the U.S. 10th Armored Division in Europe during WWII

by Les Nichols, Military Historian

Little did the battle weary Veterans of the Tenth Armored Division know about intrigue, murder, conspiracy and theft of Nazi gold that took place while the Division was assigned 100 square miles of occupation in Southern Bavaria in 1945.

As press officer and historian of the "Tiger" Division, I became involved in the story of missing Nazi gold during the occupation. An excellent book "Nazi Gold" by Ian Sayre and Douglas Bottiag, with the London Times, was published after two decades of exacting documentation by the authors. In 1975 I was asked to meet with Harry Seamon and Ian Sayre at Chartwell, England to review their manuscript and to assist them in locating Tenth Armored officers who were knowledgeable about missing Nazi gold, American, British, French currency and other valuable items. I reviewed the manuscript and added some factual information. The book published in 1985 is the story of the theft of the greatest treasure on record—the German national gold and foreign currency reserves worth more than 3 billion dollars. Some of it disappeared in transit after the Nazi collapse in 1945. It involves, too, the mystery and cover up by the American authorities. It also included post war racketeering and corruption by high-ranking Nazi officers, murders and constant denial by authorities of the real facts involved.

To this day, a large portion of stolen gold, currency, diamonds and other valuables have never been fully accounted for by the authorities of the allied countries. Much to the surprise of the 16,000 Tenth Armored troops occupying an area that included the bulk of the Nazi treasure that had been moved from the German Reichenbach from Munich and Frankfurt to the Bavarian alpine area under control at the time by the Tenth Armored Division whose headquarters were in Garmisch.

Key officers of the Division were involved in the digging up of hundreds of tons of Nazi gold, currencies, diamonds and other valuables. In January, this year, I was contacted by "Story Line", a Washington, DC television company, who asked me to come to Washington, DC for a TV interview and possibly to go back to Garmisch to retrace the areas where the gold and currencies were uncovered—all this for a scheduled TV program to be seen prior to the end of this year—since I was involved and knew about some of the gold buried in the Garmisch area.

All the "Tigers" in the occupation were warned that a last ditch effort was to be launched by the Nazi's to kill American troops during the occupation. This was called the "National Redoubt" and the German troops were called "werewolves". This caused our command great concern and we all were warned to be alert. The great surprise? Such a plan never existed.

Now, these are the specifics of the Tenth Armored role with regard to Nazi gold. Among those key officers were Col. Bill Eckles, Division G-2 (intelligence), Major William Geiler, 55th Engineer Battalion Commander, Major Roger Rawley, G-2, Major Ken McIntyre, Sergant AI Singleton, and several others. It should be noted that no Tenth Armored Division officers or troops were involved in stealing gold or currencies. The Tiger Division was in the center of all that occurred in the Garmisch area and is featured in "Nazi Gold" with regard to the 728 gold bars unearthed by the 55th Engineers. There was an investigation of our Division as to what happened to that gold valued at the time to be 10 million dollars. However, because of a record keeping problem, the case was cleared up and the Tenth Armored was totally cleared of any wrong doing.

The amazing thing is that very few people knew about all the gold buried in our area and the theft of millions of dollars by German SS Colonels, most of whom found their way to Argentina where they formed successful companies using their stolen gold as a way of buying into legitimate Argentine businesses. In Garmisch, I was once introduced to a woman who appeared to be a lady of some wealth. It was no wonder, it turned out that she was deep into the black market. After we left Garmisch in October, I learned that she had been murdered and an alleged $200,000 diamond bracelet was missing from her belongings. And, two other German nationals holding public office at the time were also executed gangland style. For sure, it will never be known how much gold and currencies were looted by SS Colonels who thought that since Germany was totally ruined by the war that they might as well help themselves to all the loot in our occupation area. "Nazi Gold" is well documented with names, places and events that took place while we were enjoying a respite from the war in one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

This story of unbelievable events and the greatest theft of treasure in the modern world is largely unknown. It took 10 years of digging, documentation and countless interviews by the authors to portray event by event and finally uncover the truth about the deception and conspiracy. No wonder "Story Line" TV has decided to do a television special! The Tenth Armored is featured throughout "Nazi Gold" plus our occupation newspaper "Tiger Tales", Tenth Armored personel and the author.

Another instance of intrigue was when I was assigned a billet in Garmisch at a vacant apartment, I had vistors one day. They had occupied the apartment and were forced to leave. The reason for the visit? They had left a large collection of photos taken by Hitler's photographer Hoffman. The pictures were of Eva Braun, Hitler and other top Nazi's. The women demanded I give them the pictures which I did but not until after I took a large picture of Eva Braun and other photos. After they left I called Percy Knauth of the Associated Press to tell him about the Eva Braun picture. He was very pleased to get the only large photo of Eva Braun and ran it through Associated Press with a promise he would return it. Note: I never received it from him. Several men rang the door bell during my stay there, but I would not answer the door. Some of the callers looked pretty scruffy. No doubt, they were high ranking Nazi's on the run seeking help from Frau Borman. For those "Tigers" who have my book "Impact", you may want to see pages 307 and 309 that relate to gold bars and currency dug up near Garmisch. These photos were originally in the occupation issue of "Tiger Tales" in Garmisch in 1945. During the occupation I searched for and found a printer in Garmisch where 4 German editions were circulated to the Tigers.

Garmisch was a place of unbelievable events—in fact, it was the center of European black market, cover up by American authorities, murders, stolen gold, diamonds, currencies, opium and, in fact, a place of ultra crime. The Tigers generally were unaware of the magnitude of crime. In contrast, Garmisch is one of the most beautiful places on earth both in summer and winter. The great majority of the population (at that time) of 35,000 people. Homes were decorated on the outside with religious paintings. Flower boxes brimming with color surrounded the homes. Bavaria was deeply Catholic, yet it produced the greatest man of evil—Adolph Hitler who took power in 1936 at Munich, the capital of Bavaria.

While we occupied Garmisch in 1945, the theft of gold bullion was rampant, but the black market was just beginning to assert its ugly head. During 1946-1947 the black market rose to immense proportions. The American forces under General Lucious Clay were not able to control that evil and were subjected to severe criticism for their inability to bring to trial hundreds of criminals—mostly German civilians. But, for the most part, the American forces came home to heroic welcomes. To this day it is not really known how much of the German national treasury was stolen. Incidentally, much of the Reichsbank treasure was looted from every country the Nazis occupied in WW II. "Nazi Gold" the book is carefully documented and is probably the only book that bears all the criminal activities during the occupation of Bavaria.

Since this was written, I was invited to Washington, DC on February 7th and 8th to the film company "Story House Productions" to be interviewed about what took place. Also there was Dusty Aughenbaugh and Don Stefl, both of the 55th Engineer Battalion, who recounted their experiences in helping to dig up the gold. The title of the film is "On the Trail of Hitler's Lost Treasure". It will be shown on German network television first and then to the American public on Thursday, August 23, 2001 at 8:00 PM and will be repeated again this year.


Reprinted from Tiger Tales November 2001.