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Col. Felix Sparks

The Dachau Massacre

Dachau is an example of man's inhumanity to man

Annotation

Mann was born in Germany in 1925 and came to the United States in 1936. His father got a job at an American University.Mann grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 1941 he started going to school at an American University. In 1943, his sophomore year, he registered for the draft, and was drafted soon after.Mann was young when his family moved to the United States so he didn't understand the political situation in Germany at the time.Because he was so young, Mann didn't witness much of the persecution of the Jews but does recall seeing cartoons about them.Mann was part of a youth organization through his church in the United States and was at a weekly gathering at 1 of his friend's houses when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.During his sophomore year at college, Mann began to understand the worlds situation. Many of his classmates volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps or Navy so they were able to choose their branch of service. Mann was not a citizen at the time and was prohibited from enlisting. He was prepared to be drafted and welcomed it. He got his draft notice in July 1943 and reported to Camp Lee, Virginia.

Annotation

Mann was initially sent to Camp Lee, Virginia where he got his uniforms and his vaccination shots. He then took 17 weeks of basic training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama.In basic training Mann learned how to handle a rifle and a pistol. He learned how to read maps, fight in hand to hand combat, and judge distance, among numerous other things.Mann also shared kitchen, police and latrine duty.While in basic at Ft. McClellan, Mann became a United States citizen.After basic training Mann was sent to Ft. Meade, Maryland. At the time, Mann's father had a consulting job at the Pentagon. Mann's father tried to help his son by having him placed into the Army Specialized Training Program but the program was already being phased out.While at Ft. Meade, Mann was able to get home quite a bit.Mann deployed from Newport News, Virginia and steamed to Oran, North Africa. He left Oran and steamed to Naples [Annotator's Note: Naples, Italy] where he was assigned to a replacement depot.

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A few days after arriving in Naples, Italy, Mann was shipped up to Anzio on an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank].At the end of January [Annotator's Note: January 1944] the 5th Army under General Mark Clark had established a beachhead behind the German lines at the towns of Anzio and Nettuno. The Allies were successful at first but pulled back after the Germans counter attacked. The Germans secured the Alban Hills which gave them a clear view of the entire Anzio beachhead.There was a lot of heavy fighting in the weeks following the landings at Anzio.Mann was sent to Anzio as a replacement arriving on 29 February. He was assigned to M Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.It was raining when Mann reported for duty and the area was a sea of mud, but Mann learned quickly that in combat it was more important to keep your rifle dry than to keep yourself dry.Mann was in the machine gun platoon of M Company. He was an ammunition carrier for a water cooled 30 milimeter machine gun [Annotator's Note: Mann is talking about the Browning .30 caliber M1917 water cooled machine gun]. Mann recalls reading an article in Stars and Stripes [Annotator's note: overseas Army newspaper] reporting that President Roosevelt had announced that 18-year-olds were not being sent to the front lines. Mann was 18 at the time he read the article while on the Anzio beachhead.The Germans shelled the beachhead and harbor regularly. The Germans also sent bombers out to hit the harbor at night.The Germans shells were fired mostly from 88 milimeter guns [Annotator's Note: German 8.8 cm Flak antiaircraft gun] but also from a couple of huge railroad guns [Annotator's Note: Krupp K5 283 milimeter guns] hidden in the Alban Hills.

Annotation

There was a lot more action at night than during the day.The Allied troops on the Anzio beachhead were made up of American and British troops.Units would take turns on the front lines. During March and May Mann's unit spent a lot of time on the line. Mann was manning a machine gun emplacement with another soldier named Bud. He lost track of time in that situation.The men in the gun emplacement couldn't move during the day and had to be very careful when smoking to keep the Germans from seeing where they were. It was a very boring existance.To kill time Mann and Bud started singing. Others in their gun emplacements could hear them.When they left the line they stayed prepared for a German counterattack. They would do close order drills, they were given clean clothing and got a shower once. The shower was interesting. The men had 1 minute to get wet, soap up, and rinse off in cold water.Some GIs shot craps to pass the time.Life on the Anzio beachhead was not very exciting.On May 23rd [Annotator's Note: 23 May 1944] the Allies broke out of the beachhead and attacked to the north.On the beachhead Mann saw no close combat. He never fired his gun.When they moved north out of Anzio, Mann saw his first German soldiers. The Germans had been killed during the breakout.Mann was happy fighting the Germans. His only concern was being captured and having the Germans see his German name on his dog tags. Mann was an American and part of the American 45th Infantry Division.

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When Mann's unit broke out of the Anzio beachhead they walked in the direction of the Alban Hills.At 1 point they were told to stop and dig in. The ground was too hard so Mann decided not to. He crawled under an army vehicle and fell asleep. He was awoken suddenly by the sound of an artillery shell exploding. Being under the vehicle protected him from injury.Mann's unit fought to within 10 miles of Rome. On 4 June [Annotator's Note: 4 June 1944] Mann and some friends took a drive to Rome in a jeep after which Mann developed a polynomial cyst. After having surgery on the cyst he returned to his unit.After returning to his unit, Mann was reassigned to the mortar platoon manning 81 mm mortars. He remained in the mortar platoon for the rest of the war.During the invasion [Annotator's Note: the invasion of Southern France on 15 August 1944] Mann carried a bazooka.In August Mann was shipped back to Naples. There they boarded LSTs [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] and went to Southern France.During his time in Italy, Mann's section only fired its machine gun once and Mann slept through the incident.Most of the fighting at Anzio took place at the beginning before Mann got there.

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Mann landed in Southern France early in the morning [Annotator's Note: the morning of 15 August 1944]. He went ashore in an LCVP [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel]. Mann landed with the 4th wave at 8:30am.The Allies had bombed the shore the night before with naval guns and aircraft.Mann's main concern was the "Bouncing Betty" [Annotator's Note: German S mines, or bouncing mines].Mann landed against no opposition. The Higgins boats pulled up onto the beach and Mann didn't even get his feet wet when he landed.The Germans were retreating so rapidly that Mann's unit had a tough time keeping up with them. Some times they had trucks to catch up with the Germans.When the division headed east toward the Vosges Mountains someone decided that Mann would make a good radioman for the mortars. He got a day or 2 of training on the 300 radio.Mann's first job as a radio operator was in the Alsace-Lorainne area. Mann came under fire and discovered that he did not have a shovel to dig a foxhole with.Mann was called to see the battalion commander, Col. Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks]. This was odd since he had never before seen anyone higher that a company commander. Sparks had come up through the ranks.

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Prior to Mann being called to see Colonel Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks], Mann had met a few guys from the Counter Intelligence Corps [Annotator's Note: abbreviated CIC]. Their job sounded more interesting to him than what he was doing. Mann applied to be transferred from the infantry to the Counter Intelligence Corps.When Mann reported to Sparks he was told that he couldn't transfer out of the infantry but could be an interpreter. He accepted and was transferred from M Company to the 3rd Battalion Headquarters Company [Annotator's Note: M Company and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division].Sparks had a small staff with a jeep driver named Al Turk, a runner named Carlton Johnson, and now Karl Mann as an interpreter. Sparks was very formal with his staff. There was a barrier between them that was difficult to overcome but his men thought the world of him. He was respected by his men which continued after the war.Sparks would visit the rifle companies and work directly with the company commanders.Mann would have carried out any order given to him by Sparks.Mann passed through many small towns during the drive through Alsace-Lorraine, the most important of which was Reipertsweiller [Annotator's Note: Battle of Reipertsweiller, France in January 1945].Mann's whole battalion was lost at Reipertsweiller. It was 1 day in January 1945 and the battalion was heading up 1 side of a valley and Mann's group was driving their jeep up a paved road on the other side. The jeep hit an anti-tank mine.

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Mann's group walked to the other side of the valley to join the battalion [Annotator's Note: 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division]. Mann visited an aid station to see if he had any injuries that would require him being sent home but he did not.They achieved thier objective for the day which was the capture of a group of hills outside of Reipertsweiller [Annotator's Note: Battle of Reipertsweiller, France in January 1945].The next day, the Germans began to encircle the battalion. The battalion came under heavy German artillery fire.Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks] got a tank up close to the battalion when he came across some wounded men. Sparks personally placed wounded men on the back deck of the tank for which he was later awarded the Silver Star. The Germans could see Sparks but held their fire while he helped the wounded soldiers.The encirclement lasted for about 6 days. After a day or 2 the battalion was able to send wounded GIs back to army hospitals in the area.Out of the entire battalion, only 2 men made it back. The rest were killed, captured, or wounded.Lieutenant Colonel Sparks was 27 years old when he lost his entire battalion.Replacements arrived from other divisions and from the United States.The newly formed battalion entered Germany and arrived at the city of Aschaffenburg. In Schweinheim, outside of Aschaffenburg, Sparks found a puppy that he decided to keep. Mann held the puppy for a while and within a day or 2, began itching all over. The puppy had fleas that had gotten on Mann. Mann went to a rear area aid station to clean up and get new clothes.

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Aschaffenburg, Germany was secured quickly. The Germans sent word that they wanted to surrender but would only do so to someone of equal rank to the senior German officer. 1 sergeant became an officer and Mann pretended to be a sergeant and the 2 accepted the German surrender.Mann's group moved on to Nuremberg. Nuremberg was utterly destroyed.In Nuremberg Mann captured 2 German soldiers.From Nuremberg, Mann went south, across the Danube, and ended up at Dachau. Mann believes noone knew what they were going to see at Dachau.Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks] had been ordered to capture the concentration camp. Sparks ordered I Company, commanded by Captain William Walsh, to take the camp.Sparks, Johnson [Annotator's Note: Carlton Johnson, Sparks's runner], and Mann went with I Company to the concentration camp. They didn't know what to expect.Between the town of Dachau and the concentration camp, the company captured an SS soldier wearing a black SS uniform and a red cross armband.The company pushed the man around. The SS man made a run for the nearby woods and was shot and killed by the soldiers.Outside the camp the soldiers came across several railroad cars which were full of the bodies of inmates from other camps. The soldiers were very upset when they saw the contents of the train cars.Sparks and Mann did not see the inside of the railroad cars at that time because they were still moving on the camp.It is hard for Mann to remember the exact time frame of things happening.The first thing Mann recalls happening was the roar of excitement coming from the inmate housing area indicating that the soldiers had made it there.The next thing was their arrival at the coal yard. Any German guards found at the camp were brought by the I company men to the coal yard and lined up against a wall. I Company officers and men, along with some machine gunners from M Company, were there.Mann watched as a kid from a machine gun crew was ordered to set up his machine gun by officers from I Company. The kid was then ordered to fire at the German prisoners.Sparks, who had left the coal yard, rushed back into the area. Sparks fired his pistol into the air and stopped the shooting of the prisoners. Mann doesn't know how many of the prisoners were killed.The incident has been widely publicized over the years.Mann is surprised at the number of photographs of the incident. He doesn't remember anyone taking pictures.

Annotation

Mann went to the enclosure where the camp prisoners were located. The prisoners were rejoicing about their liberation.The soldiers were forbidden from entering the enclosure for fear of contracting diseases.The American soldiers threw cigarettes, candy, and other items over the fence to the prisoners until they were stopped.Mann stood outside of the gate to the enclosure under a sign reading "arbeit macht frei", which in English means "work makes you free."Mann encountered a man wearing striped pajamas, similar to what the camp inmates wore, standing outside of the enclosure.Mann spoke to the man and took him along, with permission from Sparks, as a guide.The only thing Mann recalls the man speaking to them about was when they arrived at a building containing showers. Outside the building were containers for shipping the ashes of those cremated at the camp.When Mann got back to the front gate he saw Gen. Linden [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Henning Linden], the assistant division commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, a 1 star general [Annotator's Note: 1 star = Brigadier General] from the air force, and some other officers from the 42nd standing out in front of the gate.General Linden ordered his men to put Mann's guide back into the enclosure.Mann didn't know if his guide was trustworthy or if he had been a "cappo," a trustee.Sparks and General Linden started talking about who was in charge. Sparks had been ordered by Colonel O'Brien, the regimental commander [Annotator's Note: commander of the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division], to take control of the camp and not to let anyone in or out. When General Linden tried to assume command of the camp, a major argument erupted.After Sparks threatened to take more drastic action, General Linden and his party left.Over the next day or 2, Sparks took General Frederick [Annotator's Note: US Army Major General Robert Tryon Frederick], commander of the 45th Division, and Colonel O'Brien on tours of the concentration camp.

Annotation

Many of the I Company GIs were upset at what they had seen, some more so than others.The I Company commander "lost it."The task of determining who was who was a difficult 1. Mann heard later that the German SS guards had fled the camp and left some soldiers and Hungarian guards to watch over the camp.Some of the GIs were more concerned with the care of the camp inmates.Mann read that a German officer officially turned over the camp to General Linden [Annotator's Note: Brigadier General Henning Linden, Assistant Divison Commander of the US 42nd Infantry Division]. Mann believes that the 45th Infantry Division GIs entered the camp at 1 end while General Linden entered the camp through the front door at the same time.The GIs didn't know what to expect when they entered the camp.There were some guards in the watch towers along the canal. Some were killed and the others were taken prisoner.It was upsetting to see the great numbers of prisoners in the camp so emaciated. It came as a shock to many of the soldiers because they couldn't even conceive of such a thing.Mann doesn't recall what he was thinking when he saw the camp. He supposes that he was not quite as surprised as the other GIs but it was still a shock. As far as what to do next, that was a decision for the officers.

Annotation

Mann doesn't recall smelling the camp before seeing it. Dachau was not as much of an extermination camp as it was a work camp. In the camp, Mann doesn't recall seeing any dead bodies.Seeing the bodies in the railroad cars before entering the camp gave him an impression that never left them.Even touring the camp with Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks], Mann only saw a limited area of the camp. The only 2 instances that stand out to Mann from his time at Dachau were the incident in the coal yard [Annotator's Note: the shooting of unarmed German prisoners by a machine gunner from M Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division after being ordered to do so by officers from I Company] and Sparks' confrontation with General Linden [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Henning Linden].Following the liberation of Dachau, Mann went to Munich where they stayed in an apartment building. After a few days, Sparks got word that he was being transferred and sent back to the United States. Mann, Johnson [Annotator's Note: Carlton Johnson, Sparks's runner], and a jeep driver drove Sparks to an allied headquarters in Alsace-Lorraine. Johnson stayed with Sparks and Mann and the jeep driver returned to Munich.Mann got leave to go to the French Riviera and took a train to Nice. The Riviera was not very exciting to Mann.When Mann returned to Munich, he discovered that there was an ongoing investigation into what happened at Dachau but he wasn't interviewed.Many people and army organizations claim to have liberated Dachau but didn't. A primary example, in Mann's opinion, is the 20th Armored Division. The 20th Armored Division wasn't anywhere near the Dachau concentration camp on the 29th of April [Annotator's Note: 29 April 1945].The Dachau concentration camp was liberated by the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Divison and by General Linden and his group from the 42nd Division. On the gate at Dachau, there is a plaque recognizing the 42nd Infantry Division liberating the camp and another plaque recognizing the 20th Armored Division but nothing dedicated to the 45th Division. Mann is not looking for credit he just believes that others shouldn't take credit for it.

Annotation

To Mann, Dachau was a major example of man's inhumanity to man.Maybe future generations can handle more effectively, the actions of others who would commit crimes like he saw at Dachau.The fighting in Europe was severe at times and at times very limited. The GIs who experienced combat in Europe felt as though they were cannon fodder.It was not a pleasant experience but had an impact on them.1 of the first things Mann learned when he was at Anzio was to look for holes in the ground for shelter from shells coming in. He learned to not just stand around and hope nothing happens to him. Self-preservation was paramount.Life in the field was an existance that is tough to describe to someone who has not had the same experiences.

Annotation

Prior to Mann being called to see Colonel Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks], Mann had met a few guys from the Counter Intelligence Corps [Annotator's Note: abbreviated CIC]. Their job sounded more interesting to him than what he was doing. Mann applied to be transferred from the infantry to the Counter Intelligence Corps.When Mann reported to Sparks he was told that he couldn't transfer out of the infantry but could be an interpreter. He accepted and was transferred from M Company to the 3rd Battalion Headquarters Company [Annotator's Note: M Company and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division].Sparks had a small staff with a jeep driver named Al Turk, a runner named Carlton Johnson, and now Karl Mann as an interpreter. Sparks was very formal with his staff. There was a barrier between them that was difficult to overcome but his men thought the world of him. He was respected by his men which continued after the war.Sparks would visit the rifle companies and work directly with the company commanders.Mann would have carried out any order given to him by Sparks.Mann passed through many small towns during the drive through Alsace-Lorraine, the most important of which was Reipertsweiller [Annotator's Note: Battle of Reipertsweiller, France in January 1945].Mann's whole battalion was lost at Reipertsweiller. It was 1 day in January 1945 and the battalion was heading up 1 side of a valley and Mann's group was driving their jeep up a paved road on the other side. The jeep hit an anti-tank mine.

Annotation

Aschaffenburg, Germany was secured quickly. The Germans sent word that they wanted to surrender but would only do so to someone of equal rank to the senior German officer. 1 sergeant became an officer and Mann pretended to be a sergeant and the 2 accepted the German surrender.Mann's group moved on to Nuremberg. Nuremberg was utterly destroyed.In Nuremberg Mann captured 2 German soldiers.From Nuremberg, Mann went south, across the Danube, and ended up at Dachau. Mann believes noone knew what they were going to see at Dachau.Sparks [Annotator's Note: US Army Brigadier General Felix Sparks] had been ordered to capture the concentration camp. Sparks ordered I Company, commanded by Captain William Walsh, to take the camp.Sparks, Johnson [Annotator's Note: Carlton Johnson, Sparks's runner], and Mann went with I Company to the concentration camp. They didn't know what to expect.Between the town of Dachau and the concentration camp, the company captured an SS soldier wearing a black SS uniform and a red cross armband.The company pushed the man around. The SS man made a run for the nearby woods and was shot and killed by the soldiers.Outside the camp the soldiers came across several railroad cars which were full of the bodies of inmates from other camps. The soldiers were very upset when they saw the contents of the train cars.Sparks and Mann did not see the inside of the railroad cars at that time because they were still moving on the camp.It is hard for Mann to remember the exact time frame of things happening.The first thing Mann recalls happening was the roar of excitement coming from the inmate housing area indicating that the soldiers had made it there.The next thing was their arrival at the coal yard. Any German guards found at the camp were brought by the I company men to the coal yard and lined up against a wall. I Company officers and men, along with some machine gunners from M Company, were there.Mann watched as a kid from a machine gun crew was ordered to set up his machine gun by officers from I Company. The kid was then ordered to fire at the German prisoners.Sparks, who had left the coal yard, rushed back into the area. Sparks fired his pistol into the air and stopped the shooting of the prisoners. Mann doesn't know how many of the prisoners were killed.The incident has been widely publicized over the years.Mann is surprised at the number of photographs of the incident. He doesn't remember anyone taking pictures.

Annotation

To Mann, Dachau was a major example of man's inhumanity to man.Maybe future generations can handle more effectively, the actions of others who would commit crimes like he saw at Dachau.The fighting in Europe was severe at times and at times very limited. The GIs who experienced combat in Europe felt as though they were cannon fodder.It was not a pleasant experience but had an impact on them.1 of the first things Mann learned when he was at Anzio was to look for holes in the ground for shelter from shells coming in. He learned to not just stand around and hope nothing happens to him. Self-preservation was paramount.Life in the field was an existance that is tough to describe to someone who has not had the same experiences.

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