Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk

The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943

Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk

Books by French MacLean

This Date in History: December 5


Kurt Bühligen

The following recommendation for promotion, dated December 5, 1942, requests promotion for Luftwaffe fighter pilot Kurt Bühligen to the grade of first lieutenant.

“Lieutenant Bühligen’s intellectual and physical attributes are above average.  He is tough and persevering; a decent, open-minded character, very reliable, well-liked by superiors, the men under him and within his circle of comrades.  He has good technical capabilities and for weeks substituted for the Technical Officer of the group.  Since July 3, 1942, he has been the action commander of the 4th Squadron and (from November 5, 1942 on) as Squadron Commander and has proven himself very well in flying as well as troop duty.  He possesses élan, pulls the men in his command along with him and knows how to differentiate between the essential and nonessential.  Bühligen is generous.  Lieutenant Bühligen has proven himself in more than 100 combat missions.  On September 6, 1941, he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.  To date, he has shot down 27 enemy planes.  Bühligen has initiative and knows how to respond in every situation.  He is a National Socialist.”  (Luftwaffe Efficiency and Promotion Reports for the Knight’s Cross Winners)

During the war, Kurt Bühligen shot down 112 enemy aircraft in over 700 operations, becoming the fourth highest Luftwaffe ace against the Western Allies.  Kurt Bühligen died at Nidda, Hesse on August 11, 1985.


Known to many G.I.s as the “Continental Stockade,” the Loire Disciplinary Training Center – which officially opened on December 5, 1944 – was a rough place, because it had rough inmates, over 1,600 in January 1945.  The Army believed that anything less strict would invite many G.I.s to “ride out the war” behind the front in comparative safety, rather than face combat.  The stockade administration ensured that each prisoner worked eight hours per weekday, including three hours of hard labor.  Incarcerated soldiers participated in thirty minutes of physical training and thirty additional minutes of close-order drill every weekday.  Soldiers lived in two-man pup tents; administration personnel were located in red brick buildings.  The “Continental Stockade” had ominous trappings: soldiers condemned to death wore distinctive black uniforms.  (American Hangman: MSgt. John C. Woods: The United States Army’s Notorious Executioner in World War II and Nürnberg)


Where mysteries are solved!

As in The Fifth Field; why and how 96 American Army soldiers were executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II. And how they are now buried in a secret cemetery in France. And why those records were kept in a closet for six decades. Or in American Hangman, was the US Army Hangman at Nuremberg later murdered on a remote Pacific atoll? Did you know that the Waffen-SS scoured German prisons in World War II to use hardened criminals in combat, much the same as the Russians do today in the Ukraine? Read The Cruel Hunters. Or maybe you like Wild West adventures. Did you know that two years before Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn, a wagon train of some 150 of the best shots on the frontier traveled part of Custer’s later route in search of the Lost Cabin Gold Mine, ran into Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and 1,400 warriors and survived? And that the longest successful rifle shot of the Wild West happened in their climactic battle? And that you can see where in Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold & Guns.

I had a great life spending over thirty years in the Army; was able to help defend the country in two wars with a bunch of tremendous soldiers and any success I may have had was due to each and every one of them; as I frequently tell my friends — I am no hero, but I served with heroes and you can’t do any better than that. I was also able to see the world, help develop complex technology and understand that I lived in a pretty special country. The only downside to all that Army time was that after I retired, doing regular day-to-day living was pretty boring.

So I started to write. It didn’t and doesn’t bring you much money, but it sure has been interesting traveling around the country and the world to chase after historical mysteries. I came across a page or two in some World War II history books, for example, on some special Waffen-SS unit in World War II that was composed of criminals let out of jail — but there were not that many details about it — and by luck I ran into detailed records of the unit buried in our National Archives. That led to The Cruel Hunters: SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger Hitler’s Most Notorious Anti-Partisan Unit.

Several more books on Germany in World War II followed: the dark side with works on concentration camps, Einsatzkommandos, and the Destruction of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto, and more-traditional writings on Luftwaffe Knights Cross winners and U-Boat sailors. That was fun, because I was able to interview many of them.

On a trip out to the Little Bighorn, I began to wonder what life was like for the basic enlisted cavalryman. All the existing books talked about officers — George Custer, Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen — but what about the hundreds of privates and sergeants? That search led to Custer’s Best: The Story of Company M, 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn, which was able to win the John M. Carroll Award.

Then, in 2001, I discovered U.S. Army records that were languishing outside Washington, D.C. that contained the story of 96 American soldiers who were court-martialed in Europe and North Africa in World War II and subsequently executed by the Army — not the German Army, but our own Army. And they were buried in a secret cemetery northwest of Paris that is not shown on any map! It took me a decade to run down all the loose ends, but we finally got the story, which led to The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II, which subsequently received the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award. In fact, if you only read one of the books, read this one! Because it will show you that if you are willing to hunt for the truth long enough, you can find it and document it.

I stumbled across a little known battlefield in southeast Montana on a bed & breakfast ranch (The longest shot of the West happened nearby,) and that turned in into Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold and Guns: The 1874 Yellowstone Wagon Road and Prospecting Expedition and the Battle of Lodge Grass Creek. It is the saga of a Montana wagon train in Montana in 1874 that was searching for gold. The 150 gold miners, buffalo hunters and Civil War veterans did not find any gold, but they did run into Sitting Bull and 1,400 of his closest friends. You can visit the route they took today as many of their campsites and their three major skirmishes with Sitting Bull are all shown with GPS coordinates that you can just plug into your device.

I helped a great friend finish his own non-fiction book on the murder of Tsar Nicholas II, as well as a magazine article analyzing the Little Bighorn Cook-Benteen Note (it might have been “doctored” after the battle.) His book is titled Romanovs’ Murder Case: The Myth of the Basement Room Massacre. (Spoiler Alert: The Bolsheviks lied about what happened, and there was an American Army officer closely involved with the event.)

Then I finished a massive book on the German offensive at Verdun in 1916, but so far have been unable to contract with a publisher, so if you know of one that might be interested let me know!

More successful is a biography of Master Sergeant John C. Woods, the U.S. Army hangman in Europe at the end of World War II, who stayed on to hang numerous Nazi war criminals at Landsberg and Nürnberg in 1945-46. American Hangman: MSgt. John C. Woods: The United States Army’s Notorious Executioner in World War II and Nürnberg.

The latest book is on the Tiger tank crews of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps at the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk is the first work in any language concentrating on the crews, rather than the tank; there are over 220 crewmen that rode on these super tanks.

An upcoming book is on my father’s experience as an Infantry soldier in the 9th Infantry Division in World War II. He fought in the Hürtgen Forest, a place called Merode Castle, and The Battle of the Bulge, and will be about what it was like to be a young infantryman in these bloody battles. They had a really tough time; in just the last eleven months of the war, they had 88 killed in action and several hundred wounded. But they only had 177 soldiers assigned and you’ll see some guys were wounded up to three times and some replacements arrived at the company in the morning and were dead by sundown. I’ve put my heart and soul in this because of my father and I think it will be the last book I write — and clearly the best I believe.

The best news is that Schiffer Publishing will publish the book. I turned in all material to them in May 2023. My guess is that it will come out in 2024, appropriate as that will be the 80th Anniversary of the Hürtgen Forest and The Battle of the Bulge!

Two books are ready for you right now, completely FREE, and can be found in the E-Books section. Both are novels. One is a crime novel set in Puerto Rico that touches on the murder of famed boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho, and the other a new version of “Dante’s Inferno” with World War II personages occupying the various levels of hell. Both books are downloadable in three formats. There are no ads or commercials in either one, and both are ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Another observation I made while in the Army was that the world is a dangerous place and unfortunately a lot of that danger is coming to our own country. September 11, 2001 should have been a wake-up call, but too many lessons have already been forgotten and acts of terror now occur in large cities and small towns across the country. So I have also started several projects to help people organize their thoughts on personal protection (such as the Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP pistol,) and how we might want to analyze some of these enemies to our nation (see Strategy, Weapons and Tactics).

So come on inside and go on Your Own Adventure!

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