Saturday, May 10, 2014


Footnote 105 –

that is not the language of the message – it is rather Stewart’s approximation of his message. A slight but significant difference.

“These messages were subsequently forwarded to Washington and provided first hand acknowledgement in July 1943 that Western forensics believed the Soviet Union was guilty…”  T

Neither Van Vliet nor Stewart were forensic specialists and I have no idea where this idea is taken from. I would appreciate learning where there is any documentation of either of them being a forensic specialist.

Further, the messages were not subsequently forwarded to Washington – please read the AP story of September 10, 2012 where this is described with some accuracy.   The code users were referred to as registered – because they were registered and all POW letters went through a specific Post Office – so they went to MIS-X BEFORE they got to Detroit. 

Van Vliet’s coded letters have yet to be located in the NA – but both Stewart and VV sent coded letters.  In fact, as Big X in Oflag 64, it was Van Vliet who arranged for hand guns to be shipped into the camp.

PLEASE – there were three John Van Vliet’s in the US Army over the years – and this one was Jr.  – it is important to differentiate.

Problematically, these several pages omit the entire fact that the two US Army officers were part of a group of eight men ordered taken to Katyn, and that of the eight at least three others left reports or other records behind confirming their opinion or where they were unable to do so, because of British MI-9 pressure – of not accusing the Germans.  They were not all officers, not even were they all military.

“…the other American officer, a West Point graduate, who was taken from his prisoner of war camp…” Both Van Vliet and Stewart were West Point graduates, and both were POWs and both were held in the same camp.

At the end of the trip the Germans tried to get a statement ….. but all the men refused…” The men had acknowledged the “terrible implications” when they were brought to Berlin, prior to departure for Katyn.  That is why when each of them was questioned PRIOR TO THE TRIP – each refused to aid and abet, that is why when the Senior Officer was asked to sign a parole, he refused and that is why four of the men in the original group of twelve were returned to their camps.   None of this was secret as it is part of the Madden testimony.

Many of the men who were brought with Van Vliet by the Germans were not medical personnel.”  To be accurate – the sentence should read –“Insofar as we currently know; only one of the eight men in the group brought to the massacre site was a medical man.

“However, a British medical captain was with the Americans….and the Nazi methodology.” This sentence implies a predominance of Americans in the group – yet the Americans were only two out of eight. What Nazi methodology – the doctor never made a reference to Nazi methodology.

“None of this information was reported before the end of the war….”  Yes, this information was reported prior to the end of the war – in November of 1944 and the report was forwarded by the British to the State Dept.

Page 40 –

Upon his release in 1945, Van Vliet filed a report …. with US Army Intelligence in Berlin.”

Van Vliet was never in Berlin in 1945.  Period. He did not file a report in Berlin.  In fact he did not file a report in Europe.  He reported to certain individuals, in some cases in lesser in some cases in greater detail – but there was no written report.   To file a report is a clear indication of a written document.  He was questioned (as I discovered in November 2013) under oath – and thus submitted a sworn deposition.  A highly significant document, with many legal implications, however, not a report.

“…Van Vliet was handed a gag order by Maj. Gen. Bissell….”  By quoting, not from Van Vliet’s testimony there is a miscontrual – Van Vliet testified clearly, that he was aware that people knew he had been in Katyn, he and Stewart had managed, all the time were in the Oflag to avoid discussing the matter.  He wanted to have formal protection to keep him from being questioned in a post-war world and he requested an order binding him to secrecy. 

The Van Vliet Report…. and subsequently was ‘deep sixed’ in the military intelligence archives by Maj. Gen. Bissell…”  The fact is that there is no proof that Maj. General Bissell ever deep sixed the report.  There is, in the newly declassified information enough to counter that allegation that I would suggest that one would want to refrain from making it as a blanket assertion.

“…FDR asked Earle to use his contacts in the Balkans and Poland to try and discover who was really responsible for the massacre.  From the Embassy Earle would send hundreds of pages of material from his sources…..” 

This highly unusual statement intrigues me, as until now I had never seen a statement that FDR has asked Earle to use his contacts in Poland.  Perhaps, I missed something.  Could I ask for a scan or a direct link to a document that refers to this?  Also although Earle sent a multitude of items, I never tallied it in the hundreds of pages.  Is there a specific chart or table totaling these items?  I would be grateful if I could have access to that.

However, with respect to Earle’s expulsion to Samoa – he also noted that when he was brought back, shortly after FDR’s demise – the Naval Commanders’ (technically Earle served in the Navy) apologized to him.  If correct, this would imply a split between the military and the administration on their view of the Soviet Union.

Page 45-6

The success of the Soviets made it very likely that the Red Army would liberate Poland and Eastern Europe, thereby putting Roosevelt at a marked disadvantage.”  This sentence avoids several facts – the first that the Red Army victory was to be based on the materiel and supplies received in the Lend Lease program and without with which Stalin had nothing.  Thus Roosevelt chose to use American materiel and supplies as an offset for the sacrifice of various ethnic groups which were ordered sent ahead of the Red Army to serve as cannon fodder.  It also avoids discussion of the fact that when it was possible for the US Army to liberate all of Germany – they were pulled back some 100 miles.  The refusal to implement and attack through the Balkans can be similarly viewed – FDR had made a decision to offer up Eastern and South Eastern Europe to Stalin – as FDR told Archbishop Spellman well PRIOR to Teheran – “The European people will simply have to endure the Soviet domination…”

Roosevelt chose to be at a disadvantage – he did not have to be at one.  (Apologies for my digression into a commentary on theories.)

Page 46
The remarks of the Polish government are presented without any indication that the Poles did other than simply complain and demand during the war.  There is no mention of the Polish Army under British Command in any of its aspects or the Polish RAF Squadrons.

Footnote 134 – “…the lands that were being so passionately demanding … had been taken from the Soviet Union during a war with the Soviet Union…”

There is no mention of the fact that the Bolsheviks (not yet the Soviet Union) had attacked Poland, no mention of the fact that these lands had historically been Polish for hundreds of years, that culturally and educationally they were linked with Poland over the generations.  Stalin’s grievance was over the fact that due to his error in judgment –what he saw as a sure victory was lost in that war.  Not these lands – but all the lands of Poland that he wanted to occupy.

Page 51

Footnote 151 – Soviet Army on the banks of the Vistula – members of the 1st Polish Army asked for permission to cross the river and join and were denied.

Footnote 152 – Use of Soviet airbases during the Uprising – the Soviets did not allow Americans to refuel on Soviet territory, thus many missions ended with the pilots crashing.  They were often aided by local Polish citizens who helped them make it out.  Others were not so lucky.

 Page 52 –

Instead the London government lost its only military power in Poland.”  This statement equates the Home Army units in Warsaw with the totality of the Home Army units in all of Poland. I would suggest that this is an extreme statement and incorrect.

Appendix – what is referred to as booklet forwarded by Earle – I would posit looks like the material published in Signal in a multiplicity of languages and easily available to be verified.  Not verifying the origins of this material is disappointing ‘honors’ work.

Friday, May 9, 2014


This is continuing commentary on the errors in the Vanderbilt University awarded History Honors Thesis

Page 24 –

warnings scratched into the cars…”  these were not cars – these were railroad wagons, actually freight or cargo wagons, and this was not a warning, they were a documentation listing the tally of individuals removed.  A similar tally was found in Kozielsk by the officers who were brought in from Lithuania in June of 1940.

Page 25

Page 26-27 and other pages –

which discuss the Soviet input into the war effort – fail at any time to mention not only the Polish input into the Battle of Britain, the land campaigns in North Africa and the ongoing input into of Polish intelligence into the British and US intelligence pool.  This was not simply an issue of the Poles fighting in Poland. Certainly these points could be used to countermand the statement on Soviet input.

Page 27 and ongoing-

The facts relating to the English-speaking witnesses are something that I have been studying in detail since 2009 and documented in printed form in the summer of 2012.  Certainly, additional facts have been made clearer - i.e. although by 2012 it was clear that that both Van Vliet and Stewart were code users, I did not locate copies of the coded letters concerning Katyn until August 2012; however, in 2012 I precisely describe the method in which coded letters functioned in detail.

However, among the multiple errors made concerning the witnesses I will only mention three at this time:

1- Both Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet, Jr. and Captain (NOT Major) Donald B. Stewart were registered code users.  Thus any assertion to the contrary is erroneous. 

2- The description of secret reports – and the discussion of his original position imply that Stewart and by inference, Van Vliet, sent lengthy missives.  Instead these were simple aerograms – the standard approved for POWs aerogrammes which were coopted to serve another purpose.  They were no more than 1.5 pages long.  The author is comingling the letters with the 1950 re-created Van Vliet report and the testimony of both men to the Madden Committee.

3- The coded letters were sent in June and July 1943 and again in the spring of 1944 (the latter was in response to the Burdenko report). They simply confirmed Soviet guilt they were no more expansive than that 

4- There is no documentation that G-2 ever passed the reports on to the administration. (Which does not mean that I do not believe it was – but there is no ground for such a statement.)

Page 28-

Again this is not a report – it is a letter.

Page 31-

I would posit that the Catholic population in the US was not only concerned about the treatment of Poles in the USSR but of all Catholics in that nation.  (One may need to differentiate between the hierarchy and lay Catholics, and also try to understand the position of Eastern Rite Catholics.)

Page 33 –

 Charles Rozmarek was not only head of the Polish National Alliance – he was received by Roosevelt as head of the Polish American Congress which had been created in May of 1944.  The Polish National Alliance (PNA or ZNP) was a fraternal organization primarily serving the life insurance needs of its members. Clearly, there were other similar organizations – thus his role as the head of the PNA was not of overriding importance.  Rather the larger Polish American Congress (Kongres Polonii Amerykańskiej) was of greater importance.

Page 36 - 

Footnote 98 – The Madden Committee existed for not more than 14 months – not several years.

Page 37 –

OWI – it would have been appropriate to note that the then head of OWI was future Senator Cranston. 

Footnote 102-

Certainly not the only matter which was not disclosed to the Madden Committee – the coded letters were not discussed there, nor was the British Memo of June 1943, sent to MIS-X and others, which confirmed that there were British and US officers taken to Katyn.  Information had been sent from the Oflag in May of 1943 – before the group even got to Katyn.

Page 38 –

 Again, not a report – but rather coded letters sent by both Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet, Jr. and Captain Donald B. Stewart. 

Footnote 104-

Previously the status of Maj. (sic) Stewart was classified…”  The status of Captain Stewart was never classified and he was the first witness to testify before the Madden Committee.  This assertion is patently false. 

Further, neither Stewart nor Van Vliet ever testified before the Madden Committee about being code users, neither was it mentioned in any of the audio or video material is that they made.  It was however, mentioned in Van Vliet’s final Oral History interview in 1995.  All soldiers who were code users were required to sign an oath upon returning to the US that they would never disclose the code use.  This requirement continued through Vietnam and even into Desert Storm. (I have not had occasion to interview veterans of later wars.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014


These remarks will only deal with the most egregious errors in the general history presented in the paper.  My detailed remarks will primarily comment upon issues relating to the English-speaking Witnesses to Katyn.  Page numbers refer to the specific pages of the document itself.

Page 3 -

The melodramatic reconstruction of the executions presented does not coincide with the meticulous excavations and reconstructions of the murders documented by archeologists and forensic scholars in the late twentieth century, neither does it coincide with the description given by the one individual who was brought to the railway siding but not taken to the massacre site - but this description is one that others could counter.  As an example, the ripping off of the jackets - is factually inaccurate as the victims were found wearing their great coats. No eyewitness to the exhumations noted that jackets had been removed.  Further, given that victims were transported from the railroad stop in Gniezdowo to the murder site in Czorna Voronyas - there was no possibility that they could have seen anything - since they were held in individual cells within the vehicle.  But, again others can counter this. 

I also believe that it is appropriate to include the numbers of victims included in the Belarussian list - which would certainly increase the tally of victims.

Page 4 -

However, as the thesis refers to the victims solely being in Katyn “... the Soviets imprisoned 14,552 Polish Officers. In April 1940 these officers were massacred in the Katyn Forest." an egregious error is made.  No more than 4,800 bodies were found in Katyn - and the rest of the victims (who were not only officers) were murdered in Bykovnia (Ukraine) and Mednoje (Russia).  This fact contradicts the statement on Page 10 that the three camps were outside of Smolensk. 

Page 10 -

With respect to the number of officers who survived - a more accurate and generally accepted number is 1,200 and includes those officers who were interned in Lithuania and then brought to Kozielsk in June of 1940 - and are known as Kozielsk II.  With respect to the people who were sent into 'internal exile' most of those were families, i.e. wives, mothers, children and older men.  Women as well as those men, who were not military, were also arrested and sentenced to the GULAG - the omission of these two facts reduces the number of victims to thousands - while they were in the hundreds of thousands if not over a million.

Page 13-

The statement that General Anders could have approached the NKVD in February of 1941 - while he was imprisoned BY THE NKVD, and five months before the start of Operation Barbarossa, and some six months prior to any agreements regarding the formation of a Polish Army is clearly an error.  I personally have never seen mention of a February 1941 timeline and it is documented that Anders authorized Czapski, whom he empowers with a specific letter, to approach Zukow in this matter in February 1942, and although there are references to meeting in December of 1941, the Polish Government issued White Paper of 1946 states that Anders met with Stalin on March 18, 1942, when Anders did raise the issue which contradicts the reference to January of 1941.  Further, Anders did not become commander of the Polish Army in Russia (not the USSR) until August of 1941.
Page 14-

I will note that the Polish government did not cease seeking information about its missing officers.

Page 15-

The presented information is incorrect.  Colonel Szymanski sent his report in June 1942, and it was sent from Cairo.   However, in May of 1943 that report, together with the IMC report was sent, by Szymanski, who had received orders from Marshall, directly to General Strong. A misstatement of the date of the first report is quite serious, while omission of Marshall’s orders demanding information is equally serious.

Colonel Szymanski did know many members of the Polish forces, but it is a question as to whether his knowing them led to his receiving the information or whether he sought the information, which was his duty and as a result began to know them.  Clearly, since Col. Szymanski had had no prior relationship with the Polish Army or government, it is highly improbable that he had personal relationships preceding his assignment as liaison.

Page 17-

Referring to the brutality of the Stalinist regime as though this brutality was purely an aspect of Stalinism and not of Communism is questionable, and this questionable approach is also reflected in the earlier statement that Stalin signed the order – while omitting the fact that Beria and the others also signed the document.  To put it bluntly – removing the blame from Beria and the other members of the Politburo feeds in the Russian refusal to acknowledge the crime for what it is.

Announcement of the Crime – there is no mention of the fact that permission to go to Katyn was sought by the members of the Polish Red Cross and granted by the Home Army  – that there was a clear discussion of  the need to ascertain the facts while not collaborating with the Nazis.  Yet this omission allows a general reader to wallow in a lack of knowledge – that there was a strongly organized underground government and that military and public sector – or what we might now refer to as civic society organizations subsumed themselves to the underground orders.  This fact would counter the previously made statement, (page 9) “since the Poles had no control over the country” – a blanket statement at the minimum.

Further omitting the earlier visit of other foreign journalists, including those from Belgium, Finland and Sweden, prior to the announcement – and omitting the fact that their press also withheld publication of the story as they were uncertain, is a omitting a telling detail.

Page 18 –

the presence of three year old trees” – the fact is the trees were five years old – and had been transplanted three years earlier.  I shall simply note that a detailed reading of the Madden Committee testimony would have confirmed that fact, and that it was Dr. Orsos (a member of the IMC) who noted it in Bialystok. 

Page 21 –

“Stalin carried through on his threat and on April 21…..”

Stalin did NOT sever relations with the Polish government on April 21, 1943 – rather, relations were severed on April 25 – Easter was April 25 and it was that night that the Polish Ambassador was called into to receive the note severing relations.

“..until the Soviets retook the Smolensk area from the Germans in 1944 …”   The Battle of Smolensk ended on October 2, 1943.  Thus the Soviets had retaken the area around Smolensk in 1943 and not 1944, and Dr. Burdenko had been serving from the start, on main committee, which the Soviets had formed in November of 1942. Thus, the commonly referenced Burdenko Commission was but a sub commission of the main committee to investigate German-Fascist crimes.  However, the significant point here, is that the Russians had more than three months prior to January 13, 1944 to prep the site, of which two months were in still reasonably tolerable weather.  Clearly, given winter conditions in the area, it was not possible to dig the soil in mid-January – it was frozen.

Page 23 –

mention is made of the German forester – yet Dr. Zietz in his Madden Committee testimony discusses that it was Dr. Orsos who determined this, and this is confirmed by Dr. Palmieri in his testimony, finally, General von Gersdorff in his materials for the US Army in the 1950’s clearly stated that only after Dr. Orsos had made his analysis did the Germans call out for a dendrologist – and when they located one he confirmed Orsos’ analysis – without even being asked to do so. 

Referring to the International Medical Commission in quotes is a demeaning reference – as it was in fact international, it had been organized by the Germans as a result of a suggestion by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the members were not only forensic specialists but also included a member of one of the Scandinavian undergrounds. Finally, this would have been an appropriate point, if one wanted to refer to the early efforts of the US to influence the “Katyn agenda” that the Spanish member of the IMC was called back to Madrid as a result of US State Department pressure. Thus the question of their prestige – as a group – if considered in the light of the presence of a member of the Scandinavian underground, as well as the pressure of the State Dept. and the recommendations of the IRC – would cause it to be seen differently.

And here the timeline in the thesis is backwards – it refers to the creation of the IMC as though it occurred prior to the approach to the IRC – and yet the IMC was the result of the approach to the IRC.  Further, the IRC decision to not investigate was based on pre-war decisions of the Soviet government not to sign agreements –and not on present (1943) actions.

It is not Dr. Trasmen – it is Dr. Tramsen.

It was not the Polish Red Cross – but the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross – which was delegated (secretly) by the Home Army to work at the site in order to help identify the names of the victims.  The Germans had been working with Volksdeutsch – and various errors in nomenclature were occurring.  Of course the Germans had to allow for their presence – but the intention was a greater one than that presented.   Only two words more would have been needed for accuracy’s sake.

To be quite precise about the Technical Committee - it did not refuse to make a report – it simply delayed and avoided presenting the report – refusal was not an option – neither was collaboration.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014



In late April of 2014, I located a history honors thesis posted by Vanderbilt University, the subject of which was Katyn and included grievously erroneous information about the English-speaking Witnesses to Katyn.  I therefore wrote to the three professors who had signed off on the thesis.  What follows is my letter, their response, and quotes from the Vanderbilt History Honors webpage.

I have had occasion to read the thesis submitted by xxxx xxxxxx and find myself in a most difficult position.  To wit - I need to point out that this student has made various erroneous statements concerning the English-speaking witnesses to Katyn, which have now been posted on the internet and received approbation from three Professors at Vanderbilt.  This clearly, will lead to a situation in which readers of this thesis will accept as historical fact, the errors that have been presented and will possibly quote them in other papers. 

It is for this reason that I have made the difficult decision to approach you and to ask if we could discuss these errors in detail.  I will not discuss the student’s  positions as to what occurred at Teheran, or whether in fact Roosevelt may have made his decisions earlier... that is a point for discussion.  I also would not agree that the currently declassified materials (although even that is a misnomer as various items were declassified as far back as 1974 - and a more proper term might be disclosed materials) "show how the Roosevelt administration manipulated, concealed and managed the truth about Soviet guilt...." as until we document whether the materials submitted to MIS-X and G-2 made it to the administration - we will not have shown this - it is inferred but not yet shown.

I do, of course with the position that Roosevelt and his cohorts, did what they did to suppress knowledge of the truth about Katyn because of the need to retain Polish, Slavic and Catholic voters.  There are any number of additional facts, in addition to the silence on Katyn which will not only confirm Roosevelt’s actions, but also Stalin’s actions to help support or engage these groups into voting for Roosevelt.
It is my hope that you will read my comments, most specifically those about Lt. Colonel John H. Van Vliet, Jr. (his family is particularly desirous that his name is presented correctly) and then Captain (not Major) Donald B. Stewart and their coded letters - be read in detail. 

I would hope that you are as concerned that the facts be presented accurately

In reply to my email I received the response cited below – which includes (in the order they listed them) 

·         Profs. William P.  Caferro (Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History, Director of Undergraduate Studies),

·         Thomas A. Schwartz (Professor of History, Professor of Political Science; Professor of European Studies),  

·         Francis W. Wcislo (Associate Professor of History, Dean of The Ingram Commons),

·          James A. Epstein (Distinguished Professor of History, Chair, Department of History, 2013-14), as well as

·         Matthew Ramsey (Associate Professor of History, Associate Professor of Medicine, Health and Society)


Thank you for your message and your comments on the undergraduate thesis by XXXX XXXXXXX  (I am currently not including the student’s name).
We are not able to verify every statement made in student work, and our approval of the thesis was simply an acknowledgment that the author had met the basic requirements of the program, not an endorsement of its accuracy or point of view.  (bolding mine)

I think it highly unlikely that scholars would cite an undergraduate thesis as an authoritative source.  If you have serious concerns, however, you might consider posting your comments on an appropriate on-line discussion list.

Compare this with the description on the Vanderbilt website:

History Honors is a selective, three-semester program of individual undergraduate research, guided by faculty advisers. Honors students propose, research, and write a baccalaureate thesis on an original topic. … 

Course of Study

Each student will be assigned a faculty adviser with appropriate expertise. All students take a three-semester sequence of courses in which they get feedback on their work from fellow students as well as the course instructor and faculty adviser….  History 298a-b, the senior honors seminar, is led by the director of history honors. Here students exchange, read, critique, and rethink drafts of one another’s manuscripts. … 

The Thesis

Each student produces three drafts of the thesis during the senior year: a first draft in late November; a second draft in mid-March; and a final draft in April. After the thesis is submitted, the student takes an oral examination, known as the thesis defense. The defense takes place during the spring examination period before a three-person faculty committee consisting of the faculty adviser, the director of history honors, and a third reader, who may come from outside the History Department. 

All this language about expertise, feedback, faculty advisor’s and a defense of the thesis – while errors, such as a total misdating of when a crucial meeting between then General Anders and Stalin took place – so outrageous an error that either Operation Barbarossa started in 1940 or else the thesis author misdated this meeting by a year pass into the thesis which is awarded honors.  Yet Vanderbilt’s faculty committee did not pick up this and other errors.

Please note that I never used the words scholars citing – I wrote that readers might quote.  But since Vanderbilt suggests posting my comments – so be it. 

My comments do not include all the salient points – nor do I counter with my proposition that the timeline of when FDR made specific decisions, these latter items are a point for discussion and counter presentation.  I only deal with the gross errors concerning the general issue of Katyn and the specific – but clearly announced and defined points concerning the English-speaking Witnesses to Katyn and their history – specifically as concerns the coded letters.   Although I make reference to page numbers in the thesis – I believe that my description of the sentences is clear enough for the reader to work with my commentary only.