Scrapbookpages Blog

March 31, 2010

American World War II Air Force pilots were prisoners at Buchenwald until rescued by the Luftwaffe

On the last train out of Paris, just before the Allies liberated the city, were 168 American fighter pilots who had been shot down over France.  They were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, not as POWs, but as “terrorfliegers” (terror flyers) because they had allegedly been aiding French Resistance fighters, whom the Nazis called “terrorists.”

Nazi poster called French Resistance an “Army of Crime”

According to the Geneva Convention of 1929, the French Resistance fighters were non-combatants who did not have the rights of Prisoners of War if they were captured. The same rules applied to Americans who were believed to be aiding the French Resistance. That’s why the 168 flyers wound up at the Buchenwald concentration camp instead of a POW camp.

This blog post gives information about a new book that will be coming out soon; the book tells the story of Joseph F. Moser, one of the American flyers who was imprisoned at Buchenwald. According to the book, Joe Moser very narrowly survived bailing out of his P-38 with an engine on fire. He and 167 other Allied pilots were  sent to Buchenwald on orders from Berlin to be executed as “terrorfliegers.” Four days before their scheduled “extermination,” they were rescued by Luftwaffe (German Air Force) officers and shipped instead to the most famous POW camp in Germany: Stalag Luft III.

World War II started when France and Great Britain declared war on Germany after Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. By September 28, 1939 Poland had been conquered, with the help of the Soviet Union, which invaded Poland on September 17, 1939. However, Poland never surrendered and there was no peace treaty. The Poles continued to fight throughout World War II, not on the battlefield, but as  “illegal combatants” according to the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929. Captured Polish Resistance fighters were sent to the Dachau concentration camp, instead of being sent to a POW camp.

Germany finally invaded France on May 10, 1940, and on June 17, 1940, Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, the new prime minister of France, asked the Germans for surrender terms; an Armistice was signed on June 22, 1940. The French agreed to an immediate “cessation of fighting.”

The French Resistance movement was in direct violation of the Armistice signed by the French, which stipulated the following:

“The French Government will forbid French citizens to fight against Germany in the service of States with which the German Reich is still at war. French citizens who violate this provision are to be treated by German troops as insurgents.”

The Buchenwald concentration camp held many French Resistance fighters as prisoners. The photo below shows a monument at Buchenwald in honor of the Resistance fighters.

Buchenwald monument in honor of Resistance fighters

The excerpts from the book about Joe Moser, which were posted on the blog, caught my attention because it was mentioned that the American flyers at Buchenwald complained about the Germans not treating them in accordance with Geneva Convention of 1929.

For example, this quote is from the new book which will soon be published:

After our first meal, we gathered back together in the open area where we had slept. It was about this time that Colonel Phillip Lamason stepped forward. Col. Lamason was the senior officer among the 168 of us, a tall, good looking Squadron Leader from the New Zealand Air Force. I consider it one of the greatest blessings of this challenging time to have Col. Lamason as our commander. His quiet, strong but aggressive leadership was a critical factor not only in holding us together but also in facilitating our eventual release.

“Attention!” he said unexpectedly in his clipped New Zealand accent. We instinctively quickly got up, tried to get ourselves in some semblance of order, and stood stiffly waiting.
“Gentlemen, we have ourselves in a very fine fix indeed,” he went on. “The goons have completely violated the Geneva Convention and are treating us as common thieves and criminals. However, we are soldiers! From this time on, we will also conduct ourselves as our training has taught us and as our countries would expect from us. We will march as a unit to roll call and we will follow all reasonable commands as a single unit.”

The “goons,” to whom Col. Lamason was referring, were the Germans who were fighting on the battlefield while the French, who had signed an Armistice after only 5 weeks, were fighting as what Americans today call “terrorists.”  Great Britain and America were aiding the “terrorists” in France, which meant that these flyers, who were captured while allegedly aiding the French Resistance, were fighting in violation of the Geneva Convention.

The American flyers were scheduled to be executed on October 24, 1944, but a  Luftwaffe officer came to Buchenwald just in time to rescue them.

Here is another quote from the blog about the forthcoming book:

“One thing is certain, Col. Lamason never let an opportunity pass by where he didn’t make it clear that we strenuously objected to our treatment and that our tormentors were violating the Geneva Convention.”

The attitude of the British and the Americans in World War II was that the Geneva Convention applied only to the Germans.  No British or American soldiers were ever put on trial for violating the Geneva Convention with regard to German POWs.

At Dachau, American soldiers executed the Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the camp.  At Bergen-Belsen, the British executed some of the Hungarian soldiers who had been sent to the camp to help with the voluntary transfer of the camp to the Allies.  After World War II ended, the British held the first trial of the Germans; staff members of the Bergen-Belsen camp were put on trial as war criminals.

Staff members of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal for violating the Geneva Convention with regard to Soviet POWs although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and the Soviets were not treating German soldiers according to its rules.

The British SOE was formed in order to aid the French Resistance, which was a violation of the Geneva Convention since the French had signed an Armistice and promised to stop fighting.  After the war, Germans were put on trial for allegedly executing British SOE agents, although there was no proof whatsoever that the agents were even dead.

The Allies made sure that there were no German Resistance fighters after Germany surrendered in World War II; they kept millions of German soldiers in captivity for years after the war.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower designated German POWs as Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF) so that America would not have to follow the Geneva Convention with regard to German POWs.  The Soviet Union kept German POWs in camps for ten years after World War II ended.

Out of the 168 flyers that were sent to Buchenwald, 166 survived their two months imprisonment at Buchenwald.  Instead of being grateful that Luftwaffe officers took them out of Buchenwald and put them into a POW camp, the survivors of this fiasco are still whining about the Germans not following the Geneva Convention with regard to what we now call “terrorists.”  These Allied flyers should have been advised, before they were sent on their mission, that they would not be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention in the event that they were captured.

16 Comments »

  1. This story is pure whitewash written by a Nazi apologist. There are so many errors in this article. Having French Resistance trying to help downed Allied airman or Allied officers aiding the French resistance was not a violation of the Geneva Convention, where in hell did the author get this crap? Where in the Geneva Conventions that says anything about treaties between the nations?

    >The French Government will forbid French citizens to fight against Germany in the service of States with which the German Reich is still at war. French citizens who violate this provision are to be treated by German troops as insurgents.

    Domestic law, not international law. True, any French citizens who fight against German troops were treated as insurgents according to the Armistice of 1940. However, the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare states that civilians has the right to take up arms against the invaders or occupiers, provided they meet the requirements in order to be treated as POWs:

    “Article 1. The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer
    corps fulfilling the following conditions:
    1. To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    2. To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
    3. To carry arms openly; and
    4. To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”

    The French resistance were comprised of civilians and were not terrorists unlike the insurgents in the middle east nowadays. Terrorism is defined by the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. That wasn’t the aim of the French resistance, their aim was to fight Nazi tyranny, gather military information, and provide it to the Allies. I do agree that French resistance fighters were out of proper uniforms or insignia and could be summarily executed as unlawful combatants on spot but they were no by means terrorists. The 1949 Geneva Conventions established new protocols stating that unlawful combatants – mercenaries, spies, partisans, insurgents, guerrilla fighters, and franc-tireurs – are entitled to be given a fair trial before punishment. Many Nazi officers who carried out anti-partisan operations during World War II were found guilty and given prison terms because they execute thousands of civilians just for taking out a few non-properly uniformed partisans. Collective punishment in occupies territories was (and is) forbidden and this was stipulated in Article 50 of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare which states that: “No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.”

    Furthermore, the Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal in 1950 states that: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore, individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” It is clear that the Nazi regime was evil and has to be taken down because they violated international law repeatedly. Therefore, French citizens had every right to take up arms against the French government allied to the Nazis and the Nazis themselves.

    >Staff members of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal for violating the Geneva Convention with regard to Soviet POWs although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and the Soviets were not treating German soldiers according to its rules.

    Wrong, the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War stated that: “Article 82. The provisions of the present Convention shall be respected by the High Contracting Parties in all circumstances.
    In time of war if one of the belligerents is not a party to the Convention, its provisions shall, nevertheless, remain binding as between the belligerents who are parties thereto.”

    Therefore, a country who is a signatory to the Geneva Convention even had to give non-signatory nations the rights assigned by the convention. Nazi Germany violated this convention repeatably by treating the Soviet POWs in the same way Japan treated Western Allied POWs in the Pacific War. I do agree the Soviets were bad and should have been charged along with the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, not to mention they started World War II along with Germany by invading Poland together. The Western Allies considered the Soviet Union an embarrassing ally since we were fighting against tyranny (Nazi Germany) and allied with a nation (USSR) that was just as equally bad. The Western Allies never done anything like this since they observe the rules of war.

    >After the war, Germans were put on trial for allegedly executing British SOE agents, although there was no proof whatsoever that the agents were even dead.

    What kind of blabber are you talking about? There were plenty of incidents where OSS and SOE agents were executed by the Germans for illegitimate reasons. Look up Hitler’s Commando Order of 1942 which stipulates the execution of Allied commandos, whether in proper uniforms or not, without trial if captured by German forces. Four British SOE female agents who were captured behind German lines in civilian clothes were executed by the Germans. However, the agents were not given a trial before their execution because under the Article 30 of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, it is prohibited to punish an enemy spy without trial. Several of the Nazi officers who ordered the execution were tried by a British military tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials for this unlawful act. The same with the OSS, In March 1944, fifteen properly uniformed OSS members entered the Italian Coast behind German lines on a mission to blow up two railroad tunnels. They were all captured by the Germans and not only executed for simply being lawful combatants but without trial under Hitler’s Commando Order. General Anton Dostler who signed the execution order of fifteen Americans was tried by an American military tribunal, sentenced to death, and executed. You honestly have ZERO idea what you’re talking about.

    >These Allied flyers should have been advised, before they were sent on their mission, that they would not be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention in the event that they were captured.

    Any soldier captured behind enemy lines in a proper uniform of their own military is entitled to be treated as a POW whether if he aided the resistance fighters out of proper uniforms or not because he is in this point, he cannot be punished for being a lawful combatant such as aiding his allies (partisans or not) and attacking enemy troops. Most Germans treated the Allied POWs well, including airmen (except Allied commandos in proper uniforms and combatants in civilian clothes) so your point is moot. Towards the end of the war in Europe, Hitler ordered that all Allied prisoners of war and inmates were to be executed if Allied forces approached their areas.

    I could go on and on but you cannot be denied that the Germans in World War II were scums of the earth. They violated every rules of war in which they themselves along with the civilized world accepted as criminal offense in wartimes. There was and is no excuse for their crimes. They were not the boss of the earth and cannot make up their own rules in that is clearly in contravention of international law. What, are you going to tell me the German execution of Allied commandos, even those in proper uniforms, are fine according to you? Are you going to tell me that the citizens of a country occupied had no right to take up arms against the enemy invaders or occupiers? Your entire article is filled with Nazi-bias.

    Comment by James — August 31, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

    • You wrote:
      Begin quote:
      “Wrong, the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War stated that: “Article 82. The provisions of the present Convention shall be respected by the High Contracting Parties in all circumstances.
      In time of war if one of the belligerents is not a party to the Convention, its provisions shall, nevertheless, remain binding as between the belligerents who are parties thereto.”

      Therefore, a country who is a signatory to the Geneva Convention even had to give non-signatory nations the rights assigned by the convention.
      End Quote

      You are not reading Article 82 correctly.

      This is what Article 82 is saying, in plain English: “If one of the belligerents in time of war is not a party to the Geneva Convention, the provisions of the Geneva Convention shall NEVERTHELESS remain in force as between the belligerents who ARE PARTIES THERETO.

      I blogged about this topic on this blog post: http://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/only-the-germans-were-held-accountable-for-violations-of-the-geneva-convention-during-world-war-ii/

      Comment by furtherglory — August 31, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    • You wrote: “The French resistance were comprised of civilians and were not terrorists unlike the insurgents in the middle east nowadays. Terrorism is defined by the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. That wasn’t the aim of the French resistance, their aim was to fight Nazi tyranny, gather military information, and provide it to the Allies.”

      I wrote about the French Resistance on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Natzweiler/History/FrenchResistance.html

      This quote is from my website page:
      Begin quote:
      The French resistance fighters blew up bridges, derailed trains, directed the British in the bombing of German troop trains, kidnapped and killed German army officers, and ambushed German troops. They took no prisoners, but rather killed any German soldiers who surrendered to them, sometimes mutilating their bodies for good measure. The Nazis referred to them as “terrorists.”
      End Quote

      This quote is also from my website:
      Begin quote:
      The French resistance was in direct violation of the Armistice signed by the French, which stipulated the following:

      “The French Government will forbid French citizens to fight against Germany in the service of States with which the German Reich is still at war. French citizens who violate this provision are to be treated by German troops as insurgents.”

      Since Great Britain was the only country still at war with the German Reich, the collaboration of the French resistance with the British was a violation of the Armistice, as was the later collaboration of the partisans with American troops after the Normandy invasion. According to the Geneva Convention of 1929, the French resistance fighters were non-combatants who did not have the rights of Prisoners of War if they were captured.
      End Quote

      Comment by furtherglory — August 31, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

    • You wrote: “Four British SOE female agents who were captured behind German lines in civilian clothes were executed by the Germans. However, the agents were not given a trial before their execution because under the Article 30 of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, it is prohibited to punish an enemy spy without trial. Several of the Nazi officers who ordered the execution were tried by a British military tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials for this unlawful act.”

      The Nazi officers, who allegedly ordered the execution of SOE agents, were NOT tried by a British military tribunal at Nuremberg. I wrote about the trial of the Nazi officers on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Natzweiler/SOEagents5.html

      I wrote about the four female British SOE agents, who were allegedly executed at Dachau on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/BritishSOEagents.html

      I have written 5 or 6 blog posts about the female SOE agents who were allegedly executed. There is not one shred of evidence that this happened.

      Comment by furtherglory — August 31, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

  2. You people are all Nazi apologists and criminals yourselves. Having French Resistance trying to help downed Allied airman was not a violation of the Geneva Conventions

    Comment by Dolph Ramey — November 12, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

  3. I think this is fascinating, but can you list some of your sources.

    Comment by Heidi Hansn — September 6, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

  4. looking at the way the “history” tells us, my uncle, Capt. Wesley Greer Ling was held there or at Stalag 17. We don’t have the complete story. Are there ways to see which American pilots were in POW camps and also held at Buchenwald? Let me know.

    Comment by Janice Greer Rakestraw — February 14, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

  5. [...] furtherglory @ 12:26 pm This post is in response to Peg, a reader who commented today on a previous post that I wrote about the American pilots who were held in the Buchenwald concentration camp during [...]

    Pingback by Why did the U.S. government deny that American flyers were held in Buchenwald? « Scrapbookpages Blog — September 23, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

  6. My uncle, Robert Ward from Boone, Iowa was one of the men that was taken to Buchenwald. He is no longer alive, he nearly died while being held, but did manage to survive. He broke his ankle when they had to jump from their airplane and was then forced to walk without ever being treated for his injury. The story of their captivity is an amazing, but terrible one. I am amazed that they lived to tell about it.

    He was definately a different man when he returned. For many many years even the American government denied that they were held in this camp.

    Comment by Peg — September 23, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  7. I am the author of the book mentioned in this post, “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald: The Joe Moser Story. Joe will be leaving tomorrow for Buchenwald, a guest of the German government, to help celebrate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. There are many potential reasons given why Hitler declared these 168 flyers as terrorists. This is the first time I heard it was because they “aided the French Underground.” They were aided by, but were not aiding. Joe was the only one of the group captured in uniform. The fact the others were out of uniform could supply some explanation. However, Hitler declared a number of conditions under which Allied flyers could be viewed as terrorists and non-combatants and encouraged German citizens to kill them. This is covered in the book “168 Jump Into Hell” by Art Kinnis, one of the survivors and the president of the KLB Club (group of Buchenwald survivors). I’d be interested in discussing this further if anyone has better information.

    Comment by gbaron — April 7, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    • I have written a new post in answer to your comment. Go to the home page of my blog where you can read it.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 8, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

  8. Ah the rules of war. But isn’t it also true that the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union and did not treat Soviet POWs in accordance with the Geneva Convention? Didn’t they in fact invade Poland?

    Hence, why should the Geneva Convention apply to them and the Italians, who had torn up their League of Nations’ Membership?

    Comment by paolosilv — March 31, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    • The Geneva Convention is not the “rules of war” but the rules concerning Prisoners of War. America signed both the Convention of 1929 and the Convention of 1949, but how many countries have we attacked and invaded. How many “preemtive” strikes has America made and how many will we make in the near future? The Geneva Convention does not say that a country does not have to follow the Convention if their enemy does not belong to the League of Nations or the United Nations.

      The staff at Buchenwald was prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal. I have written about the Buchenwald proceedings on this page of my web site:

      http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTrials/BuchenwaldTrial.html

      Here is a quote from the page cited above:

      At the opening of the trial, the court president, Brig. Gen. Emil Charles Kiel, asked the defense counsel, “How do the accused plead?”

      To this, Captain Emmanuel Lewis replied:

      “As chief defense counsel, I enter a plea of not guilty for all of the accused. Before we begin, if it please the court, there is a matter of great concern. The accused are charged with victimizing captured and unarmed citizens of the United States, and they seek to defend themselves against this charge. But despite our repeated requests, the prosecution has failed to furnish us with the name or whereabouts of even one single American victim.”

      Lt. Col. William D. Denson, the chief prosecutor, replied:

      “We are unfortunately unable to comply. The victims were last seen being carted into the crematories. From there they went up the chimney in smoke, and all the power of the United States and all the documents in Augsburg cannot tell us which way they went. We are sorry that we cannot furnish their whereabouts, but we fail to see that it is material whether one American or fifty thousand were incarcerated in Buchenwald. The crimes of these accused would be just as heinous.”

      Contrary to Lt. Col. Denson’s colorful story of what had happened to these American POWs, it is now known that, after about three months in Buchenwald, the Americans were rescued by a Luftwaffe General and transferred to Stalag III, a POW camp.

      The accused were charged with violations of the Geneva Convention of 1929 with respect to Soviet Prisoners of war, although the Soviet Union had not signed the Convention, and did not treat German POWs according to its laws during the war and for 10 years afterwards.

      Regarding the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929 with respect to Soviet POWs, defense attorney Captain Lewis said:

      “We think that the language of the Convention is simple and clear. It binds only those nations who sign it as between themselves. It is not binding as between a signatory and a nation that has refused to join the family of nations.”

      In reply, Lt. Col. Denson said the following:

      “I am perfectly ready, willing, and able to talk at this time of legality and of the law that is to be applied here. In Hall’s Treatise on International Law, we have the following quotation: ‘More than necessary violence must not be used by a belligerent in all his relations with his enemy.’ The fact that Russia was not a signatory to the convention did not give Germans the right to mistreat Russian Prisoners of War. The Hague and Geneva Conventions were nothing more than a clarification of customs and usages already in practice among civilized nations.”
      End Quote

      During the Buchenwald proceedings against the accused Germans, the prosecution spoke of the prisoners, who were Resistance fighters that were not protected under the Geneva Convention, as detainees that were entitled to the rights of a Prisoner of War. In other words, the Americans changed the rules of the Geneva Convention in order to accuse the Germans of a crime because they put illegal combatants into a concentration camp instead of a POW camp. And they charged the Germans with a crime for not giving the Soviet POWs their rights under the Convention which the Soviet Union had not signed and were not following themselves.

      I can understand your feelings about this matter. Most people have been brain-washed by years of propaganda to the point that they truly believe that Germans are so evil that they do not deserve to be treated fairly, or even to be treated according to the law.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 1, 2010 @ 7:44 am

    • The Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17, 1939 per an agreement that they had signed with the Germans in August 1939. The British and the French did not declare war on the Soviet Union, but rather on Germany only.

      When the Germans invaded Poland, the Polish Army, which was already at the border, headed straight for Berlin because they were trying to capture the German capital and win the war. They had been planning to invade Germany.

      When Germany “attacked” the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army was amassed at the border; the Germans made a preemptive attack. Just before the German attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler had tried to get the British to surrender, but they refused, so Hitler knew that there must be a reason why the British, who had no chance of winning the war at that point, would not stop fighting.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 1, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  9. You wrote: These American flyers should have been advised, before they were sent on their mission, that they would not be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention in the event that they were captured.

    My comment: If they didn’t know it then, they certainly must know it now. How long can you remain uninformed?? But it is not lack of knowledge, but plain hypocrisy and deceitfulness on the part of the Allies, down to the common soldier, that is the cause of this display of seeming ignorance.

    They were arrogant, boastful and stupid then and they still are. It should not surprise us then, based on their wartime and post-war attitudes, that the United States, Britain, France are falling apart at the seams and living on credit/borrowing. The Soviet Union, the worst liar of them all, fell first.

    Comment by sceptic — March 31, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

    • I think that most people believe that not even the Resistance fighters, who were fighting as illegal combatants, should have been put into concentration camps. There were Resistance fighters from Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, etc. who made up most of the prisoners at Dachau and Buchenwald, and the general attitude of most Americans is that the Resistance fighters should have been allowed to blow up German troop trains and commit other heinous acts to their heart’s content. The Germans were prosecuted as war criminals because they tried to stop the Resistance.

      Comment by furtherglory — March 31, 2010 @ 5:48 pm


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