The 12th Armored Division during World War II
As Allied troops moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Nazi Germany, they found tens of thousands of concentration camp prisoners in deplorable conditions. Malnutrition and disease were rampant, and corpses lay unburied. The soldiers reacted in shock and disbelief to the evidence of Nazi atrocities. In addition to burying the dead, the Allied forces attempted to help and comfort the survivors with food, clothing and medical assistance.
12th Armored Division Campaigns during World War II
Some five months after the D-Day invasion of western Europe by Allied forces, the 12th Armored Division entered France through the port of Le Havre and quickly made its way eastward toward Alsace by early December. In March 1945, the "Hellcats" advanced into the Rhineland and captured the city of Ludwigshafen on March 21. Deploying southward, the unit took the city of Würzburg early the next month. By the end of April, the 12th had advanced well into Bavaria and had reached the Danube River. The division ended the war in Austria.
The 12th Armored Division and the Liberation of a Dachau Subcamp
During its penetration of southern Germany, the 12th overran one of the many subcamps of Dachau in the Landsberg area on April 27, 1945.
Recognition as a Liberating Unit
The 12th Armored Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988.
12th Armored Casualty Figures
Casualty figures for the 12th Armored Division, European theater of operations:
- Total battle casualties: 3,527
- Total deaths in battle: 732
12th Armored Division Nickname
"Hellcats," the winning entry in a division contest for a nickname held in early in 1943, symbolized the 12th's toughness and readiness for combat.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What challenges did Allied forces face when they encountered the camps and sites of other atrocities?
- What challenges faced survivors of the Holocaust upon liberation?