American Soldiers and POW Killing in the European Theater of World War II
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This study contends that American soldiers killed large numbers of Axis POWs during the war in Europe. Although the established rules of war did not completely break down as in the Pacific theater, the killing of POWs was an integral part of the American combat ethos because the desensitizing effects of total warfare produced a mental state conducive to the abandonment of the established rules of war. Any enemy soldier who knowingly, or unknowingly, violated the American perception of proper battlefield behavior often met with a fatal response. Moreover, American soldiers whose mental state had been significantly distorted by the brutality of their combat experience often had little compunction about killing enemy prisoner who did not violate these unwritten rules.