12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

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Rob - wssob2
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12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 15 Nov 2008 04:37

Hi I thought it would be a good idea to split this topic (originally discussed at viewtopic.php?f=6&t=109598&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=60 ) into a separate thread.

On the source thread Philip Burke wrote:

hello , new to this forum , in regards to allied aircrew bombing german red cross medical convoys check the ruckmarsche published by after the battle. the researcher is john paul pallud. in it is a serious of photos from normandy of a ambulance convoy clearly marked shot up. in total about twenty vehicles , also no ammo appears.


Dave Thompson replied


For interested readers: 'Rueckmarsche ! The German Retreat From Normandy - Then & Now' by Jean-Paul Pallud ( ATB, ISBN 9 781870 067577 ).
http://www.afterthebattle.com/ruckmarsch.htm

Apparently this is an excellent book -- it's certainly highly recommended by posters in several WWII forums. However, I haven't seen it. Apparently its coverage starts about 7 Aug 1944 with the withdrawal of the Hitlerjugend Division from Normandy through the Falaise Gap, which took place a month or two after the atrocity exchange with the Canadian and British troops immediately after D-Day. Does anyone have access to this book, who can give the rough date of the ambulance-strafing it describes?


Phillip Burke responded


hello the date according to the ruckmarsche is august 17 the scene was witnessed by ss sturmann rudi cihotzki of ss panzer pioner bataillion 9 . on this hill, a column of german ambulances has been shot to pieces by fighter bombers .this is the most gruesome sight i ve seen through out this war.the ambulances are burned out,and in the melted hulks you can make out the remains of men-shrivelled to such an that they look like dolls.other bodies lie strewn around beside the wrecked lorries. the bundersarchive photo ref is 497/3515 and 497/3515A . some of the pictures are on this forum on the falaise photo thread, sorry cant help more


I found something pertaining to this incident in p. 303 of Vol II of Hubert Meyers divisional history of the 12th SS:

“…One day, when wounded Canadians were to be transported to the Korps hospital, they refused to travel by day. Through an interpreter they were asked for their reasons and they stated that ground and air forces had orders to also fire one vehicles marked with the Red Cross since these were transporting weapons, ammunition and supplies to the fighting forces. There is no question, ambulances of the Division were never used to transport ammunition or other supplies, except medical supplies and, of course, wounded. The same is true, without doubt, for all other units. The result of this interrogation and reports on the attack of medical installations by fighter bombers, contrary to international law, were submitted to the International Red Cross through regular channels. The situation did not change. For instance, during the first weeks of the fighting – the date cannot be determined with certainty – a column of fifteen ambulances was attacked by Allied aircraft. The vehicles were transporting critically wounded, among them Canadian pilots, from the area Louvigny-Mondrainville-Missy to the evacuation hospital at Argentan. The fighter-bombers initially flew a fake attack. The medics and the drivers unloaded the wounded quickly to bring them to safety. This was only partially achieved when the aircraft started a low-level attack. There were several dead, and some of the wounded were hit again, among them Canadians. Killed, among others, were three ambulance drivers. Two vehicles burned out, the others received hits but were still mobile. (footnote 10, citing TAC 21st Army Group No. M502 of 18.6.44)

dshaday
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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by dshaday » 07 Jan 2014 16:41

Hi

On the net I noticed this reference by a US POW in Normandy:

"On June 7 - 8, we were transported by ten new-type German trucks with Red Cross markings on top and the sides. About forty of us were put in each truck with one guard at the rear. On the main highway to St Lo at approximately 2:00PM in bright sunlight we were attacked by two P-47's. They strafed the convoy four times. Dozens were killed and eighty Americans wounded. No Germans were hurt as they got out first. "

Quoted from Cpl Jack Schlegel, from the MG platoon of HQ Coy, 3. Bn, 508 Parachute Regiment. From the book "The American GI in Europe in World War 2, Volume 3" By J. E. Kaufmann, H. W. Kaufmann".

Regards

Dennis

Sid Guttridge
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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Jan 2014 18:40

While undoubtedly technically illegal, are these incidents entirely surprising?

How easy was it for single-seat, low flying ground attack aircraft to spot a marked ambulance in time to abort an attack?

More important to accusations of this being Allied policy would be instances of attacks on marked ambulances by other means that could both easily identify them and have time to abort an attack. What do we have in this area?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by dshaday » 07 Jan 2014 20:46

Hi Sid

An interesting thought, but remember that the 2 x aeroplanes strafed the convoy four times. Strafing once or twice before realising a mistake is understandable, but four times is a bit damning. Also note the mention of bright sunshine and clear red cross markings on the top and sides of the trucks.

What would be examples of other types of attacks, by other means, that would easily identify red cross ambulances and have time to abort the attack? Only infantry or tank attacks come to mind, and I do not know of any such cases involving German ambulances.

Regards
Dennis

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by David Thompson » 08 Jan 2014 06:59

For interested readers -- There is an additional discussion on this topic contained within the thread:

Atrocities of 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend"
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=109598

as Rob - wssob2 pointed out when he started this thread.

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Steve Hoog
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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by Steve Hoog » 08 Jan 2014 07:24

This is a subject that greatly concerned me after picking it out of my read of the 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend".

No good answers from me but it disturbed me. I was left with the impression over zealous pilots fed mis information about German tactics should have known better.
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Marcus
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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by Marcus » 08 Jan 2014 08:48


Sid Guttridge
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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Jan 2014 14:32

Hi dshaday,

I would imagine that later passes would make it even harder to diferentiate anbulances from other vehicles, because of the debris, explosions and smoke thrown up by the previous strikes.

However, presuming it was possible to abort such attacks, it is unlikely that any substantive record is available for us to quantify such non-events.

I was particularly thinking in terms of spotted artillery, but infantry and tanks are also possible. If it was Allied policy rather than accidental, one would expect other arms to be involved, besides aircraft.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by EKB » 22 Jan 2014 17:20

Captured German vehicles with Red Cross markings were found to be hauling weapons and ammunition. It was photographed and documented.

Likewise, the Luftwaffe ASR (Air-Sea Rescue) service used Red Cross marked aircraft to recover un-injured air crewmen, which was not permitted by the Geneva Agreements. As well, "sanitary" aircraft (those designated as medical transport) were required to "obey all summons to land" when challenged. German pilots often ignored that stipulation which again put them in direct violation of the Convention, and invited immediate attack by enemy aircraft.

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by RichTO90 » 22 Jan 2014 17:49

dshaday wrote:Hi Sid

An interesting thought, but remember that the 2 x aeroplanes strafed the convoy four times. Strafing once or twice before realising a mistake is understandable, but four times is a bit damning. Also note the mention of bright sunshine and clear red cross markings on the top and sides of the trucks.

What would be examples of other types of attacks, by other means, that would easily identify red cross ambulances and have time to abort the attack? Only infantry or tank attacks come to mind, and I do not know of any such cases involving German ambulances.

Regards
Dennis
Multiple attempts means only that they were trying really, really hard to hit the trucks they saw. :lol:

About the same time, I think it was 14 August, my Dad's AA Battery, part of TF Weaver, shot down a P-38 that had repeatedly straffed the column - three or four times IIRC - destroying one 105mm PM and killing two men. The column repeatedly displayed their cerulean panels and popped blue smoke, the accepted recognition, without effect. The pilot of the P-38 was killed and his body and dog tags recovered, all of which was recorded in the S-3 Journal of the AA Battalion and FA Battalion.

Cheers!

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by dshaday » 24 Jan 2014 07:07

Hi Sid

You make a good pointy in that we do not have the detailed (multiple) records to be able to nail down with more certainty what really happened and why. The one POW record we have here does not, for example tell us how many vehicles were in the column or if they were all Red Cross ones. Although his mention that no Germans were injured implies loosely that the column was only made up of the 10 x Red Cross marked ambulances carrying the POWs. So identification should have been straightforward.

The strafing may well have been accidental or part of USAF policy. We do not know at this stage. It only becomes suspicious if a lot more cases come to light.

As far as Allied policy goes, I do not think that all the branches (Army, Air Force and Navy) need to be using the same targeting rules down to the same details. It seems quite conceivable that the USAF could have made its own implementation/interpretation and independently decided that (for example) German ambulances in combat zones are a target. I am not saying that they actually did.

All the best

Dennis

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by dshaday » 24 Jan 2014 07:32

Hi EKB

You said that
EKB wrote:Captured German vehicles with Red Cross markings were found to be hauling weapons and ammunition. It was photographed and documented.
Are any of the references to this misuse of ambulance available to read? I am not saying that this could not happen, but I am just curious. Was it documented in Russia or in the West?
Likewise, the Luftwaffe ASR (Air-Sea Rescue) service used Red Cross marked aircraft to recover un-injured air crewmen, which was not permitted by the Geneva Agreements.
Is this specifically not allowed, or is it more the case that the convention did not mention it?
I remember reading that these German sea planes were painted white, with red crosses. They picked up both German and British aircrew . Both injured and not injured. They were used during the Battle of Britain. During this battle the Germans advised the British authorities that they were using them but the British formally advised the Germans that they were not obliged to respect them (I do not know what reasons were given) and would shoot them down. At least everyone got to know the score openly.
As well, "sanitary" aircraft (those designated as medical transport) were required to "obey all summons to land" when challenged. German pilots often ignored that stipulation which again put them in direct violation of the Convention, and invited immediate attack by enemy aircraft.
I can see lots of technical issues that would lead to mishaps here. How do you communicate with the enemy aeroplane? Its not like a motor vehicle where you can pull it aside and check it out for compliance to the Red Cross rules. Where do you land? What if the German plane doesn't have enough gas to land at an Allied airfield? etc etc.

Does the Convention go into any details about procedures here?

All the best

Dennis

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by dshaday » 24 Jan 2014 08:15

Hi RichTO90

That is a very interesting example. Accidents can certainly happen with that target focus phenomena probably kicking in. I do not wish to diminish this example, but would also add that the convoy in this case was obviously military (combat) in nature. With no red cross vehicles being mentioned. Also, this happened in August (when the German front was breaking), whereas the example I quoted happened on D-Day +2.

As I said, your example is very interesting in giving the greater picture. What we need to do is see if any stand-out trends emerge.
The answer may well be that "accidents happen".

Regards

Dennis

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by RichTO90 » 24 Jan 2014 16:47

dshaday wrote:Hi RichTO90

That is a very interesting example. Accidents can certainly happen with that target focus phenomena probably kicking in. I do not wish to diminish this example, but would also add that the convoy in this case was obviously military (combat) in nature. With no red cross vehicles being mentioned. Also, this happened in August (when the German front was breaking), whereas the example I quoted happened on D-Day +2.

As I said, your example is very interesting in giving the greater picture. What we need to do is see if any stand-out trends emerge.
The answer may well be that "accidents happen".

Regards

Dennis
The issue of "friendly fire"/"amicide"/"fratricide" is quite a bit more complicated than just obviously military vehicles versus red cross vehicles. For example, prior to COBRA all American vehicles had their white star identifications repainted, but to little effect. In Vietnam, one artillery fire base applied an incorrect charge on a single round and impacted an adjacent fire base, killing one and wounding 37; in theory it should have stopped then, but instead the struck fire base replied in counter battery and inflicted 12 KIA and 40 WIA on the offending fire base. In my father's case, his convoy was clearly marked as friendly, with all the correct recognitions used. In theory there should be little difference between white stars/red crosses/cerise panels/blue smoke, but there are.

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Re: 12th SS ambulances strafed by allied planes

Post by Sid Guttridge » 26 Jan 2014 11:07

As a matter of interest, are Red Cross marked vehicles allowed to travel in convoy with military vehicles, or must they always be separate?

And is there any legal difference between an all-white ambulance bearing a Red Cross driving on its own, and a camouflaged military vehicle bearing a prominent red cross travelling in convoy with other military vehicles?

How big do the red crosses have to be and how displayed in order to attract legal protection?

Cheers,

Sid.

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