Massacre at Malmedy by Michael Reynolds
I was not favorably impressed by this article. In his treatment of the "Massacre at Malmedy" the author examined the killings of 86 captured American soldiers from Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion on the road from Baugnez , Belgium on 17 Dec 1944. The author then concluded:
"In summary, it can be said that there is no evidence to support the idea of a premeditated massacre--particularly in view of the fact that over half the Americans in the field survived both the main shooting and the administration of coup de grâce shots by the Germans who entered the field. Nor is it reasonable to suggest that the main body of the Kampfgruppe mistook the men in the field for a fresh combat unit, or that there was a mass escape attempt that caused the Germans to open fire.
So how do we explain the shootings at the Baugnez crossroads on December 17, 1944? There seem to be only two reasonable explanations. The first is that it started in response to a specific escape attempt. Someone saw two or three Americans make the break described in a sworn statement made to Lieutenant Schumacker in October 1945; that person then opened fire and this in turn caused a commotion in the field as some of the prisoners tried to push through their comrades to the west. But this movement, and the fact that at least one and probably two Americans had by then escaped from the field, only exacerbated the situation, and other Germans in the vicinity then fired. Even if this theory is accepted, however, it in no way excuses the deliberate killing of wounded prisoners by those Germans who then entered the field.
The other explanation is that faced with the problem of what to do with so many prisoners, someone made a deliberate decision to shoot them. And it is significant that the majority of the American survivors spoke of a single German taking deliberate aim with his pistol and then firing two shots at the prisoners. The sheer number of Americans in the field and the fact that they were standing in a group meant that many were physically shielded by the bodies of their comrades. This explanation would then require that, after the main shooting, it was necessary to send soldiers into the field to finish off the survivors."
The author was either unaware of, or chose to ignore, the fact that the term "Malmedy massacre" was a general descriptive term for 11 separate incidents involving units of the 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler," which were charged as war crimes by an American military tribunal. These war crimes charges involved the killings of:
(1) 86 captured American soldiers on the road from Baugnez , Belgium on 17 Dec 1944
(2) 50 captured American soldiers around Bullingen 17 Dec 1944
(3) 19 other American POWs at Honnsfeld, Belgium 17 Dec 1944
(4) 93 civilians at Stavelot, Belgium 18 Dec 1944
(5) 31 captured American soldiers at Cheneux, Belgium 18 Dec 1944
(6) 8 other American POWs at Stavelot 19 Dec 1944
(7) 44 American POWs at Stoumont on 19 Dec 1944
(8) 5 Belgian civilians around Wanne, Belgium 20 Dec 1944
(9) over 100 American POWs at La Gleize, Belgium on 18 Dec, 21 Dec and 22 Dec 1944
By only looking at a portion of the "Malmedy massacre," the author has missed the larger pattern. There were 11 separate massacre incidents involving the same Waffen-SS units in a period of only six days. These killings were not a "mistake," nor did they result from a misunderstanding. The commanders of those SS units gave or transmitted "no prisoner" orders, resulting in the deliberate murder of a large number of American POWs and Belgian civilians.