The British officer carrying the white flag in the photograph of the surrender at Singapore on P. 44 of the article “Translating for the ‘Tiger’” [by Suzanne Pool-Camp, May 2021] was then Maj. (later Col.) Cyril Wild, who had a similar role to U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Harry Pratt in translating for Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita.
Wild spent several years before World War II in Tokyo, where he learned Japanese while working for Shell Oil. In February 1942 Wild, an intelligence officer, translated for Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival during the surrender negotiations with Yamashita in Singapore. As a prisoner of war Wild was a member of a joint British and Australian POW group forced to build the Burma–Thailand “Railway of Death.”
In September 1945, after the Japanese surrender in Singapore, Wild was assigned as a war crimes investigator. In Manila he interrogated Yamashita about his role in atrocities after the Japanese takeover of Singapore in February 1942. Wild had a one-hour interview with Yamashita on Oct. 28, 1945, the day before the trial began. In his report Wild said, “Yamashita gave the impression of speaking the truth when he disclaimed knowledge of these Malayan atrocities.” Wild went on to investigate other Japanese war crimes in Southeast Asia. He was killed in a plane crash in Hong Kong on Sept. 24, 1946, while returning from testifying at the Tokyo war crimes trial.
Wild’s role as a war crimes investigator can be found in my book A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal (2008).
In 1976, while attending the U.S. Army Military Police basic officer course at Fort McClellan, Ala., I visited the Military Police Regimental Museum. One of the displays was the hangman’s noose used to execute Gen. Yamashita. The MP School was eventually moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and I wonder if that item is still displayed or kept in storage.
Editor responds: The MP Regimental Museum has the noose used to execute Gen. Hideki Tojo. But there is a Yamashita-related display at the MacArthur Memorial museum in Norfolk, Va. The exhibit includes Yamashita’s personal effects, as well as the noose and the ropes used to tie his hands when hanged on Feb. 23, 1946. The collection belongs to the family of Charles F. Helderman Jr., an American soldier who had guarded the general in captivity.
“What We Learned From the Battle of Schmidt, 1944” [by David T. Zabecki, January 2021] lacked one major point—having a competent and trusted Army commander in charge. Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges was far from competent. His actions during the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest proved that. The man commanded by fear, firing anyone who did not see things his way or told him the truth. He blamed others for his own failure to understand the strategic and tactical situation. His insistence on World War I–style head-on attacks on well-planned German defensive positions and failure to ensure his soldiers had the correct cold-weather gear bordered on criminal negligence.
The main reason the overall campaign finally went in the Army’s favor was the dogged determination of the U.S. soldier and the fact the Americans had the manpower and logistics to replace their losses. The Germans did not have that luxury. Yet they had the battle won before the first shot was fired because they had competent commanders and soldiers with strong motivation to defend their homeland. Plus they had the weather on their side.
Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley share the blame for the Hürtgen Forest fiasco. They knew of the horrendous American losses and that objectives were not being met, yet they did not relieve Hodges and put a more competent commander in charge. Sad to say, the good ol’ boy West Point network was alive and well during this time, and many American soldiers suffered greatly because of it.
James A. Goodwin II
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This article appeared in the September 2021 issue of Military History. For more stories subscribe here and visit us on Facebook.