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At the liberated Quellendorf concentration camp:
a 3rd Armored Division officer (arrow) is embraced.



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, CT.

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