Scrapbookpages Blog

November 27, 2011

Allied airmen in Buchenwald, a secret that was kept for years by the American government

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:43 am

The first time that I ever heard about the Allied airmen, who were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in August 1944, was around 10 years ago when the daughter of one of the American flyers [Edwin Ritter] sent me an e-mail in which she told her father’s story in great detail.  Frankly, I didn’t believe it.  If this had actually happened, why didn’t the American government include this war crime in the accusations made against the Germans at the Nuremberg IMT?

Lt. Jack Taylor, an American prisoner in the Mauthausen camp in Austria, did testify at Nuremberg that Americans had been sent to Mauthausen and that two of them had been murdered in the gas chamber there. (He showed their dog tags to prove it.) It was briefly mentioned during the “Dachau trials” conducted by the American Military Tribunal, beginning in November 1945, that Allied pilots had been killed at Buchenwald. When challenged by the defense attorney to prove this accusation, the prosecuting attorney could not supply their names, so this charge was quickly dropped.

The part of Edwin Ritter’s story that I found to be incredulous was his claim that a microchip had been implanted in his foot and it was taken out at a Boston hospital after he returned to America.

Here are the exact words of Edwin Ritter, as told to his daughter who tape recorded his statement on June 18, 1993.  She typed up his statement and sent it to me.  I am quoting from the statement:

I was also called up on the hill by the Belgium internees and the Jewish internees up there on the hill.  And they asked if I would do them a favor.  And they needed microfilm taken out of Buchenwald.  Well Martini and I — Fred Martini was a flyer on a B-17  — volunteered also to go up there and we allowed the Jewish doctors to put microfilm in our feet — front edge just below the toes in the hard part of the meat, and taped them up and made it look like walkin’ in those wooden shoes calloused our feet.  And we were to carry those back to the United States so then the government would know all about it by the time we got there.

At the time that the microchips were implanted in the feet of Edwin Ritter and Fred Martini, the Allied airmen had already been saved by a Luftwaffe doctor, whom Ritter identified as “Captain Black.”  A couple of days later, Ritter and Martini were put on a train which reached the Stalag III camp for POWs on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1944. The Germans did not have time to find out about the secret operation, done by a Jewish doctor, to implant the microchips.

Can you understand now, dear reader, why I dismissed Edwin Ritter’s whole story because of his unbelievable account of the implanting of a microchip in his foot?

In November 1944, the Jews at Buchenwald must have known that the American flyers, who were on their way to a POW camp, would not reach America until after the war.  What was on the microfilm, implanted in the feet of two airmen, that a Jewish doctor wanted to send to America?  (I was not aware that this technology was available in 1944, but what do I know?)

Now with the release of the documentary Lost Airmen of Buchenwald, I am beginning to believe Ritter’s story because so much of what Ritter said in the statement that he gave to his daughter, is confirmed by the stories of the 7 airmen who tell their stories in the documentary. But there is one serious difference between the story told by Edwin Ritter and the 7 airmen in the documentary: Edwin Ritter admits that he was dropping supplies to the “French Underground” which is his term for the French Resistance.

According to the statement given by Edwin Ritter to his daughter, who recorded it on June 18, 1993, Ritter was with the American Air Force, but he was sent to England to join the Eighth Air Force.  He trained at Westover Field in Massachusetts before being sent to northern Ireland, where his group waited for assignment.  He was temporarily assigned to the southern part of England and made several bombing runs on Frankfurt and Berlin. After participating in the raid on Ploesti, Romania, his group came back to the field in Ipswich, England.

Here is an exact quote from Ritter’s statement given to this daughter:

And when we came back to our field in Ipswich, England, the Second Division, 93rd Bomb group, 328 Squadron —there were only three of us — and they began to re-assign us to different squadrons.  Well, they found out they needed a group to supply the French underground in France, and they took our plane and they took all the numbers off from it and painted it black.  Between the group of us we were known as the Gypsy Flyers.  We, up until the time the organization was set, we were flying with anyone, anytime, any place.  We had no assigned aircraft.  And once the group was formulated at night to carry supplies, ammunition and food to the French underground, we were known as the Carpetbaggers.

Edwin Ritter was on his fifth mission in the southern part of France and just after he had made the drop of supplies to the French underground, his plane was hit by ground fire.  Ritter mentioned in his statement that he was aiding “the Free French.”  You can read about “the Free French” on this page of my website.  Buchenwald and Natzweiler were the main camps where French Resistance fighters were sent when they were captured.  So naturally, Ritter was sent to Buchenwald.

From this point on, Ritter’s story matches many of the details told by the 7 airmen in the documentary.  Ritter’s story does not prove that the Allied airmen in the documentary were supplying the French Resistance.  However, you can’t blame the Germans for assuming that all the airmen who were shot down over occupied France were illegal combatants who were aiding the illegal combatants in the French Resistance.  And you can’t blame the American government for keeping the story of the Lost Airmen in Buchenwald a secret for years because of course, we Americans didn’t want it known that Americans were fighting as illegal combatants in violation of the Geneva Convention in the “Good War” against those evil Nazis who wanted to kill all the Jews and rule the world.