by Kenneth D. Alford
Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. Pp. viii, 232.
. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $45.00 paper. ISBN: 0786496800
GIs Who Behaved Badly
Alford, author of several works on looting in the Second World War, takes a look at the bad apples among the members of “The Greatest Generation.” While relatively few in number, rogue GIs developed some impressive criminal enterprises while their more upright comrades were fighting the Nazis.
Alford covers crimes in general, including rape, murder, and the Black Market, and also some particularly well organized criminal gangs operated by AWOL GIs, often working with French cohorts who had ties to organized crime. The scale of these crimes was enormous; at times the majority of the monthly cigarette shipments to the troops were diverted to the Black Market, as were millions of gallons of gasoline, motor vehicles, and more. Alford profiles a number of these criminals, though many were never apprehended, and some evaded justice due to rather high rank.
In looking at the Army criminal justice system, Alford finds it wanting, particularly when it came to African Americans charged with crimes, especially rape. Although he doesn’t address recent wild claims of upwards of 150,000 rapes committed by the million or so American personnel in France (in contrast to about 3,500 identified in a more serious study), of about 150 convictions for rape by U.S. personnel in France, 130 were of black men, as were 25 of the 29 men hanged for rape, although African Americans constituted only about 10 percent of U.S. troops in Europe.
Although not definitive, this is a good book about an unfortunate aspect of the war.
Note: American Crimes and the Liberation of Paris is also available as an ebook ISBN 978-1-4766-1943-9