In many World War II death penalty cases, military psychiatrists, using intelligence tests, found that the accused were substantially below average.  Such was not the case with Private First Class Paul M. Kluxdal.

Paul Kluxdal

Born on July 17, 1907 in Merrill, Wisconsin, Kluxdal was a radio operator in his unit, an occupation that required some real skill.  From November 19, 1924 to July 14, 1927, he had served in the Wisconsin National Guard; he also attended the University of Wisconsin for two years.  Prior to enlisting, Kluxdal, who was white, was married and lived in Oak Park, Chicago, Illinois; he was a construction foreman, building commercial chimneys.  His wife worked for the War Department in Chicago; the couple had no children.  Then Private First Class Paul Kluxdal did two stupid things.  For several months, he made threatening statements against his first sergeant.  Then, on August 12, 1944, he shot and killed his first sergeant.  Despite his intelligence, that combination of events would get him hanged.

Master Sergeant John C Woods, US Army Hangman

Master Sergeant John C. Woods hanged Paul Kluxdal at the Seine Disciplinary Training Center on October 31, 1944, Halloween.  And just like some of the scary visions of that holiday, the hanging was botched and it appears that it took eighteen minutes for the condemned man to die.

The Fifth Field analyzes the entire Kluxdal case and its contradictory evidence, as well as the execution (which is also discussed in American Hangman) and you can come to your own conclusion as to what should have happened in this case.

British historian Paul Johnson kindly found this photograph of Paul Kluxdal and sent it to me, so now you can put a face to a name.

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Books by French L. MacLean