Saturday, December 24, 2005

Who liberated Dachau?

"In the meantime, whilst I was in and around Dachau, my Dad was still considered a Prisoner of War and being interned in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many members of the 442nd RCT throughout the war had parents, brothers and sisters in the so-called Relocation Centers throughout the United States."

-Katsugo Miho 522nd Field Artillery Battalion 442nd RCT

That's quite an image isn't it? Ethnic Japanese American soldiers with relatives in so-called "concentration camps" liberating another concentration camp. It's understandable why the Japanese-American Reparations Movement would use the image to support their agenda.
But is it true?

Recently I came across this site regarding Dachau concentration camp. I stayed up all night reading the entire site and now my eyes hurt. Sometimes the writing feels like sympathy for the Nazis. That's uncomfortable regardless of the historical truth. Perhaps the writing is detached or perhaps it is the tone of history from a German's point of view.
The historical detail is provided in a dry, dispassionate manner. You'll see what I mean if you read about the Dachau trials and the massacre of SS soldiers by Americans on liberation day.
Take a look at it. The writer isn't a Holocaust denier but he also isn't afraid to admit the Americans were capable of unjust harshness towards the Germans under "battle fury".
My motto is "Objective to the point of callousness" and this site is a good definition of that.

One section of the site is titled, "Which Division Liberated Dachau".

Here's the tie-in to this blog. The producer of the site provides the piece by a Nisei veteran that has become the crux for the Japanese-American Reparations Movement's claims that Nisei vets liberated Dachau.
The following quote is from an article posted on the web site of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee in San Jose, California. I am familiar with this piece as it is found at various pro-reparations sites on the web. This little blurb on an otherwise extensive site on the unrelated history of Dachau is what prompted me.

Here are the vet's comments in part:

Liberation of Dachau by Japanese Americans 522nd Field Artillery Battalion 442nd RCT
April 29th 1945

The 522nd liberated several of the sub camps near Dachau and actually opened the main gate at the Dachau concentration camp. Some 5000 survivors of the Dachau concentration camp were liberated by elements of the 522 on April 29th 1945.

On April 29th 1945, Staff Sgt. George Oiye was member of a forward observer team (patrols to search for targets for artillery to shoot ) for artillery battery C leading the 7th Army racing into Germany. Elements of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion were spread out over a 30 mile radius. They had orders to destroy military targets in Munich and to demolish the headquarters of the dreaded SS. They also had warnings to be on the look out for top Nazis such as Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (Hitler's mistress). They chased the retreating German units, captured and disarmed them.

According to 522 records they were the first Allied unit to reach Dachau.

Unintentional Liberators"We weren't supposed to be there" said Oiye. Since they were spread out over such a wide area (30 KM) and Dachau was so big they simply ran into it. Japanese American soldiers shot the lock of the main gate of the outer perimeter fences. Then opened the barbed wire gates of the infamous crematorium the site were thousands of Jewish prisoners bodies were burned into ashes. The building had tall smoke stacks and large ovens with bodies smoldering still inside. Prisoners were often gassed or died of the harsh slave labor conditions at Dachau.

"War was one thing but that kind of treatment of mankind; that is not normal" Oiye stated. Some of the 522nd soldiers found ladies handbags made of human skin. He could remember seeing "intricate" tattoos on these handbags. Gloves and lampshades were also found to made of human skin. Other soldiers reported that dozens of prisoners that were horribly tortured and murdered.

The producer of the Dachau site then responds:

Note that the article quoted above mentions that the Japanese-American liberators "opened the barbed wire gates of the infamous crematorium."

The present wire gate that opens from the prison enclosure into the area where the crematorium is located was not there on April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated.

There were no bodies smoldering inside the ovens because the Germans had run out of coal to burn the corpses as early as December 1944.

If any ladies handbags made of human skin were ever found at Dachau, they were not put into evidence at the American Military Tribunal where the Dachau Commandant and 39 of his staff members were put on trial.

There were 31,432 survivors of Dachau liberated on April 29, 1945, not 5,000 as claimed in this article by the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee in San Jose, CA.

Who to believe? The creator of the Dachau website provides historical detail that directly contradicts the claims of Staff Sgt. Oiye. Why would Oiye tell an untruth?

The Nisei vet story probably started after a Dachau survivor reported she had been assisted by an Asian looking American soldier and the Japanese-American Reparations Movment ran with it from there.

I would suggest Dachau survivors who witnessed any "Asian looking" American soldiers came across members of the 45th Thunderbird Division with a large percentage of American Southwest Native Americans and Latino Americans.

The 45th Thunderbird Division and the 42nd Rainbow Division are also in dispute regarding who actually liberated Dachau first.

Like the inflated medal counts and Senator Akaka introducing legislation allowing Bill Clinton to pass out medals and upgrades to Japanese American veterans many years and miles away from the battlefield in complete defiance of American military tradition (and against the advice of the Pentagon's leading historian ordered to study the matter) - American Nisei vets with the help of the Japanese American Reparations Movement making claims to Dachau have again sullied their once admirable reputations.

What a tragedy.
UPDATE: Upon purchasing what many consider the authoritative text of the history of Dachau, I discovered the author, a history professor at UC Santa Barbara, has a site that mention the Dachau link above. The professor says this is the site he forwards to those interested in learning more about the history of Dacgau. The tone of my inital post may have sounded skeptical regarding the source I was using. The professor's assurace provides more confidence in using this source.