Bearing Silent Witness: A Grandfather's Secret Attestation to German War Crimes in Occupied France
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Scholars have acknowledged that the study of World War II era intelligence can be an extremely arduous undertaking. Intelligence tradecraft, by its very nature, requires that certain information remain secret. It necessitates the sustained concealment of activities or events. Moreover, this government emphasis on secrecy often results in the suppression of sensitive information from historians and citizens alike. Thus, one must turn to declassified records of the past to reshape modern conceptions of history. This article should be regarded as a spirited departure from traditional scholarship. Specifically, it utilizes the case study method to communicate a powerful message related to both law and history. Readers are encouraged to examine this narrative and related analysis in conjunction with the primary source material it references. More importantly, they are asked to apply a socio-legal approach to the personal account contained therein. In the summer of 2011, the author was fortunate to discover a declassified report detailing his grandfather’s experiences as a young airman in World War II. Lt. Raymond Murphy was shot down in 1944 by German anti-aircraft fire on his sixteenth mission as a B-17 Navigator with the U.S. Army Air Corps. When examined from a legal perspective, his report is illustrative of a number of law of war topics, including the foundational principles that gave rise to modern humanitarian law. Unfortunately, Lt. Murphy's account also evidences something far more disturbing, a criminal atrocity committed by German forces against the French population.
Smith, M.M. (2013) 'Bearing Silent Witness: A Grandfather's Secret Attestation to German War Crimes in Occupied France', Law, Crime and History, 3(2), pp.82-115. Available at: https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/handle/10026.1/8882
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