FROM BENEDICT ARNOLD TO THE TRIALS AT NUREMBERG, THE U.S. ARMY JAG CORPS HAS BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF HISTORY-MAKING CASES.
Many historical figures have gained infamy by their actions during times of war — from the traitorous Benedict Arnold of the Revolutionary War, to the treacherous, high-ranking members of the Nazi party in World War II. When the time came to bring these people to justice, the Army JAG Corps was called upon to assist.
In the late 1700s, after a long and distinguished military career, General Benedict Arnold began abusing his position and power to financially benefit himself. After being court-martialed for several transgressions at the hands of Colonel John Laurance, the Judge Advocate General of the Army, Arnold became even more desperate. He then conspired with Major John Andre of the British Army and committed treason by attempting to surrender West Point to the British in return for payment of 10,000 pounds and a commission in the British military. Again, Colonel Laurance led the prosecution, this time against the British Major Andre as Arnold had fled the country and was unable to be tried.
Centuries later, nearing the conclusion of World War II, U.S. Army JAG Corps Attorneys began investigating the crimes of modern war. In 1944, the Secretary of War directed the Judge Advocate General to set up an office whose sole focus was to prosecute those who violated the laws of war, as codified by the Hague and Geneva conventions. JAG Corps Attorneys worked diligently collecting and sorting evidence, apprehending war criminals, bringing them to trial, and carrying out the sentences handed down. In total, the Judge Advocate General's JAG Corps supervised the trials of 2,500 war criminals.
The most historically recognized of war crimes trials — the Trials at Nuremberg — began in 1945 and lasted for over ten months. There, JAG Corps Attorneys took an active role in researching the laws governing war crimes and assisting in the trials of members of the Nazi party and military for "crimes against humanity" and "crimes against peace." Among the defendants were Hermann Goering (Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe), Rudolf Hess (Secretary of the Nazi Party), Joachim von Ribbentrop (Nazi Foreign Minister), and several other key Nazi military leaders. JAG Corps Attorneys present at the Trials of Nuremberg were tasked with the considerable job of collecting and organizing the evidence against these men and holding them responsible for the insidious acts they committed in times of war.
Throughout its over-200-year history of the U.S. Army JAG Corps, it is clear that JAG Corps Attorneys have not only been witnessing history first-hand, but impacting it in a meaningful way.