US Admiral on Nuremberg trials: “kangaroo court” and “hypocritical hocus pocus”

In Reviews, Shameless plug on September 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

[Editor’s note: Now, for something a little different.

 Last night, I finished re-reading “Twenty Million Tons Under the Sea”. The book is about submarine warfare during WWII. It was written in 1956 by Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, USN. I’m not generally drawn to read books about wars or battles. But as a former sailor and the son of a sailor, I love reading about the seafaring life and about ships. Admiral Gallery’s book is written in the postwar “Aw shucks” style that was common before gratuitous gore and rampant obscenity took the place of skillful storytelling. The book has a most surprising epilogue, considering the time in which it was written and by whom it was written. That epilogue is (partially) presented below. I think you’ll be surprised as well. Enjoy!]

 “…Seventy percent of all the officers and men who served in the U-boat fleet went to the bottom of the sea with their boats. This is an almost incredible casualty rate. In the Pacific the personnel loss rate for our submarines was only one-third as great. Well trained military outfits have mutinied in the face of much less. It takes a high calibre (sic) of leadership in the officers’ corps, good discipline, and high morale to keep on fighting despite such brutal losses. It’s too bad such valor was wasted in an evil cause.

…After World War I, all great nations agreed that the submarine was an uncivilized weapon which should be outlawed – just as we all now agree the atom bomb should be. But to outlaw an effective and useful weapon requires more mutual confidence and trust than civilized nations have ever had in each other. The great maritime nations who had little to gain and much to lose from the unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant vessels were perfectly willing, between wars, to declare this form of warfare uncivilized and to ban it. But they wouldn’t outlaw submarines completely because they might want to use them against each other’s war ships next time they had to settle their differences in the traditional way employed by the human race ever since Cain settled his with Abel in the Garden of Eden. With this in mind, the great powers, including the United States, foisted off on a gullible world the London Treaty of 1930, saying that if submarines were ever used against merchant ships again, they would follow the Rules of Prize Warfare.

These rules, drawn up originally in the days of sailing ships were as obsolete in 1930 as sailing ships, and everybody who agreed to them knew this. Nevertheless, the United States put its signature on this pious hokum, and (like everybody else) kept right on building submarines.

This hypocritical stuff went down the drain during the first week of World War II. The Germans sank the “Athenia” and the British armed all merchantmen, ordered them to report submarines by radio, and to ram them – things which were impossible in the good old days of sail when Prize Rules originated. Before long, both sides threw the book away and went to unrestricted submarine warfare the same as in World War I, each side piously claiming it was simply retaliating against the other.

 “’Terrorism’ is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; ‘war’ is what we call violence of the strong, and we glorify it.” Sydney J. Harris – American journalist and columnist


When the U.S. got into the war, our submarines in the Pacific operated the same as the Germans did, and sank six million tons of ships. We torpedoed without warning and left survivors to their fate. That’s the only way submarines can operate. Admiral Lockwood, who commanded our submarines in the Pacific, tells the story with a few words in the title of his book, Sink ‘Em All. Naval officers were not at all surprised by any of this. War is a brutal business and no amount of wishful thinking by bubble-headed statesmen between wars will make it otherwise.

When the statesmen louse up their job so badly that they have to have the military men pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them, a lot of innocent bystanders are going to get hurt. When nations, by mutual consent, decide to ignore the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” It is very difficult for the military leaders to restrict killing to just the right people.

 “Fuehrers will cease to plague the world only when the majority of its inhabitants regard such adventurers with the same disgust they bestow on swindlers and pimps. So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.” Aldous Huxley – English author


…You might think that since our submarines fought the same way the Germans did, we would sweep the question of Prize Warfare under the rug after the war and say no more about violation of the laws of war at sea. Our naval officers were perfectly willing to do this, but our statesmen and lawyers were vindictive. When the war was over, they insisted on trying the German Admirals Raeder and Doenitz at Nuremberg as war criminals for permitting their submarines to do exactly what ours did. A justice of our Supreme Court (ed – Robert H. Jackson) prosecuted them and tried to hang them. To our eternal shame, we convicted the German Admirals of violating the laws of war at sea and sentenced them to long terms of imprisonment: Raeder to life; and Doenitz to ten years.

 “…any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances.” Justice Robert H. Jackson


“We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” (ibid)


[Editor’s note: Admiral Gallery takes several sharp pokes at Justice Jackson. On the Court, Justice Jackson was a proponent of state’s rights and the rights of the accused. Gallery had virtually no kind words for Justice Jackson. Perhaps, and I do not honestly know, Admiral Gallery knew of Jackson’s leanings and found his duplicity, when it came to German naval officers, intolerable.]

This kangaroo court at Nuremberg was officially known as the “International Military Tribunal.” That name is a libel on the military profession. The tribunal was not a military one in any sense. The only military men among the judges were the Russians. Some military titles are listed on the staffs of the secretariat and prosecution counsel, the these belong to a lot of lawyers temporarily masquerading in uniform as military men.

Nuremberg was, in fact, a lawyer’s tribunal, although I can readily understand why the legal profession is ashamed to claim it, and deliberately stuck a false label on it.

I’m glad our real military men had nothing to do with the travesty on justice that the lawyers and “statesmen” conducted at Nuremberg. Raeder and Doenitz simply did their duty to their country in World War II, trying to straighten out the mess that their politicians got them into as all military men are sworn to do. Our politicians and lawyers set a rather stupid precedent when they tried these officers for carrying out the orders of their own misguided politicians.

Actually, the decision to court-marshal (sic) the German military brass was on par with the “unconditional surrender” blunder, which prolonged rather than shortened the war. From now on, Nuremberg gives enemy military leaders good reason for fighting to the last bullet than trying to negotiate surrender of a hopelessly lost cause. There certainly is no use for surrendering if you know you will be hauled up before a kangaroo court and hung, as most defendants were at Nuremberg.

After all, Doenitz did surrender six days after he stepped into Hitler’s shoes following the paperhanger’s suicide. He couldn’t have surrendered any sooner without leaving millions of Germans in East Prussia to the Red savages.

Even today, few people realize that the German Navy, in the last days of the war, evacuated several times as many residents from East Prussia as the British Navy took out from Dunkirk. As soon as Doenitz got his people to safety in West Germany, he surrendered…but one of the charges on which our Supreme Court presecutor tried to hang him was that he prolonged the war!

Had the German people seen fit to try their own military leaders for losing the war, I might go along with that. Or if our statesmen had insisted on hanging the Nazi politicians and had felt that a mock trial was necessary before doing it, I could see some logic in that. But our politicians and lawyers were undermining their own authority when they convicted the German generals and Admirals. After all, one thing the much maligned military brass must do, in a democracy as well as a dictatorship, is to swallow their convictions, if any, and do as they are told by the politicians.

Editor’s note: For those readers who are scowling at the writer’s words because of the Holocaust’s perpetrators, Admiral Gallery offers some relief in the following.]

…I have no sympathy for the sadists who operated the death camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. They should have been shoved into their own death chambers and liquidated quietly by the first military commanders to lay hands on them while the rest of us looked the other way. I even approve of their final hanging. But I do not approve of the baldfaced hypocritical hocus pocus by which our statesmen try to justify it legally. The mass murderers at the death camps operated on the basis that might was right, and so did we when we hung them (emphasis added).

At Nuremberg, mankind and our present civilization were on trial, with men whose own hands were bloody sitting on the judge’s seats. One of the judges came from the country which committed the Katyn Forrest massacre and produced an array of witnesses to swear at Nuremberg that the Germans had done it. Maybe crimes of such magnitude as those charged at Nuremberg should be left to the Last Judgment for punishment.

…Doenitz’s conviction on charge three – violation of the laws of war at sea – was an insult to our own submariners. Admiral Doenitz requested early in the trial that our own Admiral Nimitz be summoned as a witness in his defense to testify about how our subs operated in the Pacific. Our Supreme Court prosecutor had to hem and haw and to back water fast when that hot potato was tossed at him. Admiral Nimitz (God Bless him for the honest seafaring man that he is) finally submitted a sworn statement, answering questions put to him by Doenitz’s counsel and said that our submarines in the Pacific waged unrestricted warfare the same as the Germans did in the Atlantic.

Despite this, we convicted Admiral Doenitz on the charge of violating the laws of war at sea. If the old gentleman ever gets out of jail, I hope I never meet him. I would have trouble looking him in the eye. The only crime he committed was that of almost beating us in a bloody but “legal” fight.

…The Nuremberg trials placed a solemn stamp of approval on a code of war at sea which wee not only didn’t follow ourselves in World War II, but which may embarrass us in the future.”

[Editor’s final comments: Gallery’s frankness took a great deal of courage to put to pen in 1956. Politicians, being of an unchanging breed of swine, had the same level of contempt for the truth in 1956 as they do in 2012.

 But we also have some porcine characteristics. When evil men fly airliners into American skyscrapers we hypocritically call it “terrorism”. When evil men (politicians) order American military men to guide armed drones to bomb weddings, birthday parties, and neighborhoods we, with straight faces, call it “fighting a global war on terror”.

 I remain perplexed that good men and women will sign up to risk their lives, or risk being maimed, because of some incompetent ‘sumbitchin’ politician couldn’t conduct “diplomacy”. They call the American president the “Commander in Chief” of the military, despite the fact none of any of the recent ones could lead three sailors on shore leave into a whorehouse.

 If you vote for any politician, you’ve got blood on your hands when (not “if”) he/she screws things up. When you vote, you are appointing someone to be your proxy in some officially sanctioned (“legal”) bloodletting or murder.


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