The 4th Infantry Division
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.
Created in late 1917, the 4th Infantry Division served with distinction during World War I. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), the "Ivy" division was the first US unit to land on Utah Beach. Two months later, on August 25, 1944, it liberated Paris. In September, it crossed the border into Germany, fighting in the Hürtgen Forest and in the Battle of the Bulge. In late March 1945, the 4th crossed the Rhine River and a few weeks later captured the German city of Nuremberg. By the end of April, the unit had advanced deep into Bavaria.
During the march into southern Germany, the 4th discovered in late April 1945 the site of a Dachau subcamp near Haunstetten. Built to service a Messerschmitt aircraft plant, Haunstetten was one of the biggest subcamps in Nazi Germany. On April 13, 1944, Allied air attacks had destroyed the plant and the camp that serviced it.
The 4th Infantry Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1992.
Casualty figures for the 4th Infantry Division, European theater of operations:
- Total battle casualties: 22,660
- Total deaths in battle: 4,907
The 4th Infantry Division's nickname, the "Ivy" division, is derived from the divisional insignia developed during World War I: four ivy leaves on a diamond field, symbolizing the roman numeral "IV."
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?