The testimony of T/SGT Swindell
Declassified per Executive Order 12356, Section 3.3, 735027, By NND, Date 1973
For the WAR CRIMES OFFICE
Judge Advocate General’s Department – War Department
United States of America
In the matter of failure to provide Prisoners of War with proper medical care.
Perpetuation of the Testimony of T/Sgt Gerald W. Swindell, (serial # omitted).
Taken at: Truax Field, Madison 7, Wisconsin
Date: 24 August 1945
Questions by: Robert A. Crone, Captain, A. C., (serial # omitted)
Q. Sergeant, state your name, rank, serial number, permanent home address and also your telephone number.
A. T/Sgt Gerald W. Swindell, (information omitted).
Q. What is the date and place of your birth?
A. September 30, 1914 at Gadsden.
Q. Are you married?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. When and where did you last enter the United States from foreign service?
A. LaGuardia Field, New York, January 5, 1945.
Q. What is the extent of your education?
A. I was graduated from Gadsden High School and attended two (2) years of Birmingham Southern College at Birmingham, Alabama.
Q. State at what places you were employed as a civilian, the nature of each job and the period of time employed at each.
A. I was a travel agent fro the Greyhound Lines until 1940 and then I worked for the Eastern Airlines as supervisor of traffic, Birmingham, Alabama.
Q. Were you a Prisoner of War?
Q. Were you shot down by fighters or flak?
A. Flak. The Swiss shot us down. Our altitude was about twenty five hundred feet (2500’) as we were coming in for an emergency landing because two (2) or our engines were shot out. We had our wheels down and they shot at us. After they started shooting at us we sent out red flares.
Q. Any of the other boys in your ship that were injured?
A. Yes, sir. All by the Swiss.
Q. Did you crash land or make a normal landing.
A. We sort of pan caked after they shot at us. After we were hit we dropped more than we were supposed to and we just pan caked.
Q. Do you know the name of the field you came down in?
A. Dubendorf- just outside of Zurich about seven (7) miles. That was July 11, 1944.
Q. At what places were you held and state the approximate dates.
A. July 12th we were taken to Adelboden, Switzerland. We were there about two and one half (2-1/2) months and they broke the camp up. They divided us up because there were so many and they thought they might try to escape so they moved us to Wengen, Switzerland. That was where I was interned until I escaped.
Q. State what you know of your own knowledge of the failure to provide Prisoners of War with proper medical care.
A. One internee was on a crew that got shot up pretty badly. He was definitely out of his mind- like he was insane. He wasn’t dangerous, but he was quite talkative. He wrote a story of his coming into Switzerland and he sat up for two (2) days and nights without any sleep. He didn’t sleep at all and didn’t eat anything. Then they sent him to Berne, Switzerland, to a hospital and they kept him there for two (2) to three (3) days and then frought him back. He should have had more medical care though. He’d stand up at his window all night long and scream for his mother and sister. The next night he did the same thing. He kept all the rest of us awake with his screaming. The third night he just walked right through the window. The Swiss Commandant of the camp stayed right in the hotel with us. He was a clean-cut fellow. I believe he was a 1st Lieutenant- a very nice looking fellow. He looked to be about twenty four (24) or twenty five (25) year old. About 5’7” tall, blonde, no scars or distinguishing features. He looked more like a college boy. He was very neat at all times. He seemed to be quite a nice fellow around the camp otherwise.
Q. Who was the American Commanding Officer?
A. A Major Thomolsin used to be, but he was transferred just before that happened and then Captain Matthews was the Commanding Officer. Major Thomolsin was with the 15th Air Force.
Q. What did they do with him after he jumped out of the window?
A. They called the Swiss camp doctor and they took him into the hospital. The boy’s name was (omitted for privacy). They took him on a train and he died. We had a memorial service in the church for him after he died.
Q. Who officiated at the services?
A. A Swiss Missionary. I don’t know his name.
Q. Did the Swiss give you proper treatment for your wounds?
A. Yes, they did. All the rest of the boys with me received proper treatment too. My hand was dressed about three (3) times in one night. I had no kick about the way they treated me.
Q. Can you describe any of the guards other than what the American soldiers called them?
A. No, I couldn’t. There were so many I can’t remember any of their names. They all spoke German though- they couldn’t speak English.
Q. When you were there, did you notice whether the guards were Anti-German or Pro-German?
A. There were some Anti-German, you could tell quite clearly and there were some, you might say Pro-German.
Q. Did you ever experience any ferocious dogs to keep the Americans in line?
A. No, I didn’t. One of the guards had a dog and he attacked one of the fellows one day, but it was because he was antagonizing the dog.
Q. Did you lose any weight while you were at this camp?
A. Yes, I did. My normal weight is about one hundred forty two (142) and I got down to about one hundred thirteen (113) pounds.
Q. Would you say the food they gave you was sufficient for normal life?
A. No, it wasn’t. While the British were there, we had a fairly good amount of meat. As soon as the British left, they cut out rations. We couldn’t understand why that was. We clearly understood why they were short of food because thy had been surrounded by the Germans for quite a long time and they couldn’t get anything in, but we couldn’t understand why our rations were cut as soon as the British left. Potatoes and cheese was mainly our diet. We got very little meat then. We appreciated the fact that they didn’t have anything because Switzerland was filled with refugees from all over the world.
Q. How did you make your escape?
A. I was helped out of the camp by the secretary of the Swiss Commandant. I got in his confidence and he had relatives in the States and he was coming over here. His name was Hans Schubringer I think. I’m not sure if that was his last name, but it started with “Schu” and it sounded something like Schubringer. He was in the Swiss Army, and was a Private. He was an educated fellow and had been to the university over there and he came there to study his English. The first night I was there I met him and we got quite chummy. He wanted me to help him with his English. He has an Uncle here in Baltimore. After a couple months, I arranged for my escape and he helped me. We had to get out of the area by ourselves though. There were guards for miles and miles around.
Q. After you escaped, what country did you head for?
A. France. I was taken there by the underground. The French and Polish underground.
Q. Do you recall the date you returned to the allied control?
A. December 12, 1944.
State of: Wisconsin )
County of: Dane )
I, Gerland W. Swindell, of lawful ago, being duly sworn on oath, state that I have read the foregoing transcription of my interrogation and all answers contained therein are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Subscribed and sworn to before me the 25th day of August 1945
I, Robert A. Crone, Captain, A. C., (serial # omitted), certify that T/Sgt Gerald W. Swindell (serial # omitted), personally appeared before me on 24 August 1945 and testified concerning War Crimes; and that the foregoing is an accurate transcription of the answers given by him to the several questions set forth.
DETAILS OF ATROCITIES:
Kind of crime: Failure to provide Prisoners of War with proper medical car, food or quarters.
One internee was out of his mind because his crew and plane was shot up badly on their mission over Germany before arriving in Switzerland. He was shortly confined to a hospital at Berne, Switzerland, but was released within a day or two. When he arrived back at our camp, he was still in an insane condition. At night he would stand in his window and call for his Mother and Sister all night. The third night he walked through the window and fell three floors to the ground below. The Swiss Commandant was living in the same hotel and knew the condition of this boy. This boy died two (2) days later from injuries due to the fall. Should have had better medical care.