Testimonies from the Midwest

 

Capt. Lawrence E. Bartling, 272nd Infantry, 69th Division

Capt. Lawrence E. Bartling         Division patch         Photo of Lawrence E. Bartling

Lawrence E. Bartling was born on March 26, 1915, at Pipestone, Minnesota. Raised as a Presbyterian, Lawrence was a civil engineer before entering the service on March 23, 1942, as second lieutenant.

Service Record: Lawrence Bartling, serial number 0354986, entered the service as part of the 36th Infantry Division and then joined the 69th Division on May 15, 1943, as a first lieutenant. He was trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, until November 15, 1944, when he was shipped to the European theater. After landing in England, he crossed the Channel, traveled through France in box cars and went into battle line in Belgium. His battles and campaigns were in the Rhineland and Central Europe. Following the battle of Leipzig, the 69th Division met the Russians at the Elbe River. The war ended May 8, 1945, V-E Day.

Camp Encounter: Capt. Bartling was not involved with the lliberation of the Leipzig-Thekla Concentration Camp but was in the area of Leipzig as part of the 272nd Regiment. His memory is that it could have been the 271st Regiment. The night of April 18, [1945], the 272nd was ordered to move around Leipzig from the East to converge with the 273rd coming in from the West. There was fairly heavy resistance from the Germans, but with the addition of tanks in our attacking forces, Leipzig was secured.  About 1700 prisoners were taken. Following this battle they moved further East to the Elbe River.  

Leipzig, photo courtesy of Lawrence Bartling  

Leipzig, photo courtesy of Lawrence Bartling

With reference to the concentration camp, Capt. Bartling provided a quote from the diary of an officer with the Medical Battalion that was part of the 69th Infantry Division: "April 26, 1945: Went to slave labor camp today and will never forget the sight. The camp was near Taucha and called the Tekla [sic] Compound." Bartling goes on to explain that Taucha is 3-4 miles northeast of Leipzig. He says that his unit was not aware of the existence of the camp at the time they waged the night and day battle in Leipzig.

Awards: Victory Medal, EAME Theatre, Ribbon WW 2, Bronze Star, American Theatre Ribbon, Combat Infantryman's Badge.

 

After the War: Capt. Bartling was discharged on February 27, 1946, and had this to say about his post-war experiences:

Following the war, rather than returning to an engineering job in St. Louis where my wife, Phyllis Gray, a Parkston [SD] native, and I were married in 1940, we decided to make our home in Brookings where I had grown up and was educated, having graduated from SDSC in 1938. I joined my father in the family business--furniture and funeral--in 1946 and retired in 1993. My wife had moved to Brookings in 1944 with our first daughter when I went overseas. Our second daughter was born on V-E Day, May 8, 1945, but I did not see her until I returned to the States in December. We later had a third daughter and a son--all are now married and have given us 7 grandchildren and 1 great-grandson.

I am a member of the the American Legion and a Life Member of the VFW. The local observance of Veterans' Day is always a special time of reminiscing and paying homage to those who served and lost their lives defending America.

 

Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today's Youth:

Hopefully, young people will read the stories of WW II (Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation) and be inspired by the sacrifices of all veterans who have served our country. There is a need for a renewal of patriotism and respect for our flag, the symbol of freedom that so many have fought and died for. "The past is prologue" and the foundation to prepare for the future. The stories of my generation are reminders of duty and honor, sacrifice and accomplishment. The generation of today will be responsible for carrying on and preserving the America of the future so all may enjoy PEACE.

An American soldier conducting an investigation of Leipzig-Thekla

An American soldier conducting an investigation of
Leipzig-Thekla, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, looks on the
remains of the prisoners who were killed when a barracks
was razed by camp guards; photo courtesy of USHMM

Photographic evidence of atrocities committed in the Buchenwald sub-camp of

Photographic evidence of atrocities committed in the Buchenwald sub-camp of
Leipzig-Thekla, submitted for the prosecution by Dr. Ernest Replat at the trial of
former camp personnel and prisoners from Buchenwald; photo courtesy of USHMM

Red Army and 69th Division meet at the Elbe River

  Red Army and 69th Division meet at the Elbe River; photo courtesy of Wide World Photo

http://www.69th-infantry-division.com/