Scope and Content
Arrangement of the Collection
Title: Kenneth Knox Collection
Identifier/Call Number: D-547
University of California, Davis General Library, Dept. of Special Collections
Language of Material:
5.0 linear feet.
Date (inclusive): 1943-1997
The Kenneth Knox Collection documents the trials of fifteen German Prisoners of War (POW) convicted of murdering four fellow
prisoners: Johannes Kunze, Werner Drechsler, Hans Geller, and Horst Gunther in 1945. The collection also includes materials
from Kenneth Knox's personal life. The collection contains trial transcripts, historic photographs of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas,
signed confessions of the fourteen POWs, Army discharge papers and certificates of training for Mr. Knox, personal correspondence
between Mr. Knox and various business partners, and newspaper articles relating to his research. Knox was particularly interested
in secondary sources related to United States Military Barracks history and procedure as well as Holocaust and Far-Right idealogy.
Physical Location :
Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.
Knox, Kenneth Ray
Kenneth Ray Knox was born on December 5th, 1947 in Wyndotte, Michigan. When Mr. Knox was young, his parents separated and
he lived in a private orphanage in Texas until he was seventeen. After he left the orphanage, he lived with his mother for
a year and then enlisted in the United States Army. He remained with the Army for the duration of his professional career.
Mr. Knox worked as an Army Military Police and Correctional Supervisor, United States Army Recruiter, Chief Physical Security
Inspector, and a Sandblaster for the Sacramento Army Depot. He retired after 25 years of service.
Mr. Knox is married to Dianne Knox whom he met in Sacramento while stationed as an Army Recruiter. They have two children
and currently reside in Elk Grove, CA. Mr. Knox is an active member of the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that attends
the funerals of military and law enforcement personnel.
Mr. Knox spent fifteen years collecting research material on the Johannes Kunze, Werner Drechsler, Horst Gunther, and Hans
Geller murder trials. Research done by Mr. Knox helped bring the story of the fourteen German soldiers executed for the murders
of Kunze, Drechsler, Gunther, and Geller to a wider audience. A book entitled, “Murder & Martial Justice: Spying, “Terrorism,”
and Legalism in Wartime America,” by Dr. Meredith Adams was published partially based on Mr. Knox's research. His ultimate
goal in collecting the material was to publicize the separate trials and executions of the fourteen German World War II prisoners
of war (POW). It is Mr. Knox’s wish that the bodies of the fourteen men be removed from the Fort Leavenworth Military Prison
Cemetery in Kansas, where they are currently buried, and repatriated back to Germany or removed to more honorable grounds.
The four murders, four trials, and fourteen executions featured in this collection took place between 1943-1945. The murders
occurred in three different places: Pagago Park Prisoner of War camp in Arizona, Camp Gruber Prisoner of War camp in Tonkawa,
Oklahoma, Camp Aiken Prisoner of War camp in South Carolina, and Camp Chaffee Prisoner of War camp in Arkansas. The trials
occurred at Camp Gruber, South Carolina and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. All executions took place at Fort Leavenworth between
July and August of 1945. Johannes Kunze was murdered on November 4th, 1943 at the Camp Gruber Prisoner of War Camp in Tonkawa,
Oklahoma. Kunze was a member of the African Korps and had been accused by his fellow inmates of sending vital tactical information
to the U.S. Military. In a "kangaroo court" held in the Tonkawa POW Camp mess hall numerous German POW's physically attacked
Kunze. Kunze died from his injuries. Although numerous men were involved in Kunze's beating only five men were tried and found
guilty of his murder: Walter Beyer, Berthold Seidel, Hans Demme, Hans Scholmer, and Willi Scholz. All of the accused had been
members of the African Korps. The trial was prosecuted by Leon Jaworski, a lawyer who would later become known for his involvement
in the Watergate Trials. The five convicted were hung at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on July 10, 1945.
Walter Drechsler was murdered on March 12, 1944 at Pagago Park Prisoner of War Camp in Phoenix, Arizona. He was beaten and
hung by numerous other German U-Boat POW's who believed he was a spy for the U.S. Military. Seven men were tried for their
involvement in Dreschlers' murder: Helmut Fischer, Fritz Franke, Bernhard Reyak, Guenther Kuelsen, Otto Stengel, Heinrich
Ludwig, and Rolf Wizuy. The seven POW's were executed on August 25th, 1945 at Fort Leavenworth.
Horst Gunther was killed on April 5th, 1944 at Camp Aiken, South Carolina. Gunther was strangled and hung by a tent rope over
a stockade in the POW camp. Two men, Rudolf Straub and Erich Gauss, were tried at Fort McPherson, Georgia and hung at Fort
Leavenworth on July 14, 1945.
The final trial involves the murder of Hans Geller on March 23rd, 1944 at Camp Chaffee Prisoner of War Camp, Arkansas. Hans
Geller was beaten by Edgar Menschner, a fellow POW, on March 22nd, 1944. Geller died the following day. Menschner was tried
for the murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to twenty years of hard labor on July 6th, 1945. He later
returned to Germany. It is not known what happened to him after his return.
The trials and executions of the fourteen German POW's is remarkable because it is the only case of a mass execution of foreign
POW's on U.S. soil. The fourteen were all executed after the end of the war when anti-German and anti-Nazi sentiment was rampant
in the United States.
Sources: Telephone conversation with Mr. Kenneth Knox-August 14th, 2012, Richard Whittingham, “Marital Justice: The Last Mass
Execution in the United States,” [Trial Transcripts 3:1, 5:1 and Trial Documents 9:1], Kenneth R. Knox Collection, D-547,
Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis
Scope and Content
The Kenneth Knox Collection spans the years 1943-1997, with the bulk of the collection spanning 1943-1945. The collection
is separated into three series: 1. Personal Materials; 2. Trial Research; 3. Photographs. Personal Materials focuses on Kenneth
Knox’s personal documents including correspondence from parties interested in his research, contractual documents from a studio
movie deal, “Prisoners of Silence;” U.S. Army discharge papers and certificates of training; and employment records from the
Sacramento Army Depot. The second series, Trial Research, makes up the bulk of the collection. It includes primary and secondary
source research conducted by Mr. Knox. This series is primarily made up of photocopies of materials pertaining to the trial.
These documents, including trial transcripts, are photocopied from the originals at the National Archives in Washington D.C.
and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, MO. The documents include seventeen transcripts from
the trials of fifteen German World War II POWs, all of whom (except one) were sentenced to death for the murders of Johannes
Kunze, Werner Drechsler, Horst Gunther, and Hans Geller. The third series, Photographs, includes personal photographs of Kenneth
Knox, historic photographs of Fort Leavenworth, and modern portraits of different, unknown military personnel.
Arrangement of the Collection
The collection is arranged into three series: 1. Personal Materials; 2. Trial Research; and 3. Photographs
The following collections at Special Collections may also be of interest:
D-379, Jerome J. Blume Collection, 1941-1945. World War II correspondence and memorabilia.
D-067, Aubrey S. Kenworthy Papers, 1946-1948. Mementos of the post-World War II Japanese war criminal trials in Manila and
Tokyo; materials pertaining to prisoner-of-war camps in the Philippines; photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, manuscripts,
reports, and other documents.
MC214, Karla Thompson Papers, 1940-1959. World War II era photographs, scrapbook, and letters between Karla Kirchner Thompson,
a young German woman and Herbert Fortner, a German airman.
D-068, World War I and II Ephemera Collection, 1910-1950. Articles, posters, military serials, photographs and newspaper clippings.
Winder McConnell. Book Collection on the Waffen-SS.
Collection is open for research.
Published materials, such as general books and government documents, have been separated from the collection. These have been
reviewed and, where appropriate, added to the Shields Library general collection. A complete list of publications is kept
on file at Special Collections.
Brittani Orona processed this collection under the guidance of Elizabeth Phillips, Manuscript Archivist.
Gift of Kenneth R. Knox, 2012.
Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17, of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to publish or quote
from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Department of Special Collections, University of California, Library, Davis as the owner of the physical items and
is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.
[Identification of item], Kenneth R. Knox Collection, D-547, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University
of California, Davis.
The collection contains four companion books that were donated by Mr. Knox. These books are currently housed at UC Davis University
Archives and Special Collections in the Rare Book Collection.
Green, Vincent. “Extreme Justice.” New York: Pocket Books, 1995.
Parnell, Wilma. “The Killing of Corporal Kunze.” Secaucus, New Jersey: Lyle Stuart INC, 1981.
Whittingham, Richard. “Martial Justice: The Last Execution in the United States.” Chicago: Henry Regenery Company, 1971.
“The American Prison: From the Beginning-A Pictorial History.” USA: The American Correctional Association, 1983.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Knox, Kenneth Ray -- Archives
Courts-martial and courts of inquiry--United States
Fort Leavenworth (Kan.)
Prisoners of war--Germany--History--20th century
Prisoners of war--United States--History--20th century
World War, 1939-1945--United States--Prisons and prisoners