Monday, May 25 Memorial Day

Written by Jack van Ommen on May 26th, 2015

Coincidence that this came to light on Memorial Day?

I came across an article in the June 2014 issue of the “Reveille”, a quarterly newsletter of the Rainbow Division Veterans Foundation Brigade. The name Jaap van Mesdag is mentioned. He is a 93 year old Dutch political prisoner survivor of  Dachau.  The main camp was liberated on April 29 1945 by the Rainbow Division of the 7th US Army Infantry Division. When I e-mailed the publisher/historian of the “Reveille” to bring to his attention the “AGFA-Commando” and our mother’s short stint with the American Warp Press contingent after her liberation, he asked me if I could tell him which unit intercepted the Death March at Wolfratshausen. I had always assumed that this would have been the same Rainbow Division. But it turns out that it was the 12th infantry regiment of the 4th Infantry Division that crossed the Isar River into Wolfratshausen at daybreak on May 1st. On May 2nd, units of the 101st Airborne division joined the 12th infantry regiment in Wolfratshausen and relieved the 4th Infantry Division a few days later. Thus the German AGFA-Commando camp commander, Stirnweis, surrendered to the 12th infantry regiment on May 1st and received MP protection for the approximately 450 Death March prisoners; who had found temporary shelter in the Walser Hof farm hayloft.

The 12th infantry regiment had landed in Normandy, took part in the liberation of Paris, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, with the 101st Airborne Division. J.D Salinger author of “Catcher in the Rye” happened to be part of the 12th infantry regiment at Wolfratshausen.

It just so happens that my very first assignment, in 1961, in my two years of military service was with the 57th Transportation Battalion which was attached to the 4th Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Washington.  Including the 12th Infantry Regiment. Had I known this at that time I might have been able to exchange some  facts about the Wolfratshausen experience. In November 1961 we shipped out to Vietnam with our 20 twin rotor H-21 Helicopters. We were the first full company to arrive in Vietnam. President Kennedy had sent his secretary of defense, Major General Maxwell Taylor to Vietnam and he came back with the suggestion to help the Vietnamese army with helicopter support. General Taylor was the commander of the 101st Airborne Division in May 1945. The 12th infantry regiment shipped to Pleiku from Fort Lewis in 1966.

I am hoping that through this new contact with Jaap van Mesdag, Suellen Mc Daniel and Frank Burns I may have some more details to report about the event that took place seventy years ago. Who knows I might even get an opportunity to thank a survivor of the liberators who, at great risk and sacrifice, losing many of their comrades on the way to Wolfratshausen, brought our freedom back.



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