May 2017 Readers’ Letters | HistoryNet MENU
On Jan. 27, 1981, well-wishers in Washington, D.C., greeted busloads of released hostages who had spent 444 days in captivity in Iran. Who deserves credit for their release?

May 2017 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
4/17/2017 • Military History, MH Letters

Iran Hostage Crisis
[Re. “444 Days in Hell,” March:] Ron Soodalter was too kind to President Carter in his article on the Iran hostage crisis. Soodalter claims Carter, through successful negotiation, got the hostages released in l4 months. I’d hardly call that successful. Yes, the survival of the hostages was certainly the main goal. But one must not deal with terrorists. The embassy personnel knew what they were getting into when they took their jobs.

Why credit Carter for the release of the hostages? Iran promptly released the hostages when Ronald Reagan was sworn in.

Tom R. Kovach
Nevis, Minn.

Fall Out
The picture on P. 80 [“Fall Out,” Captured] of the January issue grabbed me. I was stationed in Tokyo from 1949 until 1952 with Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters. Sometime before the Korean War the Joint Chiefs of Staff came over to visit with Mac. While they were there, we were to pass in review on the Imperial Palace grounds. We all wore our khaki uniforms and a helmet liner on our heads. As we stood there in the heat waiting for the VIPs to get ready, I heard a bonk and a clunk, and to my right one GI was stretched out just as the soldier in your picture was. I don’t remember what happened prior to the parade, or what I did after it, but that bonk-clunk really caught my attention.

I was 17 when I went over and 20 when I came home. Along the way an old soldier told me to wiggle my knees when standing in ranks to prevent passing out. I used that technique many times.

Your picture is interesting in several ways. One soldier, second from the end, is catching a glimpse of the downed guy. Another guy two spaces away from the downed man has moved his leg and his rifle. Was he stepping off prematurely or doing a variation of my knee wiggle? Or was he ready to go down too?

Great magazine.

Don Killmeyer
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Yank in the SS
Ron Soodalter’s excellent piece [“A Yank in the SS,” January] on 1st Lt. Martin Monti’s treason led me to look at the record of trial in his court-martial and subsequent trial in U.S. District Court.

As incredible as it may seem, the Army really had no idea Monti had joined the Waffen-SS. On the contrary, while some agents who interviewed Monti in 1945 were suspicious of his story about escaping with the help of Italian partisans, his tale was not improbable. Consequently, he only was court-martialed for desertion and larceny of the P-5E Lightning.

As for President Truman’s commutation of Monti’s 15-year sentence and his restoration to active duty as an enlisted soldier, this was quite typical for the immediate post–World War II era. Hundreds of soldiers with lengthy prison sentences for desertion (and other nonviolent offenses) were languishing in prisons, and the Army wanted to reduce its prison population as part of its own demobilization, downsizing and reorganizing. So Monti’s restoration to active duty as an enlisted trooper was pretty typical.

The really interesting story is his prosecution in U.S. District Court in New York, and I can add some details to Soodalter’s article. According to the court records in Monti’s federal prosecution, Monti’s decision to plead guilty was not really a surprise. After Monti’s two defense lawyers (both of whom were highly respected) reviewed all the government’s evidence, they advised their client there was overwhelming proof of treason, and he would be found guilty if he proceeded to a full-blown trial. Additionally, they told Monti that his status as an Army officer was such an aggravating factor, he would probably receive a death sentence, or at least a life sentence. But Monti’s lawyers had learned from off-the-record conversations with the prosecutor and the trial judge that if their client pleaded guilty to treason and threw himself on the mercy of the court, he would probably get 30 years in jail. When Monti in fact got 25 years in jail, it was clear his defense lawyers had given him good advice.

Fred L. Borch III
Regimental Historian & Archivist
Judge Advocate General’s School
U.S. Army
Charlottesville, Va.

 

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