding out in an apartment on the other side of Warsaw in Bielany district his father having a stroke the Warsaw Uprising fleeing the city and walking to Bioney (possibly Błonie) their interactions with the Germans the Russians arriving in 1945 going to Lublin, Poland and then Łódź, Poland attending a conservatory his father’s death going to Paris, France illegally meeting his future wife and immigrating to the United States.

Oral history interview with Marianna Birnbaum

Mariana, born in Budapest, Hungary in 1934, describes feeling that her experience during the Holocaust has affected her whole life her parents attending a Jewish school life changing in 1944 losing her Gentile governess a family story regarding the Russian massacre of Armenians her father and uncle hiding separately from her and her mother returning to their house what it felt like to wear the Jewish Star her family refusing to live in the ghetto her father and uncle hiding in a German building but being betrayed her father escaping from a camp her mother being taken but saved by a Hungarian Nazi being alone in hiding for a time during the war obtaining false papers later when she was reunited with her mother one of their hiding places, which was a small space in her uncle's building her escape from the massacre of Jews at the Danube during the time when she was in hiding alone how she’s been affected by her Holocaust experience her view of Hungarians and Hungarian Jewry.

Oral history interview with Thomas Blatt

Thomas Blatt, born in Izbica Lubelska, Poland, describes the Jewish community hearing about Kristallnacht the German invasion the restrictions placed on Jews and the ghetto his town becoming a collection point for other Polish Jews the Judenrat ordering people to work the roundup and deportation of Jews receiving false papers and heading towards Hungary being caught and escaping going to a hospital and surviving a massacre of the Jewish patients traveling home with false papers given to him by a doctor being taken to Sobibór with his family in April 1943 the selections and meeting the German SS officer Karl Frenzel his methods for surviving psychologically the organized revolt in the camp and escaping hiding out and receiving help from farmers going to Izbica Lubelska but returning to the forest to hide being taken care of by a farmer the famer killing some of the people hiding with him and trying to kill him his various hiding places liberation but still being under threat going to Lublin, Poland not wanting to escape his memories and teaching people about the revolt in Sobibór.

Oral history interview with Stanley Bronner

Stanley Bronner, born on March 19, 1923 in Auschwitz (Oświęcim), Poland, describes his good childhood experiencing antisemitism and fighting back leaving home to learn the jewelry trade when he was 14 years old the war starting his work laying train tracks when the concentration camp was being built almost getting shot the Appels (roll calls) running away from the camp witnessing the hanging of three men his father being taken to the camp and being a translator being beaten daily building Auschwitz being transported to Oberlober, which was a few miles away on a small farm working in a sugar factory hiding in a tank for a day before the evacuation of the camp seeing a Russian crossing over the river Oder and the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust.

Oral history interview with Barry Bruk

Barry Bruk, born in Łódź, Poland in 1924, describes his Orthodox family finishing school before the war started reading the Jewish and Polish newspapers before the ghetto was blocked in his encounters with antisemitism life in the ghetto and how it deteriorated after the ghetto was closed in becoming a sewing machine mechanic the daily transports from the ghetto hearing rumors about the war and the German treatment of the deported Jews the liquidation of the ghetto hospital being deported from the ghetto with his family being separated from his mother at Birkenau being sent to Dresden, Germany, where he worked in a mill the bombings and not being allowed in the shelters being transferred to another factory, where he was an electrician stealing a pot of soup from the kitchen and sharing it with the people in the camp hospital running from the camp on May 8, 1945 after the SS guards had disappeared returning to Łódź, where he stayed in a Jewish community house his desire to leave Europe and going to Canada.

Oral history interview with Selene Bruk

Selene Bruk, born in Bialystok, Poland, describes her family and living with her mother, two brothers, grandparents, and her aunt and uncle being in the 5th grade when the war began the German invasion and the killing of many Jews having to wear yellow stars and the formation of the ghetto conditions in the ghetto hiding during a roundup of Jews being forced to work and her brother getting her onto his construction crew her grandmother being shot in the street hiding in the ghetto with her brother and meeting up with partisans being sent to Stutthoff for a short time until they were sent to Birkenau making sure that her mother was selected for work and not killed working in the IG Farben factory, building bombs sabotaging the bombs her mother falling and breaking her arm being taken to Auschwitz being next to Block 10 her aunt being experimented on being taken to Ravensbrück and then Neustadt she and her mother surviving her mother becoming ill working for the Russian Army going to Łódź and then Bialystok getting a letter from her father, who was living in the United States going to the US and attending school returning to Poland years later with her husband and children how she met her husband, Barry, on a train living in Canada with her husband living in California and speaking to school children about her Holocaust experience.

Oral history interview with Marion Chervin

Marion Chevrin, born in Warsaw, Poland in 1920, describes his father dying when he was 12 graduating from an industrial school two months before the outbreak of the war his parents' financial situation worsening in 1929 experiencing antisemitism the German invasion wanting to enlist but not being accepted leaving his mother to travel to the Russian zone of Poland his mother's death staying in Warsaw on the German side being a welfare officer getting married in 1941 and living in the ghetto wife being a volunteer while he worked at the Jewish Center conditions in the ghetto, including the scarcity of food and the prevalence of typhoid the division of the ghetto into two sections children smuggling food into the ghetto the forced deportations in July 1942 cultural activities in the ghetto being helped by a Polish policeman who was working with the underground hiding during deportations being deported to Majdanek in April 1943 his aunt committing suicide being taken to Budzyn one of the cruel guards, who killed many people working on a railroad Jewish commandants going to a school where they taught him to build parts for airplanes walking daily to a labor factory their meager rations being transferred to another camp receiving a letter from the Polish policeman he knew in Warsaw how he attributes his survival to luck being sent to the concentration camp in Flossenbürg, Germany daily life in the camp being liberated by American troops not wanting to speak about his experience for many years and the importance of sharing Holocaust experiences.

Oral history interview with Fred Diament

Fred Diament, born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, describes his Orthodox parents, who were Polish Jews and moved to Germany in 1919 the distinct differences between the strong Eastern Jewish community and the German Jewish community how after Kristallnacht, all Jewish students were expelled from German schools his parents sending each of their six kids to live with gentiles for two weeks being arrested with one of his brothers and his father and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp life in the camp being attracted to the Zionist movement his family’s store, which sold linens his family’s attempts to emigrate his work in Sachsenhausen befriending the camp’s cook an uprising in Sachsenhausen being disinfected before being transferred to Auschwitz in 1942 two of his brothers joining a Zionist group in Poland and receiving fake certificates to enter Palestine going to Auschwitz with one of his brothers and his father the fate of the intellectuals the social hierarchy within the camp based on the number of years one survived in the camps working in Buna, where they produced synthetic fuel and rubber his father’s death the strong underground in Auschwitz and he and his brother joining them the communal atmosphere in the camp the new camp leader some acts of sabotage but nothing serious the death of his brother, Leo, during an escape attempt being transferred to Gleiwitz his successful escape during a death march in January 1945 being liberated discovering that his family was dead and finding a group going to Israel and helping to found a kibbutz in Israel.

Oral history interview with Ilse Diament

Ilse Diament, born in Krefeld, Germany in 1928, describes being one of five children her family’s supermarket attending a Jewish school in Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland) two of her sisters going to Israel before the war her father being arrested during Kristallnacht and sent to Buchenwald being deported in February 1940 the journey to a ghetto near Lublin, Poland selections in the ghetto a brutal action in the hospital barracks being selected for a mass killing in a ditch surviving and going to an Arbeitslager (labor camp) in the forest for a year and a half being evacuated and walking to Madjanek being sent to Krasnik, Poland being taken to Auschwitz finding a friend hiding under dead people to save herself how her hair was shaved and she was given her number, a dress, and some food working with a Dutch group, cleaning out latrines in the crematoriums a big evacuation how the Lagerkommandant, Josef Kramer, liked the orchestra being sent to Bergen-Belsen working with parachutes and meeting a woman (Emily Zinger) who knew her father contracting typhus and the orchestra protecting her her happiness upon seeing a British soldier wearing the Star of David the sexual assault and murders in the camps what it was like for her after liberation how the testimony of the survivors is crucial going to Israel via France meeting Fred Diament on a Kibbutz her children her religious feelings and the importance of not forgetting the Holocaust.

Oral history interview with Joseph Fenton

Joseph Fenton, born May 6, 1919, describes working in Łódź ghetto arriving home after work one day to find his immediate family gone never seeing his two brothers, three sisters, and parents again witnessing deportations and hearing about the massacres outside the city the evacuation of the ghetto in 1944 being deported to Auschwitz working in a coal mine, where many people died being marched to Czechoslovakia Czechs helping some of the prisoners escape being sent to Mauthausen going through a selection having to carry huge stones up stairs to build factories being taken to Ebensee on trucks and working there until he was liberated meeting a civilian who told them that the Americans were getting closer and that they shouldn't lose hope speaking to an American in Polish receiving help from the Americans Eisenhower and his staff coming and ordering the townspeople to bury the dead instead of burning them meeting his wife not wanting to stay in Poland immigrating to Canada in 1949 how it’s helped him to speak with other survivors sharing his story with his daughter taking an American club to Mauthausen in 1977 to show them the camp and the importance of fighting for a free country.

Oral history interview with Ruth Fenton

Ruth Fenton, born in a suburb of Łódź, Poland, describes having two brothers her grandfather being a successful manufacturer of men's clothes hearing of the humiliation of Jews beginning in 1933 the German invasion in 1939 her brother being drafted the ghetto laws public hangings the synagogue being burned down her father being deported and never seeing him again being deported with her mother in August 1944 to Auschwitz the selection and being separated from her mother being in Birkenau in a barracks with doctors and nurses from the ghetto contracting scarlet fever being sent to the so-called "Gypsy" camp stealing and taking pills in an attempt to get better being sent to a work camp in Auschwitz going to Linz, Austria then Lansing, where they manufactured clothes for the Nazis conditions in the camp prisoners walking to work while civilians just watched being liberated by the Americans the American Red Cross taking over meeting her husband at a refugee camp being reunited with her brother going to Italy after she and her husband decided not to go to Israel and living in a hotel in a German city near Munich.

Oral history interview with Henriette From-Cohen

Henriette From, born in Holland in 1923, describes living comfortably as an Orthodox Jew in Amsterdam until the age of 17 the German invasion of Holland in 1940 going into hiding in 1942 staying in hiding for nearly two years, during which time she got married being betrayed by the foster daughter of the family that was hiding them being five months pregnant and taken by the Germans by cattle car to Birkenau her work building a new railroad being beaten her large dress hiding her pregnancy having her daughter born prematurely at eight months her baby being taken one night and dying surviving the starvation, the hard labor, and the illnesses at the camp until the Russian troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau staying in the Russian zone for six months before returning to her family home in Amsterdam marrying her second husband and having a child realizing that she could no longer live in the country that held so many terrible memories for her and moving to Los Angeles, CA, where she established new roots.

Oral history interview with Georgia Gabor

Georgia Gabor, born Budapest, Hungary in 1930, describes being the only survivor in her family besides one cousin growing up in a prominent family becoming aware that she was different from other Hungarians because she was Jewish in 1942 hearing what was going on in Poland with the Jews the Germans arriving in March 1944 the formation of a Judenrat (Jewish council), which her father was part of the book she wrote (My Destiny: Survivor of the Holocaust) restrictions on the Jews the bombings in Budapest keeping a notebook of her experiences during that time the roundups and deportations receiving a Swiss affidavit not wearing the star getting her mother released from the brick factory with the help of a Nazi, who was a former client of her father witnessing the brutal beatings and torture of Hungarian Jews hiding out and her view of American Jews during the war.

Oral history interview with Barbara Gerson

Barbara Gerson (née Branka Nomberg), born May 30, 1924 in Warsaw, Poland, describes growing up in Łódź, Poland being the youngest of three children losing a brother on July 8, 1932 her strictly orthodox family attending a private school the war beginning being required to wear a yellow star of David her family's textile business being taken away her father being beaten going to live with a family in Czestochowa, Poland and never seeing her mother again passing as Polish while she was aboard the train going to Warsaw before going to Czestochowa having to wear arm bands and moving to the ghetto falling in love with a man originally from Krakow, Poland Aktions in 1942 being taken to a small ghetto and getting married to Bolek being chosen to clean the big ghetto working in a fabric factory her husband smuggling out furs from the ghetto getting hepatitis and going to the hospital going to the factory, which became a guarded camp her husband’s work making bullets for guns being transferred to a part of the factory that was involved with calibrating machinery experiencing starvation and no longer menstruating Bolek getting typhoid being transferred to her husband's factory having an abortion her husband smuggling bullets to the underground hiding during the evacuation of the camp being liberated and returning to Łódź reuniting with her brother she and her husband staying at the displaced persons camp in Landsberg am Lech, Germany telling her children about her experiences and hoping that talking to people about the Holocaust will prevent it from happening again.

Oral history interview with Gertrude Goetz

Gertrude Goetz, born in Vienna, Austria September 7, 1931, describes being the only child of a middle class family her parents’ store her parents not being religious and not being exposed to much Jewish culture antisemitism in Austria Austria being annexed by the German Reich Jews being deported her mother being outspoken and getting into an argument with a Nazi and being arrested her mother’s release not being allowed to attend school her father being sent to Dachau synagogues being burned her family getting passes to Italy and her father’ release her parents working for Jews, cleaning houses, in Milan, Italy her father being imprisoned when Italy joined the war being sent to a small village and spending two years there her mother falling ill being treated kindly by the locals being converted in order to attend school listening to the radio leaving the village and going to a farm being liberated in June 1944 living at a refugee camp for six years her father’s depression and meeting her husband, Sam, at a refugee camp in Italy.

Oral history interview with Samuel Goetz

Samuel Goetz describes living in Tarnow, Poland his Jewish family being assimilated into Polish society Jews not being able to attend school being 11 years old when the war began the Germans rounding up the Jews on the one year anniversary of Kristallnacht the family breaking apart living in the ghetto and the restrictions placed on Jews his family selling belongings on the black market preparing for his bar mitzvah events in the ghetto and his parents being deported to Belzec, where they died briefly escaping the ghetto and hiding in a small room returning to work in the ghetto the liquidation of the ghetto and being sent to Cracow-Płaszów concentration camp then to Gross-Rosen being marched to Mauthausen his last week in the camp and liberation.


Good Bets, Bad Bets and Dark Horses: Allied Intelligence Officers’ Encounters with German Civilians, 1944–1945

This article explores Allied intelligence officers’ encounters with and interrogations of German civilians from autumn 1944 onwards, psychological warfare operations directed at civilians, and their wider ramifications. Focusing especially on the officers serving with the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD), I will demonstrate that field intelligence officers’ stance towards German civilians was fluid and often ambiguous, with the encounter causing considerable distress to some of them. Their reports and correspondence further suggest that in this period, Germans readily professed knowledge of atrocities. But contrary to intelligence officers’ expectations, they failed to accept any guilt or responsibility. Finally, I will argue that the very foundations and techniques of Western Allied psychological warfare may have reinforced and legitimised justification strategies that separated between “real” Nazis and everyone else. This was at odds with one of the central aims of Military Government, i.e. to inculcate a sense of culpability in Germans.

Dieser Beitrag untersucht die Begegnungen mit deutschen Zivilist*innen und deren Befragungen durch alliierte Offiziere ab Herbst 1944 sowie auf Zivilist*innen abzielende Aktivitäten psychologischer Kriegsführung und deren Auswirkungen. Mit besonderem Augenmerk auf die Offiziere im Dienste der Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) wird demonstriert, dass die Haltung von Nachrichtenoffizieren im Außendienst gegenüber deutschen Zivilist*innen fließend und oft uneindeutig war und dass die Begegnungen einige Offiziere erheblich bedrückten. Ihre Berichte und Korrespondenz legen außerdem nahe, dass Deutsche während dieser Zeit bereitwillig Kenntnis von Gräueltaten eingestanden. Konträr zu den Erwartungen der befragenden Offiziere zeigten sie jedoch keine Schuldgefühle und übernahmen keine Verantwortung. Abschließend argumentiert der Beitrag, dass die Grundsätze und Techniken der psychologischen Kriegsführung der westlichen Alliierten möglicherweise die Rechtfertigungsstrategien, die „echte“ Nazis von anderen Personen unterschieden, bekräftigten und legitimierten. Dies widersprach einem der zentralen Ziele der Militärregierung, nämlich den Deutschen einen Sinn für Schuldhaftigkeit einzuimpfen.


Philippine Independence

As the first war of America’s “imperialistic period,” the Philippine-American War marked the beginning of a nearly 50-year period of U.S. involvement in the Philippines. Through its victory, the United States gained a strategically located colonial base for its commercial and military interests in the Asian-Pacific region.

From the beginning, U.S. presidential administrations had assumed that the Philippines would eventually be granted full independence. In this sense, they considered the role of the U.S. occupation there to be one of preparing—or teaching—the Filipino people how to govern themselves through an American-style democracy.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and the U.S. Congress promised the residents of the Philippine Islands independence and began turning over some authority to Filipino leaders by establishing a democratically elected Philippine Senate. In March 1934, the U.S. Congress, at the recommendation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, enacted the Tydings-McDuffie Act (the Philippine Independence Act) that created a self-governing Philippine Commonwealth, with Manuel L. Quezon as its first elected president. While the actions of the Commonwealth’s legislature still required the approval of the President of the United States, the Philippines was now well on its way to full autonomy.

Independence was put on hold during World War II, as Japan occupied the Philippines from 1941 to 1945. On July 4, 1946, the governments of the United States and the Philippines signed the Treaty of Manila, which relinquished U.S. control of the Philippines and officially recognized the independence of the Republic of the Philippines. The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on July 31, 1946, signed by President Harry Truman on August 14 and ratified by the Philippines on September 30, 1946.

From their long and often bloody struggle for independence from Spain and then the United States, the Filipino people came to embrace a devoted sense of national identity. Through their shared experiences and beliefs, the people came to consider themselves Filipinos first and only. As historian David J. Silbey suggested of the Philippine-American War, “Though there was no Filipino nation in the conflict, the Filipino nation could not have existed without the war.”


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