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  #51  
Old 09-10-2019, 03:15 AM
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I saw a documentary last night about the war in Burma.

British troops found a scene where their wounded and the medical orderlies were massacred by Japanese, being horribly mutilated. After, Japanese were seldom taken alive.

Brigadier John Masters, DSO, etc. moved to the USA after the war and became a famous author. His basic regiment was the 4th Gurkha Rifles.

He wrote in his autobiography that after seeing various Jap atrocities, he had no more regard for them than if he was stepping on roaches.

He cited the case of a young Lt. who reported his casualties to HQ in India. He mentioned some men "Captured, presumed killed."
Told by a superior officer that there was no such category, he replied, "Sir, we are fighting the Japanese."

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Old 09-10-2019, 04:33 AM
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I didn‘t read the entire old thread in detail. So, sorry if I‘m duplicating some observations:

World War II had moral dimensions that made the whole thing much more complicated than the comforting platitudes about “the good war”.

The two main enemy nations Germany and Japan committed unspeakable crimes, and in both cases the military forces were fully implicated.

The US and Britain courted as their main ally a nation, and leader who was a mass murderer himself and who for two years had been Hitler’s partner-in-crime in the rape of Eastern Europe and had supported the Wehrmacht’s conquests with oil and raw materials.

And many of the conflicts, particularly the German war in the East, the Japanese conquest of other Asian peoples, and the American fight against the Japanese, had ethnic dimensions which made individual treatment of the enemy, including prisoners, diverge quite a bit from the Geneva and Hague conventions.

So right from the start, Germans killed Poles and Russians, Japanese killed Chinese, and Americans killed Japanese, including prisoners, with considerably less concern.

But by the time of major ground combat in Western Europe in 1944/45, the time of “Band of Brothers”, this general attitude seems to have spread even to the fight between armies who did not consider the respective enemy “subhuman”. The war on the Western front never attained the large-scale ugliness of other theaters; mass executions in cold blood of prisoners by the SS like at Malmedy were exceptions. Nothing comparable is actually documented from the Allied side; but as various earlier posts relate, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that in the heat of battle or right after, ethical behavior became optional or at least contingent upon the on-scene officers’ and NCOs’ decisions what to stop or encourage.
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Old 09-10-2019, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Gatofeo View Post
My father was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was in the 975th Engineering Batallion. His platoon was pulled out and sent up front to do night patrols to scout out the Germans.
After he and the others heard of Malmedy, he despised the Germans. And he was a second-generation German/American.
I doubt he would have executed, or allowed such a thing, to any prisoners they might have taken but he sure wouldn't have offered them a cigarette, like he saw some GIs do.
Interestingly, our last name is obviously German. Dad was told that he'd better not be taken prisoner, because the Germans were particularly hard on American GIs who had German ancestry. You were seen as a traitor to your race.
My mother was Belgian, and fought in the Belgian Resistance during the war. She was widowed at 26, when the Germans executed her husband. He had been a Belgian Resistance leader, betrayed by another, and thrown into Breendonk torture camp south of Brussels. He was executed two weeks before D-Day.
Mom was twice imprisoned by the Gestapo, at St. Gilles Prison in Brussels, for her activities.
She had more reason to hate the Germans, but Dad hated them more. He refused to enter that country when they visited Belgian relatives.
Mom was more forgiving toward the average German soldier, but really hated the SS and Gestapo.

Did Lt. Speirs kill all those Germans? Only he knows, and he's not talking on this side. But if he did, I'm sure it bothered him later. I've known a lot of combat veterans, and they later found it hard to reckon some of the things they did as young men.
Young men generally haven't acquired the conscience and compassion of those older. And besides, they were trained to kill or be killed themselves. Quite the motivation.
I can see it happening, especially in Normandy where many got their first exposure to war and they'd seen their buddies killed.

To quote Gen. William T. Sherman, the Union general: "You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."
War is hell. Combat is murder. That's how I was taught. My great-grandfather accompanied Gen Sherman on his trip to Savannah from Atlanta.
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  #54  
Old 09-10-2019, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Double-O-Dave View Post
I believe "Bitte" means 'Please!' in German.

Smithhound, you are correct. By the way, my late father in law was Wermacht (German Army) and a paratrooper. He told me once that the popular word to use when surrendering (he never did) was "kamerad", which means "buddy" or "pal". He was one tough old man, and I really miss him. Seeing him and some of his war buddies who were in their late 70s, I had to wonder, how in the hell did we beat those guys in two world wars?

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Years ago a veteran told me that when the Germans
yelled "kamerad,," the Americans would yell back
"Ja, kamerad! Hande hoch!" And if the Germans
came with hands up they would shoot them.
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:01 PM
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In 1971, I was supposed to go to the Air Cav. A friend of mine was Co. Clerk. He had gone to a rival high school and even pledged the same fraternity as I did. Our wives knew each other from H.S. He had been hit his first night in "Nam with the Cav (I got sick and never did ship over) and, as he was hit 3 times, was sent back to the states. He used to tell me stories about the Cav as I was recovering and working in the Duty Room on light duty.

One story was that, at Landing Zone X-Ray, the wounded who survived reported the NVA had gone out at night and executed the wounded they could find with a shot to the head (A couple even survived to tell the tale!). Anyway, he said after that, unless ordered otherwise, the CAV took no prisoners. Heard that story from a couple of sources.

Men I know who served during WWII said much the same thing=there was no time during combat to watch prisoners. We were taught to leave no effective combatant behind you!

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  #56  
Old 09-10-2019, 01:17 PM
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I met Korean War soldiers who executed prisoners when their unit had to move forward and could not keep the prisoners. I also knew new Marines in the South Pacific who described coming upon groups of Japanese soldiers all shot in the head. After they were in combat and came upon mutilated Americans they knew why.
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Old 09-10-2019, 02:22 PM
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My first job in Denver was with Hobart food machines. The commercial dishwasher salesman was a man named Martin Rust. He survived the BOB. When asked about it all He would say is " I dug the deepest foxhole." Never another word about WWII.
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  #58  
Old 09-10-2019, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Absalom View Post
The US and Britain courted as their main ally a nation, and leader who was a mass murderer himself and who for two years had been Hitler’s partner-in-crime in the rape of Eastern Europe and had supported the Wehrmacht’s conquests with oil and raw materials.
The necessity of war:
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Can you imagine what invading Europe from the west would have been like if Hitler had not had to defend the eastern front? They'd still be spending Reichsmarks in Paris, if not London.
The allies supported many bad guys simply because they were fighting the "badder" guys. Tito, Mao, and Uncle Ho come readily to mind.....
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Star View Post
I saw a documentary last night about the war in Burma.

British troops found a scene where their wounded and the medical orderlies were massacred by Japanese, being horribly mutilated. After, Japanese were seldom taken alive.

Brigadier John Masters, DSO, etc. moved to the USA after the war and became a famous author. His basic regiment was the 4th Gurkha Rifles.

He wrote in his autobiography that after seeing various Jap atrocities, he had no more regard for them than if he was stepping on roaches.

He cited the case of a young Lt. who reported his casualties to HQ in India. He mentioned some men "Captured, presumed killed."
Told by a superior officer that there was no such category, he replied, "Sir, we are fighting the Japanese."
If I remember right, and if we are both referring to the same incident, the Japanese removed body parts and consumed them, even with adequate supplies.

Another incident:

"But the most spine-chilling of all Japanese atrocities was cannibalism.
"At the village of Suaid, a Japanese medical officer periodically visited the Indian compound and selected each time the healthiest men. These men were taken away ostensibly for carrying out duties, but they never reappeared," the Melbourne correspondent of The Times, London, cabled the version of Jemadar Latif of 4/9 Jat Regiment of the Indian Army, on November 5, 1946.
Latif's charges were reinforced by Captain R U Pirzai and Subedar Dr Gurcharan Singh. "Of 300 men who went to Wewak with me, only 50 got out. Nineteen were eaten. A Jap doctor —Lieutenant Tumisa, formed a party of three or four men and would send an Indian outside the camp for something. The Japs immediately would kill him and eat the flesh from his body. The liver, muscles from the buttocks, thighs, legs, and arms would be cut off and cooked," Captain Pirzai told Australian daily The Courier-Mail in a report dated August 25, 1945.
Many other testimonials of the PoWs gave details of the cannibalism practised. These were used by the war crimes investigation commissions set up by the Allies, based on which several Japanese officers and men were tried.
The senior-most Japanese officer found guilty of cannibalism and hanged was Lieutenant General Yoshio Tachibana.
Initially, the Japanese did not accept the charges. Then in 1992, a Japanese historian named Toshiyuki Tanaka found incontrovertible evidence of Japanese atrocities, including cannibalism. In 1997, Tanaka came out with his book, Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes In World War II."

Do a google search of Japanese atrocities and you'll find more (with documentation). I had a scoutmaster who survived the Bataan Death March and he would never talk about it!

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  #60  
Old 09-12-2019, 01:31 AM
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There was a soldier in US Special Forces (later killed in Vietnam) who served in the “SS” against the Russians during WWII. His name was Lauri Torni and he was a fine soldier (according to my friends who knew him) and was a Captain at the time of his death.
He had been awarded the Iron Cross during service in WWII but I’m quite sure was never allowed to wear it on his US uniform. He was Finnish and hated the Russians.
If I recall correctly, commissioned officers can't wear foreign awards regardless.

When I was at the reception station for basic training, there was a drill sergeant who had served in the Czech army. Hated the Russians (and communists generally) with a seething passion.

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Old 09-12-2019, 01:59 AM
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I think in the context of that episode of Band Of Brothers it was clear Spiers killed all of the prisoners after giving them smokes. It is referenced later when some of the guys are talking about Spiers, and when he deliberately offers a new guy a smoke to rattle him a little.

I don't know if the real Spiers did the deed, though.
..I thought that was hilarious.


I saw WWII vets being interviewed, some of them said that they'd never talked about some of the things they saw, many were crying while they talked. I think they jumped at the chance to finally get it out after they'd held it in for 70 years. For some it was probably the last chance. They mentioned several situations where groups of prisoners had been shot en masse because the movement was only in one direction...Berlin, and they had no means to escort them back or manage them even if they could. There wasn't a man among them who looked happy about any of it.
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:19 PM
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One of my childhood friend's father parachuted into Normandy on D-Day with Fox Company, 506th PIR. Fox Company (Fighting Fox Company) fought alongside Easy Company throughout the war, and their final mission of the war was also the capture of Berchtesgaden, Hitler's Eagles Nest.

Herman knew all those guys in Easy, and was intervied by Stephen Ambrose several times, both for background on Band of Brothers and a public television documentary about North Carolina soldiers who went into Europe on D-Day.

My friend said his dad told him that there are some things that aren't talked about. I don't know if the term "illegal killing" was in use during WWII, but that would have been one thing that wasn't talked about post-war by a lot of veterans.

I attended his funeral years ago. His dress uniform was displayed and the jacket was festooned with ribbons and decorations, with the American Flag alongside. If you were a veteran looking at that, you unconsciously assumed the position of attention.

A side note: How is it possible that it's been eighteen years since Band of Brothers first aired?
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  #63  
Old 09-12-2019, 10:31 PM
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My Uncle was a Combat Medic with the 71sr Inf Div. He came home with 2 Bronze Stars and and no Purple Heart medals, because he was too busy helping the wounded to fill out the injury report that was sent from the front line medic to the nearest mobile hospital. He was wounded by bullets and shrapnel 3 times during the war and didn't report any and never received a Purple Heart medal! He said after the Bulge (Malmady), he never treated a SS soldier, but did treat Wehrmacht soldiers.

I asked why and he said: "There weren't any SS alive to treat".

He was later captured near the end of the war and spent 2 weeks in Dacau Concentration Camp. The GI's that freed him did a fully complete job on the Krauts that ran the camp.

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  #64  
Old 09-13-2019, 04:31 AM
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With all due respect, American soldiers coming back from Europe after WW II were just as prone to tall stories as any other soldiers in history.

The stories of “no SS being taken prisoner” or “Waffen SS being shot on sight” certainly have some anecdotal basis, but the actual facts, as in post-war survival rates, don’t support any general conclusion. Overall, the Waffen SS had somewhat higher casualty rates than the Wehrmacht, but on the Western front, the vast majority of both made it alive into POW camps, and home within just a few years.

Attached picture courtesy of the Museum of the 12th Armored Division: US soldiers with captured Waffen SS.

Quite different from the Eastern front. A great-uncle of mine survived eight years in Siberia, and of the 90,000 troops of the 6th Army that surrendered at Stalingrad, about 5000 came back alive, some as late as 1955.
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Old 09-13-2019, 03:15 PM
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With all due respect, American soldiers coming back from Europe after WW II were just as prone to tall stories as any other soldiers in history.

I think it's called "War stories and other lies".
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:23 PM
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This photograph is the last official photograph of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion. This photo contains both original Currahees from the Camp Toccoa training period and replacement troops assigned to Easy Company throughout the war.

Photographed at Zell Am Zee, Austria in June of 1945. Photo is courtesy of 506th PIR 2nd Battalion Archives.

You'll see familiar names...Joseph Liebgott, David Webster, "Bull" Randlelman, "Babe" Heffron, Frank Perconte, and others.

Captain Ronald Speirs is 8th from the left on the third row.

All brave young lions who earned their place in history.

Click the photo to enlarge it.

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Old 09-13-2019, 08:02 PM
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Whatever he did, he looks fine with it.
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Old 09-13-2019, 08:11 PM
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After reading all of this, Im thankful and amazed that 2 of my uncles, one ended up in a German POW camp after his aircraft was downed, and the other had been captured by the Japanese at Corregidor, both came home alive.
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Old 09-13-2019, 09:02 PM
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Whatever he did, he looks fine with it.
It's kinda hard to find a good photograph of Ronald Speirs. I came up with these. There's also a few of him as a Lt. Col. when he was Governor of Spandau Prison in 1958...but I couldn't copy them and didn't feel like messing with the screenshot process. I'm sure there are some more photos of him in the 506th archives...just haven't really searched them. Yet.

Interestingly enough, two of his nicknames were "Sparky" and "Killer".

His surname is actually spelled Speirs...not as you see it in the printing on the one photo below. That's something someone just stuck on it to show it online.

He passed away in Saint Marie, Montana on April 11, 2007 at the age of 86.







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