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The Militant, 13 April 1945

Mike Cort

Expose Army Plot to Clear
Lichfield Torture Officers

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 15, 13 April 1946, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A Brass Hat conspiracy to whitewash high army officers guilty of ‘disciplining’ wounded American soldiers by ordering them clubbed and beaten was blown wide open this week. Captain Earl J. Carroll refused to play the role assigned to him and resigned from the prosecution staff set up to handle the case of the Lichfield detention center, now being tried in London.

It was at Lichfield prison in England that American soldiers suffered a virtual reign of terror throughout the war and were tortured for the slightest infraction of rigid army regulations. When news of this American Dachau finally reached the public early this year, the Brass Hats attempted to avoid responsibility for their torture policy by court-martialing the enlisted men assigned to Lichfield as guards.

It was this maneuver to which Capt. Carroll refused to be a party. In a seven-page letter of resignation on April 4, he charged that the trials are being “flagrantly mishandled” so as to whitewash the high ranking officers really responsible for the cruelties.

The tactic devised by the army hierarchy in this case is to demand a separate trial for each of the accused enlisted men, thus dragging out the case so that it would be problematical whether the Lichfield officers would ever be brought to trial. In the words of Captain Carroll, this tactic would “necessarily impair the government’s case against the higher-ranking officers.”

The first step in the campaign to unload all blame upon the enlisted men, occurred last February when Sgt. Judson Smith was court-martialed for cruelty to prisoners and sentenced to three years hard labor.

The day after Capt. Carroll’s resignation, the defense counsel for one of the accused enlisted men, charged that Maj. Gen. John T. Lewis, commander of the European western base section, was trying to railroad nine guards and “let the accused officers off.” Counsel Frank A. Johnson explained that accused enlisted men had been visited by members of General Lewis’ staff and offered reduced sentences if they would plead guilty and refuse to call witnesses who might implicate the officers in charge of the camp.

Johnson also charged that the court-martial, itself composed of nothing but Brass Hats, had deprived the enlisted men of their rights and that the “higher headquarters” was “biased and prejudiced.”

Conscious Policy

Col. James A. Kilian, former commanding officer of the Lichfield army prison, heads the list of the six officers who face court-martial should the military hierarchy’s whitewash attempts fail. That the Prussian-like brutality practiced at Lichfield was no accident, but the result of conscious army policy, was proven last February during the first court-martial of one of the enlisted guards.

It was revealed at that time that Col. Kilian had instructed one of his subordinates on the proper method of handling prisoners. He bragged about “the way we used to do it in the cavalry,” and explained the way he’d handle a “wilful” prisoner: “I’d take him down to the rifle range where it couldn’t be seen and work him over: Just don’t break too many bones.”

What a “working over” meant to the men imprisoned in Lichfield was revealed in a series of exposes written by Charles Carsten for the Militant last February. Up to the time of the Militant articles, the capitalist press had barely mentioned the gruesome story.

The Carsten articles revealed a few of the many cases of sadistic cruelty practiced in the prison. Prisoners had their heads rammed against a cement wall, and at least one of them – Private Eril Bolton – died from this treatment. Others were given the spread-eagle treatment, and clubbed on the stomach until they vomited blood.

The recital of Lichfield disciplinary methods reads like an exposé of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Just as the Nazi defendants at Nuremberg are now trying to tell the world that they had no knowledge of the tortures committed in German camps, so American military leaders are engaged in a campaign to convince the people that they were ignorant of what went on at Lichfield. That the Brass Hats not only directed Lichfield policy, but witnessed its execution, was proven by Col. Kilian himself who said that in one month eight generals had visited his guardhouse and found it “well-conducted.”

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