Testimonies from the Midwest

 

T/4 Delbert Aaron McNew, 413th AFA Bn., 20th Armored Division

T/4 Delbert Aaron McNew        Division patch         Photo of Delbert Aaron McNew

Delbert Aaron McNew was born on October 1, 1923, at Lemmon, South Dakota. Of Celtic and German heritage and raised in the Presbyterian faith, Delbert was a store clerk until he entered the service on January 26, 1943. The following is his story, told in his own words.

Service Record: I received my basic training at the Armored Force training center at Ft. Knox, Kentucky and then was sent to Hq. Battery 413th Armored Field Artillery Battalion at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. I was in this outfit until I was discharged after the war. My job was fire direction computer. I received information from several sources and transposed them into firing commands for an artillery battery. In our case a battery consisted of six 105 millimeter howitzers. The 20th Armored was the last armored division to go to Europe. We saw just a little combat. We were sent back to the States before many veteran divisions because we were scheduled to invade Japan.

Camp Encounter: On April 28th, 1945, we were going toward the city of Munich. The battle group I was in was called Combat Command B and was made up of tanks, infantry and artillery; one battalion of each. We were working with part of the 45th infantry division. On our right Combat Command C moved through the town of Dachau and liberated the concentration camp.  

Munich fell and the war was over for us. A couple of days later some of us were able to visit the concentration camp.

A railroad spur led into the prison and just outside the walls forty box cars were parked. Each car was filled with bodies. Some were clothed and some were naked. All of them were starved so that they looked like skin covered skeletons. They were alive when they were loaded but only a few were still living when the train arrived at Dachau.

Inside there were many prisoners. They were all in various stages of starvation. Some were stronger and were able to kill the guards that had not run away. We were told that there were five crematoriums in the prison. I saw only one. The building was about thirty feet wide and seventy five feet long. The front portion was divided into two rooms. One room had two furnaces and the other room was full of bodies. The topmost body wore a prison guard's uniform. The rear part of the building  was where the prisoners were gassed. The two furnaces were gas fired. In front of the furnaces was a work area. The only furniture was a steel table. It was used to hold the bodies while teeth with gold fillings were removed and bodies were trimmed to fit through the furnace doors. One furnace was in use while we were there. One of our group asked to look into the furnace so the worker opened the door for him. He looked in then ran outside and vomited.  

This all happened 56 years ago and all I can remember clearly are the train and the crematorium.

 

After the War: T/4 McNew was discharged on January 30, 1946. and then returned to Lemmon, South Dakota, after the war. He worked at various jobs: store clerk, bookkeeper, postal clerk, and insurance salesman. He moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 1963, where he worked in the post office until retirement in 1983. Delbert married Violet Nilsen in 1944. They have two children, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

 

Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today Youth:

Try to image what our lives would be like if we had lost World War II.

 

   http://web.tampabay.rr.com/20thad/

  Survivors cheer the arrival of American liberators

Survivors cheer the arrival of American liberators; photo courtesy of USHMM

American soldiers of the U.S. 7th Army, force boys believed to be Hitler youth, to

American soldiers of the U.S. 7th Army, force boys believed to be Hitler youth, to
examine boxcars containing bodies of prisoners starved to death by the SS; photo courtesy of the USHMM

A survivor stokes smoldering human remains in a crematorium oven that is still lit

A survivor stokes smoldering human remains in a crematorium oven that is still lit; photo courtesy of USHMM

American medical personnel at work in a typhus ward in a hospital for Dachau

American medical personnel at work in a typhus ward in a hospital for Dachau
Survivors; photo courtesy of USHMM

U.S. troops watch a passing cart laden with corpses intended for burial leave the

U.S. troops watch a passing cart laden with corpses intended for burial leave the
compound of the Dachau concentration camp; photo courtesy of USHMM