A Review of My Book Unsung Heroes of the Dachau Trials That I Thought Didn’t Quite Get It Right, My Response to the Review and the Reviewer’s Reply to My Response
John J. Dunphy
Part I: The Review
Part II: My Response to the Review in the Form of a Letter to The Journal of Army History
I was generally pleased with Matt Montazzoli’s review of my book Unsung Heroes of the Dachau Trials: The Investigative Work of the U.S. Army’s 7708 War Crimes Group, 1945–1947, which appeared in the Spring 2021 (26:3) issue of On Point: The Journal of Army History. However, I wish to make a few observations.
In the first paragraph, Mr. Montazzoli asserts that “the material would benefit from a deeper scholarly treatment than is possible with only the online and secondary sources employed here. “ Yet, in paragraph four, he concedes that I at least utilized “limited primary source documents.” Some of the primary sources I used in writing my book were indeed accessed on line, while others were hard copy documents that were shared with me by War Crimes Group veterans. Every source I utilized is listed in the bibliography. I leave it to readers to decide whether I consulted a sufficient number of primary sources.
I think Mr. Montazzoli will agree that certain secondary sources, when properly utilized, can be quite valuable. I call his attention to pages 133–134 where I quoted from an article in the November 7, 1946 edition of Wiesbaden Post, a U.S. Army publication surely unknown to most readers, that War Crimes Group veteran Bill Kasich shared with me. The author of the article made no pretense of impartiality and wrote with passion about the group’s work. He concluded with the promise, “The War Crimes Commission will continue its work of Justice at Dachau; it will remain ready long after the last Nazi has been tried and convicted to carry on a new kind of Justice — the Justice of ‘crimes against humanity.’ “ This long-ago young man’s passionate words succinctly embodied the idealism that motivated the members of the War Crimes Group. As I wrote after quoting this secondary source, “It is easy to understand why Bill Kasich kept this article and made a point to share it with me.”
While writing this book, I was well aware that it would contradict the prevailing view that the Nazi Werewolf movement was largely stillborn. However, I choose to stand by the testimony of the veterans I interviewed. Call its operatives werewolves or whatever one pleases, a Nazi underground indeed existed in post-war Germany and preyed on American military personnel. The men who shared their memories with me were neither delusional nor attempting to embellish their service records.
Mr. Montazzoli writes, “Dunphy’s motivations are pure: he was inspired to use his first-hand access to war crimes veterans to ‘provide the global community with yet another refutation of Holocaust denial.’ “ That is indeed my first sentence on page 2. Refuting Holocaust denial wasn’t my only motivation, however. At the bottom of page 1, however, the text reads: “Remarkably little about the 7708 War Crimes Group has been published that is readily available to the reading public. I wrote this book to remedy that situation. I also wanted to preserve the testimony of those War Crimes Group members who agreed to be interviewed.”
As I noted in the book, I conducted my interviews with the War Crimes Group members in the early years of this century. To the best of my knowledge, 94-year-old Bill Kasich is the only one still alive. I visit Bill, who lives alone, from time to time and always make a point to thank him for his cooperation, since he played such a vital role in making my book happen. I owe him a profound debt of gratitude, as does our nation and the entire global community.
Part III: The Reviewer’s Reply to My Response in the Form of an E-mail to Me
While my review was occasionally critical of Unsung Heroes, I want to be clear: I enjoyed the book, have referenced it numerous times in my own research and writing, and am quick to recommend it to others interested in the Dachau trials. While I found fault with some aspects of the book and stand by my criticisms, Mr. Dunphy and I are in absolute agreement that the men of the 7708 War Crimes Group are owed a profound debt of gratitude. I would add that Mr. Dunphy merits gratitude for working to document and publicize the unit’s role.
In addition to Unsung Heroes of the Dachau Trials: The Investigative Work of the U.S. Army 7708 War Crimes Group, 1945–1947, John J. Dunphy is the author of Abolitionism and the Civil War in Southwstern Illinois, Lewis and Clark’s Illinois Volunteers, From Christmas to Twelfth Night in Southern Illinois, Murder and Mayhem in Southwestern Illinois, Touching Each Tree, Old Soldiers Fading Away, Stellar Possibilities, Dark Nebulae, Zen Koanhead and pagan rites.