Time dulls memory, but I am never going to forget a morning
in Normandy when we were first introduced to wartime atrocity.
This was at Argentan-Falaise. My early 703 tank-busters had already
learned that combat was kill or be killed, but I think we all
felt the combat would be waged decently.
As a matter of fact it was - where we bellied up to the average
German soldier, the Luftwaffe, or even those tremendously efficient
Kraut parachutists. Rommel's Palm-Tree brassard boys were tough
customers, but if they captured one of us after a fire fight
there was no summary execution; they grinned at us, offered a
good meal, a glass of schnapps and good luck as a prisoner of
Not so the SS. These, until the very end when kids were drafted
into the outfit sans indoctrination, were trained murderers.
We got into atrocity and it escalated. I am not going to be a
hypocrite and say that 3AD was innocent; the horror was tit for
tat. Our own boys didn't start it.
On the morning recalled at Falaise, a German SS combat patrol
came in and captured six of our boys. Just before dawn, after
a night of routing light tanks through our leaguer, I was discussing
the situation with a young officer named Jack Wissing.
Apparently, just after I left him to get some much needed
rest in a slit trench, the SS patrol came in. Damned if I know
why they succeeded, but the Krauts forever stated in their orders
that Americans tended to be drowsy at dawn. Wissing wasn't sleepy;
he was wide awake when I vacated the premises. Okay, we win some
and we lose some.
But these black-shirted bastards took our shavetail and five
other soldiers down behind the nearest hedgerow and murdered
all but one with gunfire. The one was quick enough to run and
escape. He told us all about it and the evidence was there.
I don't have any hard-on about the average German soldier;
he was just doing a job as we were, but I'd still like to find
those criminal SS and give them a dose of hot lead. All of those
killed without need were my friends. The shavetail was our company's
reconnaissance officer and because everybody was short-handed,
although a buck-stripe sergeant, I was appointed to take his
place as an acting recon officer.
Which I did, and nobody complained. It happened that I knew
my maps and compass, and it happened that I was stupid enough
to be unafraid when I should have been shit-scared. You old troopers
know how it was; we obeyed orders and we goofed off whenever
that seemed feasible. I make no excuses to my tank-buster early
command or to Lt. Col. Barr; they knew all about me; they knew
when I deserved a pat on the back or a kick in the rump.
The business at Fromental made us all atrocity-oriented. We
didn't want to be, but how else do you react to animals who observe
no rules? The guy who killed [Division Commander] Rose may have
thought that the General was reaching for a pistol. The bastards
who killed my friends knew that they were disarmed and helpless.
Spearhead brats may question, but we weren't very kind to
the SS after that. Spearhead did not hurt Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe,
parachutists or Seemarine prisoners; we treated them well, swapped
drinks and traded tall tales. No way with SS.
I want those people dead; they weren't fair fighters; they
were murderers; and I will never excuse that. War itself is a
form of murder and if we humans ever learn to reason together
then this ancient curse may become stone-age history.
The allies were decent soldiers, as were most of the Germans
who opposed us; we were all tough and hated to hurt the innocent.
If I had to kill, then I will go to hell with blood on my hands
- but I never scragged a helpless prisoner. Some of my colleagues
did and, as a non-com, I closed my eyes and ears. The victims
were always SS. We committed atrocities too, or call it instant
justice where sub-human cretins were known to have slaughtered
In Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, these animals
mowed down a whole raft of captured American artillery troops.
I personally saw one instance in which they murdered Belgian
men, women and children with blows from rifle butts. Make it
very clear; the wrongdoers were almost always totenkopf SS. An
old-timer, I harbor no hatred of the then Wehrmacht soldier;
he was just like me - stuck into service and battling for his
I know a few of them now; like me they throw their hands out
and admit how wrong it all was. We can fish together like old
friends. They are welcome visitors at my central Massachusetts
barracks and they have urged me to visit a new Germany to talk
about peaceful angling and sport shooting.