Among the piles of letters and photos of Lewis Kemry skiing in the Swiss Alps with other members of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division are more ghastly images of World War II.
The pictures are from Dachau, the Nazis' longest-running concentration camp. They were taken just days before the war in Europe ended and a day after the camp was liberated by the 42nd Division and other American troops.
Dead bodies cover boxcars. Naked corpses are piled in a corner. The haunting eyes of survivors stare into the camera.
The pictures belong in history books. The white, ruffle-edged snapshots look foreign on Kemry's dining room table.
During 18 months in Europe, Kemry fought in the Battle of the Bulge and drove an Army jeep through Germany and Austria, where white bed sheets waved from the upper floors of homes in small villages, signifying surrender. After Germany's surrender, he shuttled food to prisoners of war as they cut down trees for firewood.
But, it is the Dachau photos that have the strongest hold in Kemry's memory.
"The thing that sticks out the most now, is how we turned those people out of prison camp," Kemry said. "If they would have stayed there any length of time longer, they would have died right there."
In conjunction with the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., this weekend, the Steamboat Springs American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars will honor more than 80 living veterans on Memorial Day.
More than 1,000 people from Routt County -- 10 percent of the population -- served their country during World War II. The high number of men willing to go to war was common across the country, said Jim Stanko, commander of District 14 of the American Legion.
"World War II, America was in danger. Our freedom was on the line. Guys were lining up to join the draft. It was a whole different mindset," he said.
Stanko said those who returned have not always been willing to talk about what they saw in Europe, Northern Africa and the South Pacific.
But as more and more veterans pass away, and the story of the war continues to be told on the History Channel and in books, Stanko said, they have started to open up.
"They realize they have a story to tell, and it is important for the younger generation to hear these stories."
'It was agony'
Robin Olds had a bird's eye view of D-Day. Perched 300 to 400 feet above the ground in his P-38 Lightning, Olds was to provide air cover as troops made their amphibious landing on the beaches.
"We had no idea of the complexity and enormity of the whole effort," Olds said.
His mission was to protect the area from the Luftwaffe, the German air force that never arrived. The invasion started the night before, and at dawn, Olds flew overhead and looked down at the thousands of troops and vessels.
"Never in my whole life will I ever forget the number of ships and boats, the busyness and complexity of the activity going on," he said.
He was given orders not to shoot at anything on the ground, orders he almost broke when he saw allied troops pinned to the cliffs below as heavy German artillery came from the beachhead bluffs above. The Germans were in striking distance of Olds.
"It was agony watching that," Olds said.
In 1939, after the Germans invaded Poland, a 17-year-old Olds attempted to sign up for the Canadian Royal Air Force. He needed parental consent, something his father, Army Air Corps Maj. Gen. Robert Olds, wouldn't grant.
Instead, Olds finished prep school, and in 1940 started at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Growing up with a father who was a pilot in World War I, Olds always knew what he wanted to be.
The largest class West Point had seen graduated a year early to head to the war in 1943. Olds was among those commissioned.
"We were afraid the damn war would be over," Olds said. "That's why we were just so ecstatic that we would graduate a year early."
Statistically, Olds said, his class would go on to suffer more causalities than any other class in the academy's history, many of those from the Air Corps.
Olds was part of the 479th Fight Group, and by the time the war ended, he was a major in the 434th Fighter Squadron. Olds' squadron started with 40 men -- eight survived the war.
Olds started flying operations in May 1944. After D-Day, Olds was among the pilots who would fly into France, Germany and Holland to hit bridges, factories, railroad yards and other targets.
Years later, Olds visited a small town in France. While eating in an outdoor cafe, he recognized a bridge and noticed it had been repaired. In broken French, he asked the waiter what had happen to the bridge.
"At dawn, a single airplane dropped two bombs on it," the waiter said. "(We're) so happy about it because it frustrated the Germans."
Olds had dropped the bombs.
The hits continued until the war was over, Olds said. By the end, Olds had shot down 13 German planes and destroyed 11 others.
It would be easier, Olds said, if he could say he was overjoyed when the war was over, but he was left with a feeling of the unknown. "We had learned to live one day at a time, and all of a sudden you know there is going to be a tomorrow and a next week," he said.
His military career continued after World War II. Olds served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967 as colonel of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon, Thailand. In 1973, he retired as a brigadier general and moved to Steamboat Springs.
Olds' house on Clubhouse Drive is a memorial to the wars he served. He has sketches of the planes he flew, paintings of his planes over Normandy and Germany, photographs of uniformed pilots and a glass case of medals.
After the war, Olds said, he would get together with his squadron every two years. Now it's every year.
"For most people, it was the people they served with, the feeling of camaraderie," Olds said. "It is not the war itself. War can be ugly. It's the friendships you made and how your life has profited from those friendships."
'You had to shut it off'
In the weeks that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kemry's friends enlisted while he received a deferment to work on his family ranch just west of Steamboat Springs.
Then, duty kicked in.
In January 1944, the 24-year-old went for a physical exam and was told he had 21 days to get his business in order before being shipped to Texas for training camp.
"In that camp down there, the saying went around, 'If you wanted to kill Hitler, give him 17 weeks in Fort Walters," Kemry said.
While there, Army officials told him he didn't meet the qualifications to be a vehicle operator, a crushing rejection for Kemry who figured "if you get to drive, you don't have to walk."
When he was sent to Oklahoma for further training, that decision was overruled and Kemry spent the majority of his time in the war behind the wheel of an Army jeep.
Kemry was placed into the famed 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division, which was formed during World War I under Col. Douglas MacArthur. Its symbol came from MacArthur, who once said the division stretched like a rainbow from one end of America to the other.
On Thanksgiving in 1944, Kemry left for Europe on a World War I-era German luxury liner that had been captured and converted to transport soldiers. The ship had soldiers sleeping on bunks just feet apart and stacked seven high.
Kemry arrived on the coast of France just days after the Battle of the Bulge started.
They waited a few more days for the weapons to come before moving out to the front lines in the cold and snow.
Kemry would drive after dark to soldiers hunkered down in foxholes along the front, delivering meals and cups of coffee.
The 42nd Division began working its way across France and then into Germany.
As the allied forces continued to advance, Kemry recalls driving down roads with German soldiers walking toward them, hands held over their heads in surrender. Sometimes, Kemry said, the road would be filled with soldiers four across, heading in the opposite direction of the advancing allied troops.
When the division first entered the country, Kemry said, hostility was high and he remembers the enemy being flushed out of underground tunnels. But the farther they went, the less resistance they found.
Sometimes they drove through three or four small villages in a day, seeing white bed sheets hanging from the upper floors of buildings, signifying the town's surrender.
In one town, Kemry said, a rock on a bluff overlooking the town was painted with the words "Heil Hitler." The commanding general sent a group of men to paint the division's symbol -- a rainbow -- over the words.
When Kemry and his wife, Betty, returned to Germany in 1983, the rainbow was still there.
By the time the war ended, the 42nd Division had seized more than 6,000 square miles of Nazi territory, but the division's most recognized accomplishment was its liberation of the Dachau concentration camp.
On the cold morning of April 29, 1945, the 42nd Division entered Dachau, the Nazis' first concentration camp, originally set up for political prisoners. By the end of the war, it had turned into a slave labor camp that housed Jewish, Polish and Russian prisoners.
On the gate of the camp was a sign reading "Arbeit Macht Frei" -- work makes free. But by the time Kemry arrived with the 42nd Division, records showed that more than 32,000 people were killed there.
More than 30,000 prisoners were liberated from the camp. The day before U.S. troops arrived, a train of 40 or so railway cars came into the camp filled with prisoners from other camps.
As part of the motor pool, Kemry said he entered the camp with the ambulance crews and before the majority of the division. The SS officers had deserted the camp, and Kemry said many of the survivors had left by the time he arrived. What remained at the camp were those who didn't survive.
Until that day, Kemry said, the troops had known little about the horrors of the Holocaust. Kemry shakes his head when he thinks about those who say the Holocaust never happened. For Kemry, they were memories he tried to forget after the war.
"You had to shut it off, that's all there was to it," he said.
'You don't talk about it'
High school sweethearts, Lloyd and Annabeth Lockhart were married just weeks before Pearl Harbor. Two years later, Lloyd decided to take radio training from a school that a local electrician had set up in Steamboat Springs.
It was a decision based on necessity; he could train for the Army but have another three months in Steamboat. At that time, patriotism was high in Steamboat, Annabeth said.
"Only 1,800 people lived here. ... Everyone was influenced by the war," she said. "You knew who was dodging the draft; you knew who was fighting."
From Steamboat, Lloyd went to train in Greeley for three months, then to Kansas and then to Denver, where he went through basic training.
The day before Christmas, he was shipped out to war.
At that time, Annabeth was not told whether her husband was going to the Pacific or to Europe. It wasn't until Lloyd made a prohibited phone call that Annabeth deduced -- from the East Coast operator -- that he would be sent to fight in Europe, where the Battle of the Bulge was under way.
"You didn't know if he was going to come home or not. I just prayed and wrote to him," Annabeth said.
Lockhart arrived in Europe just days after Kemry did and was with the 70th Infantry Division as a tech sergeant.
It took about three weeks to get the equipment together. During that time, Lockhart shared a pup tent with another man on top of a cold snowy plateau. From there, Lockhart's division went farther into France.
The division was two weeks late getting to the front lines, Lockhart said, and the infantry division ahead of them had been captured. They attached onto another unit, Lockhart said, and kept fighting.
From five to six miles away, Lockhart said, guns would be shot into Germany's front line. As the radio communicator, Lockhart's job was to go to the front and radio back where the shots had hit.
A trick, Lockhart said, was to aim for the church steeples; from there it was easy to find a target.
"I looked on the map coordinates and then told them it should be 200 yards farther or 200 yards to the right," Lockhart said.
The danger, Lockhart said, was his jeep had antennae, making him a visible target for the Germans. The threat of death was something Lockhart did not think about, but his wife couldn't get it out of her mind.
"I worried all the time," she said.
When the war in Europe was over, Lockhart had instructions to prepare to be shipped to the Pacific. Those orders were nixed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki to end the war.
"I didn't know for two weeks if Lloyd was still alive," Annabeth said after the war ended. "I kept hoping he would have enough points to come home."
During the war, the soldiers earned so many points and needed 40 before going home. Lockhart was just shy of 40 and remained in Europe at a prisoner of war camp.
It was there that an SS officer made a wooden sign with Lockhart's named carved on it; a way to butter-up the soldiers, that Lockhart said didn't work.
The sign still hangs above his front door, right next to the American flag.
"You don't talk about it most of the time," Lockhart said of the war. "When the kids were a little older maybe, and now, the grandkids like to hear me tell stories."
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