In postwar Germany, husky, bull-necked Master Sergeant John C. Woods of San Antonio had gone about his business with a craftsman's pride and enthusiasm. As official U.S. hangman, he credited himself with more than 300 successful executions, topped off his career four years ago by hanging ten of the Nazi leaders condemned in the Nürnberg trials. "Never saw a hanging go off any better," he said cheerfully afterwards. He was not disturbed when bald, squat Julius Streicher, the Jew baiter, had snarled at him: "The Bolsheviks will hang you, too, some day."
But, as time went by, Hangman Woods was more & more disturbed by the way the German people began to look at him. He took to packing two .45s, remarked loudly, "If some German thinks he wants to get me, he better make sure he does it with his first shot, because I was raised with a pistol in my hand." Once, just after chow in an Army mess, he turned violently ill, was certain the German cooks had poisoned him. He was delighted when the Army returned him to the U.S., felt better still last March when it shipped him half a world away from Germany, to duty on Eniwetok Atoll in the mid-Pacific.
There, the Army reported tersely last week, Hangman Woods died. Cause of death: accidental electrocution.