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Harold "Archie" Dunbar oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (17 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (8 p.)
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsch (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
Interview conducted June 18, 2008.
The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 2010) and Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project, University of South Florida Libraries, 2010 Michael Hirsh.
Transcripts, excerpts, or any component of this interview may be used without the author's express written permission only for educational or research purposes. No portion of the interview audio or text may be broadcast, cablecast, webcast, or distributed without the author's express written permission.
This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Harold "Archie" Dunbar. Dunbar was a sergeant in the 42nd Infantry Division, which liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. In this interview, he describes some of his experiences during the Battle of the Bulge and leading up to the discovery of Dachau. Dunbar was at Dachau for about an hour before he had to move on with his division to Munich. After the war, he was stationed at Camp Marcus W. Orr, a POW camp near Salzburg, before coming home in late 1945.
Infantry Division, 42nd.
Infantry Division, 42nd
v Personal narratives.
Dachau (Concentration camp)
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945
Crimes against humanity.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center.
University of South Florida.
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Oral History Program.
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
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xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Michael Hirsh: Okay. Why dont youspell your name for me, please.
Harold Dunbar: I go by Archie, A-r-c-h-i-e.
HD: Dunbar, D-u-n-b-a-r.
MH: Okay. Whats your real first name?
HD: Harold, H-a-r-o-l-d.
MH: And whats your date of birth, please?
HD: Its December 5, twenty-four .
MH: Okay, making you?
MH: Eighty-three. What unit were you in?
HD: 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division.
MH: Okay. I think I got your name from Dee Eberhart in the 42nd.
Dee Eberhart was also interviewed for the Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is C65-00035.
HD: Oh, yeah. Okay.
MH: Cause I went to the reunion that you had in Mobile [Alabama].
HD: Oh, okay.
MH: Okay. First of all, tell me a little bit about where you grew up and what you did before the army.
HD: I grew up around Desoto [Iowa] here all my life. Lets see, I got out of school in 1942, and then I helped work on a farm for about a year and a half. And then I went into the service in forty-four .
MH: You enlisted or you were drafted?
HD: I think I was drafted, but it might have been enlisted. I cant remember.
MH: So, where did they send you when you first went in?
HD: Camp Fannin, Texas.
MH: Okay. When did you hook up with the 42nd?
HD: Well, I was in Camp Fannin, Texas four months, and then the Battle of the Bulge was breaking out, so thats all the training I had. They sent me right overseas, and I met up with the Rainbow over there.
MH: So, you were a replacement?
MH: Okay. Im just curious: when you only have four months of training and then they say, Were sending you to war, you get nervous about that?
HD: Not really. I didnt like Texas; it was hot down there and I was ready to move on. So really, I was glad to move over there, wherever they took us. I done made the wrong move, but theres nothing you could do about it. You went where they sent you.
MH: Right. So, where did you join the 42nd?
HD: Lets see, I laid at Marseilles, France. And then the next morning or the next day, they shipped us on a truckId say about forty miles north of Marseillesand then I went from there on to the end of the war.
MH: Okay. What company and regiment did they put you in, do you remember?
HD: Yeah, Company L, 232nd [Regiment].
MH: What was your first combat?
HD: Well, just soon as I hit the firstthe next day I got over there. Combat all the rest of the way.
MH: You remember what the first one was like?
HD: Ill tell you what: just damn scared. Twenty-four hours a day thatyeah, you can hardly forget anything. But, no, it was terrible. (laughs) But anyway
MH: It was cold, too, wasnt it?
HD: It was cold asI had heard after the war, the weather was the coldest they had over there in fifty years, and then I heard it was also the coldest they ever had over there.
MH: Yeah, pretty much.
HD: The worst thing is, they sent us over there with no overshoes, no gloves, and there we were. Never got back in a house, never hadonly had one hot meal all the time we was on the lines there.
MH: For how long?
HD: Four and a half months.
MH: Four and a half months with one hot meal?
MH: How did you deal with the cold? Howd you keep from getting frostbitten?
HD: We had two blankets, and thats all. You tried to get next to a buddy come night, and hope you get a buddy, then wed pull one hour on and one hour off, roughly. We didnt have watches where we could tell when an hours up or anything.
MH: Right. Were you guys attacked at night?
HD: Oh, yeah, yeah. Theyd try to get over to our lines, and wed try to get back over in their line. They justwe done this road between us there for about two and a half weeks. Were making no headway, so finally they took seventy of us off the front line at midnight. Then they took us back to a little town, Lutzelbourg, and gave us orientation till two oclock in the morning. Then I was supposed to meet the enemy and see how strong they were. Come two oclock, they lined us up like a bunch of sheep. We went down a road, and I dont know, it probably wasnt noticed. It was just about the break of day, and I dont know what happened. All hell broke loose. And lets see, there wasI think seventeen of us come back, out of the seventy that went over there on that patrol that morning.
MH: The others were all KIA [killed in action]?
HD: Well, either that or killed. My two buddiesmy best foxhole buddy had been with me about two and half weeks; he got killed right within about twelve feet of me. And another one was on downI dont know how many ahead of us, probably twenty other guys aheadand then he got killed, too.
MH: This was rifle fire or incoming mortars or artillery?
MH: And they just marched you down the road?
HD: Oh, yeah. Had to get over there some way.
MH: So, how does that end?
HD: Howd that end?
HD: My God, I retreated back. I was one of the lucky ones out of that seventy to get back. I took off a firearm, had to run backwardI was trying to fire and keep them away from us and then ran out of ammunition, and I just took off runnin. Got back to our lines.
MH: What were you shooting, an M1?
HD: M1, yeah.
MH: Yeah. And once you got back to the lines, what happens?
HD: Well, we checked in and let them know were back, and thats all there was to it.
MH: How do you deal with the guys who had been injured or, you know, who had been hit or been killed?
HD: Well, at the moment, there was no way to get them back.
HD: That was March 7 when that was, that patrol was.
MH: Thats March 7 of forty-five ?
MH: Yeah. And so then what happens?
HD: Well, we pulled back in a little town there; I cant think of the name of the town. Were getting some more recruits up, but we didnt get anymore recruits up; got about four or five truckloads, which didnt amount to thirty or forty to a truckload. And after that, we joined up with, I think, the 7th Army and 7th Division. Thats what they called Blood and Guts; I cant think of his name [George S. Patton] right now. And we went on to him the rest of the way. And I gotthey gave us
MH: That was infantry or armor?
HD: It was the infantry.
HD: Yeah. I got the Combat Infantry Badge right away when I got hooked up with him.
MH: Were you wounded at all?
HD: No, no. I was very, very fortunate.
MH: So, you hook up with the 7th and then what? Move forward?
HD: Yeah. Well, we went there on up across. We scattered eight miles east and west, headed north up across France, and we went upI cant remember the name of the town.
MH: So, that battle that you just talked about was in France, not in Germany?
HD: That was in France, yes. And then we crossed over back over into Germany then, and went to Schweinfurtthere was a big ball bearing plant thereand we took that over. We did get a break there. I think we spent two or three days in a Germanwhere the Germans stayedand got rested up, then we took off. Went south, I think. Wrzburg, Nuremberg, and lets see. Then we went into the Dachau prison camp. I think that was on
MH: Dachau was on April 29.
HD: I was going to say about May 1.
MH: April 29. But back up a little. Whats going on just before you got to Dachau?
HD: Just taking one town at a time as we come back south.
MH: It was moving pretty fast by then?
HD: Oh, yeah, we was moving quite fast.
MH: Were you riding in Jeeps and trucks, or were you walking?
HD: Oh, walked all the way.
HD: Oh, yeah. But then, after Dachauwe didnt stop there, really. I mean, some of that outfit did, and I had an hour. My buddy went in and took some pictures. He wasnt supposed to, but he did.
MH: What did you see at Dachau?
HD: I didnt see nothing. The war was coming to an end, and we pushed on to Munich. And, lets see. As we hit the northwest corner of Munich, the Brgermeisterthat was a main guy in town, like a mayor or cop or whatever it was. He met us there and told us that theres about as much underground as there was aboveground in that town, and there could be SS troopers down underground there. So, I took a squad of menoh, by the way, when we joined the 7th Army, they made me sergeant and wanted me to lead a bunch of men. I said, Hell, I cant lead myself, let alone somebody else.
Anyway, I took over, and hit Munich then. I took a squad of men and went down underneath in Hitlers beer garden. It was all set up, tables, for a big party that they were planning on having. And anyway, I tookthe tables were all set and everything. I hadnt seen any silverware or anything for about four and a half months, and I grabbed up some of Hitlers napkins and about twenty-one pieces of silverware and stuff, wrapped up and got it home. Wasnt supposed to have that either, but
MH: Did it have German insignia on it?
HD: Oh, yeah, yeah. AH and all the insignias on the thing. But anyway, the warwe just got in. I think we was in there about two days when the war ended, and then they gave us two days off. On the two days off, we had to either get somebody to wash our clothes, orwe had the same clothes on as what we started out with after the war. Either that, or have some women wash them; or, if theyre torn up, well, then theyd get us some new ones. Well, that was kind of the end of the story on that.
And then, they loaded us on trucks after the second day and headed us south, going back to Marseilles or somewhere. We were supposed to go over to end over in Japan. As we get down the roadId say about maybe forty miles againthey got word that we didnt have to go to Japan, so they sent us on to Austria for army of occupation down there, and we ended up in Salzburg. Theres a prison camp out there, eastI think it was east of Salzburg [in Glasenbach]. I went down there and got some German prisoners and made them make beds and stuff, bunk beds to sleep in for all the prisoners, and stuff.
MH: Did you go into that camp?
HD: Oh, yeah. Yes.
MH: Which camp was that? Do you remember?
HD: I got it in my books. Oh, yeah, Camp Marcus W. Orr.
MH: Marcus W. Orr?
HD: Yeah. O-r-r.
MH: That was a German name or an American name?
HD: No, thats a German name. That was a German prison camp.
MH: Okay. And who was in it?
HD: All German prisoners. They had big towers in the air where we put our boys up there, so if they tried to break through the fences theyd get shot down with machine guns. That worked pretty well. I come home, then, in December, somewhere right after Christmas, I think. That was the end. I never did go back over.
MH: Whatd you do when you came home?
HD: I had a TDY [temporary duty assignment], they called it. We were supposed to have ten days after we left Texas; everybody was to have ten days at home before they went overseas. Well, they got iced in down there in Texas and planes couldnt get out, so I only had three days at home and then went right overseas. Anyway, thats how I got to come home early. I was on that to finish my TDY, and then I was supposed to go back over. But something happened; they lost my papers and everything. I didnt go back over. I went down toafter I stayed home, I went on down to Kentucky, a camp down there, and I finished out my time down there. And thats pretty well the end of the thing, as far as I can remember.
MH: Do you know any of the guys that went into Dachau? Are they still around?
HD: No. In fact, Ive only got two army buddies left that I knowed. Ones in Burlington, Iowa, and heslets see, hes eighty-nine now, and hes in a nursing home. And the other one lives inthat one there was Marion Kuntz in Burlington. I nicknamed him Smokey; hes always smoking back there then.
MH: And he made it to eighty-nine, huh?
HD: Yes. But he told me here about five years ago, he said, Archie, I wish Id have listened to you back there after the war was over there to quit smoking. So, anyways, too late then. Then I had another buddy, Jerry Alver in Wisconsin; hes still living but got the Alzheimers. But he still knows me and everything. I call him quite often.
MH: Ah, okay. Where is Desoto, Iowa?
HD: About eighteen, twenty miles west of Des Moines, Iowa.
MH: Okay. All right. Well
HD: Got any other questions?
MH: Nope. I thank you very, very much.
MH: I appreciate it. Thank you very much, sir.
HD: You betcha.
MH: Okay, take care.