The Secrets Of Katyn Forest

U.S. Army Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet, together with other prisoners of war captured and held by the Germans, were taken to the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, to see the exhumation of Polish officers from the mass graves found in 1943.

Van Vilet knew exactly what he was looking at. As Stalin wanted to Sovietize Poland, he began his plan by taking the lives of 20,000 Polish prisoners of war, mainly officers, during the USSR occupation of the region in 1940. Around 1943, Great Britain and the United States enjoyed a strong military alliance with Russia’s communist dictatorship by their side and against Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship. However, when the massacre was discovered, Stalin didn’t hesitate to blame Hitler. And not just that, but so did FDR and Churchill.

Whether the Allies knew who was responsible for the massacre or not, it remained unknown. But is there a chance they didn’t want to know the truth? When British diplomat Owen O’Malley was sent to investigate the crime in 1943, he wrote a report to be sent to the British government, stating that the Soviets were to blame for what has happened. After receiving the report, Sir Winston Churchill gave it to President Roosevelt that same year. In a very short time, a  “we musn’t offend the Russians,” concept took over the ‘internal government mantra.’ During the propaganda, The Office of War Information, it recently became known, was riddled with Soviet agents. However, the United States did not quit, even long after the war, lies kept covering the facts about Katyn and this is where the Van Vliet report comes in, The Mercury reports.

Following the end of the war, Van Vliet was liberated and free to return home with his report informing on the truth about the Soviets. Van Vliet was interrogated by Gen. Clayton Bissell, the head of military intelligence, on May 22, 1945. After calling the report Top Secret, the general dictated his letter, in which he would swear to remain silent.

Since the investigators working on the crime began searching for the report in the 1950s up until now, the document has been missing. Also, the report Van Vliet wrote on May 22, 1945 has been missing. Another one of the eyewitnesses at Katyn was Army Capt. Donald B. Stewart, who sent a coded message to Gen. Bissell in 1943, in which he was suggesting he and Van Vliet believed the Soviets were to blame for the massacre.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE