World War II had a huge impact on my family, and this week we’re commemorating a particularly special event that took place 70 years ago.
On 29 April 1945, U.S. troops liberated the prisoner of war camp near Moosburg, Germany. The initial report in the New York Times stated, “Huge Prison Camp Liberated…27,000 American and British prisoners of war at a large camp at Moosburg.”
The following day the Times printed a correction: “The Fourteenth Armored Division liberated 110,00 Allied prisoners of war at Moosburg, instead of the 27,000 prisoners previously reported. This was Germany’s largest prisoner of war camp.”
George Henrichsen was one of those POWs. Some years later he would become my father.
If you’re a student of military history or if you know someone who was a POW, you’ll appreciate this comprehensive blog posting by Jim Lankford about what occurred at Stalag VIIA during the last days of April 1945: https://armyhistory.org/the-14th-armored-division-and-the-liberation-of-stalag-viia/
One can imagine the joy and the relief, and Lankford effectively paints a picture:
The liberators had arrived and the prisoners were now finally safe. As the realization of this sank in, scenes of wild rejoicing accompanied the tanks as they crashed through the double, 10-foot wire fences of the prison camps. There were Norwegians, Brazilians, French, Poles, Dutch, Greeks, Rumanians, Bulgars. There were Americans, Serbs, Italians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians, British, Canadians – men from every nation fighting the Nazis. There were officers and men, including twenty-seven Red Army generals, the sons of four American generals, and men of every rank and branch of service. There were also a number of war correspondents and radio men.
They rushed to greet their liberators. So many flowed over and around the tanks, peeps and half-tracks, that even the huge Sherman tanks completely disappeared beneath a mass of jubilant humanity. “You damned bloody Yanks, I love you!” shouted a six-foot-four Australian as he threw his arms around a peep driver…
(Just in case you thought it was a typographical error, “peep” was the term soldiers generally used during WWII to describe the Willys jeep.)
Hurrah for the Fourteenth Armored Division!