Harry J. Collins

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Harry J. Collins, 1945

Harry J. Collins (born December 7, 1895 in Chicago , Illinois , † March 8, 1963 in Salzburg ) was major general of the US troops in Austria .


Collins graduated from the Western Military Academy in Alton in 1917 and studied at the University of Chicago . He then began his service in the United States Army in the 3rd Infantry Regiment. During World War I he performed various duties in and outside the United States , mainly on the staff of the Infantry School at Fort Benning .

During World War II , he was appointed deputy commander of the 99th Infantry Division at Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi in August 1942 , which was also a large prisoner-of-war camp during World War II . In April 1943, he took command of the 42nd Infantry Division , the famous Rainbow Division at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma . In December 1944, this division took part in the Battle of the Bulge in France . His division was also involved in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp . He stood up for the survivors of the concentration camp in a remarkable way.

This unit was not involved in the alleged liberation of Salzburg by the Rainbow Division - and a corresponding contribution to Collins. Rather, the XV Corps of the 7th US Army under Major General Wade Haislip received the order on May 2, 1945 to advance into Salzburg. The main thrust against Salzburg was carried out by the 3rd Infantry Division (Brigadier General Robert Nicholas Young ) and the 106th Cavalry Regiment (Major Joseph McCarthy). Due to the courageous initiative of Colonel Hans Lepperdinger, the city ​​itself was surrendered without a fight on May 4, 1945, while difficult situations arose in the State of Salzburg ( Hermann Göring had withdrawn to Schloss Fischhorn near Bruck , the high command of the German Air Force was in Thumersbach , near Weißbach am Hirschbichl there were fighting with members of the Waffen SS until May 8, 1945 ).

After “ VE Day ”, the day of the victory over Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, the Rainbow Division took part in the liberation of western Austria . From August 23, 1945 to July 13, 1946, this division took over command in the Salzburger Land.

Tomb of Harry J. Collins in the Petersfriedhof in Salzburg

Collins (nicknamed "Hollywood Harry" because he often drove through Salzburg in his company car, accompanied by a motorcycle escort) was military commander of Salzburg from August 1945 and from 1946 to 1948 military governor of the US troops in Austria.

Contrary to his good reputation, his behavior around the gold train of the Hungarian Jews. Collins ordered “china, silver cutlery, carpets and tableware” of the finest quality for his villa from the train, which was in the meantime in the custody of the army. He never had to answer for it.

In July 1948 he was appointed commander of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis , Washington state. He then became commander of the New York-New Jersey headquarters in Fort Totten , New York . In January he was given command of the 8th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina . A year later he became a military attaché in Moscow . Back in the US, he took command of the 31st Infantry Division at Camp Atterbury, Indiana .

In 1954 he retired from active service and spent most of his time in Salzburg, living in the Hotel Österreichischer Hof (now Hotel Sacher Salzburg ). On October 20, 1949, in California, he married Irene Gehmacher, daughter of the former chief medical officer Franz and his wife Anna Gehmacher, from Salzburg. He is buried with his wife in St. Peter's cemetery.

Humanitarian Merit

As US military governor in western Austria, he was also responsible for the Mauerkirchen prisoner of war camp , in which 130,000 German soldiers (mainly from the Eastern Front and the German Balkan Army) and 30,000 German women were imprisoned. Through his powers of persuasion he was able to manage this camp, although it had to be run without barbed wire and without guards. After ten days, Collins was able to provide 30,000 women and probably as many soldiers with discharge papers, but General Dwight D. Eisenhower forbade him from further discharges , who insisted that the soldiers be extradited to the Soviet Union. Of these, 95% did not survive the camp in the Soviet Union when Konrad Adenauer was brought back in 1955.

The Rainbow Division, commanded by Collins, quickly gained the confidence of the Salzburg population and campaigned for the elimination of deficiencies in the allocation of food, heating and consumables. In summer 1945, the establishment of its own “Rainbow University” began in Zell am See . Officers and specialists in the division drew up a curriculum and in autumn the lessons began in the Grand Hotel, directly on the lake, to train young soldiers and prepare them better for their return home. Classes lasted until 1948. Collins also supported the Trapp family in founding the Trapp Family Austrian Relief Inc.

Symbol of the Rainbow Division in Salzburg on Rudolfskai

The symbol of this division, the rainbow, can still be found in some places in the city and state of Salzburg (e.g. at the Kniepass in Unken or the Lamprechtsöfen near Weißbach).


  • Honorary Citizen of Salzburg (awarded on February 1, 1946)
  • Honorary citizen of all Flachgau communities (1946)
  • Honorary citizen of St. Johann im Pongau
  • Honorary citizen of Linz

Military awards

Web links

Commons : Harry J. Collins  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ilse Lackenbauer: The end of the war in the city of Salzburg. In: Hans Bayr u. a .: Salzburg 1945–1955. Destruction and rebuilding. Annual publication of the Salzburg Museum Carolino Augusteum 40/41, 1994/95, ISBN 3-901014-43-8 , pp. 25–40.
  2. Hermann Hinterstoisser: The end of the war in Pinzgau. In: Hans Bayr u. a .: Salzburg 1945–1955. Destruction and rebuilding. Annual publication of the Salzburg Museum Carolino Augusteum 40/41, 1994/95, ISBN 3-901014-43-8 , pp. 41–55.
  3. ^ A b Susanne Rolinek, Gerald Lehner, Christian Strasser: In the shadow of the Mozartkugel . Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7076-0276-0 , pp. 95, 162, 188
  4. ^ List of honorary citizens of Salzburg
  5. ^ Wals-Siezenheimer Ortschronik: arranged by District Captain Rudolf Dworzak.