“I hanged those ten Nazis… and I am proud of it… I wasn’t nervous…. A fellow can’t afford to have nerves in this business…. I want to put in a good word for those G.I.s who helped me… they all did swell…. I am trying to get them a promotion…. The way I look at this hanging job, somebody has to do it. I got into it kind of by accident, years ago in the States.”
I suppose it is understandable that he was proud of doing his job ridding the planet of some of worlds most evil and vile people. However it begs the question though how he mentally coped with the killing. Even though I believe that when forced to we are all able to kill, we are just like any other animal when it comes to that. When in danger of our own life our primeval instincts will kick in, but killing someone who doesn’t pose a threat to you is another issue. It takes a certain kind of person.
John C. Woods (June 5, 1911 – July 21, 1950) was a United States Army master sergeant who, with Joseph Malta, carried out the Nuremberg executions of ten former top leaders of the Third Reich on October 16, 1946, after they were sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials. Time magazine credited him with 347 executions to that date during a 15-year career.According to recent research, a number of 60 to 70 over a period of two years is more credible.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Woods joined the US Navy on December 3, 1929, and went absent without leave within months. He was convicted at a general court martial and subsequently examined by a psychiatric board on April 23, 1930. He was diagnosed with “Constitutional Psychopathic Inferiority without Psychosis”, was found “poor service material” and discharged.Before being inducted into the United States Army in August 1943, Woods was intermittently employed in construction as a laborer, and was working part-time at a feed-store in Eureka, Kansas, when he was registered for Selective Service in 1940. He was married to a nurse, Hazel Woods, but had no children.
Before D-Day, American military executions by hanging in the European Theater of Operations occurred in England only and were performed by the civilian executioner Thomas Pierrepoint with assistance by Albert Pierrepoint and other British personnel.
When in autumn of 1944 military executions by hanging were scheduled in France, the Army looked for a volunteer enlisted hangman and found Woods, who falsely claimed previous experience as assistant hangman in two cases in Texas and two in Oklahoma – there is no evidence that the U.S. Army made any attempt to verify Woods’ claims. In fact, Woods had no documented pre-war experience as a hangman. Woods at that time was a private and a member of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion. He was promoted to master sergeant and transferred to Paris Disciplinary Training Center.Woods performed as the primary executioner in the hangings of 34 American soldiers at various locations in France over 1944–1945, and assisted in at least three others. U.S. Army reports suggest that Woods participated in at least 11 bungled hangings of US soldiers between 1944 and 1946.
The Nuremberg executions took place on October 16, 1946, shortly after the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials. Ten prominent members of the political and military leadership of Nazi Germany were executed by hanging: Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and Julius Streicher.
While serving with the 7th Engineer Brigade in Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, on July 21, 1950, Woods was accidentally electrocuted while attempting to repair an engineer lighting set.He is buried in Toronto Township Cemetery, Toronto, Kansas.