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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.


  1. The Buchenwald Memorial has tentatively approved a stone plaque dedicated to the 168 Allied airmen imprisoned there, to be located in the Block 45 area of the camp. After years of trying, we finally had a breakthrough in our attempts to accomplish this after they screened our film in Weimar in April.

    According to the Buchenwald Memorial, the next steps that need to be taken are as follows:

    1. We must decide what the plaque will say. Below are two examples that the Buchenwald Memorial sent to me, also attached as photographs.
    2. We must raise the funds to pay for its creation and installation. The Buchenwald Memorial can recommend stonemasons in the Weimar area. I am finding out now how much this typically costs.

    I will put whatever we decide into a proposal for final review by the Buchenwald Memorial, which will take place in April 2013.

    Please let me know your thoughts, as I would like the remaining surviving members of the KLB Club to reach a consensus on the nature of the memorial.

    Best regards,
    Mike Dorsey

    Comment by Mike Freeman — July 6, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  2. My nephew produced a 2 hour documentary “The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald”. He interviewed 6 airmen including the SRO Phil Lamason and my father E C Freeman…DVD is available for sale

    Comment by Mike Freeman — July 6, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  3. Frederic Martini… my Father spoke of your Father often…. I believe they were very close throughout their ordeal and spent time together when the both lived in Florida…. I would love to hear from you to clarify some things my Father said… I am not sure everything my Father said was gospel but in his mind it was….. I have to say my Father did receive eventually a 100% disability from the VA…. but he died young (76) due to a lot of issues no doubt caused by his military experience…. Christine Ritter Bannerman

    Comment by Christine Bannerman — May 18, 2012 @ 6:45 am

    • Hi Chrisine, I have been going through my dad’s stuff and have some pix of a quartet of guys together in Florida. Your dad was among them. My dad died at 77, uncontrollable hypertension for decades followed by kidney failure and then hep C liver failure. All can be traced back to stuff in his discharge evaluation. He never got more than 10% from the VA. The only odd detail in your dad’s narrative was the stuff about the feet. The rest matches what I can reconstruct from my dad’s comments and submissions to various VA appeal boards. Fond regards, Ric

      Comment by Frederic Martini — May 18, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    • Christine, I hope you are still loosely monitoring this thread. Could you send me your email address? Mine is I would like to hear more about your dad and his personality to flesh out the story I am writing. He was with my dad in KLB and was his roommate at SL III.

      Comment by Frederic Martini — April 6, 2016 @ 8:47 pm

    • Heaven knows if you will receive this now… I would love to talk with you are my father often spoke of your father…. (2-19-17)… why I never went back to this document I don’t know but let’s talk!… Chris Ritter Bannerman

      Comment by Christine Ritter Bannerman — February 19, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

  4. I am baffled by the story about microfilms. My dad, Fred Martini, was active for decades trying to get the US government to acknowledge that airmen were in Buchenwald. He also filled out endless paperwork trying to get a VA pension above the 10% level. He had bad feet after the march from SL III to Moosburg but in all of the paperwork and testimony and our conversations up to his death in 1995 there was no mention of that surgical event Ritter described.

    Comment by Frederic Martini — April 29, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    • I had a hard time believing the microfilm story and that’s why I didn’t put it on my website, although I did blog about it.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 30, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  5. I am still working on my father’s story trying to seperate fact from fiction…. most of what he said I can verify… but some I know was not exactly correct but most of that was later when he was out of the service….. a few years before he died… these men were heros and soon they all will be lost to us…..

    Christine Ritter Bannerman

    Comment by Christine Bannerman — March 23, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  6. Other than that, Germany is a nice place to visit.

    Comment by Eager for Answers — November 27, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

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