T/4 Delbert Aaron McNew, 413th AFA Bn., 20th Armored Division
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.
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
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
Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today Youth:
Try to image what our lives would be like if we had lost World
Survivors cheer the arrival
of American liberators; photo courtesy of USHMM
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; photo courtesy of USHMM
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
compound of the Dachau concentration camp; photo courtesy of USHMM