The Malmédy Massacre (see full report in book nr 4)
The Baugnez Crossroads.
B Battery was part of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion which was activated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, on January 11, 1943. It was cadred from the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion and supplied with men from Ft. Meade, Maryland; Ft. Lee, Virginia; and New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. The Battalion went through training cycles and on June 6, 1943, went to the Louisiana Maneuvers. On August 18, after the maneuvers, the Battalion moved to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, to take over the difficult task of being the school battalion. On May 11, 1944, the 285th commenced their own training for overseas assignment. The Battalion passed the many tests successfully and departed for the Port of Embarkation on August 11, 1944. They stayed at Camp Shanks, New York, for four days prior to departing through the Port of New York. They sailed aboard the vessel SS Mormac Moon on August 19.
The 285th arrived in Cardiff, Wales (UK) on September 1, 1944. They transferred to a train and moved to Stockton House Manor, Codford, Wiltshire, where they stayed until September 16. They were transferred to Puddlestown, then to Dorchester, and finally to Weymouth where they boarded a Landing Ship Tank (LST) for the trip across the English Channel. The 285th, less B Battery and a part of A Battery, arrived on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on September 18, 1944. B Battery and the rest of A Battery rejoined the battalion the next day and by the evening of September 19, the entire battalion was in bivouac near Colleville sur mer, France.
During the next month, B Battery bivouacked in many towns and villages across France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. On October 15, 1944, they set up camp in Zeifall, Germany. On December 2, 1944, they then moved to Schevenhütte, Germany. From this location they left on their fateful journey into history; the date was Sunday, 17 December, 1944.
On December 16, 1944, at 6:00 A.M., Capt. Leon T. Scarbrough, Commander of Battery B, departed Schevenhütte, Germany. In the vehicle with him were S/Sgt. Orsini, T/4 Hinkel, Cpl. Norfleet, Pvt. Romanoski, and Pvt. Oxford. Before they left the battalion, Executive Officer Lt. Ksidzek, and Capt. Scarbrough determined the destination of B Battery and the route that Lt. Ksidzek was to use to bring the Battery the following morning. Capt. Scarbrough reported to the VIII Corps Artillery Headquarters on the morning of 17 December, about 9:00 A.M., and he was instructed to report to the 4th Division Artillery in Luxembourg. Before Capt. Scarbrough left VIII Corps, he reported to the Commanding Officer of the 16th Field Artillery Observation Battalion who gave him survey data and general instructions regarding the area in Luxembourg. Capt. Scarbrough left instructions at the 16th Field Artillery Observation Battalion for B Battery to proceed on to Luxembourg.
A route-marking party consisting of Lt. Geier, S/Sgt. Kesterton, T/4 Paul, Pfc. Farmer, and Pfc. Kennedy preceded B Battery by about two hours and got safely to Luxembourg. As the route-marking party moved through, it picked up Pvt. Romanoski whom Capt. Scarbrough had left as a guide for Lt. Geier.
On the morning of 17 December, 1944, B Battery, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion (FAOB), prepared for movement. Earlier they had received orders to move from their current location, Schevenhütte, Germany, to Luxembourg. Their convoy consisted of 26 vehicles: 18 trucks from the 285th FAOB, one ambulance from the 546th Ambulance Company, four ambulances from the 575th Ambulance Company, and three trucks from the 86th Engineer Battalion. There were also two men from the 200th Field Artillery Battalion and eleven men from the 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division.
William Merriken of the 285th Field Artillery Battalion: “On 16 December, 1944 we were in Schevenhütte, Germany. Our company commander had received orders to move from our Seventh Corps sector to proceed to St. Vith, which was in the Eighth Corps sector. We spent a good bit of time that day and night preparing to move. In the morning of the 17 December, there were approximately 30 vehicles and 140 men that left Schevenhütte.”
At 0800 hours the convoy divided into two 13-vehicle serials and started their movement to Luxembourg. Capt. Roger Mills led the first serial accompanied by Lt. Virgil Lary in a jeep driven by Cpl. Raymond Lester. 1st Lt. Perry Reardon led the second serial.
Their route to Luxembourg went through the towns of Rott and Raere, Germany, and the towns of Eynatten, Eupen, and Malmédy, Belgium, in an area known as the 'Haute Fagnes.' By 1145 hours the convoy was just outside the Belgian town of Malmédy when they stopped for lunch; the men had been on the move since early that morning. According to T/5 Thomas Bacon, 'Lunch for some of the men consisted of hash, peas, pineapple, coffee, bread, and butter.'
T/4 Luke Swartz and his buddy T/5 Ernest Bechtel had a rather prophetic conversation as the two finished lunch and prepared to board their vehicles: ‘My buddy, T/4 Luke B. Swartz ASN 33497309, who back in the states before the war was also my neighbor, living less than a quarter mile across the fields, told me minutes before Battery B pulled out on its way to annihilation that this would be our last convoy. I was about to climb aboard truck B-26 when I noticed Luke standing with head bowed at the rear of B-25. ‘Why don’t you ride with me on B-26,’ I asked him. ‘No, I’ll ride on one of the trucks with a tarp. It’s beginning to sleet and B-26 has no tarp. Besides, this is my last day anyway. Ernie, I’ll not be going home. Something terrible is going to happen to most of us today, but you’ll be going back so tell the folks back home I love them.’ ‘What the hell are you talking about,’ I shouted. ‘Most of us will be killed but you’ll get through,’ he repeated. ‘Don’t talk so damn foolish. Nothing that bad is going to happen,’ I replied. Without another word Luke climbed aboard a truck several trucks ahead of B-26. With those words the convoy moved out and I never saw him again. It was not until December 18 that I learned Luke had died in the field at Malmédy. I sat down and wept in both sorrow and anger.’
After an hour break, the convoy got under way again and, after traveling a few miles, entered Malmédy, Belgium. Four vehicles carrying twenty-seven men of the B Battery column halted in Malmédy because Sgt. Barrington suddenly became violently ill with food poisoning and needed medical attention. In the wire truck, B-26, were T/5 Arndt, Pfc. Bechtel, Pfc. Schaaf, Pfc. Bersinski, Pvt. DePaulo, Pvt. Grath, Pvt. Kellum, Pvt. Stewart and Sgt. Barrington. The route-marking truck carried Sgt. Matthews, Cpl. Lorson, T/5 Camp, T/5 Poorman, and Pvt. Smith. In the Battery maintenance vehicle were S/Sgt. Albertson, T/4 Whitmer, T/5 Sondergard, Pvt. Swan, and Pvt. Young. Lt. Ksidzek, 1st Sgt. Iverson, Sgt. Funk, T/5 Harnack, T/5 Boggs, T/5 Forte (Battalion Medical Detachment), and Pfc. Stevens rode in the Battery Commander’s vehicle. Pfc. Panzer from the medical detachment joined this group of vehicles to give medical attention to Barrington and remained with these vehicles.
Little did these men realize how lucky they were. It is unknown why all four vehicles left the convoy and not just Barrington’s vehicle. After leaving Barrington at an aid station in Malmédy, these vehicles continued south trying to catch up with their convoy. They had driven less than a half mile when an out of control jeep came roaring toward them. Somehow the driver managed to avoid a collision and stop his jeep. The driver of the jeep was incoherent but several times he clearly mentioned the word 'Krauts.' An officer riding with him had been shot through the neck. After a brief conversation between Lt. Ksidzek and the wounded officer in the jeep, the trucks moved out once more only to be halted by men of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion who said, 'We’re going to blow this row of trees and dump them across the road. Once you’re through you cannot return.'
In a frantic effort to rejoin the rest of the convoy, Lt. Ksidzek, the highest ranking officer in the four vehicles, ordered the vehicles to move out. As the vehicles approached the crossroads village of Baugnez, which lies at the top of a long gentle hill, they suddenly encountered seventy-five millimeter and small arms fire coming from their left front. They also heard heavy machine gun fire and decided to turn back. While some returned the fire, the trucks managed to turn around and head back toward Malmédy.
With the road into Malmédy blocked, T/5 Arndt, driver of B-26, sought an alternate route. Disregarding the possibility of land mines, he took off cross-country until he got back into Malmédy. These men later made it back to Waldheim and Battalion Headquarters.
Earlier, at the southern end of Malmédy, Lt. Lary of B Battery and Capt. Mills from battalion headquarters were at the head of B Battery’s convoy in a jeep driven by Cpl. Lester. They stopped and talked to the commanding officer of the 291st Combat Engineer Battalion, Lt. Col. David Pergrin. The 291st was the only unit of any size in Malmédy, making Pergrin the ranking officer in this immediate area. Pergrin advised Lary and Mills to 'head west toward Trois Ponts and from there south to St. Vith and on to Luxembourg.' He suggested this route because there had been recent reports from his outposts sighting a large German armored column in the immediate vicinity. Disregarding Pergrin’s advice, Lt. Lary’s jeep continued south on route N32/N23, passed by a 291st roadblock, and went up the long, gradual hill to the crossroads at Baugnez. 'There Pfc. Homer D. Ford of C Company, 518th Military Police Battalion, was waiting to direct part of the Seventh Armored Division, south to St. Vith, Belgium. Ford waved B Battery through Baugnez, onto N23 toward Ligneuville and St. Vith. It was about 1:00 P.M. Sunday, 17 December, 1944.'
After Lt Lary left Malmédy, he guided his serial out of the town and up the hill towards Baugnez. A few hundred yards from Baugnez they met Lt Col David E. Pergrin, CO of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion. Lt Col Pergrin told Lt Lary of reports of a strong German armored column nearby and recommended that he turn his unprotected column around and takes a more circuitous route. Lt Lary said that he was already behind schedule and that he would rather continue on the route ordered by Capt Mills.
Lt. Col. David E. Pergrin, CO 291st Engineer Combat Battalion: “At about noon, there appeared at one of our roadblocks an eastbound convoy carrying B Battery, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion. I went out to meet with the senior officers in the convoy – a Captain Mills and Lieutenant Virgil Larry – who told me they were bound for St. Vith. I advised the two of the situation and suggested that they either change their route or remain in Malmédy to help us defend the town. Captain Mills, a battalion staff officer, told me that he was under firm orders to get through to St Vith to support the 7th Armored Division. Lieutenant Lary, the battery commander, concurred. With great reluctance, I let them proceed, though I was especially uneasy with my decision.”
William Merriken of the 285th Field Artillery Battalion: “We proceeded to Eupen and South toward St. Vith. We came to Malmédy and there was a lot of traffic moving about, and there seemed to be a lot of commotion and excitement, and we didn’t know what was going on. I was in the second vehicle of the convoy with the driver and machine gunner. In the lead vehicle were Capt Mills and Lt Larry. Col David Pergrin of the 291st Engineers Battalion told that there had been a German breakthrough and advised them it would be better to go to St. Vith by the way of Stavelot. but they decided against that primarily because of losing their place on route N32.”
At about 1300 hours Lt Lary’s column approached the Baugnez crossroads. There he met a US Army Military Policeman named Homer Ford. Pvt Ford’s mission was to ensure military traffic made the correct turn at the crossroads. A few minutes earlier he had directed elements of the U.S. 7th Armored Division towards St. Vith, and he now directed Lt Lary to turn toward Ligneuville. As his 10th vehicle passed the crossroads, Lt Lary, at the head of the serial, heard firing to his rear. As he looked back he was horrified to see German half-tracks and tanks charging across the fields and firing into his convoy of thin-skinned vehicles and lightly armed troops.
The German vehicles Lt Lary saw were the lead elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper. They had just driven from the small village of Thirimont, Belgium, on their way to Ligneuville when they ran into the B Company. Seeing the trucks and jeeps of Lt Lary’s column, the Germans immediately opened fire and assaulted the Americans in an attempt to destroy them before they could escape.
SS-Obersturmführer Werner Sternebeck: “During an observation halt on the road from Thirimont to the northwest, about 800 to 1200 meters east of the Baugnez intersection, I saw an enemy truck column negotiating the intersection moving to the south. (N23). The lead panzer element opened fire (high-explosive shells) against the traveling column, which was located about 200 to 300 meters south of the intersection. Several vehicles immediately caught fire, the column became confused and vehicles began running off the road and into each other. The crews dismounted and sought cover. That was the moment to attack across the Waimes – Baugnez road to the intersection. Before reaching the intersection we were hit by machinegun and rifle fire from the dismounted crews. We returned the fire with our on-board machine guns and hastened our attack into the standing column. When my lead panzer had approached to within 60 to 70 meters of the column, the Americans stood up from the roadside ditch and raised their hands in surrender.
“We then slowed down in our approach to the column. I used arm signals to make the American soldiers understand that they were to march back in the direction of the road intersection. I reported the enemy contact, firefight and results to the panzer group over the radio. I again received orders to advance to Ligneuville without delay. Between the lead panzer element and the advance guard, in which the command group marched, was an interval of approximately ten minutes."
The events from the point of view of the panzer group commander, SS-Obersturmbannführer Jochen Peiper: “As we left Grosbois, north of Thirimont, my lead element discovered on the left an American convoy marching to the south along the Malmédy – St. Vith road. When they became clearly discernible, I drove a couple of hundred meters behind in a jeep and interrogated a US Lieutenant Colonel who had got into our column. From him I learned that there was a senior US headquarters in Ligneuville and that we were not anticipated being in this region. I then hurried to the forward panzers, ordered them the cease-fire and continue to advance without delay. Perhaps it was still possible to take Ligneuville by surprise, in spite of the unfortunate sounds of fighting that just occurred. When we reached the road intersection and turned to the south, the pass was partially blocked by a crashed and burning truck.
“We found a number of US soldiers, estimated at sixty, in the roadside ditch and in a field. Besides those who had be killed or wounded by our fire, the men could be practically divided into three groups:
“One group came toward us with their hands held behind their helmets in surrender. We directed them to rear because the mission of the following infantry was to assemble prisoners we captured along our route of advance.
“Group two lay next to the road and played dead. I specifically remember several of our soldiers firing warning shots. The third group also played dead, but they were closer to the nearby forest. The soldiers tried to make their way, unobserved, to the edge of the forest and we fired several shots after them.
“The lead element then drove off in the direction of Ligneuville, while the prisoners of war, on their own more or less, unsupervised, assembled at the road intersection. There is more than one version of what later happened at the road intersection, but no one knows for sure, nor do I."
The adjutant from the III. (gep.) / Panzer Grenadier Regiment 2, SS-Obersturmführer Flacke, who drove in the command group behind the lead panzer element with his commander, Hauptsturmführer Diefenthal, remembered: “At midday the battle groups lead element, behind which road the command group with Obersturmbannführer Peiper, the commander of the 1st Panzer Regiment, along with the commander of the III. (gep.) Battalion reached the road that parallels the Malmédy – Ligneuville road. As we drove to the northwest along this road we saw an American column with about twenty-five vehicles driving on the road in the direction of Ligneuville. The end of this column had already crossed the road intersection, while the head of the column was already about 800 to 900 meters away from the road intersection when the panzers of the I Battalion and the ‘Schützenpanzerwagen’ machine guns began firing.
“I was able to see that the column stopped after an initial attempt to flee, and the men in the vehicles took cover. The lead element of our battle group then continued its advance and reached the road intersection. When I and my adjutant panzer reached the intersection behind my commander’s SPW, they were right on the intersection. I estimated that there were approximately twenty prisoners of war at that time. I left my panzer approximately 150 meters behind the intersection and obtained maps, which were important to us for the conduct of the fighting, from some American soldiers that were approaching.
“I reported to my commander 800 meters behind the intersection and mounted his panzer in order to join the fighting that was already taking place around Ligneuville. The battle group commander, Obersturmbannführer Peiper, was also in my commander’s panzer because his command panzer was having radio problems."
The regimental adjutant and immediate command assistant to SS-Obersturmbannführer Peiper, SS-Hauptsturmführer Gruhle, gave a clear summary of the events: “The lead panzer element (consisting of two panzers) reached the road intersection southeast of Malmédy between 1200 hours and 1300 hours, at the same time that an American truck column moving from Malmédy in the direction of St. Vith crossed the march route of the panzers. The panzers immediately opened fire on this column with all weapons. The completely surprised Americans – it turned out to be a combat-inexperienced observation battery – panicked.
“Some of the drivers jumped from their trucks, which were still moving, leaving the trucks to drive themselves, some of the vehicles were burning, some ran into road-side trees, others into the road-side ditch or into each other and turned over.
“As the lead panzer element approached the column, which was still under fire from a distance, a portion of the soldiers surrendered. Some offered the panzers resistance concealed in the roadside ditch or in the bushes, while others attempted to avoid capture by running toward the edge of the forest, which was about 60 meters away. All of the prisoners were – as usual – directed by the lead panzer element in the direction of Germany.”
Within five minutes the battle was over. The Americans, armed with nothing more than pistols and rifles, didn’t stand a chance. At first the Americans did not understand where the firing was coming from and just stopped their vehicles in an attempt to figure out what going on. But seeing the big German tanks charging across the fields and down the road, they quickly abandoned their trucks and tried to run or just hide. Some jumped into a shallow drainage ditch that lined the road, some hid in a nearby barn or some sheds behind houses, while others attempted to run to the nearby woods. The German soldiers started to round up the Americans where they found them. Some of the Americans tried to play dead, but the Germans walking among the vehicles and the ditch kicked or prodded them to ensure that they were in fact dead, and those that weren’t were ordered to march down the road to the crossroads.
Soon after the Americans surrendered, around 1330 hours, the surviving Americans started to hear random shooting. Survivors later stated that German soldiers began shooting prisoners as soon as the fighting was over. One American was shot when he protested the stealing of his watch and another was shot when he didn’t have his hands high enough. While all of this was going on other Germans were looting and destroying B Company’s vehicles. Soon 88 (some reports have as many as 111) Americans were lined up in eight rows in a field near the crossroads awaiting their fate.
Soon Lt Col Peiper arrived at the head of the main body of his Kampfgruppe. He was outraged at the actions of his men and ordered them to immediately stop looting and destroying the American trucks and, more importantly, their precious fuel. He directed that the remaining operable vehicles were to be driven to the rear and, since the Germans were unfamiliar with operating the American trucks, he had some of the prisoners detailed to drive them with German escort. Leaving Maj Werner Poetschke, the commander of the I. Bataillon, 1. SS Panzer Regiment in charge, Lt Col Peiper moved his column towards Ligneuville. As he left it was reported (but there is no proof) that Peiper said to Maj Poetschke, 'You know what to do with the prisoners,' suggesting that he (Maj Poetschke) shoot the prisoners.
As more of Kampfgruppe Peiper moved through the crossroads the responsibility of guarding the Americans was passed on from unit to unit. At approximately 1415 hours, soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, 3rd Pioneer Company, and the Penal Section of the 9th Panzer Pioneer Company were detailed to guard the prisoners. It was at this time that it is reported that Maj Poetschke said to a Sgt Beutner, 'You know what to do with the prisoners.' Sgt Beutner immediately went to the road and stopped a half-track that had a 75mm cannon and told the crew to fire into the prisoners. The half-track crew attempted to maneuver the vehicle into a firing position, but they were unable to depress the gun low enough to shoot the prisoners. Losing patience with the half-track commander, Sgt Beutner, to the relief of the crew, ordered it to move on. The Americans saw what had transpired and became nervous and unsure of what was going on.
The next German unit to arrive at the crossroads, between 1300 und 1400 hours was the 7th Panzer Company (CO SS-Hauptsturmführer Oskar Klingelhöfer).
SS-Oberscharführer Hans Siptrott, tank commander in the 3rd platoon, 7th Panzer Company: “In Büllingen we refueled with American gas, and driving through the towns of Schoppen, Ondenval and Thirimont we arrived at the Baugnez crossroads between 1300 and 1400 hours.
“Obersturmbannführer Peiper and Obersturmführer Sternebeck had already passed the crossroads with their Panzer column. The American prisoners who were captured by this Panzer column received directions to move on foot without arms and equipment to our positions in the back.
“As we arrived at the crossroads, we found a fully armed and equipped enemy unit against us. It was clear that we had to fight so we opened fire from about 1200 meters distance.
“If the Americans did what they were told to do [what we thought they would do], when our Panzer columns moved forward, we would not have had to fight them again, and they would not have suffered more wounded and dead.
SS-Sturmmann George Fleps, an ethnic German from Romania, and gunner in SS-Oberscharführer Siptrott’s tank, without getting an order, fired his pistol into the prisoners.
SS-Oberscharführer Hans Siptrott continues: “Then I drove my tank through the field and came to a halt about 300 meters past the crossroads. My other tanks (I commanded five of them), stayed on the road, and arrived at the crossroads. As I started to move forward, suddenly and without reason, my gunner Fleps fired his pistol two times into the group of prisoners.
“I kicked him but hurt my leg when I also hit the inside of the tank. I was standing in the cupola and my radio was still active, so that my crew could hear me if I called to Fleps. My radio operator Otto Arnold had his radio active and could confirm later that I never ordered Fleps to shoot the prisoners. And it would have been useless firing at a distance of 300 meter with a pistol. Then I continued moving my tanks in the direction of Ligneuville. When I arrived at the unit I immediately informed my CO of what happened at the crossroads, and the message was sent to Army-Corps for further research.“
[Hans Siptrott told me in a private that if he had received the order to shoot the prisoners, he never would had let Fleps shoot with his pistol, but instead would have used the tank’s machine guns!]
At first it seemed that no one understood what was going on or what to do. Some of the Americans started to run but the officers ordered them to stay put thinking that running would give the guards an excuse to shoot. Other Germans in the area were caught unawares, and surprised and confused began to fire into the helpless Americans. Soon the prisoners, seeing their fellow soldiers being shot, ignored their officers and ran for their lives. Many were cut down as they ran for the safety of the woods or nearby sheds. A few even tried to hide in the Café Bodarwe that was located next to the intersection, but for some reason the Germans did not chase them or hunt them down. So essentially, if they could get out of eyesight of the German soldiers they were safe.
Soon the tanks of the 7th Company left the area, as they were needed for more important missions, but members of the Penal Platoon walked among the prisoners searching for wounded, and there were wounded. These were rooted out by kicking them in the head or between the legs. As the wounded were found, a bullet or a rifle butt to the head quickly and brutally dispatched them. Sadistically, one medic was ordered to treat another wounded American and then they were both shot. Another wounded soldier was assisted in standing and then shot in the back of the head. The Americans that tried to hide in the Café Bodarwe were burned alive when the Germans set fire to the building.
Between 1500 and 1600 hours vehicles of Kampfgruppe Peiper fired into the bodies lying in the field as they passed through the crossroads. But amazingly there were survivors of the massacre. Of the original members of the 1st serial of B Company a total of 55 men survived the ordeal. Some of the soldiers escaped during the initial attack and some escaped after they were captured. Some of them were recaptured by other German units, (they did not say anything about the shootings at Baugnez until after the war for fear they would be shot for being a witness to a war crime), and some made it to friendly lines to tell of the shootings. The last one took four days to make it to friendly lines.
When these men told their tale of the shootings at Baugnez, it enraged the Americans and inspired them to fight with conviction and with little compassion towards the enemy, especially towards SS or Fallschirmjäger soldiers. In fact, there has never been found a written order by a German commander to kill American prisoners, but there were orders written by American regimental commanders that directed that all SS and Fallschirmjäger would be shot on sight.
It was not until 13 January 1945 that American forces recovered the bodies. A total of 84 bodies (72 initially and 12 after the snow melted) were found. Because many of the dead were ravaged by animals or mutilated by artillery fire during the fighting to recapture the area, the exact number of prisoners that were shot during shootings of 17 December 1944 will never be known. Autopsies, conducted in Malmédy, found that 41 of the prisoners were shot in the head and 10 had severe head injuries probably received from a rifle butt.
On 13 January U.S. troops found 66 members of B Company, 285th Field Observation Battalion; three soldiers from Headquarters Battery, 285th Field Artillery Battalion; four from the 32nd Armored Regiment; two from the 200th Field Artillery Battalion; two from the 546th Ambulance Battalion; four from the 575th Ambulance Company; and one soldier from the 86th Engineer Battalion.
From 12 May to 16 July, 1946, 73 German soldiers of Kampfgruppe Peiper were put on trial for the murder of the American prisoners shot at Baugnez. Unfortunately the two primary culprits were not there. Maj Pötschke had been killed in Hungary in 1945 and Sgt Beutner was killed in the town of Stoumont a few days after the shootings at Baugnez. The death sentence was ordered for 43 of the defendants while 22 received life imprisonment. But because of issues with the trial, such as torture and other forms of maltreatment, all were eventually paroled (Peiper in 1956).
Because of improper handling of evidence as well as the trial itself we will never know exactly what happened on that dreary day in December. American eyewitness accounts of the events did not match, and later testimony did not agree with earlier given accounts. German versions of the shooting at Baugnez vary. Some say that they engaged a group of Americans that, due to a combination of ground fog and battlefield confusion, all of a sudden appeared next to the road. Another version was that someone fired a warning shot because they thought that the Americans were trying to escape and when the Americans, upon hearing the shooting, started to run, the Germans fired on 'prisoners attempting to escape.' Still another story recounted that the Americans had hidden some weapons under their coats and that they actually fired first, and therefore the Germans were just protecting themselves. Whatever happened, it is a fact that many of the prisoners were found to have powder burns on the backs of their heads, and this could only be done by a pistol or rifle shot at close range.
The war has been over for 60 years and the United States and Germany are the best of allies, and veterans of both armies can be found at the memorial at Baugnez remembering their fallen comrades and their sacrifices. It is to be hoped that we will remember their sacrifices and the loss of their comrades with respect and admiration and emulate their goodness and never repeat their mistakes.
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