www.DarbyRangers.Com | Follow Me
WWII's 20,000 MIA
Our Missing POW's of WWII
Despite the total victory in Europe by Allied forces, thousands and thousands of US soldiers -- perhaps as many as 20,000 -- were never repatriated from prisoner of war (POW) camps, prisons and forced labor and concentration camps.
These American soldiers were being held in Nazi prison camps, along with other Allied POWs and some Nazi captives, when they were overrun by the Red Army. Thus, hundreds of thousands of Allied POWs who had been held by the Nazis, as well as millions of Western European citizens, or Displaced Persons, came under Red Army control. Indeed, this number increased because General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, decided to stop the US and British drive eastward into Germany, in order to wait for Soviet forces driving West, so that US and Soviet forces could meet in Berlin.
CREDITS FOR REPATRIATION
One such American GI was Martin Siegel, who was held prisoner in Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg (a Nazi POW camp in eastern Germany overrun by a Red Army tank battalion). Siegel was the U.S.POWs' intermediary and translator with Major Vasilli Vershenko was, "When were the U.S.POWs to be repatriated?" Vershenko said he was primarily concerned with the "Russian prisoners held in a separate compound at Stalag IV-B"as" they had to be interviewed individually since they felt that there were many cowards, traitors and deserters among them and they had to be dealt with expeditiously. Secondarily, with regard to the repatriation of US and Allied POWs now under Red Army control, the Soviet Major stated "the Russians and the Americans had agreed to a pact wherein the Russians would receive 'credits'' for each American POW returned," and that repatriation of US POWs was a "complex logistical matter."
The Russian Major's view of the repatriation process for US and Allied POWs under Red Army control for financial or economic `credits' probably accurately reflected of Soviet repatriation policy. In fact, the Russian Major's view paralleled the assessment of the Soviet's repatriation policy of Allied POWs under Red Army control. Barker wrote in a report to the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Allied Headquarters that after more than four hours of discussions with his Red Army counterparts:
- the SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters of the Allied European Forces] representatives came to the firm conviction that British and American prisoners of war were, in effect, being held hostage by the Russians until deemed expedient by them to permit their release. This latter point was further borne out by subsequent events.
Meanwhile, Siegel, the American GI still held in Stalag IV-B (who is still alive) decided that as a result of the callousness of his [Major Vershenko's ] response and the officious tone in which this information [about repatriation ] was given, [it] gave me real pause...That night, my bunkmate, Cpl. William Smith of the 9th. Division shared our mutual concerns and [we] decided to take off on our own. The next evening, we `liberated' two Russian bicycles, got thru a gap in the wire where a Russian tank was parked and took off West to where we thought the American Army would be.
They made it safely to American lines, but only after a "two week adventure" that included making another escape after "being captured by a band of fanatical `Hitler Youth'" still at large in Soviet occupied Germany.
Siegel and his partner made a wise decision to escape. A cable from the Ninth United States Army to the Supreme Allied Headquarters dated May 17, 1945 describes the deteriorating conditions in Stalag IV-B Muhlberg camp after the two GIs escaped:
Reports received that 7,000 United States and British ex-PWs formerly in Mulburg (Stalag IV-B) and NOEREISA 8715-E need medical supplies, additional medical attention and food. Many have left because of conditions. Reports indicate camp leader doing all in his power to enforce STAY-PUT order. Russians alleged to have threatened to use force to prevent escape.
Thus, through completely different personal experiences, a GI and a General came to essentially the same conclusion about Soviet repatriation policy. The GI risded escape rather than trust the Soviets to repatriate him. The General concluded and reported to Supreme Allied Headquarters that:
- British and American prisoners of war were, in effect, being held hostage by the Russians until deemed expedient by them to permit their release.
After Siegel--the intrepid GI-- and his partner escaped to Allied controlled territory, Siegel found that his... concerns for other prisoners left behind at 1V-B were treated with initial skepticism, then annoyance at my persistence, and finally with reassurances that the matter `would be investigated.'
It should be noted that Major Vershenko's comments about economic `credits' were not wholly inaccurate. Weeks before V-E day (Victory in Europe) Soviets had requested a $6 billion credit line from the United States, the equivalent of $59.8 billion in 1991 dollars, or slightly more than the US costs for the Gulf War. `Credits' from the United States, were, in fact, an active Soviet consideration throughout the repatriation period. Instead, the Secretary of State, prior to a mid-April 1945 meeting with his Soviet counterpart, Commissar Molotov, received a pre-meeting briefing memorandum, one of the points of which was the Soviet request for $6 billion.
MAKE THEM WORK
The Soviet rationale for not repatriating Allied soldiers and citizens, however, was motivated by more complex and more repugnant reasons than credits along. In the memoirs of former Secretary of State under President Truman, James F. Byrnes, there appears an illuminating conversation the Secretary had with Molotov, the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs. In September, 1945, several weeks after Japan's surrender, Byrnes recounted that while in London:
Mr. Molotov came to see me, on instructions from Moscow... [Molotov] wanted to complain of the way in which the surrender terms [with Japan] were being carried out. He complained particularly about the way the Japanese Army was being demobilized. It was dangerous, he said, merely to disarm the Japanese and send them home; they should be held as prisoners of war. We should do what the Red Army was doing with the Japanese it had taken in Manchuria--make them work...No one can say accurately how many Japanese prisoners have been taken to the Soviet Union.
In mid-1947, the best guess was that approximately 500,000 were still there.
The problem of accounting for POW/MIAs was complicated by the fact that the Soviets were just as uncooperative in the repatriation of the millions of displaced civilians. In Europe, as well as in the Far East, the Soviets guarded a sea of prisoners--human capital and slave labor in their view---who were not only Allied and Axis POWs, but also hundreds of thousands of displaced Western European citizens, as well as Eastern European citizens, who desperately wanted to flee from Red Army occupied territory. Nationalities of smaller countries of Western Europe, like the Dutch, and Belgians, as well as formerly occupied countries like France, tragically, had little military, political or diplomatic leverage with the Soviet government to secure the repatriation of their citizens at the end of the War. As a result, tens of thousands of Dutch and Belgians, and hundreds of thousands of French were never repatriated by the Soviets.
The French in particular bore the brunt the Soviet "make them work" policy. This policy was implemented by the Soviets not only with regard to the Japanese POWs captured in the Pacific theater, but also with regard to hundreds of thousands of French, Dutch, Belgian, and other Western Europeans who were caught in Soviet occupied territory in Europe.
A window through which a glimpse of the fate of these citizens--in this particular case, French POWs -- can be seen is the following cable from the Allied Command's Mission in France, to the Supreme Allied Headquarters for all of Europe. Sent May 30, 1945 (Victory in Europe, VE day was May 7, 1945) the cable read:
Accordance your telephone request, cable from Fifteenth Army French Detachment to General CHERRIERE MMFA Hotel CONTINENTAL PARIS of 25 May is paraphrased for your information.
Report of Lt. D Havernas according to CONFIRMED reports, Russians still do not release thousands of French ex-PW's and civilians, forcing them to work. Many transferred eastwards to unknown destination. Please inform high authority. 700 ex-PW's are evacuated daily from this area to UDINE. Civilians held under difficult food and accommodation conditions.
DISCREPANCY OF OVER 1,000,000 WESTERN EUROPEANS
The next day, a cable detailing the magnitude of the masses of Allied prisoners of war and displaced citizens held in Soviet territory was sent from Supreme Allied Headquarters signed by Eisenhower, to the US Military Mission in Moscow. Eisenhower wanted an explanation from the Soviets for the slow pace of repatriation of these citizens. The "discrepancies" between the Allies most up-to-date figures of various displaced Western European citizens and prisoners of war known to be in Soviet occupied territory, and the number actually repatriated by the Soviets, were outlined by Eisenhower.
Latest available displaced persons and prisoners of war figures show almost 1,600,000 Western European (French, Belgian, Dutch and Luxemborgeois) either repatriated from or at present held in SHAEF area. Soviet delegates at LEIPZIG conference stated only 300,000 Western Europeans in their area. Combined working party on European food supplies, composed of representatives from UNRRA, SHAEF, USSR, UK, and USA, including Soviet delegate LIUSHENKO, estimated approximately 3,000,000 displaced Western Europeans in enemy-held territory at beginning 1944. This discrepancy of over 100,000 Western Europeans is causing Dutch and French Governments considerable anxiety.
More than two week later, Eisenhower sent another cable to the US Military Mission in Moscow with more detailed numbers of 'discrepancies'. Again Eisenhower requested a detailed Soviet response to his concerns over these unrepatriated prisoners of war and other Allied citizens in Red Army occupied territory. The cable, dated June 19,1945, stated:
2. A further approach to the Soviets regarding numbers of Western Europeans in Soviet occupied area of Eastern Europe is urgently necessary. About 1,200,000 French have been repatriated. Less than 100,000 remain in SHAEF-occupied area. French insist total POW and displaced persons is 2,300,000. Even allowing for several hundred thousand unaccounted trekkers, discrepancy is still very great. About 170,000 Dutch have been repatriated, with less than 25,000 in the SHAEF area. Total Dutch estimate of deportees is 340,000.
...OF PERSONS FROM WESTERN EUROPE..(I)..CAN NOT SAY MUCH ABOUT THEM...
In response to Eisenhower's cable, the US Military Mission in Moscow sent the Soviet government a letter dated June 20, 1945, parts of which are quoted below:
Dear General Golubev:
We have been requested by General Eisenhower to make an urgent appeal to you for an estimate of the number of displaced Western Europeans who are now in Soviet-occupied areas of Eastern Europe.
Thus far, about 1,200,000 French have been repatriated. Less than 100,000 French remain in German areas occupied by British-American forces. This makes a total of 1,300,000 French accounted for, exclusive of those who still remain in Soviet-controlled territory. French authorities insist that the total number of prisoners of war and displaced person amount to 2,300,000. Even allowing for several hundred thousand unaccounted individuals, there still remains a great discrepancy.
About 170,000 Dutch have been repatriated. Less than 25,000 Dutch still remain in Germany under control of British-American forces. However, the Dutch authorities estimate that there were originally 340,000 Dutch nationals deported, thus leaving a great discrepancy.
The Belgian authorities also reported a discrepancy but it is comparatively smaller than those of the French and Dutch.
In the French and Dutch cases, the "discrepancy" figures are astonishing. Even assuming that a quarter of a million French citizens were "trekkers" -- a seemingly exaggerated estimate--heading West to Allied lines, 850,000 French citizens still were not repatriated from Red Army occupied territory.
With regard to the Dutch citizens, assuming one quarter of the total Dutch "discrepancy" number were "trekkers," them some 116,250 Dutch citizens still were not repatriated from Soviet occupied Europe. It is understandable, as Eisenhower stated in an earlier cable to the US Military Mission in Moscow, that these figures were "causing the Dutch and French government considerable anxiety."
In late June, the US Military Mission in Moscow sent Eisenhower a cable with the Soviet reply. The Soviet reply was not encouraging. The cable read:
Upon receipt of S-91662 dated 19 June, we presented the queries contained therein to [Lieutenant General] GOLUBREV [Soviet Assistant Administrator for Repatriation] and have received the following reply [from the Soviets]:
In answer to your letter of 20 June:
1.I do not have the exact date on the moving around of persons from Western Europe and therefore cannot say much about them.
2.I know that there have been freed by the Red Army: French"
About 250,000 of which 202,456 persons have already been sent home and about 50,000 who are getting ready to be sent home.
Belgians: 27,980 persons freed of which 25,920 have been sent home, the remainder in the process of being turned over.
The discrepancy between the Soviet numbers for both the French and the Dutch and SHAEF's numbers is unsettling, as is the Soviets' claim that they "cannot say much about" the hundreds of thousands of Western European soldiers and citizens who apparently disappeared in Red Army occupied territory.
NOT EVEN VERBAL ASSURANCES WERE TO BE HAD
However, even before Eisenhower had received his reply, the Soviets had informed US military officials at a separate meeting in Halle, Germany, that "all political prisoners held in German concentration camps overrun by the Red Army had been released."
Furthermore, Allied officials reported to the Secretary of State with respect to the "category of displaced persons, not even verbal assurances were to be had."
The results of the Allied-Soviet meeting in Halle, Germany, were detailed in a memo sent to the US Secretary of State and is quoted below. The meeting produced an agreement on a plan fro repatriation;
"...Agreed to by representatives of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, and Supreme Command Red Army, at Halle, Germany, May 22, 1945, for the most expeditious overland delivery of Allied and Soviet ex-prisoners of war and displaced persons liberated by the Allied Expeditionary Force and the Red Army. The two delegations were headed by Lieutenant General K.D.Golubev, Red Army, Soviet Assistant Administrator for Repatriation, and Major General R.W.Barker, U.S.A., Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, SHAEF."
This meeting, more than any other, determined the fate of hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the Red Army occupied territory of Eastern Europe. This memorandum, which was sent June 1, 1945 to the US Secretary of State, explains that at the Halle, Germany, meeting the Red Army refused to permit the Allies...
...to fly transport aircraft into Soviet-occupied territory...Although General Golubev would not agree to the incorporation of a paragraph providing first priority delivery of US and UK ex-prisoners of war, he gave his most solemn personal assurances that all US and UK ex-prisoners of war would, in fact, be given preferential treatment. A request for second priority for Western European ex-political deportees, in accordance with the desires of the Western European governments that such persons be repatriated before their respective ex-prisoners of war and other displaced persons, was countered by the flat assertion that all political prisoners held in German concentration camps overrun by the Red Army had been released and that there were, accordingly, no more political prisoners in Soviet-occupied territory. With respect to this category of displaced persons, not even verbal assurances were to be had.
Thus, as far as former political prisoners were concerned, the official Soviet position was that all political prisoners had been released. With regard to the repatriation of displaced persons who found themselves in Red Army occupied territory at the end of the War, "not even verbal assurances were to be had."
HOUSED NOT IN HUTS BUT IN DUG-OUTS
The following US intelligence report from OSS-CIG files, dated April-May 1945, may provide some insight into the fate of the hundreds of thousands of French, Dutch, and Belgians of whom the Soviets would not even give "verbal assurances":
1.Informant, a Pole forced to serve in the German Army, was taken prisoner by the Russians in 1944. He was kept for a time in the Transit Camp in KAUNAS, then NINSK until he was deported across SIBERIA to the SEVINSKAYA camp near VLADIVOSTOK. At the end of 1945-April, he escaped and tried to get into Europe. He was, however, arrested by the NKVD after he had got beyond MOSCOW, and placed in the POW and Internee Camp in TAMBOV, which was occupied by Germans, French, Americans, British, Dutch,Belgians...The prisoners numbered, in the informants [sic] estimation, well over 20,000; they were both military and civilian, most likely overrun by the Russians during the offensive.
2.All prisoners were forced to work, and the food they were given was very bad and monotonous. They were housed not in huts but in dug-outs.
3.The monotonous food caused some strange disease which made the legs and arms swell...After a time men afflicted with this disease died. Informant was told that more than 23,000 Italians, more than 2,500 French and approximately 10,000 Roumanian [sic] and Hungarian prisoners had died in this manner. There were also many casualties among Poles and other nationalities.
4.Prisoners in this camp included men of very high culture and learning and great experts in many fields of science. Informant observed that German engineers were employed on a special task, the drawing up of blueprints for a four engined aircraft, which would carry about 500 men and achieve a speed - it was alleged - of 1,000 kilometers per hour. The Russians were extremely interested in these blue-prints, and men working on the invention were granted all possible facilities both in work and the conditions of life in the camp.
5. There were also some Belgians and Dutch, and others, including some English men and several score Americans, the presence of whom in this camp is probably unknown to the British and U.S.A. authorities. When he was leaving, these Englishmen and Americans asked him urgently(as did the French officers and men) to notify the Allied authorities of their plight. Informant succeeded in reaching France with a convoy of Allied nationals.
HUNDREDS OF OUR PRISONERS WANDERING ABOUT POLAND
In anticipation of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens who would have to be repatriated in the wake of the Western allies and Red Army victory over the Nazi forces, the Western Allies and the Soviets agreed Feb. 11, 1945, at the Yalta Conference to provisions which would expedite their repatriation. These provisions allowed their respective military officers into Allied and Soviet controlled territory at various collection points in each country throughout Europe, in order to process, arrange for transportation and otherwise oversee the registration and the care and feeding of the soldiers who were to be repatriated. The locations where these repatriation officers were to be sent was agreed to, as well as that these officers would be assigned liaison officers to assist them in the repatriation process.
Less than a month after the signing of the Yalta agreement, in an URGENT TOP SECRET Personal Message to the President, U.S.Ambassador W. Averell Harriman cabled from Moscow:
Since the Yalta Conference General Deane and I have been making constant efforts to the Soviets to carry out this agreement in full. We have been baffled by promises which have not been fulfilled.
Specifically, Harriman stated in the same cable "I am outraged" that
...the Soviet Government has declined to carry out the agreement signed at Yalta in its other aspects, namely, that our contact officers be permitted to go immediately to points where our prisoners are first collected, to evaluate our prisoners, particularly the sick, in our own airplanes, or to send our supplies to points other than Odessa, which is 1,000 miles from point of liberation, where they are urgently needed.
Furthermore, Harriman in the same cable stated:
For the past ten days the Soviets have made the same statement that Stalin has made to you,[FDR]namely, that all prisoners are in Odessa or entrained thereto, whereas I have now positive proof that this was not repeat not true on February 26, the date on which the statement was first made. This supports my belief that Stalin's statement to you is inaccurate.
In fact, Harriman in the same cable wrote:
....there appear to be hundreds of our prisoners wandering about Poland trying to locate American contact officers for protection. I am told that our men don't like the idea of getting into a Russian camp. The Polish people and Polish Red Cross are being extremely hospitable, whereas food and living conditions in Russian camps are poor. In addition we have reports that there are a number of sick or wounded who are too ill to move. These Stalin does not mention in his cable. Only a small percentage of those reported sick or wounded arrive at Odessa.
Odessa was a Black Sea port in the Ukraine, through which some 2,900 US soldiers were processed and repatriated. It is the only camp in the entire Soviet occupied zone in Europe in which US contact personnel were allowed--the Yalta agreement notwithstanding--and was the source of much of Harriman's outrage.
GREAT DIFFICULTIES...IN REGARD TO THE CARE
AND REPATRIATION OF OUR LIBERATED POWs
Six days later Ambassador Harriman sent another cable to Washington, this time to the Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. It deserves to be quoted at some length:
I assume the Department has been informed by the War Department of the great difficulties General Deane [head of the US Military Mission to Moscow] and I have been having with the Soviet Government in regard to the care and repatriation of our liberated prisoners of war. In the beginning it appeared that the Soviet authorities were going to interpret our agreement substantially as we did, namely that we be allowed to send our contact officers to several points within Poland to which our prisoners first find their way, to fly in emergency supplies and to evacuate our wounded on the returning trips of the planes, although in Soviet planes rather than United States planes. We obtained authority for one contact team of an officer and doctor to go to Lublin with one plane load of supplies and they have done extremely useful work there. No other teams or supplies have since been permitted and authority for the Lublin team to remain has recently been withdrawn. The Soviets have now contended that Odessa is the only present camps and points of concentration referred to in the [Yalta] agreement to which our contact officers are to be permitted.
...Our prisoners have suffered serious hardships from lack of food, clothing, medical attention, etceteras, in finding a their way to concentration points in Poland and on the long rail trip to Odessa because we have been stopped from sending in our contact teams and emergency supplies. A considerable number of sick and wounded are still hospitalized in Olan. I have been urging for last two weeks General Deane be permitted to survey the situation with a Red Army officer. This was first approved in writing with the qualifications that arrangements must be made with Polish authorities. An officer of our military mission informally approached the Polish Embassy here and was advised that no Polish authorization was necessary as it was entirely with the competence of the Red Army. We have been unable, however, to get authorization for Deane's trip. It seems clear that the Soviets have changed their point of view during the last several weeks and are now rigidly determined that none of our officers shall be permitted in Poland.
I saw Molotov again today about the situation. He maintained that the Soviet Government was fulfilling its obligation under the agreement and both the Red Army authorities and the Polish Provisional Government objected to the presence of our officers in Poland. When I pressed him on what valid objection the Red Army could possible have, he pointed out that we had no agreement with the Polish Provisional Government. In spite of my contention that this was a Soviet responsibility he kept reverting to the above fact. I then directly asked him if he was implying that we should make such an arrangement with Poles and if so, whether the Red Army would remove its objections. He did not answer this question directly but left me with the impression that he wished me to draw that deduction. I am satisfied that the objection comes from [the] Soviet Government and not the Provisional Polish Government as our military mission had been in informal contact with the Polish Embassy here who have been extremely cooperative as have all Polish authorities including the Polish Red Cross to our prisoners in Poland.
I feel that the Soviet Government is trying to use our liberated prisoners of war as a club to induce us to give increased prestige to the Provisional Polish Government by dealing with it in this connection as the Soviet are doing to other cases. General Deane and I have not (repeat not) been able to find a way to force the Soviet authorities to live up to our interpretation of our agreement. Unless some steps be taken to bring direct pressure on the Soviets, our liberated prisoners will continue to suffer hardships, particularly the wounded and the sick.
...It is the opinion of General Deane and myself that no arguments will induce the Soviets to live up to our interpretation of the [Yalta] agreement except retaliatory measures which affect their interests unless another direct appeal from the President should prove effective. We therefore recommend that the first step be a second request from the President to Marshal Stalin...In the meantime, however, we recommend further that the [State] Department and War Department come to an agreement on what retaliatory measures we can immediately apply in the event an unfavorable answer is received by the President from Marshal Stalin.
Consideration might be given to such actions as, or combination thereof: (One) That General Eisenhower issue orders to restrict the movements of Soviet contact officers in France to several camps or points of concentration of their citizens far removed from the points of liberation, comparable to Lwow and Odessa; (Two) That Lend-Lease refuse to consider requests of Soviet Government additional to our fourth protocol commitments for such items as sugar, industrial equipment or other items that are not immediately essential for the Red Army and the Russian War effort; (Three) That consideration be given to allowing our prisoners of war en route to Naples to give stories to the newspapers of the hardships they have been subjected to between point of liberation and arrival at Odessa and that in answer to questions of correspondents, the War Department explain the provisions of our agreement and the Soviet Government's failure to carry out the provisions of our agreement according to any reasonable interpretation.
I request urgent consideration of this question and the Department's preliminary reaction. General Deane requests that this cable be shown to General Marshall [Eisenhower's second in Command, a British officer at Supreme Allied Headquarters].
President Roosevelt sent the following:
PERSONAL and SECRET cable for Marshal Stalin on March 18, 1945:
In the matter of evacuation of American ex-prisoners of war from Poland I have been informed that the approval for General Deane to survey the United States prisoners of war situation in Poland has been withdrawn. You stated in your last message to me that there was no need to accede to my request that American aircraft be allowed to carry supplies to Poland and to evacuate the sick. I have information that I consider positive and reliable that there are still a considerable number of sick and injured Americans in hospitals in Poland and also that there have been, certainly up to the last few days and possible still are, large numbers of other liberated American prisoners either at Soviet assembly points or wandering about in small groups not in contact with Soviet authorities looking for American contact officers.
I cannot, in all frankness, understand your reluctance to permit American contact officers, with the necessary means, to assist their own people in this matter. This Government has done everything to meet each of your requests. I now request you to meet mine in this particular matter. Please call Ambassador Harriman to explain to you in detail my desires.
March 22, 1945, President Roosevelt received Marshal Stalin's reply:
I am in receipt of your message about the evacuation of former US prisoners of war from Poland.
With regard to your information about allegedly large numbers of sick and injured Americans in Poland or awaiting evacuation to Odessa, or who have not contacted the Soviet authorities, I must say that the information is inaccurate. Actually, apart from a certain number who are on their way to Polish soil as of March 16, I have today received a report which says that the 17 men will be flown to Odessa in a few days.
With reference to the request contained in your message I must say that if it concerned me personally I would be ready to give way even to the detriment of my own interests. But in the given instance the matter concerns the interest of Soviet armies at the front and of Soviet commanders who do not want to have around odd officers who, while having no relation to the military operations, need looking after, want all kinds of meetings and contacts, protection against possible acts of sabotage by German agents not yet ferreted out, and other things that divert the attention of the commanders and their subordinates from their direct duties. Our commanders bear full responsibility for the state of affairs at the front and in the immediate rear, and I do not see how I can restrict their rights to any extent.
I must also say that US ex-prisoners of war liberated by the Red Army have been treated to good conditions in Soviet camps--better conditions that those afforded Soviet ex-prisoners of war in US camps, where some of them were lodged with German war prisoners and were subjected to unfair treatment and unlawful persecutions, including beating, as has been communicated to the U.S.Government on more than one occasion.
President Roosevelt apparently accepted Marshal Stalin's explanation. Ambassador Harriman's and General Deane's suggestion to allow
...our prisoners of war en route to Naples to give stories to the newspapers of the hardships they have been subjected to between point of liberation and arrival at Odessa and that in answer to questions of correspondents, the War Department explain the provisions to our agreement and the Soviet Government's failure to carry out the provisions of our agreement according to any reasonable interpretation...was rejected.
In fact, four days after Marshal Stalin's reply, General George C. Marshall, the US Chief of Staff, issued an order on a "revised policy" to the US Military Mission in Moscow and other Allied European commands which read:
Superseding WARK-54401 to Deane and Giles is revised policy liberated prisoners: Individual interviews authorized provided personnel briefed beforehand against disclosure camp intelligence activities, evasion and escape briefings equipment. Censor all stories. Delete criticism Russian treatment.
This new policy effectively ensured the public perception that the Soviet Union was a stout ally of the United States. In fact, there was good reason to order the censorship of all stories criticizing Soviet treatment of US POWs that the Red Army had "liberated" from Nazi control.
A SECRET OSS report dated June 18, 1945, detailed; '... an informal interview with Lt.Col.William F.Fenell...who recently returned from Russia where he was stationed at...Odessa, since early this year, mainly as a contact man with the Russians on problems connected with repatriation of American prisoners of war freed by the Russians. Toward the end of his stay he apparently became persona non grata with the Russians for he was suddenly ordered to leave by the American command and take the first boat out of Odessa, regardless of where it was going...
Under the subtitle of TREATMENT OF AMERICAN POWs the OSS report read:
American POWs freed by the Red Army were in the main treated very shabbily and came to hate the Russians. Many of them were robbed of watches, rings, and other personal possessions which they had managed to retain even after extended periods of captivity under the Germans. Their food at Odessa was very poor, consisting mainly of soup with cucumbers in it and sour black bread. The Russians generally tended to throw obstacles in the war of repatriation, frequently calling off shipments at the last minute and insisting always upon clearance from Moscow for every prisoner released. American POWs at Odessa were guarded by Russian soldiers carrying loaded rifles with fixed bayonets, and Russian security was more stringent there than German security had been in the various Stalags and Oflags. A number of American officers who went to Poland at various times to coordinate the hunt for liberated POWs were ordered out very quickly at Russian insistence.
Despite the fact that Moscow was clearing the release of every US prisoner held in Red Army territory---literally releasing them one at a time---U.S. forces were ordered:
...that no repeat no retaliatory action will be taken by US forces at this time for Soviet refusal to meet our desires with regard to American contact teams and aid for American personnel liberated by Russian forces.
SOME INCLINATION TO BLACKMAIL US
The Soviets also refused the British contact teams access to their prisoners in Red Army controlled territory who came under Soviet control when the Red Army overran Nazi prison camps. A British government cable dated April 20, 1945, from the Acting Secretary of State, Sir Orme Sargent, to Lord Halifax, then the British Ambassador to the United States reads:
It is clear that Soviet Government will not allow our contact teams into Poland. The Russians deny the existence of any British prisoners of war in Poland but we have evidence that there are prisoners of war concentrated at Cracow and Czestochow and in hospitals. This is a clear breach of the Yalta agreement...We have therefore turned to the Red Cross channel...
The same day that Lord Halifax received the above telegram, Sergeant, sent Lord Halifax a telegram that the Soviets have
...some inclination to blackmail us into dealing with Warsaw authorities.
In other words, the Soviets were attempting to force the British to give de facto recognition to the Soviet puppet Polish Provisional government, the same demand that Ambassador Harriman believed was being pressed by the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Molotov, in order to end the "serious hardships from lack of food, clothing, medical attention, et cetera," of US soldiers, about which Ambassador Harriman cabled the US Secretary of State.
The US and British forces, meanwhile, were living up to the Yalta agreement. Soviet liaison officers were infused into the Allied command structure, and these Soviet officers went about their business of assisting Allied forces to repatriate, forcibly, or otherwise, Soviet and Eastern European citizens and soldiers who were in Allied controlled territory. As cable a from Eisenhower's Deputy Commander, a British Marshal, states
... that we now have 153 Soviet Liaison Officers working under the direction of Major General Dragun who is charged with the responsibility of assisting us in the problem of repatriation.
2. That each Army Group has an organization to handle repatriation matters, and in these organizations we have woven Soviet Liaison Officers who are doing valuable work.
Soviet liaison officers assisting with repatriations of Soviets in Allied control, were taken to one camp, set up---in accordance with the Yalta agreement---for Soviet citizens and soldiers, in Bari, Italy where, as reported to the U.S.Secretary of State in a TOP SECRET cable:
Russians were permitted and encouraged to set up their own camp administration. Russians of all categories are accepted at Florence camp, outfitted with clothing, PX supplies and same facilities as for United States personnel. After minimum processing they are flown to Bari to await shipment to Russia. When Soviet military missions representatives were taken to inspect both camps, they [Soviet liaison officers] expressed and said treatment was `too good.'
THEY BEGGED TO BE SHOT...NINE MEN HANGED THEMSELVES
Less than a week after the Secretary of State received the above cited cable, he received a pre-meeting briefing memorandum to prepare for his meeting with the Soviet Commisar of Foreign Affairs. With regard to the repatriation issue, the Secretary of State was advised to assure Mr.Molotov,
...that we have no intention of holding Soviet citizens after the collapse of Germany regardless of whether they desire to return to the Soviet Union of not.
In other words, the United States was fully committed to the policy of forcible repatriation. The Yalta agreement included the principle of "forced repatriation" of all Soviet citizens, meaning, any Soviet citizen, regardless of whether they wanted to return to the Soviet Union, were forcibly sent back to the life under Stalin. This agreement, the Allies initially believed, would result in the repatriation of all of their soldiers and citizens. This provision of the Yalta agreement, in large part, the Allies abided by, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of those forcibly repatriated to Soviet control were either shot or sent to forced labor camps.
In fact, when Lieutenant General Courtney H.Hodges, Commander, First US Army inquired of Eisenhower's staff at Supreme Allied Headquarters,
...as to how much force an Army Commander should use in the control of displaced Russians...Talking with Judge McCloy today, he agreed that of course an Army Commander could use any force necessary to insure the success of his operations.
Many Soviet citizens did not want to return to Soviet occupied territory, since those Soviets captured by the Germans, and recovered by Allied forces, were often recovered in German work camp uniforms. These Soviets captured by the Germans had been given the option of starving or join a labor battalion. Most joined German labor battalions. Once repatriated to the Soviet Union, many of these Soviets were imprisoned immediately in slave labor camps. However, the Soviets sent to slave labor camps were considered lucky, since the others were often shot.
As a result, Soviet citizens and soldiers in Allied control were extremely reluctant to be repatriated. The following description is of an attempt by Allied soldiers to repatriate 339 former Russian soldiers by train to the Soviet Union:
All of these men refused to entrain. They begged to be shot. They resisted entrainment by taking off their clothing and refusing to leave their quarters. It was necessary to use tear gas and some force to drive them out. Tear gas forced them out of the building into snow where those who had cut themselves fell exhausted and bleeding in the snow. Nine men hanged themselves and one had stabbed himself to death and one other who had stabbed himself subsequently died; while 20 others are in the hospital for self inflicted wounds. The entrainment was finally effected of 368 men who were sent off accompanied by a Russian liaison officer on a train carrying American guards. Six men escaped enroute. A number of men in the group claimed they were not Russians...
SOVIETS DENY ACCESS TO CAMPS IN PACIFIC THEATER
In the Pacific theater, even though the Soviets were late-comers in the war effort against Japan, they managed to take control of territory just across the Soviet Union's contiguous borders with Manchuria, China..as well as the northern islands of Japan. In doing so, the Soviets were able to seize some Japanese POW camps holding Allied prisoners.
In 1945, during the closing days of the war with Japan, US military intelligence "Mercy Teams" were sent into China and Manchuria to arrange for the well-being of the Allied POWs in Japanese camps. Generally, Japanese troop commanders cooperated with the Mercy Teams, but the Soviets (as in Europe) and Chinese Communists denied Mercy Teams access to camps in areas under their control.
A cable from the Secretary of State to the United States Political Advisor for Germany states that the State Department "has been anxious in handling" the return of Soviet citizens and soldiers from Western Europe" to avoid giving the Soviet authorities any pretext fro delaying the return of American POWs of Japanese now in Soviet occupied zone, particularly Manchuria.
The Soviets even sent a delegation to Hanoi to forcibly repatriate any French Foreign Legionnaires POWs in custody of the Japanese who were identified as citizens of the Soviet Union, or as citizens of any of the east bloc nations, were surrendered by the Allies to the Soviets.
76,000 AMERICAN POWs STILL...WITHIN RUSSIAN ZONE
Five days after victory was announced in Europe (V-E Day), the ASSOCIATED PRESS, from Allied Advance Headquarters in Reims, France reported that
Nearly half of the estimated 200,000 British and 76,000 American prisoners of war still in Germany are believed to be within the Russian zone of occupation and Supreme Headquarters has twice requested a meeting or an agreement to arrange their return.
Ten days later, a meeting between the Soviet and Allied command took place. The meeting at Halle, Germany, on May 22, 1945, was:
"...for the purpose of conferring with representatives of the Russian High Command on the matter of repatriation of prisoners of war and displaced persons..."
Lieutenant General K.D. Golubev, Red Army, Soviet Assistant Administrator for Repatriation, led the Soviet delegation, and Major General R.W.Barker, USA, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, SHAEF led the Allied delegation.
One of the points of discussion at this meeting was the failure of the Soviets to provide U.S.and British liaison officers permission to visit their fellow soldiers who were formerly POWs held by the Germans and who were now being held in camps in Red Army occupied territory. In a cable from Eisenhower's Deputy Commander, British Marshall Tedder, to various Allied Command officials and US diplomats, Marshall Tedder describes Soviet duplicity and policy on this matter:
Before the HALLE Conference we had made numerous attempts to visit POW Camps in the Russian Zone and always met a firm refusal. After the HALLE Conference General GOLEBEV asked to visit Camps where Russians were being kept. We agreed and asked him for permission to visit Camps in the Russian Zone. He agreed to allow 1 of our Officers to visit 5 Camps. One of my representatives started on the trip accompanied by a Russian Major who stated he had the necessary orders. After visiting the first and nearest Camp the Russian Officer produced orders signed by General GOLUBEV restricting our Officers visit to the one Camp. This is the only instance of Soviet authorities permitting US or British Officers visit Camps in their area, which is in sharp contract to the liberal policy pursued by us.
AMERICAN POWs WERE, IN EFFECT, BEING HELD HOSTAGE
From the beginning of the six day conference in Halle, Germany, it was for the Allies, a difficult meeting. In his post meeting report, Barker wrote:
When the Russian Mission was finally assembled it numbered some forty officers and forty to fifty enlisted men. Among the Russian officers were one Lieutenant General and six Major Generals. The Russian party arrived in requisitioned German vehicles of all makes, and American type armored car, fully equipped [armed], and a radio truck, which was in operation most of the time. All Russian male personnel were heavily armed with pistols, submachine guns and rifles.
The meeting began with the Soviets refusing to allow repatriation of Allied soldiers by air transport, which made the entire repatriation process much more cumbersome and logistically difficult. As Barker described:
After opening statements...I proposed the immediate initiation of steps looking toward prompt release and return to Allied control of all British and American prisoners of war then in Russian custody, using air and motor transport. This proposal was firmly resisted by General GOLUBEV, who cited all manner of local administrative difficulties which precluded the operation. He stated that serviceable airfields did not exist, which was known by myself to be not the case and I so informed him. The Russian position was very clear that neither now, nor at any time in the future, would they permit Allied airplanes to be used for the movement into or out of their territory of prisoners of war or displaced persons, except Distinguished persons, sick or wounded.'
After the initial meetings with the Soviets, lower lever discussions were held by the parties in an attempt to work out mutually acceptable arrangements. However, as Barker wrote, these meetings "having proven futile," the decision was made that all discussions were to be;
...carried on directly between the heads of the Mission, with certain members of their respective parties in attendance. On the Russian side, those present numbered normally from twenty to twenty-five, including several general officers. The SHAEF representatives in attendance normally were myself, General MICKELSEN, Brigadier VENABLES and two to four representatives of the technical services.
Barker wrote that it was after the first four-hour session of the meeting in Halle, Germany that
...the SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters of the Allied European Forces] representatives came to the firm conviction that British and American prisoners of war were, in effect, being held hostage by the Russians until deemed expedient by them to permit their release.
This is the first high level report that openly suggested that the Soviets may not repatriate all of the Allied POWs in Red Army occupied territory. In fact, after six days of meetings with the Soviets, Barker concluded;
There is ever indication that the Russians intend to make a big show of rapid repatriation of our men, although I am of the opinion that we may find a reluctance to return them all, for an appreciable time to come, since those men constitute a valuable bargaining point. It will be necessary for us, therefore, to arrange for constant liaison and visits of inspection to `uncover' our men...
ONLY SMALL NUMBERS OF US POWs STILL REMAIN IN RUSSIAN HANDS
On May 19, four days before the start of the Halle meeting, a cable signed by Eisenhower at the Allies Supreme Headquarters, stated that:
Numbers of US prisoners estimated in Russian control 25,000.
After the Halle meeting, given Barker's conclusion that British and American prisoners of war were, in effect, being held hostage by the Russians and that the Soviets were reluctant to return them all, for an appreciable time to come, since those men constitute a valuable bargaining point," the return of all US and British POWs held in Red Army occupied territory appeared to be in serious doubt.
Furthermore, a TOP SECRET May 31, 1945 letter from Major General John R. Deane, the U.S.Army Commanding General of the US Military Mission in Moscow to Lt. General Slavin, the Assistant Chief of the Red Army in Moscow indicated that the Soviets were still holding over 15,500 US "liberated" POWs. Dean's letter stated:
I have a cable from General Marshall in which he states he has received information which indicates that 15,597 United States liberated prisoners of war are now under control of Marshal Tolbukhin.
The day before Major General Deane sent his letter to Lt. General Slavin, General Kenner, Eisenhower's Surgeon General at SHAEF Headquarters, received a memorandum on the subject "Displaced Persons, Allied ex-PW and German POW. The following accounting from the Kenner memorandum detailed the number of Allied ex POW and Displaced Persons Allied Supreme Command reported were being held captive in territory occupied by the Red Army on May 30, 1945:
2. Russian Sphere:
The Kenner memorandum, dated May 30, 1945, stated 20,000 Americans remained under Red Army control.
Major General Deane requested information from the Assistant Chief of the Red Army in Moscow about over 15,500 Americans the Soviets were believed to be holding in a letter dated May 31, 1945. Therefore, it is difficult to reconcile these facts with a cable signed by Eisenhower on June 1, 1945, which read:
C. It is now estimated that only small numbers of US prisoners of war still remain in Russian hands. These no doubt are scattered singly and in small groups as no information is available of any large numbers in specific camps. They are being received now only in small driblets and being reported as received.
Everything possible is being done to recover US personnel and to render accurate and prompt reports thereon to the War Department.
The claim of the second Eisenhower cable that "only small numbers of US prisoners of war still remain in Russian hands" and that these "no doubt are scattered singly and in small groups as no information is available of any large numbers in specific camps," directly contradicts the information in the Kenner memorandum which states, a mere 48 hours earlier, that 20,000 U.S.POWs were still being held by the Red Army.
Furthermore, it directly contradicts the information in General Deane's letter dated the day before that "information which indicated that 15,597 United States liberated prisoners of war are now under control of Marshal Tolbukhin." Given the contents of Major General Deane's TOP SECRET letter, and given the contents of the Kenner memorandum, the Eisenhower cable of June 1 appears to be an attempt to gloss over a serious problem.
At any rate, the Eisenhower cable was merely following the official news propaganda line. On the same day as the cable stating "only small numbers of US prisoners of war still remain in Russian hands," The New York Times reported the War Department had announced that;
" ...substantially all' of the American soldiers taken prisoner in Europe are accounted for, Undersecretary Robert P. Patterson said `This means that it is not expected that many of those who are still being carried as missing in action will appear later as having been prisoners of war."
In other words, on June 1, 1945, the US government's public position was that most American GIs taken prisoner have come home and been repatriated, even though the classified cable traffic for the previous fortnight was reporting between 15,000 and 20,000 still held.
ITEMS `POWs (CURRENT STATUS)'...ARE STILL LARGE
On June 5, 1945, Allied command, from its headquarters in Paris, France, announced that 25,000 of some 90.000 men who had returned from German POW camps after the Allied military victory were men who had been listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Given that 90,000 US soldiers had returned at the time of the announcement, and that the U.S.War Department, for the European Theater had records of 77,500 US "Prisoners Taken," 102,500 Americans should have returned form Europe, not 90,000.
In other words, the sum of 77,500 known POWs and 25,000 returned MIAs equals 102,500 American soldiers; however, only some 90,000 were repatriated. These numbers may be summarized in tabular form:
However, the total number of men who were repatriated in June, 1945, were only 90,000. The net number not repatriated, therefore, is as follows:
The conclusion is that even a rudimentary assessment of the Allies' own figures suggests that some 12,500 Americans were never repatriated from Red Army controlled territory.
However, the 12,500 figure is significantly lower than the 20,000 POWs known to be in Soviet control as detailed in the Kenner memorandum, which was written 48 hours before the War Department's announcement that "it is not expected that many of those who are still being carried as missing in action will appear."
Was the figure 20,000 US POWs still held in Red Army occupied territory cited in the SHAEF memorandum to General Kenner correct? Was the real figure closer to 12,500 Americans kept as slave laborers and hostages by the Red Army, as indicated by the Allies own public figures announced by Lt. Colonel Schweitzer? Or, was the correct number of American soldiers not repatriated by the Soviets the figure cited by Major General Deane, in his May 31, 1945 letter to the Soviets, that "indicated" 15,597 Americans soldiers were under the control of Marshal Tolbukhin?
On February 25, 1946, some eight months later, the Chief of the Strength Accounting Office in the War Department's Chief of Staff Office, transmitted to the National Headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington, DC, a "chart showing Missing in Action (including captured) US Army personnel for the period 7 December 1941, through 31 December 1945.
In his letter Ballard stated:
It will be noted that the items "Prisoners of War (Current Status) and Missing in Action (Current Status) are still large. The reason of course is that as of 31 December 1945 these categories reflected latest definite reports available for statistical compilation, and the situation to date has not materially changed. You will appreciate that for statistical purposes these casualties cannot be moved to other categories until detailed disposition records have been processed. In many cases, final disposition must await a legal determination of death under PL 490 which may take up to next September, even though investigation to date leaves little logical doubt that a given man is permanently lost...
The forgoing data was classified "Restricted", but has been approved for release to you.
The chart enclosed with Ballard's letter revealed the following statement, as of December 31, 1945, for the German theaters:
LITTLE LOGICAL DOUBT THAT A GIVEN MAN IS PERMANENTLY LOST
According to the cable above, as of December 31, 1945, 5,414 men were still listed as "POW (Current Status)". Figures for "Prisoners Not Returned to Military Control," essentially the same category as "POW (Current Status)" list 6,595 men in that category as of October 31, 1945. Two months later, the number decreased from 6,595 to the number listed above, 5,414.
Because the number of US prisoners repatriated between October 31, 1945 and December 31, 1945, totaled only 435, (stragglers, no doubt) the decrease in the number of prisoners listed in the POW (Current Status) category from 6,595 to 5,414 cannot be explained merely by the repatriation of 435 POWs still returning from Red Army occupied territory. This still leaves a decrease of 646 men from POW (Current Status) unexplained. (Roughly only 1,000 POWs were repatriated in the last half of 1945.)
The remaining decrease in the number of men still listed as POWs (646) can, however, be explained by the War Department issuing Presumed Findings of Death for these individuals. In fact the numbers in the category of known POWs not returned in June, 1945 were likely to close to or slightly greater than 12,500.
This number would not include MIAs, but only known POWs.
By the end of October, the War Department was likely able to make legal Presumed Findings of Death in some 5,900 cases, leaving the number of "Prisoners Not Returned to Military Control" not 12,500 but 6,595. Thus, the figure of 11,753 Declared Dead under the category Other Missing in Action, in the chart of casualty figures for December 31, 1945, actually represent Presumed Findings of Death (PFDs), as authorized by US law. These PFDs were made from both the MIA (Current Status) list and the POW (Current Status) list, decreasing the numbers in those categories and increasing the number in the Declared Dead category.
As a result, Lt.Col.Ballard felt obligated to explain to the Director of the Relief to Prisoners of War of the Red Cross that for "statistical purposes" the numbers in the Prisoner of War (Current Status) and the Missing in Action (Current Status) were "still large." Ballard explained to the Red Cross that "these casualties cannot be moved to other categories" until each man can be found, legally, to be dead. This finding of death occurs, as Lt. Col. Ballard points out, after an "investigation to date leaves little logical doubt that a given man is permanently lost."
The most striking aspect of these documents is the revelation that the War Departments Chief of the Strength Accounting and Statistic Office, in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the War Department, main function was to resolve each outstanding case by determining--as soon as enough time elapsed top make it legally possible---that each man is "permanently lost," and therefore, dead.
The thrust of the War Department's efforts were not in the direction that most Americans would expect their government to proceed; that is, to make a thorough effort to determine the fate of each man. Given the obvious and observed policy by the Soviet government to hold citizens and soldiers from Western countries, known to senior US officials, Lt.Col.Ballard's efforts should have been concentrated on determining where the Soviets were holding these men, and not merely to "await a legal determination of death under PL 490 which may take up to next September."
Thus, the bureaucratic precedents created in World War I in the cases of "presumed death" among these missing from the American Expeditionary force were once again followed. Thousands of US personnel who were known to be POWs held by the Germans in World War II, but, were not repatriated once the territory they were being held in was occupied by Red Army, and were legally determined to be dead.
Did Ike abandon WWII POWs? Judge For Yourself...
NO INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE OF ANY LARGE NUMBERS...
Where were these thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Europeans?
Nearly a month after the Eisenhower cable claimed that "only small numbers of US prisoners of war still remain in Russian hands" and that these "no doubt are scattered singly and in small groups, as no information is available of any large numbers in specific camps," Eisenhower sent a SECRET PRIORITY cable to General Deane in Moscow which read:
Possibility that several hundred American prisoners of war liberated from Stalag Luft 1, Berth, are now confined by the Russian Army in the Rostock area pending identification as Americans is reported by an American who recently returned from such confinement.
S/Sgt. Anthony Sherg was one of 1000 air force officers non-commissioned officers who left Stalag Luft 1, immediately prior to assumption of control in Barth by the Red Army in order to obtain rumored air transport from Wismar. The group of ten in which Sgt. Sherg travelled was arrested by Russian soldiers and held in jails in Bad Dorberan, then Rostock. Ten others Americans were soon under similar circumstances in Rostock.
Russian authorities demanded identification papers, which no prisoner possessed, and refused to consider dog tags proof of the Americans' status.
The Americans were well fed and well treated but Sherg complains there was no disposition to speed identification and evacuation. After 25 days he escaped from jail and made his way to British Forces.
From his own observations and conversations with other former prisoners he believes several hundred Americans may be held in like circumstances in the Wismar-Bad Doberan-Rostock Area.
LAGER CONFINES WILL NEVER BE REPATRIATED
In fact, there continued to be many reports of Americans being held by the Soviets. For example, the catalogue of the National Archives lists a memorandum from the State Department Special Projects Division, date February 6, 1946, regarding a conversation between Colonel Kavanaugh, from War Department and Captain George, and Mr.Baily, regarding Doolittle fliers interned by the Soviet Union.
Again, a letter to the leader of France's National Constituent Assembly dated August 17, 1946 from the Deputy of the Bas-Rhin stated:
I have brought to the attention of the Minister for ex-Prisoners of War the testimony of Mr. Joseph Bogenschutz, 55 Grand Rue, at Mulhouse (Haut Rhin), who was repatriated on last July 7 from Russia, from Camp 199-6 at Inskaya, which is 70 kilometers from Novisibirsk[...]Bogenschutz states that he wrote at least three cards a month through the Red Cross (Red Crescent) since September 1944 and that none of these cards ever arrived. Bogenschutz, in addition thereto, alleges that there still remain American, British, Belgian, Polish, Rumanian Luxemburg, etc. nationals in the Camp.
Another example is a report from the Headquarters of the United States Forces in Austria, to the Director of Intelligence, the General Staff of the U.S. Army, dated June 15, 1946 which stated:
SUBJECT: USSR - American Army Personnel in Confinement
SUMMARY OF INFORMATION:
The following information was obtained from a former forced laborer who claimed to have been confined in an unregistered lager with Subject personnel. Informant claimed to have been released through an error committed by the commandant of the Moscow hospital where she was transferred because of infantile paralysis.
Approximately 60 km from Moscow, in the direction of Kaline, there is an unregistered labor camp. The confinees, 150 men and 50 women, work in coal mines in the vicinity of the camp. Among those confined are 3 American Air Force soldiers who were captured by the German Wehmacht, Czechoslovakia, during, April 1945. These men are:
Charlie, 21 years, 170 cm, blond, blue eyes, has paralyzed right shoulder.
Joe...165 cm, dark blond, dark eyes, has stomach wound and is confined in lager infirmary.
Albert, 27 years, 170 cm, black hair, brown eyes, has stiff left hip and burn scar on left side of face, is from Texas. The lager confinees will never be repatriated and are not permitted to write letters.
The reasons that the Soviets kept US POWs and other Western European citizens and POWs are difficult for the citizens of free countries to fathom. However, one may speculate on at least five explanations:
First, for economic concessions, or as Major Vershenko stated, for `credits.'
Second, to satisfy the Soviet view --as described by Molotov-- that it "was dangerous" merely to disarm an adversary (or in the case of the US, an ally who may be a future adversary) but it was also necessary to "make them work."
Third, as a source of slave labor to rebuild their industrial base.
Fourth, as the British cable stated, to satisfy the Soviet "inclination to blackmail us into dealing with Warsaw authorities" and for other political concessions.
Fifth, to ensure that the Allies forcibly repatriated Russian and other eastern European citizens who did not wish to return to their countries under Soviet control.
The daughter of one such US Army officer, Major Wirt Thompson, was never told that in 1955 a German repatriate from the Soviet concentration camp system reported to the United States government that while he was in prison, he met Major Thompson. The German repatriate told American officials that Thompson told him that he had been imprisoned at Budenskaya prison near Moscow, and also in the Tayshet labor camp after World War II.
Not only was Thompson's daughter "overwhelmed" when she found out early in 1991 that this information existed, but she wondered how her family could have been told by the United States government in 1944 that Major Thompson had been killed in action, body not recovered.
1. Source:http://www.aiipowmia.com/wwii/wwiiwkgrp.html Archive ©AII POW-MIA Use
All items used with permission of the originating organization
The United States Army Infantry Divisions