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Werner Drechsler (January 17, 1923 in Mühlberg, Germany – March 12, 1944 in Papago Park, Arizona) was a German U-boat crewman during World War II. He was stationed on U-118 which was sunk off the Azores in 1943. When he was taken prisoner he enthusiastically cooperated with his captors, probably because his father had spent time in one of Hitler's Concentration Camps as a political prisoner.
Eventually, U.S. Navy intelligence officers recruited Drechsler as a spy and placed him in a POW camp near Fort Meade, Maryland with other U-Boat sailors. After arrival, Drechsler worked undercover, befriending his fellow POWs in order to collect information regarding German submarine technology, operational procedures/tactics and any other intelligence which could be useful to the allies.
On March 12, 1944 Drechsler was transferred to a different POW camp in Arizona which was filled mainly with other submariners of the Kriegsmarine. This transfer took place despite the fact that Drechsler was supposed to be kept segregated from other naval prisoners, particularly his former crewmates on the U-118, who were aware of Drechsler's spying activities. The American authorities made a glaring error in transferring Drechsler to Arizona which quickly had fatal results: some members of the U-118 were confined at the camp and they immediately recognised their former crewmate. Word of Drechsler's undercover activities spread rapidly through the camp, and a kangaroo court was convened while Drechsler was asleep. The other prisoners eventually decided that it was necessary to kill Drechsler to ensure he could no longer spy upon them, and also to act as a deterrent for any other POWs who might consider collaborating with the enemy. Next morning Drechsler was found hanging in the shower room. He had been murdered within hours of arrival at the camp.
Seven men (Helmut Fischer, Fritz Franke, Günter Külsen, Heinrich Ludwig, Bernhard Reyak, Otto Stengel and Rolf Wizny) were tried by a general court-martial and executed for the beating and hanging of Werner Drechsler. In the last mass execution in the United States, the men were hanged on August 25, 1945 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
- A community college historical website which explains the Werner Drechsler story in detail [dead link]
- website which follows history channel program about the mass execution [dead link]
- A number of photographs taken around the time of Drechsler's capture [dead link]
- Richard Whittingham, Martial Justice: The Last Mass Execution in the United States, Naval Institute Press, 1997 ISBN 1-55750-945-X
- "Death row and capital punishment in the army". deathrowspeaks.info. Retrieved 2009-11-12.