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"I'll never forget the sight… they were loading up [trucks] with the guys who hadn’t made it through the minefields…" (Video interview, 42:03)

   Robert James Tweed
Collection image
Robert Tweed [detail from video interview]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: Company B, 242nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division (Rainbow), 7th Army
Service Location: Camp Hahn, California; Amarillo Air Base, Texas; Camp Gruber, Oklahoma; European Theater
Rank: Captain
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Captain Robert Tweed’s unit, the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division, achieved post-war fame for their liberation of Dachau. Focusing only on this part of the unit’s story, though, obscures their earlier experiences. As he relates, the horrific sights that the Rainbow Division witnessed at the concentration camp came at the end of a grueling winter and spring spent in combat along the Rhine River. In his oral history interview, he relates participating in a continuous three-day tank battle, as well as mounting an offensive through the Siegfried Line, an area riddled with landmines. As he relates, the costs of war were high for all involved--the liberated prisoners of Dachau, the American soldiers who died clearing the minefields, the German soldiers who were no more than children, and the starving civilians who picked through the Americans’ garbage looking for food during the post-war occupation.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (92 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Baptism by fire along the Rhine River; didn’t get winter gear for a couple of months; extreme cold; many had issues with keeping their feet warm and dry; losing one man in unit to foot trouble. (02:46) Three-day battle with the Germans; no supplies; trying to fight back against a tank attack; not taking prisoners; losing two-thirds of the battalion; losing all company officers except for one; being given a battlefield commission; accepting it because it meant time away from the line. (09:57) Heading up a machine gun platoon; taking in replacements; trying to train new soldiers for combat. (02:18)
Had been on defensive; now going to attack through the Siegfried Line; going through minefields; other units set the path through the minefields; seeing casualties caused by the mines. (01:34) Division general ordering an officer and two enlisted men from each company to witness Dachau the day after liberation; just like in the pictures; liberating one surviving prisoner who had been locked in a boxcar. (01:11) Occupational duties; seeing starving civilians going through soldiers’ garbage to scavenge food. (00:45)

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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