February 1, 2010
Dear Sen. Kerry,
During our phone conversation of January 29, 2010 your aide Brady Vanengelen asked me to forward to you both my thoughts and response to Pete Geren’s letter dated Sept, 9, 2009. Please know that I am indebted to you and your staff for your continued commitment.
“The USHMC and USCMM established procedures and criteria for determining which US Army Units The Museum would recognize as liberating units." This is true, but it was established as a tandem project, in this case the USCMH has left the USHMM out of the process. The role of the USCMH is to verify the location of the unit. The location of the 1st Battalion was verified in the After Action Report For April 1945, Headquarters 301st. Infantry procured for us by Sen. Kennedy.
Portions of the 4th and 5th paragraph of the Sept. 9th letter are inaccurate. The 94th lead the Drive to the Rhine, they were not relieving positions at this point in time. The historians seem to be confused and focusing on the wrong time period. Thomas Manthey’s reaction to these paragraphs was “We weren’t following anyone. Those persons at the prison certainly gave no indication that they had already been liberated!”
“We were at the Front and approaching Ludwigshaven, about 5 miles short of it, when the American captured planes lead by a Messerschmitt flew over us, and we abandoned our convoy and headed for the ditches. We were ordered to hold off and go in and take it (Ludwigshaven) in the morning, so we bunked out in some nearby houses. They decided to let the tanks go through, but they found that the tanks had been slaughtered. We then went through Ludwigshaven, the Germans had retreated, and it was outside of Ludwigshaven, where we came across this camp. After we were there for a couple of hours we were then ordered to leave as the medical people were expected to arrive within a short time to take care of the freed prisoners. Shortly thereafter we were reassigned to go north to Velbert, in the Dusseldorf Krefeld area. I recall vividly the truck convoy from where we were to the Dusseldorf area, a distance of about a hundred miles. At that time the War was over and we were administering the peace, one of the duties was to protect the German farmers during the night from being slaughtered from the wandering freed Russian displaced persons. ”
“ The War ended in May, this was well before that, because we were the ones going in to take Ludwigshaven and there were no American troops ahead of us then. When the American tanks passed through us, they were halted and crucified at the fringes of Ludwigshaven. There was certainly no one ahead of them and we during the daylight hours went in to Ludwigshaven to find it abandoned. The tanks that passed through us, were completely demolished by being ambushed by the defending enemy troops in Ludwigshaven. Immediately thereafter the Germans abandoned Ludwigshaven and we went through the town which was empty of any human beings and continued on to when we came upon the camp, a few miles outside of Ludwigshaven.“
I believe it was either historian and author Douglas Brinkley, or Michael Norman, who appeared on Imus in June 2009, following Sen. Kerry, Craig Crawford and the discussion of the campaign for Liberator Status for the 94th Inf. Div. He found it incredulous that they hadn’t already been recognized as Liberators. He exclaimed something closely to “ Of course they were Liberators, they were right there, they spearheaded the drive! ” The participation of a true historian, such as Douglas Brinkley or Michael Norman, one who actually wants to uncover and record history properly is desperately needed as opposed to the apathetic bureaucrats who have been until now overseeing Sen. Kennedy’s request for Liberator Status.
Upon reading the guidelines, it becomes clear that the Army greatly valued the role of liberators and their intent was that every unit involved in liberation be recognized, as they “deserve to be honored and remembered by all”. One would think that an Army historian would relish this fleeting opportunity to properly document history. The bulletin admits “ The very number of camps makes it likely that as they drove across the Third Reich, more U.S. Army divisions than originally recognized liberated concentrations camps of one type or another.”
I wonder if these “historians” are unable to uncover and follow the proper procedure stated in the army bulletin (The Professional Bulletin of Army History, Fall/Winter 1992/1993, 1–5.) last used to determine Liberator Status 19 years ago, how could one expect them to be capable of analyzing the events of over 60 years ago? Never once, in their attempt to study the history of the 94th, did they contact the primary sources, my father Edward Cowley and Thomas Manthey, to inquire about any details regarding the camp they encountered that day. If they had they would have found out that they not only liberated one camp, but two. The second camp was not filled with the unspeakable horrors of the first- my father believes that the prisoners had recently arrived there and were not in the same devastated condition as that of the first filled with the dead and dying. Additionally, Thomas Manthey has in his possession, a German Walther 32 caliber pistol that while leaving the first camp he found lying in 3 pieces back in the woods, adjacent to the camp.
Edward Cowley and Thomas Manthey were in the ASTP program, among the brightest lads in the country, chosen to be educated and trained as officers. In fact the required IQ level for ASTP was 120, while the IQ for Officer Training was 110. The casualties of the War mounted and these young men were sent instead to the Front as infantry soldiers. They earned four battle stars: Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. They fought and suffered through the Battle of the Bulge (where my father earned a Bronze Star for Valor) and the Orsholtz disaster. They remained only Pvts. but these two men are scholars and gentlemen who fought for our Country and saved countless lives. They are heroes, not liars.
In his letter dated January 18, 2008 Senator Kennedy personally apologized to me “for the tardiness of the US Army Center of Military History’s response which, unfortunately is not the response both you and I were hoping for.” Sadly their tardiness only continued. Despite Sen. Kennedy’s serious illness they did not respond to his request that the 94th be considered for recognition as a Liberating Unit dated June 2nd 2009 until September 9th, 2009, 15 days after his death. This letter of response never even surfaced until it reached Sen. Kerry’s office January 29th, 2010. Clearly their disregard for this issue, and their inability to perceive the paramount urgency of time is obvious if this is how they responded to Sen. Kennedy, one of the greatest, if not the greatest Senator in the history of our country.
Evidently the tactic used by the bureaucrats at the USCMH is that if they drag their feet long enough, the problem will go away, Sen. Kennedy and the Vets. My parents had 5 children and the Mantheys have 2, we won’t stop until history is put to rights. This issue has been featured on Craig Crawford”s Trailmix numerous times, discussed 4 times on Imus, The Huffington Post, Martha’s Vineyard Gazette. We have a website dedicated to Liberator Status (3058 hits, 1218 visitors) a Soapbox at congress.org, a growing Facebook group and a petition on Care2. Major Garrett of Fox News had every intention to cover this issue while on Martha’s Vineyard covering Pres. Obama's vacation, but his visit was cut short due to Sen. Kennedy’s death. Another national news correspondent from Fox is planning on doing a story on the campaign for Liberator Status. We won’t let this issue fade away. Every day that passes without these Heroes and Victims being recognized and honored further exposes the indifference of USCMH. What are for they there for? Now it is not only the indifference of the USCMH that is so wretched, but the unmitigated gall of the Army itself, turning a back on its own soldiers. If Patton had survived he would have made sure to clarify, with his own descriptive words, what WWII was all about and seen to it that his "Golden Nugget" would be fully recognized.
“Any nation that does not honor its heroes, will not long endure.”- Abraham Lincoln
Once again, Thank you Sen. Kerry.
Respectfully, Kathleen Cowley
P.S. Incidentally you may be interested to know that both of these humble men refused a Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge as they did not want to worry their families at home. Nor has either ever received the WWII Victory Medal due them.