Who liberated KZL Dachau?

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Warren Thompson
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003 22:56
Location: Lebanon PA 17042 USA

Who liberated KZL Dachau?

Post by Warren Thompson » 23 Dec 2003 17:09

Two US Army divisions, the 42nd and the 45th, claim to be the liberators.
While elements of both divisions were on the scene, 29 April 1945, which got there first? Which gets the 'official' credit?[/i]

Rob - wssob2
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Joined: 15 Apr 2002 20:29
Location: MA, USA

Dachau Liberation

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 23 Dec 2003 21:52

Hi Warren - here are some of my rough notes on the subject. I've edited out some of the details regarding the shooting of SS men to stay on topic of your post:

April 28:

Dachau inmates who were the subject of water-exposure medical experiments are supposedly shot

The second of the "death trains" arrive at the Dachau KZ. Out of the original tally of 5,000 prisioners, only 1,300 are alive. The survivors of
the death train, - starving, brutalized and half-dead from thirst, are taken to the camp's quarantine barracks.

Bavarian resistance group calls for armed uprising against the Nazis. Rebels
(including KZ inmate Walter Neff and George Scherer,a former KZ inmate & worker
at the Präzifix screw factory) occupy the Dachau town hall. SS send a kampfgruppe
to crush the rebellion. 3 KZ inmates and 3 townsmen are executed and their bodies dumped
on the sidewalk in front of the town savings bank as a warning.

April 28: evening: Dachau KZ warehouses looted by townsfolk;
Dachau camp guards either flee or are relieved by an unknown number of SS troops,
under the command of a SS-Obersturmführer "H. Skodzensky"[14] or SS Lt. Wickert. [13] (accounts vary - note SS-Obersturmführer "H. Skodzensky" did not exist)
These SS troops possibly have the orders to
guard the camp and surrender it to the Americans. According to IRC representative Victor Maurer
(Red Cross Representative from Geneva, Switzerland)
, the details of the surrender
agreement between him and SS Lt. Wickert were as follows:

1) A contingent of KZ SS guards would remain in towers to keep the prisioners in check
2) All other KZ guards would remain unarmed in the main courtyard
3) The remainder of the SS garrison at Dachau would be allowed to retreat to German lines

Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, CO, 3rd Battalion, US 157th Infantry Regiment, received orders to liberate Dachau KZ.
Sparks is angry about the order, commenting "I didn't consider the concentration camp a military objective."[2]


0000: US 42nd Infantry Division CP (Command Post) at Osterzhausen, 50 km NW of Dachau

0220: US 42nd Infantry Division CO Maj. General Harry J. Collins sends message to US
222nd Infantry Regiment which states in part a
"case of champagne to the first battalion to enter Munich." The 222nd IR prepares to move south.

0700: SS troops supposedly raise white flag from the Dachau KZ jourhaus

0922: Sparks receives message from 157th S-3 to all battalion commanders that upon capture of Dachau, to post a guard around the camp,
touch nothing, and make sure noone enters of leaves the compound. The men of the 157th IR have little notion of what a KZ camp is or what
they will find there. Sparks commands a task force of the 3rd Battalion, 157th IR, plus the 191st Tank Battalion. He splits up his
task force into 2 prongs advancing down parallel roads, the first commanded by himself, the other commanded by Maj. George Kessler.

Lt. Col. Donald E. Dounard, CO, II Battalion, 222nd IR reports skirmish at roadblock & sends POWS to the rear.

1100: Sparks troops in brief firefight with rearguard German troops

KZ inmates see American troops outside the compound & rush towards the barbed wire fence.
SS troopers shoot one prisioner down. [10]

1215: (circa) Sparks briefly confers with Lt. William Walsh, CO of I Company. Sparks tells
Walsh to secure the KZ and allow noone in or
out of it. "Don't let them out. We got all kinds of food and medicine
and what have you coming in behind us, and we're going to
take good care of them." Sparks orders the machine gun platoon of
M Co. to advance with I. Co. L. Co. Sparks orders L. Co. to advance and secure the town.
Sparks, fearing the main gate to the KZ would be defended, orders I
Co. to advance up the railroad tracks towards the camp.

"Sparks' decision to avoid approaching the main gate would result in much confusion
and controversy for decades to come, for, inside that gate, the Germans were ready to surrender, not fight.
A small "surrender party," complete with white flag, was waiting inside the main gate, where they expected the
Americans to arrive."***

1215-1230 (circa)
1215-1230 (circa)

I. Co advances and discovers the second of the two "death trains" - 39 railroad cars (box, gondola and flatcars) filled
with 2,310 dead men, women and children, either naked or in striped prisioner's clothing. Cause of death include starvation,
thirst, exposure and gunshot wounds; many of the dead lay outside the cars on or around the tracks, shot dead.

I) Sparks then tours the Dachau KZ dog kennels. 25-30 of the dogs had been shot by US troops.

J) I Co. III Battalion at NW corner of camp.

Members of US 42nd Infantry Division enter town of Dachau

1350? 15:30? [16]:
(circa?) Linden's party of 5 jeeps ("Task Force Linden")
arrives at Dachau KZ "death train;" turns east and approaches at main gate.

General Linden's Party:
3 jeeps contained:

Brigadier General Henning Linden, Assistant Division Commander, US 42nd Infantry Division
Major Herman L. Avery, 222nd Supply Officer
Captain John E. McLaughlin, CO, 222nd Infantry Regiment Headquarters Company
First Lt. William Cowling III - 42nd ID HQ Co. - Gen. Linden's Aide
Brig. Gen. Charles Y. Banfill, Deputy Commander for Operations, US Eighth Air Force
PFC William R. "Pat" Donahue, 42nd ID HQ Co. - guard for Gen. Linden
T-5 Guido Oddi, 42nd ID HQ Co. - guard for Gen. Linden
T-5 Carl Tinkham, 42nd ID HQ Co. - guard for Gen. Linden
T-5 Harry W. Shaffer, 42nd ID HQ Co. - jeep driver
T-5 John G. Bauerlein - 42nd ID HQ Co. - jeep driver
T-5 (Pfc?) John Veitch, 42nd ID HQ Co. - driver for Linden's jeep

2 jeeps contained press
Mr. Paul Levy - Belgian reporter
Mr. Raphael Algoet - photographer
Sergeant Peter Furst - German-born photographer with "Stars and Stripes"
War Correspondent Marguerite Higgins - 25 years old; arrived ETO March 1945; had been at the
Buchenwald KZ 2 weeks earlier; desparate for a "concentration camp liberation" scoop; she tags along with Sgt. Furst.

a) 1350 (+ unknown) After a short period of small arms fire (in which the task force members dive for cover)
Linden arrives at the KZ main gate.

"When we were about 100 yards from the southwest corner of the camp, three persons, one bearing a white flag,

approached us from the gatehouse.
We dismounted some 75 yards from the gatehouse and found that these three were Swiss Cross representatives, or,
rather, one was
and the other two were SS officers [sic: one SS man was Wickert's adjutant]. The interpreter stated
that he and the SS officers had been sent into the
camp the night before to take over the camp and surrender the camp to the American forces." [12]

Linden hits an SS officer with his swagger stick to get the German to put his hands up.

b) 1350 (+ unknown) General Linden sends PFC William R. Donahue in a jeep to the town of Dachau to
find Lt. Col. Lucien E. Bolduc (executive officer, 222nd IR)
and get Bolduc to send the rest of the 222nd IR to the KZ compound. Linden's party waits 15-30 minutes for Bolduc
and his men to arrive.

c) 1350 (+ unknown) Lt. Col. Lucien E. Bolduc arrives at main gate. Linden orders Cowling (possibly with an enlisted man)
to reconnoiter ahead. Sgt. Furst and Marguerite Higgins join him. First Lt. William Cowling III advances, opens the jourhaus
(main) gate and "is mobbed by inmates." [15]

d) 1350 (+ unknown) 8 SS soldiers surrender at jourhaus "from the room on the right half of the gate of the jourhaus" [17]

e) Lt. Col. Walter J. "Mickey" Fellenz, CO, I Battalion, 222nd IR meets up with Linden's party

circa 10-17 SS soldiers are shot and killed during the attempt to subdue Tower B

f) 1350 (+ unknown) Inmates warn Linden's party that guardhouse "Tower B", circa 200 yards away, is
still manned by German troops. Lt Col. Fellenz & Sgt. Robert Killiam advance
towards the guardhouse and are met with small arms
and MG fire.

circa 1600) Sparks and his men, who are at the Creamatorium, hear the shooting at Tower B and arrive moments after the incident. Sparks does not see any 42nd ID
men and does not even know they are in the camp. He proceeds to the the Jourhaus gate. It's absolute pandemonium as all the Dachau inmates are wildly cheering the
approach of the Americans. Thousands of inmates stream towards the wire, some waving "homemade" American flags and all screaming
with joy. [22]

Sparks and his men reach the Jourhaus gate. Then who arrives but the 3 jeeps of General Linden's party! [23] [24]
Sparks is completely dumbfounded at finding such top brass from a different division, reporters, etc.
all in what is essentially his zone of operations. Gen. Linden tells Sparks that war correspondent Higgens wants to enter the camp
to interview inmates. Sparks refuses to allow her to enter the compound, as his orders are to secure the perimeter and let
noone in or out. Marguerite Higgins tells Sparks "Colonel, there are some famous people there"
and starts name-dropping (see Appendix B). Sparks still says no, but Higgins ignores him and attempts to open the gate. She is
immediately nearly trampled to death by a throng of frenzied inmates. Both Sparks and Linden's parties have to fire their weapons into the air
to get the crowd to disperse enought to free the hapless journalist. Gen. Linden notices that some of Sparks men are either drinking or drunk and
reputedly grabs a bottle from a 45th division soldier, admonishes another soldier who is waving a set of shackles in front of the inmates at the wire, and
wacks another tipsy Thunderbird over the helmet with his swagger stick![25] Whatever sets it off is in dispute, but Col. Sparks and General Linden
get into a violent shouting match. (all the while literally thousands of screaming, estatic,
joyous inmates are staring at them screaming their lungs out and the occasional sound of gunfire)
Sparks, of course, has no idea why 42nd ID senior officers are at the camp. General Linden apparently angry Sparks is giving him greif,
tells him to go away or be
court-marshalled. Sparks supposedly draws his pistol, points it at the General's head and screams

Fellenz of the 222nd IR incerts himself in the fight and he and Sparks begin to exchange threats.
"I'LL SEE YOU AFTER THE WAR" screams Fellenz, to which Sparks replies "YOU SON OF A BITCH, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH RIGHT NOW!!!!"
Somehow the brinkmanship ends and General Linden's group leaves the jourhaus. Eventually the US XV Corps, in a face-saving arrangement, would
update the operational orders so that the 42nd ID was in charge of the KZ perimeter and the 45th in charge of the adjacent SS complex.

1605: Sparks possibly radios 45th ID HQ asking essentially "who's in charge here at Dachau?" The 45th Operations Officer asks XV Corps,
who replies that the camp is the Thunderbird's responsibility. [27]

1635: Sparks radios that he has opened his CP at at Dachau KZ

2100: US 222nd Infantry Regiment reports KZ secure

2300: US 45th Division radios XV Corps about liberation of Dachau

2350: XV Corps G-5 arrives to take over administration of Dachau KZ

Warren Thompson
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003 22:56
Location: Lebanon PA 17042 USA

Who actually liberated KZL Dachau?

Post by Warren Thompson » 24 Dec 2003 15:58

Thanks for the detailed information, Rob. Just out of curiosity, what are your sources?

BTW Sparks tells a different story about Linden's helmet-slapping incident: he claims the general hit one of his 45th Division men when he failed to obey an order to open the gate to let Maggie Higgins into the compound (Sparks had already ordered his men to keep the gate closed). At that point, Sparks says he drew his .45 and told the general, 'If you ever touch one of my men again, I'll kill you.' If true, a pretty gutsy thing for a colonel to do to a general.

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Post by Dan » 24 Dec 2003 16:48

Sparks was used to killing, ahem, atypical enimies.

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