ABOVE: 1LT John G. O'Brien, of Headquarters Co, 2 Bn,
32nd Armored Regiment, (arrow) receives gratitude from camp victims
for their surprise liberation on that day in mid-April, 1945.
On the 3AD advance between Nordhausen and Dessau, O'Brien and
a platoon of Sherman tanks from 2 Bn, 32nd AR, had pulled off
into the small town of Quellendorf and discovered, by accident,
a small fenced-in camp of about 500 prisoners. Most of them were
Russian and Polish civilians.
The camp had been deserted by its German guards, and the prisoners
were left confused and fearful, and without food. The sudden
arrival of strange new tanks and troops did nothing to ease that
fear, which was not helped by the fact that none of the prisoners
spoke English. Finally, the unbelievable truth set in that these
were actually American soldiers, and, with what energy they had
left, a celebration began.
O'Brien recalls that there was a wide diversity in the physical
condition and clothing of the prisoners. While there were no
dead bodies lying about, such as seen in Nordhausen, there were
clearly men who were sick and starving. On the other hand, others
seems fairly well feed. Some wore striped prison "pajamas,"
while others were almost neatly dressed in sweaters and jackets.
But before O'Brien or his unit could get to understand what the
camp was about, war beckoned, and the 32nd AR was on the move
again. The camp would be left for rear forces of 7th Corps and
the First Army to sort out.
O'Brien remained with the 3rd Armored Division for its occupation
role after war's end, and, then as a Captain, was present at
the ceremonies on a dark and rainy day, as he recalls, when Spearhead
was formally deactivated at VI Corps headquarters garrison at
Aalen, Germany, east of Stuttgart. Today John lives in Kennsington,