45th US Infantry Division shoulder patch. The division participated in the invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky), commanded by MG Troy H Middleton.
The 45th Division’s original shoulder patch insignia at the beginning of the war had featured a Native American emblem similar in appearance to the Nazi Swastika. Since it looked too much like the enemy’s insignia, the 45th changed their emblem to the Native American Thunderbird.
As the war in Europe was nearing its end in April 1945, the 45th U.S. Infantry Division, an Oklahoma National Guard unit, occupied the Bavarian cites of Nuremberg and Munich. These cities had figured greatly in the formation of the Nazi Party in the 1930s.
On April 27 soldiers from the 45th Division, together with other units, liberated the Dachau concentration camp. The shocking scenes of Nazi brutality found there reminded them that their war against Hitler was a just cause.
The unit had seen combat in Sicily and Italy (at Anzio) and had been part of the invasion of southern France in OPERATION DRAGOON on August 15, 1944. By the end of the war the 45th Division’s casualties totaled 3,547 killed, 533 mortally wounded, and 14,441 wounded who survived.
As Allied armies liberated places like Dachau, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck, and Sobibor, the extent of Nazi atrocities became clear. Millions of innocent Europeans, many of them Jews, had been systematically murdered.
General Eisenhower felt total revulsion when he toured the Ohrdruf death camp outside the town of Gotha in early April 1945. The Supreme Allied Commander, after seeing first hand the emaciated and tortured corpses, ordered a record to be kept for the purpose of documenting these crimes against humanity.
Cloth. H 8.3, W 8.2 cm
Eisenhower National Historic Site, EISE 11291.