Foreign Correspondence

More letters from the battlefield: A Phoenix soldier witnesses the destruction of Europe in 1945

"Coupled with this economic unrest and instability is the frightful distrust which the Viennese have for the Russians.... The smart Austrians fill the easy-going dumb Americans with horror stories about the Russians (which all our boys believe). And then they also tell the Russians horror stories about the Americans. Play both sides against the middle. It's amazing how many of our officers and men fear the Russians.... I'm afraid the net result of this war is that most American soldiers now say that the Germans and Austrians are the finest, cleanest, prettiest, sweetest people they have seen anywhere outside the U.S. Also that the Russians are swine, and the Displaced Persons are dirty, undesireable [sic], unambitious, and deserve to be outcasts. In other words, they like their former enemies and hate their allies and the poor enslaved people we were supposed to be 'liberating.'

"Have you read the stories about the furor caused about the Jews here? We 'liberated' them. Yet up until a week or so ago they were being treated almost as badly as they were under the Nazis. It took a personal visit from General Eisenhower and several scorching directives from him to get anything done. Now that we're at least trying to get them decent places to live, about 500 of them are being sent to Salzburg and we have been ordered to find them billets 'at least as good as those occupied by American troops.' I've heard quite a bit of squawking about that already. In other words, we aren't living up to all that we preached while we were fighting...

"The crux of the matter is this: no people on earth are as inexperienced and untrained to govern anybody as the American Army. We just ain't got it.... Every day I hear men in our own Headquarters say, shaking their heads, 'We might be trained to fight a war, but I'll be g--------d if we can run a country.'

Creasman trained in Texas, then joined the Army's Rainbow Division in Oklahoma.
Creasman trained in Texas, then joined the Army's Rainbow Division in Oklahoma.
Jimmy Creasman's favorite photograph of himself from the war, taken in Germany after weeks of no showers and continual advances by his infantry division.
courtesy of Dorothy Creasman
Jimmy Creasman's favorite photograph of himself from the war, taken in Germany after weeks of no showers and continual advances by his infantry division.

"However, I shouldn't be too harsh. Never in history has any Army tackled a problem as big as ours.... It's colossal. And I see signs that in spite of our inefficiency and confusion, we're pulling through.... We're at least TRYING to be fair.... We are not being cruel...

"Europe is sick unto death. I sometimes despair of ever seeing it otherwise. And this despair is deepened when I realize that Europe's sickness is catching.

"...Please forgive the doleful dismal note upon which I end this. Things may not be as bad as all that. Darling, please show this letter to Mom and Dad. You are the only link they have had with me for a long time...."

By the time Jimmy Creasman came home in the summer of 1946, his daughter, Martha Dee, had lived longer without him than with him. He landed in New York and caught a train to Phoenix. The family legend about his return to Litchfield Park has it that when his daughter laid eyes on him, she insisted, 'You're not my Daddy. You're just a funny little man. That's my Daddy,' she said, pointing to the photographs Creasman's wife had placed around the living room.

She quickly got over it.

Creasman moved his family to New York that year, and resumed working for Voice of America. In 1947, Grady Gammage, then-president of Arizona State College, offered Creasman the job as the school's first full-time alumni director. Dorothy Creasman recalls sitting at the kitchen table in New York and drawing up a list of pros and cons. The pros won, so back they came.

Except for a stint running an ASU-sponsored Peace Corps program in Brazil, from 1964 to 1967, this is where the Creasmans remained. Creasman became the school's director of university relations in 1967. He came to be known as "Mr. ASU" for his long service with the school. He led the successful ballot effort in 1958 to change the school's name to Arizona State University. For years, he showed up at just about every Saturday home football game to be the voice of the Sun Devil Marching Band. He retired from the university in 1984, but kept an office there for years afterward.

Creasman had been right about Dachau. He carried it with him the rest of his life. Whenever a book was written about it, he bought it. Whenever he came across articles featuring old Rainbow Division soldiers recounting their experiences at Dachau, he wrote to them. He kept dozens of photocopies of the article he'd written for the Rainbow Division's newsletter and distributed them to anyone who asked. He also kept photographs of the terrible things he witnessed there.

Dachau was the first thing he mentioned to me about the war when I met him in the alley two years ago. The thoughts and images it stirred up still made him shake his head. "I just had no idea," he told me. "All those bodies and the smell. You just couldn't have imagined anything that perverse."

In the few months before he died, Creasman had very little strength, his grandson Robert Miller, an attorney with the state Attorney General's Office, told me recently. "He couldn't get out of bed, and he couldn't speak very loudly at all. Yet he talked over and over about Dachau and what he had seen there. And he kept the books about it right there beside his bed."

Creasman died last August, at age 85.

Contact Edward Lebow at his online address:

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets