Werner Schmiedel

Kudos to David Venditta, Content Editor, The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania for finding this photograph of Werner E. Schmiedel at the National Archives in St. Louis.

Schmiedel, also known as “Robert Lane,” was the leader of the “Lane Gang” that terrorized Italian shopkeepers and travelers in 1944.

Schmiedel’s crime spree began on September 2, 1944, when he was confined at the Disciplinary Training Stockade near Aversa, Italy.  A white soldier born in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, he escaped and made his way through war-torn Italy to Sparanise, twenty miles northwest of Naples.  On September 7, he and gang compatriots, Private James W. Adams and Private Anthony Tavolieri robbed an Italian man of 150,000 lire.  The men moved to Formia and robbed two MPs of their pistols and brassards on September 17, 1944.  Later that day, the trio and two other gang members robbed Polish Lieutenant General Wladyslaw Anders’ driver near Capua.

The men then moved to Rome, where on October 10, 1944, they robbed a café and killed a man.  Over the next two weeks, authorities arrested numerous members of the gang around Rome.  Tavolieri died in a confrontation; finally, on November 3, 1944, authorities arrested Werner Schmiedel at “Rocky’s Bar” in Rome. He previously went AWOL from May 20, 1944 to June 2, 1944.  He escaped from the guardhouse on June 13, 1944 and remained at large for three days.  He escaped again on June 21, 1944 and remained absent until June 30, 1944.  On August 19, 1944, a GCM found him guilty of violating the 61st Article of War and sentenced him to twenty years, but Brigadier General Francis H. Oxx reduced the period of confinement to ten years.  In thanks, Schmiedel escaped confinement on September 2, 1944 and his last crime wave began.

After his last crime spree, Schmiedel was convicted by another General Court Martial and sentenced to death.  He was executed by hanging at Aversa, Italy on June 11, 1945. The Army buried Schmiedel at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Naples, the General Prisoner plot, in Grave 2-17.  Exhumed in 1949, Werner Schmiedel is buried at the American Military Cemetery at Oise-Aisne in Plot E.  His remains are in Row 3, Grave 53.