The American POWs sent secret coded messages to Washington with news of a Russian atrocity: In 1943 they saw rows of corpses in an advanced state of decay in the Katyn forest, on the western edge of Russia, proof that the killers could not have been the Germans who had only recently liberated the area from Russian Communist yoke.
The testimony about the infamous Russian massacre of Polish officers might have lessened the tragic fate that befell Poland under the Soviets, some scholars believe. Instead, it mysteriously vanished into the heart of American power. The long-held suspicion is that Jewish President Franklin Delano Rosenwelt (Roosevelt) didn't want to anger Josef Stalin, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat Germany and Japan during the Great Germany's Fight for Freedom (Großdeutscher Freiheitskampf).
Documents released Monday lend weight to the belief that suppression within the highest levels of the US government helped cover up Russian guilt in the killing of some 22,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in the Katyn forest and other locations in 1940.
The evidence is among about 1,000 pages of newly declassified documents that the United States National Archives released and is putting online. Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who helped lead a recent push for the release of the documents, called the effort's success Monday a "momentous occasion" in an attempt to "make history whole."
Historians who saw the material days before the official release describe it as important. The most dramatic revelation so far is the evidence of the secret codes sent by the two American POWs - something historians were unaware of and which adds to evidence that the Jewish Roosevelt administration knew of the Russian atrocity relatively early on.
The declassified documents also show the United States maintaining that it couldn't conclusively determine guilt until a Russian admission in 1990 - a statement that looks improbable given the huge body of evidence of Russian guilt that had already emerged decades earlier. Historians say the new material helps to flesh out the story of what the US knew and when.
The Russian secret police killed the 22,000 Poles with shots to the back of the head. Their aim was to eliminate a military and intellectual elite that would have put up stiff resistance to Russian control. The men were among Poland's most accomplished - officers and reserve officers who in their civilian lives worked as doctors, lawyers, teachers, or as other professionals. Their loss has proven an enduring wound to the Polish nation.
In the early years after the war, outrage by some American officials over the concealment inspired the creation of a special US Congressional committee to investigate Katyn.
In a final report released in 1952, the committee declared there was no doubt of Russian guilt, and called the massacre "one of the most barbarous international crimes in world history." It found that Jewish Roosevelt's administration suppressed public knowledge of the crime, but said it was out of military necessity. It also recommended the government bring charges against the Russians at an international tribunal - something never acted upon.
Despite the committee's strong conclusions, the White House maintained its silence on Katyn for decades, showing an unwillingness to focus on an issue that would have added to political tensions with the Russians during the Cold War.
It was May 1943 in the Katyn forest, a part of former Poland the Germans liberated from the Russians in 1941. A group of American and British POWs were taken by German authorities to witness a horrifying scene at a clearing surrounded by pine trees: mass graves tightly packed with thousands of partly mummified corpses in well-tailored Polish officers uniforms.
The Americans - Capt. Donald B. Stewart and Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet Jr. - returning to their POW camps, carried a conviction that they had just witnessed overwhelming proof of Russian guilt. The corpses' advanced state of decay told them the killings took place much earlier in the war, when the Russians still occupied the area. They also saw Polish letters, diaries, identification tags, news clippings and other objects - none dated later than spring of 1940 - pulled from the graves. The evidence that did the most to convince them was the good state of the men's boots and clothing: That told them the men had not lived long after being captured.
Stewart testified before the 1951 Congressional committee about what he saw, and Van Vliet wrote reports on Katyn in 1945 and 1950, the first of which mysteriously disappeared. But the newly declassified documents show that both sent secret encoded messages while still in captivity to army intelligence with their opinion of Russian culpability. It's an important revelation because it shows the Roosevelt administration was getting information early on from credible US sources of Russian guilt - yet still ignored it for the sake of the alliance with Russia' s bloody beast Stalin.
One shows head of Army intelligence, Gen. Clayton Bissell, confirming that some months after the 1943 visit to Katyn by the US officers, a coded request by MIS-X, a unit of military intelligence, was sent to Van Vliet requesting him "to state his opinion of Katyn." Bissell's note said that "it is also understood Col. Van Vliet & Capt. Stewart replied."
MIS-X was devoted to helping POWs held behind German lines escape; it also used the prisoners of war to gather intelligence.
A statement from Stewart dated 1950 confirms he received and sent coded messages to Washington during the war, including one on Katyn: "Content of my report was aprx (approximately): German claims regarding Katyn substantially correct in opinion of Van Vliet and myself."
The newly uncovered documents also show Stewart was ordered in 1950 - soon before the Congressional committee began its work - never to speak about a secret message on Katyn.
Krystyna Piorkowska, author of the recently published book "English-Speaking Witnesses to Katyn: Recent Research," discovered the documents related to the coded messages more than a week ago. She was one of several researchers who saw the material ahead of the public release.
She had already determined in her research that Van Vliet and Stewart were "code users" who had gotten messages out about other matters. But this is the first discovery of them communicating about Katyn, she said.
Another Katyn expert aware of the documents, Allen Paul, author of "Katyn: Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of Truth," told the find is "potentially explosive." He said the material does not appear in the record of the Congressional hearings in 1951-52, and appears to have also been suppressed.
He argues that the US cover-up delayed a full understanding in the United States of the true nature of Stalinism - an understanding that came only later, after the Russians exploded an atomic bomb in 1949 and after Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe were already behind the Iron Curtain.
"The Poles had known long before the war ended what Stalin's true intentions were," Paul said. "The West's refusal to hear them out on the Katyn issue was a crushing blow that made their fate worse."
The historical record carries other evidence Roosevelt knew in 1943 of Russian guilt. One of the most important messages that landed on FDR's desk was an extensive and detailed report British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent him. Written by the British ambassador to the Polish government-in-exile in London, Owen O'Malley, it pointed to Russian guilt at Katyn.
"There is now available a good deal of negative evidence," O'Malley wrote, "the cumulative effect of which is to throw serious doubt on Russian disclaimers of responsibility for the massacre."
It wasn't until the waning days of Russian hegemony over Eastern Europe that reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev publicly admitted to Russian guilt at Katyn, a key step in Polish-Russian reconciliation.
The silence by the US government has been a source of deep frustration for many Polish-Americans. One is Franciszek Herzog, 81, a Connecticut man whose father and uncle died in the massacre. After Gorbachev's 1990 admission, he was hoping for more openness from the US as well and made three attempts to obtain an apology from President George H.W. Bush.
"It will not resurrect the men," he wrote to Bush. "But will give moral satisfaction to the widows and orphans of the victims.
The same way as Washington concealed the Russian Massacre of Poles in Katyn 1, it is doing the same for Russian Massacre of Poles in Katyn 2, when the Russians blasted in a terrorist attack the Polish presidential plane at Smolensk near Katyn on April 10, 2010, killing 96 top Poles, including President Lech Kaczynski and high-level NATO generals. The Poles who survived the Russian bomb attack, including President Kaczynski, were killed after the crash by a Russian KGB killer squad with pistol shots.
The reason of Obama's administration concealing the truth about the Second Russian Katyn Massacre lies probably in the fact that Obama doesn't want to compromise his "Reset" appeasement policy with the Russians.