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Liveblogging World War II: March 26, 1944

Trial of 75th German Army Corps Commander Anton Dostler:

On the night of 22nd March, 1944, two officers and 13 men of a special reconnaissance battalion disembarked from some United States Navy boats and landed on the Italian coast about 100 kilometres north of La Spezia. The front at the time was at Cassino with a further front at the Anzio beach head. The place of disembarkation was therefore 250 miles behind the then established front.

The 15 members of the United States Army were on a bona fide military mission, which was to demolish the railroad tunnel on the mainline between La Spezia and Genoa. On the morning of 24th March, 1944, the entire group was captured by a party consisting of Italian Fascist soldiers and a group of members of the German army. They were brought to La Spezia where they were confined near the headquarters of the 135th Fortress Brigade.

Colonel Almers then gave orders for the conduct of the execution, for the digging of a grave, etc. During the night from Saturday 25th to Sunday, 26th March, two attempts were made by officers of the 135th Fortress Brigade and by the Naval Officers to bring about a change in the decision by telephoning to the accused Dostler. All these attempts having been unsuccessful, the 15 Americans were executed on the 26th March, early in the morning. They were neither tried, nor given any hearing....

During his examination, the accused, on being handed a copy of the text of the Fuhrerbefehl of October, 1942, said that a document which he had received in 1944 through Army Group channels contained substantially everything that was in the 1942 text, but with certain additions. He stated further that:

this copy is not the complete Fuhrerbefehl as it was valid in March, 1944. In the order that laid on my desk in March, 1944, it was much more in detail... the Fuhrerbefehl which was laying in front of me listed the various categories of operations which may come under the Fuhrerbefehl. In addition there was something said in that Fuhrerbefehl about the interrogation of men belonging to sabotage troops and the shooting of these men after their interrogation.... I am not quite clear about the point, whether a new Fuhrerbefehl covering the whole matter came out or whether only a supplement came out and the former Fuhrerbefehl was still in existence….

The Fuhrerbefehl has as its subject commando operations and there was a list of what is to be construed as commando operations. I know exactly that a mission to explode something, to blow up something, came under the concept of commando troops...