Operation Keelhaul was a secret military operation agreed to a the Yalta Conference that forcibly returned 2 million Russians captured during World War II back to the communist Soviet Union, where Joseph Stalin would punish them for being "traitors" to communism. The operation was kept secret from the American people for decades. The term "keelhaul" refers the most brutal punishment inflicted on a sailor, whereby a sailor is tortured by tying him in ropes and hauling him under a boat's keel to virtually certain death.One example of the subterfuge used to return these Russians was a conference on May 28, 1945, in Lienz, Austria. The British forces told Cossack officials to attend this conference, and whose families were not to worry. An English officer calmed their nerves by declaring, "I assure you on my word of honor as a British officer that you are just going to a conference." Then 2,749 Cossacks (including 2,201 officers) were driven into a prison camp to be picked up by Soviet armed authorities and forcibly returned to the Soviet Union.
- Julius Epstein, Operation Keelhaul: the story of forced repatriation from 1944 to the present (Devin-Adair Co., 1973), p. 77. Cf. Philip Rife, The Pariah Files: 25 Dark Secrets You're Not Supposed to Know (iUniverse, 2003), p. ISBN 0595291821, p. 137