Nazi Army Invokes Death Penalty On Men Who Surrender to Allies
Cpl. Charles A. Klein, formerly of Courier-Post, Writes of Experience Related by U. S. Medical Officer Who Saw Executions Editor's Note:
Cpl. Charles A. Klein, correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper of the U. S. armed forces in the European theatre, is a former member of the editorial staff of the Courier-Post Newspapers. He Is with the public relations branch of the Sixth Armored Division in France.
By CPL. CHARLES A. KLEIN Stars and Stripe Unit Correspondent With the Sixth Armored Division In France, Sept. 1.
How three German soldiers were killed by their own men for surrendering to an American colonel who was later captured with the prisoners, has been related by Lt. Col. James W. Branch, of Hope, Ark. Colonel Branch, a medical battalion officer, was able to tell his storv when he returned to his unit after his successful attempt of talking over 75 Nazis to surrender to him although he had been their prisoner for three days.
A speaking knowledge of both German and French and the constant pounding of the Nazis by the U. S. Ninth Air Force and artillery were accredited by the colonel for his success. With Lt. Kevin M. Rothrock, of Pasadena. Calif, an MAC, and T4 John Boyan, of Piermont, N. Y., the colonel had started out In a jeep in search of a new area to set up a held hospital. Entering a small French village, the three men were immediately warned by the Free French that the Nazis were still in the village.
Ran into Germans
Immediately they turned their vehicle around and headed back toward the next town.
Halfway there they ran into an approaching column of German vehicles, wnicn they were later to discover stretched for about seven miles and consisted of well over 1000 Germans.
Hiding their Jeep behind a monastery, the three men hid in a wheat field for over three hours while the column passed. They then drove the vehicle into a field, covering it with hay and looked for a more suitable place to niae. Finding a huge hole resembling a former gun emplacement, the men hid in it Misfortune again met them, however, when another portion of this same column picked this particular field as a bivouac area.
For 28 solid hours, with no food and only a canteen and a half of water, the three men remained in the hole during this period.
Colonel Branch said that they were subjected to constant artillery fire from our own soldiers and bombing and strafing from American planes. Finally five German soldiers dis covered them during the air attacks and two of them were killed attempting to get to them. The three dove into the same hole with the Americans and after a little persuasion by the colonel, they de cided to become American prison ers. They told the colonel that it they were discovered they would be shot, so they were hid under a canvas in the rear of his jeep and the six started off again.
Lt. Col. J.W. Branch, Chief Surgeon of the 6th Armored Division, provides medical care to a Hungarian survivor in Penig, a subcamp of Buchenwald. Penig, Germany, April 26, 1945.
They met the. enemy again after going only 75 yards. All six were taken prisoner and despite attempts by Colonel Branch to convince the Nazis that the three Germans in the vehicle were casualties, they were placed on the side of the road away trom tne Americans. These three, shaking with fear, were told to remain on the side of the road and the Americans were to be taken to the Germans medical detachment to assist in giving aid to the wounded. Just as the American captibes turned to, leave, three shots were fired directly behind them and that was the last they ever saw of their three Nazis who had been their prisoners. For another day and a half the three remained captives of the Germans until finally the commanding officer of the unit informed the medical officer they were departing and that he was to follow the next morning for Brest with the three Americans. Fifty Nazi soldiers and their officer also remained. All during that night Colonel Branch talked to the Nazi doctor, telling him that hit patients were badly in need of morphine and blood plasma, and that his diminishing supplies would not care for them. He finally succeeded in his argument and the officer agreed to surrender. Another two-hour argument convinced the officer in charge of the 50 soldiers that to hold out was useless. According to Colonel Branch, approximately 75 Germans were killed or died of Injuries receited during the attack.
source: Courier-Post, 23 Sep 1944, Sat, Page 3
Cpl. Charles A. Klein, correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper of the U. S. armed forces in the European theatre, is a former member of the editorial staff of the Courier-Post Newspapers. He Is with the public relations branch of the Sixth Armored Division in France