U.S. Army – World War II
Those who deny the Holocaust should talk with the children of Herbert S. Werner. As children, they saw many photographs their father sent home that showed the concentration camps liberated by the 12th Armored Division.
Assigned to the headquarters of the 12th Armored Division as its chief financial officer, Lt. Col. Werner was in a position to observe the Division’s accomplishments, including its legendary combat operations, the capture of Werner von Braun, and the liberation of twelve concentrations in the area of Dachau.
He came to that position through a military career that started when he enlisted in the army in 1917. His first overseas deployment was with the Allied Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. Between the two world wars, he served as a captain in the Finance Corps of the army reserves.
As things were heating up in Europe during 1939, Captain Werner was called to active duty to serve as chief financial officer at the Raritan Arsenal in Metuchen, New Jersey. As the war progressed, the army sent him its Finance Officer Training School at Duke University before assigning him to the 12th Armored Division.
That division entered the European Theater of Operations through Le Havre, France, on November 11, 1944. After fighting its way across France and through the Maginot Line, the 12th Armored Division became the “Mystery Division” of General Patton’s Third Army. To accomplish the invasion of Germany, General Patton assembled thirteen divisions, making it one of the largest American armies in history. The identities of twelve of them were known, while the thirteenth was kept secret to enhance the element of surprise. The identity of that division became known when it crossed the Rhine River on March 24, 1945.
By the time the 12th Armored Division was departing Europe, Lt. Col. Werner was the oldest finance officer in Europe.
Lt. Col. Werner’s daughter, Shirley, also served in Europe, as a switchboard operator in Paris. Once, when her father was in Paris working on a project for the 12th Armored Division, they were able to spend some time together.
“When they went through Le Havre to come home,” said his son Don, “he had to climb the rope ladder up the side of the ship. All the guys knew he was an old guy, by their standards. When he got to the top, they gave him a big round of applause.”
“I never fully appreciated what Dad’s unit really went through during World War II,” wrote another son, Richard. “Now I also appreciate why Dad always loved his 12th Armored Division ring!”