One of Northern Ireland’s last Second World War veterans, who helped liberate a concentration camp, has died aged 100.
Edward ‘Teddy’ Dixon was born in New York but his family moved to Belfast when he was a young child.
He served in the US army as an infantryman in the 42nd Infantry ‘Rainbow’ Division, receiving his draft notice in 1944, and went on to help liberate the Dachau concentration camp.
Edward ‘Teddy’ Dixon (pictured left) was born in New York but his family moved to Belfast when he was a young child. He landed in France with his unit in December 1944 (pictured right)
He served in the US army as an infantryman in the 42nd Infantry ‘Rainbow’ Division and went on to help liberate the Dachau concentration camp (Mr Dixon, pictured centre with the gun, capturing SS guards)
Mr Dixon landed in France with his unit in December 1944 before advancing across the continent to Germany in 1945.
Dachau concentration camp
- Dachau was a Nazi concentration camp opened on 22 March 1933.
- It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near Dachau, northwest of Munich.
- There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.
- The camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps and the main camp was liberated by US forces on 29 April 1945.
As well as helping to liberate the Nazi concentration camp near Munich, he also played a role in the recovery of a treasure trove of looted art stored in salt mines during the conflict.
US consul general in Belfast, Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, paid tribute, and local DUP councillor David Brooks also tweeted a tribute.
Ms Trudeau said: ‘We mourn New York-born Teddy Dixon, who served in the US army 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Infantry Division.
‘After liberating 33,000 people from the horrors of Dachau concentration camp, he returned to East Belfast a hero.
‘We will remember his service and selfless heroism.’
Mr Brooks tweeted: ‘My generation will never know the fullness of the debt we owe to men like Teddy who risked all to defeat the Nazis. A hero.’
Mr Dixon’s death comes less than a week after the passing of his friend and fellow war veteran Bill Eames, from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
Mr Eames, 97, served as an RAF pilot and was involved in the securing of Pegasus Bridge in 1944, among many other missions.
Mr Dixon had been posted near the Austrian village of Hallein in 1945 when he recovered the treasure in the mine shaft.
As well as helping to liberate the Nazi concentration camp near Munich, Mr Dixon also played a role in the recovery of a treasure trove of looted art stored in salt mines during the conflict
The 42nd Infantry ‘Rainbow’ Division
- The 42nd Infantry Division is a division of the United States Army National Guard.
- The division has served in World War I and World War II.
- It currently includes Army National Guard units from fourteen different states.
- When it was created during the First World War, one major said the division should include units from different states and the organisation would ‘stretch over the country like a rainbow’.
- During WW2, German soldiers began to fear the division.
- Soldiers often joked they were part of ‘Rainbow SS’ after a captured German soldier asked if they were ‘Roosevelt’s SS’.
He and the other men in his squad were told they would be guarding German prisoners of war, reports the BBC.
These prisoners were actually being sent to retrieve art looted by the Nazis and hidden in the local salt mine.
Every day for two weeks they took the prisoners into the mine, loaded up four small carts and pushed them back up the rails to the mine head.
He said that the cases were all piled up in the mine and they were ‘neatly stacked’ around the walls, ‘encased in wood’.
Military policemen loading the art into lorries and took it to Salzburg castle for safe-keeping.
UTV anchor and journalist Paul Clark said Northern Ireland has lost two brave men.
He described getting to know both men very well over the years through telling their stories.
He said: ‘Because of Bill and Teddy – and their generation, people of my generation, and others who came after me have never had to go to war.
‘We owe those gentlemen and their generation a debt of gratitude that we can never adequately repay. We forget that generation at our peril, otherwise we are going to be repeating the past again and again.’
He described both men as very humble, and passionate about education.
Mr Clark added: ‘They tended to be together at a lot of commemorative events because they were almost the last of that generation.
‘What really struck me about them was their passion for education, they made sure that any time they got an invitation to talk at a school or to talk to young people, they were always very keen to accept so they could listen to and talk to the children, wanting to make sure they were aware of the past.’
Securing of Pegasus Bridge in 1944
- During Operation Overlord, the Allies’ invasion of North West Europe the task was to take control of areas of north of Caen and east of Sword beach.
- They were protecting the eastern flank of the landing zone on D-Day.
- The first phase of the operation went to plan, with three gliders landing near their objective: Two bridges across the River Orne and the Caen canal.
- The Caen canal swingbridge, codenamed Pegasus, was in British hands within ten minutes.
- This was the first engagement of D-Day.
- The 6th Airborne had made a vital contribution to the success of Operation Overlord.