5 Delinquent Soldiers

The murder of Feldwebel (T/Sgt) Wolfgang Rosterg at Comrie Camp

 

Five young German prisoners of war were hanged at Pentonville on Saturday, 6 October, 1945. They were Unterscharführer (SS Sgt) Joachim Goltz, Sturmmann (SS Pfc) Kurt Zühlsdorff, Rottenführer (SS Cpl) Heinrich-Wernhard Brüning (given elsewhere as Heinz Brüling), Oberfähnrich (Senior Cadet) Erich Palme-König and Matrosengefreiter (Able Seaman) Josef Mertens. They had been convicted of the murder of Feldwebel (T/Sgt) Wolfgang Rosterg on Saturday, 23 December, 1944 at Cultybraggan POW camp at Comrie in Perthshire in Scotland.

A number of fanatical Nazi POWs had been moved to Comrie after an escape attempt had been foiled at Camp 23 (Le Marchant Barracks) at Devizes in Wiltshire. Some of these men suspected that Wolfgang Rosterg had betrayed the escape plan.

Rosterg, aged 35, had also been a prisoner at Devizes where his POW number was A7888778. He arrived at Cultybraggan by bus, along with 30 other POWs, on December, 17th, 1944. He could read and speak English and was allowed to read the Scottish newspapers. He made the mistake of translating and reading out some of the articles that predicted the failure of a planned German invasion of the Ardennes. This cast suspicion on him as an informer or collaborator.

On Saturday, 23 December he was dragged from his bed in Hut 4 Compound B, and severely beaten. A rope was put round his neck and he was dragged to the latrines where he was hanged from a pipe. Possibly it was hoped that the authorities would think he had committed suicide, but an examination of the injuries to his body ruled that out.

Eight men were arrested for the murder, the five mentioned above, plus Rolf Herzig, Herbert Wunderlich and Hans Klein.

All eight were tried at Kensington Palace Gardens before a military tribunal between 2 and 12 July 1945. Hans Klein was acquitted on the third day of the trial, due to insufficient evidence. Wunderlich was found not guilty at the end of the trial and Rolf Herzig was convicted but sentenced to life in prison. On 23 July, 1945 the five death sentences were confirmed by the Judge Advocate General.

While the five admitted that they had killed Rosterg, they viewed the killing as the execution of a traitor (presumably why they hanged him) rather than as a murder.

Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by Steve Wade and Harry Allen, carried out the executions. It is unclear from surviving records whether there were two double hangings and a single or whether there were five single executions. They started at 9 a.m., and the notices of execution were posted on the prison gate at 10.30 a.m., so the former scenario seems more likely. These executions were carried out under military jurisdiction, with Lieut-Col. F. Forbes, the Deputy Provost Marshal for London District taking the place of the under-sheriff and signing the notice of execution. Army chaplains took the place of the prison chaplain.

 

Executed and buried on 6 October 1945 at Pentonville prison

Name

Rank

Age

Grave

Joachim Goltz

SS Sgt

20

Pentonville

Kurt Zühlsdorff

SS Pfc

20

Pentonville

Heinrich-Wernhard Brüning

SS Cpl

22

Pentonville

Erich Palme-König

Senior Cadet

20

Pentonville

Josef Mertens

Able Seaman

21

Pentonville

 

The murder of Unteroffizier (Sgt) Gerhart Rettig at Sheffield

 

Two German prisoners of war (POWs) were hanged at Pentonville on Friday 16 November, 1945 after trial by courts martial. They were Gefreiter (Pfc) Armin Kühne, aged 18 according to his birth certificate, and Feldwebel (T/Sgt) Emil Schmittendorf, age 31. They were executed by Albert Pierrepoint and Alex Riley, but again it is unclear whether they were hanged side by side or singly.

The pair suspected that 25 year old Unteroffizier (Sgt) Gerhart Rettig had given away an escape plan to the British authorities when a tunnel that the prisoners had dug at Lodge Moor POW camp near Sheffield was discovered on Saturday 24 March, 1945. Rettig had been spotted passing a note to one of the guards and it was arranged that he and another man should be transferred to a different camp. Before this could happen Rettig was attacked, being beaten and kicked repeatedly. He died in hospital later that Saturday night. His friend who witnessed the attack identified Armin Kühne and Emil Schmittendorf as the ring leaders and also Heinz Ditzler and Jürgen Kersting as participants. All four were charged with murder and subsequently came to trial at Kensington Place Gardens on 7-13 August. Ditzler and Kersting were acquitted and Kühne and Schmittendorf convicted.

Gerhart Rettig was a regular soldier who did not share the Nazi ideals that his killers fervently held to and this may well have been why he was singled out, even though the German commanding officer thought that he was innocent of betraying the escape plan.

After the war, the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge in German) requested permission to transfer the remains of the seven men from Pentonville to the German Military Cemetery on Cannock Chase. They were told that the British authorities were unable to find the precise location of the graves. Consequently, they remain buried at Pentonville.

 

Executed and buried on 16 November 1945 at Pentonville prison

Name

Rank

Age

Grave

Armin Kühne

Pfc

18

Pentonville

Emil Schmittendorf

T/Sgt

31

Pentonville

 

Executions carried out by the US Military in the European Theater of  Operations during World War II

96 men were put to death after trial by US Courts Martial between 12 March 1943 and 19 October 1945. Of these 89 were hanged and 7 shot by firing squad.

Executions were carried out at various locations. In Britain 18 men were executed at Shepton Mallet prison in Somerset. In France a number of locations were used, including 13 at the Loire Disciplinary Training Centre at Le Mans. Three took place at Fort d'Orange, Citadel, Namur, in Belgium. There were two at Oran in Algeria, three at Termini on the island of Sicily, all for the rape of a local woman in front of her husband and children. A further 20 took place at the Peninsular Base Section (PBS) at Aversa in Italy.

Of the 89 hanged, 39 suffered for murder, 38 for rape and 12 for both crimes. A further two men were shot for each of these offences and one man, Pvt. Eddie Slovik, was executed for desertion.

It has been claimed that nearly 80% of the U.S. soldiers executed in the E.T.O. were African-Americans, while they comprised no more than 10% of the troops. Most held the rank of Private or Private First Class, plus two Corporals and one Sergeant and four men whose rank was Technician 5th Grade.

The methods of executing of US troops during World War II fell under the guidance of the 1928 Manual for Courts-Martial. In discussing this matter in April, 1945, before the end of hostilities in Europe, Brigadier General Joseph F. Battley, Deputy Chief of Staff for Service Commands wrote: “Although the method of execution of a United States Army court-martial sentence of death allowed for either hanging or shooting, at the discretion of the court, almost invariably the court prescribed hanging.” The Manual for Courts-Martial stated that “Hanging is considered more ignominious than shooting and is the usual method, for example, in the case of a person sentenced to death for rape, for murder in connection with mutiny, or for a violation of the June 1920 Articles of War No. 92 which states that: Any person subject to military law who commits murder or rape shall suffer death or imprisonment for life, as a court-martial may direct. Shooting is the usual method in the case of a person sentenced to death for a purely military offence.”

A detailed list of these executions is given below.

 

Legend: “Methods” entered are “H” for Hanging or “S” for Shooting. Executioners (including officers in charge of executions) and assistants are entered as

( ) = unknown | ASI = Arthur S. Imell | AP = Albert Pierrepoint | AR = Alexander Riley | HLP = Henry L. Peck | HM = Herbert Morris | JDD = Joseph V. DePaul Dillon | MHC = Mortimer H. Christian | PJF = Philip J. Flynn | Team* = a team of three soldiers | TP = Thomas W. Pierrepoint | TR = Thomas Robinson | W = John C. Woods | WGN = W. G. Neiswender

Name

Rank

First Name

Date & Place of Birth

Date & Place of Execution

Meth: Exec (Asst)

Description of Crime

Agee

Pvt

Amos

16 Feb 16

Linden AL

03 May 45

La Saussaye

H: W ( )

Rape of a French woman at Le Noyer, France

Anderson

Pvt

Roy W.

22 Sep 17

Jeffersonville IN

25 Oct 44

Seine DTC, Paris

H: MHC (W)

Rape of French women at Neuville-au-Plain, France

Bailey

Pvt

Milbert

06 Sep 14

LA

19 Apr 45

La Pernelle

H: W ( )

Murder of a Frenchman and rape of his daughter (19) at La Pernelle, Hameau Scipion, Normandy, France

Baldwin

Pvt

Walter J

08 Oct 22

Shell Mound MS

17 Jan 45

Beaufay

H: W ( )

Absenting himself from his unit, assault, and murder of Adolpha Drouin, at Beaufay, Sarthe, France

Bennerman

Pvt

Sydney

31 Jan 18

Wilmington NC

15 Oct 45

Delta DTC, Les Milles

S:

Rape of a Polish D.P. girl; murder of the girl and of a Polish D.P. whom she had asked for protection, at Heilbronn, Germany

Brinson

Pvt

Eliga

21 Feb 19

Tallahassee FL

11 Aug 44

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Rape of a 16-year-old English girl near Bishops Cleeve, Gloucester, England

Burns

Pvt

Lee A.

09 Nov 13

Horner LA

27 Mar 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:    ( )

Rape of a 14-year-old Italian girl at Pro di Lucca, Italy

Clark

Pvt

Ernest Lee

10 Aug 20

Clifton Forge VA

08 Jan 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Rape and murder of Betty Dorian Pearl Green (15) at Ashford, Kent, England

Clay

Pfc

Matthew Jr.

26 Jul 20

Avery Island LA

04 Jun 45

Fontenay-sur-Mer

H: W ( )

Murder of Victor Bellery and assault on his wife, Augustine Bellery, at Fontenay-sur-Mer, Manche, France

Cobb

Pvt

David

14 Nov 21

Dothan AL

12 Mar 43

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Murder of 2LT Robert J. Cobner at Desborough Camp, Northamptonshire, England

Cooper

Pvt

John David

11 Jun 22

Dover GA

09 Jan 45

Lérouville

H: W (TR)

Assault, breaking and entering, and rape of three French girls (14, 14, 18) and one French woman (40) at Lérouville and at Ferme de Marville, France

Crews

Pvt

Otis B.

17 Mar 17

Carnegie GA

21 Feb 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:    ( )

Murder of Pvt Wilbur Bryant (MP) at Orto D’Atella, Italy

Davis

Pvt

Arthur E.

08 Aug 19

Cleveland OH

22 Nov 44

Montours

H:    ( )

Assault and rape of a French woman at La Rouennerie en Montour, France

Davis

Pfc

William E.

08 Mar 15

Richmond VA

27 Dec 44

Guiclan

H: W ( )

Attempted rape and murder of of Mme Germaine Pouliquen at Guiclan, Finisterre (Britanny), France

Davis

Pvt

Lee Andrew

08 Jan 23

Temple TX

14 Dec 43

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AR)

Rape of one young woman and murder of her friend, one Cynthia June Lay, near Savernak Hospital, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

Davison

Pvt

Tommie

10 Aug 14

Westpoint MS

29 Mar 45

Prise Guinment

H: W

Assault, attempted assault against an official, and rape of a French woman at Prise Guinment, Manche, France

Donnelly

Pvt

Robert L.

27 Jul 24

Pittsburgh PA

31 May 44

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:   ( )

Desertion, and murder of Technician 5th Grade John P. Brown (MP)

Downes

Pvt

William C

27 Jan 15

Copeland VA

28 Feb 45

Etienville

H: W ( )

Breaking and entering, and rape of three women (62, “middle-aged”, 15) at Etienville, France

Ervin

Pvt

Charlie Jr.

18 Feb 19

Lexington TN

19 Oct 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

S.

Murder of Pietro Testini and two counts of assault on Giorgio Gamberini, at Pietrasanta, Italy

Farrell

Pvt

Arthur J.

20 Nov 06

Jersey City NJ

19 Jan 45

St Sulpice, France

H: W ( )

Rape of a French woman (57) at Au Fayel, Brittany, France

Gordon

Pvt

Tom E.

07 Mar 15

Greenville SC

10 Jul 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

AWOL, assault, murder of Laurence Broussard at Marseille, France

Grant

Pfc

General L.

25 May 21

Union Point GA

27 Mar 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:     ( )

Murder of Carlo Francesci at Viareggio, Italy

Green

Pvt

George Jr.

10 May 24

Steven AR

15 May 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Cpl Tommie Lee Garrett at Champigneulles, France

Guerra

Pvt

Augustine M.

04 May 24

Cibolo TX

08 Jan 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Rape and murder of Betty Dorian Pearl Green (15) at Ashford, Kent, England

Harris

Pvt

Wiley Jr.

12 Jun 18

Greenville GA

26 May 44

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AR)

Murder of one Harry Coogan, a pimp, at Belfast

Harrison

Pvt

William Jr.

27 Jul 22

Ironton OH

07 Apr 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (HM)

Rape and murder of Patricia Wylie (7) at Killykolpy near Stewartstown, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland

Heard

Pfc

Haze

07 Jun 22

Toccoa GA

21 May 45

Mesnil-Clinchamps

H: W ( )

Murder of Mme Berthe Robert at Le Bosc Benard, Mesnil-Clinchamps, Calvados, France

Hendricks

Pfc

James E.

29 Apr 23

Drewry NC

24 Nov 44

Château La Vallée, Plumaudan, Côtes-du-Nord, France

H: MHC ( )

Breaking and entering, attempted rape and murder of Victor Bignon at Plumaudan, France

Holden

Pvt

Mervin

01 Oct 20

Robeline LA

30 Jan 45

Fort d’Orange, Citadel, Namur, Belgium

H: W ( )

Assault and rape of a woman (51) at Namur, Belgium

Hopper

Pvt

Benjamin F.

20 Aug 20

Hickory NC

11 Apr 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Pvt Randolph Jackson Jr. at Welkenraedt, Belgium

Jefferies

Pvt

Charles H.

15 Jul 23

Coatesville PA

05 Jul 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:      ( )

Murder of Alfredo Bechelli and six counts of assault on 3 US soldiers and 3 Italian females, at Barga, Italy

Johnson

Pvt

Willie

25 Dec 21

Idaville OK

26 Jun 45

La Heye Pesnel, France

H: W (TR)

Murder of Mme Julien Fontaine at Equilly, Normandy, France

Jones

Pvt

Cubia

12 May 19

Thomson GA

17 Mar 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (HM)

Rape of a young woman at Chard, Somerset, England

Jones

Pvt

Edwin P.

16 Feb 20

Henry Co. KY

05 Jan 44

Oran, Algeria

H: ASI ( )

Attempted murder of Pvt Norman E. Hippert, and murder of Pvt Alfred E. Raby at Assi Ben Okba, Algeria

Jones

Pvt

James L.

12 Dec 12

Reform AL

19 Apr 45

La Pernelle

H: W ( )

Murder of a Frenchman and rape of his daughter (19) at La Pernelle, Hameau Scipion, Normandy, France

Jones

Pvt

John T.

11 Aug 12

Silvercreek MS

05 Jul 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:   (  )

Robbery, assault, and rape of an Italian woman at Massa Maciniai, Italy

Jones

Pfc

Kinney B.

15 Mar 14

Greenville SC

20 Mar 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H: Team*

Murder of Cpl Milton M. Winstead near Pietrasanta (near Pisa), Italy

Jordan

Pvt

Charles H.

09 Oct 20

Monticello GA

22 Nov 44

Montours

H:    ( )

Assault and rape of a French woman at La Rouennerie en Montour, France

Kendrick

Pvt

James E.

22 Mar 22

Picayune MS

17 Jul 43

Oran, Algeria

H:    ( )

Rape and murder of a nine-year-old handicapped girl (clubfeet)

Kluxdal

Pfc

Paul M.

17 Jul 07

Merrill WI

31 Oct 44

Seine DTC, Paris

H: MHC (W)

Murder of First Sgt Loyce M. Robertson

Leatherberry

Pvt

John C.

19 Jan 22

Hazelhurst MS

16 May 44

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Robbery and murder of taxi driver Harry Claude Hailstone near Birch, Essex, England

Mack

Pvt

John H.

11 May 10

Menlo GA

20 Mar 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H: Team*

Three murders of an old man, a 14-year-old girl, and a woman (Ettore Lombardi, Galleni Palmira Lombardi, Carmela Lombardi) at Pietrasanta near Pisa, Italy

Mack

Pvt

William

21 Sep 10

St George SC

15 Feb 45

Plabennec, Finisterre

H: W ( )

Assault on Catherine Tournellec (18) and murder of Eugene Tournellec at Pentreff, Le Drennec, Finisterre, France

Mariano

Pfc

Blake W.

04 Apr 18

Mariana Lake NM

10 Oct 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Rape of two German women and murder of a Swedish woman, Martha Gary, at Lauf (8 mi NE of Nuremberg)

Martinez

Pfc

Aniceto

30 May 22

Vallecitos NM

15 Jun 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Rape of a woman (75) at Rengeley, Staffordshire, England

Maxey

Pvt

Curtis L.

18 Jun 22

Deatsville AL

18 Nov 44

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:    (  )

Rape of a French woman near St Tropez, France

McCarter

Pfc

William J.

22 Oct 08

Charlotte NC

28 May 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Pvt Charles P. Williams at Thionville, France

McGann

Pvt

Theron W.

25 Jun 21

Portland OR

20 Nov 44

St Lô, Manche, France

H: MHC ( )

Rape of a French woman at Quibou, France

McGhee

Cpl

Shelton Sr.

08 May 16

Holly Springs MS

04 May 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H: WGN ( )

Attempted assault against an officer, and murder of Technician 5th Grade George W. Brown at Livorno, Italy

McMurray

Pvt

Fred A.

25 Feb 20

Ruston LA

02 Jul 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H: Team*

Two rapes of Italian women and murder of Anna Zanchi at Civitavecchia, Italy

Miranda

Pvt

Alex F.

28 Jul 23

Santa Ana CA

30 May 44

Shepton Mallet

S:

Murder of First Sgt Thomas Evison at Broomhill Camp, Devonshire, England

Nelson

Pvt

Henry W.

28 Mar 24

East St Louis IL

05 Jul 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:      ( )

Robbery, assault and rape of an Italian woman at Massa Maciniai, Italy

Newman

Technician

5th Grade

Oscar N.

19 Jul 18

Macon OH

29 Nov 44

Beaunay, Marne, France

H: HLP (W)

Rape of a 17-year-old French girl at Fromontiers (Champagne), France

Norris

Sgt

Clete O.

01 Mar 18

Palestine TX

31 May 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of CPT William E. McDonald at Boehle, Belgium

Ortiz-Reyes

Pvt

Victor

06 Jan 14

Coamo PR

21 Jun 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of CPT Ignacio Bonit at Marquette, France

Parker

Pvt

Woodrow

1918, AL

 

15 Oct 45

Delta DTC, Les Milles

S:

Rape of a Polish D.P. girl; murder of the girl and of a Polish D.P. whom she had asked for protection, at Heilbronn, Germany

Pearson

Cpl

Robert L.

30 May 23

Mayflower AR

17 Mar 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (HM)

Rape of a young woman at Chard, Somerset, England

Pennyfeather

Pvt

William D.

21 Jul 20

New York NY

18 Nov 44

Fort Du Roule, Cherbourg, France

H: MHC ( )

Rape of a French woman at Cherbourg, France

Philpot

Pvt

Henry C.

22 Jun 17

Redding CA

10 Sep 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of 2LT John B. Platt, at Bad Neuenahr, Germany

Pittman

Pvt

Willie A.

26 Aug 18

Campbellton FL

30 Aug 43

Termini, Sicily

H: JDD ( )

Rape of a Sicilian woman in front of her husband and child

Pygate

Pvt

Benjamin

02 Feb 09

Dillon SC

28 Nov 44

Shepton Mallet

S: PJF

Murder of Pfc James E. Alexander, at Westbury, Wiltshire, England

Robinson

Pvt

Charles M.

04 Apr 23

Houston TX

28 Sep 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Yvonne Le Ny at Messac, France

Rollins

Pfc

Alvin F.

05 Dec 24

Chattanooga TN

31 May 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Pfc John H. Hoogewind (MP) and of Sgt Royce A. Judd (MP) at Troyes, France

Sanders

Technician

5th Grade

James B.

09 Jun 17

Lockhart SC

25 Oct 44

Seine DTC, Paris

H: MHC (W)

Rape of French women at Neuville-au-Plain, France

Schmiedel

Pvt

Werner E.

04 May 19

Allentown PA

11 Jun 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:     ( )

AWOL, armed robbery, and murder of Eolo Ferretti at Rome, Italy

Scott

Technician

5th Grade

Richard B.

23 Aug 16

Carrolton TX

18 Nov 44

Fort Du Roule, Cherbourg, France

H: MHC ( )

Assault and rape of a French woman at Octeville, France

Skinner

Pvt

Robert L.

20 May 24

Paris TN

10 Feb 45

Bricquebec, France

H: W ( )

Assault, rape of a French girl (19) at Hameau-Pigeon, France

Slovik

Pvt

Eddie D.

18 Feb 20

Detroit MI

31 Jan 45

Ste Marie-Aux-Mines, France

S:

Desertion

Smalls

Pvt

Abraham

31 Oct 10

Adams Run SC

27 Mar 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:      ( )

Murder of Pfc George W. Jones at Viareggio, Italy

Smith

Pvt

Charles H.

06 Oct 09

Salem MI

06 Sep 43

Oran, Algeria

H: ASI ( )

Murder of Cpl William L. Tacket (MP)

Smith

Pvt

George E. Jr.

14 Apr 17

Pittsburgh PA

08 May 45

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (HM)

Murder of Sir Eric Teichman at Honingham, Norfolk, England

Smith

Pvt

Harold A.

04 Jan 23

LaGrange GA

25 Jun 43

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Escape from confinement and murder of Pvt Harry M. Jenkins at Chisledon Camp near Swindon, Wiltshire, England

Smith

Pvt

John C.

20 Sep 17

Bedford Cy. VA

03 Mar 45

La Saussaye, Commune de Bure, Orne, France

H: W ( )

Rape of a French woman at Le Noyer, France

Smith

Pvt

Willie

30 Jun 22

Birmingham AL

11 Aug 44

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Rape of an English girl (16) near Bishops Cleeve, Gloucester, England

Spears

Pvt

Charles E.

20 May 10

Zanesville OH

19 Apr 44

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:    ( )

Murder of Pvt David Quick

Spencer

Pvt

Elwood J.

04 Dec 24

Gastonia NC

30 Jan 45

Fort d’Orange, Citadel, Namur, Belgium

H: W ( )

Assault, sodomy and rape of a woman (51) at Namur, Belgium

Spinks

Pvt

Mansfield

07 Nov 24

Chicago IL

19 Oct 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

S:

Murder of Arnolfo Carresi, and rape of his wife, at Forte Dei Marmi, Italy

Stroud

Pvt

Harvey L.

26 Mar 21

Merrwell GA

30 Aug 43

Termini, Sicily

H: JDD ( )

Rape of a Sicilian woman in front of her husband and child

Taylor

Pvt

John W.

N/A

(Mississippi)

20 Mar 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H: Team*

Murder of Pfc Earl Johnson at Pietrasanta near Pisa, Italy

Thomas

Pvt

Madison

03 Mar 21

Arnaudville LA

12 Oct 44

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AP)

Rape of an elderly widow at Gunnislake, Cornwall, England

Till

Pvt

Louis

07 Feb 22

New Madrid MO

02 Jul 45

PBS Aversa, Italy

H: Team*

Two rapes of Italian women and murder of Anna Zanchi at Civitavecchia, Italy

Twiggs

Pvt

James W.

04 Jan 20

Topeka KS

22 Jan 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Pvt William D. Adams, near Bellefontaine, France

Valentine

Technician

5th Grade

Leo Sr.

04 Dec 24

Gastonia NC

29 Nov 44

Beaunay, Marne, France

H: HLP (W)

Rape of a French girl (17) at Fromontiers, Champagne, France

Waters

Pvt

John H.

01 Oct 05

Perth Amboy NJ

10 Feb 44

Shepton Mallet

H: TP (AR)

Self-maiming, abandoning a guard post, and murder of his English girlfriend, one Doris May Staples at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England

Watson

Pvt

Frank

1923, FL

03 Mar 45

La Saussaye, Commune de Bure, Orne, France

H: W ( )

Robbery and rape of a French woman at Le Noyer, France

Watson

Pvt

Joseph

1918

Texarkana TX

08 Nov 44

Seine DTC, Paris

H: MHC ( )

Assault, breaking and entering, and rape of a French woman (33) at Le Pas En Ferre, France

Watson

Pvt

Ray

1920, NJ

29 Aug 44

PBS Aversa, Italy

H:    ( )

Assault and murder of Pvt John Brockman (MP)

White

Pvt

Armstead

1914, AL

30 Aug 43

Termini, Sicily

H: JDD ( )

Rape of a Sicilian woman in front of her husband and child

White

Pvt

David

12 Jul 19

Shamrock FL

30 Aug 43

Termini, Siciliy

H: JDD ( )

Rape of a Sicilian woman in front of her husband and child

Whitfield

Pvt

Clarence

07 Feb 24

Wrightsville NC

14 Aug 44

Canisy, France

H: TP ( )

Rape of a Polish woman at Vierville Sur Mer, France

Williams

Pvt

John

08 Mar 17

Orlando FL

19 Apr 45

La Pernelle

H: W ( )

Murder of a Frenchman and rape of his daughter (19) at La Pernelle, Hameau Scipion, Normandy, France

Williams

Pvt

Olin W.

16 Sep 21

Elloree SC

29 Mar 45

Le Chêne Daniel

H: W ( )

Murder of Albert Lebocey at Le Chêne Daniel, Chérence-le-Héron, Manche, France, and rape pf the murder victim’s wife

Wilson

Pvt

J. P.

24 Jan 18

Columbus MS

02 Feb 45

Lérouville

H: W (TR)

Assault, breaking and entering, and rape of three French girls (14, 14, 18) and one French woman (40) at Lérouville and at Ferme de Marville, Meuse, France

Wimberly

Technician

5th Grade

Willie Jr.

21 Sep 12

Macon GA

08 Nov 44

Seine DTC, Paris

H: MHC ( )

Assault, breaking and entering, and rape of a French woman (33) at Le Pas En Ferre, France

Wray

Pvt

Robert

27 Mar 21

Shelby NC

20 Aug 45

Loire DTC, Le Mans

H: W ( )

Murder of Pvt Billy B. Betts at Golbey, France

Yancy

Pvt

Waiters

N/A

10 Feb 45

Bricquebec, Manche, France

H: W ( )

Assault, rape of a French girl (19) and murder of Auguste Lebarillier at Hameau-Pigeon, France

 

Note: We compiled the data in this table from the excellent book by French MacLean "The Fifth Field" (Schiffer Publishing 2013).

 

These 96 soldiers murdered 26 fellow American military personnel (“MP” behind a name referring to Military Police), and killed or raped 71 British, French, Irish, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians, in addition to the one soldier executed exclusively for desertion.

PBS above refers to Peninsular Base Section, Stockade No. 1.

Major Mortimer H. Christian was commandant of the Seine Disciplinary Training Center, Paris, France and oversaw five hangings there.

Brigadier General Joseph V. DePaul Dillon was responsible for overseeing executions at Termini on Sicily.

 

Please see chapter "3 The Hangmen" for information on John C. Woods, Thomas Pierrepoint and their assistants.

 

Shepton Mallet as an American Military prison during World War II

During World War II part of Shepton Mallet prison in Somerset, England was taken over by the American government for use as a military prison and as the place of execution for American servicemen convicted under the provisions of the Visiting Forces Act (1942) which allowed for American Military justice to be enacted on British soil. To enable these executions to take place a new brick built extension was added to one of the prison's wings. The two story red brick structure looks totally out of place against the weathered stone walls of the original building. A new British style gallows was installed on the first floor of the building and two cells within the main building converted into a condemned cell. Thomas Pierrepoint, Britain's chief executioner at the time, was contracted to carry out the hangings here and was paid by the US Military. It is not known whether he or the military authorities chose the assistant.

18 military executions were carried out at Shepton Mallet, representing 17% of the 96 executions of American servicemen serving in the European and North African Theatres of Operations (ETO). (Figures of 19 and even 21 executions in the UK have been given in some accounts but are definitely not correct.) Of these 18 men, nine were convicted of murder, six of rape and three of both crimes. Their racial mix was: ten African American, three Latino and five white - their average age was 21.5 years. 17 were privates and one was a corporal. None ranked higher than this.

Much has been made of the ethnic background of these men but very little of what they were convicted of. Also much is made of the alleged poor quality of the trials that these men received. In at least two cases, men had their death sentences commuted. (Thomas Bell who had been convicted of rape and George Fowler see below).

Bear in mind that a conviction for murder in Britain at this time carried a mandatory death sentence and that it was not unusual for civilian murder trials to only take a day or two. Rape did not carry the death penalty in British law but did in US Military law. Execution by shooting was not permitted for murder in Britain but was under US Military law. Rape was punishable by death in most of the southern states of America and in fact the last execution for rape in the USA took place in May 1964 when Ronald Wolfe was gassed in Missouri. Just over 300 rape executions (where the victim lived) were carried out in the USA between 1941 and 1964.

Here is a brief account of each case:

Pvt. David Cobb, a 22 year old black G.I. was the first to be hanged, on 12 March, 1943. Cobb, from Dothan, Alabama, was stationed at Desborough Camp in Northamptonshire and had been on guard duty for some time during Sunday 27 December, when he was reprimanded by 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Cobner. He protested and Cobner ordered the sergeant of the guard to arrest Cobb. Cobb threatened the man, who backed off so Cobner unwisely decided to attempt the arrest himself. Cobb fired his rifle at Cobner fatally injuring him. He was tried by US court martial at Cambridge on 6 January 1943. His trial occupying less than one day. His death sentence was confirmed in due course and reviewed by the authorities before he was executed by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint within the new execution facility at Shepton Mallet.

Pvt. Harold Smith, a 20 year old from LaGrange, Georgia had gone AWOL (absent without leave) in London in January 1943 and with another young soldier was staying in a hotel enjoying the town until their financial resources dried up. He then returned to Chisledon Camp near Swindon to find his own unit had been posted elsewhere. He found a loaded pistol and then got into an altercation with Pte. Harry Jenkins whom he shot dead. He also fired at another soldier before escaping back to London, where he was arrested by a British policeman. He was handed over to American authorities and was court-martialled at Bristol on 12 March, 1943. He made a full statement admitting his guilt and was duly hanged on the 25 June, 1943 by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint.

20 year old Lee A. Davis was another young black G.I. who was convicted of murder during the war. The killing took place near Marlborough in Wiltshire, as two young women walked back from the cinema. Davis asked the girls what they were doing and the one, Muriel Fawden, said she was returning to the hospital where she worked as a nurse. They tried to get away from Davis who shouted after them “Stand still, or I'll shoot”. He instructed the terrified girls to go into some bushes beside the footpath. Muriel's companion Cynthia Lay decided to make a run for it and Davis shot her dead. He now forced Muriel into some bushes and raped her but surprisingly did not kill her. She was able to give a full statement to the police and as a result all the rifles of the American soldiers stationed nearby were examined. Davis's was found to have been fired and forensic tests matched the shell cases found near Cynthia to it. Davis admitted he had been at the scene of the crime but said he had only meant to fire over the heads of the girls. He was court-martialled at Marlborough on the 6th of October for the murder and the rape, both crimes carrying the death penalty under US Military law. He was hanged on the 14 December, 1943 by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Alex Riley.

John Waters from Perth Amboy in New Jersey was, at 39, rather older than the rest of these soldiers. He had been seeing a local woman, 35 year old Doris Staples, in Henley on Thames where he was stationed. There relationship was deteriorating and on 14 July, 1943 he went to the drapers shop where she worked and shot her five times. The police arrived while Waters was still on the premises and a short siege began which was ended when the police threw a teargas canister into the shop and broke down the door. Seeing that he was cornered, Waters shot himself, but did not make a very good job of it. In due course he came to trial at Watford, Herts. (on 29 November, 1943) and was convicted and sentenced to death for Doris' killing. He was hanged on 10 February, 1944 by Tom Pierrepoint, assisted by Alex Riley.

J.C. Leatherberry, a 22 year old from Hazelhurst, Mississippi, was executed for the murder of Colchester taxi driver Henry Hailstone on the evening of 5 December, 1943. Hailstone's taxi was found abandoned and parked facing the wrong way which the police thought unusual and made them wonder if it had been parked by a foreigner who drove on the other side of the road. In the car was a blood stained jacket with Hailstone's driving licence in the pocket. When the area round the car was searched a blood stained overcoat was found with a name tag inside of Captain Walker. When he was interviewed he told police that the coat had been stolen, along with his Rolex watch, by a black soldier on the day of the murder. However a gas mask had been left during the robbery and this bore the identifier of J. Hill. Hill was traced and said he had lent the gas mask to fellow soldier George Fowler. Fowler was arrested and when his belongings were searched a pawn ticket was found for the missing Rolex. Fowler also admitted that he and Leatherberry had been involved in the murder. Their motive appeared to be to steal the car. Fowler maintained that it was Leatherberry who had strangled the driver. Both were convicted at their court martial at Ipswich on 19 January, 1944 and both received the death sentence. However Fowler's was commuted as the court accepted that Leatherberry was the principal and because he had given evidence. Fowler was returned to military prison in the USA to serve his life sentence while Leatherberry was sent to Shepton Mallet to be hanged by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint on 16 March, 1944.

25 year old Pvt. Wiley Harris Jr. from Greenville, Georgia, was another black soldier. He was stationed in Belfast in Northern Ireland. He had gone out with his friend Pvt. Robert Fils to a bar for the evening where they met a pimp called Harry Coogan who offered them the services of a young woman. These Harris accepted and he and the girl went to a nearby air raid shelter to have sex with Coogan keeping watch outside as this sort of activity was illegal. As they were getting started Coogan shouted to them that the police were approaching. Harris and the girl got dressed and emerged from the shelter to find that there were no police and Harris then demanded his money back. A struggle ensued between Harris and Coogan in which Coogan punched Harris. This caused the fight to escalate to the point where Harris stabbed Coogan 17 times. The court martial were not prepared to accept self defence in view of the number of stab wounds and so Harris was convicted. He was hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Alex Riley, on 26 May, 1944.

20 year old Alex F. Miranda from Santa Ana, California, became the first American serviceman to suffer death by musketry as the US Army called shooting by firing squad, at Shepton Mallet. He had been convicted of Violation of the 92nd Article of War (murder) and was executed by an eight man firing squad in the prison grounds on Tuesday 30 May, 1944 for the murder of his sergeant, Sgt Thomas Evison at Broomhill Camp in Devon. Miranda had gone out drinking and had been behaving badly so was arrested by the civilian police and taken back to the camp. Here he became aggressive and the object of his aggression was Sgt Evison who was reportedly asleep at the time. Getting no response from the sleeping man he shot him dead. The location of Miranda's court martial is unknown as is the reason why he was sentenced to be shot rather than hanged, bearing in mind that both David Cobb and Harold Smith had also killed other US soldiers.

25 year old Eliga Brinson from Tallahassee, Florida, and 22 year old Willie Smith from Birmingham, Alabama, were hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint on 11 August, 1944 for the rape of 16 year old Dorothy Holmes after a dance at Bishop's Cleeve in Gloucestershire. Dorothy left the dance with her boyfriend when they were ambushed by Brinson and Smith who assaulted them and when the boyfriend ran to get help both raped Dorothy. They were caught through the boot prints they left in the field where the rape took place. They came to trial at Cheltenham on 28 April, 1944, their case taking two days to complete.

Madison Thomas, a 23 year old from Arnaudville, Louisiana, was another black soldier convicted of rape. His victim was Beatrice Reynolds, who was returning home after helping out at the British Legion hall at Gunnislake in Cornwall on the evening of 26 July, 1944. Thomas accosted her on her way home and she tried to get rid of him by talking to her friend Jean Blight but without success. He hit her and pulled her into a field where he raped her and robbed her of her watch. Thomas had also spoken to Jean Blight and she was able to positively identify him the next day when the entire camp at Whitchurch Down near Tavistock was put on parade. Blood on Thomas' trousers was shown to be of the same group as Beatrice's. He was court martialled at Plymouth on 21 August and hanged by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint on 12 October, 1944.

35 year old Benjamin Pyegate from Dillon, South Carolina, was the second and last US soldier to face a firing squad at Shepton Mallet. The crime took place at Tidworth Barracks in Wiltshire on 15 July, 1944.

Pygate became involved in an argument with three fellow soldiers in his hut and kicked James Alexander in the groin prior to stabbing him to death. On 28 November, 1944 he was duly executed by firing squad. He was led out and tied to a post. A black hood was placed over his head and a four inch diameter white target placed over his heart. 15 yards away eight soldiers stood with their rifles, one of which contained a blank round. The officer in charge of the execution gave the regulation commands as detailed in the US Army Manual. These being: “At the command READY, the execution party (firing squad) will take that position and unlock rifles. At the command AIM, the execution party will take that position with rifles aimed at target on the prisoner's body. At the command FIRE, the execution party will fire simultaneously.”

The medical officer then examined the prisoner and, if necessary could direct that a “coup de grâce” be administered. The sergeant of the execution party was responsible for administering this with “a hand weapon, holding the muzzle just above the ear and one foot from the head.” It is not known whether it was required in Pyegate's case.

24 year old Ernest Lee Clark from Clifton Forge, Virginia and Augustine M. Guerra aged 20 from Cibolo, Texas (both white) were jointly convicted of the rape and murder of 15 year old Elizabeth Green at Ashford, Kent on 22 August, 1944. Clark and Guerra had been drinking in a pub in Ashford and left at closing time to walk back to their barracks. On the way they encountered Elizabeth whom they raped and strangled. Hair and fibre samples taken from the scene matched those found on Clarke and Guerra and faced with this evidence they confessed to the rape but claimed that they had not intended to kill Elizabeth. They were tried on 22 September, 1944 at Ashford and hanged side by side on 8 January, 1945, by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint.

Robert L. Pearson, a 21 year old from Mayflower, Arkansas and 24 year old Parson (also given as Cubia) Jones from Thompson, Georgia (both coloured) were convicted by court martial of the rape of Joyce Brown at Chard in Somerset on 3 December, 1944. Joyce was heavily pregnant at the time of her rape and this must have been obvious to her assailants. Joyce was dragged into an orchard where both men raped her. After the rape was reported the clothes of all the men on the base were searched and Pearson's and Jones' were found to be muddy. They both admitted to having sex with Joyce but claimed that she consented. Her pregnancy, bruising and her statement to the police told a different story. They were tried at Chard on 16 December, 1944 and hanged side by side on 17 March, 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Herbert Morris.

22 year old William Harrison Jr. from Ironton, Ohio sexually assaulted and strangled seven year old Patricia Wylie in Killycolpy Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Patricia was the daughter of a couple who had shown friendship to him. On the pretext of buying them a thank you present he took Patricia shopping with him on the afternoon of 26 September, 1944. His trial took place on 18 November, 1944 and he was hanged on 7 April, 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Herbert Morris.

George E. Smith Jr. aged 28 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had gone hunting on private property (Honingham Hall in Norfolk) with fellow soldier Leonard Wojtacha, both armed with service carbines. They were challenged by the owner, Sir Eric Teichman and in the course of this confrontation Smith shot Sir Eric once through the head, killing him. The court martial took place at Attlebridge in Norfolk, commencing on 8 January, 1945, and lasting five days due to the repeated hospitalisation of Smith. He had made a confession when he was arrested but claimed it had been made under duress and withdrew it at his trial. He was convicted and hanged on 8 May, 1945 (V.E. Day) despite requests for clemency, including one from Lady Teichman. Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Herbert Morris, carried out the execution.

Aniceto Martinez, a 23 year old Mexican American soldier from Vallecitos, New Mexico, was working as a guard at a prisoner of war camp at near Rugeley in Staffordshire. On the night of 6 August, 1945 he broke into the house of 75 year old Agnes Cope in Rugeley where he raped her. She survived to tell the police of her ordeal and the prisoner of war camp became the focus of their enquiries. Only Martinez had been out of the camp the previous night and when questioned he confessed to the rape. Fibre samples taken from his clothing and matching those in Agnes' house matched adding forensic evidence to the confession. Martinez was tried at Lichfield in Staffordshire on 21 February, 1945 and became the last person to be hanged for rape in the U.K. when he went to the gallows on the 15th of June of that year. Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by his nephew Albert, carried out the execution.

 

All of these men were tried by military courts martial and would have been handed over to military authorities after arrest. The 1928 American forces Manual for Courts-Martial laid down the specific procedures to be used.

The court was normally composed of legally trained officers and usually the prisoner was defended and prosecuted by officers at the rank of captain. All but two trials lasted just one day. In the Smith case, the trial lasted about two working days, spread over five days due to his repeated hospitalisations. In only one case (Harrison) did the trial conform to modern standards, it lasted three and a half days. Typically the defence were allowed two to three weeks to prepare their case. In many cases they had less time, and the Court was usually unwilling to grant defence motions to delay the proceedings - only two such motions were granted.

After the guilty verdict, the death sentence could be passed, either by hanging or shooting, at the discretion of the court. (Shooting was the usual sentence in the case of a person convicted of a purely military offence.) It had to be confirmed and reviewed by a Board of Review. If confirmed it was normally carried out in about three months. (Under British law it was three weeks from sentence to execution at this time.)

Execution details

The normal U.S. Army method of hanging was not permitted in England and this was confirmed by Albert Pierrepoint, in his autobiography. Most of the normal American execution customs were allowed however. Executions by hanging were normally carried out at 1.00 a.m. in the morning of the specified day. (Shooting executions were carried out around 8.00 a.m.) The British method of hanging was used, there was no standard drop and no hangmen's coiled noose, but an exactly calculated drop using a British style eyelet noose.

US Army regulations laid down that a condemned prisoner at execution “will be dressed in regulation uniform from which all decorations, insignia, or other evidence of membership therein have been removed. Likewise, no such evidences will appear on any clothing used in burial.” In all cases the condemned men had the services of the prison chaplain in the days leading up to their execution. They were housed in a condemned cell adjacent to the execution chamber for the last three or four days of their lives.

Records of these hangings indicate that the time between releasing the trap doors and confirmation of death varied considerably. David Cobb's execution took only 3 ½ minutes until he was officially pronounced dead by three U.S. medical officers. (He was left hanging for one hour, as was the norm in England). It took 22 minutes before George Smith could be certified dead. The average time for 15 of the 16 hangings was 14.8 minutes. (The data is not available for one hanging). It is presumed that the time was taken from the drop until no further heartbeat could be detected by the attending medical officer. This would tally with the time it took for the heartbeat to stop in civilian hangings at the time.

Albert Pierrepoint commented adversely upon the delay caused to the execution process caused by the reading of the death warrant on the gallows and allowing the condemned man to make a final statement. Neither of these things were allowed in British executions but were standard practice in American ones. Typically there were up to 20 witnesses and officials in the execution chamber. After execution the bodies were buried in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. Many were later re-buried in France.

Karl Hulten – “The Cleft Chin Murder”

Karl Gustav Hulten was a 22 year old Swedish-American army deserter. He was from Cambridge Massachusetts and had a wife named Rita. While on the run he passed himself off as 2nd Lieutenant Ricky Allen and claimed to being a gangster from Chicago. Hulten was the first and only G.I. to be tried and condemned to death in an English civil court (under a special dispensation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt). It is assumed that he was not court-martialed by the US Army, under the terms of the Visiting Forces Act, because his girlfriend and co-defendant was a British citizen.

On 3 October 1944, Hulten met and fell for 18 year old Elizabeth Maude (also given as Marina) Jones. He picked her up after work in a stolen US Army truck.

Jones came from Neath in South Wales and had worked as a barmaid, waitress and cinema usherette, before becoming a striptease artist in London, under the stage name of “Georgina Grayson”.

The duo went on a six day crime spree, engaging in several robberies and other more minor crimes. But in the early hours of Saturday 7 October, 1944, Hulten and Jones got into a taxi driven by 34 year old George Edward Heath at Chiswick in London. Heath had a cleft chin, hence why his murder was dubbed “The Cleft Chin Murder” by the press.

Hulten ordered Heath to drive around before shooting him in the back and stealing his money and the car. Heath's body was thrown into a ditch at Knowle Green near Staines, but was easily identifies by documents were found on the body. A description of the Ford V8 car was able to be circulated. Two days later police found the car in London's Fulham Palace Road and lay in wait to see whether anyone would come for it. A little later, a man dressed as an American officer approached the car and was arrested. He gave the name of Richard John Allen. He was initially interrogated by the American Army detectives to whom he revealed his correct name. He had gone absent without leave and had stolen a 45 calibre Remington pistol.

Hulten denied the shooting and implicated Jones who had told a friend that, “If you had seen somebody do what I have seen done you wouldn't be able to sleep at night.” This was reported to the police and she too was arrested, making a statement saying Hulten had shot Heath. He in turn stated that she had been an active and willing participant in the crime.
They both stood trial at the Old Bailey before Mr. Justice Charles, commencing on 16 January, 1945 and lasting for six days. The jury found them equally guilty and the inevitable death sentences followed on 23 January.

Hulten was hanged at Pentonville prison on Thursday, 8 March, 1945 by Albert Pierrepoint and Henry Critchell. Outside the prison, Mrs. Violet Van der Elst and some 200 protestors demonstrated against the death penalty. “You let the girl off, but you let the man hang,” Van der Elst shouted. “It's a damned shame.”

Jones was sent to the Condemned Cell at Holloway and would presumably have been hanged at the same time on that Thursday, had she not have been reprieved two days earlier. Her sentence was commuted to life and she remained in prison until 1954. It is thought that her age was a major factor in the decision to spare her.

The reprieve of Jones caused widespread public indignation and telegrams to the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison. “SHE SHOULD HANG” was chalked on the walls beside pictures of a figure dangling from a gallows in her home town of Neath.

German Prisoners of War in US custody

After the end of World War II, the United States Army executed fourteen German prisoners of war (POWs) by hanging at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. These men had been convicted by general courts-martial of the murders of three fellow German POWs who were believed by their fellow inmates to be traitors for collaborating with the United States military authorities. President Harry Truman declined clemency in all cases, as they were seen as fanatical Nazis. It was decided to delay the hangings till after the War ended, as it was feared that Hitler would order the executions of US prisoners of war as a reprisal.

 

The execution site and procedure

With thanks to Kelvin D. Crow, Command Historian, CAC and Fort Leavenworth, writing on 26 October, 2006 on the United States Army Combined Arms Centre website, for allowing us to reproduce the following.

There is some confusion over the execution site. Vincent Green in Extreme Justice and Richard Whittingham in Martial Justice both say the execution took place in building 466. But their narratives, and that of the other witness, say the execution took place in an elevator shaft and 466 does not now and did not in 1945 have an elevator or shaft. The MPs teach their new soldiers it took place in 465 because that building does have an elevator. They even point to handprints in the cement and scratches in the walls said to be made by the condemned men as they were executed.

The witnesses to the executions do not say where it took place, but their writings give us the following clues. They say the building was:

·         One of the oldest buildings on post

·         Once a warehouse, tailor shop, electrical shop and salvage warehouse

·         It had an elevator shaft 8 feet square

·         Three stories high with a basement.

·         Had room inside for a large crowd of people (7 reporters, three executioners, Col, Priest, Minister, military observers, at least 15)

·         You could get to the basement by going out the front door, around the corner and downhill.

·         It was 300 feet or 250 yards from the Castle depending on the source.

I believe it was building 467. This building was built in 1887 (58 years old at the time of the executions) and one of the older buildings on post. It has seen use as a warehouse, shoe shop, and was at the time the salvage warehouse. It had large open bays, it was three stories high with a basement and it has a back door around the corner and downhill from the main entrance. While it does not now have an elevator, the architectural drawings on file in with the post engineers show that it did have an elevator, in an 8-foot square shaft, in 1945.

Building 465 was built in 1929, making it just 16 years old at the time of the execution. It is 4 stories high, and was built for and in use as the medical and dental clinic in 1945. It has an elevator, but it is only 7 feet across and is placed in such a way that no more than a few persons could observe the goings on, not the crowd the observers record. Finally, it is just too close to the main entrance of the Castle.

LTC Raymond Orr, Quarter Master for the prison, had to design a system that was inside because of the weather and the need for privacy, and that could be quickly set up and torn down. He chose to use an elevator shaft. To operate the gallows the elevator was placed on the 3rd floor, and a platform was set up on the 1st floor with a 7-foot drop into the basement. Rope used was " hemp looped around a 4 x 10" beam swung over the site from the 2nd floor. The trap door was a 3-foot square opening with a black circle painted on it to show the condemned man where to stand. It was operated by a 4-foot lever. The condemned man was marched out from the main door of the prison (some say with a 13 man guard detail) in as full a German uniform as could be made available. He was placed on the scaffold and the charges (89th and 92nd articles of war – riot and murder) and sentence were again read to him. He was given the chance to make a last statement. Then his headgear was removed, his arms bound behind him and his feet tied together, a black bag placed over his head and the noose fitted to his neck. The Commandant of the DB, Colonel William S. Easley, said, “May God have mercy on your soul.” and gave a signal to the executioner who pulled the lever to release the trap door. The post surgeon, Major Roy Cram, and two other doctors were stationed in the basement to certify death. After the priest had cut a portion of the bag away to anoint the dying man with oil, one of the doctors would climb the stepladder every five minutes to check for heart function. This took an average of 19 minutes. The whole execution, from the time the group left the front door, took only about 30 minutes. Each could begin immediately after the removal of the body because a hangman's knot was tied in the opposite end of the rope while waiting for the previous man to expire. After he died the old knot was cut away and the process repeated.

The bodies were subsequently buried in a row along a wall in the Fort Leavenworth Military Prison Cemetery. The individual cases are detailed below.

The Tonkawa Case: The murder of Gefreiter (Pfc) Johannes Kunze

Johannes Kunze was born on 5 March, 1904. Prior to the War he had been a machinist in Hamburg, Germany. He was drafted into the German Army in 1940 and fought with the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, North Africa, as a Private 1st Class. Kunze was captured on May 13, 1943 at Bone, in Tunisia and sent to the POW camp in Tonkawa Oklahoma.

Here he passed information on prisoner activity and on camouflaging measures to protect vulnerable targets (e.g. the Hamburg railway station) from being bombed, to a US doctor, until on 4 November, 1943, one of the notes was passed to another doctor who couldn't read German and gave it to a German inmate, who realized that Kunze was spying on them. This man took the note to the camp senior leader, Hauptfeldwebel (SGM) Walter Beyer.

Beyer called all prisoners to the mess hall and told the assembly that there was a traitor in their midst, identifiable by his handwriting, Kunze. All hell broke loose and Kunze was beaten to death, to the shouts of “traitor”.

Authorities discovered the body and examined some 200 POWs, finding blood on the tunics of five who were arrested and charged with murder. They were Walter Beyer, Feldwebel (T/Sgt) Berthold Seidel, Unteroffizier (Sgt) Hans Demme, Unteroffizier Hans Schomer, and Obergefreiter (Cpl) Willi Scholz.

They were tried at Camp Gruber near Muskogee Oklahoma on 17 January, 1944 under the provisions of Articles of War 89 and 92. All were convicted and sentenced to be “hanged by the neck till dead”. The sentences were confirmed by President Truman on 5 October, 1944.

 

Executed and buried on 10 July 1945 at Fort Leavenworth:

Name

Rank

Age

Grave

Walter Beyer

SGM

33

Plot 10, Grave 31

Berthold Seidel

T/Sgt

31

Plot 10, Grave 30

Hans Demme

Sgt

28

Plot 10, Grave 29

Hans Schomer

Sgt

28

Plot 10, Grave 28

Willi Scholz

Cpl

23

Plot 10, Grave 27

The Independent Record of July 10, 1945 reported that “All went to their deaths clad in their German uniforms, their only request. Their last meal consisted only of the regular issued rations. Beyer, the highest ranking member of the group, was the first to go to the gallows. Col. William S. Eley, commandant of the disciplinary barracks, read the execution order, relayed to the prisoner through an interpreter.”

Johannes Kunze is buried in the Fort Reno Post Cemetery, WWII POW Section, Plot A, Grave 15.

The Camp Aiken Case: The murder of Gefreiter (Pfc) Horst Günther

Horst Günther was born on 23 September, 1920. He had served in the Afrika Korps and was captured on 9 May, 1943 in Tunisia. He was shipped to Camp Aiken prisoner-of-war camp in South Carolina.

On April 6, 1944, the 24-year-old Günther was found hanging by a noose from the cross-arm of a telephone pole. His death was initially ruled a suicide, but further investigation revealed that he had been murdered. He was thought to be a traitor because he liked jazz music and spoke in favour of the US. He was attacked by a group of six fellow POWs, four of whom held him down while Gauss and Staub strangled him with a rope before hanging the body to make it look like a suicide. Unteroffizier (Sgt) Erich Gauss and Grenadier (Pvt) Rudolf Staub were tried at Fort McPherson in Georgia under Articles of War no. 92 and sentenced to hang. The sentences were confirmed by the President on 13 November, 1944.

Günther was buried at Fort Gordon, in Richmond County, Georgia, Grave no. 4. 

Executed and buried on 14 July, 1945 at Fort Leavenworth:

Name

Rank

Age

Grave

Erich Gauss

Sgt

31

Plot 10 Grave 26

Rudolf Staub

Pvt

39

Plot 11 Grave 25

Note: correct spelling of Staub, not Straub, as given elsewhere.

The Papago Park Case: The murder of Werner Drechsler

Werner Drechsler was born on January 17, 1922, in Mühlberg on the river Elbe, Germany. He joined the Kriegsmarine (German navy) and was posted to Unterseeboot (submarine) U-118 on which he held the rank of Obergefreiter (leading seaman).

On June 12, 1943, planes from the aircraft carrier USS Bogue attacked and sank U-118 near the Azores in the mid-Atlantic. 16 of 59 man crew survived and were taken prisoner. Drechsler gave US naval authorities valuable information about the U-boats and initially was segregated from other prisoners. Due to an administrative error he was later transferred to a camp at Papago Park, in Arizona on 12 March, 1944 where other U-boat prisoners were held. Here several of the POWs suspected that he was a collaborator as each had spent time in a cell with him at the Fort Hunt, Virginia interrogation center. On 13 March, 1944 he was beaten and then hanged in a shower room.

The seven suspects were tried and convicted of Drechsler's murder on 15 March, 1944, under the provisions of Articles of War no. 92. Their death sentences were approved by President Truman on 28 July, 1945 and carried out singly from just after midnight until 3 a.m. on 25 August, 1945. These seven hangings constituted the largest number of hangings carried out in America in a single day in the twentieth century.

Drechsler was buried at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas, Grave 6-G.

Executed and buried on 25 August, 1945 at Fort Leavenworth:

Name

Rank / Crew of submarine

Age

Grave

Helmut Fischer

Cpl / U-615

22

Plot 11 Grave 24

Fritz Franke

Pfc / U-615

21

Plot 11 Grave 23

Günter Külsen

Sgt / U-615

22

Plot 11 Grave 22

Heinrich Ludwig

Pfc / U-199

25

Plot 11 Grave 21

Bernhard Reyak

Cpl / U-615

21