War Crimes by the Allied Forces

As they say, history is written by the victor. No example of this is more true than the Second World War. Although many are quick to paint the Allies as heroes(and rightfully so), many forget the fact that the Allied forces also committed war crimes.Don’t get me wrong ,being born in a country which was liberated by the allied forces I am forever grateful to the heroes that sacrificed their lives so that I could live in freedom.

However it would be hypocritical to dismiss the war crimes committed by the allied troops.

Below are some examples.

Chenogne massacre

923d370fee8ad4d94c856b291445b5bd91d5b660d39ddd5fe15989c982c51a39_1 (2)

The Chenogne massacre refers to a mass execution committed on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1945, where 60 German prisoners of war were killed by American forces near the village of Chenogne (also spelled “Chegnogne”), Belgium, thought to be in retaliation for the Malmedy massacre. After the WWII.

On December 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, soldiers from the Waffen-SS gunned down 80 American prisoners at the Baugnez crossroads near the town of Malmedy. When news of the killings spread among American forces, it aroused great anger among front line troops. One American unit issued orders: “No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but will be shot on sight.

John Fague of B Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion (of the 11th Armored Division), in action near Chenogne described U.S. troops killing of German prisoners:

Some of the boys had some prisoners line up. I knew they were going to shoot them, and I hated this business…. They marched the prisoners back up the hill to murder them with the rest of the prisoners we had secured that morning…. As we were going up the hill out of town, I know some of our boys were lining up German prisoners in the fields on both sides of the road. There must have been 25 or 30 German boys in each group. Machine guns were being set up. These boys were to be machine gunned and murdered. We were committing the same crimes we were now accusing the Japs and Germans of doing…. Going back down the road into town I looked into the fields where the German boys had been shot. Dark lifeless forms lay in the snow.

The official post-war history published by the United States government states that while “it is probable that Germans who attempted to surrender in the days immediately after the 17th ran a greater risk” of being killed than earlier in the year, even so, “there is no evidence… that American troops took advantage of orders, implicit or explicit, to kill their SS prisoners.”However, according to George Henry Bennett and referring to the above statement; “The caveat is a little disingenuous”, and he proceeds to note that it is likely the orders to shoot prisoners (given by the 328th Infantry regiment) were carried out, and that other US regiments were likely also given similar orders. But the killing of SS prisoners had become routine at the time for some units. The 90th Infantry Division at the Saar “executed Waffen-SS prisoners in such a systematic manner late in December 1944 that headquarters had to issue express orders to take Waffen-SS soldiers alive so as to be able to obtain information from them”

Berlin Mass Rapes

After the fall of Berlin, Germany was in ruins. Occupied by millions of foreign troops, none of whom had complete control over any given entity, Germany quickly descended into anarchic lawlessness. It is believed that the Soviet Army alone was responsible for the rape of up to two million women and children, as well as the subsequent death of 240,000.

Germans_killed_by_Soviet_army

Claimed to be the largest mass rape in history, many unfortunate victims were assaulted up to a hundred times, and often could not resist in the face of overwhelming Soviet numbers.For the most part, these atrocities were driven by the lust for revenge, although in many cases it was simply because the Soviets saw themselves as conquers, not liberators. Stalin himself was reputed to have said that people should be understanding, “if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle.”

It wasn’t just the Soviets who were accused of this crime, however: it is believed that the US was responsible for over 11,000 rapes, while the French have been accused of over 1,500. This is clearly not on the same scale as the Soviets – but it doesn’t make it any less terrible.

Rape during the liberation of France

The invasion of Normandy in June and a second invasion in the south in August, put over two million front line and support troops of the Western Allies into France in 1944.

The Liberation of Paris followed on 25 August. Except for German forces penned in the south-west (e.g. around Bordeaux) or in ports, the majority of German troops were pushed back to the Siegfried Line by the end of 1944. After the war, the repatriation for demobilisation of the troops took time. Even in 1946, months after VE-day there were still about 1.5 million troops in Europe.The housing and management of the thousands of troops awaiting embarkation on a ship for home was a problem.

Life magazine reported the widespread view among American troops of France as “a tremendous brothel inhabited by 40 million hedonists who spent all their time eating, drinking, making love and in general having a hell of a good time”

article-0-1A0CB3C7000005DC-867_634x514

By the late summer of 1944, soon after the invasion of Normandy, women in Normandy began to complain about rapes by American soldiers.Hundreds of cases were reported.

In 1945, after the end of the war in Europe, Le Havre was filled with American servicemen awaiting return to the States. A Le Havre citizen wrote to the mayor that the people of Le Havre were “attacked, robbed, run over both on the street and in our houses” and “This is a regime of terror, imposed by bandits in uniform. A coffeehouse owner from Le Havre testified “We expected friends who would not make us ashamed of our defeat. Instead, there came only incomprehension, arrogance, incredibly bad manners and the swagger of conquerors.” Such behavior also was common in Cherbourg. One resident stated that “With the Germans, the men had to camouflage themselves—but with the Americans, we had to hide the women.”

U.S. troops committed 208 rapes and about 30 murders in the department of Manche.French men also raped women perceived as collaborators with the Germans

collabo

A brothel, Blue and Gray Corral, was set up near the village of St. Renan in September 1944 by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Gerhardt, commander of the infantry division that landed at Omaha Beach, partly to counter a wave of rape accusations against G.I.s. (It was shut down after a mere five hours in order to prevent civilians in the United States from finding out about a military run brothel).

The Free French Forces high command sent a letter of complaint to the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He gave his commanders orders to take action against all allegations of murder, rape, assault, robbery and other crimes. In August 1945, Pierre Voisin, mayor of Le Havre urged Colonel Thomas Weed, U.S. commander in the region, to set up brothels outside Le Havre However, U.S. commanders refused.

130 of the 153 troops disciplined for rape by the Army were African American.Military courts sentenced African American soldiers to more severe punishment than white American soldiers:U.S. forces executed 29 soldiers for rape, 25 of them African American. Many convictions against African Americans were, however, based on flimsy evidence at best. For example, Marie Lepottevin identified William Downs only because he was “much larger” than the other soldiers, despite the crime taking place in near darkness.

 

Advertisements

Operation Fork-the invasion of Iceland

The Axis powers and mainly Germany, Italy and Japan were not the only occupying forces during WWII. The allies also occupied some nations.

ic6 keflavik PBY-5 returning_to_Reykavik_1942

After the defiant battles that the Icelandic football team fought at the 21st century battlefield of the EURO 2016 Championships I decided to have a look at this country’s history during WWII.

Iceland didn’t want any part of the Second World War. It was all tiny and defenseless and alone out there in the north Atlantic. Most of the hundred thousand people on the island were peaceful farming and fishing families. They had no army; only a few dozen hastily-trained police officers.

Agnar Icelandic Police

For the most part, the Icelandic arsenal was limited to a few pistols and rifles and a couple of antique cannons. But that was the point: ever since the end of the First World War, when they had been granted their autonomy under Danish rule, Iceland had been an officially neutral country. They weren’t going to be doing any invading — and no one was supposed to invade them.

The invasion of Iceland, code named Operation Fork, was a British military operation conducted by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines during World War II to occupy and deny Iceland to Germany. At the start of the war, Britain imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of its naval blockade. Britain offered assistance to Iceland, seeking cooperation “as a belligerent and an ally”, but Reykjavik declined and reaffirmed its neutrality. The German diplomatic presence in Iceland, along with the island’s strategic importance, alarmed the British. After failing to persuade the Icelandic government to join the Allies, the British invaded on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 British Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.

Iceland, an independent sovereign nation ruled by the King of Denmark, joined Denmark in the pursuit of neutrality when the European War began. Upon the German invasion of Denmark in Apr 1940, Icelandic parliament declared King Christian X unable to perform his constitutional duties,

78751-004-66D490EF

and began to act in a more independent manner, though it remained neutral. On 9 May 1940, the United Kingdom issued a message to Iceland stating her willingness to defend Iceland (Iceland had no military force of her own) if Iceland would allow British forces to establish presence there. The United Kingdom intended to use Iceland to establish a base in the North Atlantic as well as to prevent a German invasion and occupation. The Icelandic government rejected the offer, noting her wish to remain neutral in the conflict. What the Icelandic parliament did not know, however, was that the United Kingdom had been planning an invasion under the code name of Operation Fork since late Apr or early May.

On 3 May 1940, the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion in Bisley, Surrey received orders from London to be ready to move at two hours’ notice for an unknown destination. The battalion had only been activated the month before. Though there was a nucleus of active service officers, the troops were new recruits and only partially trained. There was a shortage of weapons, which consisted only of rifles, pistols, and bayonets, while 50 of the marines had only just received their rifles and had not had a chance to fire them. On 4 May, the battalion received some modest additional equipment in the form of Bren light machine guns, anti-tank guns, and 2-inch mortars. With no time to spare, zeroing of the weapons and initial familiarisation firing would have to be conducted at sea

At 0400 on 8 May, under the command of 49-year-old Colonel Robert Sturges, a highly regarded WW1 veteran, 746 men of the inexperienced 2nd Royal Marine Battalion departed Greenock, Scotland, United Kingdom. Also with the invasion force was a small intelligence team headed by Major Humphrey Quill and a diplomatic mission headed by Charles Howard Smith. In the morning of 10 May, a Walrus aircraft was dispatched to scout the waters leading up to Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, for German submarine activity.

Supermarine_Walrus

But mis-communications led to the aircraft circling the actual city several times, thus alerting Icelandic officials the presence of the British force. The acting police chief Einar Arnalds recognized it as a British aircraft, but advised Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson it was probably only a British warship en route on a diplomatic mission. The German consul to Iceland Werner Gerlach was more cautious, who began burning his documents after seeing British warships arrive at the Reykjavík harbor.

birdseyervkhofn

As Icelandic officials prepared warning statements for the British fleet announcing their violation of Icelandic neutrality, heavy cruiser HMS Berwick transferred 400 marines to the destroyer Fearless, which took them to Reykjavík.

The invasion was not met with resistance from the 70-strong Reykjavík police force, though a large crowd gathered at the harbor to protest.

Icelandic_Army_1940-2

The British marines moved to occupy telecommunications facilities, radio stations, and meteorological offices, while the local German population (including Consul Gerlach and crew of German freighter Bahia Blanca) were placed under arrest, all in the attempt to delay the news of the invasion from reaching Germany.In the evening of 10 May, the Icelandic government formally issued a statement noting that their neutrality had been “flagrantly violated” and “its independence infringed”. The British government appeased the protest by promising compensation, trade agreement, non-interference in domestic Icelandic affairs, and the promise that troops would be withdrawn at war’s end.

While the British marines secured Reykjavík,

British invasion of Iceland 1940

a small detachment was sent to nearby Hvalfjörður (a fjord), Sandskeið, and Kaldaðarnes. On 15 May, the harbor town of Hafnarfjörður was occupied. On 17 and 19 May, men were sent by ship to land at Akureyri and Melgerði, respectively, in the Eyjafjörður (a fjord) on the northern coast to guard against potential German landings. In the following few weeks, anti-aircraft weapons were deployed in Reykjavík to deter potential German air raids.

When the news of the invasion finally reached Germany, a discussion dubbed Operation Ikarus began to examine the possibility of counter-action, but none came to fruition.

 

In Jul 1941, the responsibility of the occupation was passed to the United States, which sent 40,000 soldiers to guard the island with a population of merely 120,000.The US had actually not officially joined the War at that stage.

Although Iceland still officially maintained neutrality, she actually cooperated with Allied authorities throughout the war.

The time line

16 Apr 1940 Iceland declared independence from Denmark and asked United States for recognition.

9 May 1940 British troops occupied Iceland.

10 Apr 1941 American destroyer USS USS Niblack attacked a German submarine off Iceland; the submarine escaped without being damaged. It was the first shot fired between the US and Germany.

dd424-niblack

18 Apr 1941 The United States declared that the Pan-American Security Zone, last defined with the 3 Oct 1939 Declaration of Panama, to be extended to 26 degrees west longitude, 2,300 nautical miles east of New York on the east coast of the United States. It was just 50 nautical miles short of Iceland, which was a major Allied convoy staging area.

7 Jul 1941 US Marines who had departed from Naval Station Argentia,with a heavy escort (including battleships New York and Arkansas, cruisers Brooklyn and Nashville, and more than a dozen destroyers)arrived at Reykjavik.

 

Approximately 230 Icelanders lives were lost in World War II hostilities.Most were killed on cargo and fishing vessels sunk by German aircraft, U-boats or mines

The presence of British,Canadian and American troops in Iceland had a lasting impact on the country. Engineering projects, initiated by the occupying forces – especially the building of Reykjavík Airport – brought employment to many Icelanders. This was the so-called Bretavinna or “Brit labour”. Also, the Icelanders had a source of revenue by exporting fish to the United Kingdom.

There was large-scale interaction between young Icelandic women and soldiers, which came to be known as Ástandið (“the condition” or “situation”) in Icelandic. Many Icelandic women married Allied soldiers and subsequently gave birth to children, many of whom bore the patronymic Hansson (hans translates as “his” in Icelandic), which was used because the father was unknown or had left the country. Some children born as a result of the Ástandið have English surnames.