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John Truty papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2011.410.1

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    Consists of material related to the wartime experiences of John Truty, a member of the 20th Corps (also known as the XX Corps or the Ghost Corps) of Patton's Third Army during World War II. Includes approximately 136 photographs of his training, the push through France, of the headshaving of French women accused of collaboration, and of the liberation of Buchenwald. Includes some correspondence, a map of the 20th's movements, and documentation related to the activities of the Corps.
    inclusive:  1942-1945
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John J. Truty
    Collection Creator
    John J. Truty
    John Joseph Truty was born on November 17, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois. He had a brother and a sister and was the second child born to Joseph and Agnes Masnica Truty. His parents were born in Austria-Hungary (later Poland) and immigrated to the United States. His father did not speak much English and John knew Polish. Joseph was a gardener at a cemetery and Agnes was an assistant at a laundry. John graduated from Shurrs High School and worked in the neighborhood for the electric company and the laundry.

    On April 4, 1941, John was drafted into the US Army. On December 11, 1941, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, and later the same day, the US declared war on Germany. In fall 1942, John was assigned to the recently activated IV Armored Corps. He worked on the construction of the Desert Training Center in Indio, California, and then trained there for several months. John became a medic. In October 1943, John’s unit was redesignated the XX (20th) Corps, under the command of General Walker. On February 12, 1944, the Corps boarded the Queen Mary, a troop transport ship, in New York City and sailed for England where they resumed training in Marlborough.

    On June 6, 1944, D-Day, Allied Forces launched Operation Overlord, the invasion of German occupied France. John arrived with the XX Corps twenty days later. As he recalled later, they had to wait a while until there was room to land. Around them he could see ship noses sticking up out of the water. The Corps was assigned to the US Third Army under General Patton, and as a medic, John tended men from many divisions. By the end of August, the Corps’ had advanced across France, earning the nickname the Ghost Corps for the speed at which they moved. In November, the Corps captured Metz, France. In several towns in France. John saw crowds gather to watch French women accused of collaboration have their heads shaved. In late March-early April 1945, John crossed the Rhine River on a pontoon boat into Germany. John cared for troops behind the front lines, providing shots, dressings, and whatever aid he could. On April 11, Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, was liberated by soldiers from the Third Army. Several days later, John accompanied his Captain to the camp to witness the horrible conditions. Many prisoners seemed close to death. They were happy to see Americans. Many could not speak and all wanted food, but they were not allowed to give them anything to eat. He especially remembered how bad the camp stunk. John took photographs of the overflowing latrines, a barrack where men were crammed 4 or 5 to a platform, stacked piles of dead prisoners, and the crematorium ovens. While he was at the camp, several local Germans were forced to walk by a table holding pieces of prisoner’s tattooed skin and organs in jars. There were no German guards at the camp when he saw it. A few days later, he watched captured enemy soldiers surrender their guns. The SS members were turned over to the French unit attached to XX Corps. They took them into the forest and shot them. After several days, the Corps advanced south, capturing Linz, Austria, and met up with Soviet forces.

    John learned about VE Day, Victory in Europe, May 8, from the newspapers. He was glad but was concerned about the war in the Pacific. Newer recruits were being sent back to the US to retrain for deployment to the Pacific. Since John had been in the Army over four years, he had 92 points, a high number so that he did not have to go to the Pacific. His brother Joseph was in the Navy and was looking forward to fighting the Japanese. With XX Corps, John was placed on occupational duty until September. John returned to the US and was honorably discharged as a Surgical Technician Fourth Grade. He returned to Chicago. John told his family and friends that he did not want to talk about the war; he didn’t want to scare people. He went into the restaurant business with a friend and with the help of a loan from his father. He ran the F&T Restaurant in the Loop in Chicago for nearly thirty years. On September 25, 1952, John married Eleanor Pikula (1930 - 2008). John’s father died at age 65, circa 1951, but his mother lived to be nearly 100. John and Eleanor had three children and settled in Deerfield. John, 97, died on December 3, 2015, in Clearwater, Florida.

    Physical Details

    2 folders

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    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

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    Administrative Notes

    John Truty donated this collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in April 2011.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-23 13:56:00
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