Andrus, Burton Curtis, born 15-04-1892, in Fort Spokane, Washington to Hermine (born Hill) and Major Frank B. Andrus, a United States Military Academy graduate, Class of 1881, who participated in the Philippine-American War in the PhilippineIslands. He attended Buffalo University in 1914 and married Katherine Elizabeth Stebbins on 12-04-1916. He worked for the Standard Oil Company of New York from 1910 until he was called to active duty through the Officer Reserve Corps (ORC) in 1917. Burton C. Andrus was a 1st Lieutenant in the Officer Reserve Corps when the first World War I began. On 25-10-1917, he was accepted in the Regular Army at Madison Barracks, New York, with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
In 1933, Andrus commanded a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in Oregon and on 01-01-1934 he was assigned as Plans and Training Officer, 13th Cavalry until July 1934. Andrus was promoted to Major on 01-08-1935 with the 7th Cavalry Brigade and then served with the 1st Armored Regiment
On June 06-06-1942, six months after the U.S. entered World War II, Andrus was promoted to colonel and assigned to General George Patton‘s (1885-1945) Third Army as an air-ground observer using the lessons learned in the air-ground communications school. He became an admirer of Patton and copied the General’s style, wearing a highly polished helmet and pressed uniforms and carrying a riding crop.
With the war coming to an end in Europe, Supreme Allied Commander General of the Army Dwight D “Ike”. Eisenhower (1890-1969) selected Colonel Andrus to command a prison for German officials who would be facing trial for war crimes. Andrus’s selection was based on his experience in security. On 06-05-1945, Andrus opened an interrogation center for senior Nazi leaders at Mondorf les Bains, Luxemburg. The center’s code name was “Ashcan.” Ashcan occupied a former hotel that underwent modification to remove any signs of luxury. On August 12, 1945, the Ashcan prisoners were moved by air to Nuremberg, where they would be held during International Military Tribunal trials that started on 20-11-1945.
Colonel Andrus served as commandant of the prison, which was located to the rear of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. The top Nazi officials tried at the International Military Tribunal were held there while on trial in the Palace of Justice. The first security issue at the prison was the suicide of Dr. Leonardo Conti (1900-1945). Conti had been the German health officer responsible for the Nazis’ euthanasia program. He hanged himself in his cell on 06-10-1945. Later that month, on 24-10-1945, Robert Ley (1890-1945), a Nazi labor leader, became the second prisoner to hang himself in his cell. With his death Colonel Andrus promised that there would be no future suicides: The convicted would not be able to avoid the executioner.
American guards were required to maintain constant surveillance to prevent suicides, checking each cell every 30 seconds.
Andrus also required that the inmates sleep with their hands outside their blankets. Tables that would collapse under a man’s weight were used in the cells so prisoners could not stand on them to hang themselves. Razors, neckties, and shoelaces were taken away. When the prisoners had their daily exercise period, guards searched every cell. However, the anti-suicide efforts failed to prevent Hermann Goering (1893-1946), from taking his life, by means of a cyanide capsule, on 15-10-1946, hours before he was to be executed. Goering, who had headed the German air force, the Luftwaffe, was the top Nazi scheduled for hanging. Ten other Nazi leaders went to the gallows in the early morning hours of October 16, by hangman John Chris Woods
The failure to prevent Goering’s suicide led to Colonel Andrus being removed from his command in December 1946 just as a new group of prisoners arrived for new trials. Andrus accepted responsibility for Goering’s suicide. The mystery of how Goering obtained the cyanide capsule has never been definitely answered. However he did so, the suicide severely tarnished Andrus’s reputation. Colonel Andrus had not been popular with the press, and with the third suicide of a Nazi leader attacks on him grew. Timemagazine in its 28-10-1946, issue called Colonel Andrus a “pompous, plump, unimaginative, thoroughly likeable officer who wasn’t up to the job” and added that the colonel looked “like an inflated pouter pigeon” (“Down Without Tears”). The Time article dismissed Andrus’s security measures as ineffective and placed the blame for Goering’s suicide on him. Andrus always felt cheated by this action of Goering’s.
Andrus did not witness the executions himself, as he felt that he had spent too much time with the prisoners to watch them die.
On 31-10-1946, due to the health of his wife, Andrus returned to the United States and was reassigned to Headquarters, Military District of Washington and then as Executive Officer of 2559th Army Service Unit. He then attended the Strategic Intelligence School, graduating in 1948. He was assigned as Military Attaché to Israel for the rest of 1948 through 1949. He returned to Washington, D.C. and was reassigned as the Military Attaché to Brazil on December 16, 1949. Andrus returned to the United States in April 1952 and was officially retired from the U.S. Army on 30-04-1952.
Death and burial ground of Andrus, Burton Curtis.
After retiring from the Army, he lived in Tacoma, Washington. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and was asked to remain at the University of Puget Sound as a professor. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America and as a lay preacher for a local church. He died on 01-02-1977, age 84, and is buried on the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, USA, Plot: 6E 12.