On July 18, 1944,
the 6th Armored Division landed on the Normandy beaches, some six weeks after the D-Day
invasion of western Europe. The "Super Sixth" was subsequently
assigned to General George
S. Patton's Third Army, and took part in the Allied counteroffensive
to stop the German advance during the Battle
of the Bulge. At the end of March 1945,
the unit crossed the Rhine River and moved quickly into central Germany.
After fording the Werra River and advancing deeper into the German
state of Thuringia, the 6th Armored Division overran the Buchenwald
concentration camp on April 11, 1945. When the U.S. troops arrived,
the SS guards had fled and
the prisoners had taken control of the camp. Several inmates had left
the camp in the interim in order to contact the U.S. troops in the vicinity.
They approached members of the 6th Armored Division with information
about the camp. The first U.S. troops arrived in Buchenwald shortly
thereafter, to be greeted by the cheers of the liberated prisoners. The "“Super Sixth” reported that some 21,000
inmates were still in the camp. In the days preceding the camp's liberation,
the SS had evacuated thousands of inmates on death marches.
Casualty figures for the 6th Armored Division, European theater of
Total battle casualties: 4,670
Total deaths in battle: 993