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The Hesse Crown Jewels Case

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In November 1945, three American Army officers stationed in Germany pulled off a dramatic jewel heist when they stole the Hesse crown jewels that were concealed in a German castle occupied by US troops. When evidence of the crime came to light, the soldiers were court-martialed, found guilty, and sentenced to prison. Less than half of the jewels, valued at $2.5 million in 1945 were recovered.

Princess Margaret wearing some of the Hesse crown jewels

In 1944, with the Allies closing in, Prince Wolfgang of Germany’s House of Hesse abandoned the family’s castle in Kronberg, north of Frankfurt, Germany. Before leaving, he secretly placed the Hesse crown jewels, which included over 500 carats of loose diamonds, a 116-carat sapphire, tiaras, packets of rings, pendants, bracelets, and more into a large zinc-lined wooden box. He dug a hole in the cellar of the castle and lowered the box down, then covered it with concrete. To further ensure the safety of the jewels, he built a fake wall, creating a secret room that held the treasure.

In April 1945, US troops took over the castle to use as an officers’ club. They relegated the Hesse family to several guest cottages on the castle grounds. WAC Capt. Kathleen Nash was assigned to have “full charge of the castle and to operate it as a club and recreation center.”

On November 5, 1945, Roy C. Carlton, a member of Nash’s staff, heard from a German informant that something valuable was buried in the basement of the castle. Carlton reported this to Nash who ordered him to conduct a search. While exploring the basement, they noticed fresh concrete and started to attack the area with a sledgehammer. They ultimately unearthed the box filled with treasure. Nash ordered it taken to her room.

Nash was romantically involved with Col. Jack W. Durant (they later married). After seeing the treasure, she called him and soon Nash, Durant, and Maj. David J. Watson were snipping apart elaborate settings and pocketing gems.

In February 1946, Princess Sophie of Greece was preparing to marry Prince George Wilhelm of Hanover. Tradition stated that the royal bride would wear the crown jewels. When a servant went to retrieve the jewels, he discovered them missing. The Hesse family complained to military authorities who started an investigation.

The investigation revealed some of the jewels were already gone – having been sold in Switzerland and Ireland. Others were mailed or smuggled back to the US. Nash sent items to her sister in Wisconsin including a 36-piece solid gold cutlery set with handles of semi-precious stones. When army agents burst into the Wisconsin home, they observed the cutlery being used as everyday kitchenware. Col. Durant took some of his smuggled gems and buried them in fruit jars near Falls Church, VA. Police dug up three jars filled with diamonds and cash.

Jewels from the Hesse collection

Nash, Durant, and Watson were court-martialed, convicted and sentenced to prison. More than half of the gems removed from their settings were never recovered.

To see the original documents from the Hesse Crown Jewel Court Martial case, including Kathleen Nash’s statement to the court, photos, additional court testimony, numerous pleas for clemency like this one for Maj. Watson, a Hesse family pedigree chart, and more, see our Hesse Crown Jewels Court-Martial Collection on Fold3!

125 Comments

  1. Picture of Princess Margaret? Doesn’t look like Princess Margaret to me.

  2. That is NOT Princess Margaret of England, but the Princess Margaret of Germany

  3. Princess Margaret of England –I’m sure, isn’t the Princess Margaret they refer to. They are making reference to the Princess Margaret of the Hesse Family.

  4. Funny the article does not mention how long each one spent in prison… I’d just about bet it was nowhere near appropriate for having destroyed priceless treasures. The stealing is bad enough, but the destruction of historical items of great craftsmanship disturbs me even more.

    • Nash was sentenced to 5 years, Watson 3, and Durant 15

    • They actually served the following sentences: “As for the conspirators, Watson was paroled in 1947 and died—still petitioning for a presidential pardon—in 1984. Nash and Durant were both released in 1952 and spent the remainder of their lives together; she died in 1983 and he in 1984, both apparently of alcohol-related illnesses. More than half of the jewels the trio pried from their settings—a trove worth some $16 million today—were never recovered.“

    • A couple of them got nowhere near the time they should have. This is a huge stain on American military history. Disgusting.

    • I was thinking the same thing

    • After reading this blog, I was curious about the same thing so I looked it up. According to historynet.com, Watson was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison, Nash got 5 years, and Durant received 15 years. Watson was paroled in 1947, and Nash and Durant were released in 1952. Shortly before they were captured and charged, Nash and Durant had gotten married. Apparently, Watson up until his death in 1984, continually petitioned for a presidential pardon. Nash and Durant died in 1983 and 1984 of alcohol-related diseases.

    • I agree. Unbelievable, that these three people would completely destroy some pieces by cutting them apart & digging the precious stones from the various pieces of jewelry. I wonder how they would feel if someone did this to there family treasures.
      This story was told on the History Channel just last week.

  5. Quite a story! Thank you!

  6. She was Prince Philip’s older sister, widow of Prince Christoph of Hesse, she was about to marry Prince George William of Hanover.

    • Thank you for providing the correct answer.
      I knew it was one of the Kaiser’s younger sisters, who all looked similar.

  7. Any information on who bought the items in Ireland and where they were bought/ auctioned ?

    • Certainly. Watson is my grandfather, he had an affair with Peggy Harvey and had a daughter, my mum. He sent/gave my gran some of the jewels. My gran hid the jewels in the baby powder until Watson wrote her a note telling her to give them back. Some were taken to a pawn shop on the Shore Road in Belfast. Some more were buried in the side of the road going up to Watson’s family home. Hope this helps!

    • The details are in Kenneth Alford’s book The Spoils of World War 2.
      Some of the (by then) scrap silver and gold was sold to a now defunct jewellers in Belfast, the precious stones and jewellery were collected by the army and returned.

    • From Alford’s book
      Later, on another trip to Belfast, the major entered a pawn shop called the Belfast Gold Exchange and sold proprietor William Corran a quantity of scrap gold, including old-fashioned Victorian ladies’ gold mesh handbags, broken jewelry, bangles, chains, and other miscellaneous items, which he professed to have obtained in Italy. Corran paid him 80 pounds ($ 430) for the lot and put it in his window for resale. The items included a wide bracelet of braided gilt, a piece of gold chain, a gold Easter egg with enamel and forget-me-nots, a red Easter egg set with diamonds, a German gold ten-mark coin, an old coin of Savoy with a representation of the Annunciation, a gold coin with the head of King Victor Amadeus of Savoy, and a gold medal with the head of King Umberto I of Italy. All of these items were the rightful property of Princess Mafalda, daughter of the king and queen of Italy. The gold chain was a piece of the watch chain of her grandfather, King Umberto I of Italy. The ten-mark coin boreLater, on another trip to Belfast, the major entered a pawn shop called the Belfast Gold Exchange and sold proprietor William Corran a quantity of scrap gold, including old-fashioned Victorian ladies’ gold mesh handbags, broken jewelry, bangles, chains, and other miscellaneous items, which he professed to have obtained in Italy. Corran paid him 80 pounds ($ 430) for the lot and put it in his window for resale. The items included a wide bracelet of braided gilt, a piece of gold chain, a gold Easter egg with enamel and forget-me-nots, a red Easter egg set with diamonds, a German gold ten-mark coin, an old coin of Savoy with a representation of the Annunciation, a gold coin with the head of King Victor Amadeus of Savoy, and a gold medal with the head of King Umberto I of Italy. All of these items were the rightful property of Princess Mafalda, daughter of the king and queen of Italy. The gold chain was a piece of the watch chain of her grandfather, King Umberto I of Italy. The ten-mark coin bore the head of Emperor Frederick III, grandfather of Princess Mafalda’s husband, and had been given to her by Queen Margaret of Italy. The red Easter egg had been made by the well-known jeweler Faberge, in St. Petersburg. The scrap gold apparently came from the settings that had contained the jewels from the tiaras and various other large valuable objects.

  8. Thanks for the story! Very interesting.

  9. Fascinating, yes. Makes me think of the movie THE DIRTY DOZEN. I’ll bet there’s a lot more of the story just waiting in the paid section of FOLD3.

  10. Very fascinating story! They did not serve enough time in prison, IMO. Disturbing what they did to such historical jewels.

    • GREED is what the danger here. Not the war. Nothing else. Wanton destruction of priceless historic artifacts – whatever they might be – is a crime against history and the lessons it teaches.
      I feel sick about the mob mentality to destroy any and all Confederate artifacts that are made public. It’s an attempt to rewrite history. Just because a few people get offended at such words as ‘nigger’ is just too damn bad

      The fact that municipal governments are caving to all the whining makes it a crime against American education. By kicking all this ‘garbage’ out the window because people can’t handle the truth in infuriates me. It won’t make the past events suddenly go away.

      THOSE WHO IGNORE HISTORY AND THE LESSONS IT TEACHES ARE BOUND TO REPEAT THEM…

    • True, they should iof got much more than several to 5 year.. Although it’s not surprising the light sentence and slap on the wrist for Americans. Why corruption is so rampant in the USA today. Anyways, most Americans aren’t that this Country has more policing and law divisions than any other Countries. Just to name the few local police, FBI, Dps, state troopers (new), Marshalls, sheriff’s, Ice, etc etc etc many more. The question is how come our security, drug epidimic and overall crime is more prevalent in comparison to other Nations where the “Elite’s” don’t even have that many layers of Judicial branches and are able to maintained law and order. Something to ponder………. The World at one point labelled Hitler and his SS soldiers, Nazi as Pirate’s, thieves etc etc, So the I assume America and the other Allies, including Russia were no different, opportunist, Thievery when no one was looking or don’t get caught. Anyways, they should of been put to death, perfect opportunity to when in war and no real law and order. A General’s dream to take control and govern as to his liking. Anytime a True General takes occupation in a foreign land????? No other Leaders can say.or do much,. Only God would be able to. We haven’t had one of those General’s in a very long time. Too bad.

  11. While stationed in occupied Garmisch, Germany (1956-1958) I met and kept up a long relationship with “Princess” Christiane Hesse. Her family home was in Flensburg, near the Danish border. She was a Romanov cousin. She died in 1965 while hiking in the Alps.

  12. Jack Durant was married to my grandmothers sister. My grandmother cared for his boys during the war.

  13. The message from Adam Roach should not have been published. His comments make clear that he is a Confederate sympathizer and the points he makes have nothing to do with the story of the Hesse jewel robbery, only with his own bigoted view of history.

    • Agreed

    • No he’s not now they have no history. Did god just drop from the sky? Because when you take all away that was there heritage. They don’t exist. The truth is the truth and should not be taken away. Yes they were treated unfairly but that was then. I guess they really are just figment of our imagination.

    • I’d agree the connection to this story is pretty thin, but where do you get the knowledge that he is bigoted? Because he does not want to deny the truth of history? I always shake my head that well-meaning people of poor understanding want to ban the book “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from school libraries because it contains that word he mentions. Well using that word in a book about the 1840’s is just historical accuracy, and I doubt any book ever made a more effective argument against racism than that one.

      Well I guess I’m a Confederate sympathizer too, as I am tremendously PROUD of United States history, even though I know the Confederates (and George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson) were all dead wrong about owning slaves. They were great men, not perfect men.

    • Wrong answer! He may not be your vision of PC but last time I checked, no one died and left you in charge of the 1st Amendment. Had you been around in 1933, would we all have the pleasure of seeing you in the background of the book burning pictures Herr Dr Goebbels?

    • He made a great point about greed and also about historical monuments; it sounds as though you are willing to “re-write” history yourself, is that not what the Taliban did to priceless historical monuments, what a shame.
      As for being a confederate sympathizer, he may or may not be, but that is not the pount, is if?!
      I was born and raised in what is considered to be a “progressive” state called California and I can tell you that being progressive is actually being regressive, grow up and start thinging for yourself instead of behaving like a
      “reactive and nasty” little bee!

    • History is history! Changing the texts will not make the facts go away!

    • Whether or not anyone agreed with Mr. Roach, correct,his post adds nothing to this story. The post and our replies should be deleted.

    • In my estimation there has been someone other than Adam Roach on here taking up FAR more space and contributing absolutely nothing useful or constructive, yet I don’t feel it is my place to be calling for the removal of his contributions. You start “disappearing” people for the crime of rambling, and you start down a slippery slope.

      And I do not detect any racial slur, only the naming of a word which I hear black Americans use often enough. There is a difference between naming a word, and slurring someone with it. Used as a slur, I’d be the first to condemn it.

    • Adam Roach=off topic, wrong venue

    • Amen to the brother ! What does the one thing have to do with the other thing ( this story) ? Any pillage of plunder during a conflagration such as WWII , should be viewed as theft , destruction of historical works of art and profiting from the sale or display by the culprits perpetrating such acts as exactly what it was then as it would be today ; the act of theft and destruction of valued private , artistic property ! As well as , diminishing the reputation and honor of our nation’s government and it’s military !!!

    • Harris, your an idiot; history is history and no one can change it? You learn from our history, whether good or bad, You do not ignore it or sweep it under the carpet. If you think our history is filled with evil, look at the rest of the world.

    • One doesn’t have to be a Confederate sympathizer in order to object to revisionist history.

    • Chiming in because history must be recorded and preserved without public opinion of “social norms” of present era. History is a moment in time at that time. It must not be altered or used to manipulate, persuade, politicize, encourage or occupy any movement.
      Fold3 is a source of enlightenment and encouragement to understand knowledge is a quest. When the liberty of fact is dismantled, the definition and the word “liberty” transforms to something unrecognizable to its use in the 1700’s, 2000’s….

    • Adam Roach may – or – may not be a southern sympathizer. The point he made is very true and I agree with him 100%. To destroy history is to keep people in ignorance. If our nation is filled with ignorance then we can be conquered rather easily by the enemy. I refuse to be politically correct. I invoke the United States Constitution Bill of rights freedom of speech! And…my right to own and bear arms, and every thing covered in the Bill of Rights!! I would suggest you study the history of our nation and some local histories, too. Perhaps you will gain a better understanding of the past.

  14. Yeh. Things get tough Harris. Hmvr, I disagree with thou. The comparison to feelings-opinions about the Confederacy are relevant. Agin Hmvr. I agree Adam flashed his Bars & Stars position. Mebbe this entire thread is Politically Correct, mebbe not. 3rd Hmvr. The subject definitely not for extensive discussion here. Last. The vast difference money wise & historically most likely could-would leave most of discussion material irrelevant. Methinks I’ll avoid getting into fracas & let youse thrash it out. I’m outa heah!!! Yeh. I enjoy writing as different people would & in their way. I find this helps me accommodate the various “takes” on discussion material. Sorta like walking in hishers shoes. Subject matter also prohibited puns, sumten

    • I need a translation please. I’ve looked and looked on google, but I can’t find an acronym definition for Hmvr. Please translate for those like me who are not conversant in all the abbreviations of texting.

    • Please tell s what the acronym Hmvr is?

  15. did anyone see the art the Germans stole. Even the gold from the dead’s teeth. Guess jewels matter more.

    • Agreed

    • true and how did they get the info on where the loot was in order to recover it?torture?

    • How do jewels matter more? I’m sure there are entire books (hundreds of them?) written about the various crimes committed by the Nazis… so we can’t discuss this crime, or criticize the criminals?

  16. While the theft was certainly a crime, the Hesse family’s claim of ownership is dubious, certainly immoral. The jewelry rightly belongs to the generations of peasants and common people whose labor created the aristocrats’ wealth. If I knew about some of the loot, I would think very differently about returning it to people who acquired it by inheritance, vs returning it to the descendants of those who actually earned it.

    • Well isn’t this something, we have Rob Spencer here (aka Robin Hood) I have no doubt that if these were your ‘family jewels” you would be quite eager to recover them, am I correct?
      By the way Rob, if you did own these jewels, how would you return them to the people and how would you determine who earned it, it sounds an awful lot like the communists whose leaders looted and benefited from looting but the people were still suffering hardship until a bit of capitalism came back to the Eastern Block?! You sir, sound like a person of means who does not know how he has come to own things, unless everything was just handed to you?
      So which is it?
      I am in the middle of cleaning out loads of clutter, I am amazed that I have so much of it and I feel very privileged to have had the ability to acquire things, if I had it to do over again I would have been ok with all my tools, some textiles, books, but so much less of everything else! Getting older and gaining wisdom is a gift!
      Minimalism does not keep the economy going, does it, oh well?!

  17. What a bunch of lowlife criminals

  18. Kenneth Alford’s book The Spoils of World War 2 gives a detailed account of this, there was also a film made of it The Hessen Conspiracy.
    The three accused had made an effort to establish that the removal of the treasure would be considered as spoils of war. I believe there was much more to the story than has been revealed and that some of the senior officers mentioned in Alford’s book stood to gain by the court martial of the three accused.

  19. Thanks for clarifying.

  20. I am from Germany, but when I grew p in the late 40 and 50″s there was alot of hush hush about these things. Even tho we heard about the Heist, no Details were given. And Yes the Peasants that worked for Royalty were often treated bad, but more often not. In the 30,s Royalty or not they were treated no different than common Folks. Unless You became a Nazi You were no better than Dirt. But the Heist by American Military Personnel was a very Hidious Crime. I admit it was the End of the War but still it shouldnt have happened. After All they messed with History and German Culture.That how things Work in Kingdom before democracy in the late 20,s and what was aqquired by Royal families was kept by them and handed down to Heirs. Thats the Way things were in those Days.

  21. All of us are only entitled to what we work for -whether it be for ourselves or our dependants – having said that all of us should be given that opportunity. Only in this way is there a chance of eliminating the greed and envy which fuels these crimes

  22. if this was wartime time then screw them….jews were robbed by germans even before the war

    • Bro. The US military can’t just plunder personal property because they beat the Germans. These soldiers brought discredit upon everyone who went there to do the Lords work.

      These few soldiers are scum

    • I would consider an officer’s Luger to be a 100% legitimate trophy of war. But these were civilians being robbed, and by destroying the jewelry the criminals demonstrated that they were motivated by pure greed for money.

      I think it is true that the United States avoided bombing historic castles, museums etc. in Germany and Japan, if at all possible. It does not matter that the castles might have been built by virtual slave labor in the past… they are objects of historical value.

  23. To those asking what hmvr is, I believe he meant However. That is my best guess since he was not writing in proper english

    • This note is for Andrea. Simply can’t post to her directly for reasons I don’t know. Andy. Voila! Where can I send your 10 cent award of 2020 pennies? I understand English & its use better than most. Based on 21 undergraduate & graduate credits for basic English to a semester of Shakespeare that included analyses of his use of the language. Not to mention quitting PHD after 5 courses because of a lucrative career opportunity. The kind usually depicted as “You can’t refuse….”. I happen to like jousting with our fickle language especially in Politically Correct situations. I create my own words & abbreviations at times also. Bkfst, Agin, Sumpthen etc. Or borrow like Youse. Oh yeh. One can do a search & find all sorts of official documents-reports to our & other gov’ts including the UN that I authored. In these cases one had better darn well know how to write in our gud ol Ingles. Aye Wat Matey?

  24. Harris Factor, by suggesting Adam Roach’s comment not be published shows your intolerance of his opinion. Thus making you the bigot. Is it time to burn books? Think about it!

  25. Someone should call Josh Gates on Expedition Unknown and have him delve into this story! It would certainly make for a great show.

  26. Will the US Army ever be held to account for any atrocities committed at the end of World War II. The remaining Royal families in the path of Allied and Axis forces. The theft of the Crown Jewels of Hesse is just one of the atrocities as that family was in harm’s way as they attempted to hold onto their ancestral home.

  27. Photo is Princess Margaret of Hesse, daughter of the then German Emperor, Frederick III and Queen Victoria, Princess Royal.

    • Thanks. To clarify further, Victoria was the Princess Royal of the United Kingdom and the eldest child of Queen Victoria. The Princess Royal was married to German Emperor Frederick III which made her Empress Victoria. The emperor ruled only 99 days, after his father’s death at age 90, as Frederick had been suffering from throat cancer.
      Their daughter, Princess Margaret of Prussia, was married to Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse. There’s a similar photo of Margaret on her wedding day that can be found on Wikipedia.

  28. Bonnie. The picture said Princess Margaret wearing Hesse jewels. You should know where Hesse is and it’s not England!

  29. I think calling them ‘scum’ is a little harsh. They were opportunistic and what else are you going to do if you find a box of jewels hidden away? Especially at that time, during the war, when it is your enemies loss.

    These men are people’s ancestors, for good or bad. Let them rest.

    • Well at this point the war had been over for more than 6 months, and the Allies were firmly in control and themselves busy investigating/prosecuting German war crimes. There was no rush to make tactical combat decisions, no knee-jerk reactions to buddies lost the day before. They were at that point tasked with preserving order and stabilizing society. Our former enemies were rapidly becoming our allies for the next confrontation, and it was a vital matter of national security that we make them so. The actions of these individuals were totally contrary to their overall mission, and were a disgrace upon the professionalism of our military.

    • Ok, thank you, I understand where you are coming from. I have no quarrel with you, respect for your service. Thank you.

    • Well said Fuz!

  30. I did my involuntary stint. Actually ended up proud I served. Going in I was a dumb kid. Came out a bit older but lots & lots smarter-wiser. To whit. Wrong is wrong is wrong. The settings were unique, valuable & will never be replaced. Uncontrollable greed ruled. Methinks the punishment should have been greater. That said I’ll leave that ‘ol hound lying in the sunshine all he wants. Thataway I don’t get bit on rear end. He’s happy. I’m happy. Hope youse are too.

  31. My last name is Hess maybe if more is recovered I could inhered it !!!!

  32. Regarding the photograph of Princess Margaret, what is she holding in her hands?

  33. The “spoils-of-war” cannot be just taken by soldiers because they found stuff laying around. My uncle, who died after the war ended while in Germany from a fall from the third floor of a building, sent home a leatherworker’s case full of tools. But, to do so required that he have the item(s) analyzed by the unit he served with and the officer-in-charge had to sign off that the item(s) were approved to be sent back to the States. All items that were considered “spoils-of-war” were supposed to go through this process so that out-and-out thievery did not occur. The family jewels of the Hess Family was thievery and nothing less. Destroying these artifacts was wrong and the thieves should have paid more dearly for their actions. Ever heard of “Thou shall not steal”?

    • My uncle was in training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands when they dropped the atom bombs… which probably saved his life. He ended up in the occupation force – no doubt they preferred guys who had NOT been at Iwo Jima or the like, for that duty among the Japanese civilians. He sent home a Japanese military rifle, Type 44 I think, which I now own. Obviously it was not taken in combat but was handed out by some approved process. The emperor’s sacred flower crest (can’t spell the flower name) was ground off the receiver, in accordance with surrender agreements. A Japanese carpenter even hand-made a wooden shipping box, which unfortunately was not kept. Lots of the same kind of rifles were shipped home from combat zones with the crests intact, but once the fighting was over there was more rules and we respected them. We wish the Japanese would face up to history a little more now, but they certainly were “good losers” at the time… and our fair treatment encouraged that. Mean-spiritedness could have led to years of costly guerrilla warfare, and we wisely avoided that.

  34. It looks like a tv remote?

  35. Doesn’t anyone monitor this site? Whether or not there is a queen of England (UK?) seems to have nothing to do with the story. Racial slurs certainly have no place in any civilized discourse. I trust there are plenty of other sites where people filled with hate can air their vitriol.

    No, I won’t respond to haters or traitors.

    • Bob. Ya gotta tough it out on lotsa Net sites. Thisun is 1. Yeh. I roll till sometimes dizzy. Ya gotta doo wat ya gotta at times. Lets not get into my playful English(?).

    • Bob. You explain to the masses. Great Britain, an empire who has an hereditary royalty & under whom what nations belong.

    • You won’t respond to haters or traitors?

      It kinda sounds like you’ve got some hate of your own there, for traitors. Whoever it is you’ve slapped that label on.

      But YOUR hate is OK, of course.

    • I tend to agree. This is my first time on the site and I have to say that I expected the posts would be more on point and less “snarky.” I’m interested in learning the history and facts of our ancestry. I’m really not into revisionist endeavors.

    • I suppose I’m one of the snarky ones, but to me there is nothing that appears more hateful than someone going around recklessly accusing others of being filled with hate. Believe me, if someone came on here actually using the “N” word as a racial slur, I’d be the first to tell that person to take a hike. But I did not see that happen here.

  36. Where did Nash live in Wisconsin? Solid gold flatware is a bit much for WI sensibilities. Even my shady ancestors might have balked. I’ve read this story before but had no idea of a connection to my home turf.

  37. The distinction that should be drawn is between the admittedly illegitimate plundering of “spoils of war” by the two victorious opponents of Nazi Germany.

    In the case of the Soviet conquerors, there is little doubt that ALL chattel was considered eligible for using or taking. If property could be mobilized, it WAS taken, in most cases never to be seen again. As is well known, that sometimes included humans, to be used for labor or sexual purposes! Suits for restoration in courts of law have been of little consequence in most of such cases from the East, and few if any plunderers were ever brought to any kind of justice or punished.

    So, yes, this episode is indeed a stain on the honor and ethics of SOME soldiers of the US Army. But the authorities in charge DID respond to complaints, did investigate and did apprehend, try and convict the perpetrators. Not too many examples of that from the Eastern Front, I don’t believe.

  38. I think it’s all rubbish regarding the ethics and morality of “taking” during wartime.

    How do you compare what Sherman did to the South to what these three did? Is stealing during wartime justified if it’s in the name of winning, or for a greater good? And who’s greater good? Who decides?

    The 101st Airborne blew a hole in Hitler’s beautiful marble coffee table at the Eagle’s Nest.

    “All’s fair in love and war.” What’s wrong with taking from the enemy? Look at what they did!

    I agree the booty was extremely valuable and intricately-designed jewels, but I don’t see the difference, ethically speaking, between stealing those jewels and finding a pirate’s treasure or stealing a starving family’s chickens in the South during the (un) Civil War.

    A lot of “stuff”, souvenirs was mailed home from Europe. Just because they were the “Crown Jewels,” I see no difference.

    • Well I see a tremendous difference between what Sherman did in the South, and the stealing of these jewels. Sherman’s actions took place during a war, and were more like the firebombing of Dresden or the nukes dropped on Japan… drastic and brutal, but designed to end a war quickly.

      This stealing of jewels took place AFTER THE WAR HAD ENDED. Wake up!! This was not “wartime.” Individual soldiers cannot just go into another country in peacetime and cooly rob civilians on their own initiative. I can’t even comprehend your lack of concern about this. Yes, as been pointed out by someone else, the Russians did it. We are not Russians. Our mission was to re-establish law and order, and stabilize society, and establish friendly relations. You do not do any of these things through criminality, vindictiveness, and self-serving greed.

  39. My point is, either it’s all okay, or it’s all not okay. To trivialize a leatherman’s toolcase and a Japanese rifle, rationalizing that’s it’s okay because some pencil-headed geek lieutenant gave his blessing and rubber-stamped some paperwork, the original owner’s of said items might still want their property back, or the families of the original owners.

    • I’m not going to speak for taking a workman’s tools… I don’t know the circumstances about that. But are you seriously equating individual soldiers stealing millions of dollars in jewelry from civilians without authorization on one hand, with military authorities handing out surrendered war weapons as authorized souvenirs on the other? The “original owner” of the rifle was the Japanese Imperial Army, for cripe’s sake! They surrendered those rifles as part of the peace agreement… are they going to be needing them back?

      You don’t see any difference here? That is bizarre.

    • Okay, I guess I was not clear, but the leatherworkers tool case with its tools was one owned and used by the German Army, not by private citizens. Just saying. I still have the small booklet that was packed inside the case which has the Weirmach eagle with swastika on it. It was spoils-of-war from the German Army.

  40. The Confederates were traitors to the United States. Their aim was to allow slavery to continue. The legacy of lenient treatment of the Confederates after the war was Jim Crow laws, thousands of lynchings and violence against African Americans for another hundred years. Suppression of black voters continues today in places like North Carolina which has fewer polling places in minority areas. For those of you who want your history to be honest and unvarnished, then you need to recognize the Confederacy and its legacy for what it was, and is. Honoring Confederate leaders is honoring traitors.

    • Slavery legally existed for far longer under the United States Constitution than under the Confederate Constitution. George Washington, whom I believe the Washington Memorial is dedicated to, was a slave owner all his life. Same goes for the Jefferson Memorial and Thomas Jefferson. Lincoln wanted blacks to go back to their own country in Africa… blacks whose parents and grandparents were born on United States soil.

      The Confederates only wanted things to continue as they had been, and saw interference by Northerners as a violation of the compromises which made our nation’s birth possible in the first place. They saw the North as the traitors.

      It was not the Confederacy but Great Britain which installed slavery in North America. Together with the Confederacy, we fought the issue out and resolved it. It was not at all pretty. That is our history.

      Now, don’t get me wrong. Slavery was wrong and intolerable. No doubt the Southerners allowed themselves, as we all do, to be influenced in matters of morality by what was convenient or profitable for them. But we can’t know that their beliefs were not sincerely held.

    • Gee, Eddie … where’s your critique of Mao or Stalin? War and the immediate aftermath is not a pretty business and which few people have any significant knowledge about – not an excuse, just a plain and simple fact. Commissioned officers take an oath/hold levels of responsibility well beyond those encountered by most others – especially those in civilian life – and the violation of their oath and/or responsibility typically has serious repercussions. You may not like what happened or the Court Martial results, but those individuals were adjudicated by a court under duly established sets of regulations at the time. And their incarceration was significantly more arduous than any like sentence would be today.

    • A traitor to you, may be a hero to us; just depends on how you look at the situation. Grant was a hero of the North, President of the United states, but the only way he won was at the great cost of Union lives during the war. His tactics won but at a great cost. Throughout histories there have been conquerers and vanquished. Only the winners get to write history. See John L.’s comments, very well written. Oh by the way, there has been slavery throughout history, it’s just about Blacks!!

  41. This is incredible. We were great friends with a former US Army stenographer, Wendell Thiers. I was the commander of the Aerial Port Squadron at Andrews AFB (1983-86) and Wendell’s wife, Louisa, was a volunteer at our USO desk. Wendell was the recorder at the trial of this case. He told us all about it in vivid detail.

  42. Despicable that the United States Army officers committed the crime of theft. It demonstrates that not everyone in the military are honorable people.

  43. This is who the photo is. Princess Margaret of Hesse, daughter of the then German Emperor, Frederick III and Queen Victoria, Princess Royal.
    Three American Soldiers were the ones that did this hiest.

  44. Though they were guilty and convicted as such, it seems to me they were used as scapegoats as well. It’s probable that they were examples to those who went too far in their personal plundering. However, they weren’t the only guilty ones, there were many soldiers who brought home certain trophies of war that were the personal property of people from across Europe. Moreover, many of those personal properties belonged to individuals of the Nazi Party, Nazi soldiers or Nazi sympathizers, though some of the property was those of civilians who were not associated with the Nazis but rather victims. There is where the real crime of theft happened when those individuals lost or had their property stolen! I say too bad, so sad, for any individuals who were Nazis that lost any of their property including the Hesse family!

  45. I think the differences that are blurred in many of the above comments are the differences between what was considered ‘normal and expected’ by the people of the time ( however differently we see it now) and straightforward criminality for self benefit.
    So I have been doing a bit of family history research and in one case I find one ancestor blockade running for the South got imprisoned in Cuba for 3 years during the Civil War, yet another got sent to Australia for 7 years for stealing scraps of coal off the quayside in England. Seems crazy to me but it is pretty hard to get in the mindset of people of the 19th century.

  46. Adam Roach’s point is clear to me. Destruction of history, whether it be stolen jewels from the Hesse family or destroyed statues and desecrated flags of the vanquished South, is evil and short-changes the study of history. In one case, the jewels, greed was the motivating factor. In the cases of the destruction of symbols or the destruction of language, the motivating factor is political correctness in an effort to deny facts. It is impossible to know his sympathies vis-a-vis the Confederacy but I can sympathize with his exasperation with PC. Still waiting for public protests and legislation on the use of ‘kike’, ‘hebe’, ‘guinea’, ‘cracker’, ‘hick’, ‘redneck’, ‘kraut’, ‘dago’, ‘eyetie’, ‘greaseball’, ‘wop’, ‘yid’, ‘Shylock’, ‘chink’…

  47. I have been traced back to the Hesse castle in my ancestry. Still trying to figure it out.

  48. A lot more precious items than these were stolen by senior military officers in Iraq. Way more precious!

  49. Okay, I guess I was not clear, but the leatherworkers tool case with its tools was one owned and used by the German Army, not by private citizens. Just saying. I still have the small booklet that was packed inside the case which has the Weirmach eagle with swastika on it. It was spoils-of-war from the German Army.

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