|Date||January 1, 1945|
|Deaths||80 Wehrmacht soldiers|
The Chenogne massacre is the killing of Wehrmacht prisoners by American troops near the village of Chenogne, Belgium, on January 1, 1945. The massacre was carried out shortly after the Malmedy massacre, where captured American soldiers were gunned down by members of the Waffen SS. It was one of several alleged war crimes that took place during the Battle of the Bulge involving the Allies and Axis forces.
The events were covered up at the time and none of the perpetrators were punished. Post war historians believe the killings were based on senior commanders giving verbal orders that "no prisoners were to be taken".
On December 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, soldiers from the Waffen-SS gunned down 80 American prisoners at the Baugnez crossroads near the town of Malmedy. When news of the killings spread among American forces, it aroused great anger among front line troops. One American unit issued orders: "No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but will be shot on sight."
Some of the boys had some prisoners line up. I knew they were going to shoot them, and I hated this business.... They marched the prisoners back up the hill to murder them with the rest of the prisoners we had secured that morning.... As we were going up the hill out of town, I know some of our boys were lining up German prisoners in the fields on both sides of the road. There must have been 25 or 30 German boys in each group. Machine guns were being set up. These boys were to be machine gunned and murdered. We were committing the same crimes we were now accusing the Japs and Germans of doing.... Going back down the road into town I looked into the fields where the German boys had been shot. Dark lifeless forms lay in the snow.
The official post-war history published by the United States government states that while "it is probable that Germans who attempted to surrender in the days immediately after the 17th ran a greater risk" of being killed than earlier in the year, even so, "there is no evidence... that American troops took advantage of orders, implicit or explicit, to kill their SS prisoners." However, according to George Henry Bennett and referring to the above statement; "The caveat is a little disingenuous", and he proceeds to note that it is likely the orders to shoot prisoners (given by the 328th Infantry regiment) were carried out, and that other US regiments were likely also given similar orders. But the killing of SS prisoners had become routine at the time for some units. The 90th Infantry Division at the Saar "executed Waffen-SS prisoners in such a systematic manner late in December 1944 that headquarters had to issue express orders to take Waffen-SS soldiers alive so as to be able to obtain information from them".
In July 2018, KQED radio aired an episode of Reveal series called "Take No Prisoners: Inside a WWII American War Crime" in which Chris Harland-Dunaway investigated the Chenogne massacre. According to his sources, US soldiers shot about 80 German soldiers after they had surrendered (roughly one for each killed in the Malmedy massacre).. Harland-Dunaway refers to General George S. Patton's diary in which the latter confirms that the Americans "...also murdered 50 odd German med[sic]. I hope we can conceal this".
According to a declassified file Harland-Dunaway got access to, a soldier named Max Cohen described seeing roughly 70 German prisoners machinegunned by the 11th Armored Division in Chenogne. General Dwight D. Eisenhower demanded a full investigation, but the 11th Armored were uncooperative, saying "it's too late; the war is over, the units are disbanded." Ben Ferencz, an American lawyer who served as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, upon acquainting himself with the declassified report said: "it smells to me like a cover-up of course."