Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

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Marcus
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Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by Marcus » 14 Apr 2012 08:53

Does anyone have any additional information and sources on the specific claim that "Those Americans who were slightly wounded or who became ill because of fatigue, lack of food and water and could not keep up with the column were ruthlessly bayoneted or shot." or information on which elements of those divisions was involved?
Thanks.
JamesL - http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?p=1162321#p1162321 wrote:10th and 21st Panzer Divisions

Slaughter of American POW's at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

The US 168th Infantry Regiment (Iowa National Guard) was engaged in battle with elements of the German 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions at Sidi Bou Zid. The Americans were surrounded and captured by the Germans. Below are some excerpts from "Account of Operations 168th Infantry, 34th Division, from 24 December 1942 to 17 February 1943.

____________________

"Finally a German armored car bearing a white flag came dashing into the American circle. Col Drake ordered his men to wave the car away. German tanks came in following that vehicle without any negotiations for surrender. The Germans had used the white flag as subterfuge to come inside the circle of defense without drawing fire. The tanks closed in from all directions cutting Drake’s forces into small groups. The men who did not surrender were killed by the Germans.

"Colonel Drake was taken to General Schmidt, Group Commander of the 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions. The German Commander promised Colonel Drake that all the American wounded would be cared for and that he could leave American medical personnel to properly look after them, but immediately upon Colonel Drake leaving the field, the American medical personnel was carried off as prisoners and the American dead and wounded left to the ravages of the Arabs who proceeded to immediately strip the dead and wounded and to beat insensible those wounded who protested to the stripping of their clothes.

The American prisoners were assembled in a group and under guard marched back that afternoon and night along the road to DJ LESSOUDA. Those Americans who were slightly wounded or who became ill because of fatigue, lack of food and water and could not keep up with the column were ruthlessly bayoneted or shot.

The men had been left to the systematic robbery of the German soldiers and some junior officers. During this time pockets and kits were thoroughly searched …while watches, rings, pocketbooks, pens and all valuables were ruthlessly seized.

All day they marched through desert sands with unrelieved thirst almost unbearable. Colonel Drake appealed to the German Commander in the name of common humanity to give the men a drink of water, but was met with the statement, “We only have enough for our troops.” Near midnight …. The men were herded into a circle in the open desert and there practically froze in the piercing cold of the African night.

The men burrowed into the ground for warmth, scooping out the sand with their hands. No means whatsoever was provided for ordinary sanitation. Officers and men thrown in like pigs.
____________

The report continues with descriptions of the troops being locked in railroad box cars for days and torture during interrogations by German troops.


The entire report can be seen at the 34th Division website.
http://www.34infdiv.org/history/168inf/ ... akeRpt.pdf

The battle is also discussed in
US Army in World War II: Mediterranean Theater of Operatioins: Northwest Africa - Seizing the Initiative in the West.

The specific discussion on whether Stauffenberg was involved in this already have their own dedicated thread at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=135272

/Marcus

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by JamesL » 14 Apr 2012 15:33

DRAKE’S LAST STAND

Col. Drake and 600 of his men surrendered on February 17. He is mentioned by name in the 21st Panzer Division, War Diary (Extract), 14-23 February 1943. Apparently the German 1st Bn, 104th Infantry Regiment engaged Col. Drake. See page 8 of 21st Panzer section in link below. (It is also referenced as a Panzer Grenadier Regiment.)

http://www.history.army.mil/books/Staff ... Part_2.pdf

The 10th Panzer Division, War Diary (Extract), 14-22 February 1943 can be found at the same link. They too captured men from the US 168th Infantry Regiment.

I find keeping track of the locations of German units involved at Sidi Bou Zid confusing. Secondly, I am not sure which German unit was responsible for the safe keeping of the American prisoners. Typically, an American armored unit would not take prisoners (don't read too much into that statement) but would pass them on to followup infantry and military police.

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 14 Apr 2012 16:34

JamesL wrote:10th and 21st Panzer Divisions

Slaughter of American POW's at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

The US 168th Infantry Regiment (Iowa National Guard) was engaged in battle with elements of the German 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions at Sidi Bou Zid. The Americans were surrounded and captured by the Germans. Below are some excerpts from "Account of Operations 168th Infantry, 34th Division, from 24 December 1942 to 17 February 1943.
JamesL have you searched through or found any war-crimes investigations/trials that occurred because of this incident? Except for this one obscure report you have posted in several topics, I know of no mention of it, which seems very strange. An incident like this would rate like the Malmedy massacres , so I am wondering why there were no and have been no discussions/mass indignation/press about it and that there are not 10's or 100's of POW accounts of it. The US Army, I don't think, would have let this slide if it was an accurate report, especially given it was during the famous Battle of Kasserine Pass.

At the minimum, I would expect Von Armin and and many other German soldiers would have been tried and executed forthwith after the fall of Tunisia, and a huge anti-Nazi propaganda campaign from it, if this incident were true.

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by David Thompson » 14 Apr 2012 18:03

Marcus -- You asked:
Does anyone have any additional information and sources on the specific claim that "Those Americans who were slightly wounded or who became ill because of fatigue, lack of food and water and could not keep up with the column were ruthlessly bayoneted or shot." or information on which elements of those divisions was involved?
As far as I can tell from his report, Col. Drake was with elements of the 3rd Battalion CT of the 168th Infantry Battalion at the time of his capture. There is an account of the battle given by the US Combat Studies Institute:

CSI Battlebook: The Battle of Sidi Bou Zid
http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA151626

The maps accompanying this study suggest that Col. Drake's unit was initially captured by German units belonging to KG (Kampfgruppe) Stenkhoff of the 21st Panzer Division. Presumably this kampgruppe included the unit mentioned by JamesL. According to the study, the rear area of the 21st Panzer Division was secured by its non-mechanized units (part 4, p. 10).

This account refers to the lack of food and water on the march to the rear area, but not to the bayonettings and shootings:

Cpl. Frederick G. Buske
http://elwood.pionet.net/~dbuske/fred.html
Units of the American 168th Infantry Regiment were now completely surrounded and cut off from Allied forces. The American's put up a good fight for a few days but were eventually forced to surrender. On Feb.17th, close to 1500 men were captured and forced to march through the desert with no food or water, which they had already been without for 3 days. On the 18th they were loaded into German trucks and taken to the city of Sfax where they were fed their first food in 5 days. The meal consisted of Black bread and water.

Fred was now a prisoner of war.
This account refers to a shooting, but the circumstances are unclear:

L.V. Cordray, World War II Prisoner of War pp. 4-5
http://pacoletmemories.com/lolacepow.pdf
In just a few days we were surrounded and captured on February 17, 1943, at 7:00 A.M. at Sidi Bou Zid.4 We were dug in in fox holes. Then when night fall came we tried to walk out and we went all night long till the morning. When the morning came, we found out we were right in the middle of the Germans. Edenburg (the Lieutenant) wanted to resist after we were surrounded and they shot and killed him. I think he was to blame for it because he knew he couldn’t win.
Unfortunately, details of the war crimes investigations and proceedings in the allied Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) and Austria are hard for the stay-at-home researcher to get. Very little has been posted on the internet, and that mostly in connection with investigations of German reprisal actions in Italy.

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by Marcus » 14 Apr 2012 18:05

Thanks David and James.

/Marcus

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by JamesL » 14 Apr 2012 18:48

I came across Drake's report while researching my father-in-law's unit, a US Army engineer battalion. He was at Thelepte Airfield, Tunisia ... about 20 miles from Kasserine. He once mentioned how they prepared for a German attack.

That said, I have read many books and after action reports on Kasserine. Only Drake mentions the massacre. The US 34th Infantry Division history gives a mere two sentences to the loss of the 168th Infantry.

I think it is very odd that no followup seems to have been done after Col. Drake's accusations. I conclude that this incident would be an excellent subject for a military history master's thesis. Maybe some student at Leavenworth could look into it.

I am due for a trip to AHEC, Carlisle Barracks. I should try to see if they have any information there.

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 15 Apr 2012 20:49

JamesL wrote:I came across Drake's report while researching my father-in-law's unit, a US Army engineer battalion. He was at Thelepte Airfield, Tunisia ... about 20 miles from Kasserine. He once mentioned how they prepared for a German attack.

That said, I have read many books and after action reports on Kasserine. Only Drake mentions the massacre. The US 34th Infantry Division history gives a mere two sentences to the loss of the 168th Infantry.

I think it is very odd that no followup seems to have been done after Col. Drake's accusations. I conclude that this incident would be an excellent subject for a military history master's thesis. Maybe some student at Leavenworth could look into it.

I am due for a trip to AHEC, Carlisle Barracks. I should try to see if they have any information there.
It sounds like Col Drake may have heard an over-blown account of that one LT. being shot while trying to halt a surrender or attempting to escape, or not surrender. It is possible someone else wrote the report including some 3rd hand talk he heard and Col Drake just signed off on it. I'll write this one off as mistaken "latrine rumor" that made it to paper once.
I don't think this one is real. Good luck on your search.

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by JamesL » 19 Apr 2012 22:38

I visited the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) at Carlisle Barracks.

There is a dearth of information regarding the undergarments of a Scotsman wearing a kilt. So to the lack of information on the 168th Inf. at AHEC.

During the time frame in question the 168th Inf. was temporarily attached to the 1st Armored Division. I looked at some records of that division along with the parent division of the 168th Inf., the 34th Division. The best source I came across was a book titled “Dogfaces Who Smiled Through Tears” by Homer R. Ankrum. It is about the 34th Division.

The 168th Inf. was overrun at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia. The US soldiers were sent to POW camps in Sicily, Italy, Germany and Poland. Ankrum stated that “Research reveals the prisoners of war had varied experiences due to the camps in which they were impounded and the temperament of the guards.” (p. 641).

Some bullet statements in no particular order:
1. A few hours before the German attack Gen. Eisenhower and Gen. Fredenhall visited Col. Drake at Sidi Bou Zid. Gen. Eisenhower awarded Drake a Silver Star for previous actions. Then they all reviewed Col. Drake’s troop dispositions and report and apparently concurred with his plans. Ike and Fredenhall then returned to Fredenhall’s bunker to monitor the battle. (With a stiff blowing wind German tracked vehicles could be heard in the distance.)
2. The US troops at the start of battle on Feb. 14 possessed only 1 days ration.
3. Sgt. Fred Bryson (F/168) was severely wounded and left behind. Three German soldiers found him and Sgt. Bryson thought they would execute him. Instead the Germans picked him up and brought him to a field hospital where his mangled leg was saved by a German physician. Gen. Rommel visited the hospital and stopped by Bryson’s bed, and “told him he was sorry he was wounded and that he liked Americans.” Sgt. Bryson was later airlifted to Italy.
4. Some troops walked to Tunis. Some walked and later boarded trucks or railroad cars and then proceeded to Tunis. “Sgt. Clifford Cox recalls most of the prisoners had been stripped of watches and valuables.” (p. 642)
5. As they marched some of the Americans, in dire thirst, drained the radiators of disabled American vehicles and drank the water obtained.
6. A German guard took cakes from the Arabs and gave them to the Americans. The German stated “I wish it was the other way around and I was your prisoner.”
7. “In Time-Life’s War in the Desert , Col. Drake is quoted as saying he saw wounded men bayoneted. However, in many many (sic) interviews with former POWs, the author could find no one to substantiate such punishment meted out.” (p. 642).
8. Col. Drake was eventually sent to POW camp Offizierslager 64 in Szubin, Poland. After some time there Col. Drake was released by the Germans for humanitarian reasons - poor health (ulcers).
9. Some soldiers from the 168th were sent to a camp in Poland where they were guarded by SS. They worked in fields harvesting potatoes.

So, where do we stand?

Item 1 suggests that had the Germans attacked earlier they could have captured Generals Eisenhower and Fredenhall, the commander of American forces in North Africa and the II Corps commander. Secondly it could be implied that the generals, by approving Drake’s actions, were in part responsible for the disaster which took place.
Item 2 – the Americans lacked food and probably water from the very first day of battle.
Item 7 notes that two other published sources mention Drake’s claims of murder but no one can substantiate it.
Item 8 points out the incredible act of the Germans releasing a senior field grade US Army officer.

So, a very sick American officer who lost his entire command made a claim of murder against the opposing forces. I still have no answer about any US Army investigation into the assertion.

Col. Drake (1901-1970) was awarded the DSC for Sidi Bou Zid. It was his second, the first being awarded to him at age 17 when he was an infantry sergeant in WWI. Col. Drake was the technical advisor for that great film "A Walk in the Sun."
Last edited by JamesL on 20 Apr 2012 17:52, edited 1 time in total.

ChristopherPerrien
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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 20 Apr 2012 15:35

JamesL wrote:I visited the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) at Carlisle Barracks.

There is a dearth of information regarding the undergarments of a Scotsman wearing a kilt. So to the lack of information on the 168th Inf. at AHEC.

:lol:
So, a very sick American officer who lost his entire command made a claim of murder against the opposing forces. I still have no answer about any US Army investigation into the assertion.

Col. Drake (1901-1970) was awarded the DSC for Sidi Bou Zid. It was his second, the first being awarded to him at age 17 when he was an infantry sergeant in WWI. Col. Drake was the technical advisor for that great film "A Walk in the Sun."
I hate to say it, but it sounds like about the way to maybe find out his mind-set, would be to track down his family, and even that would be a reach, given he has been deceased for quite a while.

Nice effort through.

Chris

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Re: Killing of US POWs at Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia

Post by T12102 » 09 Jan 2016 16:06

My Father served in the 168th and was captured on 2-17-1943 with Col. Drake. He did not often speak of what they went through. He did tell me that they were pinned down and it was hopeless when they were captured. He did speak of the forced marches, being flown over the Medditerian overcrowed in airplanes with no doors on the sides of them,flying very low to the water so they would be harder to detect. They feared being shot down by allied aircraft the entire time. Being a pow of the Italians in Sicely and Italy. Being transported in railcars and sitting in railyards that were straffed and bombed by the allies. His Red Cross letters show his movement. He finally ended up in Stalag 2B in occupied Poland where he spent a lot of his time. He worked in the fields and was guarded by armed German soldiers constantly. At the end of the war they were forced marched toward Berlin as the Russians and allies were closing in. At this point everyone was in bad shape. He weighed less that 100lbs. They woke up one morning and the German guards were gone. They were liberated shortly after. He was taken to Camp Lucky Strike to recover until being sent to the states. He was a POW for 27 months.

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