We affectionately refer to our veterans of World War II as “the greatest generation” but not all soldiers returned home as heroes. Nearly 100 American soldiers were court-martialed, convicted, and executed for crimes including rape, murder, and desertion and are buried in an American military cemetery in France in graves marked not with names, but only with numbers. The wheels of justice moved quickly for the accused soldiers, and although the Army did its best to ensure the trials were fair, a review of the wartime legal system led to significant changes after the conflict.
This dark chapter of American WWII history is recounted in the book The Fifth Field, by Col. French MacLean, who will speak on the disturbing subject in a program hosted by The Bandy Heritage Center at Dalton State College on Monday, November 11.
After a decade of poring over the files, MacLean has concluded that three of the condemned soldiers were likely not guilty, 10 others were possibly not guilty, and two dozen others could have received life imprisonment rather than the death penalty because of mitigating circumstances.
A 1974 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Colonel MacLean has served as Inspector General for the United States Army in Europe, professor at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., and was a senior analyst at the Homeland Security Institute. He is the author of 11 books on military history and the recipient of the 2012 John Carroll Award for “Custer’s Best: The Story of Company M, 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn.”
The lecture and book discussion are free and open to the public and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 11 in Room 105 of the James E. Brown Center at Dalton State College.
For more information on this and other Bandy Heritage Center events, contact project director Brian Hilliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706/272-4452.