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POWs in America during World War II
Examining the largest prisoner-of-war handling operation in U.S. history, this book offers a meticulous account of the myriad problems—as well as the impressive successes—that came with housing 371,000 German POWs on American soil during World War II. Antonio Thompson draws on extensive archival research to probe the various ways in which the U.S. government strove to comply with the Geneva Convention’s mandate that enemy prisoners be moved from the war zone and given food, shelter, and clothing equal to that provided for American soldiers.
While the prisoners became a ready source of manpower for the labor-starved American home front and received small wages in return, their stay in the United States generated more than a few difficulties, which included not only daunting logistics but also violence within the camps. Such violence was often blamed on Nazi influence and control; however, as Thompson points out, only a few of the prisoners were actually Nazis. Because the Germans had cobbled together military forces that included convicts, their own POWs, volunteers from neutral nations, and conscripts from occupied countries, the bonds that held these soldiers together amid the pressures of combat dissolved once they were placed behind barbed wire. When these “men in German uniform,” who were not always Germans, donned POW garb, their former social, racial, religious, and ethnic tensions quickly reemerged.
To counter such troubles, American authorities organized various activities—including sports, arts, education, and religion—within the POW camps; some prisoners even participated in an illegal denazification program created by the U.S. government. Despite the problems, Thompson argues, the POW-housing program proved largely successful, as Americans maintained their reputation for fairness and humane treatment during a time of widespread turmoil.
Antonio Thompson is an assistant professor of history at Austin Peay State University and the author of <i>German Jackboots on Kentucky Bluegrass: Housing German Prisoners of War in Kentucky, 1942–1946</i>. He has also taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway
Midway, the most famous naval battle in American history, has been the subject of many excellent books. However, none satisfactorily explain why the Japanese lost that battle, given their overwhelming advantage in firepower. While no book may ever silence debate on the subject, Midway Inquest answers the central mystery of the battle. Why could the Japanese not get a bomber strike launched against the American carrier force before being attacked and destroyed by American dive bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown? Although it is well known that the Japanese were unable to launch an immediate attack because their aircraft were in the process of changing armament, why wasn't the rearming operation reversed and an attack launched before the American planes arrived? Based on extensive research in Japanese primary records, Japanese literature on the battle, and interviews with over two dozen Japanese veterans from the carrier air groups, this book solves the mystery at last.
Spying and Retribution in World War II America
A remarkable story of how the U.S. military tortured German POWs into confessing their guilt
“An expert dissection of the crime, its witnesses, and Washington’s shifting goals. Murder and Martial Justice is a good murder mystery, based on a solid examination of the various contradictions and irritating bureaucratic villains.” —Arnold Krammer, author of Nazi Prisoners of War in America and Undue Process: The Untold Story of America’s German Alien Internees
During World War II, the United States maintained two secret interrogation camps in violation of the Geneva Convention—one just south of Washington, D.C., and the other near San Francisco. German POWs who passed through these camps briefed their fellow prisoners, warning them of turncoats who were helping the enemy—the United States—pry secrets from them. One of these turncoats, Werner Drechsler, was betrayed and murdered by those he spied on.
U.S. military authorities reacted harshly to Drechsler’s death, even though he was not the first captive to be assassinated by his fellow POWs. How had military intelligence been compromised? Were fanatical Nazis terrorizing their countrymen on American soil? Would Hitler take reprisals against the GIs he held if the United States did not protect the German POWs from violence and death while confined at the interrogation camps? At one of the secret camps, U.S. officials forced Drechsler’s seven murderers to confess. The next problem faced by authorities was how to court-martial them when their confessions were legally invalid. Their secret trial was stage-managed to deliver death sentences while apparently complying with U.S. and international law.
This presented U.S. authorities with further problems. The Geneva Convention entitled the prisoners’ governments to the full facts about their crimes, trials, and sentencing. Despite escalating German complaints, the War Department adopted a policy of giving as little information as possible about any of the several POW murder trials in order to avoid releasing inconvenient facts about the Drechsler case. Unsurprisingly, the Reich began sentencing GIs to death. Gambling with American lives, the War Department stalled every German attempt to trade these men for the convicted German murderers until the war ended. Every American was saved; every German but one was hanged.
The Drechsler case foreshadows current controversies: creative circumvention of the Geneva Convention, secret interrogation centers, torture, and the consequent problem of how to provide a fair trial to prisoners coerced into self-incrimination. Author Meredith Lentz Adams sees a familiar pattern of cover-ups, leading to difficulties with public and international relations. In contrast to recent policies, she points out how leaders during World War II felt constrained by their respect for Geneva and by fear of retribution against their own soldiers.
Murder and Martial Justice is a fascinating and provocative book that will appeal to those with an interest in World War II, POWs, international law, foreign policy, and true crime history.
Fighting with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II
She flew the swift P-51 and the capricious P-38, but the heavy, four-engine B-17 bomber and C-54 transport were her forte. This is the story of Nancy Harkness Love who, early in World War II, recruited and led the first group of twenty-eight women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army. Love was hooked on flight at an early age. At sixteen, after just four hours of instruction, she flew solo “a rather broken down Fleet biplane that my barnstorming instructor imported from parts unknown.” The year was 1930: record-setting aviator Jacqueline Cochran (and Love’s future rival) had not yet learned to fly, and the most famous woman pilot of all time, Amelia Earhart, had yet to make her acclaimed solo Atlantic flight. When the United States entered World War II, the Army needed pilots to transport or “ferry” its combat-bound aircraft across the United States for overseas deployment and its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. Most male pilots were assigned to combat preparation, leaving few available for ferrying jobs. Into this vacuum stepped Nancy Love and her civilian Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Love had advocated using women as ferry pilots as early as 1940. Jackie Cochran envisioned a more ambitious plan, to train women to perform a variety of the military’s flight-related jobs stateside. The Army implemented both programs in the fall of 1942, but Jackie’s idea piqued General Hap Arnold’s interest and, by summer 1943, her concept had won. The women’s programs became one under the name Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Cochran as the Director of Women Pilots and Love as the Executive for WASP. Nancy Love advised the Ferrying Division, which was part of the Air Transport Command, as to the best use of their WASP ferry pilots. She supervised their allocation and air-training program. She proved adept at organizing and inspiring those under her command, earning the love and admiration of her pilots. Her military superiors trusted and respected her, to the point that she became Ferrying Division commander Gen. William H. Tunner’s troubleshooter. By example, Love won the right for women ferry pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on twenty-three different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17 Flying Fortress. Her World War II career ended on a high note: following a general’s orders, she piloted a giant C-54 Army transport over the fabled China-Burma-India “Hump,” the crucial airlift route over the Himalayas. Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.
How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along
World War II shaped the United States in profound ways, and this new book--the first in the Legacies of War series--explores one of the most significant changes it fostered: a dramatic increase in ethnic and religious tolerance. A Nation Forged in War is the first full-length study of how large-scale mobilization during the Second World War helped to dissolve long-standing differences among white soldiers of widely divergent backgrounds.
Never before or since have so many Americans served in the armed forces at one time: more than 15 million donned uniforms in the period from 1941 to 1945. Thomas Bruscino explores how these soldiers' shared experiences--enduring basic training, living far from home, engaging in combat--transformed their views of other ethnic groups and religious traditions. He further examines how specific military policies and practices worked to counteract old prejudices, and he makes a persuasive case that throwing together men of different regions, ethnicities, religions, and classes not only fostered a greater sense of tolerance but also forged a new American identity. When soldiers returned home after the war with these new attitudes, they helped reorder what it meant to be white in America.
Using the presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and John F. Kennedy in 1960 as bookend events, Bruscino notes a key change in religious bias. Smith's defeat came at the end of a campaign rife with anti-Catholic sentiment; Kennedy's victory some three decades later proved that such religious bigotry was no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Despite such advances, Bruscino notes that the growing broad-mindedness produced by the war had limits: it did not extend to African Americans, whose own struggle for equality would dramatically mark the postwar decades.
Extensively documented, A Nation Forged in War is one of the few books on the social and cultural impact of the World War II years. Scholars and students of military, ethnic, social, and religious history will be fascinated by this groundbreaking new volume.
A Marine in Combat
The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges and the First U.S. Army
During World War II, U.S. Army generals often maintained diaries of their activities and the day-to-day operations of their command. These diaries have proven to be invaluable historical resources for World War II scholars and enthusiasts alike. Until now, one of the most historically significant of these diaries, the one kept for General Courtney H. Hodges of the First U.S. Army, has not been widely available to the public. Maintained by two of Hodges’s aides, Major William C. Sylvan and Captain Francis G. Smith Jr., this unique military journal offers a vivid, firsthand account detailing the actions, decisions, and daily activities of General Hodges and the First Army throughout the war. The diary opens on June 2, 1944, as Hodges and the First Army prepare for the Allied invasion of France. In the weeks and months that follow, the diary highlights the crucial role that Hodges’s often undervalued command—the first to cross the German border, the first to cross the Rhine, the first to close to the Elbe—played in the Allied operations in northwest Europe. The diary recounts the First Army’s involvement in the fight for France, the Siegfried Line campaign, the Battle of the Bulge, the drive to the Roer River, and the crossing of the Rhine, following Hodges and his men through savage European combat until the German surrender in May 1945. Popularly referred to as the “Sylvan Diary,” after its primary writer, the diary has previously been available only to military historians and researchers, who were permitted to use it at only the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, the U.S. Army Center for Military History, or the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Retired U.S. Army historian John T. Greenwood has now edited this text in its entirety and added a biography of General Hodges as well as extensive notes that clarify the diary’s historical details. Normandy to Victory provides military history enthusiasts with valuable insights into the thoughts and actions of a leading American commander whose army played a crucial role in the Allied successes of World War II.
The Nazi POW Journal of Steve Carano, With Accounts by John C. Bitzer and Bill Blackmon
Not Without Honor threads together the stories of three American POWs—Carano; his buddy Bill Blackmon, who was also at Stalag 17 b; and John C. Bitzer, who survived the brutal “Death March” from northern Germany to liberation in April 1945. At times the journal reads like a thriller as he records air battles and escape attempts. Yet in their most gripping accounts, these POWs ruminate on psychological survival. The sense of community they formed was instrumental to their endurance. This compelling book allows the reader to journey with these young men as they bore firsthand witness to the best and worst of human nature.
Two Teenage Refugees in the Second World War
Muriel Gillick draws from a remarkable set of primary source materials, including letters, telegrams, and police records to relate the story of two teenage refugees during World War II. Once They Had a Country conveys well what it was like to establish a new life in a foreign country—over and over again and in constant fear for one’s life. The work tells of the extraordinary experiences of the author’s parents in Europe and demonstrates how citizens and the governments of Belgium, France, Switzerland, Brazil, America, China, and postwar Germany treated refugees. This story also reveals the origins of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the basis of contemporary international law affecting refugees in many countries today.
In addition to the dramatic human story it tells, this work brings the plight of refugees home to the reader—and with over 8 million refugees worldwide today, the subject of how individuals and nation states respond to these individuals is indeed timely.