A total of 18 American servicemen were convicted, sentenced and executed by American courts martial in the UK during World War Two.
A great deal of information about the American court martial system, including Board of Review findings, example cases and legal texts can be found as part of the United States Military Legal Resources section of The Library of Congress.
Information about all of the American soldiers convicted, sentenced to death and executed by courts martial can be found in “The Fifth Field” book by Colonel French L. MacLean, United States Army (RET), ISBN: 978-0-7643-4577-7, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
THE VISITING FORCES ACT
As increasing numbers of American servicemen were entering the UK, it was realised legislation would be needed to define the relationship between the UK’s legal system and the American forces.
Following several meetings between the UK’s Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and the U.S Ambassador John G. Winart, in August 1942, the UK’s Parliament passed the United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act 1942.
Paragraph one of the act stated that
No criminal proceedings shall be prosecuted in the United Kingdom before any court of the United Kingdom against a member of the military or naval forces of the United States of America.United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act 1942.
The act also includes the notes exchanged between the British Foreign Secretary and the American Ambassador. Paragraph two of the UK’s Foreign Secretary’s note states
It is appreciated, however, that cases may arise where for particular reasons the American authorities may prefer that their courts should not exercise the above jurisdiction, and His Majesty’s Government would accordingly propose that in any case in which a written communication to that effect is received from the Diplomatic Representative of the United States it should be open to the appropriate British authority to restore the jurisdiction of the courts of the United Kingdom to deal with the case.United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act 1942.
THE TYPES OF AMERICAN COURT MARTIAL
During World War Two, the U.S Army used three types of court martial.
- A Summary Court Martial could only impose a sentence of no more than one mouth confinement, restriction to a certain area for no more than three months and could fine a soldiers a maximum of two-thirds of his monthly pay.
- A Special Court Martial could sentence a soldier to a maximum of six months confinement and fine a soldier a maximum of two-thirds of his monthly pay for a maximum period of six months.
- A General Court Martial (GCM) could impose the death sentence and other punishments.
A GCM consisted of a minimum of five members, with the most senior officer becoming the court’s president. One of the panel officers had the task of a law officer, which was usually a member of the Judge Advocate General’s department, who would advise the panel on matters of law and make rulings on matters of law and was also a voting member of the panel. The prosecution case was presented by a Trial Judge Advocate. The defence case was presented by a Defence Counsel.
All the voting in the conviction and sentencing (if found guilty) phases of the trial was by secret written ballot.
A verdict of not guilty was final and the trial ended.
After a guilty verdict had been returned, the court then heard any mitigating evidence as well as the accused’s previous disciplinary record.
A court finding for an offence that had a mandatory sentence of death required an unanimous guilty verdict.
To sentence a soldier for an offence that had a choice of death or life imprisonment, an unanimous decision was required in the sentencing phase.
For a sentence of ten years to life imprisonment, three-quarters of the court panel was needed. All other convictions required a two-thirds majority decision. Fractions were in favour of the defendant. So with a court panel of seven officers, a conviction required five officers to vote in favour.
So it was possible for a seven-member court hearing a case of murder, to have a five-two split in favour of conviction and then an unanimous seven votes for a death sentence.
After sentencing, the case was reviewed by the approving authority, assisted by his Judge Advocate. The Approving Authority could not amend the sentence but just state his opinion.
The next stage in the process was the confirming authority. In peace, this was the U.S. President. In war-time, the commanding general of the army in the field. This person could confirm the sentence, reduce the sentence but not increase the severity of the sentence.
In addition to the approving and confirming authorities, a special Board of Review, consisting of at lease three Judge Advocates, would review the case. The confirming authority could not direct the execution of a death sentence until this body had informed him that the record of the trial was legally sufficient to support a death sentence.
The law applicable to American courts martial was contained in “The Revisions of the Articles of War 1912-1920” as well as precedents contained in “Military Law and Precedents” by William Winthrop, Colonel, United States Army, author of the annotated digest of opinions of the Judge Advocate General.
The following offences, as detailed in the articles of war, could attract capital punishment in both peace and wartime.
|ARTICLE OF WAR||OFFENCE|
|64||Assaulting or wilfully disobeying a superior officer|
|66||Mutiny or sedition|
|67||Failure to suppress mutiny or sedition|
|92||Murder or rape|
The following offences, as detailed in the articles of war, could attract capital punishment if committed during wartime.
|ARTICLE OF WAR||OFFENCE|
|59||Advising or aiding another to desert|
|75||Misbehaviour before the enemy|
|76||Subordinates compelling superior officer to surrender|
|77||Improper use of countersign|
|78||Forcing a safeguard|
|81||Relieving, corresponding with or aiding the enemy|
|86||Misbehaviour of sentinel|
The only capital offences for the British forces during World War Two were murder, mutiny, treason and treachery.
The last execution in the UK for rape was in 1861.
THE AMERICAN SOLDIERS EXECUTED IN THE UK
While the executions by hanging followed the American format of timing, reading of the charge and sentence to the condemned man on the scaffold and the lavish (by UK war standards) meal; the variable drop, UK-style noose and a British chief executioner was used, either Albert Pierrepoint or his uncle Tom Pierrepoint.
After their execution, the remains were buried in an unmarked plot behind the administration offices at the Brookwood American Cemetery.
After the war, 17 sets of remains were exhumed and reburied in Plot E, the dishonoured area, at the American Oise-Aisne Cemetery in France. The remains of David Cobb remained in Brookwood until 1949, when they were repatriated back to the USA.
|Clark EL||33212946||Murder & Rape||08/01/1945|
|Davis LA||18023362||Murder & Rape||14/12/1943|
|Guerra AM||38458023||Murder & Rape||08/01/1945|
|Harris Jr W||6924547||Murder||26/05/1944|
|Harrison Jr W||15089828||Murder & Rape||07/04/1945|
|Smith Jr GE||33288266||Murder||08/05/1945|
ELIGA BRINSON and WILLIE SMITH
Eliga Brinson was born on 21 February 1919 at Tallahasse, Florida, the son of Fred and Queenie Brinson. Eliga Brinson is shown on the 1935 Florida Census as a labourer. A single man, he enlisted on 2 May 1941 at Fort Blanding, Florida.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 10 inches|
Willie Smith was born on 30 June 1922 at Birmingham, Alabama. In the 1940 Federal Census, Willie Smith is listed as a farm labourer. A married man, he enlisted at Fort Benning, Georgia on 9 January 1943.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 11 inches|
Both soldiers were members of the 4090th Quartermaster Service Company.
About 11.40pm on 4 March 1944, a 16 year old lady left a dance, at Bishops Cleeve (Gloucestershire) with her partner Private First Class Edward J. Hefferman. About 12.25am the girl and Hefferman arrived at Pecketts Piece Lane where they stopped to talk near a gate and the end of Brookside Lane. While the girl and Hefferman were talking, two coloured soldiers walked by, returning a few minutes later. One of the soldiers asked Hefferman what he was doing, and then struck him on the nose. One of the soldiers tried to strike Hefferman again but he got up and ran around the corner seeking help. The girl was then dragged by the two soldiers into the field and raped by both soldiers.
Hefferman ran to a house about 120 yards away where he told a man that he was hit and a girl was being attacked. He was told to go to the police station. After getting lost, he eventually made it to the police station. Hefferman then went towards the girl’s home but saw her crying in the road. He then accompanied a British constable and an American military policeman to the scene of the rape.
Footprints were taken at the scene, as the boots appeared to have a hob-nail pattern and studs in the heels. Also blood was spotted on the gate into the field and soil samples were taken.
The constable and US military policeman then went to the Brinson and Smith’s unit at Bishops Cleeve. A inspection of several huts was conducted and two pairs of matching boots were removed from the tents of Brinson and Smith. Also both their trousers had mud patches on the knees. Also the victim’s underwear also had mud on them.
On 28 to 29 April 1944, the court martial of Brinson and Smith took place at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Neither the victim of the rape nor Hefferman, who both gave evidence at the trail, could positively identify Brinson or Smith as the rapists. However, the forensic evidence and the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming.
Brinson and Smith were both found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. On 11 August 1944, both men were executed at Shepton Mallett prison.
The remains of Brinson and Smith are buried in Plot E: Brinson in Row 4, Grave 93 and Smith in Row 3, Grave 69.
ERNEST LEE CLARK and AUGUSTINE M. GUERRA
Ernest Lee Clark was born on 10 August 1920 at Clifton Vorge, Virginia. On his draft card, Clark’s employer was the Naval Ordinance Plant, South Charleston, West Virginia. A single man, he enlisted at Fort Benning, Georgia on 17 September 1942 at Roanoke, Virginia.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 11 inches|
Augustine Miranda Guerra was born on 4 May 1924 in Bexar County, Texas. He was employed as a civil servant at Camp Stanley, Bexar County, Texas.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 6 inches|
Both soldiers were in the 306th Fighter Control Squadron, IX Air Defence Command.
Initially the army decided to try both men together, however the defence asked for two separate trials. The trial of Private Guerra took place on 22 September 1944. The trial of Private Clark took place on 6 and 9 October 1944. Both trials took place at Ashford, Kent. The evidence at both trials was, to all sense and purpose, identical. Both men faced three charges: the murder of Betty Dorian Pearl Green, the rape of Betty Dorian Pearl Green and aiding the other soldier to commit rape.
Betty Dorian Pearl Green, born in 1929, returned home from work and then left home again at 6.45pm on 22 August 1944, walking with her friend Peggy Blaskett to visit a local fair. At the fair they met Guerra and Clark. They remained together until 9.45pm when the two girls left the fair and begun to walk home.
About 7.15am the next day, a railroad worker notice observed something in a field that he could look down on from the railway line. Another railway employee went down into the field and found the body of Betty Green. The police were called and they also found several artefacts that were later identified as belonging to the deceased girl.
Betty Green’s father had been in the Smith Arms pub, about 150 yards from the field. He identified Guerra as one of two American soldiers he had seen there and who had left the pub with another soldier at 10.15pm that night. Another American soldier who remained in the pub until closing time left in the direction of the field. As Betty Green’s father left the pub, he saw two American soldiers but it was too dark to identify them.
Hair samples taken from Guerra and Clark matched those found on the Green’s body and clothes. In the opinion of Dr. Keith Simpson, the pathologist, the cause of death was strangulation by a hand.
Clark was found guilty of all three charges and sentenced to death by hanging. Both men were executed on 8 January 1945 at Shepton Mallet prison.
The remains of Clark and Guerra are buried in Plot E: Clark in Row 3, Grave 68 and Guerra in Row 2, Grave 44.
Betty Green is buried in Willesborough, Kent.
David Cobb was born on 14 November 1921 in Dothan, Alabama. The 1940 Federal Census showed Cobb’s occupation was a delivery boy.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 10 inches|
Private David Cobb was a soldier in Company C, 827th Engineer Battalion (Aviation), stationed at the Ordnance Depot, Desborough, Northamptonshire.
Between 10am and 11am on 27 December 1942, Lieutenant Cobner came to the guard-house to have some beds moved and to have the premises guarded. Cobb, who was standing sentry, told Lieutenant Cobner that he was not prepared to stand sentry any longer as he had already been sentry for four hours. While making his statement, Cobb was carrying his rifle across his shoulder. Lieutenant Cobner told Cobb to act like a soldier, and while addressing an officer to stand to attention. Cobb then said that he didn’t care.
Lieutenant Cobner called a guard to arrest Cobb and put him in the guard-house. When the guard approached Cobb, Cobb brought his rifle down to his waist, pointed it at the guard and the guard halted. Lieutenant Cobner then ordered the Sergeant of the Guard to arrest Cobb. Again, Cobb pointed the rifle at the Sergeant and told him to halt. Cobb then said that he would not give his rifle to anyone until properly relieved. Lieutenant Cobner then moved towards Cobb to affect the arrest and take the rifle. Cobb then fired one shot at Lieutenant Cobner, which hit him in his heart and killed him.
Cobb’s court martial, which took place at Cambridge on 6 January 1943, charged him with the murder of 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Cobner.
All the witnesses at the subsequent court martial, except Cobb, stated that Cobb did not call “halt” before shooting Lieutenant Cobner.
The court found David Cobb guilty of murder and sentenced him to death by hanging. Cobb was executed at Shepton Mallet on 12 March 1943.
The remains of David Cobb remained in Brookwood until 1949, when they were repatriated back to the USA, and now rest in North Highland Street Cemetery, Dothan, Alabama.
Lieutenant Richard James Cobner was born on 10 August 1917 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His remains are buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 3, Grave 50.
LEE ANDREW DAVIS
Lee Andrew Davis was born on 8 January 1923 in Temple, Texas. He enlisted on 25 March 1941 for a period of three years.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 9 inches|
Private Lee A. Davis was a soldier in Company C, 248th Quartermaster Battalion (Service).
On the early afternoon of 28 September 1943, Muriel Fawden went to the cinema in Marlborough. Upon leaving the cinema about 7.45pm, she met a friend June Lay and both ladies started walking towards Savernake Hospital; where they both worked.
About half-way up the hill to the hospital, a coloured soldier came up to the ladies and asked them “How far are you going?” Muriel Fawden replied that they were going to the hospital.
A short time later, a voice shouted “Stand still or I’ll shoot”. Both ladies turned around and saw a coloured American soldier standing levelling a rifle at them.
At this point, June Lay said to Muriel Fawden “Run Muriel!”. They both started to run as shots were fired at them. As they were running, more shots were fired and June Lay was hit and fell down. She had been hit by bullets penetrating her head and a lung. Muriel Fawden stopped running and the a few seconds later the soldier caught up with her. Muriel Fawden was forced at gun-point into a field where she was twice raped.
The nearest American unit to this incident was stationed at Iron Gate Camp. Just after midday on 29, the entire company was assembled with their weapons, where each was examined to see if it had been fired. The rifle’s serial number was checked against the serial number issued to each soldier. As a result, Davis was singled out and arrested.
At Davis’ court martial, held at Marlborough, Wiltshire, on 6, 7 and 26 October 1943, Davis faced two charges: murder and rape. He pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Ballistic tests conducted on a cartridge casing found near June Lay’s body match test bullets fired from a carbine found outside Davies’ hut. Also blood was found on several items of Davis’ clothing.
Davis made a written statement which was admitted as evidence. In his statement he said that he went to several pubs and consumed beer, wine and scotch, as well as beer with aspirins. He then stated that he met the two ladies and that “I thought I had the gun in the air and I pulled the trigger two or three times and one girl fell and the other ran but I didn’t know I had shot her because I was pretty intoxicated with beer and aspirins and scotch”.
Lee A. Davis was found guilty of both charges and sentenced to death by hanging. On14 December 1943, Davis was executed at Shepton Mallet prison. His remains are buried in Plot E, Row3, Grave 61.
WILEY HARRIS, JR
Wiley Harris, Jr, was born on 12 June 1918 at Greenville, Georgia. On 21 May 1937, he enlisted at Fort Benning, Georgia.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 9 inches|
Private Wiley Harris, Jr, was a member of 626th Ordnance Ammunition Company.
Harris had been drinking in the Diamond Bar, North Queen Street, Belfast, on 6 March 1944. Sometime after 9pm, he started talking to a prostitute. Shortly afterwards, Harry Coogan walked over to them. Harris stated that they agreed terms, which would be £1. After having a few drinks, the group left. They went to the first air-raid shelter at the head of Earl Street across North Queen Street from the Diamond Bar. Before entering the shelter, the prostitute demanded her money, which Harris paid in half-crowns and two-shilling pieces. Harris and the lady entered the shelter, while Coogan remained outside looking out for the police. Shortly after they entered the shelter, Coogan shouted that the police were coming. Both Harris and the lady came out of the shelter but there were no police about. Harris then asked the lady to return to the shelter with him. The lady offered Harris his money back but Coogan objected saying “No, no, no”. More words followed, Harris pushed the lady and she dropped some of the coins in front of the shelter.
While the lady and Harris were picking up the coins, Coogan went to strike Harris. Harris then stabbed Coogan several times. The post-mortem recorded that there were 16 skin wounds, one in the back of the neck appearing to have two stabs through it, or an actual total of 17 wounds. Some of the blows were applied with so much force as to drive the knife into Coogan’s skull, fracturing parts of the skull and loosen pieces of the skull.
At his court martial, which took place on 17 March 1944 at Victoria Barracks, Belfast, Harris was charged with the murder of Harry Coogan.
The Belfast Telegraph newspaper, 25 May 1944, reported “EFFORTS TO SAVE U.S SOLDIER”. The paper went on to say that several telegrams had been sent to Brigadier-General Leroy P. Collins, commanding general of the Northern Ireland Base Station. The Lord Mayor, Sir Crawford M’Cullagh, sent a telegram
On behalf of the members of the corporation and citizens of Belfast, and in the view of the happy relations existing between American troops and citizens in our city, I earnestly appeal to you to show clemency towards the American soldier Pte. Wiley Harris, under sentence of death and that the extreme penalty may not be carried out.Belfast Telegraph newspaper, 25 May 1944.
Harris was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. On 26 May 1944, Harris was executed at Shepton Mallet prison. His remains are now buried in Plot E, Row 4, Grave 92.
WILLIAM HARRISON Jr
William Harrison, Jr, was on 22 July 1922 in Ironton, Ohio. On 4 February 1942, he enlisted at Fort Thomas, Newport, Kentucky.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 7 inches|
Private William Harrison, Jr, was a member of the 2nd Combat Replacement Crew Centre.
On 25 September 1944, at about 4pm, Harrison who knew the Wylie family, offered to take 7 years old Patricia Wylie to get a family present. Harrison later attacked the child in a field, raped her and then strangled her. Her body was found in the field next to some haystacks.
Harrison’s trial took place on 6, 7, 17-18 November and 2 December 1944; a long time for a court martial.
The trial heard that on 24 April 1943, while assigned to the 93rd Bomb Group, doctors at the 2nd Evacuation Hospital diagnosed Harrison with “constitutional psychopathic state, inadequate personality”. A board found that although an inadequate individual, he had no definite mental disease and recommended Harrison be returned to his unit.
In June 1944, Harrison attempted suicide. The diagnosis at the 79th General Hospital included “constitutional psychopathic state, inadequate personally, manifested by periodic alcoholism.”
After Harrison’s conviction and sentence, Dr. Douglas Lothian, Down Mental Hospital, who gave evidence for the defence, wrote to Harrison’s mother “His responsibility for his acts was not full responsibility but only partial”.
On the 14 March 1945, the following article appeared in “The Citizen”, a Gloucestershire newspaper.
U.S MOTHER’S PLEA FOR CONDEMNED SON
Representative McCowan, Republican member from Ohio, is reported today to be trying to get an interview with President Roosevelt on behalf of Mrs. William Harrison, mother of William Harrison, who was convicted and sentenced to death by an Army Court in England.
Harrison was convicted on charges arising from the rape and killing of a seven-year-old Belfast girl.
Mr. and Mrs. Harrison have been to Washington several times to plead for their son’s life, but after reviewing the case, United States officers in England and Washington said their found no extenuating circumstances. The parents hoped the President would commute the sentence to life imprisonment.The Citizen newspaper, 14 March 1945.
On 7 April 1945, Harrison was executed at Shepton Mallet prison. His remains are now buried in Plot E, Row 3, Grave 62
Patricia Wylie is buried in Mullinahoe Cemetery, Ardboe, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
CUBIA JONES and ROBERT L. PEARSON
Cubia Jones was born on 10 May 1918 in Appling, Georgia. He enlisted on 29 December 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 5 inches|
Robert Lee Pearson was born on 30 May 1923 in Mayflower, Arkansas. He enlisted on 30 December 1942 at Tulsa, Oklahoma.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 10 inches|
Both Corporal Robert L. Pearson and Private Cubia Jones were members of Company A, 1698th Engineer Combat Battalion, stationed at Camp Chard, Somerset.
About 8pm on 3 December 1944, Mrs. Joyce M. Broom, who was nine-months pregnant, left her house to go to the cinema. Suddenly she became aware that she was being followed. She turned around and saw two black American soldiers. As she attempted to pass them they grabbed her wrists. Despite telling the men she was nine-months pregnant, she was dragged into a field and raped by both men. The soldiers then warned her “Don’t say anything about this to anyone or we will shoot you.” Both men then left the scene. The lady, with the assistance of a friend, reported the rapes to the local police. The police, with a doctor, went to her house, where a medical examination took place.
During a search for stained clothing in the quarters of the Jones and Pearson’s battalion on the night in question, Pearson displayed his trousers, the knees of which were wet and muddy. On the following day (4 December 1944), a pair of trousers, bearing stains on both knees and spots of mud on the right leg below the knee were identified by Jones as his.
The court martial of Jones and Pearson took place on 16 December 1944 at Chard, Somerset. Both men were found guilty of rape and sentenced to death by hanging.
Both men were hanged at Shepton Mallet prison on 17 March 1945. Jones’ remains are in Plot E, Row 1, Grave 15 with Pearson’s remains in Plot E, Row 1, Grave 22.
J. C. LEATHERBERRY and GEORGE E. FOWLER
J. C. Leatherberry was born on 19 January 1922 in Copiah, Mississippi. He enlisted on 16 October 1942 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 8 inches|
George Edward Fowler was born on 11 February 1921 in Cairo, Illinois. He enlisted on 2 January 1942 at Peoria, Illinois.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 11 inches|
Both soldiers were members of the 356th Engineer General Service Regiment: Leatherberry in Company A and Fowler in Company E.
On 7 December 1943, after enjoying a couple of absent without leave days and nights in London, Leatherberry and Fowler caught a train back to Colchester. On the train, Leatherberry suggested they take a cab back to base, and rob the driver. On arriving at Colchester, they took Claude Hailstone’s taxi back to the American base at Birth, Essex; a journey of about eight miles. Both soldiers sat in the rear of the cab: Fowler on the left-hand side and Leatherberry behind Hailstone on the right-hand side. About half-way through the journey, Fowler asked Hailstone to stop as he had to relive himself. While Fowler was relieving himself, he “heard a rumble and a bumping from inside the cab” and a “muzzled gag”. After he had relieved himself, Fowler returned to the cab and saw the accused holding the driver by the throat with his left hand and hitting his head with his right hand. Leatherberry pulled the body into the rear of the car and asked Fowler to help remove the body from the cab stating that Fowler “was in it as much as he was”. Fowler took Hailstone’s feet and the both of them carried the body over to a barbed-wire fence and slid it underneath the fence.
On the morning of 8 December 1943, a Vauxhall taxicab, number CPU 602, was found on Haynes Green Lane, Layer Marney, near the American camp at Birch, Essex. The car was parked on the right-hand side of the road, the lights were on and the roof was wet, indicating that the car had remained outdoors overnight. The car belonged to Harry Claude Hailstone, Maldon Road, Colchester. On the rear seat were found Hailstone’s fawn coloured mackintosh, which was bloodstained around the neck.
On the following day, 9 December 1944, Hailstone’s body was found in the grounds in the grounds of the Birch rectory about five miles from Colchester and about 2.5 miles from the American camp at Birch. Hailstone was fully dressed except for his hat, overcoat and jacket. The post-mortem, conducted by Dr. Camps, found that Hailstone had been strangled from behind by someone using their left hand.
The three principles had different blood groups: Hailstone’s was AB, Leatherberry’s was O and Fowler’s was B. It was a simple matter to match the blood samples found on the American’s clothes with Hailstone’s blood and samples found within the cab.
Leatherberry’s court martial took place at the Town Hall, Ipswich, Suffolk, on 19-24 January 1944. Fowler testified during Leatherberry’s trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. On 16 March 1944, Leatherberry was executed at Shepton Mallet prison. His remains are buried in Plot E, Row 4, Grave 86.
Fowler’s court martial took place at the Town Hall, Ipswich, Suffolk, on 19-20 January 1944. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Aniceto Martinez was born on 16 September 1922 in Velarde, New Mexico. He enlisted on 19 October 1942 at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 6 inches|
Private Aniceto Martinez a member of Headquarters Detachment, Prisoner of War Enclosure No. 2.
A frail 76 year old women, weighing 112 pounds, lived alone in a small cottage in Rugeley, Staffordshire. Surrounding the house was a six-foot hawthorne hedge. About 3.15am on 6 August 1944 while in her upstairs bedroom she heard someone on the stairs and then a man appeared in the doorway. He was a big man and wore khaki clothes and a hat with a black peak. He then entered the bedroom and raped her. After he left, she waited a short time to make sure he had left. She arrived at the police station between 7.30am and 08.30am the same morning, and at 10.45am was examined by the police surgeon.
At midnight 5-6 August 1944, at Prisoner of War Enclosure No. 2, located at Rugeley, a bed check was carried out. The only soldier missing was Aniceto Martinez. On 6 August, a service cap was found on the bed, which Martinez admitted he borrowed from a friend and had worn the previous night. A thorn sticking in the cap was similar to thorns on the hawthorne bush which surrounded the lady’s house and blue fibres adhering to it were similar to the fibres in the blue portion of a quilt found on the lady’s bed. Fibres were also found on Martinez’s shirt and trousers that corresponded to fibres from the lady’s nightdress.
The court martial of Private Martiniz took place at Lichfield, Staffordshire, on 21 February 1945. Martinez was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
On 15 June 1945, Martinez was executed at Shepton Mallet prison. His remains are buried in Plot E, Row 2, Grave 39.
ALEX FLORES MIRANDA
Alex Flores Miranda was born on 28 July 1923 in El Monte, California. He enlisted on 15 May 1943 at Los Angeles, Claifornia.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 9 inches|
Private Miranda was a soldier in Battery C, 42nd Field Artillery Battalion.
At about 12.15am on 5 March 1944, Special Sergeant William J. Durbin and Constable North, both members of Devon Police, brought Miranda to Honiton police station, as he had been urinating on the street. In Durbin’s opinion, Miranda had been drinking heavily, smelt of booze and was abusive but was not so drunk as he did not know what he was doing. After about 15 minutes, Miranda was riven back to the Broomhill Camp at Honiton by Technician 5th Grade James W. Wesley and Corporal Joel R. Wehking. Miranda was taken to the guardhouse and released about 12.30am.
Miranda then entered his hut in a noisy, boisterous manner and said a few curse words against the first sergeant, who was asleep. Two adjoining upper bunks were occupied by Staff Sergeant James A. Merklein and First Sergeant Thomas Evison who was asleep. Merklein told Miranda to not worry about the incident and go to bed. Miranda got undressed and kept muttering about the incident in the town. Miranda then went up to Evison’s upper bunk and, grabbing hold of him told him to stop snoring and making so much noise. After telling Miranda to go back to his bunk, Evison went back to sleep and snoring. Miranda then picked up a carbine from a rack at the back of the hut and shot Evison. Miranda then said “Your worries are over now boys, I have shot the First Sergeant and I will turn on the lights so I can show you.” He turned on the lights and was seen standing about two feet from Evison’s bunk, between the bunk and the door. Another soldier took the gun from Miranda and handed it over to First Sergeant Merklein.
Shortly after 1am 5 March, Evison was examined in the hut by a medic but his pulse was weak and his heart stopped. About 1.25am Evison was pronounced dead by the battalion medical officer. Miranda’s shot had hit Evison in the forehead, the bullet exiting in the upper rear of the head.
Miranda’s court martial on 20 March 1944. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. On 30 May 1944, in the yard inside Shepton Mallet prison, Miranda was executed by a firing squad.
Miranda’s remains were buried in Plot E, Row 2, Grave 27. In 1989, a nephew of Miranda appealed to the U.S Government to reduced Miranda’s conviction to that of manslaughter, and return his uncle’s remains. The U.S Government declined to reduce the conviction to manslaughter but they did agree to release Miranda’s remains. On 15 November 1990, Miranda’s remains were exhumed. Alex Miranda’s remains are now buried in Santa Ana Cemetery, Placentia, California.
The remains of First Sergeant Thomas Evison now rest in the Cambridge American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 5, Grave 52.
Benjamin Pygate was born on 2 February 1909 in Dillon, South Carolina. On 5 May 1943, Pygate enlisted at Fort Myer, Virginia.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 4 inches|
Private Pygate was a member of the 960th Quartermaster Service Company.
On 17 June 1944, the 960th Quartermaster Service Company was stationed at Drill Hall Camp, Wiltshire. At that camp there was a hut set aside for recreational purposes where beer was served. On that evening, soldiers including Pygate and Private First Class James E. Alexander were drinking beer. Pygate tried to buy a beer but it passed the closing time. When told he couldn’t have his beer Pygate replied “If I come in again and can’t get any beer I will turn the place out.” After an argument, all the men left the recreation hut.
The argument continued outside of the recreation hut and in front of hut number 2. Alexander tried to quiet the argument. Pygate then said to Alexander “Get back in that hut before I kill you”. He then stepped back and kicked Alexander in the right groin. As Alexander fell back against hut 2’s door, Pygate stabbed Alexander in the neck. Pygate then walked back to hut number 7, where he was arrested. Alexander died a short time later in the camp infirmary
Pygate’s court martial took place at Tidworth, Wiltshire, on 15 July 1944. Pygate testified at his court martial that after arguing with the other soldiers, including Alexander, he didn’t remember anything including how he got back to his hut number 7. Captain George Schwartz, Medical Corps, testified that on 25 April 1944, he had treated Pygate for a large scalp wound, which required ten stitches. However, he thought that there was no brain injury.
Benjamin Pygate was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. On 28 November 1944, Pygate was executed in the yard at Shepton Mallet prison. His remains are buried in Plot E, Row 4, Grave 85.
Private First Class James E. Alexander is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery, Plot B. Row 3, Grave 39.
GEORGE EDWARD SMITH Jr
George Edward Smith, Jr, was born on 14 April 1918 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted on 13 August 1942 at Pittsburgh.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 4 inches|
Private George Edward Smith was a member of the 784th Bombardment Squadron, 466th Bombardment Group.
About 1.30pm on Sunday 3 December 1944, Smith and Private Leonard S. Wojtacha, 61st Station Complement 466th Bombardment Group, left their base at Attlebridge Airdrome, near Honingham, Norfolk, for the purpose of hunting. Each soldier carried a .30 calibre issue carbine and ammunition.
They entered the woods on the estate of Sir Eric Teichman passing near his house, on an old abandoned road, and began shooting at a squirrel. They continued to fire at the squirrel as it leapt from tree to tree, until they reached a tree near the top of a hill, which was about a mile from the airfield and 300 yards from Sir Eric’s home. It was in a wooded area, overgrown with bracken about three feet high.
At about 2pm, after his lunch, Sir Eric heard the shots and told his wife that he was going to investigate. He cam upon Wojtacha and Smith they stood on opposite sides of the tree about 30 feet apart looking up to the branches for the squirrel. Smith told Wojtacha that there was an old man approaching behind him. Sir Eric asked Wojtacha “What are your names?”. Wojtacha then heard Smith say “Get back Pop” and then Wojtacha heard the firing of a gun. Smith had fired his carbine from his hip. Sir Eric slumped to the ground face downward at a distance estimated as between eight and 42 feet from Smith. After returning to their barracks at 2.50pm, they hid the rifles under a table in another soldier’s room and parted company.
After failing to return for tea, Sir Eric’s body was found at about midnight.
On the morning of 4 December 1944, all the men in Smith’s section were ordered to turn in their arms. Smith turned in his issued carbine. On 5 December, Smith came up to Wojtacha’s table at the mess hall and told him “Don’t say anything! Let them find out for themselves”.
The Provost Marshal learned that Smith and Wojtacha had gone hunting during the afternoon in question. On 6 December, he confronted Wojtacha with this evidence and with casts of footsteps made at the scene of the crime. Wojtacha was scared and made a full statement. The next morning Smith was told he would be charged with murder. After several warnings as to his rights, Smith a provided a written confession.
Eric Teichman was a British diplomat and orientalist. He was a son of Emil Teichman and Mary Lydia Schroeter. He was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. At the time of his death, Sir Eric had been serving as adviser to the British Embassy at Chungking.
George Edward Smith’s court martial took place on 8-12 January 1945 at Attlebridge, Norfolk. Smith was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed at Shepton Mallet on 8 May 1945. His remains are buried in Plot E, Row 3, Grave 52.
Eric Teichman is buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church, Honingham, Norfolk.
HAROLD ADOLPHUS SMITH
Harold Adolphus Smith, alias Harold A. Smith, alias Harry Adolphus Smith, alias Harold Alvin Smith, was born on 4 January 1923 in Troup City, Georgia. He enlisted on 4 February 1941.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 8 inches|
Private Harold A. Smith was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Tank Destroyer Group.
On 31 December 1942, Smith (imprisoned awaiting trial for stealing a jeep) and another general prisoner Harry L. English escaped from confinement in the guardhouse at Chisledon Camp, Wiltshire, and together went to London. They remained in London for about a week. When their money was running short, Smith told English he would return to the camp to collect some money that was owing to him.
Smith reached Swindon about 11.45pm 8 January 1943 and went to Chisledon Camp, six miles from Swindon. He arrived at the camp’s kitchen about 2am on Saturday 9 April 1943 and was given a sandwich by two members of the guard detail, who also took Smith to their barracks where he spent the night. Smith remained in or about such barracks until about 3,30pm the same day. During the day, Smith took one of the pistols without noticed; a U.S. Army .45 calibre pistol with holster, web belt and three clips of ammunition. He put the items on under his overcoat and walked out of the barracks about 4pm.
At this moment, Private Harry M. Jenkins was mounting a guard outside the barracks. According to Smith’s statement, he thought the guard was the one who had given him the sandwich. Smith walked towards Jenkins and said “Hiya Bud”. When Smith got level with Jenkins, Jenkins said “What the hell did you say?” Smith replied “I just said Hiya Bud”. Jenkins then said “What do you mean by that?” Smith then said “Just hiya bud.” Smith then said that at this moment, he and Jenkins were about four feet apart. Smith saw that Jenkins then moved his right hand towards his holstered gun. Smith withdrew the pistol from under his overcoat and then fired two shots at Jenkins, who fell to the ground.
Smith then holstered the gun and ran away from the scene. He ran out of the camp, along the Ogburne – Marlborough Road, caught a bus to Marlborough and then a train to London, arriving at London Paddington at about 4am Sunday 10 January 1943. Smith then met up with English at a nearby YMCA building. About 2.30am on Monday, while sleeping a chair at the YMCA, Smith was woken up by a London policeman and arrested. He was then handed over to the U.S. Military Police.
A witness told Smith’s trial that, upon hearing the two shots, he had rushed out of his hut. He reached the mortally wounded Jenkins who told him that it was Smith that had shot him.
Jenkins was taken to Swindon Hospital about 4.30pm on Saturday 9 January 1943, suffering from shock and gunshot wounds. One wound was in the left side of the back, one in the left arm, one in the left thigh and one in the right thigh, with one of the bullets passing through Jenkins’ body. Jenkins died the next evening.
Smith pleaded not guilty at his court martial which took place at Bristol on 12 March 1943. Smith was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
The court martial panel then attached a recommendation for mercy. Brigadier L. A. Hedrick, Assistant Judge Advocate General, wrote the following passage in the Board of Review’s confirmation that the trial was legally sound.
The recommendation for clemency by members of the court is not easily understood. A death sentence requires an unanimous vote, hence each member must have voted for it in this case. But the death sentence was not mandatory; and the youth of accused, the ground for the recommendation, was known at the time. For members voluntarily to vote for a death sentence and then immediately to recommend that someone else commute it smacks of a lack of courage of their convictions. Such a recommendation must fail to impress.Board of Review findings for trial of Harold A. Smith
Harold A. Smith was executed on 25 June 1943 at Shepton Mallet prison. Initially buried in the unmarked plot at Brookwood American Cemetery, after the war, Smith’s family arranged for his remains to be reburied in Georgia.
Private Harry M. Jenkins is buried in Etlan Cemetery, Etlan, Madison County, Virginia.
Madison Thomas was born on 3 March 1921 in Leonville, Louisiana. He enlisted on 8 December 1942 at Lafayette, Louisiana.
|HEIGHT||5 feet 6 inches|
Madsion Thomas was a soldier in the 964th Quartermaster Service Company.
Beatrice Maud Reynolds, the widow of Chief Writer Thomas Henry Reynolds, Royal Navy, who was killed when his ship H.M.S. Defence was sunk at the battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, lived at Gunnislake, Cornwell, with her brother who was invalided during the First World War. She was active in the British Legion, being chairman of the British Legion Hall.
On 26 July 1944, Reynolds left the hall at about 10.40pm to return home. As she did so, Thomas appeared walking by her side and asked if she had far to go. She replied “No” and suggested that Thomas better hurry up to catch his ride back to his camp, as she did not care for his company. Reynolds, thinking Thomas would continue onwards, stopped to talk to Jean Elizabeth Blight, who was sitting outside her home. However, Thomas returned to speak to Blight and Reynolds then continued on her way home.
As Reynolds came to the loneliest part of her walk home, Thomas appeared and again asked if she had far to go. She gave a definite “No” but Thomas then seized her and put her over a hedge. Thomas then hit Reynolds on the side of her head and raped her.
On 27 June 1944 at Whitchurch Down Camp, the whole company was paraded in an identification parade and Thomas was picked out by Bright as the soldier she saw with Reynolds. There was also blood stains on Thomas’ trousers of group A; the same blood group as Reynolds. Thomas was blood group O.
At Thomas’ court martial held at Plymouth on 21 August 1944, Thomas pleaded not guilty and chose to remain silent.
Thomas was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at Shepton Mallet prison on 12 October 1944. Thomas’ remains are buried in Plot E, Row 4, Grave 76.
JOHN H. WATERS
According to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, John H. Waters was born on 1 October 1905 in New Jersey. He enlisted on 16 May 1942.
Private John. H. Waters was a soldier in the Engineer Model Makers Detachment, based at Phyllis Court, Henley-upon-Thames.
On 14 July 1943, Mr. Issy Aaronson operated a tailor shop at 11a Greys Road, Henley-on-Thames. Doris May Staples was one of the three employees who worked in the shop that day. About 12.30pm Waters came to the tailor shop and asked for Doris Staples. He was told that Staples was not here and he then left the shop. About 2.30pm, Waters returned to the shop and attempted to sell Aaronson a rain jacket for one shilling. Staples had by this time retuned and Waters said something to her as he left. About 4.30pm Waters again returned to the outside of the shop and tapped on the window. Staples said “What does he want now? I had better go out and see what he wants.” She went out and joined Waters at the door. They had a discussion, during which Aaronson shouted to Staples “Come on; hurry up; get on with your work”, whereupon Staples said to Waters “I am going in; after all, he pays me my money”.
Staples re-entered the shop and tried to close the door but Waters had his foot in the door and followed her into the shop. Waters then pulled out a pistol and fired three shots at Staples. He walked up to Staples’ body and fired twice more. In all, Staples was hit by two bullets in the chest, one under the left armpit, one in the right knee and one in the right calf, the chest wounds proving fatal.
Waters then placed the gun under his chin and shot himself. The bullet passed through his chin, the floor of his mouth, his tongue and lodged in the left frontal region of his brain. Waters was rushed to hospital where doctors managed to remove the bullet.
At Waters’ court martial, held at Watford, Hertfordshire, on 29 November 1943, he faced three charges: murder, leaving his post before he was relieved and self-inflicted wounds.
Waters was examined by a board of officers to examine his sanity. On 27 October 1944, the board found that he was sane and responsible his actions now and on 14 July 1943.
John H. Waters was found guilty of all three charges and sentenced to death by hanging. A 35 signature petition, from Waters’ unit, asking for clemency was submitted to Lieutenant-General Jacob Devers, together with a 300 signature petition from the citizens of Henley-on-Thames. Lieutenant-General Devers replied that
no circumstance disclosed in the record of trial or brought to my attention in these petitions tends to justify Waters’ criminal act of murder.Board of Review findings (National Archives and Records Administration).
On 10 February 1944, John H. Waters was hanged at Shepton Mallet prison. Waters’ remains are now buried in Plot E, Row 2, Grave 46.
Doris May Staples is buried in Henley-on-Thames Cemetery, Oxfordshire.