© The Boston Globe 2001. Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II
PART V: VENGEANCE AT DACHAU
by Thomas Farragher / Globe Staff / July 2, 2001
Page 7 of 9
Continued from page 6
''When I went over there, why, there were, I should say, about 75 or so lying on the ground,'' Private Frank Eggert testified later. ''It looked like they were pretty badly wounded.
''Then somebody gave the order for them to get up, and most of them got up. I don't see how they got away with it, with so many shots fired.''
The inspector general report found that 17 were killed at the wall. And, like the visceral reaction evoked by the death train just outside Dachau, the shootings frightened and disgusted some GIs.
''[Drain] said it was one of the worst things he had ever seen since being in the Army,'' Second Lieutenant Donald E. Strickland testified. ''He was sorry that it was his machine gun that had to be used for it.''
Corporal Henry Mills, then a 22-year-old member of the battalion's intelligence and reconnaissance platoon, remembered his harrowing arrival at Dachau in Strong's 1990 documentary.
''I remember saying, 'Geez, we came over here to stop this bullshit, and now here we got somebody doing the same thing.' Once they were prisoners, they were prisoners. They were unarmed, and they were prisoners. You can't shoot them. You can't do that. That's an atrocity, I'm sure.''
Mills said as he walked around the camp that day, he was overwhelmed by a yearning not often associated with toughened veterans.
''I remember it real well, I said: 'I've been here too long. I've to go home now.' And it was a funny thing. I said, 'I want to see my mom.' ... I hadn't seen her for three years. That's what came in to my mind: I wanted to see my mom.''
Five days later, Walsh sat in a small town outside Munich before Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Whitaker, the Seventh Army's assistant inspector general.
''Did you intend to execute these SS men when you put them in the yard?'' Whitaker asked.
''No, sir,'' Walsh replied.
As headlines around the globe cheered the news that American troops had freed 32,000 captives at Dachau, word of the coal yard shooting reached the Seventh Army's top commanders. They ordered a formal investigation.
Four days later Whitaker was at the concentration camp, still more of a war zone than a carefully preserved crime scene. He reported finding the bodies of 17 Germans in a courtyard littered by the brass casings of spent American ammunition. He counted 12 holes in the wall. Some were still stained by blood and bits of flesh.
''Rumor had it that we were going to Leavenworth for the rest of our lives,'' Lee said in the recent interview. He recalled that as he sat before Whitaker, he noticed that his name and rank were already penciled onto the back of one of the shooting photos. ''Somebody had already identified me. And I was scared to death.''
Lee said Whitaker quickly made clear the focus of his inquiry: ''He wanted to know who gave the order to fire.''
Walsh told Whitaker he issued that order only after the SS men, who he said required tight supervision, moved toward his men.
''Some of the men in the yard on the right flank of that group started to move forward, towards the guards,'' Walsh told Whitaker. ''I ordered them back. They still kept going. I ordered a machine gun covering the road to come inside and hold them back, that if they didn't stay back to fire at them. While I was there, they still continued to move forward on the guards, and I told the machine gun to fire to hold them back.''
Whitaker swiftly rejected that version of events. He concluded that 17 SS men were ''summarily executed'' under Walsh's supervision, and that Bushyhead ''personally participated in the execution of the seventeen.''
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