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Shooting at jumped Luftwaffe pilots

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by Karjala, Jan 25, 2014.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    One of those times when Wiki is quite interesting:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attacks_on_parachutists

    As ever, it's a Curate's Egg of a page, but it contains nuggets:

    However, the Hague Rules of Air Warfare never came into force, and despite the strong feelings of chivalry around this issue, there was no legal prohibition on targeting defenseless airmen before or during the Second World War.[2][3] In 1949, as a result of widespread practices and abuses committed during the Second World War, the newly modified and updated versions of the Geneva Conventions came into force providing greater protections to protected persons but there was still no explicit prohibition on the shooting of parachuting enemy pilots. However, despite this, military manuals around the world contained prohibition on attacking enemy pilots parachuting from an aircraft in distress. Paragraph 30 of the U.S. Army's Field Manual published by the Department of the Army, on July 18, 1956 (last modified on July 15, 1976), under the title "The Law of Land Warfare", states:

    30. Persons Descending by Parachute
    The law of war does not prohibit firing upon paratroops or other persons who are or appear to be bound upon hostile missions while such persons are descending by parachute. Persons other than those mentioned in the preceding sentence who are descending by parachute from disabled aircraft may not be fired upon.[4]

    In 1977, this practice was finally codified in Protocol I in addition to the 1949 Geneva Conventions:

    Article 42 - Occupants of aircraft

    1. No person parachuting from an aircraft in distress shall be made the object of attack during his descent.

    2. Upon reaching the ground in territory controlled by an adverse Party, a person who has parachuted from an aircraft in distress shall be given an opportunity to surrender before being made the object of attack, unless it is apparent that he is engaging in a hostile act.

    3. Airborne troops are not protected by this Article.[1]

    Not many states have ratified Protocol I but it is an accepted principle of international humanitarian law that targeting persons, other than airborne troops, parachuting from an aircraft in distress is a violation of the customary laws of war and is binding on all belligerents, whether or not they have ratified them.[5]
     
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There is an interesting book called "soldaten" based on the transcripts of the recordings made of German PW in British and US PW camps. The evidence is of a soldiery that did not need much urging to indulge the baser aspects of human nature , irrespective of National Socialism. One points that was made was that shooting airmen in partachutes was a taboo, in a similar way to sailors abandoning ship while tank crew escaping a tank merely drew fire.
     
  3. Karjala

    Karjala Don Quijote

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    As I said I'm not taking or wanting to take any moral stance, but since you asked I find your example to be a bit different. The tank crews normally had pistols to protect themselves, which they also often used. The pilots could not use theirs.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm not sure this is the case. Indeed I seem to have recall reading of at least one airman returning fire with a pistol while hanging from his 'chute. Whatever the case by the rules of war at the time it was legal. After 1949 it was outlawed.
     
  5. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I think the impression we have of the Chivalry of the Air Corps is based on films of WW1 such as "The Blue Max". Real life is hardly, if ever, depicted truthfully in print or film. There's a good reason for the term War Is Hell. It's all out survival for the combatants. I wonder if I were in the situation I would refrain from using any means available to eliminate an enemy no matter how 'cruel' someone might think it was.
     
  6. denny

    denny Member

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    I do not see why it would be an issue.
    What about Airborne Units.
    Are you supposed to wait until the soldiers get to the ground.? I would blast away at any "enemy" descending in a parachute...from the ground or the air.
     
  7. Karjala

    Karjala Don Quijote

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    I originally started this topic, since I had misunderstood that shooting pilots hanging from chutes was something which was considered "evil" in the West and linked with the behaviour of the "Nazi"-pilots. It was a bit of a surprise to learn that in the real life it was more often the other way round.

    As I wrote before I do not want to take any moral stance here. However I see attacking Airborne Units a bit different, since they were supposed to fight immediately after landing, which they did with the proper armament and ammo. A survived pilot with his pistol was merely supposed to - survive.
     

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