8 soldiers held in Nazis’ escape (3-10-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (March 10, 1944)

8 soldiers held in Nazis’ escape

5 WACs accused of writing notes

Camp Hale, Colorado (UP) –
An investigation into the escape of two Nazi prisoners from the internment center here last month has resulted in the arrest of eight U.S. soldiers charged with aiding in the break and five members of the WACs accused of writing romantic notes to the enemy captives, Camp Hale officers revealed today.

Three of the soldiers have admitted the charges, Col. John Chase, commanding officer, reported, and three of the WACs have been court-martialed and sentenced to from four to six months’ confinement.

Soldiers named

Pvt. Theophil J. Leonhard of Stonewall, Texas; Pvt. Paul A. Kissman of Erie, Pennsylvania; Pvt. Eric B. Hotelling of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, and Pvt. Friedrich W. Siering of Chicago were named in the escape plot by Pvt. Dale Maple of San Diego, California, who faces a court-martial for treason for his part in the break, Col. Chase reported.

Names of the other four soldiers were not revealed. They were said to be less seriously involved than the others and were held in confinement.

Three confess

Col. Chase said that Leonhard, Kissman and Siering had admitted their part in the conspiracy, but Hotelling had denied the accusations.

Sgt. Guido Gundisch of Milwaukee was also placed in confinement on charges of trafficking commercially with the Germans, Col. Chase said. He will be tried by a court-martial but not in connection with the escape.

The WACs convicted of writing notes to the prisoners were listed as Pvt. Frances H. Bundorf of Birmingham, Alabama; Pvt. Florence C. Pechon of New Orleans, and Pvt. Marguerite L. Franklin of Oakland, California. All pleaded guilty. The remaining two WACs, who were not identified, will be tried soon.

Cases not linked

An investigation indicated that the indiscretion of the five in exchanging notes with the prisoners had no connection with the soldiers involved in the escape, officers said.

The report on the investigation at the camp was made public last night, two days after discovery of stills used for the manufacture of brandy in the prisoners’ quarters.

It was also recalled that most of the prisoners were moved here from an internment center at Trinidad, Colorado, where a few months ago, they were reportedly involved with Japanese girls working in nearby fields.

The investigation at the internment center high in the Colorado mountains was touched off by the escape of two former members of Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

The two prisoners and Maple were captured by Mexican authorities just south of the border and were turned over to U.S. officers.

Maple, a graduate of Harvard University, is held by the 7th Service Command pending his court-martial. He is the first American soldier to be charged with treason in this war.

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