Guadalcanal Quintet | Naval History Magazine – October 2021 Volume 35, Number 5

Source: Guadalcanal Quintet | Naval History Magazine – October 2021 Volume 35, Number 5

From August to November 1942, a series of hard-fought nighttime naval battles punctuated the struggle for the crucial foothold in the Solomon Islands.

Mass grave from Nazi atrocity discovered in Poland’s ‘Death Valley’ | Live Science

Source: Mass grave from Nazi atrocity discovered in Poland’s ‘Death Valley’ | Live Science

Archaeologists in Poland have discovered a mass grave that the Nazis tried to destroy at the end of World War II, a new study finds.

The mass grave, filled with the remains of about 500 individuals, is linked to the horrific “Pomeranian Crime” that took place in Poland’s pre-war Pomerania province when the Nazis occupied the country in 1939. The Nazis killed up to 35,000 people in Pomerania at the beginning of the war, and they returned in 1945 to kill even more people, as well as to hide evidence of the prior massacres by exhuming and burning the bodies of victims.

Despite this elaborate Nazi cover-up, archaeologists have now found abundant evidence of one of these mass graves after examining archives, interviewing locals and conducting extensive archaeological surveys, the researchers said.

Related: Photos: Escape tunnel at Holocaust death site

The 1939 Pomeranian Crime was the first large-scale atrocity of World War II in Poland. This includes 12,000 people who were killed in the forests around the village of Piaśnica and 7,000 people who were buried in the forests near the village of Szpęgawsk in 1939. Some historians say the massacres were a prelude to the later Nazi atrocities committed during the Holocaust, the researchers said.

So many people were killed in 1939 and 1945 in one area of Pomerania, near the outskirts of the town of Chojnice, it became known locally as Death Valley. One witness, who testified after the war, recalled seeing that “a column of approximately 600 Polish prisoners from Bydgoszcz, Toruń, Grudziad̨z and neighboring villages, under the escort of the Gestapo, was taken to Death Valley during the second half of January 1945,” the researchers wrote in the study. “They were executed there, and the witness speculated that the bodies of the victims were burned to cover up the evidence.”

Image 1 of 2

An aerial photo of Death Valley taken in July 2020.

An aerial photo of Death Valley taken in July 2020. (Image credit: D. Frymark; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

A researcher uses a metal detector to search for artifacts at the mass grave site.

A researcher uses a metal detector to search for artifacts at the mass grave site. (Image credit: D. Frymark; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

An aerial photo of Death Valley taken in July 2020.

An aerial photo of Death Valley taken in July 2020. (Image credit: D. Frymark; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

A researcher uses a metal detector to search for artifacts at the mass grave site.

A researcher uses a metal detector to search for artifacts at the mass grave site. (Image credit: D. Frymark; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

After the war, in 1945, exhumations at that spot in Death Valley unearthed the remains of 168 people. But it was evident from the exhumation reports and the witness’ testimony that there were more burials to be found, the researchers said.

“It was commonly known that not all mass graves from 1939 were found and exhumed, and the grave of those killed in 1945 was not exhumed either,” study lead author Dawid Kobiałka, an archaeologist and cultural anthropologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

To investigate, Kobiałka and his colleagues used noninvasive techniques to study the area, including with lidar (light detection and ranging), which uses lasers shot from an aircraft flying overhead to map the topography of the ground. The lidar work revealed trenches that the Polish army had dug in 1939 in anticipation of a war with the Third Reich. But just a few months later, the Nazis used these trenches to hide the bodies of their victims, the researchers said.

“Executions took place at the trenches,” they wrote in the study. “The victims fell into the trenches or their bodies were thrown there by the perpetrators. Later, the trenches were backfilled with soil.”

At the trench site, the team performed surveys on the soil underground with ground-penetrating radar, electromagnetic field analysis and electrical resistivity, and found many anomalies hidden in the soil underground. Metal-detector surveys also revealed many artifacts, which led the researchers to excavate eight of the trenches. Since then, they have found more than 4,250 artifacts, many from 1939 and 1945, that included bullets, shell casings and charred wood that was likely used to burn the bodies.

Image 1 of 4

Photos of (A-B) the funeral of people murdered in Death Valley; (C) the gateway to the Cemetery of the Victims of Nazi Crimes in Chojnice; and (D) one of the mass graves in the Cemetery of the Victims of Nazi Crimes in Chojnice.

Photos of (A-B) the funeral of people murdered in Death Valley; (C) the gateway to the Cemetery of the Victims of Nazi Crimes in Chojnice; and (D) one of the mass graves in the Cemetery of the Victims of Nazi Crimes in Chojnice. (Image credit: Historical-Ethnographic Museum of Julian Rydzkowski in Chojnice; D. Kobiałka; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

Pieces of charred wood: (A-B) used to build a stack on which the bodies of victims were burned; (C) blue stains on the wood left by a flammable substance; (D) fragments of burned human bones preserved on the surface of the wood.

Pieces of charred wood: (A-B) used to build a stack on which the bodies of victims were burned; (C) blue stains on the wood left by a flammable substance; (D) fragments of burned human bones preserved on the surface of the wood. (Image credit: J. Rennwanz; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

The wedding ring of Irena Szydłowska, a courier with the Polish resistance.

The wedding ring of Irena Szydłowska, a courier with the Polish resistance. (Image credit: A. Barejko; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

Personal belongings from victims murdered at Death Valley in 1945, including (a) a wristwatch; (b) a badge with crest of Toruń; (c) a woman's earring; and (d) a holy medal.

Personal belongings from victims murdered at Death Valley in 1945, including (A) a wristwatch; (B) a badge with crest of Toruń; (C) a woman’s earring; and (D) a holy medal. (Image credit: A. Barejko; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

The team also found cremated bones and jewelry, including a gold wedding ring, suggesting the victims were not robbed when they were killed. The researchers identified the ring’s owner as Irena Szydłowska, a courier in the Polish Home Army. “Her family was informed about the finding, and the plan is to return the ring to them,” Kobiałka said.

(A) Study author Dawid Kobiałka interviews Urszula Steinke, who lost her father in 1939 in Death Valley; (B) Alojzy Słomiński, the father of Urszula Steinke; (C) An interview with Aleksandra Lubińska, who lost her father in 1939 in Death Valley; and (D) Władysław Kręcki, the father of Aleksandra Lubińska. (Image credit: D. Frymark; U. Steinke’s private archive; A. Lubińska’s private archive; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)Their historical investigation revealed that some of the killed prisoners were part of the Polish resistance.

“A series of specialized analyses of the finds is taking place right now,” Kobiałka said. “It is believed that more victims killed in Death Valley will be identified soon, and their families will be informed about what really happened to their beloved ones.”

The team also hopes to identify some of the victims with DNA analysis. After the researchers are done examining the site, “the remains will be reburied in Death Valley and the site will become an official war cemetery,” they wrote in the study.

The study was published online Wednesday (Aug. 18) in the journal Antiquity.

Originally published on Live Science.

Their historical investigation revealed that some of the killed prisoners were part of the Polish resistance.

“A series of specialized analyses of the finds is taking place right now,” Kobiałka said. “It is believed that more victims killed in Death Valley will be identified soon, and their families will be informed about what really happened to their beloved ones.”

The team also hopes to identify some of the victims with DNA analysis. After the researchers are done examining the site, “the remains will be reburied in Death Valley and the site will become an official war cemetery,” they wrote in the study.

The study was published online Wednesday (Aug. 18) in the journal Antiquity.

Originally published on Live Science.

Fred Hockley – Wikipedia

Source: Fred Hockley – Wikipedia

 

The case haunted Major Murray Ormsby (1919-2012), who was the military prosecutor at the trial, for he feared that Hockley’s sacrifice would be forgotten. In 1995 he started placing a memorial notice in the Daily Telegraph on 15 August each year, the anniversary of Hockley’s death.

 

On the morning of Aug 15, Hockley and six other members of 24 Wing were assigned to escort 10 Firefly and Avenger aircraft attacking airfields in the Tokyo Bay area – the last mission to be flown by British aircraft in the war. Weather conditions were bad and the aircraft were forced to pull out of the attack on the first airfield. As they searched for a fresh target, they were attacked by 12 Zero fighters.

The Seafires managed to shoot down seven of the Zeros, scaring the others off. But as they looked around they realised that Hockley was missing.

The pilot, whose wireless was not working, had been shot down but had parachuted to what seemed safety. Nakamura Kiyozo, an air raid warden in the village of Higashimura, saw Hockley walk towards him. The pilot appeared unhurt and was not armed. The two shook hands and smoked two cigarettes that the British airman produced. Nakamura then took Hockley to the local civil defence HQ, where the commander decided to hand him over to the local military unit, the 426th Infantry Regiment.

The Japanese soldiers were waiting for the emperor’s noon broadcast to announce that the war was over and there was no anger at Hockley. One soldier even slackened the rope around the pilot’s hands since “the war is over”. At regimental headquarters, Col Tamura Teiichi, commanding officer of 426 Regiment, listened to the emperor announce the end of the war and rang divisional HQ to ask what should be done with the prisoner.

“You are to finish him in the mountains tonight,” said Major Hirano Nobuo, divisional chief of staff. Tamura considered questioning the order with the commander but decided not to risk angering him. He rang Capt Fujino Masazo, the officer commanding the local unit, to tell him that Hockley must be executed. “Do it so that no one can see it,” he added. Fujino was stunned.

“I was very much surprised,” Fujino said. “In the past, the division had never issued such an unkind order. I decided there was no other way but to send the prisoner to Col Tamura.” Fujino told Sgt-Major Hitomi Tadao to move the prisoner to regimental headquarters, where another officer ordered him to take six soldiers equipped with shovels and pickaxes up into the mountains to dig a grave.

Hockley, with his hands tied, was later led up to the mountain grave. It was about 9pm, nine hours after the emperor had officially declared the war over. “Fujino made the prisoner stand with his back to the hole,” Hitomi said. “The prisoner was blindfolded with his hands tied lightly in front.

“I heard a pistol shot. The prisoner seemed to collapse and I heard two more shots. The prisoner fell on his back. There was another shot and he rolled over into the hole. “He seemed to be in pain. Fujino borrowed a sword from Sgt Kusume and thrust the sword into the prisoner’s back. The prisoner did not move any more. The soldiers filled up the hole.”

The details of Hockley’s fate would never have been known had not Col Tamura panicked and, fearing that wild animals might find the body, ordered it to be exhumed and cremated. When American occupation forces heard of it, Tamura attempted to persuade Fujino to lie about what had happened. But he refused. Tamura, Hirano and Fujino were handed over to the British, accused of a war crime.

It was only then that Hockley’s friends on Indefatigable heard what had happened. Mike Brown, another of the ship’s pilots, said: “We were appalled to learn that he had been executed. By rights poor Freddie should have returned home.” The trial was held in Hong Kong in May and June of 1947. The military prosecutor was a young British Army officer, Murray Ormsby.

“We hanged Tamura and Hirano in September 1947,” said Major Ormsby. “But Fujino, who was completely honest about what had happened, was given 15 years’ imprisonment. I doubt he served it all. I just thought it was such a tragic case that it should be brought to people’s attention. So in 1995, I started putting the notice in The Daily Telegraph and I have done so ever since.”

Shot in cold blood – nine hours after war ended

Chris Bishop, Eastern Daily Press, Thursday October 28, 1999

The real story behind the death of an East Anglian wartime pilot has finally come to light more than 50 years after he was murdered in cold blood. Family and friends always knew that Sub-Lt Fred Hockley, from Littleport, near Ely, died after his Seafire plane was shot down in an air raid on Tokyo.

Now it has emerged that the 22-year-old flier was executed on the day Japan surrendered – nine hours after the war ended.

Sub-Lt Hockley’s relatives pieced together his final hours after a cryptic In Memoriam notice appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

The brief announcement said simply that Sub-Lt Hockley was shot down over Tokyo Bay on August 15, 1945, and later executed.

It was placed by Major Murray Ormsby – the British Army officer who prosecuted Fred Hockley’s killers and who decided it was time the case was brought to the public’s attention.

Sub-Lt Hockley was shot down as he took part in the last mission flown by British aircraft in the Second World War. His plane, which took off from the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable, was hit during a dogfight. Fred Hockley parachuted to safety and was handed over to Japanese soldiers, who were waiting in their barracks for the Emperor’s broadcast to announce that the war was over.