Harry J. Collins

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Harry John Collins
Major General Harry J. Collins 1945.jpg
Harry J. Collins
Nickname(s) "Hollywood Harry"
Born (1895-12-07)December 7, 1895
Chicago, Illinois
Died March 8, 1963(1963-03-08) (aged 67)
Salzburg, Austria
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1917–1954
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Service number 0-7320
Commands held 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment
345th Infantry Regiment
42nd Infantry Division
2nd Infantry Division
New York-New Jersey Area Headquarters
8th Infantry Division
31st Infantry Division

World War I
World War II

Awards Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Bronze Star (2)
Other work Vice President, North American Van Lines

Harry John Collins (December 7, 1895 – March 8, 1963) was a decorated Army Major General who commanded the 42nd Infantry Division (Rainbow) during World War II.[1]

Early life[edit]

Harry Collins was born on December 7, 1895 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Western Military Academy in 1915 and attended the University of Chicago before leaving in 1917 to join the United States Army.[2][3]

Start of career[edit]

Collins completed the course at the Officer Training Camp in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1917, received his commission as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry, and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment.[4][5][6][7]

World War I[edit]

Collins served with the 3rd Infantry on the Mexican Border at Eagle Pass, Texas at the end of the Pancho Villa Expedition and during World War I.[8][9]

Post-World War I[edit]

Collins remained with the 3rd Infantry, including assignments at Camp Sherman, Ohio and Fort Snelling, Minnesota. In 1922 he was assigned to the 19th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.[10][11][12]

He completed the Infantry Officer Course at Fort Benning in 1926, and remained there as an instructor on the staff of the Infantry School.[13]

From 1929 to 1930 he was an instructor at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, and he completed the Infantry Advanced Course at Fort Benning in 1930.[14]

A specialist with the placement and marksmanship of machine guns, he operated schools for machine gun operators at Fort Sam Houston and Fort Warren in the early 1930s.[15]

Collins graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1934 and the United States Army War College in 1935.[16]

He was served again in Hawaii, and in 1938 moved to Vancouver Barracks, Washington, where he was the Plans, Operations and Training Officer (S3) for the 7th Infantry Regiment, and then commanded the regiment's 1st Battalion.[17][18]

After his battalion command he served as regimental executive officer until being assigned as Assistant Plans, Operations and Training Officer (G3) and then Intelligence Officer (G2) for the 6th Infantry Division at Fort Snelling.[19]

World War II[edit]

At the start of World War II Collins was assigned to the staff at the War Department, and was sent to England as an observer and liaison.[20]

Upon returning to the United States in November 1941, Collins first served as Intelligence Officer for the IV Corps.[21] He then activated the 345th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, a unit of the 87th Infantry Division, which he commanded as a Colonel.[22]

In August 1942, Collins was named assistant division commander of the 99th Infantry Division at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi and promoted to Brigadier General.[23]

In April 1943, he assumed command of the 42nd Infantry Division (the famed Rainbow Division) at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma and was promoted to Major General. In December 1944, the division arrived in France and played a major role in stopping the last German drive into Western Europe, known as the Battle of the Bulge.[24][25]

Dachau liberation[edit]

The 42nd Division was credited with the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. As commander of the 42nd Division, Collins had defied convention by naming Rabbi (Captain) Eli Bohnen as the division chaplain, despite not having a large number of Jews in the division. According to contemporary accounts, Collins was moved by the plight of the prisoners he saw at Dachau, and took extraordinary measures to ensure they immediately received housing, food and medical attention. His example enabled Rabbi Bohnen to successfully appeal for assistance from civilians in the United States, requesting items that the Army was not prepared to supply, including kosher foods, religious articles, and cash donations.[26][27][28][29]

Post-World War II[edit]

Following V-E Day, the 42nd assumed occupation duty in western Austria, with Collins serving as military governor. In July 1948, he was appointed commander of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, and later assumed command of New York-New Jersey area headquarters at Fort Totten, New York.[30][31][32]

In January 1951, he was assigned to command the 8th Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. A year later he was appointed Military Attache in Moscow, afterwards returning to the United States to command the 31st Infantry Division at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.[33][34][35]

Retirement, death and burial[edit]

Gravestone of General Harry J. Collins in Salzburg

He retired from the Army in 1954 and worked as a Vice President for North American Van Lines and a consultant to the Human Research Organization at George Washington University.[36][37]

Collins subsequently moved to Colorado, where he lived until retiring to Salzburg, where many Dachau survivors were initially transported after the liberation of the camp. In his later years he was in ill health and used a wheelchair as the result of injuries sustained in a car accident.[38]

He died on March 8, 1963 and was buried at the Saint Peter's churchyard cemetery in Salzburg.[39][40]


Collins' first wife was Maude Alice McAlpin Collins (1897-1955). They were the parents of a daughter, Patricia.[41][42][43]

During his occupation duty in Austria, Collins met Irene Gehmacher, a native of that country. After his divorce from his first wife, he married Irene, who died in 1987.[44]


Recent writers have found fault with Collins and other officers who performed occupation duty after World War II, suggesting that they requisitioned luxury items from the Hungarian Gold Train for furnishing their offices and quarters -— items allegedly taken from Jewish families by the Nazis during the war. Many items were not returned to their original owners, who could not be located, but were later sold at auctions, with the proceeds used to aid war refugees.[45][46]


Collins was an honorary citizen of both Salzburg and Linz.[47]

Collins' ribbon bar included:[48][49]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Army Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
2nd Row Army Commendation Medal Mexican Border Service Medal World War I Victory Medal American Defense Service Medal
3rd Row American Campaign Medal European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three service stars World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal
4th Row National Defense Service Medal Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (France) French Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with Palm Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Biography of Major-General Harry John Collins (1895 - 1963), USA". generals.dk. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  2. ^ Sam Dann, editor, Dachau 29 April 1945: The Rainbow Liberation Memoirs, 1998, page 232
  3. ^ University of Chicago, Annual Register, 1916, page 517
  4. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office, Journal of the United States Senate, Volume 65, Issue 2, Part 1, 1932, pages 487, 608
  5. ^ National Infantry Association, Infantry Journal, Volume XIX, July to December 1921, pages 325, 448
  6. ^ U.S. Army Adjutant General, U.S. Army Register, 1918, page 834
  7. ^ U.S. Army Adjutant General, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, entry for Harry John Collins, retrieved April 19, 2014
  8. ^ "Collins". indianamilitary.org. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  9. ^ U.S. Army Adjutant General, Official U.S. Army Register, 1918, page 19
  10. ^ Army and Navy Register, The Army: Infantry, April 2, 1921, page 344
  11. ^ National Infantry Association, Infantry Journal, Volume 22, Issues 1-5, 1923, page 575
  12. ^ Army and Navy Register, The Army: Infantry, September 30, 1922, page 335
  13. ^ National Infantry Association, Infantry Journal, Volume 35, 1929, pages vii, 50, 361
  14. ^ U.S. Army Adjutant General, Official U. S. Army Register, 1946, page 135
  15. ^ Brownsville Herald, S.A. Gunners Seek Trophy, January 15, 1931
  16. ^ U.S. Army Adjutant General, Official Army Register, 1942, page 175
  17. ^ Army and Navy Journal, Inc., Army and Navy Journal, Volume 77, Issues 1-26, 1939, page 167
  18. ^ William C. C. Cavanagh, Richard H. Byers, Jeffrey E. Phillips, Dauntless: A History of the 99th Infantry Division, 1994, page 17
  19. ^ Army-Navy Publishers, Inc., Pictorial Review: Sixth Infantry Division, 1941, page 11
  20. ^ Sam Dann, editor, Dachau 29 April 1945: The Rainbow Liberation Memoirs, 1998, page 232
  21. ^ Army and Navy Journal, Inc., Army and Navy Journal, Volume 79, Issues 1-26, 1941, page 265
  22. ^ Jerome M. Rosow, Public Affairs Press, American Men in Government: A Biographical Dictionary and Directory of Federal Officials, 1949, page 80
  23. ^ Western Military Academy Shrapnel, Brig. Gen. Collins, 1915, to Command Rainbow Division, April 22, 1943
  24. ^ Associated Press, Milwaukee Journal, Rainbow Division to be Reactivated at Oklahoma Camp, April 15, 1943
  25. ^ New York Department of Military and Naval Affairs, History & Bibliography of the "Rainbow", retrieved April 19, 2014
  26. ^ George M. Goodwin, Ellen Smith, editors, The Jews of Rhode Island, Our Rabbi with the Rainbow Division: A World War II Reminiscence, 2004, pages 205-212
  27. ^ Judah Nadich, Eisenhower and the Jews, 1953, page 186
  28. ^ Yehûdā Bauer, Flight and Rescue: Brichah, 1970, page 56
  29. ^ Alex Grobman, Rekindling the Flame: American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors of European Jewry, 1944-1948, 1993, page 97
  30. ^ Margaret Middleton Rivers, Mendel & Me: Life with Congressman L. Mendel Rivers, 2007, page 115
  31. ^ United States Civil Service Commission, Official Register of the United States, 1951, page 149
  32. ^ Army and Navy Journal, Inc., Armed Forces Journal International, Volume 107, Issues 27-45, 1970, page 23
  33. ^ "Collins". indianamilitary.org. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  34. ^ Western Military Academy Shrapnel, Maj. Gen. Harry J. Collins, Class 1915, to Post in Moscow, January 10, 1952
  35. ^ Army and Navy Journal Inc., Army, Navy, Air Force Journal, Volume 91, Issues 27-52, 1954, page 1460
  36. ^ Army and Navy Journal, Incorporated, Armed Forces Journal International, Volume 93, Issues 1-26, 1955, page 396
  37. ^ Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegram, General Harry J. Collins Returns to Springs Area, November 7, 1960
  38. ^ Kenneth D. Alford, Allied Looting in World War II, 2011, pages 243-344
  39. ^ Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson, Paul Schellinger, editors, Northern Europe: International Dictionary of Historic Places, 2013, page 664
  40. ^ Associated Press, Stars and Stripes, Recent Deaths: Gen. Harry J. Collins, March 11, 1963
  41. ^ 1920 United States Federal Census, entry for Harry J. Collins, retrieved April 19, 2014
  42. ^ Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982, entry for Maude Alice Collins, retrieved April 19, 2014
  43. ^ Maude Collins at Find A Grave
  44. ^ Western Military Academy Shrapnel, General Collins, '15 Weds Austrian Bride, December 8, 1949
  45. ^ Kenneth D. Alford, Allied Looting in World War II, 2011, page 237
  46. ^ Tim Golden, New York Times, G.I.'s Are Called Looters of Jewish Riches, October 15, 1999
  47. ^ U.S. Army in Germany, U.S. Forces, Austria: 42nd Infantry Division, retrieved April 20, 2014
  48. ^ "Valor awards for Harry J. Collins". militarytimes.com. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  49. ^ "Collins". indianamilitary.org. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 

External links[edit]