In this haunting World War II image, bodies of American prisoners of war -- executed in cold blood by German Waffen-SS troops of the 6th Panzer Army during the Battle of the Bulge -- lay in the snow in Belgium. Cousin Oscar Robert Jordan of Hyndman, PA was found among the scores of the dead.
The son of Oscar George and Gertrude May "Gerty" (Tharp) Jordan, of the family of John J. and Elizabeth (Albright) Emerick, Oscar starred in sports at Hyndman High School. After the outbreak of the war, he joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and trained at Fort Sill, OK. From there he was deployed to the European Theatre with the 285th Field Artillery, Company B, holding the rank of sergeant. The last letter he wrote home was dated just two days prior to his death. While in Belgium on Dec. 17, 1944, at the Battle of the Bulge, a day after a German counter-offensive had begun, he and the 285th were "on the move from Aachen, Germany, to Luxembourg," reported the Cumberland (MD) News. "Battery B was trapped and disarmed by German SS troops at Malmédy, near St. Vith. All of the captured men ... were lined up in an open field and then machine-gunned without warning."
Some days or weeks later, the corpses were discovered by Allied forces. Lying face up, Oscar's body was identified by an infantryman who had known of him back home. Oscar was pictured in an obituary in the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times. In May 1946, the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Hyndman was formed and named in his memory. His remains eventually were shipped home in December 1947 for burial, with services held in the Hyndman Evangelical Church. The flag which had covered the casket was presented to his mother.
Writing about the incident in his landmark book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer said that the "treatment of Western prisoners of war, especially of the British and Americans, was comparatively mild than that meted out by the Germans to the Russians. There were occasional instances of the murder and massacre of them but this was due usually to the excessive sadism and cruelty of individual commanders. Such a case was the slaughter in cold blood ... in a field near Malmédy."
After the war's end, some 74 Waffen-SS officers and soldiers were tried in court as part of the Dachau Trials, including the commander of the 6th Panzer Army. Forensic evidence demonstrated that many of the bodies showed wounds of the head, consistent with a massacre rather than in self-defense or escape. A guilty verdict was rendered along with sentences of death by hanging. These sentences were never carried out and but rather commuted to prison terms.