EVEN REPRISAL FOR TORTURE IS POLITICAL
He was a wild Methodist boy from East Texas. John H. Oliphint II enlisted in the Army Air Force right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was 20 years old when the invasion of Normandy started on 6 June 1944. Prior to 8 June 1944, when he was shot down in German occupied France, he had already flown over 60 combat missions and destroyed two German aircraft. Oliphint had killed a lot of German military prior to D-Day to include finding the finger of a German pilot stuck on the wing of his aircraft after the German fighter exploded in close proximity to Oliphintís P-51 Mustang fighter plane, the Mad Rebel.
He was lucky to have survived his D-Day plus-2 crash. He suffered multiple broken bones, a smashed-up face and pieces of shrapnel in his body. This included a large piece of metal stuck in the top of his skull. The Germans needed information on how the air-war part of D-Day was to play out and now they had Oliphint in their hands. He was denied medical treatment. He was interrogated by a German Air Force officer who implied that if he did not get the required information, Oliphint would be turned over to the Gestapo for more intense questioning.
The Gestapo did take over and questioning turned into torture. He was beaten and, at one point, the Gestapo agent brought his fist down hard onto the top of Oliphintís head, only to severely cut his hand on the large piece of metal sticking out of the young fighter pilotís head.
The symbol for John Oliphintís Scottish Clan was the Unicorn. The Unicorn was also the symbol for Oliphintís unit, the 359th Fighter Group. This Unicorn like piece of metal sticking out of his head injured his Gestapo torturer and caused the suspension of the painful torture for half a day. The torture was continued and a rope was tied around his private area. Oliphint was literally pulled up and off his bed by the Gestapo using this form of torture.
1st Lieutenant John Oliphint was able to survive his torturers and escape with the help of a Dutch and Russian POW. He killed two of his German guards and slit the throat of the German doctor who had refused him critical medical care. He was recaptured in a railway station, but played a disfigured, mentally challenged fool to the German soldier who captured him. After lulling the soldier into approaching, Oliphint stuck a bayonet into the manís heart.
He was able to make contact with the French underground and spent two months on the ground in his broken physical condition, traveling the countryside and collecting desperately needed intelligence. When Oliphint heard that a Gestapo Colonel had killed a French womanís baby during an interrogation and used the rope torture on her breast until it ruptured, he tracked down the Colonel and killed him. He let the manís driver live so he could return to the Germans and advise them that Oliphint was prepared to continue his personal war on the Gestapo.
He was eventually flown out of France. His best friend, a fellow fighter pilot and lawyer in civilian life, warned him not to tell the US Army specifics about what he had done and the Germans he had killed on the ground in France. It was war, but no one was sure what would happen if the Germans complained about Oliphint killing their people. He might be tried and punished by his own Army.
He received numerous awards and decorations for his flying during the D-Day invasion, but none for his two months of work on the ground, because of what later became known as political correctness. Just as today our military troops have to deal with the second guessing of their combat actions, by those safely in the rear area.
I called and spoke to now Major John Oliphint II, USAF Retired, after I read his book The Mad Rebel, A Youth at War. Sadly, his health prevented a long conversation. His wife advised me that the writing of the book was a catharsis for Oliphint. The Army did not let him tell his story in 1944, so he finally put it down in a book in 1988. Christmas of 1944 found John Oliphint II healing, later to return to flying and serve his country in the next war. His grandson John Oliphint IV, an Air Force Academy graduate, is currently in pilot training. Fly, fight and win! To the enemy, beware of Mad Rebels and unicorns.
Copyright 2011 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret. All rights reserved.