Today, there were 23 news stories on Google News about the Japanese-American veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who will receive the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, DC next week. Curiously, only one of these news articles mentioned that the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team liberated a sub-camp of Dachau near the end of World War II.
Here is a quote from this newspaper which I found in my google search:
The 100th was the first combat unit to be comprised exclusively of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii, according to the National Veterans Network, a coalition of Japanese-American veteran and civic organizations. The men had been drafted for the Hawaii National Guard before the Pearl Harbor attack, and in the weeks that followed they guarded Hawaii’s beaches and coastlines, the organization said. The 442nd was organized in March 1943, after a call for volunteers from the War Department.
“Today, the 100th and 442nd, known as the Go for Broke regiment, still stand as the most highly decorated units in United States Army history for size and length of service in battle,” the veterans network said in a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
“It was these men who rescued the Lost Battalion, fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino, broke through the Gothic Line, liberated a Dachau subcamp … ,” the letter continued.
I learned from the many news articles that 39 members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service will receive a Bronze Medal next week in Washington, D.C., for their service. The 100th Infantry Battalion will receive the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor next Wednesday at Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
I also read in the news that the 442nd was an all Japanese-American unit that fought in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. Many of these soldiers’ families were in internment camps in America. The 442nd was a self-sufficient fighting force and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France and Germany, according to the news. The unit became the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the U.S. armed forces. Its roster included 21 Medal of Honor recipients. But what about the liberation of one of the sub-camps of Dachau? Why was this left out of the news?
If Japanese American soldiers liberated a sub-camp of Dachau, where is the photo?
The photo above purportedly shows the liberation of Dachau by the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 100th Division, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This photo was obviously not taken at the main Dachau camp, and it was not taken on April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated, judging by the amount of snow on the ground. The photo appears to have been taken after May 1, 1945 when it snowed in the Dachau area. One prisoner is holding a bed roll which indicates that these prisoners were on a march out of the main camp when they were discovered by Japanese troops, probably on May 2, 1945.
Two days before the main Dachau camp was liberated, there were 6,887 prisoners, half of whom were Jews, that were marched out of the camp. The marchers were liberated by American troops several days later after the German guards had abandoned them.
Solly Gaynor was one of the Jewish prisoners who was rescued on May 2nd from a march out of the main Dachau camp by a Japanese-American soldier. Gaynor is a Lithuanian Jew who was forced to work in a factory in the Kaunas ghetto from August 1941 to June 1944 when he was sent to Dachau to work in one of the sub-camps. In the last days of the war, the sub-camps were evacuated and the prisoners were marched to the main camp, from which some were sent on another march to the Bavarian Alps. Gaynor credits Japanese-American soldier Clarence Matsumura with saving his life.
The following quote is from the web site http://www.hirasaki.home.att.net:
Two liaison scouts from the 522d Field Artillery Bn, 100/442 RCT, were among the first Allied troops to release prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp. I watched as one of the scouts used his carbine to shoot off the chain that held the prison gates shut. He said he just had to open the gates when he saw a couple of the 50 or so prisoners, sprawled on the snow-covered ground, moving weakly. They weren’t dead as he had first thought.
When the gates swung open, we got our first good look at the prisoners. Many of them were Jews. They were wearing black and white striped prison suits and round caps. A few had shredded blanket rags draped over their shoulders. It was cold and the snow was two feet deep in some places. There were no German guards. They had taken off before we reached the camp.
The above description of “the Dachau concentration camp” obviously refers to one of the many Dachau sub-camps. The U.S. Army credits the 522 Field Artillery Battalion as the liberators of one of the 123 sub-camps of Dachau. The 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is also acknowledged by the U.S. Army as the liberators, on May 2, 1945, of some of the prisoners who were on a death march out of the main Dachau camp.
The Go for Broke National Education Center web site has the following information about the sub-camp that was liberated by Japanese soldiers in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion:
On April 29, 1945, several scouts were east of Munich in the small Bavarian town of Lager Lechfield when they saw a sight they would never forget. The Nisei came upon some barracks encircled by barbed wire. Technician Fourth Grade Ichiro Imamura described it in his diary:
“I watched as one of the scouts used his carbine to shoot off the chain that held the prison gates shut. . . They weren’t dead, as he had first thought. When the gates swung open, we got our first good look at the prisoners. Many of them were Jews. They were wearing striped prison suits and round caps. It was cold and the snow was two feet deep in some places. There were no German guards. The prisoners struggled to their feet. . . They shuffled weakly out of the compound. They were like skeletons – all skin and bones.”
Holocaust historians conclude that the Nisei liberated Kaufering IV Hurlach. This camp housed about 3,000 prisoners. Hurlach was one of 169 subordinate slave labor camps of Dachau.
Contrary to claims made by the Go for Broke National Education Cener, the United States Holocaust Memorial Musuem and the US Army credit the 12th Armored Division of the US Seventh Army with the liberation of the Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau on April 27, 1945 with help from soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division, who arrived on April 28, 1945.
Kaufering IV was one of 11 camps, all named Kaufering and numbered I through XI, which were located near Landsberg am Lech, not far from the city of Munich. Kaufering IV, which was near the town of Hurlach, had been designated as a sick camp where prisoners who could no longer work were sent.
You can read about the liberation of the Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau on my web site here.
During World War II, the 522nd was attached to five different divisions. The official credit for liberating a sub-camp of Dachau and the marchers from the main camp was given to whatever division the 522nd was attached to at the time.
A book entitled “Dachau, Holocaust and US Samurais – Nisei Soldiers first in Dachau” by Pierre Moulin tells the story of “the role played by very special liberators coming from 10 Concentration camps in USA: The US Samurais of the 522nd Field Artillery BN who were the first to reach the camp of Dachau.”
Apparently, the newspapers in America have wisely decided not to mention the controversial subject of whether or not Japanese-American soldiers liberated Dachau, or a sub-camp of Dachau, as claimed by the National Veterans Network.
Update: 4:25 p.m.
I did some more searching on the Internet and found this eye-witness story of the liberation of Dachau on Joe Dresch’s blog here:
She [Yanina Cywinska] was a 10-year-old aspiring ballerina when she says the Nazis captured her Catholic Polish family for helping Jewish people. In the concentration camps, she watched her parents die.
“Memories come back of my mother, pulling her out of the gas chamber by her feet, yelling to her, ‘I wanna go home, Moma, I wanna go home. Take me away from here,’” she said.
She remembers a woman nearby described her new reality.
“She said, ‘She can’t help you, she’s dead.’ And I’d say, ‘What is dead?’”
Miraculously, Yanina herself didn’t inhale enough poison to die. She says she worked as a slave, dragging out and sorting through dead bodies.
After six years of imprisonment, 16-year-old Yanina was freed by members of the Japanese American 442nd combat team. She looked like a skeleton.