Foreign Correspondence

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

"To give you some idea of just how fast this thing is moving, I can say that our Division has pushed 175 miles in the past month!! We will soon run out of German territory in which to push...."

Creasman and his division rarely stayed more than a day in one place. "Our daily news reports have read almost like earlier Russian dispatches lately. 'The Rainbow captured 100 towns today.' And 'The Rainbow cleared 75 towns today.' The infantry have to be mounted in trucks and the opposition has been withdrawing so fast they dismount for only a few minutes at most towns merely to see if there are any troops there. White flags are usually out already, so there's a quick check and they move on. Somewhere, soon, the enemy must stop to fight a determined action if he is planning any fight at all. Hitler is said to be planning a last-ditch fanatical stand at a 'last redoubt' here in the south, probably close to Berchtesgaden [his country retreat] in the mountains of Austria, and if so it may easily be the Rainbow that will have to dig him out."

The German countryside that spring was "so full of beauty, it hurts to look at," he wrote. "Green fields covering low rolling hills, pink-tiled villages nestling in little valleys and reflecting the afternoon sun for their roofs, with the church steeple invariably dominating their skyline. White swans in the town pond, age-crusted watch towers at every town gate, and the road passes under the tower thru a great arch. Forests and hills that surprise you by leaping suddenly from the farmlands... castles dominate these heights. Fruit trees are in bloom, everything is green, the roads are good and pleasantly winding, with intriguing country lanes leading off to the side."

Dorothy Creasman says the arrival of her husband's letters during the war was always a big occasion.
Paolo Vescia
Dorothy Creasman says the arrival of her husband's letters during the war was always a big occasion.
Jimmy Creasman, at the helm, came back to Arizona in 1947 and became known as "Mr. ASU."
courtesy of Dorothy Creasman
Jimmy Creasman, at the helm, came back to Arizona in 1947 and became known as "Mr. ASU."

His division was driving deeper into Bavaria: "home of Wagner -- supposed to be inhabited with the least war-like of Germans, large, easy-going, fun-loving peasant people. Well, they are peasants all right. They live in stone houses with built-in barns and stables, and have many privies, community pumps, manure piles, home-made brush brooms, cellars full of potatoes and sugar beets (the beets are for the livestock quartered in the house).... In the bigger towns these simple houses are mixed up with modern, luxurious houses. These last give the impression of having every comfort, and led one of our men to ask the other day, 'Why did these people want to go out and conquer the world when they had all of this?'

"That brings us to the Germans themselves. They seem docile enough, but it must be an act. As a cartoon shows it in today's Stars and Stripes, a G.I. is walking down the street of an occupied German village and from a hundred windows people wave white flags and shout 'Nobody here but us Anti-Nazis.' Yes, they are anxious to be Anti-Nazis now for a time while they hope it will do them some good, but just a week ago they were waving swastikas. And there is pathos. They are human. Two women were pulling a cart full of their clothes away from their living quarters in this castle yesterday -- they had just been ordered to vacate to make room for us. One of them -- perhaps with a touch of defiance -- asked, 'How long are you going to be here? This is our home and we're coming back.'

"This is the problem of Germany. A defeated nation with ruined cities, millions of the best (maybe that isn't the word) of them dead. No transportation. Very little food, burdened with the psychological nightmare of defeat. Feeling guilty, depressed, hopeless, vengeful, and full of self pity all at once. This is a hideous problem for the Allies. As one analyst put it in Time, these people seem willing enough to be told what to do by us.... They've always been used to having people tell them what to do. The general attitude seems to be, 'Germany is an Allied problem: go ahead and solve it for us, tell us what to do.' In a survey conducted not long ago, most Germans said they wished to be made some sort of American colony or protectorate. But on the heels of this attempt to shove all their problems onto our shoulders will come almost unbearable depression and frustration and discouragement.... These people have shown all the symptoms of the unstable people we study in abnormal psychology -- fits of high spirit and hope followed by plunges into the blackest despondency. And out of that plunge comes the pathological cruelty... and mental sickness that the world has seen too much of already, sickness called Naziism."

At the end of April 1945, with the Rainbow Division closing in from the north on the outskirts of Munich, Creasman saw just how far that sickness had gone. It was something he could never have imagined and would never forget.

On April 28, the Rainbow Division advanced to the small town of Dachau.

Allied commanders had known about Germany's concentration camps for some time. Soviet forces had liberated Majdanek in July 1944. In the months since January 1945, theirs and other Allied armies had taken Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Ohrdruff. At some of these camps, Nazi forces had tried to kill or ship prisoners by train ahead of the onrushing Allies. But the Dachau concentration camp was intact when the Rainbow Division got there on the morning of April 29.

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