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Джон ван Влит, гражданин США, 1950 г.

Lt.-Col. John H. Van Vliet Jr. (US Army) dictated his original report about his May 13, 1943 visit to Katyn in Maj.-Gen. Clayton L. Bissell's (Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, G-2) Pentagon office on May 22, 1945. Gen. Bissell classified the Report as "Top Secret" and made it disappear - instantly, permanently and without a trace.
Conveniently too, as its disclosure to the World would irritate the Soviets quite unnecessarily at the time, when their friendship and cooperation were crucial for the United States (unfinished struggle with Japan, San Francisco Conference, etc.).

Although President Roosevelt was finally dead, his spirit of pro-sovietism and appeasement was still omnipotent in the highest circles of the Administration.
In the end of the 1940s, however, not only Roosevelt and his Soviet-manipulated Administration were long gone - so was the American-Soviet friendship. The issue of the Katyn Massacre, for several years so carefully and sometimes quite ruthlessly suppressed by the authorities in the United States, resurfaced. Not as an expression of remorse for the original handling of the Katyn Massacre during and shortly after the war - convenience, again, played to the interests of the United States of America.
The war in Korea did not go well - apart from casualties, the American POWs began to appear in the Soviet Gulag, and a possibility that thousands of them could end up in unmarked pits - like Polish officers in the Katyn Forest - hung over the Administration’s heads, like the sword of Damocles.

THE SELECT COMMITTEE TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION OF THE FACTS, EVIDENCE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE KATYN FOREST MASSACRE (United States Congress) spared no effort or expense to establish the fact, known to the rest of the World already - the Soviets did it !

Equipped with broad legal powers and composed of congressmen, who were not only knowledgeable, but also represented professional backgrounds required for this specific task, within a relatively short period of time the Committee has done an enormous and impressive work. The documentation, consisting of witnesses’ testimonials, reports, documents, photographs, diplomatic notes, publications etc., gathered on 2362 pages of evidence and published for the use of the Committee members, is a gold mine of information extending far beyond the scope of the Katyn Massacre.

Among the witnesses, called to testify before the Committee, were LT.-Col. John H. Van Vliet Jr., US Army and Mjr.-Gen. Clayton L. Bissell, US Air Force (retired). Col. Van Vliet was ordered to reconstruct his original, "lost" Report and testified before the Committee. In 1945, his Report and testimony would bear significant political weight. In 1950, the Report (whether original or reconstructed) and the results of his February, 1952 hearing before the Committee, were worthless.

The performance of Gen. Bissell - the leading figure in the "disappearance" of Van Vliet's Report scheme - before the Committee was not impressive. He lied brazenly, while testifying under oath, and played a village idiot, when confronted with evidence.
Was the "disappearance" of Van Vliet's Report Gen. Bissell's own, unauthorized and politically motivated decision... Was he covering somebody else’s decision made in the highest circles of the Administration... Is it possible that Clayton L. Bissell, a major-general of the United States Air Force, was on the Soviet payroll...?!

One thing is certain - although United States Air Force Mjr.-Gen. Clayton L. Bissell's military career crash-landed even before he made his "memorable" appearance before the Committee and the Committee expressed its opinion on his actions in no uncertain terms, the scoundrel was never charged, tried and convicted. And, strange to say - on May 18, 1945, the Polish Government in Exile honoured him with the Polish highest civilian decoration - the Order of POLONIA RESTITUTA. Bissell not only accepted the award - in 1952, he submitted it to the Select Committee as a proof of his innocence.

* * *

Following his liberation from the POW camp Col. Van Vliet, an otherwise honest man, succeeded in his effort to report the Katyn Crime to the US authorities expeditiously and effectively. Then, for decades, he defended the "disappearance" of his Report, which made him an ideal example of an ideal mercenary - great sense of duty with no care for purpose. By defending the "disappearance" of this document, he has also proven to be a devoted American patriot, immune to moral, or ethical dilemmas - fifteen thousand murdered Polish officers may serve, but may not harm the interests of the United States of America.



Quarters 165
Ft. Lewis, Washington
11 May, 1950

To: F. L. Parks, Maj.-Gen., USA, Chief of Information

1. Pursuant to your letter of 26 April 1950 I am personally typing this report of my recollections concerning the Katyn Case. I am retaining one copy for my personal file.

2. Since five years have elapsed since I made the first report to Maj.-Gen. Bissell, this report will have to omit some details, such as names which I have forgotten. In order to assist in locating my original report, here are the circumstances under which it was made:

On 22 May 1945, Gen. Bissell discussed the case with me alone in his private office in the Pentagon for about twenty minutes. He decided that it was important and directed his civilian female assistant (secretary? stenographer?) to go with me to the closed room across the hall and take dictation. I dictated my report, she typed it up and we added the photographs as inclosures. The General read the finished report, directed that it be marked "Top Secret" and filed. He then dictated the letter directing me to silence, and had me sign a copy of it in his presence. He explained the importance of my remaining silent, gave me my copy of the letter and thanked me.

3. Narrative:

I was a prisoner of war at Oflag IX-A/Z in Rotenburg, Germany in April, 1943. It was primarily a British officers prison camp, headed by Brigadier Nicholson (who had been the defender of Calais). I was the senior of the 125 (approximately) American officers in the camp. At this time the German press began a big splurge on the KATYN case. So also did the German radio (note: mention of this radio violates the certificate I had to sign upon being processed as a returned POW).

"Hauptmann" Heyl, the German camp commander, told Brig. Nicholson and me that he had orders to send two American officers and one British officer to the railroad station at Kassel, Germany, where they would be met by British Maj.-Gen. Fortune from another nearby POW camp (he had commanded the British 1st Division in France).

"Hauptmann" Heyl stated that I would be one of the two US officers; that I would select the other one; that together with other Allied prisoners we would be a "Board of Inquiry" to investigate the Katyn Massacre. I flatly refused to have any part of it. Brig. Nicholson backed me up on this and together we wrote a letter to the Swiss Protecting Power which stated that no officers from the camp would make any visit to Katyn, or make any investigation, or express any opinion. That, if we were forced to go, it would be only as individual prisoners under guard and against our protest. That we could not be considered as representatives of the prison camp, our army, or our nation, and that we protested violently this apparent attempt to use us for German propaganda purposes.

Our protest did no good. Using armed guards, the Germans took me and Capt. Donald Stewart, Field Artillery (regular army) to the Kassel railroad station, where they expected to meet Maj.-Gen. Fortune. He did not arrive, to the surprise of the German guards. We were then taken to Berlin and jailed in an "Arbeits Kommando" - a building overlooking the Spree River, housing POWs of several nationalities, who were performing labor in Berlin.

In this jail we met several US soldiers, who had been brought from a nearby POW camp for the same reason that we had. One of these was Cpl. Taussig, who had been in the same regiment with me for the invasion of Algiers by the 168th Infantry Regiment. There were also several British soldiers and a British civilian (internee) as well as Lt.-Col. Stevenson (British, South African, Signal Corps) and a British captain, Medical Corps, whose name I cannot now remember. In my opinion, these men were actually what they appeared to be, and did not include any "plants". We, prisoners of war, were very careful in our efforts to make certain identification.

Soon we were taken, one by one, to the jail office, where we were interviewed by several German staff officers and some civilian officials, who appeared to be from both, the Foreign Office and the Propaganda Ministry. The procedure appeared about the same for all of us: "Since you have volunteered to investigate this terrible Katyn atrocity, we are taking you to the scene. You will, of course sign a parole not to escape".
"The hell we did volunteer. We don't want to go. Send us back to our camps". Great surprise and much chatter among the Germans. Then the same thing over again.

Finally, they announced that since we wouldn't give our paroles, they would have to place guards on the airplane with us. This meant that some prisoners would not make the trip, to make room for the guards. The American soldiers were left back.

Lt.-Col. Stevenson was the senior in the group. We cautioned the entire group to do no talking, to give no indications of opinion, and not to cooperate in any way with the Germans. All agreed. It was evident to all of us that we were involved in an international mess with terrific political implications.

An English-speaking German captain was placed in charge of the group together with an English-speaking "Sonderfuhrer", who gave the name of von Johnson, spoke idiomatic American, and said he had attended school at Rice in the USA.

We were flown from Tempelhof to Smolensk about the 6th of May, 1943. At that time Smolensk was about sixty miles from the front and appeared to contain only garrison troops. We were billeted in some of the remaining intact buildings, of which there were only a few. Some sort of a German service unit maintained an officers mess, where we all ate. While in Smolensk, we were taken on a sight-seeing tour by the local service unit commander and a major, who appeared to be an agricultural expert and enthusiast, who was trying to rehabilitate the land with the remnants of the Russian peasant population. His efforts included a model village. In my opinion, this "hospitality" was spontaneous and was prompted partly by his own enthusiasm for his work and partly because he hadn't had many visitors. It did not appear to be organized on orders from Berlin.

A German lieutenant (spoke no English) appeared from the group that was in charge of operations at the scene of the mass graves in Katyn Forest. He acted as our guide. We were driven to the site, where there was a gate, guarded by young soldiers in Polish uniforms. A sickly-sweet odor of decaying bodies was everywhere. At the graves it was nearly overpowering. There were several graves. Professor, "Herr Doktor" Buhtz, a German expert in forensic medicine, was present together with other technicians. Several Polish Red Cross workers were present. Civilian labor was being used to remove bodies from the graves. Each body was searched very carefully, examined, identified, and reburied in a nearby mass grave which was to become a national shrine with suitable monuments. The articles removed from each body were placed in a large manila envelope for safekeeping. The search of the bodies was very thorough, including removal of shoes or boots, where it was possible (sometimes the whole leg from the knee down came off with the boot). The examiners wore rubber aprons and rubber gloves. A typist was present, recording the findings on each body.

We followed our guide right into each of the graves - stepping on bodies that were piled like cord wood, face down usually, to a depth of about five to seven bodies covered with about five feet of earth. About three hundred bodies were laid out beside one of the graves. These all had their hands tied behind them with cord. The rest appeared not to have been tied. All bodies had a bullet hole in the back of head, near the neck, with the exit wound of the bullet being in the forehead or front upper part of the skull.

The graves on the downhill part of the slope were more moist than the others. One end of one grave had standing water in it. German photographers were present and took both still and motion pictures of our party while we inspected the graves. Copies of the still pictures were later given to us. We never saw, or heard anything of the movies.

After we inspected the graves, we were shown several other test holes which had been dug in the vicinity, together with very old human bones, i.e. no meat left on them, which were said to have been dug up there. I am inclined to believe the story, although there was no proof. The Germans made much of the fact that this wooded knoll was a long-standing burial site, used by the Russian secret police. I forgot, whether they called them the OGPU, NKVD, or MVD. There was a rustic lodge on the low bluff overlooking the small landing on the river (Dnieper River, I believe). This lodge was allegedly the scene of frequent tortures, drinking parties, and various other orgies, held by the Russian police as matters of amusement and recreation, as well as routine business. The Germans produced an old peasant, Russian, who claimed that this forest of Katyn had an evil reputation - it was forbidden ground; that he had seen big, closed vans go from the railroad siding (some miles distant) into the forest, and that there were stories of shots being heard very often in the woods. This was supposed to confirm that the Russians had brought the victims to the mass graves by rail and truck some time before the Germans occupied the area.

The British medical captain in the group understood German very well and a little Russian which he had learned while taking care of Russian prisoners.

About a mile down the road, the Germans had taken over a house as a field museum and office. The porch and front rooms were filled with glass showcases containing items removed from bodies in the graves. There were sample uniform insignia ranging from general to lieutenant, there were several Geneva arm bands, many letters, photographs, diaries, news clippings, personal souvenirs, etc. These items were just the better samples. In the back rooms of the house, there were the individual envelopes containing the items removed from the corpses. This building was also permeated with the smell of the graves, coming from the showcases and the envelopes.

At this point, the Germans produced two small drinks for everyone, and then we returned to our billets in Smolensk.
We were flown back to the same jail in Berlin and stayed there about ten days. During this time, the Germans were apparently trying to decide, what to do with us. The British soldiers and the civilian internee were returned to their respective camps before the end of this ten day period - or so we were told - leaving us, four officers, to wonder what it was all about. An English-speaking German soldier, or "Sonderfuhrer" von Johnson, would take us for a walk through the Tiergarten every day, along with guards. It was during this walk period that we had a chance to talk without fear of microphones. Our discussion, while in the jail, always avoided any mention of what we thought about who had committed the murders at Katyn.

During these walks, Lt.-Col. Stevenson did a lot of talking with the Germans. He told them that he had once published a book and that as soon as he returned home, he was going to get permission from his superiors to write a book about this experience. We couldn't get him to shut up about any subject at any time except the big question of Whodunit?. He was a windbag. He claimed to be a member of a group of amateur investigators of the supernatural. He even carried a feather in his wallet which he said was from the headdress of the American Indian Chief (spirit), whom he had contacted through a medium in S. Africa.
We gathered from the Germans that the front office didn’t know, what to do with us. There was some hopeful implication that we might be released, possibly through Spain.

One afternoon, Lt.-Col. Stevenson was bundled off by the Germans on about ten minute notice. He seemed very surprised and quite uneasy as he left the jail. We never saw, or heard of him again. That night, Capt. Stewart and I were returned to our original prison camp, where we were met by Captain Heyl. We asked him, what kind of a story he had told us about going to meet Maj.-Gen. Fortune. He replied that Fortune had been seriously ill with bronchitis. I later met Maj.-Gen. Fortune and he had not been sick at all.

Prior to leaving Berlin, we were told that Germany had not and would not make any propaganda use of our visit to the graves, or the pictures taken of the visit. I have never heard of their doing so.
Throughout the rest of our time in prison camps, Capt. Stewart and I refused to discuss our experiences concerning Katyn, and never stated what opinion we had formed.

I reached the American lines in the sector of the 104th Inf. Div. near Duben, Germany, at the Mulde River line on 5 May 1945, still carrying the photographs given to me at Katyn.

I showed the photographs to G-2 of the 104th Division. I had previously showed these to only one other person, apart from the German prison camp security personnel, who conducted periodic searches, but always allowed me to keep the photographs because they had been stamped "Gepruft". This other person was Col. Thomas D. Drake, senior officer in Oflag 64, who was repatriated for stomach ulcers. Before he left the prison camp, to be repatriated, Capt. Stewart and I talked with him, showed him the pictures and asked that he report the matter to the War Department. He laughed at me and said that I had been taken in completely by the German propaganda experts. I don't know, if he ever mentioned the matter, when he reached the States.

G-2 of the 104th Division recognized that my report was one of interest to both, the State and War Departments, and provided transportation to HQ., VII Corps in Leipzig. General J. Lawton Collins then commanded the VII Corps.

Gen. Collins, who has known me since I was a child, discussed the matter with me and set the necessary wheels in motion to get me back to the Pentagon with all haste.

In Paris, I stayed with Gen. Barker and at his suggestion discussed the matter with a full colonel (whose name I have forgotten), connected with war crimes investigations. He decided it was a matter for the War Department and the State Department, and took no action.

Col. Drake, Gen. Collins, Gen. Bissell and Gen. Bissell's stenographer are the only persons I have ever told of my conclusions concerning who murdered the Polish officers at Katyn (except, of course, the other members of the party, who visited the site with me).

4. Conclusions:

I believe that the Russians did it. The rest of the group that visited the site stated to me that they believed that the Russians did it (Capt., now Major, Donald Stewart, Field Artillery, can be asked to verify this. I don't know his present address. He is regular army).

5. Discussion:

At the beginning of the newspaper publicity, concerning KATYN, I believed the whole thing to be one huge, well managed, disparate lie by the Germans to split the Western Allies from Russia.

I hated the Germans. I didn't want to believe them. At that time, like many others, I more or less believed that Russia could get along with us.
When I became involved in the visit to Katyn I realized that the Germans would do their best to convince me that Russia was guilty. I made up my mind not to be convinced by what must be a propaganda effort.
The apparent weak spot in the German story was the fact that Germany had occupied the ground around Smolensk for a long time before announcing the discovery of the graves. The exact dates are a matter of record. I don't have the facilities to look them up for entry in this report.

I wanted to believe that whole thing was a frame-up. Could these be bodies from an extermination camp, dressed as Polish officers and "planted"? Could the letters, diaries, identification tags, news clippings - all be forgeries? What about the state of decomposition of the bodies? Did it appear to agree with the German story of when they must have been buried? After all, I’m no expert in body-decomposition. What about the temperature, moisture, soil bacteria? What about the German statements that Polish families had been trying to locate their relatives, known to have been imprisoned, when Russia occupied part of Poland? Was it true that these Polish relatives ceased to get answers from their imprisoned relatives - that a cloak of mystery descended all at once? Where is PROOF of who killed these men? Who saw it done?

And so on, and so on - I tried every way I knew how to avoid believing that Russia had done it. I tried every way to convince myself that the Germans had done it. I wanted to believe that the Germans had done it.
Since the graves were already opened, when we were there, it was not possible to see for ourselves what sort of growth had existed on top of the graves, in order to see how long the graves had existed. And, if we had been present, how could we know that the Germans hadn't cleverly transplanted older bushes to give the appearance of age to the graves?

So, you see that we pursued every line of attack to weaken the German story and avoid the conclusion that the Russians had done the killing. It was only with great reluctance that I decided finally that it must be true, that for once the Germans weren't lying, that the facts were as claimed by the Germans. I have thought about this a lot in the past seven years, and freely admit that there never was presented to me any single piece of evidence that could be taken as an absolute proof. But the sum of circumstantial evidence, impressions formed at the time of looking at the graves, what I saw in peoples faces - all forces the conclusion that Russia did it.

The uniforms on the bodies were obviously of the best material and tailor-made. The footwear appeared to be of the best and included many pairs that were obviously made to order. The uniforms and footwear all were obviously well-fitted. This convinced me that the bodies were truly those of Polish officers. The degree of wear on the clothing and particularly the wear on the shoes led me to believe that these officers had been dead a long time, otherwise the shoes and clothing would show much more wear. This was the point that was not called to our attention by the Germans. It is one of the strongest arguments by which to fix the date of the killing.

(signed) John H. Van Vliet Jr.
Lt.-Col., 23 Infantry Regiment

Дата: Четверг, 15 Декабрь 2005
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