If Truth Be Told
The September 2006 “Letter From World War II” commenting on the on-air exchange about the Malmédy massacre between Bill O’Reilly and General Wesley Clark — and Keith Olbermann’s subsequent rebuttal of O’Reilly — has an interesting postscript. The most authoritative book on Malmédy is James J. Weingartner’s excellent A Peculiar Crusade, which documents the complete tragedy and its aftermath — the trial of 74 members of Colonel Joachim Peiper’s SS unit, including Peiper himself, for the murder of the American soldiers.
The trial took place at the Dachau concentration camp. All of the indicted Germans were found guilty, and more than half were sentenced to death, but none were executed. Within 10 years, all had been released from prison, mainly because of the tireless efforts of an American lawyer named Colonel Willis M. Everett Jr.
According to Weingartner, Colonel Everett, a member of Atlanta’s social elite, “jeopardized his social status to defend with great zeal and commitment the accused Germans. His motives were mixed, combining a heroic commitment to justice with sympathy for the German people in their defeat.” After the war, Everett continued the defense, largely at his own expense.
As time went on, feelings about Malmédy cooled, and there was no public outcry when the convicts were released. Peiper, however, was continually dogged by his unit’s actions in World War II. In the 1950s he moved to a small village in France, and later was killed when his farmhouse was set on fire — by what many believe were French Communists.
St. Simons Island, Ga.
As a college-educated baby boomer, I am a longtime subscriber to your magazine and look forward to each issue. I use them when discussing WWII with friends and family, and have even sent issues or articles to friends for their enjoyment and education. I have read many accounts of the Battle of the Bulge (John Toland’s and Charles McDonald’s, among others), and also have your excellent 60th anniversary issue on the battle, which has an insightful article on Malmédy. Too often people get their history from movies or television, which seems to have been Mr. O’Reilly’s source in this case. That is a shame. Many good books provide accurate accounts of events if people would just take the time to read them.
As members of the “Greatest Generation” become fewer and fewer, it will be up to those of us who follow to make sure that George Santayana’s quote about history repeating itself does not bear fruit. Your magazine is doing what it can to make sure that doesn’t happen!
David S. Howell
Distant Links to Baum’s Raid
I greatly enjoyed “A Fool’s Errand” by Eric Niderost (July/August 2006). In 1984 I was in the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed in Schweinfurt, West Germany. Once during my time there, 1st Lt. Andy Nichols led the battalion’s officers on a professional development exercise that retraced the route Abe Baum’s men took to Hammelburg.
At the end of the trip, we were scheduled to visit Hill 427, where Baum’s column was finally forced to surrender. When we arrived at Hammelburg, we were surprised to discover that we had been beaten to our destination by several other tour buses. Even more surprising were the elderly gentlemen who were exiting the buses as we pulled in.
Lieutenant Nichols approached the group and discovered they were veterans who either had been held at Oflag XIIIB or had taken part in the raid. We officers quickly mingled among the group and learned firsthand what it had been like to live the events we were now studying.
Seeing a man 60-plus years old suddenly harden his expression, narrow his eyes and say, “I was under a tree over there with no weapon…some SOB with an MG42 kept pecking at us…kept me awake all night,” quickly bridged the chronological gap separating us, and forged a ready bond between the old soldiers who had already “seen the elephant” and the new generation of soldiers studying for the day when they might have to.
Victor J.R. Duphily III
The story of the failed raid to free Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s son-in-law brought back a few memories of my service in Vietnam. When our unit, the 4th Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, sailed from the Oakland (Calif.) Army terminal on June 6, 1966 — headed for duty in South Vietnam — the commanding general of the United States Army Pacific (USAP) was General John K. Waters, whose headquarters was at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
On the morning of January 9, 1967, D Company (Provisional), 4/503, riding aboard the armored personnel carriers (APCs) of D Company, 16th Armor (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade, punched west from Ben Cat, crossed the Thi Tinh River and secured Landing Zone 6 for the rest of the 4th Battalion. The CO of D/16th Armor was Captain John K. Waters Jr. In the afternoon, the APCs of D/16 and the grunts of D/4-503 Inf. were soon on their way to the Viet Cong stronghold of Ben Suc, located in the Iron Triangle.
I would like to say that while conducting operations with Captain Waters, our small unit was very lucky to have such a great leader in charge of the 173rd’s armor element, and because of his recon by fire the VC stayed in their tunnels while we were in their base of operations. Other units were not as lucky and were engaged in heavy contact during the operation. I personally want to thank Captain Waters for taking such good care of us during combat.
Raymond C. Ramirez
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