Dale H. Maple (1920–2001) was a private in the United States Army in World War II who helped two German prisoners of war escape in 1943. They were recaptured, and Maple was sentenced to death by hanging. He was the first American soldier ever convicted of a crime equivalent to treason. However, his sentence was first commuted to life imprisonment and later to ten years.
Early life and education
Maple graduated first in his class of 585 from San Diego High School at the age of sixteen and won a scholarship to Harvard University. In 1941, he received a bachelor's degree in comparative philology magna cum laude, specializing in German, from Harvard and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. An FBI agent later described him as "one of the most intelligent men I have ever had the opportunity to interview".
However, he was pressured into resigning from the university German Club for singing the "Horst-Wessel-Lied" and other Nazi songs. When he told The Crimson student newspaper that "even a bad dictatorship is better than a good democracy", he was also dismissed from the campus Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
Aiding the enemy
As a result of his pro-German activities, when Maple enlisted in February 1942, both the Army and the FBI kept files on him. He was assigned, along with others under suspicion, to the 620th Engineer General Service Company, one of only a handful of units not allowed to bear arms. On December 5, 1943, a detachment of the company was assigned to guard prisoners of war at Camp Hale in Colorado. Fraternization between guards and prisoners was noticed (and resented) by ski troopers of the 10th Mountain Division who were training there; many of the division's ski instructors were Austrian emigres.
Maple and three others in the 620th plotted an escape. Maple purchased a 1934 REO sedan and, on February 15, 1944, picked up Afrika Korps Sergeants Heinrich Kikillus and Erhard Schwichtenberg from a work detail without attracting attention. After 36 hours of driving, they were within 17 miles (27 km) of the Mexican border when they ran out of gas. The trio walked into Mexico, where they were arrested by a Mexican customs official and turned over to American authorities.
Maple was jailed in Albuquerque, New Mexico and originally charged with treason. The Army convened a court martial and charged Maple instead under the 81st Article of War for "relieving, corresponding with or aiding the enemy", the "closest equivalent to the charge of treason". He pleaded innocent. His defense was that it was all a ruse intended only to bring attention to the existence of U.S. Army "Special Organizations" which had been established in World War II. These units held soldiers suspected of being disloyal to the United States. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. However, the Army Judge Advocate General recommended to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that his life be spared. Roosevelt commuted Maple's sentence to life imprisonment. After the war, in 1946, the sentence was further reduced to ten years. He was released in February 1951.
- Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier executed in World War II for a military offense
- Ellis, Robert B. (1996). See Naples and Die: A World War II Memoir of a United States Army Ski Trooper in the Mountains of Italy. McFarland. p. 52. ISBN 0-7864-0190-7. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- Jenkins, McKay (2004). The Last Ridge: The Epic Story of America's First Mountain Soldiers and the Assault on Hitler's Europe. Random House of Canada. pp. 112–114, 336. ISBN 0-375-75951-4. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- Allen Best (February 2004). "The pro-Nazi American soldier who aided an escape". Colorado Central Magazine. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- "Camp Hale Soldier Is Caught in Mexico With 2 Escaped Nazis" (PDF). Rocky Mountain News. February 20, 1944. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-14.
- "Army & Navy: Nazi Bent". Time magazine. March 6, 1944. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- E. J. Kahn (March 11, 1950). "Annals of Crime / The Philologist". The New Yorker magazine. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- Herbert, Paul N. (November 7, 2016). Treason in the Rockies: Nazi Sympathizer Dale Maple’s POW Escape Plot. Arcadia Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 9781467135375. Retrieved December 3, 2016.