Associated Press Staff Writer

IN OCCUPIED GERMANY - June 18, 1945 - The three MP's were the only soldiers in the little cot-littered room. They sat on cots drinking steadily out of a cognac bottle.

It was not yet noon, but the bottle was passing swiftly. At first, they just smoked and drank, dragging in the smoke in long hungry pulls and pouring down the fiery cognac as though their throats were lined with asbestos.

None of the three showed the slightest sign of drunkenness. Finally the thin-faced, dark-haired youth spoke:

"I don't see why in hell they don't hire executioners for the job," he said slowly. "I don't see why we have to do it."

The biggest of the trio, a six-footer, wrinkled his brow a moment before answering.

"No," that wouldn't be right," he said. "According to military law, they are supposed to be entitled to a firing squad, so somebody has to do it. It might as well be us. In a way, it's better for them.

"Did you notice how a couple of those guys still were proud of themselves? They were spies all right, but they figured they had been good soldiers. If you just had some executioner - some hired hand - do it, it would be like as if they were murderers."


The third MP, a stocky soldier with reckless eyes and a wild shock of hair, moved impatiently over to another cot.

"What the hell difference does it make whether it's good or bad for them or anything?" he asked belligerently, biting off each word. "We came over here to kill Germans, didn't we? They're Nazis, aren't they? Spies besides. So what the hell's the beef?"

It was a long moment before an answer came.

"Yeah, sure," said the big one. "Sure, we came over to kill 'em. But I don't figure on killing them when they're tied to posts. There's no beef. It's just that it don't set right on your stomach to knock guys off who are tied up. That's all." He paused a moment and then said, "Especially now that the war is over. Of course, it wasn't over when they caught those guys, but it seems different now, somehow."

Once again they drank and smoked in silence. The bright sunlight streamed in through a faint filter of dust. The thin-faced youth slowly waved his cigarette back and forth, watching its plumes of smoke curl upward in the sunlight.


"Well, it's over now, anyhow," he said. "And I hope there's no more of them. I keep wondering what good it did to kill 'em. Wonder who started this business that spies gotta be killed - any more than any other soldiers."

The soldier with the wild shock of hair jerked his head up with harsh burst of laughter.

"Better quiet that kind of thinking," he snorted. "Pretty soon you'll be wondering about the whole business and how come we are over here killing people at all. Then where will you be?"

The big soldier shifted his feet, rummaged through his pockets for a match and lit a cigarette.

"The point is how long do you think one of us would have lasted if we'd been caught over on the other side spying?" he said. "You gotta keep thinking about that."


The thin-faced youth nodded without answering.

"Hell, you got nothing to worry about anyway," said the blond soldier. "You don't know whether your rifle had a blank or not. You don't know if you killed anybody or not. What if you were like so and so," he mentioned another soldier's name. "He wouldn't shoot at the heart like everybody else. He shot at the guy's head to see if he had a live bullet.

The big soldier stood up angrily.

"Well, he knows now," he said his temper speeding up his ordinarily slow drawl. "He blew half of that guy's head off."

The GI took the bottle, corked it and slipped it back in his barracks bag. "Let's hit the sack and get a little sleep before dinner."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Not every story makes it past the censors in wartime. Japan was still fighting us across the Pacific, but in Europe, when this AP dispatch was sent, the Germans had given up. The story you have just read made it through on the wire to New York, but it got very little "play" in the nation's newspapers of that time. We are sure you can see why.]