I was a member of the 71st Infantry Division, 66th Regiment
during World War II. My Division and Regiment was in Austria during the final
stages of war and was involved in the liberation of Gunskirchen Lager where a
great number of Hungarian Jews were interned.
I have two articles of printed matter that have accounts
with pictures of our activities. The book, The History of the 71st Infantry
Division, and the booklet, The Seventy First Came to Gunskirchen Lager,
have pictures of the camp. I do recall some experiences during that time and
would be willing to share them with you if you so desire.
Q: How were you involved in the war? What were you
doing in Europe?
A: I worked with Boeing Aircraft when Pearl Harbor hit.
I joined the Air Corps, but was color blind so I was rejected. Then I went into
the Army and was sent back to college for special training. I was at Texas A &
M, University of Arizona, Pasadena, and Stanford University for six or seven
months. I was transferred to the infantry. I was even in mule-pack training
(for the China-Burma Trail). Then I was transferred to Germany, to an Anti-tank
Company, and then into combat. I was in Nance, France, attached to Patton's
troops. I ended up in Austria, with the furthest east division than any
troops. We captured mostly Germans and liberated the camps of Polish Jews.
Q: Describe what you saw.
A: I was only there four or five days. First I was in
Austria. Then I was at Gunskirchen Lager, a town of around 31,000 Polish Jews.
The Germans left the day before we arrived. Some Polish Jews couldn't even make
it back to town, so we set up camp between town and the camp.
I mostly remember the odor, and the fact that they were
starving to death. Many jeeps hauled extra rations. The cooks set up food
lines. Nobody ever smiled, out of the hundreds I saw. I was with the 71st
Division and they put out the little book with photos and articles.
When we got down to Gunskirchen Lager people just wanted to
touch you. They were very unsmiling...very hungry...dying. They were thin and
gaunt, no flesh on their bones. I was never in the camp itself, but I was one
of the first Americans that got there. The people had no
Q: You had been in training to defeat the enemy
soldiers., but suddenly you were like red cross workers?
A: We had no problems. Nothing was organized, but we got
food to them. Americans were naturally sympathetic, and we did everything we
could within reason.
Q: How did it change the men you were with?
A: It didn't change them at all. They accepted it.
Q: Think about people like me, who were born long after
the war was over. What message do you as GIs who did what you did want to leave
with me and people younger than me?
A: You have to read about this. You need to find some
good books and talk to people like us.
Q: Maybe we've not given credit to the liberators. We
want to focus on liberators at our observance. Do you think this is okay to
do? Should we give credit to them?
A: It doesn't bother me. We did what we had to do.