Research

LaLone, Richard

Liberator
Mauthausen

LaLone was born in 1922 in Pontiac, Michigan, as one of six children to Catholic parents. In October 1942, LaLone was drafted by the U.S. Army and became a member of Company E, 119th Armored Engineers, 12th Armored Division, a bridge building company. He was sent to England in March 1944, and participated in the invasion of Europe, landing on the beach of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. LaLone describes his involvement in the European campaign as part of the Third army, which included the liberation of Paris, the entry into Czechoslovakia, and, toward the end of the war, the arrival at Linz, Austria.

While in Linz, the then Staff Sergeant LaLone volunteered for an assignment to take construction equipment with a drag line to the nearby concentration camp Mauthausen in order to dig large trenches for the burial of dead camp inmates. Upon arrival at the camp, he saw hundreds of inmates whom he described as walking skeletons. In front of a barrack he saw a pile of dead bodies, which he believes to have been ten feet high by 30 to 40 feet long, stacked like logs. Since the bodies were mostly skin and bones, he estimates that the pile contained about 1,000 bodies. He entered one of the barracks in the camp and describes it as being like a chicken coop on a farm. It contained wooden bunk beds 5 feet high and 4 deep and was absolutely bare, without mattresses.

Since the natives of the nearby village of Mauthausen claimed to have had no knowledge of the activities within the camp, the liberators of the camp made the Austrians carry the bodies from the pile into the trenches dug by LaLone and then bury them. LaLone finds it inconceivable that the population of the village of Mauthausen could have no knowledge of the operations within the adjacent labor camp.

LaLone describes that American medics were feeding the starved inmates of the camp with eye droppers, but that many still died following liberation. He states that he can never forget what he saw and that no one can fathom what he and his fellow GIs witnessed: the dead bodies, the dying, and the walking skeletons.

Interview Information:
Date: October 27, 1993
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 31 minutes
Format: Video recording