Pvt Shanklin 501st PIR (parachute infantry regiment) of the 101st Airborne, in a posed shot in Turqueville, on the road running East out of Sainte Mere Eglise.
(caption and photo identification courtesy of WW2 talk forum US Airborne at Normandy)
On the Western front, the Germans and the Allies usually observed the major elements of the Geneva Conventions but sometimes the Americans along with British and Commonwealth troops shot German soldiers who were trying to surrender or who had surrendered. But many times in the heat of battle, both sides shot prisoners. We, that is the Americans and the British, did our fair share.
“Our tough first sergeant grabbed me and ordered me to take the SS prisoners behind the church and shoot them…They were too much to guard at this crucial point in the battle. He looked and me and said, “Now!”…I turned to the prisoners sitting on the floor and motioned them outside…I walked them out the door and to the left around the building where I lost no time in firing a round into the back of the man nearest me. Both men dropped instantly…I fired a round into the head of each one…went through the pockets of the dead men. I came up with several tins of sardines, cheese and hard biscuits that I stuffed into my pocket…”
From Visions From A Foxhole: A Rifleman in Patton’s Ghost Corps by William A. Foley, Jr. (This is the best memoir written by a U.S. Infantryman in WW II in the European Theater and I give it five stars.)
The international laws of war in effect during World War Two had been formally codified by the Hague Convention of 1904 and three different Geneva conventions adopted at different times and covering different groups of people including mariners, sick and wounded, prisoners of war and civilians. All of these have been amended many times or have been mostly superseded by the Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949.
When you watch World War Two movies and the soldiers refer to the “Geneva Convention” they are referring to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 1929. (All of these conventions were signed in Geneva, Switzerland as you might imagine).
The original copy of the first Geneva Convention, the first international treaty of its kind. The official name is the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field”. It was adopted on 22 August 1864
From Currahee: A Screaming Eagle at Normandy by Donald R. Burgett
From A General’s Life: An Autobiography by General of the Army Omar N. Bradley.
The reference to snipers is interesting. Both sides detested snipers and neither side gave quarter to captured snipers. Apparently, this was an unspoken understanding.