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"Biscari massacre" Topic


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Tango0112 Apr 2019 10:22 p.m. PST

"The Biscari massacre was a war crime committed by members of the United States Army during World War II. It refers to two incidents in which U.S. soldiers were involved in killing 73 unarmed Italian and German prisoners of war at the Regia Aeronautica's 504 air base in Santo Pietro, a small village near Caltagirone, southern Sicily, Italy on 14 July 1943…."
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Amicalement
Armand

Legion 413 Apr 2019 7:07 a.m. PST

I'm sure the Western Allies committed some war crimes. But few compared to the Nazis, IJFs and even the Italians … However, shooting of prisoners was and is wrong …

Sadly that appears to happen in conflicts … no matter how many safe guards are put in place. Where as with some in was/is "policy", a standard, etc., e.g. ISIS, etc.

Costanzo113 Apr 2019 12:07 p.m. PST

Short articles.

Fred Cartwright13 Apr 2019 1:01 p.m. PST

I'm sure the Western Allies committed some war crimes. But few compared to the Nazis, IJFs and even the Italians

You would like to think so, wouldn't you, but sadly not always the case. Allied soldiers proved as susceptible when a conflict became bitter and a tit for tat situation developed. Of all the theatres the Pacific was the most bitterly fought and few prisoners were taken by either side. At one point the ratio of Japanese POW's to killed was 1:100 and it got so bad with the lack of prisoners to interrogate the US resorted to offers of 3 day passes and ice cream to get the troops to bring prisoners in.
War is a nasty business and such things happen. Train a man to kill, put him through a very stressful situation and he won't always behave as you might wish when the shooting stops.
None of this means that the allies were bad, just human, and no way excuses the mass slaughter perpetuated by the axis. The allies committed war crimes too, simply doesn't wash as an excuse as the Holocaust deniers or Japanese apologists would have it.

Lion in the Stars13 Apr 2019 3:01 p.m. PST

Issues with drafted soldiers. You don't have anywhere near as much trouble with volunteers, since you can screen them better.

Legion 413 Apr 2019 3:30 p.m. PST

War is a nasty business and such things happen.
Of course … but I still think the Western Allies committed many fewer war crimes than the Axis or what happened on the Eastern Front. The IJFs "made their own bed" with the "rouses", etc., they had the predilection for. Making it pretty clear to the troops that trying to take many of them as EPWs, could get you killed. So I know wouldn't take any chances with my troops lives. If need be put a few more rounds in them, etc., if they are not clearly surrendering. And even then better to be safe than sorry. Be wary …

You don't have anywhere near as much trouble with volunteers, since you can screen them better.
Agreed completely …

emckinney13 Apr 2019 7:25 p.m. PST

"Issues with drafted soldiers. You don't have anywhere near as much trouble with volunteers, since you can screen them better."

Love to see evidence for that. Anyone remember the post-Vietnam army and the beginning of the all-volunteer force?

Over the last ten years, the military had to repeatedly drop its standards to keep numbers stable.

Tango0113 Apr 2019 8:54 p.m. PST

My dear friend…


"… but I still think the Western Allies committed many fewer war crimes than the Axis…"

If you have a person who killed one or two people… it's the same as other who killed 4 or 6…


If you condemned Malmedy… same case on Biscari…


No matter the amount you killed…


Of course… war is hell… so…that should not surprise us… in any Army…

Amicalement
Armand

Lion in the Stars13 Apr 2019 9:10 p.m. PST

Love to see evidence for that. Anyone remember the post-Vietnam army and the beginning of the all-volunteer force?

When their morale was utter Bleeped text and veterans were being treated like they were lepers (at best)?

Yeah, you have discipline problems when your morale is down in the sewer.

goragrad13 Apr 2019 9:25 p.m. PST

Insofar as the Pacific theater, those Japanese prisoners weren't just not allowed to surrender, they were killed while being taken back from the front lines to rear areas.

It is one thing to not accept a surrender, quite another to kill an actual POW.

Andy ONeill14 Apr 2019 2:21 a.m. PST

It's an unfortunate aspect of human nature.
Give men absolute power over others and sometimes some men will do very bad things. Particularly if they despise the captives.

I think it probably is less likely to happen with professionals. Difficult to compare modern asymmetric warfare with the intensity of ww2 though. There are less prisoners to murder and cameras to avoid.

That filtering, training and choice of profession don't make men immune to whatever demons inspire unpleasantness though.

Fred Cartwright14 Apr 2019 7:15 a.m. PST

Of course … but I still think the Western Allies committed many fewer war crimes than the Axis or what happened on the Eastern Front.

My reading suggests that the war in the west was fought with few atrocities and both sides treated PoW's reasonably. As to the question of whether one side committed more than the other I find no conclusive evidence either way, but I would suggest to you that you maybe the impression that the axis committed more is related to the fact that the atrocities are more widely known. So for example the Malmedy massacre is well known whereas the Biscari one is not. When it comes to the war in the east and in the Far East it is a whole different ball game. Between the axis and the Soviets and the allies and the Japanese the war was fought with a much greater intensity and ferocity than in the west. For the war in the east I think you would be hard put to differentiate between the Soviets and the axis. The Soviets were responsible for some horrendous atrocities like the Katyn massacre.
As before I am talking specifically about acts carried out against surrendered POW's, not atrocities perpetrated against civilian populations or targeted at particular ethnic groups.

Legion 414 Apr 2019 7:47 a.m. PST

Love to see evidence for that. Anyone remember the post-Vietnam army and the beginning of the all-volunteer force?
Ah … yes, I started ROTC in '75. And my evidence and then experience when on active duty in '79. Must have been difference than your ?

"… but I still think the Western Allies committed many fewer war crimes than the Axis…"
If you have a person who killed one or two people… it's the same as other who killed 4 or 6…

Didn't Stalin say, " One death is a tragedy, but 2 are a statistic." I don't agree. Nor that war crimes are legal, correct, should be a norm, etc. However, in any paradigm, numbers can be telling. E.g. In German hands' Allied POWs had a 1 in 27 chance of being killed. I the IJF's captivity, 1 in 4. So being a former Grunt, I see that as significant fact.


When their morale was utter and veterans were being treated like they were lepers (at best)?

Yeah, you have discipline problems when your morale is down in the sewer.

Again … I agree …


Insofar as the Pacific theater, those Japanese prisoners weren't just not allowed to surrender, they were killed while being taken back from the front lines to rear areas.
It is one thing to not accept a surrender, quite another to kill an actual POW.
That is probably true, in many cases … But I still believe that the war crimes committed by the Western Allies to EPWs much smaller than the Axis. Regardless … as we all know being students of history … war is a very messy business …


Particularly if they despise the captives.
I think it probably is less likely to happen with professionals. Difficult to compare modern asymmetric warfare with the intensity of ww2 though. There are less prisoners to murder and cameras to avoid.
That filtering, training and choice of profession don't make men immune to whatever demons inspire unpleasantness though.
I generally agree … I.e. were trained about what a war crimes is/was, by JAG. Using the film "Breaker Morant" as a teaching aid. The JAG stopped the film and made comments thru out. We even spent a day on My Lai. That was in the '80s of course, not WWII.

As far as today's asymmetric warfare situation. I'd think I'd be very less likely to take too many ISIS, AQ, Taliban, BH, AS, Hezbollah, etc., as prisoners. Save for some for intel. But at the same time I would not line them up and shoot them. That would clearly be a war crime, in anyone's definition.

However, unless I felt I knew these terrorist, jihadis, etc. were clearly surrendering and not trying a rouse of some sort. I'd rather be safe than sorry. If I thought a rouse, etc. was in their plans … well … 'nuff said … And generally all situations are not the same.

My reading suggests that the war in the west was fought with few atrocities and both sides treated PoW's reasonably.
Yes that was my understanding and point …


For the war in the east I think you would be hard put to differentiate between the Soviets and the axis. The Soviets were responsible for some horrendous atrocities like the Katyn massacre.
Agree …

As before I am talking specifically about acts carried out against surrendered POW's, not atrocities perpetrated against civilian populations or targeted at particular ethnic groups
Agree but again I strongly feel the in West generally, the Allies treated EPWs fairly well. But again, not always. And it the PTO, the Allies treated their IJF EPWs in a fairly "draconian" manner, etc. For a number of reasons …

Nothing really excuses this or justifies it … The best we can do is try to explain it. And attempt to make things like this very rare. And not to happen again. But then again, e.g. Bosnia-Kosovo, thru out Africa, the Mid East, A'stan, etc.

Mark 114 Apr 2019 2:26 p.m. PST

My dear friend…


"… but I still think the Western Allies committed many fewer war crimes than the Axis…"

If you have a person who killed one or two people… it's the same as other who killed 4 or 6…


If you condemned Malmedy… same case on Biscari…

I disagree. There is a difference. A significant difference.

Several posters have suggested that war is a messy business, and bad things happen. OK, I agree.

Let us also consider this -- even outside of war, outside of armies, examine ANY group of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of individuals. You will find that some of them engage in criminal behavior. Like it or not, that's the simple reality of human society. Not all people are good people. Gather enough, no matter which side, or what cause, and you'll get some people in your group who engage in criminal behavior. However you define criminal behavior.

When we look at which side behaved "better", it is a false construct to examine and ask if an army was perfect and guiltless. The question should, rather, be how did an organization respond when an individual in that organization engaged in "war crimes".

Shall we look at Biscari?

There were two incidents. The "West" incident and the "Compton" incident.

In the "West" incident, Sgt. West was ordered by Maj. Denman, Exec. Officer of the 1st Battalion of the 180th Infantry Regiment, to escort some 48 prisoners "to the rear … and hold them for questioning."

Sgt. West with some enlisteds took the prisoners to the rear, passed a few on to the HQ for questioning, borrowed an SMG and acting on his own (even suggesting the others could turn away and not watch) gunned down the remaining prisoners.

He was brought to trial (Patton himself gave the instruction to "try the bastards"). He was convicted by court martial, stripped of his rank and sentenced to life in prison.

The "Compton" incident involved Capt. Compton, CO of C COY of 1st Batt of the 180th Regiment. During the 4th day of combat, with no sleep for 3 nights, his company was involved in a difficult fight for an airfield. Snipers were particularly effective, and had fired on and hit wounded GIs and medics treating them.

One soldier, PFC Marlow, took the surrender of some 36 Italian soldiers. He later testified that when he brought them in to his squad leader, "I told him that I had gotten those fellows that were shooting at us while we were getting out from under that artillery fire". One US Army Private Gazetti asked the prisoners in Italian if they were snipers. They did not reply. Sgt. Hair reported to Lt. Barlow, who then reported to Capt. Compton that they had captured snipers, requesting instructions. Capt. Compton told Lt. Barlow to shoot them, Barlow ordered Hair to form a firing squad, and the prisoners were shot.

Compton was also tried for murder. In his case the court martial acquitted him. The Judge Advocate, on review, disagreed, but by then Compton had been killed in combat, so the matter was closed.

All of that is documented. Even Patton was investigated, for his pre-invasion pep talks and whether they could have encouraged such criminal conduct.

The same can not be said of Malmedy.

There is a difference. It's not a question of perfection. It is a question of leadership intentions and leadership response.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Fred Cartwright14 Apr 2019 2:44 p.m. PST

You are being somewhat selective there Mark. Patton's original response was to hush it up.
"I told Bradley that it was probably an exaggeration, but in any case to tell the Officer to certify that the dead men were snipers or had attempted to escape or something, as it would make a stink in the press and also would make the civilians mad. Anyhow, they are dead, so nothing can be done about it."
Only when Bradley refused to play ball and the Inspector General of the 45th Division found no provocation on the part of the prisoners did he relent. In other words when his hand was forced.

He was brought to trial (Patton himself gave the instruction to "try the bastards"). He was convicted by court martial, stripped of his rank and sentenced to life in prison.

True, but you neglected to say he was released just over a year later, served out the rest of his time in the army and received an honourable discharge. I would not consider that an adequate punishment for a murderer. So you will forgive me if I find little difference.

Tango0114 Apr 2019 3:54 p.m. PST

Agree with Fred….


Malmedy was carried by SS guys… do you know if the Wermach boys made the same crimes?…


Imho both actions on Biscari were that bad as Malmedy or similar….

Since when … if you are a sniper… you have to be shot by a squad if you surrender?…


If there were some GI snipers in Malmedy massacre… free pass for the bastards SS?…

Amicalement
Armand

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2019 4:15 p.m. PST

At one point the ratio of Japanese POW's to killed was 1:100 and it got so bad with the lack of prisoners to interrogate the US resorted to offers of 3 day passes and ice cream to get the troops to bring prisoners in.

After they stopped the 3 day passes no more prisoners were taken to the rear.

I watched an interview with a Marine that was on Okinawa. He said on a number of occasions his squad took prisoners while in the front lines and in contact with the enemy. You could not escort them back because you'd be fired on and you didn't want to waste even one man going to the rear. With tears in his eyes, he said they would try to get whatever info they could and then slit their throat.

Wolfhag

Legion 415 Apr 2019 7:21 a.m. PST

It is a question of leadership intentions and leadership response.
I see that as true as well. Albeit being a former modern era US GI. I will admit to being a bit "biased". US GIs vs. NAZI SS or even Wehrmacht and of course IJFs' war crimes. The numbers still seem smaller than what the Axis committed overall. Save for possibly on the Eastern Front.

That is a good piece of history Wolf. In the PTO with Pearl, the IJF's fighting to the death, Banzai charges, Bataan, not taking POWs, beheadings, etc., etc. I can see the hatred the US troops would have for the IJF's.

I'd think the same could be said for US troops who saw the news feeds of WTC Towers being destroyed on 9/11. Plus the jihadis/terrorists beheading Western civilians, etc., committing genocide, inspiring attacks in the US and Europe, etc.

I'd imagine if I showed my troops that footage before we deployed to the Mid East/A'stan. There may be fewer EPWs taken … possibly more CD, etc. Again, when/if it came down to between us or them … it's going to be them … in large numbers. And frequently …

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2019 9:28 a.m. PST

and then there was this too:
"Then there was the Goettge patrol. A few days after we landed on Guadalcanal, some Jap prisoner told Colonel Frank Goettge that the Jap's buddies wanted to surrender five miles west of our lines, where the Matanikau River met the sea. Goettge took a patrol of 25 men out to take their surrender. But it was an ambush. Goettge and his men were butchered (beheaded and castrated). Only three of them escaped by swimming back to our lines."

Early on the Marines weren't too keen on surrenders and had pretty much dehumanized the enemy. I think when you dehumanize the enemy it justifies any inhumane action against them.

Wolfhag

Legion 415 Apr 2019 3:29 p.m. PST

I had heard similar. So as I said and clearly understand … why there were not too many IJF EPWs taken.

Lion in the Stars15 Apr 2019 3:57 p.m. PST

On the Pacific front, you're also running into a major cultural problem, in that surrender meant that you had lost all your honor and worth as a person (at least to the Japanese).

A Japanese who surrendered was literally no longer considered human by the rest of the Japanese. And that applied to any Allied prisoners, too.

Marc at work16 Apr 2019 4:33 a.m. PST

And how many POWs made it back – Germans who surrendered at Stalingrad, or vice versa, Russians who surrendered.

War is not nice.

Playing at war lets us learn of the horrors and, in my case, decide it is not a good thing. SO I just play.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP16 Apr 2019 5:50 a.m. PST

Malmedy was carried by SS guys… do you know if the Wermach boys made the same crimes?… <\q>

Too numerous to mention. Start googling Wehrmacht treatment of Polish POWs and proceed from there.

Andy ONeill16 Apr 2019 7:30 a.m. PST

You don't need to totally demonise your enemy before it becomes acceptable to maltreat "them".
People aren't inherently nice. Mostly they're not inherently evil. They are fairly easily manipulated and the decision making process is extremely fragile. Unless you've read up on the psychology of decision making you probably still think you make decisions based on logic.
And it's just weird how that illusionist can get you to pick the card/number/whatever he wants you to.

Where was I. Oh yes.
It's easy to make people pick on others.

Just tell them blue eyed people are smarter than brown. ( Which was really about racism.)

Or

Set up a "quiz" where they ask questions that seem easy and the "subject" gets wrong. So the questioner thinks the subject must be stupid. Then have an authority figure tell them to press the electro-blast button.
Bzzzzzzzzzzzt!

Soon as someone starts thinking they're better than another. It's all down hill from there.

Legion 416 Apr 2019 8:08 a.m. PST

From most of our POVs, as I have said, e.g. it's not hard to hate jihadis, terrorists, etc. I.e. ISIS, AQ, the Taliban, BH, AS, Hezbollah, IRGC, etc.

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