As many US newspapers start to put their documents from the past years online – many long forgotten stories and interviews are coming to light.
One particular interview which is bound to cause a stir is this account written by G.K. Hodenfield, a Stars and Stripes correspondent who was with the US Rangers at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day.
It was first published on 5 June 1959 in the Gettysburg Times (p6) at: https://news.google.com
…..Kills His Prisoners
Ranger Robin [sic.*] was a platoon leader, and the last I heard he was still in the Army – I hope so, he’s a good guy to have on our side. Anyway, on the second day of the invasion Ranger Robin led a patrol behind the German lines to get prisoners for questioning. He was on his way back with about a dozen of them when the Germans counter-attacked and threatened to chase the Rangers right off the cliffs.
Ranger Robin and five or six of this men, plus the prisoners, were crouched in a huge shell hole, with German troops all around them Ranger Robin told his men to take off, one at a time, and get back to our lines as best they could.
His sergeant, the last to leave, asked Robin what he was going to do about the prisoners. ‘Don’t you worry about that, I’ll handle it,’ he replied.
When he was alone with the prisoners, Ranger Robin turned his Tommy gun on them and killed them all. Then he made his way back to our command post.
Fighting for Lives…
You could say his act was that of a coward, more than of a hero. But I’ll argue with you on that. Ranger Robin was tough, but he was no murderer. He shot down 12 defenceless men in cold blood because he was a Ranger, and the Rangers were fighting for their lives. I got to know him well enough to know that those 12 German prisoners will haunt him as long as he lives.
If you were there on D-Day you know a dozen stories like this. If you weren’t you’ve heard about them.
D-Day was a terribly personal thing to the men who were there. You fought with a group, but the excitement that was like intoxication, and the fear that was like a clammy chill – those were yours alone.
[*T/Sgt H. Robey]
The Small Unit Action Report which is the US Army’s official account of the Pointe du Hoc battle has long been regarded as a bible on the subject and it describes this incident in only the briefest of detail saying ‘There could be no question of bringing back the prisoners.’ A euphemism which is now explained fully in the above interview.
The site at Pointe du Hoc has long been sacred ground but this revelation makes it also the site of a War Crime. The incident in question took place close to the roundabout near Pointe du Hoc on the D514 as the Rangers retreated. Strictly speaking it remains outside of the area now controlled by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission as a historic site. But as the German bodies were never recovered it is thought that they are still there.