On February 15, 1944, Private Dale H. Maple picked up two passengers in Colorado, and headed for Mexico. He was promptly arrested and charged with treason. Why? Because the two passengers weren’t Americans…they were Nazi prisoners of war.
The 620th Engineer General Service Company: Nazi Sympathizers…in the U.S. Military?
After enlisting in February 1942, Maple was deliberately assigned to the infamous 620th Engineer General Service Company. In a real-life example of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” the 620th was made up of suspected Nazi sympathizers. By keeping them in one location and denying them access to weapons, the military hoped to maintain control over the sympathizers and make it difficult for them to hamper the war effort.
But Maple had his own ideas. And when the 620th was assigned guard duty at Camp Hale, a prison for Nazi POWs, he decided to take action. After buying a car, he picked up two Afrika Korps Sergeants from work detail and drove toward the Mexican border. The car broke down 17 miles short of the goal so the three men hoofed it the rest of the way.
The Trial of Dale H. Maple?
But after arriving in Mexico, they were quickly arrested and sent back to America. Maple was originally charged with treason. Later this was changed to “relieving, corresponding with or aiding the enemy.” He was found guilty and given a sentence of death by hanging. However, the Army Judge Advocate General intervened and convinced President Roosevelt to imprison Maple instead. Maple was released in 1951 and apparently passed away in the early 2000s. Here’s more on Maple and the 620th from Foreign Policy:
Yep. Gather round, little grasshoppers, and I will tell the strange tale.
I know it sounds like the reverse of a Quentin Taratino movie, but it is true: During World War II, the Army intentionally formed a unit chockablock with fascisti and their suspected sympathizers. What a sensible idea — much better than kicking them out into society and losing track of them.
This is all discussed in the new issue of Army Lawyer , where Fred “Three Sticks” Borch has a fascinating article about PFC Dale Maple, a brilliant young man who was born in San Diego in 1920 and who graduated from Harvard with honors but then, because he was bad, was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead…
(See more on Maple, the 620th, and Nazis in America at Foreign Policy)