Roman Rudenko writes a letter to Robert Jackson demanding that Soviet pilots arrested at Nuremberg airport be released without delay.

On 9 December, members of the Soviet delegation in Nuremberg learned that Americans had been detaining several Soviet pilots for over two days. The story goes that, on 7 December, 1945, a plane piloted by Commander I.I. Denisov landed at Nuremberg airport. As there was no permission to land and the plane had arrived ahead of schedule, the airport head ordered the crew arrested. The pilots were offered meals in the canteen set aside for German prisoners of war.

Having learnt of this misunderstanding, leading Soviet prosecutor Roman Rudenko wrote a letter to his American colleague, Robert Jackson, asking for a list of the violations alleged by the Amercians to have been made by the crew, so that the Soviet side could conduct its own investigation. Rudenko also demanded that the crew be immediately released, as “such actions are absolutely incompatible with Soviet officers’ dignity and honour.”

Jackson subsequently pulled strings and the pilots were soon released. On 13 December, the American received a memorandum from the commander of military security for the International Military Tribunal, US General Leroy Watson, and the document was also sent to Soviet representatives in Nuremberg. Watson suggested that the Soviet pilots had more than once violated flight rules pertaining to the airspace above Nuremberg, warning that neither he, nor his department, would again assist in the resolution of such issues.

After several days, an incident occurred which allowed Rudenko to pay Jackson back. American guards stopped a Soviet truck which was to deliver Nazi documents to the tribunal building. The US soldiers reportedly looted the freight and burned the documents to warm themselves in the cold winter. Jackson was greatly disappointed by his compatriots’ behaviour, which he could not justify. “The burned papers were of no particular importance,” Rudenko fibbed grudgingly.