[Twelfth Armored Division, Scrapbook 6] Page: 174 of 220
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I doubt if the total cost of World War II has ever been estimated. But it mist
run into trillions or possibly quadrillions of dollars „ Think of whqt if Just a
fraction of this vast sum of money were spent, not on war and on distruction
but on benefitting the human race.
b Did the vast expenditure of lives, property and money accomplish a lasting peace?
Look at the Middle East, Afganistan, Central America, and other parts of the
world. The two superpowers, the U. S. and Russia, are in the middle of a
giganic arms race. Terrorists operate in many parts of the world. I am afraid
that V/orld War II did not accomplish peace.
True, it did get rid of Hitler, Mussolini and curb Hirohito and Japan* s military
machine. But other leaders in other countries arose to incite their followers
with war-like intentions. There have been very few years, if any, during the
forty years since World War II that there has not been actual or threatened
warfare between at least two nations of the world.
General Karl Von Clausewitz was military advisor to Otto Von Bismark, a Prussian
prince who brought the German city states into a unified Germany and became its
Chancellor. Clausewitz is considered one of the all-time authorities on warfare.
He wrote’in his book, Principles of Warfare, that when nations disagree they
usually first resort to diplomacy. If that fails, and one or the other does
not give in, warfare is usually the result in an attempt to gain their political
aims. Therefore, the military should always be subordinate to the diplomats—
the civilian authorities. And generally that is where the final decisions are
made—by the civilian authorities.
The failure to resolve diplomatic disputes resulting in war causes a tremendous
amount of distinction and so many tragedies. This is particularly true among
people who do not want war, but merely want to be left alone to pursue their
There must be a better and cheaper solution to the failure of diplomats to
agree than to go to war0
By Julien D. Saks
This is Julien D. Saks, formerly Lieutenant Colonel on the Special Staff of Major
General Roderick Allen, Commanding the 12th Armored Division. This division was one of
the best armored divisions in the United States Army. It successfully defended Strasburg
against overwhelming odds; was the armor in the liberation of Colmar; spearheaded General
Fatton's drive to the Rhine; captured a bridge over the Danube River and broke that
German defense line, the first,time in recorded history that the Danube had failed to
stop an invading army; end played the major part in blocking the Brenner Pass, thereby
trapping over a million German soldiers in Italy as the war ended. Enroute to the
Brenner Pass it overran eleven concentration camps at Landsberg, Germany.
I am going to tell you about my experiences at two of the eleven concentration
camps at Landsberg about three or four hours after they were liberated by the 12th
Armored Division. When the tanks liberated them they were in hot pursuit of the German
soldiers and trying to capture a bridge over the Lech River. It was essential to block
the Brenner Pass as soon as possible to trap the German soldiers in Italy. When our
tankers saw what they had overrun they were shocked and angry. But they threw the ^
survivors what rations they had and kept going .~Klso, I am going to show you pictures
taken by Sgt. Robert T. Hartwig of Company C, 134th Armored Maintenance Battalion and
give you his account of his visit to a concentration camp the next day, inspecting the
camp, the dead bodieB, and watching a.group of about 200 prominent civilians from
Landsberg act as a burial detail for the corpses. Then I am going to tell you of my
trip to Dachau after the war and show you a few pictures of Munich and Dachau.
About 9:30 or TO A. M. the morning of April 27, 1945, Captain John Paul Jones of
Company C, 134th Armored Ordinance Battalion of the 12th Armored Division came by ^
division headquarters and told us of his experiences while recovering a disabled tank.
Me^ld us of being near a camp where there were dead bodies lying in the streets, a
burned building filled with dead bodies, and people in striped suits who had escaped
being along the countryside. Me told me that it was a ghastly sight, and I should go
see it. I had become quite friendly with Capt. Jones as his company had installed
flame throwers in three tanks for me in the snow at Dieuze, France.
About noon three jeep loads of officers and men including myself went to see ■
the, camp .which was a satellite to Dachau.. Actually,-there were eleven of these
camps scattered about Landsberg, Gennany, each one being about a thousand acres. We
arrived at the first one as the medics were closing the gate and marking it off liMts
because of the danger of typhus. They allowed us to go inside for a short time, but
warned us not to go into any of the buildings. There was no one there except the medics,
us, and the dead bodies. The survivors had escaped and were wandering about the country-
We entered and looked about. We were so shocked at what we saw that we couldn-t
say a word. I walked down one short street and counted about sikty-five bodies lying ^
in the ditches. The bodies were very emaciated, probably not weighing more than fifty
i to seventy pounds, and had been starved to death. Their clothing was sparse and in
some cases they were naked. It was »M there in Aprils were deep in Germany.
i Madrid, Spain, is at the same latitude as Hew York City, so you can see how far north
we were (about the same as the middle of the arisen Bay), But because of the Gulf
StreamjEurope is somewhat warmer than Canada. But even in summer we wore wool uniforms.
Ifeny of the bodies had sores, like the skin had contracted and cracked. The smell
of death v/as all around. It was much worse than the pictures show because the pictures
don't show the odor or the sores on the bodies.
I looked in one of the many hutments used to house the prisoners. It was mostly
underground, made by digging a pit with steps leading down at one end and constructing
the building in the pit. The eaves of the building were about two feet above ground
with a slanting roof. There was a shelf about four or five feet wide about two feet
above the floor on each side of the central aisle. The prisoners had to sleep on this
shelf either with their feet hanging over ipto the aisle or crouched up. You will
see., pictures of the.se buildings.
We were in this camp possibly thirty minutes while the medics waited ;£orvv'.
us to come out. As I returned to the gate I saw a tuilding in which the guards, previous
to our troops arrival, had locked about sixty-five to seventy prisoners inside and set
it on fire. The bodii.es lay-between the burned sills of the building. I heard that our
medics had examined them and found three alive. They were sent to a field hospital. I
don't know whether they survived.. Photograph number 21 taken.by Sgt. Hartwig shows a
burned building. But this one was filled with corpses, My attention was given to this,
and I was so shocked that I didn't see a pile of naked women about three feet high behind
me. I was told about it later. We were combat troops used to death and destruction, but
this was so shocking that we were speechless.
Most of the prisoners in this camp were Jews and Poles. We were told that before
our tanks arrived the guards marched off some of the prisoners. But we never found out
what happened to them. When our tanks came in our men took a quick look, threw the
inmates who were left what rations they had, and kept going. They were chasing the
German troops and trying to capture a bridge over the Leth River before the Germans
could blow it up. They captured the railroad bridge and our vehicles crossed over it
by putting boards on the rails.
We left this camp where everyone was dead or had escaped into the countryside. My
driver and I went to another camp.- This was a camp housing criminals. There were a
lot of live people around. One of the drivers, who had been there previously, warned
us about giving them food—that we would be swamped by the inmates. When we drove in
there was a wagon half-filled with bodies and bodies laying around on the ground.
This was evidently the wagon that came daily to pick up the bodies of those who had
died since the previous day. The detail was protably interrupted by news that our tanks
were nearby and fled, taking the. horse with them—with someone on his back. Our tanks
were about five miles per hour faster than the German tanks. The Germans figured our speed
at the rate of the German tanks and our tanks usually came before they were expected.
We looked about and there were a 'number of people around. One man shuffled up to
«s like he was so weak he could hardly walk-pointed to his open mouth indicating he
wanted something to eat. The inside of his mouth was almost black, I suppose from star-
vation. Corporal Dwaine Sinkler, my driver, and I got out and raised the tarp over the
back of the jeep where we had a wooden box of It rations in pasteboard cartons.
No sooner had we lifted the tarp than there was a big group of inmates grabbing
and pawing at the back of the jeep, looking for food which they couldn't find because
it was in sealed packages inside a covered wooden box. Sinkler and I were bosh pushed
out to the eage of the group. 1 was afraid they might tear the jeep apart so I took hold
of one man's arm and pulleo at him. I think I could have pulled his arm off before he
would let go. So I turned him loose. A woman did get our bottle of wine and ran about
thirty feet, stopped, held the bottle up in her hand and stood looking at us. I suppose
she wanted to see what we were goirg to do about it. I ignored her and hoped that the
wine would hot injure her weakened stomach. I edged way under the steering wheel of
. I .. t let it run a few minutes but that didn't faze the
the Jeep and started the motor, x ±ex. xt>
the group who were pawing at the back of the jeep. One man took out the captured
German rifle I carried because I was armed with a pistol. But when he saw what it was
he put it back. Then I stood up on the front seat of the jeep, took my .45 out.of its
holster with the safety on, and with mtf finger out of the trigger guard to keep from
accidently shooting anyone if I were jostled or knocked over. I started waving it with
the muzzle pointed up. Finally one nan saw the pistol and pointed to it. The others
dropped back from the Jeep, inkier jumped in and I drove several blocksjrway. We
'then opened the carton, containing theK rations and returned. We distributed what
we had. As we. were exhausting our supply we got into the jeep and started the motor.
As Dwaine drove away I dropped the last can we had into a man's hand. Another man
grabbed at it and it rolled to the ground. One of them got it and broke away from
the other by a couple of feet. The loser shuffled slowly away. I don't know what
these criminals had done. They were in sad shape. But they were still better treated
than the political ov idealogical prisoners. There were a number of ex-prisoners in
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United States. Army. 12th Armored Division. [Twelfth Armored Division, Scrapbook 6], book, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth639084/m1/174/: accessed July 16, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum.