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The Boys who became Men Because of Dachau


November 8, 2013

Forrest L. Gomez, known affectionately as Old Sarge shares his father’s memory of when boys in his unit became men because of Dachau.

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“My father’s unit was one of the units that was tasked to bring food and medical supplies to the former prisoners, who were still dying at the rate of more than 100 a day after the liberation. The sights our men saw sickened even hardened combat veterans, and men who had been tough soldiers for years openly wept.”

2Polish Prisoners at Dachau

MEMORIES OF DAYS GONE BY:

Veteran’s Day is Monday, and I wish to retell a story I have told before–a story my dad told me. This story is pertinent to veterans, and is arguably important and relevant to the events of recent years.

Dad was not a combat soldier in World War II, but was a motor sergeant with a transportation unit in the European theater. He had his share of artillery, rockets, strafing German planes, and sniper harassment. He also had three men in his unit who were lazy and troublesome on a recurring basis. But for him, there were several days that overshadowed all else that had happened to him and his men.

In 1945, the 157th Infantry Regiment liberated Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany. My father’s unit was one of the units that was tasked to bring food and medical supplies to the former prisoners, who were still dying at the rate of more than 100 a day after the liberation. The sights our men saw sickened even hardened combat veterans, and men who had been tough soldiers for years openly wept. Officers had to circulate among the enlisted men at meal time and order them to eat, as our men began to lose weight and become faint.

Then a remarkable, if not historical, thing happened. The three duds in my dad’s unit began to straighten up and become real soldiers, and were quiet and cooperative for the rest of the war. Maybe they finally saw bigger things in the world than themselves, or maybe God was able to finally touch their hearts, Dad didn’t know. But they finally joined the true ranks of those who paid for, and gave us, what is still a better world than we had then.

I always liked this story. I hope you do too. May our Lord Jesus Christ comfort and keep you all the days of your lives.

~ The Sarge

posted with permission on Reagangirl.com  11/8/13

  1. Rick DeSilva

    I wonder if all of us can look back to an event or time that we turned from children to adults. Sounds like these three young men had quite a dramatic moment. Good for them.
    Good story.

    • I related to the author of this piece that my dad also helped to liberate the concentration camps. I believe he was in Germany. He had been recruited by the OSS by that time. But the wounds he bore from the experience of liberating the dying, and seeing the utter carnage in the concentration camps, never healed. Although the Americans knew about the “work camps” and had reports of killing and inhumanity, they had no way to prepare themselves for the genocidal horrors they found. No one on the outside knew how bad it was. The word “Holocaust” has been applied by history, the men who were there were shaken to the soul by what they witnessed.

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