DES MOINES, Iowa – James Hoyt, one of four U.S. soldiers who discovered the Buchenwald concentration camp as World War II neared its end, has died.
Hoyt's wife, Doris, said he died Monday in his sleep at home in rural Oxford. He was 83. The cause of death was not immediately determined.
Hoyt served in the Army's 6th Armored Division during World War II, earning a Bronze Star. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle fought by American troops in World War II.
Buchenwald, one of the largest concentration camps established by Nazi Germany, was liberated in April 1945. It is estimated that 56,000 prisoners lost their lives at Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945.
"There were thousands of bodies piled high," Hoyt said in a 2005 interview. "I saw hearts that had been taken from live people in medical experiments. ... Seeing these things, it changes you."
He said he had "horrific dreams" and received therapy at a Veterans Affairs hospital. He was interviewed as part of The Oxford Project in which citizens of Oxford were photographed and interviewed about their lives.
Hoyt had returned to Oxford after the war and later worked more than 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service there. He retired in 1992.
Doris Hoyt said her husband of 59 years rarely spoke about his service in World War II.
"I didn't find out about a lot of it until after he passed," she said. "He kept it all to himself."
Besides his wife, Hoyt is survived by six children, 11 grandchildren, a brother and a sister.