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.


At September 22, 2006 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I communicated with Prof Marcuse wrt the seeming anti-Semitism, SS apologist tone of the scrapbookpages website...he blew me off. I don't think he's really read all of the site and seen the insidious comments the authors make.

At January 14, 2007 12:40 PM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

That's suprising considering Professor Marcuse is Jewish.

At December 06, 2007 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote this brief article quite a few years ago. There are some explainations for the holes in the overall story.
The 522nd probably did reach Dachau before many of the other units since the entire unit was completely mobile. The other units were nearly all on foot (infantry). Plus the weather was bad and the area had lots of German soldiers still fighting.
Most of the 522nd foward observers and batteries did intercept the long death marches running toward Dachau several times. Also several sub camps were also liberated or examined by 522nd units.
The cremetorium activity during the liberation is mysterious. Some of the 522nd vets I interviewed claimed a foul stench in the air and chared bodies in the ovens. You can still burn things without coal in an oven?
The stories in the article are not fiction but are recalled by survivors and WW2 vets from over 50 years ago.
My main point is to share this interesting story and not really claim who was at Dachau first. Where is Dachau?: the town of Dachau, the main concentration camp, the county/distict containing hundreds of sub camps (kommandos).
And does it really matter who arrived first. What matters is that 500 Nisei soldiers (with white officers) in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion (A WW2 US Army Unit) assisted in the liberation of the infamous Dachau death camp.
By the way, Capt Feibleman was a Jewish NY lawyer who served with the 522nd.
These men deserve their place in history as liberators and American soldiers.
Burt Takeuchi

At December 08, 2007 1:39 PM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

Burt, there is no evidence Nisei soldiers liberated Dachau.

The photos I have seen claiming to show Nisei soldiers at Dachau - the soldiers don't even look Japanese.

Another poster said, "The 12th armored Division liberated Kaufering IV. I have done a lot of research on the 12th and their liberation of Kaufering camps (many members of the 12th visited numerous camps and helped with their liberation) and have never seen one reference to any JA's. Not one."

At December 22, 2007 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 522nd was in the area of the Dachau complex which was so large many of the US Army units simply ran into the camp. The main objective of the 522nd was to destroy the SS HQ in Munich. What happened is that elements of the 522nd: forward observers FO's (scouts that were looking for targets for their 105mm batteries), supply trucks, and mixed units (FO's with other units like the 42nd and 45th Divisions and armored units).
There are about 200 photos on file at various museums in the USA taken from Nisei from the 522nd. There are also testimonies on film with some holocaust survivors stating that Nisei from the 522nd liberated them from various sub camps.
These are hard facts and more than enough proof to say that Nisei soldiers from the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion did assist in the liberation at Dachau at the close of WW2.

Burt Takeuchi

At May 08, 2008 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dissagree

At May 18, 2008 2:01 AM, Anonymous Kelly O'Hara said...

Regardless if the 442nd or 522nd reached Dachau first there were the most highly decorated unit in US history.

Go for Broke!

At May 28, 2008 6:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that Katsugo Miho is a pretty credible source. He is a retired Judge, a former State Legislator in Hawaii and is the President of the 442nd Veterans Association.

There are a number of possibilites why all the official paperwork doesn't exactly match Veteran's experiences, and Dachau was more than just one Camp. I would suggest the Fog Of War is probably more of a factor than the passing of time or poltical motivations are.

Remember, Japanese Americans serving in WWII were undeniably Patriotic Citizens who gave their utmost serving their country, and the 442nd is on the record as particularly self sacrificing. To imply they might dishonor their service then to serve a political agenda now really just adds further insult to Historical injury.

The freedom to serve and die for their country was a right they had to actively fight for. To describe as mere political manipulations the rememberances and experiences of Veterans, especially in the name of "accuracy", not only dishonors ALL Veterans, I think it really misses the whole point.

These young Americans were Witnesses to the Holocaust. They walked into hell and looked into the face of evil. And they can never forget the shock and horror of the Nazi Death Camps, and man's inhumnanity to man.

And we are lucky we have them to help us rememeber, lest History repeat itself.

At July 02, 2008 10:48 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...


The MOHs given 55 years after the fact were affirmative-action-driven.

The Army Review Board study instigated by Sen. Akaka applied only to those awaded the DSC who were Americans of Asian or Pacific Island descent.

Caucasian awardees of the DSC were excluded from the upgrading study. The mission of the review could not have been more racially based.

Despite its motivation, the study found no evidence of downgrading of MOH recommendations to DSCs as Akaka and his fellow-travelers had hoped to show.

In the words of Army Command Historian, James C.McNaughton in the board's final report on September 30,1998:

"What did we find? the Army awards process we found NO evidence that award recommendations were rejected or downgraded on the basis of race." (Empasis added)

Despite these findings,22 Japanese-Americans were upgraded from DSCs to MOHs anyway.

In so doing, the judgement of WWII combat award officers whose original decisions that DSCs (not MOHs) were appropriate at a time when the facts were fresh and
corroborating witnesses alive and on hand to verify them, were
politically overruled.

And as another clarification, after President Clinton awared politically motivated upgrades, it's still most highly decorated for its size and length of service.

At July 02, 2008 11:04 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

Anonymous, no is denying those Japanese Americans who served were patriotic.

You need to acknowledge out of 19,000 males of military age living in the relocation centers and another 4,000 living outside the centers, less than 1,500 volunteered (7%)and only 800 of those were accepted for service.

On the other hand it is credibly estimated at least 6,000 Japanese Americans served in Imperial Japan's forces during the war.

Back on topic there is no evidence Japanese Americans liberated Dachau, the testimony given by Japanese American veterans don't match the facts and quite frankly given the distorted history of the evacuation as told by the Japanese American Reperations Activists - their testimony regarding Dachau doesn't provide a lot of confidence.

At November 04, 2008 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need to acknowledge what? The "facts" you use to justify to yourself the unjust treatment of American Citizens during WWII, in and out of the service? The tenor of your remarks is clearly and regrettably colored with an obvious animous.

There were a lot of Japanese Americans serving in the Hawaiian Military home guard when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Lots of guys with ROTC College backgrounds - who were all thrown out of Military service at the start of the War. Guys who should have been Commissioned Officers, let alone reduced to the humiliation of asking special permission to serve. And what you have yet to consider is that it is those who served in WWII that eventually became the social and political leaders in Hawaii.

Yes, I know full well that some Japanese American families were divided over WWII - but they were not the only ethnic group to have been so, yet were treated in a singularly unfair manner.

Sorry Sir, but you sound like a bigot to this 3rd generation Asian American - and I'm a Conservative who campaigned for Reagan in 1980.

At November 04, 2008 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, the 552nd Field Artillery Unit, the all Japanese American unit in which Katsugo Miho served supported _5_ different Divisions during WWII. The credit would have gone to whatever Division they were serving at the time - so your assumption that the 442nd was claiming undue credit is a mistaken assumption - leading to calling a guy who honorably served a politically motivated liar. Shame on you.

More on this issue here -

At November 04, 2008 2:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you really trying to claim only 800 Japanese Americans served in the military in WWII? That's nuts!

In fact 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the American Armed Forces in WWII, many of them in the MIS.

At November 28, 2008 9:43 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

Hurling accusations of bigotry makes you sound desperate. Why not debate using facts rather than personal attacks?

Ethnic Japanese were dismissed from the armed forces because MAGIC intelligence revealed pro-Japan sympathizers were amongst them.

The WRA publication "The Evacuated People" (1946) mentions only 1,208 volunteers from the ten relocation centers (of whom only 805 were actually selected to serve) plus "several hundred" voluteers from outside the centers.

Estimating a total of about 1,100
(805 plus an estimated 300 from outside the centers) out of a total 23,000 of military age, comes to 5%.

That is a fact. Notice the emphasis is on "volunteers".

Approx 8,500 Nisei can be accounted for in the 100/442d.

Another approx 3,500 in the MIS.

That total of 12,000 jibes
with the number announced by SecWar Stimson in January

Allowing for another 4,000 in
miscellaneous units, we reach the grand total of 16,000.

Interestingly, the 16,000 figure just happens to be the appox
number of names the JA WWII Memorial organizers in L.A.
were able to come up with after their exhaustive search for
for Nisei WWII veterans to list on the memorial.

As for your 33,000 figure "during World War II." These figures aren't even close to the lesser numbers who were inducted, can be accounted for, and actually served during the period the U.S. was engaged in hostilities with the Empire of Japan, i.e., from Dec 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945.

Those numbers come from a 1953 publication that do not provide an exact time-line and most likely include Nisei who served during the occupation - not hostilities.

As for you link to the Dachau site, I have the original posted here and the author made changes to relflect what is written on the U.S. Army site. Having read other material on the site regarding this history, it's obvious changes were made for political reasons.

As for Japanese American politicians, if the shoe fits, wear it. The Japanese American reperations movement was politically motivated and those guys lied through their teeth.

At April 07, 2009 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a little problem about Mr. Katsugo Miho.
He served in 100th infantry battalion, not 522nd, according to a monument to 422nd veterans in Los Angeles.
As far as I know, 100th battalion was in Italy at the time.

At November 10, 2009 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My cousin Leon Tabory spent his teenage years as an inmate in Dachau. He was there. He said he was liberated by Hawaiians. This must of been the 522nd.

Marq Lipton

At December 21, 2009 12:24 PM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

Sorry to hear of your cousin's passing, Marq, but it's doubtful he was liberated by Hawaiians.

I doubt a guy from Lithuania haven't spent years in a real concentration camp would differentiate between a Hawaiian and a Navajo Indian.

Regardless, there is no proof Nisei liberated Dachau.

At July 29, 2010 7:50 PM, Blogger Pierre Moulin said...

Amazing to see all the comments from somebody who never made any real search ?
There was three Dachau:
The town itself, the SS camp and the Concentration camp.
there are three facts:
The first unit in the SS camp was the 45th Thunderbird division with John Degro.
The first unit entered the concentration camp was the 42nd Rainbow division with Collins and the two journalists Fuchs and higgins.
The first unit on the site was the Nisei 522nd scouts the day before the liberation on April 28, 1945 but they never entered the concentration camp, they received the order to leave immediately.
The Japanese American unit came for most of them from camps in the USA and the HQ didn't want any information about the US Camps when they liberated the Death Camps.
If you want more information go to the book: Dachau, Holocaust and US Samurais - Nisei soliers first in Dachau by Pierre Moulin at If you want to contact me, I am the author, at

Pierre Moulin

At October 27, 2010 1:57 PM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

I'd recommend "Legacies of Dachau" by Harold Marcuse, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0 521 55204 4.

I have not read Pierre Moulin's book, but stand by my comments.


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