Midnight Massacre

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When he was home from England on a furlough last year, slight, dark-haired Private Clarence V. Bertucci relaxed with his family on Dryades Street in New Orleans. But when he left he mystified his kinfolk with a legend he penciled on the doorsill: "Live & let live."

One evening last week Private Bertucci, stationed at Salina, Utah, abandoned his motto. First he had a few beers in town. He chatted with some Salina girls, stopped off at a cafe for coffee, strolled out to the temporary camp at Main Street's east end, where 250 German prisoners of war slept.

A cooling breeze rustled through the tents and the dusty town. At midnight Private Bertucci climbed a tower, relieved the guard. Below him lay the silent tent-city whose occupants, next morning, would be out in the fields, thinning beets.

A .30-caliber machine gun pointed into the sky. Private Bertucci picked up a belt of cartridges, carefully threaded it into the gun. He had never been in action, but he knew how to work a machine gun. He lowered the muzzle and, aiming carefully, pressed the trigger. Methodically he swept the 43 tents, from left to right and back again. Screams and strangled shouts came from the tents. Above the screams, Private Bertucci heard an officer shouting at him. A corporal panted up to take Bertucci off the tower.

As the Army buried eight prisoners at Fort Douglas last week, and treated 20 more for wounds, Bushnell General Hospital psychiatrists examined Private Bertucci. Ninth Service Command officers admitted that Bertucci's record already showed two courts-martial, one in England. His own calm explanation seemed a little too simple: he had hated Germans, so he had killed Germans.