A Liberating Tale of Camp Mittelbau-Dora

by Michael Ketchum

Robert Clark was born 6 September 1913 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri and fter graduation, he was employed by the Quaker Oats Company. Marrying childhood friend, Ellen Lacy Porter in 1938, he entered the US Army in 1940 as an infantry lieutenant. He commanded the 1st Battalion, 414th Infantry, 104th (Timberwolf) Infantry Division in campaigns in Belgium, Holland and Germany. In November of 1944, Bob Clark, then a Lt. Colonel, led the first night attack on German soil by American troops. Bob was promoted to Colonel and remained in the reserves after his discharge from the Army at the end of World War II.

Robert Roderick Clark, II
Robert Clark with his family (Photo Credit: Daughter, Kathy Clark)

On 11 April 1945, the 104th Infantry Division entered the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp complex, also known as Nordhausen, in Germany’s Thuringia region. Mittelbau-Dora was established in late summer 1943 as a subcamp of the Buchenwald camp supplying labor for extending the nearby tunnels in the Kohnstein and for manufacturing the V-2 rocket and V-1 flying bomb. Approximately 60,000 prisoners passed through the Mittelbau camps between August 1943 and March 1945. The precise number of people killed is impossible to determine. The SS files counted around 12,000 dead. In addition, an unknown number of unregistered prisoners died or were murdered in the camps.

Here is a letter Bob wrote to is wife after the liberation of Camp Mittelbau-Dora

A letter Bob wrote to his wife after the liberation of Camp Mittelbau-Dora
A letter Bob wrote to his wife after the liberation of Camp Mittelbau-Dora (Photo Credit: Daughter, Kathy Clark)

13 Apr 45

No 5

Darling: Well, we returned to regiment yesterday after a most interesting experience with the 3rd Armored. We were working on a flank & so regiment was about 40 miles ahead of us to the south. We’ll soon be on the move again, I’m sure.

I saw a sight today in this good sized city that one must see to believe. We saw in a concentration camp the bodies of 3200 people who had been starved to death. They had removed the ones still alive yesterday before we arrived, but they say most of them were unable to raise themselves from the ground. Those living were in with the dead-living in the same holes in the ground; in the same shacks. One of our advance field hospitals which is equipped to handle 45 patients is trying to take care of the 800 or so who were carried out alive.

About 80% of those in the camp were Russians & the rest were Poles, Slavs and a few French. Most were men but there were a few women & children. I saw some who had been removed from the camp & they looked no better than the dead. It’s impossible to describe the bodies of these starved individuals. It’s something I’ll always remember.

We heard about Roosevelt’s death today.

I have to go up & receive an order so will end.

I love you,