What did Japanese soldiers call American soldiers?

200,000 prisoners were captured and tortured in the Dachau concentration camp between 1933 and 1945. Over 40,000 of them died. The Nazi atrocities ended 75 years ago - US soldiers liberate the camp. Also included: a Japanese-born special unit to which Clarence Matsumura belongs. This is his story.

  • The Second World War ended 75 years ago, on May 8, 1945.
  • US soldiers liberated the Dachau concentration camp at that time.
  • A Japanese-born special unit to which Clarence Matsumura belonged was also in action.
  • 200,000 prisoners were captured and tortured in the Dachau concentration camp between 1933 and 1945. Over 40,000 of them died. The Nazi atrocities ended 75 years ago - US soldiers liberate the camp. Also included: a Japanese-born special unit to which Clarence Matsumura belongs. This is his story.

    Munich / Waakirchen - They called her Nisei. It is the Japanese word for the second generation Japanese who were born and raised in the USA in the 1920s - and after the Japanese shock attack on Pearl Harbor / Hawaii on December 7, 1941, suddenly became something like enemies within themselves Had become land.

    The Nisei and the Issei (the US citizens who were still born in Japan) were now something like the fifth column. "Get rid of the Japs", get rid of the "Japs", was a racist slogan often heard by American hardliners at the time. It was only months before the Liberal President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, legalizing an inglorious chapter of American history: Suddenly, many of the 130,000 or so Japanese-born US citizens who lived on the west coast found themselves in the internment camp. No concentration camp with agony and torture - of course not. But barracks in the pampas, mass quarters, guarded and with barbed wire, albeit with a good supply situation. There were ten of these camps, mostly in the Midwest, and one of them, Heart Mountain, Wyoming, was where Clarence Matsumura lived with his family.

    End of the war 75 years ago: Matsumura enters the concentration camp in Dachau - but only briefly

    Matsumura can no longer be questioned, the little wiry man died a few years ago. But when the Californian visited Upper Bavaria in 1992, he told a story that is worth remembering. It is the story of the Japanese internment prisoner who escaped into the US army and then at the end of the Second World War first liberated the prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp and then put himself on the heels of the notorious Dachau death march. From Dachau towards Munich, then on to Starnberg and Wolfratshausen. On the way they stopped and asked locals where the concentration camp inmates had gone.

    It was not entirely harmless, as Matsumura described it in a speech that our editorial team has in English. The young Americans feared the columns of civilians they met on the streets. It could also be soldiers in civilian clothes who would attack them from an ambush - Matsumura used the American term "snipers". But it did not get to that.

    They finally caught up with the prisoners on April 30, 1945, roughly on the Bad Tölz, Waakirchen, Miesbach line. At first he only saw the dead, that's how Matsumura described it. Dead bodies on the roadside in striped jackets and pants. Then he finally met the first survivors.

    Of course, on that unusually cold April day - it had snowed again in the hours before - Matsumura was not alone. A whole unit, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, consisted of Japanese US soldiers. About 650 men, highly decorated, specialists in precise, mathematically calculated artillery fire behind the fighting force. They had been in action in Europe since 1943, first in Italy, then in France, where they achieved reverberating fame to this day in the Vosges with the liberation of the Lost Battalion, an almost abandoned army unit. In March, however, their area of ​​operation changed, they were now front-line fighters themselves.

    That was the situation when the 25-year-old Matsumura and his comrades reached Dachau on April 29, 1945. Since some of the soldiers had cameras with them, the following is well documented by photos. The story of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp has been told many times. It was not the 522nd Battalion that was the main liberator of the Dachau concentration camp, but a division of the 45th US Infantry Division under Colonel Sparks who, together with US soldiers from the 42nd Infantry Division, opened the camp gates - and then suddenly opened them inside the camp the horror par excellence: a long freight train that had only arrived the day before after weeks of wandering from the Buchenwald concentration camp. In the wagons were mountains of corpses, a total of 2,300 concentration camp prisoners who had starved to death or were simply shot.

    Also read: Second World War: The murderous war finale in Upper Bavaria

    For the Jerusalem historian Daniel Blatman, who has investigated the death marches, the train was simply a "rolling extermination facility" - which stunned the Americans and led to the spontaneous execution of a few dozen SS men, newly recruited guards.

    End of the war of 75 years: The US soldiers brought milk powder for the ex-prisoners

    Clarence Matsumura had also entered the camp, but only briefly. He later remembered the main gate with the infamous inscription “Arbeit macht frei”, and also the crematorium. But other troops were already in the picture, prisoners were taken care of, cameramen documented the horror. There was nothing left for the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion to do - an order was issued to follow up on the columns of prisoners that had headed south the days before.

    In those days at the end of April, the streets of Upper Bavaria must have been full of miserable figures in striped prisoner clothing. "In addition to the large transports from the main camp, there were a number of smaller groups of inmates from remote work detachments on their way south," says Blatman's study. From Riem, Allach and other small camps. SS guards drove thousands of prisoners in long columns from Landsberg and Kaufering in the direction of Dachau, and from there several large groups of prisoners headed south - mostly on foot. Despite the snowfall, the prisoners' feet were only covered in rags or painful wooden clogs. Those who could no longer were shot. A freight train was also turned into an extermination facility on wheels, with which 4,000 prisoners from the Mühldorf subcamp were first led to Poing, then after an odyssey to Tutzing - in the middle of it all was the young Max Mannheimer, who later gave an impressive report after decades of silence.

    Matsumura and his people chased after the prisoners, who they discovered near the snow-covered farmhouses near Waakirchen. In his speech, the veteran impressively described how he shooed prisoners into barns, where they could at least warm up a little. How he then got women and men (“there were only older men there”, he wondered; but the younger ones were at war) to heat water so that the prisoners could warm their half-frozen feet.

    The young US soldiers had almost nothing to eat, but they found powdered milk and egg somewhere. The local farmers then helped with the preparation. Hungry, as Matsumura described it, ex-prisoners rushed to eat in the kitchens, there was immediate scuffle, no one lined up properly (“they knew nothing of lining up”).

    Then the 522nd unit had to continue, the war wasn't quite over yet. Photos show the Japanese-born soldiers days later on the next stage, at Hitler's burnt-out Berghof near Berchtesgaden. Only then was it over. Matsumura returned home - and soon went into the next battle: the Korean War in 1950. He only became a civilian in 1951.

    Also read: “It haunts me for a lifetime” - Munich resident experienced Dresden's destruction 75 years ago