SCGS is continually trying to follow up on previous investigations. One of the investigations that has puzzled us has been the Fort Douglas Cemetery. There is a section of the cemetery where 12 German POWs are buried. We were unable to find out what happened...until now.
While looking at our new favorite website, we found the death certificates of some of the men killed on July 8, 1945. They all say that they died due to gunshot wounds. All were ruled as "Accidental", but later on, someone went in and underlined "Homicide". Double click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read.
Upon a little further investigation, we found that all of these men were killed in what is known as the Salina POW Massacre. According to Wikipedia:
The Salina, Utah, Prisoners of War massacre caused the death of nine German prisoners of war and the injury of 20 more.
The incident happened on the night of July 7–July 8, 1945, two months after the German surrender. Private Clarence V. Bertucci (September 14, 1921 - December 1969) returned to the camp from a night of drinking, and relieved the guard of the tower nearest the commanding officer's cabin. He proceeded to load and fire a .30 caliber machine gun into the German prisoners' tents. Within thirty seconds of the start, his belt of 250 rounds was expended. Nine were killed and 20 were injured.
Salina was the home of some 250 German prisoners of war (both from Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS) who were being used as workers on the local harvest. At the time of the incident the prisoners were waiting to be repatriated.
Bertucci was from New Orleans, Louisiana and had previously been convicted twice by court-martial for minor military discipline infractions; hence he was still a private even though he had enlisted in 1940. Due to his mental illness Bertucci spent some time at a New York mental institution. He was one of three Americans prosecuted for killing Axis POW's: the other two were related to the 1943 Biscari massacres in Italy. Bertucci died in December 1969.
This puts a new twist to the story. This story was so big that Times Magazine even did an article about it in 1945. We will be heading back to Fort Douglas soon to reopen this case and see if we can visit with the men that were killed under undeserved circumstances.