In 1944, in the biggest single atrocity perpetrated against US troops in Europe during World War II, eighty-four American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs were shot dead by a German combat unit of the 1st Waffen-SS Panzer Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
Malmedy massacreThe massacre, as well as others committed by the same unit on the same day and following days, was the subject of the Malmedy massacre trial, part of the Dachau Trials of 1946. After the verdict, the way in which the court had functioned was disputed, first in Germany then later in the United States. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which made no decision. The case then came under the scrutiny of a sub-Committee of the Senate of the United States. A young Senator from Wisconsin, and a war-time veteran of the US Marine Corps, Joseph McCarthy, used it as an opportunity to raise his political profile.
McCarthy was already aware of the undue influence of Congressmen from heavily German-American areas of the Midwest. But he was shocked to discover that former Nazi officials had regained some power due to anti-Communist positions with the occupation forces. The public debate (some would say witch hunt) forced other startling facts to emerge. One such item was Operation Paperclip a covert government programme which would eventually saw over sixteen hundred Nazi scientists receive US passports.
The legal matter of whether or not the Court had tried the defendants fairly was escalated by McCarthy into the larger moral issue of post-war justice. Had the Nazis who murdered the GIs in the snow now infiltrated not only the German Administration, but the Federal Government as well?