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US Army, 45th Infantry Division, bundle of Class A Thunderbird patches

Object | Accession Number: 2006.11.20 a-t

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    US Army, 45th Infantry Division, bundle of Class A Thunderbird patches

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Bundle of patches issued by the United States Army to J. George Mitnick during WWII. They appear to be unused. The Thunderbird division adopted this Native American symbol in 1939 to replace the previous symbol. a swastika. Mitnick, a 27 year-old Jewish American, served as a captain in the 65th Infantry Division, European Theater and in the Chemical Warfare Service, 91st Chemical Mortar Battalion, 45th Infantry Division. His unit took control of the Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945; nearly all the inhabitants were dead, killed by the departing German troops. This was the first concentration camp liberated by US troops and descriptions of the conditions horrified the world. Mitnick’s unit continued on into Austria and was involved with the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp. Captain Mitnick was awarded two Bronze Stars for his service.
    Date
    issue:  approximately 1944
    Geography
    issue: United States
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ronne Mitnick Hess
    Contributor
    Subject: J. George Mitnick
    Distributor: United States. Army
    Biography
    J. George Mitnick (1917-2005) was born in Hartford Connecticut to David and Rose Mitnick (nee Schwartz). George was the youngest of six children and was raised in a conservative religious home. After high school, George attended the University of Connecticut. Due to family financial stress, George left school after two years and got a job at a supermarket. After a year, he began working at the lumber company owned by his father and two uncles. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, George enlisted in the Army.

    George trained at camp Devens, Massachusetts, and Camp Lee, Virginia before entering Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Edgeward, Maryland. George graduated as a Second Lieutenant in the 45th Infantry Division and was sent to Gadsden and then to Fort McClellan, Alabama for further training. While he was stationed in Alabama, George was promoted to Captain. He also met Willine Engel while visiting Birmingham, and the two began a relationship. George then received orders to report to the headquarters of the 65th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. While in Shelby, George and Willine were married in spring 1944, and then George shipped out to Europe with the 65th.

    The 65th landed at Le Havre, France in January, 1945, and was deployed to the German border in March. In April, the division advanced into Bavaria and captured the city of Regensburg. On April 13, George arrived at the recently liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany. There he saw the abysmal living conditions and the sickly, emaciated corpses of the prisoners the guards killed before they fled. On April 20, the division liberated a subcamp in the Flossenbürg camp system. In May, the 65th captured the town of Passau, then moved into Austria and captured the city of Linz. On May 9, hostilities officially ended in Europe, George was among the troops of the 65th who made contact with the Russians at Erlauf. After the war, George was assigned to arrange for the separation of displaced persons to allow transfer to their homelands.

    After George returned home, he and Willene settled in Jasper, Alabama and had two daughters. In 1948 George and his brother-in-law, Joe, opened a dry goods store. Over the next eight years, they expanded to nine stores. Then in 1956, they converted the stores to dollar stores with the new name, Top Dollar Stores. George and Joe were able to expand into a chain of over 230 stores in 11 states before the chain was sold to the Sav-A-Stop company. George was very active in professional, civic, and philanthropic organizations. He founded the Walker Area Community Foundation, along with the Walker College Civic Concert Association, and he and his wife established the Mitnick Fellowship Fund to help young adults in Alabama. George was President of Temple Emanu-El, in Jasper, as well as a past president of Walker County Lodge of B'nai B'rith and he was a Member of the Executive Board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which named him "Man of the Year" in 2003.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Military Insignia
    Category
    Badges
    Physical Description
    a-t. Square shaped red cloth patch turned on point with a yellow thunderbird, a Native American stylized bird symbol, facing right with displayed wings and a red eye, machine embroidered in the center. There are 20 identical patches, stacked and bound on 4 sides with a white string.
    Dimensions
    overall: | Width: 3.375 inches (8.573 cm) | Depth: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Diameter: 3.380 inches (8.585 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The patches were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Ronne Mitnick Hess, the daughter of J. George Mitnick.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 17:29:47
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn518215

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