The Seventh Annual George S. Prugh Lecture in Military Legal History

AuthorColonel French L. Maclean
It is a high honor to talk to you today. In fact, you’re the first group
of lawyers with whom I have discussed this subject. And I told my
father before I came out east from Illinois that I was going to be talking
to a group of over a hundred military lawyers. He had been a Private
First Class in the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge in World
War II; he’s not a lawyer either. And when I told him about how many
lawyers I was going to speak with today, he said, “What kind of trouble
have you gotten into this time?”
I am here today to tell you about mysterious murders that happened
seventy years ago, about late night courts-martial, about a secret order on
jury composition. I’m here to tell you about the mysterious hangman
who drove around France wheeling an Army flatbed with a gallows on
the back. I’m here to tell you about a death train moving bodies to a
secret cemetery in the dark of night. That secret cemetery exists to this
* This is an edited transcript of a lecture delivered on April 24, 2013 by Colonel
(Retired) French L. MacLean to the members of the staff and faculty, distinguished
guests, and officers attending the 61st Graduate Course at The Judge Advocate General’s
Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Va. The chair lecture is named in honor of
Major General George S. Prugh (1920–2006).
1 A native of Peoria, Illinois, French L. MacLean graduated from the U.S. Military
Academy in 1974. Commissioned as an Infantry officer, he served four tours of duty in
Germany, commanded two companies and a battalion, and attended the School for
Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
During Operation Desert Storm, then-Major MacLean fought in Iraq as a battalion
operations officer in a mechanized infantry battalion; twelve years later, in 2003, Colonel
MacLean returned to Iraq as the historian for U.S. Army Fifth Corps during Operation
Iraqi Freedom.
Before retiring from active duty, Colonel MacLean served as the Inspector General
for the U.S. Army, Europe, and as a course director and professor at the National War
College at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.
A prolific author, French MacLean has authored the acclaimed Custer’s Best: The
Story of Company M, 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn, and ten books on World War II.
The British historian Sir John Keegan wrote that MacLean’s Quiet Flows the Rhine is “a
most valuable study of the German Army in the Second World War”.
The Fifth Field, Colonel MacLean’s study of death penalty courts-martial in World
War II Europe, was published in 2013. The Fifth Field won the Lieutenant General
Richard G. Trefry Award, in the 2013 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished
Writings Awards.

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