When we first met Mr. Birney "Chick" Havey at an airshow last fall, we asked him where the "Chick" came from in his name. "In the army, everyone got a nickname," he said, "they were all 'Bud' or 'Tom" or something like that, so I went by "Chick."' We talked with Mr. Havey for a while; he showed us his "artifacts" collected during the war. A German dagger, German medals (including an iron cross), German patches, and numerous other fascinating objects. Later in the day a lady came up to us and said, "Did you know Birney Havey was one of the first men into the gates of Dachau?" Goodness! This had not even been brought up. We went back to Mr. Havey and he willingly obliged our questions, even pulling out some photos he had taken.
Arriving in Europe just in time for the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Havey had seen plenty of fighting and death by the time he reached Dachau; but despite the natural hardness that come with combat, the sight he saw that day, April 25, 1945, was enough to turn the strongest man's stomach sick. His anti-tank unit came in through the back, discovering around 300 train car-loads of dead and rotting bodies. He said of all those prisoners, they only found one alive. From there they went into the camp, and the horror did not abate much. He saw "people living inside post office-like slots, three or four in each hole. They were alive, but some were dying in there, others were too weak to get out." Rounding up several of the SS still in the camp, they lined them up and shot them. Mr. Havey only stayed in the area a day and a half before his unit moved forward, but that day left permanent mark in his mind, and no doubt brought renewed meaning to the reason he was fighting.