Harry J. Collins

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Harry John Collins
Major General Harry J. Collins 1945.jpg
Nickname(s)"Hollywood Harry"
BornDecember 7, 1895
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DiedMarch 8, 1963 (aged 67)
Salzburg, Austria
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1917–1954
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Service number0-7320
UnitUSA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment
345th Infantry Regiment
42nd Infantry Division
2nd Infantry Division
8th Infantry Division
31st Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Bronze Star (2)
Other workVice President, North American Van Lines

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


Early life and military career[edit]

Harry Collins was born on December 7, 1895 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from the Western Military Academy in 1915 and attended the University of Chicago before leaving in 1917 to join the United States Army, due to the American entry into World War I.[1][2]

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

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.[7][8]

Between the wars[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 Regiment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.[9][10][11] He completed the Infantry Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1926, and remained there as an instructor on the staff of the U.S. Army Infantry School.[12] 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.[13]

A specialist with the placement and marksmanship of machine guns, he operated schools for machine gun operators at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort Warren in the early 1930s.[14] Collins graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School in 1934 and the U.S. Army War College in 1935.[15]

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.[16][17] After his battalion command he served as regimental executive officer (XO) until being assigned as Assistant Plans, Operations and Training Officer (G3) and then Intelligence Officer (G2) for the 6th Infantry Division at Fort Snelling.[18]

World War II[edit]

At the start of World War II Collins was assigned to the staff at the U.S. War Department, and was sent to England as an observer and liaison officer.[19]

Upon returning to the United States in November 1941, Collins first served as the intelligence officer for the IV Corps.[20] The United States entered the war on December 7, 1941, on Collins' 46th birthday, due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As a full colonel, he then activated the 345th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, part of the 87th Infantry Division.[21] In August 1942, Collins was named as the assistant division commander (ADC) of the 99th Infantry Division at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi and promoted to the one-star general officer rank of brigadier general.[22]

In April 1943, he assumed command of the 42nd Infantry Division (the famed Rainbow Division) at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma and was promoted to the two-star rank of major general. He trained the 42nd Division in the United States for 16 months before departure for overseas service. In December 1944, the division arrived on the Western Front in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). The 42nd Division, under Collins, played a major role in stopping the last German drive into Western Europe, known as the Battle of the Bulge.[23][24] The division then went on to take part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany.

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.[25][26][27][28]


Following Victory in Europe 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.[29][30][31]

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.[32][33][34]

Retirement, death and burial[edit]

Gravestone of Major General Harry J. Collins in Salzburg.

He retired from the army after 37 years 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.[35][36]

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.[37]

He died on March 8, 1963 and was buried at the Saint Peter's churchyard cemetery in Salzburg.[38][39]


Collins' first wife was Maude Alice McAlpin Collins (1897–1955).[40][41][42] They were the parents of a daughter, Patricia Coyle Collins (1919-2000). Patricia Collins was the wife of Army officer M. Griffith Berg, who became a Japanese prisoner of war, and died in the Philippines in 1944. She was later married to Robert C. Williams (1914-2000).

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.[43]


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.[44][45]


Collins was an honorary citizen of both Salzburg and Linz.[46]

Collins' ribbon bar included:[47][48]

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

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Newly activated post
Commanding General 42nd Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Post deactivated
Preceded by
Paul Wilkins Kendall
Commanding General 2nd Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Laurence B. Keiser
Preceded by
Frank C. McConnell
Commanding General 8th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Whitfield P. Sheppard
Preceded by
Commanding General 31st Infantry Division
Succeeded by