Were atrocities committed by the 45 (US) Division in Sicily?

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Re: Were atrocities committed by the 45 (US) Division in Sic

Post by David Thompson » 01 Jan 2011 17:52

Panzermahn -- You wrote:
It would be most interesting to know if the court martial of Sergeant West for the massacre at Biscari were because of this violation of the US Army Laws of Land Warfare
If a country punishes members of its own armed forces for violations of the laws or customs of war, it usually does it as a violation of that country's articles of war. This shows the the enemy army and the rest of the world that the country does not condone such acts and is willing and able to enforce discipline within its own army. Where the defendant is a foreign belligerent, however, the only way that the offended country has the right to punish is by a war crimes trial or an exercise of its rights under the pre-existing customs and usages of war. For that reason, self-disciplinary measures within an army are usually conducted pursuant to that country's system of military law, and trials of belligerents are conducted pursuant to international law.

See these sections of the 1943 Laws of Land Warfare text referenced above:
Military jurisdiction is of two kinds: First, that which is conferred and defined by statute; second, that which is derived from the common law of war. Military offenses under the statute law must be tried in the manner therein directed; but military offenses which do not come within the statute must be tried and punished under the common law of war. The character of the courts which exercise these jurisdictions depends upon the local laws of each particular country.

In the armies of the United States the first is exercised by courts-martial, while cases which do not come within the "Rules and Articles of War," or the jurisdiction conferred by statute or courts-martial, are tried by military commissions.
(p. 158)
Crimes punishable by all penal codes, such as arson, murder, maiming, assaults, highway robbery, theft, burglary, fraud, forgery, and rape, if committed by an American soldier in a hostile country against its inhabitants, are not only punishable as at home, but in all cases in which death is not inflicted, the severer punishment shall be preferred.
(p. 165)
A prisoner of war remains answerable for his crimes committed against the captor's army or people, committed before he was captured, and for which he has not been punished by his own authorities.
(p. 168)

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Re: Were atrocities committed by the 45 (US) Division in Sic

Post by JamesL » 01 Jan 2011 19:54

Marcus - Co. C, 505th PIR landed about 25 miles from its planned drop zone. I have not yet been able to determine its exact landing spot. Therefore, I do not yet have knowledge of the Italian forces charged with defending that area. I have some books on reserve on interlibrary loan and may be able to learn more.

In American law a person's dying declaration is given great weight. There is a belief that a dying person has no reason to lie.

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Re: Were atrocities committed by the 45 (US) Division in Sic

Post by Marcus » 01 Jan 2011 20:02

Thanks James.


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Re: Were atrocities committed by the 45 (US) Division in Sic

Post by JamesL » 02 Jan 2011 01:46

Apparently Company C landed in Avola, Sicily, an area designated for capture by the British 50th Infantry Division. Pfc. Scambelluri landed in the courtyard of the local Italian Army garrison. There the commandant ordered 2 Italian soldiers to execute Pfc. Scambelluri. One shot the Pfc. 7 times in the stomach with a small caliber Beretta pistol. Then they tried to finish him off with grenades. Both Italian soldiers were later captured and BOTH were shot. No word on the commandant.

Later the British infantry came across 2 more members of Company C who were executed by the Italians. (Corporal Howard S. Owens plus one un-named Soldier.)

Avola was in the area of responsibility of the Italian 206th Coastal Defense Division, 146th Coastal Defense Regiment.

The incidents were said to be reported by Stars and Stripes newspaper but I have not yet found the actual articles.

The 45th ID was not involved with Company C but I suspect they got word of the murders.

Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
http://books.google.com/books?id=ecngJ- ... ly&f=false
pages 73-74.

The Battle of Sicily, Mitcham and Von Stauffenberg, 1991.
Last edited by JamesL on 02 Jan 2011 17:58, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Were atrocities committed by the 45 (US) Division in Sic

Post by PFLB » 02 Jan 2011 06:23

You would still find that in most countries military courts applying international law have tended to compensate for its vagueness by referring the law which is most familiar to them, that is, the law applied to members of the armed forces.

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