Fighting for the United States, Executed in Britain written by Simon Webb and published by Pen & Sword Books – £19.99 – Hardback – Pages 200
This book relates a chapter of American military history which many people would rather forget. When the United States came to the aid of Britain in 1942, the arrival of American troops was greeted with unreserved enthusiasm, but unfortunately, wartime sometimes brings out the worst, as well as the best, in people. A small number of the soldiers abused the hospitality they received by committing murders and rapes against British civilians. Some of these men were hanged or shot at Shepton Mallet Prison in Somerset, which had been handed over for the use of the American armed forces.
Due to a treaty between Britain and America, those accused of such offences faced an American court-martial, rather than a British civilian court, which gave rise to some curious anomalies. Although rape had not been a capital crime in Britain for over a century, it still carried the death penalty under American military law and so the last executions for rape in Britain were carried out at this time in Shepton Mallet.
Fighting For the United States, Executed in Britain tells the story of every American soldier executed in Britain during the Second World War. The majority of the executed soldiers were either black or Hispanic, reflecting the situation in the United States itself, where the ethnicity of the accused person often played a key role in both convictions and the chances of subsequently being executed.
First of all I would like to say that I am always impressed by the writing of the author Simon Webb, and enjoy the fact that his books always seem to be about little-known histories or events and shows he is willing to cover the sometimes difficult aspects of history. This was a very insightful book and revealed a lot about what went on. The book goes through the arrival of the Americans to the UK and then talks about the types of crimes carried out, where the justice was carried out and under which particular laws were used, and then finally it talks about a number of cases for a number of different crimes. In some cases it would have been obvious who the culprit was, but in others I would have to say that some of the outcomes or decisions might have been a little suspect. I was probably not surprising that a large number of the crimes were carried out by black soldiers or those of ethnic origin. Overall this is a very insightful and well-researched book that I would happily recommend to others, both fans of history and those of true crime.