World War II veteran

Guy Prestia, a World War II veteran and one of the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp, will visit the Eldred World War II Museum Oct. 26.

ELDRED, Pa. — A veteran who was among the U.S. Army liberators of the Dachau concentration camp will appear Oct. 26 at the Eldred World War II Museum.

Guy Prestia, of Ellwood City, will give a presentation, which is free and open to the public, at 2 p.m.

Prestia, who served with the 45th Infantry Division, will share his experiences during the war, which include the liberation of Dachau.

According to a story from Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh, “During WWII, Guy Prestia ... was among the first Army troops to reach Europe through North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and Anzio. From June 1943 through Allied Occupation, Guy served with the 45th Infantry Division, a unit formed out of the Oklahoma Army National Guard from the American Southwest.”

Official military records state that the 45th endured 511 days of combat and more than 63,000 casualties. By war’s end, it was a tough, seasoned outfit.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“We really didn’t know what we were doing at first,” Prestia said. “Mistakes were made. There were tragic friendly fire accidents in the fog of war, literally.”

After pushing through France and Germany, the men of the 45th were among the first to liberate Dachau. Despite their battle hardness, they were unprepared for such inhumanity.

“It was terrible, almost beyond belief,” he says. “Many soldiers, through the tears and vomit, now understood the importance of their service. ... We were hardened soldiers. We had seen a lot of people die, we’d seen people wounded. But when we saw that, we could not understand.”