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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Thomas Farragher / Globe Staff / July 2, 2001

Page 9 of 9

Continued from page 8

Jack Bushyhead, a native American, became a member of the Cherokee tribal council in Oklahoma, where he helped provide food for the poor and housing for the needy. But he became increasingly haunted by alcohol-fed visions of the starved victims of the Holocaust he saw on the so-called ''death train.'' He died on Christmas Day 1977.

''When he was inebriated he would even see these people - he called them the little people,'' said his daughter, Jaxine Bushyhead Gasper. ''He just drank himself to death. I don't think dad ever got over the war stuff.''

Lee, a native of Delaware, earned a degree from LaSalle University and spent his career as an engineer in the steel business. Now 75 and battling Parkinson's disease, he said when he closes his eyes, he can still see things he wished he couldn't.

''You've probably seen the pictures. They're just pictures to you. You've never walked up on something like that,'' said Lee, who now lives in Ohio. ''When you see the living dead, it strikes you across the eyes. It knocks you off your equilibrium. It's part of war, but nobody prepared us for it.''

Sparks served as a district attorney in Colorado after the war. He was a justice on the state Supreme Court in the 1950s. He later practiced law and became a state lobbyist.

When he retired 20 years ago, Sparks placed an ad in a VFW magazine, looking for members of his old unit. It was time for a reunion, decided Sparks, now 83 and hamstrung by a failing heart. The former battalion commander found 1,500 of them, and soon hundreds of old soldiers began swapping war stories each year in banquet rooms from Boston to Chicago to Denver.

At one of those reunions, Walsh sat before Strong's video cameras and struggled to convey the emotions that swept over him on the German death camp's doorstep.

''I'm shaking right at this minute just talking about it,'' Walsh said. ''And I didn't know if I could talk about it. I tried to forget about it for years.''

When Walsh came home from the war, he worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an engineer, helped build a new highway called Route 128, and went to Northeastern University on the GI Bill.

When the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was dedicated in 1993, Walsh was invited as a special honoree.

A year later, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he was invited to ceremonies at the US Capitol. His legs weakened by age, two men stood next to him to provide support. One was Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, the wounded World War II veteran who sought the presidency in 1996.

When he died in July 1998 at age 78, Walsh was remembered as a kind and gentle man who loved children and golf. Ruth Walsh, his wife of 46 years, said he never dwelled on Dachau.

In Strong's documentary, Walsh, his hair by then white, seems a man who has long since found peace with himself.

''I guess somebody thought that maybe [for] some of the SS guys who died in that camp it wasn't a real legitimate fight, if you want to use that term. If there is such a thing,'' Walsh said.

''Some of the SS guys had died in the defense of that camp,'' he said, ''and some goddamned day, when I go to hell with the rest of the SS, I'm going to ask them how the hell they could do it and what they were doing up there. And if they knew.

''I don't think there was any SS guy who was shot or killed in the defense of Dachau that wondered why he was killed, or wondered about it, or couldn't figure it out. I think they all knew goddamned-well-right why some of them were killed down in the camp. Goddamn-well-right. And some day, as I said, when I get to hell, I'll check it out and find out whether they really understood.

''But I have a funny feeling that every one of them that died in the defense of Dachau knew why he died.''

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