CHAPTER 1 REPORT FOR INDUCTION CHAPTER 6 LUFT VI - HYDEKRUG CHAPTER 2 TOUR OF DUTY BEGINS CHAPTER 7 BLACK HUNGER MARCH CHAPTER 3 MISSIONS CHAPTER 8 LUFT IV - GROSSTYCHOW CHAPTER 4 FRIEDRICHSHAFEN - "OUR TURN NEXT" CHAPTER 9 ON THE ROAD TO LUFT XI CHAPTER 5 SHOT DOWN & CAPTURED CHAPTER 10 THE LIBERATION
STALAG LUFT VI, LAGER C, HYDEKRUG (pronounced Heidi-crug)
Upon arriving at Hydekrug, they put us in a barracks right away. I was in with a guy by the name of Faulk, who was banged up a little but no real problem. The barracks we were in was used as a waiting room for the hospital. They kept us in this barracks only a couple of days and then they moved us. They carried me from the first lager, through another lager and into the hospital. They introduced me to the doctor, who was a very interesting man. He was Irish, from Ireland, an Irishman in the British Army, and he voluntarily parachuted into the prison camp with all of his instruments and allowed himself to be captured. He did this so he could administer care to the prisoners in the prison camp. For years I carried his name and address written on an old cigarette package. I later sent him some nylon stockings for his wife after the war.
He took me in and talked about my situation. He didn't like the looks of my leg. He looked at the drawing on the cast and then took the cast off. He didn't have an X-Ray machine but he could see and feel a lot of things that were wrong with my leg. Of course by now my leg had started to set. "I'm going to have to crack it open again," he told me. I said, "What ever you say, Doc." "If I don't, you'll be crippled for life. The foot will be twisted to one side, you'll have to have special shoes, and things like that, but I can fix it...here and now." He went on and explained, "I have no anesthesia, but I'll do what I can."
I was laying on my back on his table and was looking up over head and there's one electric light that had about a sixty or seventy watt bulb. There was a fantastic arrangement of reflectors in a geometric pattern around that bulb that greatly increased the light from that one bulb. "How do you like that," he asked? I answered, "I think that's something fabulous." He said, "Well, our Australian friends made that. It's made out of "Klim" powdered milk cans." Klim was-a brand name of powered milk. Klim is milk spelled backwards. The cans had a high sheen on the inside and made a good reflector. They saved all their empty cans and also used them for dishes to eat from.
While I was thinking about the light and talking about it, he broke the leg. How I sweat.
After he broke it, he manipulated it and that was hell until he got it set and some kind of a cover on it. He was able to make a cast and when he did, he but some kind of a block on the end of it so when the cast hardened, I could put my weight on it. By this time I'm a pretty sick son of a gun. 1 can still remember the sweat. What I liked about him, he did his job. He didn't apologize for hurting me, I couldn't have taken that. "There, I think we've got you about as good as. . .oh, it will be a lot like new when you get out of here." "Do you think we're going to get out, Doc," I asked? He said, "Sure, this can't go on forever." He went out and called for somebody to come and get me. They came in and carried me back to the same place that they had earlier brought me from.
The following day I was taken out and photographed. They held a number up in front of me, 3212, and was given a POW dog tags. From there I was moved into the big barracks. In the big lager there were about six barracks and each barracks held about fifty people. They were very big and were all built so they could be taken apart and reassembled again. They could easily take off a side, add on to the wall and put the side back on. They were bolted together, like a prefabricated type building.
When I got in there it was unbelievable. I started running into people that I went to gunnery school with. In gunnery school there was myself, Dominic Ross and Charles Ross, all in the same class. Of course we were assigned in alphabetical order. I ran into Dominic Ross here in Hydekrug. One of his crew members was a guy named Troy, from just north of Boston. He was shot down with Dominic Ross. He knew Swanzey and the area because he had a tar truck and he used to come up here tarring the roads in the towns in this area. He was a big help to me, he was really something. I didn't see Charles Ross, but they told me that he had lost an arm. During conversations with some of the prisoners, I would be with guys that knew someone that knew somebody that knew about places in the area where I came from. One guy knew of Mt. Monadnock. These kind of conversations were very helpful as far as keeping my moral up.
We had a softball team. Imagine that, barracks six had a softball team. They had players that knew the game but couldn't win.
Barracks five had a good pitcher that nobody could hit. Our barracks had a guy named Peters who maintained, "With chances enough, I could hit it, I could belt it out of here." That's the way it was. We were all here so we made the best of it. Finally a guy came to me and asked me if I knew anything about softball. I said, "A little, I love to watch it." He said, "Damn it, we need somebody to tell us what to do." We had a guy who was the manager, but he also played. He felt he couldn't do both, so he came to me and told me that the guys had picked me to be their manager. He didn't think the manager should also be playing. He said to me, "I want to play and you can be the manager." I felt, "Gee, that's a good way to get it, have them come to me." So I agreed to manage. The players on our team had to be from our barracks, so I said, "Let's find out who can do what." We had a little guy, Tommy Cannon, from Alabama. Gosh he was small. Two of him could fit in a ball turret! I asked him if he played softball and he said that he did. I said, "Alright, I'll have you lead of f. I'll but you somewhere in the field later." They couldn't pitch to Tommy because he was so small. We had Peters as our clean up hitter. We started winning games!
The umpire we had, had professional baseball umpiring experience. Years later I saw him umpiring in the major leagues. As manager, there were times when I wasn't quite sure of myself. There was this one guy in barracks five that could throw a ball something awful (fast) and of course he was their pitcher. During one of our games with barracks five, he was pitching and I didn't think his delivery was legal. So I went up to the umpire and said, "I have to question that pitch." He said, "Tell me what's wrong." I asked, "Doesn't it have to be six inches from his leg?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Look at it, he's throwing side arm." "That's right," he said, "but I can't say anything until somebody complains about it. He's been doing it right along." The next pitch he threw the umpire called a ball. The pitcher wondered why and the umpire told him. He knew it anyway. After he started pitching the way he should, we started getting hits. We were able to score a lot of runs in the first inning. This meant the other team had to play catch up. We won our share of games, of course we lost some too. It was somewhat loose at Hydekrug. When the ball went beyond the barbed wire, we'd get one of the 'goons to go get it for us and they would. They'd get it and throw it back to us and we'd continue our game. This provided a great way to pass the time away and maintain moral.
I was still in my full leg cast. I could, however, walk on the block at the heel of the cast with the help of a crutch. I graduated to a cane and finally it was time to get rid of the cast. The doctor called for me to come in and of course the Germans had to make a big deal to get me in and out. They have to count you out of one lager and into another. I finally got in and the doctor took the cast off. This was the same Irish doctor that treated me when I got here. He told me to do what I normally would do and when I got tired I was to stop and take it easy.
The Aussies did a lot to help the doctor. They were making artificial arms and legs, and they were pretty good at it. The Aussies had been there for two to three years and had the camp set up and organized very well. The Aussies had radios and receiving sets. They had one set operating, another set about ready to operate and another set being built. When the Germans came around to raid the barracks, we'd let them find one and that would satisfy them. The British broadcasting was reaching us and the British knew it. They were putting on anything they wanted to, to build up our moral. Of course they told us how we were winning the war, although there were times that we weren't so sure.
By now my leg was feeling better and I was getting around meeting people and finding out what they did with their time. Dominic Ross, who I mentioned earlier, took fine galvanized wire and made link chains for the guys dog tags. Each link was about 1/8 of an inch long. Some were making lens for watches by melting a clear toothbrush handle, spreading it out and shaping it to fit some bodies watch. They would finish it by polishing it and then give it to someone who had a broken crystal, or who had lost their crystal. It would take a long time to make, but they worked. We had one guy that cut stencils. He used the lining from the main box that the food, packages came in. The lining was a black, heavy paper that held up good. I still have a stencil be made for me of the U.S.A.F. logo with the wings. There was another prisoner, who's name was Kavannaugh, who was an architect, and he "remodel" our houses on paper. We'd sketch our floor plans on a piece of paper, or anything we could find to write on, and he'd remodel them. He had some great ideas.
Another way of killing time was to play games. We invented a game a lot like the game of "Battleship". This was before the game of "Battleship" was out. We came up with this game because you could sit across the room from each other and play. You didn't have to sit around a table, which we didn't have anyway. We drew squares on a piece of cardboard and used burnt matches for markers. After I got home and the game of "Battleship" came out, I often wondered if it was invented by a Prisoner of War. It was a lot like what we played.
We had barbers that would cut your hair. The means of exchange was cigarettes and food from food packages. They'd cut your hair for a -cigarette and if you didn't have any cigarettes, they'd cut your hair just the same. If you had cigarettes, you would give him some.
The first food packages we got were from Argentina because the United States hadn't made any arrangements, as yet, to get packages into German prison camps. However, the Argentines and British were getting them in through the British Red Cross and The Order of St. John. Most of the material in the packages was coming from Argentina. The packages came in large wood cases about three feet by two feet by three feet. These were the boxes that had the black lining that the guy cut the stencils from that I mentioned earlier. There is still another story about these boxes that I'll talk about later.
The cases would come in the vor lager (front lager) and the British would divide up these packages. As an example, cheese would come in what we call a wheel. They would cut the cheese up in sections and make each package a serving for two people to last a certain length of time. These packages would then be distributed. This was a full time operation for these people with each shipment providing about a two week cycle. When they finished with one shipment, another would come in. It was well organized and the British had it down pat.
We began to get instant coffee which the British had no use for. They would rather have tea. We were sometimes getting tea and when we did, we would swap the tea or sometimes a bar of soap for a can of coffee, or we'd swap a can of Spam for coffee. The way we did this was quite unique because we were in different lagers. We had a big inner tube set up on one of the buildings that was used as a sling shot, or catapult. To give an idea of the distance we had to "propel" our goods, even though the lagers were right next to each other; inside each lager was a warning wire that was about ten to twelve feet from the actual wire fence. We couldn't go beyond the warning wire. Beyond the fence there's another wire fence about fifteen to twenty feet away. Between these two fences was a massive coil of barbed wire ten feet high. Of course the other lager, next to us, had the same arrangement making it a distance of anywhere from thirty to fifty feet that these "parcels" had to travel. So we used this large catapult and we'd put whatever we were trading on this catapult and shoot it over to the next lager. We had a rough idea where it would land and they would catch it on the other side with blankets. The same setup was used by them to send things over to us. A lot of cigarettes, tobacco, tea and coffee changed hands!
When rations got short, you could buy a slice of bread for two cigarettes. When the rations were real short, we were on German rations, which we were on anyway. The food packages were supplemental. The German rations were hardly enough. The bread tasted flat, a lot like sawdust. For meals, I know I've eaten dog. We were up in the cook house when the carcasses were brought in to be cooked. It was supposed to be sheep, but we knew better. The soup was awful. We got purple cabbage soup. We called it "Purple Death." We wouldn't eat until after the lights were out. That's a fact, it was that bad. The only good thing was that it was hot when it went into your stomach. It was hot and greasy as hell.
We also had potatoes. The guys at first suggested that we stop peeling the potatoes, that way we could get more of the potato. We said, "Wait a minute. They fertilize their potato fields with our toilets. So we better be sure that we peel the potatoes and get everything off from them." So needless to say we peeled our potatoes. The doctor heard of our idea and he made sure that we were peeling our potatoes.
We learned how to manipulate the Germans and they learned how to manipulate us. Hydekrug wasn't too bad because the Germans were beginning to lose the war a little in some areas and it was nip and tuck in other areas. So at this point they were treating us pretty good at Hydekrug. In fact we had one guard, Snyder, who was a school teacher and we liked him. He seemed different than most guards and we respected him. After breakfast there were always people walking the compound for exercise. We would check the bulletin boards for showers (we had them once a week and wouldn't miss one). The first guys in got the hot water! It wasn't until the Russians started moving in that the Germans started getting mean.
We were beginning to make friends with the German guards. The German officers caught one or two of their guards that were friendly with us and sent them away, punished them, and bring them back.' They looked like zombies when they returned. We learned not to get close to anybody you liked. There were German contacts that our men knew how to get in contact with and we left it that way. It was well organized. They even got a prisoner a set of false teeth on the outside. The hussies had the Germans all lined up to accomplish that.
As I got moving around, I met a guy who gave physical therapy. He was a prisoner and he could do a take off on Adolf Hitler that would make you scream! He had a small building about ten feet by twenty feet and after my cast was removed, I went to him three times a week. He had a table in the niddle of the room and he'd put me on it. He ~iorked on my leg to bring the muscles back because they hadn't been used for quite a while. When he ~ias done rubbing my leg, he had a big metal tub that had several light bulbs inside. He'd put my Leg in the tub and turn on the lights for heat. when my leg got good and warm, he'd rub olive oil on it which felt real good. When he was done he told me to go out and walk on it. "I don't want you to limp on it, I want you to walk on it," and t did. It came along quite good. Years later I iad to have novocaine shot into a nerve to reduce the pain.
One of the times while I was on his table and iaving my leg worked on, I felt a funny sensation. le looked at me kind of funny and said., "You'll ~iave to get off the table for a minute." When I lid, he moved the table. The boards in the floor that were under the table came out and three or tour prisoners came up out of a hole under the Eloor. They sat on the edae of the floor, had a drink of water and talked a few minutes. When they left his building, they left one at a time over a period of fifteen to twenty minutes and walked around the compound for a while. They returned and went back into the tunnel. After they all went back into the tunnel he put the floor boards back and moved the table back in place. While this was going on, I never said a word, I just watched. He put me back on the table and said, "You'll probably find out anyway, this is tunnel number three. This camp is getting ready for a break out just about anytime." These guys that were just here were getting rid of the sand that was being dug out of the tunnel. They tied their pant legs at the ankles and filled their pants with sand. Then they walked around the compound and slowly loosened the string on their pant legs and got rid of the sand as they walked. There were prisoners walking around the compound all the time just for exercise, so it was not hard to blend in and get rid of the sand. This was tunnel number three. They got caught in tunnel number two! All the Commandant did was make them fill it up, which was pretty lenient. Hydekrug sat on sand, so digging escape tunnels was a popular activity and favorite pastime. I don't remember an actual escape. As I said earlier, things weren't going too bad.
We had a guy named Edwards that was in show business and he organized a theatrical group here at Hydekrug. He was given a building and they built a stage in one end. The rest of the floor was taken out and they built a long ramp going from the end of the building to the stage. For seats, they used the square boxes, from Argentina, that the food packages came in. They took half of the front and cut it off and tilted it back on an angle and that was the seat. They had rows of them down front. They didn't have enough for the whole building, so they used planks for the rest, or standing room. The Germans gave Edwards lights and equipment so when they had a show, they'd invite the Germans and they'd come. A lot of the prisoners were picking up German and they'd make jokes at some of the Germans that they knew and the Germans would laugh and clap. Edwards was good at makeup. He made up men to look like women and if you didn't know that it was only men in the show, you couldn't tell. Some of the shows were pretty raunchy but it didn't really matter, because we were all men. They also had some pretty good shows. The shows made for good communications between the prisoners and the Germans.
One of the clever things I saw while in prison camp was the way the Germans cleaned the toilets. They had an ingenious method for doing this. The toilet was a long concrete tank about sixty feet long by eight to ten feet deep and six feet wide. Holes were set over this and we sat over the tank and everything went into the tank. They had a big tank on wheels with a combustion chamber connected to the toilet with a big suction hose. They had it set up so they could form an explosion in the tank that would create a vacuum that would suck the tank full of the waste from the toilet with one blast. That's the way they got rid of the toilet waste. It was the smartest thing I saw all the time I was over there.
When we first got there the tank was pulled by two horses. The next thing we knew, the tank was pulled by one horse and two Russian prisoners. This is when we found out about the Russian prison camp way in the back. We didn't know the Russians were there until now. The toilet cleanup duties wound up with three Russians pulling the tank, two Russians pushing it and a German riding on top of It. The Russians were in bad shape. We got word from out were they were kept, that if one of them died they wouldn't say anything, because they'd get the same ration of food. They would get found out and be punished, but in the meantime they got the benefit of the extra rations. The Germans even used the Russian women to sweep the snow off the railroad tracks.
We had a guy who went through gunnery school with me, Glenn Shiver was his name. He stands out in my mind because he couldn't march in step no matter how he tried because he had no sense of rhythm. He was here in Hydekrug with us. It got cold in Hydekrug and he had this big red woolen sweater that he wore all the time. He never took it off. Pretty soon we started noticing white areas under the arms, followed by the odor. He wouldn't take a shower. The guys in the barracks got after him to take a shower and he'd say, "I don't have to take a shower. Nobody can make me take a shower." The barracks leader said, "He's right. We can't make him take a shower." It finally got so bad that when he came to our bunk to talk to us, we'd walk away. We'd look at this guy and he was hurt. Finally when it was our turn for the showers, we grabbed him and told him he had a choice. He could leave his clothes on and go in and take a shower, or he could take his clothes off and go in and take a shower. Either way, he was going to take a shower! Come to find out, he didn't want to undress. When we got him in the shower he left his shorts on. After that he took showers, but never naked.
When the Russians started moving in the Germans started talking about moving us out. We got this information from the guards. There were two types of guards. There's the German guard that comes in with a rifle and he will walk around inside. He's a guard and he can go into any place he wants. Then there's the goons. They're not armed and they don't say anything. They just walk and look. They walk with their hands behind their back and look into every nook and cranny that they can find. They were responsible for the raids that came on us. They would find something that wasn't just right and they'd take it to the brains and they'd land on us. We knew we were going to get caught on some of these things, so you let it happen and get it over with. Than you start in again.
Snyder, who I mentioned earlier, and a couple of other guards got to be quite friendly. Snyder asked about life In America every chance he got. He wanted to know if there were many Catholics in America and of course I told him there were. It was during one of these conversations that I asked him what he did in civilian life. He said, "I was a teacher at the high school level." I asked him, "Are you a Nazi?" He smiled and said, "Oh no, no." He didn't like what he was doing but he had no choice. Evidently word of our conversations got back to the German officers and the next thing we knew Snyder was gone. Two or three months later, Snyder returned. When he left he had dark hair, almost black, but when he returned, his hair was snow white. When we saw him in the compound, as we did before, we'd speak to him by name and he looked right through us as if he was in a trance. Our barracks leader found out that the Gestapo got him and did a job on him. To make matters worse, they but him back with the same men he had before. They really knew how to hurt and demoralize. We felt terrible about Snyder.
We got a bridge tournament going and little Tommy Cannon and I won the tournament. The prize was five hundred ciaarettes. That meant we each had two hundred and fifty cigarettes. Now imagine, cigarettes were the means of exchange. Those that didn't smoke saved their cigarettes to trade for this, that and the other thing. This was before filter tips, so you can imagine how often the cigarettes had been handled and how much tobacco was left in them. So the rule was established that if the cigarette had three quarters of an inch to one inch of tobacco in it, it was a cigarette. Also, if you picked it up end wise, and the tobacco was so loose that it fell out, it was not a cigarette. When this happened, the guys would twist the ends of the cigarettes to hold in the tobacco. These cigarettes had gone from one to the other for three or four months, so there wasn't much left of them. Tommy and I got about fifty cigarettes that you could actually smoke. It was a real gasser and we got a big kick out of it.
When we got our rations, we had to empty the cans and have the empty cans outside the barracks door the same day the packages come. This was so nobody was storing food. The Germans actually counted the cans when they picked them up. What we learned to do was to eat the perishables. There was graham crackers, dried fruit (that we would save) and salmon. We learned to make flour out of the graham crackers and mix it with salmon. While we were in the wash room heating the water, we'd make that mix into a cake and bake it. The cooking was done in the corner of the barracks that had a big tub with a fire under it to heat the water. This was done once a week for us to bathe. There was always one of our men watching for Germans so we wouldn't get caught. We'd then put it into a fire in a tin can and finish cooking it. We stretched that out with the use of German bread. The Germans gave us enough bread for a week but by cooking it we could keep it longer. We tried to work out something for Spam, but you could only fry it. We sliced it and fried it ona piece of tin. That would hold it back a day or two.
When we went up to get the packages, they would call off our names by ration partners, and the American prisoners handed out the packages. Faulk was my ration partner and it was a good deal for me because Faulk didn't smoke. He gave me his share of cigarettes and I reciprocated with him whenever I made deals for food using his cigarettes. After all this, I can only remember getting two packages.
While this was going on, the families could send one food package and one cigarette package every sixty days, as Annie explained earlier. The food package was put up by the families and sent in accordance with the rules set by the Germans. At the same time we could sent one letter per month to our family. They didn't always get through, or when they did get through, there was so much censored out that it lost its meaning. However, enough got through so Annie would know what to.send. The shame of the food package program was, even after following the rules that the Germans had set, the food packages from home seldom got through. I only received one food package and only one cigarette package even though Annie sent many more than that.
One of the American prisoners that handed out the food packages, I later met after I got home. I had joined the Legion in Hinsdale, and later moved to Swanzey. When I transferred to the Swanzey post, we were having election of officers. We were also taking in new members. This fellow came up to me and we looked at each other and I thought, where have I seen him before. We talked for a few minutes and the subject got around to the war and it turned out that he was one of the prisoners that was handing out the food packages at Hydekrug.
THE BLACK HUNGER MARCH
On Sunday the guards would let us meet between two barracks and have a church service. We had fifty or sixty prisoners at each service. We held the services outside because the rooms in the barracks were too small. While we were having our service, the guards stood far back and just watched. As we started singing, the guards would begin to inch up and listen. They liked the singing. When we stopped singing or ended a prayer (Amen was a signal they recognized) they'd return to their original positions. The church services kept a lot of us going.
Our time at Hydekrug was about over. When the Russians moved in, the British were moving out and I never did know what happened to the Aussies. We were a separate group of people as far as the Germans were concerned. Our time came and we were moved out of Hydekrug. What we didn't know was that we were about to embark on a long and agonizing march.
From Hydekrug we were taken by box cars up to the Baltic. We were all chained together, like criminals, with one long chain. At the dock, the person that was waiting for us was madder than hell that we were in chains. "What do they think, we got a bunch of animals?" He cut us free of the chains and we were put on a small boat the size of a trawler.
We went around the Baltic and down into the North Sea. When we were put back on land we were in the Netherlands, just north of Peenemunde. This was the start of the "Black Hunger March." This was the name that was later given to it by the Americans, but of course we didn't know it at the time. Before it would end, we would walk 800 kilometers (500 miles) under the most adverse conditions. The Irish doctor, along with some Aussies and British prisoners, was also on the march with, us.
We spent nights in ditches beside the road or in barns when we found them. Sometimes we were lucky and found a barn that had hay. Faulk remained my ration partner during the march. Faulk was Jewish but he could speak and understand German. While on the road we made it a point that Faulk would be on the outside of the formation. We marched four abreast. With the guards walking along side of us, sometimes we could pick up useful information. At the end of the day, Faulk would tell us what he heard, or if it was important, he'd tell me right away, or as soon as he could, and I'd help spread the word. We did everything we could to keep ourselves informed of what was going on around us. Of course the Germans told us nothing voluntarily.
We were coming down around Stettin, and were approaching some sort of an installation. We were told by the German guards that under no circumstances were we to look towards the installation. In fact we were told to walk with eyes straight ahead. We took that order pretty seriously. As we approached the area, we could see a fence made of railroad ties about twelve feet high, tight together making a solid fence. We took a glance at it once ô.r twice, but we were pretty much looking straight ahead. We couldn't see anything anyway, but we felt whatever it was it must be of significance. I learned much later, after I was home, that we had walked by Peenemunde, where the Germans were developing the V-2 rocket. We had no way of knowing it at the time.
Further down the same road we came to a large clearing that was filled with German airplanes under camouflage netting. There were dive bombers and fighters all lined up, row after row, brand new airplanes with no fuel to fly them. After Ploesti, the Germans were starving for fuel. Earlier in the war the oil fields of Polesti were destroyed by massive raids flown by B-24's. The destruction of these oil fields proved to be crippling to the Germans. There's a book on these oil field raids titled "Ploesti" that's interesting reading.
While we were on the march we didn't make many miles a day. We had two German guards that hung together pretty well but we learned that they didn't like what they were doing. We didn't know their names, so we called them Hans and Fritz. One carried, an automatic rifle and the other carried a regular rifle. They walked along beside the formation but varied their position so they wouldn't be opposite the same prisoner all the time. We noticed that every other day they swapped off carrying the automatic rifle, which is a very heavy piece of equipment. Neither one of them wanted to carry it. After a few days out we noticed that the automatic rifle was gone. They said nothing about it, but we were curious about what happened to the automatic rifle. We leaned later that they threw it in a ditch. They weren't going to carry that heavy thing so they rid themselves of it. As far as we were concerned they didn't need it and they knew it.
It was early in the march and we were in pretty good physical condition at this point. One of the first nights out we spent in a barn and one of the guards arranged for food. They brought in a wagon that was half loaded with boiled potatoes that we were thankful to get. They were good and they were hot, and that sustained us for that night. We had practically no rations, so food was a major concern from day to day throughout the march. One day, while out on the road, they brought a wagon load of potatoes along side of us while we were marching and we grabbed potatoes from the wagon as it went by. These were potatoes that were on their way to a farm and were going to be fed to the pigs, but we got them instead.
When the wagon reached the end of the column, they took the potatoes that were left on the load and threw them in the road. Some of the prisoners rushed to pick them up and keep them to eat the next morning. We grabbed at any form of food that was offered.
As the march continued, we were able to talk to Hans and Fritz and during one of these conversations, we learned that Hans had a sister living in San Francisco. She had written him telling him how the Americans were handling the German prisoners, and he commented, "Look what we're doing. These poor people, they don't know where they're going, they don't know whether they're going to eat or not, sleep or not." Neither Hans or Fritz liked the situation they were in and we were glad to know this. Both guards were mad as hell at Hitler. Hans said, "Hitler, scheisse," which means, "Shit." In his broken English he said, "Hitler, damn him, he promised we would be better off. There would be jobs, two cars in every garage. Hitler, scheisse I didn't even have a wheelbarrow," and Fritz side in with, "Yeah, look what we're doing now."
After about a month on the road (as near as can figure), we spent a night in a field. It was cold and damp, so we put all we could underneath us to keep out the dampness. When I got up the next morning I was cold, and of course, hungry, and as usual we had little or nothing to eat or anything hot to drink. We hit the road as we had the previous mornings but as I started walking this morning, I couldn't feel any sensation in my feet. I kept walking and the sensation started going up my leg. I walked until I couldn't go on: further and I went down on my knees. Luckily, on the other side of the formation was the Irish doctor who had treated my leg at Hydekrug. The doctor had a group of Aussies and British marching with him and they took orders from him. By now I was on my hands and knees. The doctor shouted something and two prisoners, Aussies or British, who I didn't know, came up to me and got me under each arm and carried me. I was fortunate to have the doctor that close to me when this happened. This put me at the tail end of the group. When we started, I was about three-quarters back but now was at the very end. I wasn't the only one in this condition. Some of the prisoners got it in their hands. The doctor was surprised that there wasn't more of it because it was strictly from malnutrition. We were all susceptible to getting it, and eventually we all did, in one form or another, including the doctor.
A wagon came up and stopped. They picked up those of us that were sick and put us in the wagon. We wound up with twelve or fourteen of us in the wagon. The wagon was pulled by other prisoners that had not yet fallen victim to the disease. While we were in the wagon there was one occasion that we got completely separated from the group. By separated, I mean a half mile or so behind. That's an example of the slow pace that we were now traveling.
We acquired a new guard about this time of the march. He was a sergeant and seemed like an alright guy. That night, we came upon a farm where we would spend the night. We stopped at the farm house, and the sergeant went up to get permission for us to spend the night in the barn. When he came down from the house, he told us (between his broken English and Faulk's ability to understand German) that the owner of the house was a German colonel. He had told the colonel that he had some prisoners that were "lam" (hurt) and needed a place to sleep for the night. The colonel wanted to know what outfit the prisoners were from. The sergeant was sharp enough to recognize that the colonel was a panser (tank) commander, so he said that we were a group of pansers. The colonel told him to go ahead and bed down and that there was hay in the barn that we could use.
While the sergeant was telling us about this, he said, "Now be sure, he's going to come down to look you over and to talk. It will be better if no one understands German. But if he does say anything about panser and points to someone, just nod your head and say, "Yeah, I'm panser tank corporal." "I told him that you were panser tank corporals."
Sure enough that's exactly what happened. He came down and talked and looked around. He was a typical Nazi. "You prisoners of war, yeah, you can sleep in the barn." While he was there the sergeant disappeared and we didn't know where he went. When he returned, he and the colonel talked for a few minutes, then they saluted and the colonel went back to the house. The sergeant asked if any of us had any soap. (When we were taken prisoner we all kept our GI overcoats. The overcoat was double breasted. The way the buttons were sewn in and the over flap constructed, there's a space about three inches wide. If you open up the stitching down through, it makes a pocket from the lapel to the bottom of the coat about three inches wide. You can stuff all kinds of things down there. Soap, cigarettes and clean handkerchiefs, that we used for bandages, were things that we hoarded and kept in this long pocket of our overcoat.) We said, "Yes, we had some soap, but why do you ask?" He said that while he was gone, he was up in the kitchen and the ladies in the kitchen asked what we were eating and I told them that we had very little. They told me if they could get from us one or two bars of soap, they would send down a hot stew. W immediately looked from one to another and each o us had at least one bar or half of a bar of Palmolive soap. The important thing was that we did have soap and we gave some to the sergeant an he brightened up. (We really liked this sergeant. We later saw him after we were released.) The sergeant grinned and brought the soap up to the kitchen and sure enough, he and one of the kitchen help, carried down this big iron kettle of stew. We didn't know what it was, but was it good… WAS IT GOOD! The kettle held more than we could eat. We had to be sure that we didn't over eat, because we had been starved for a long time and if we ate too fast, we would regurgitate. So we could only eat slow and a little at a time. The sergeant asked if he could keep the kettle down with us if we brought it back later that night or in the morning. They said it was alright and that's what we did. We nibbled at it all night without any problems (vomiting). We were tickled to death to have it. This is one incident that remains fresh in my mind even today.
While on the march we went through towns and villages which was to be expected. We went through this particular town, I didn't know the name of it, but for some reason I remembered it. And then a frightening thing happened. Several days later, maybe a week or so, we went through the same town again. Faulk also noticed it. I thought, oh oh, what's going on? This raised all kinds of questions. Up until now, we didn't know what our destination was, now we didn't know if w~ even HAD a destination. We knew if there was a destination, we weren't taking the most direct route. Why? Were we lost? I doubted that. Now our imaginations began to run wild. What are they doing? Is the march being used to kill us? Are they going to keep us out here until we all starve to death? Were they trying to reduce us to weak, sick human beings for whatever lay ahead? The more we thought about it the more questions arose in our minds. There was nothing we could do except move on.
This was about the time in the march that the German guards received guard dogs to keep the columns of prisoners in tact. If anyone of us broke rank for any reason, the dogs were right on us, so we did everything possible to keep up and maintain the columns.
The march took us through Marienburg, Germany. We saw practically a whole factory on wheels being moved out, including the steam boilers. It looked like a munition factory that was going to be set up at another location. It was all on trucks and the trucks were fueled by charcoal. For some reason they were bogged down and weren't moving. There were heavy machines on each truck and the whole procession must have been close to a mile long. It was a large operation and absolutely amazing. In reality, this was probably the only way of moving this type of equipment because we were bombing their railroads daily. It only left roads as a safe way to travel.
There was this nice sunny day, by now it was getting into spring, and we were sitting in a barn yard resting. We had been walking for some time and the sun felt good on my legs. There was a water pipe, or hydrants type valve, sticking up out of the ground about five hundred feet away from where we were. There was a faucet on it so you could get water from it if you could get to it. We were sitting in a fenced in area and were unable to get to it. About a dozen of young teenager's came by, who were members of the Hitler Youth Program, and they started making fun of us. They were about twelve to fourteen years old. A couple of the prisoners gave the kids their empty milk cans to fill up with water from the hydrant. The kids took the cans and filled them with water and brought them back. Just as they got to the fence where they would be handing the water to the prisoners, they dumped the water on the ground and threw the cans away. Luckily, I didn't trust them to begin with, so I didn't give them my can, but it was a demoralizing thing to be treaded in this manner, especially by kids.
It was nearing the end of the march and I was beginning to get back on my feet. We were staying in a barn and about midnight I had to go to the toilet. We had to go to the door and rap on it and call for the "posten" (the guard). You'd tell him you needed to go to. the toilet and he'd tell us to wait for two or three more so we could go together and not keep opening the door. We knew this so I waited and pretty soon Faulk had to go, so I rapped on the door and said, "Two." The guard opened the door and we went out and did our business and came back. When we came back, the guard asked if we had a cigarette. I said, "Yeah", and I gave him a cigarette. We stood in an alcove, of sort, and we each smoked a cigarette. The guard was probably fifty years old and he was talking, through Faulk, about America. He asked about Canada. Faulk said, "Ross knows about Canada, he used to live there." He asked about Catholics in Canada and about work in Canada. I said, "Yes, there's a lot of work in Canada." He had thought about moving to Canada at one time but never did. I asked what he did and as near as I could understand, he was a weaver. He worked in textile, "fabric machen," making fabric. He asked "America good too?" I said, "Oh yes, I lived about six years in Canada and then moved to America." He said, "Oh, you can do that?" I said, "Yeah." "A lot of people do that," he asked? I said, "Yes." "You move around.. .go from Canada to America." I said, "Yes." "America to Canada," he asked? I said, "Yes." He was amazed at that. In Germany you had to have permission to leave a town. After a little while he said, "Better go" (go back into the barn). There were several incidents like that where we talked to the guards and answered there questions about America.
We were nearing the end of the march and we had learned that we were headed for Stalag Luft IV. About five miles from our destination we were taken over by a red headed German captain. The way he acted we thought he was mad (insane). Faulk was listening to this captain and said, "Oh my God." I asked, "What's the matter?" "I think he's stark raving mad. There's something awfully wrong here. He hates all American prisoners.". I asked, "What's he doing?" "FEe's telling his men to put their knives under our packs and cut them." He's saying what right do we have to have anything. He told his men, "They're Luft gangsters and don't deserve to live, let alone own anything." Some of them did cut our straps and let the packs drop to the ground. Some just cut one strap and let the pack dangle. The ones doing the cutting looked at this captain and you could tell that they were actually scared to death of him. This is how we entered Stalag Luft IV. It was April 21, 1944, and we had just completed a march of five hundred miles.
NEWS OF THE PRISON CHANGE RECEIVED AT HOME
On June 14, 1944, I received a letter from Washington telling me that Jim had been moved to another prison camp. I was given his new address along with food package labels and tobacco labels. I did not have to apply for these labels. The new prison camp was Stalag Luft IV, Grosstychow.
I received my first letter from Jim in September, 1944. The letter was written in July of '44, on a half sheet of paper. I received a second letter from him in February, 1945. That letter was written in September of '44. I wrote letters to Jim regularly and went to the post office every day with hopes of finding something from him. This one particular day, I went into the post office and my box was full of mail. I could see they were air mail envelopes and I was excited. I thought that all the letters that Jim had written home had gotten lost and they had all arrived together. I rushed to the box and pulled them out and at the same time the postmaster cautioned me on getting my hopes up. The letters were all letters that I had sent to Jim over the past weeks, but were not delivered.
The townspeople all knew Jim was an American POW in Germany and most of them offered me a great deal of support. Some didn't quite know how to act or what to say, but I knew how they felt. One of my jobs at the store was making home deliveries one day a week. I delivered peoples grocery's that they had ordered during the week. Just about every house I went to was a waiting bag of potatoes, or vegetables, or fruit, or food in general to help me with my family. It was given from the heart and helped me through some difficult times.
It had been a long time since I heard from Jim or anything about him or the crew. On January 17, 1945, I received a letter from Washington, D.C., requesting me to accept Jim's second Air Medal and three Oak-Leaf Clusters in a ceremony in Washington. I didn't care about his medals and declined to accept them under these circumstances. I received several phone calls from our government and military officers, requesting me to accept his medals and I still refused. They wanted me to accept his medals with full military honors and a big celebration; bands, speeches and dignitaries. I didn't want any part of it. Finally, an officer called me and asked why I kept refusing to accept the medals and I told him that I didn't know if Jim was dead or alive. If I accept his medals, it's as if I'm giving up any hope of his survival. It would be admitting that he was dead. That's why I'm not going to go through any ceremonies in accepting his medals. He understood my position and supported me. He asked how I would like it handled, and I asked him to mail the medals to me. He agreed to mail them to me and thanked me for my candidness. On February 8, 1945, I received a letter from Manchester, New Hampshire, telling me that the medals were being mailed to me and to expect them within a short time. They arrived as expected.
I learned later that Galler's wife accepted her husband's medals with full ceremonies, and as a result, she had a nervous break down. It was too much and I understood why. I'm glad I handled it the way I did.
STALAG LUFT IV, LAGER C, GROSSTYCHOW (pronounced Gross-tish-ow)
Grosstychow was a brand new prison camp located about two and a half miles south of Kiefheide, Germany.
The following is the Red Cross report on Grosstychow:
Stalag Luft IV was situated approximately two and a half miles south of Kiefheide in Pomerania sector of Germany. It was activated in April of 1944, but was never actually completed, despite German effort, due to the pressure of the war. The first group of prisoners were transfers from Stalag Luft VI at Hydekrug in East Prussia. The majority of them were American but also included were 800. R.A.F. non-commissioned officers. From that day in April, the flow of Kriegies was heavy until, upon evacuation, they numbered almost 10,000, a number far in excess of that for which the camp was designed. There was continuous construction in the camp, both indoors and out. Indoors, the prisoners were trying their utmost to make their meager quarters more habitable and outdoors, the Germans were feverishly working to complete additional barracks. The camp was set in a forest clearing about one and a half miles square. That particular forest was chosen because the dense foliage and underbrush served as an added barrier to escape. There were two barbed wire fences ten feet high completely surrounding the camp. Rumor had it that the outer fence was electrically charged, but we can't vouch for that, and had no desire to test it.
Between the two fences was another fence of rolled barbed wire four feet high. An area 200 feet deep, from the fence to the edge of the forest was left clear, making it necessary for anyone attempting escape to traverse this area in full view of the guards. Fifty feet inside the wire fences was a warning. A prisoner could expect to be shot first and then questioned if he stepped over this wire. Posted at close intervals around the camp were towers which were equipped with several powerful spot lights and bristled machine guns. The railroad station was named Grosstychow, and the camp was south of the Baltic Sea were the meridians cross on the globe of 54' and 16'.
We got there about noon and it was a nice day. We stayed in a field until they could get the lager ready (the section of camp they would keep us in). They had us sit down and stay in that position. We sat for a long time and then felt like we had to stand up and straighten our legs. The minute we did, the guards fired a few rounds over our heads, so we damn well sat back down. A German officer shouted at us, but we didn't understand what he was saying so we didn't know what to do. Finally, a couple of German soldiers came around and told us if we wanted to change positions, to roll over, but do not stand up. We were kept in this position for several hours. We finally got into our camp at dusk that same day.
There was a large group of us and we were divided up and put into different areas. It looked like they put my group in a part of the camp that wasn't full and put the rest of the group into another section of the camp. The first thing we did was look for a place to start digging, but all the buildings sat on concrete slabs. That ended all tunnel thoughts. That was our introduction to Grosstychow. We were soon to learn that Grosstychow was going to be a lot different than Hydekrug, and not for the better.
Grosstychow, like Hydekrug, had what we called the goon squad. They would come around at about twelve o'clock at night and decide to raid the barracks. They would flash the lights and we knew what it meant. We had to get up .and go outside and we only had ten minutes to do it. We slept with our boots and clothes handy because if we didn't make it outside, they'd come and search the barracks and physically beat us until we got outside. So we leaned to get outside in a hurry.
While we were outside we had to stand at attention regardless of weather conditions. While we're standing outside, they went into our barracks and did whatever they wanted to. They'd come out in a little while and let is go back in. When we got back in we would find that what belongings we had, had been dumped in the middle of the floor and water dumped on them. We kept two pails of water in the barracks at night for fire protection because we were locked in. That's the water that they dumped over our things. They then gave us twenty minutes to get the mess picked up and get back into bed. We hardly ever made it. We'd leave it for the first thing in the morning but they would sometimes come around early in the morning, and give us hell for having such a messy barracks.
We began to see the meanness that the Germans could dream up. Most of the guards were respectable. A lot of them had been to the Russian front and those that hadn't were older men who had been drafted for guard duty. They were humane. The goons were the bottom of the barrel and they were terrible. Every little thing was an infraction to them. The goons just walked around the compound saying nothing. They just looked, pried and snooped. The guards were the ones, for example, that if a group of prisoners had to go to the prison hospital, the guards would come in with a list of names and take the prisoners through the different gates and to the hospital. They were a better breed of people.
We always kept two pails of water in the barracks at night for fire protection, as I mentioned earlier. There was no. danger of the Germans setting fire to the barracks, but we were locked in and we wanted water in case of an accidental fire. We sometimes didn't think to check the pails for water until early evening and we'd notice that the pails needed to be filled. We'd wait until after dark when we knew the goons and prowlers were gone and we'd knock on the door to get a guard. He would come in after twenty minutes to a half hour and ask what we wanted and we'd tell him that we wanted to fill the water pails. He'd tell us that we should have checked earlier, but then he'd let us out. He went with us to the hand pump while we filled the pails and stayed with us when we returned to the barracks and then he'd lock us up for the night. We wouldn't dare do this with the goons.
One of the German officers was named O'Brien. He was a typical German soldier and was constantly on us for having a messy barracks. we had a little tiny stove that burned briquets. We got a ration of briquets each day and if there was any dust on the floor from these briquets, he would give us hell. O'Brien was an interesting man and I'll be speaking of him a little later.
In Grosstychow, as in Hydekrug, we had receiving sets. Of course we weren't supposed to have receivers so we had to be careful. Whenever a new prisoner was brought in, we'd try to get his heated suit because of the fine wire that was in it. We used the wire in our receiving sets. Most prisoners would give up the their heated suit or take the wire out of it and keep the suit. Getting the wire was n~t a problem. We received the news by these sets and then we'd deliver the news to the other prisoners in our lager. Of course this had to be done without the Germans knowing about it. We'd write the news high lights on a small card and three or four of us would go around the odifferent barracks and deliver the news. I had to write the news down so I could get the German names right. After I learned the names, I folded the paper and hid it in the RAF field hat that I wore. I still have that field hat. We referred to the news as the "gin." We made it a point not to have a routine, so we'd go to different barracks at different times. I was one of the ones delivering the news and I never knew which barracks I would be going to until I received the card. I preferred it this way. We had the freedom in the compound to walk around, so delivering the news wasn't that conspicuous. When we weren't in the barracks we were always outside unless the weather was bad. We just couldn't stand being inside in the cramped quarters.
In Grosstychow the Germans picked the American camp leader. They would walk up to a prisoner and say, "You, you will be the camp leader." The guy wouldn't know from nothing what to do. At Hydekrug we picked our own camp leader. Of course Hydekrug was well organized by the Aussies.
We went around to see if we could get a different camp leader. The one we had~ was doing absolutely nothing and that was what the Germans wanted. At Hydekrug the camp leader would meet with the German officers and they'd negotiate. For example, if we put our lights out when we were supposed to, we'd get an extra dipper of SOUP. WE wanted the same thing here in Grosstychow. Grosstychow didn't have an athletic program and WE were disappointed in that also. Here in Grosstychow we had none of these things.
We had this guy named Weese, who was in our group, and he wanted something to be done. We thought he would be a good camp leader because, he was well educated and would be good for the job. So we decided to talk to the rest of our guys and see what they thought. They asked me to ask around and see what I could find out. "Alright," I said, "I'll do it when I take the news around."
The prisoners in our group from Hydekrug outnumbered the prisoners that were already there by about five to one. Some of the other prisoner~ sided with us on the new camp leader issue, but not all of them. As I delivered the news I asked them if they thought we ought of have a new camp leader, and I compiled the responses. Weese asked me to write up a program of what we would like, using Hydekrug as an example; athletic programs, sport activities, right to negotiate, and things of this nature. Grosstychow had none of this and this is what we were confronting the prisoners with.
The barracks leader, who was in charge of barracks one, (they were here when we got here) was against it. His name was Rhodes. He wanted to know who we thought we were, coming up here an~ taking over. "We were here before you were," he said, and I said, "Yeah, but we've been prisoners longer than you have." He said, "That maybe trues but we're going to do as we please." I asked him what be was going to do, sit in the sack all day? He answered, "If that's what they want to do, it's alright with me." I asked, "You let them stay in the sack, when do you clean the place out?" He said, "When we feel like it." This is the type oi a person we were to deal with.
We had a meeting and Rhodes was in favor of the camp leader we had, who's name was Godfrey. Godfrey was a good enough guy, but he didn't ask for anything, didn't ask for any of the Geneva Convention Rules and Regulations, or anything else. He just did as the Germans told him. Godfrey had people besides Rhodes who wanted him and one of them was a prisoner from Hydekrug, named Mucci. He was an Italian and was a little pusher. He was nobody in Hydekrug, but he wanted to he a big shot here at Grosstvchow. He had a copy of his speech and he also had a copy of the speech I wrote for Weese. He was misquoting our speech and belittling it every chance he got. I got word of it and told Weese that we better do something about it. Weese said, "We've got to cut this little bastard down. He's just tearing this thing all to hell." Weese ask me where Mucci was, and I told him what barracks I thought he was in. Weese and I went over to the barracks and there he was, right in the middle of his speech.
We walked up to Mucci and asked him, "Where did you get our speech?" "I can't tell you," he said. "You probably won't," said Weese, "but you better give it to me." Mucci handed it over with a "Yes sir, oh yes sir." When he was confronted, he backed down with no trouble at all. We shut him up but as it turned out it didn't matter because in spite of all our efforts our campaign failed and the Germans wouldn't let us hold the election. They wanted Godfrey, the guy they put in, and that ended that.
For some reason I was slated to be investigated by the Germans. I don't know how or why, and I never heard it from a German, but I heard it from our people. Prisoners would come up to me and ask me what I've been doing. I'd say "Nothing that I know of, why?" They told me that they heard from up above that I was going to be investigated. I ask for what and nobody knew. A few days later I was standing in line for chow and a guy came up behind me and told me to watch myself. I ask why, the investigation and he said no, it's beyond that. He said, "I was working in the vor lager and a couple of Germans were saying there was one or two prisoners who were going to find out what it was like to work in the salt mines. We all got busy to find out if anybody had been fingered, but couldn't find out a name." My name was the only one that had been mentioned. I made up my mind that they were interested in me for something and I was probably going to be investigated.
It wasn't long when I was called up to the administrative office. I reported to the administrative office and was ordered to strip. I knew that when you were called into the administrative office you were always stripped, but usually they stripped you. They ordered me to strip myself which was a different twist. As I mentioned earlier, I had my RAF hat and in this hat was the news that I was to deliver that day.
I couldn't let them find that. I thought to myself, what's the first thing I should take off. If you have gloves on, you take them off first. The next thing would be the hat followed by the jacket. I had to do it so not to draw attention to my hat. I didn't have any gloves, so I couldn't start with them so when they said strip I took off my boots first, and when I did a couple of guards grabbed them and looked them all over. Next I took off my socks, than my pants. I didn't have much for underwear, but they came off and than my jacket, and finally my shirt. They grabbed my clothes and threw them on the floor in a pile. Then as if I had just remembered that I was wearing a hat, I reached up and took it off and threw it on top of the pile that they had just looked through. They said, "Get dressed." Well, I didn't want to appear too anxious, but I grabbed my clothes and I got dressed pretty quick. They asked me -if I knew where the news was coming from. I told them that I had no idea, and in fact, I didn't, because that was the way it was meant to be. That's all they were interested in. I did have news in the hat, but they didn't find it. You hear about spies chewing up the evidence and swallowing it, well, I probably would not have thought of that. The unnerving thing about this investigation, or questioning, was it was not routine, so I was concerned. However, nothing ever did come of it and I didn't go to the salt mines!
One of our guys was a real thorn in the side to the Germans. He was from Wisconsin, and Mabie was his name. That was actually his name. If he saw a guard that wasn't acting according to the Geneva Convention, or anything else he could think of, he'd raise hell. He'd go to the German Camp Commander and pound on the table and just raise havoc. He spent a considerable amount of time in solitary which was no picnic. It was an eight by eight by eight foot cell with two pails, one for water and the other for waste. The cell was also without light, daylight or electric light. He'd get five to ten days at a time in solitary. It got to be a joke for everyone involved including him. We asked him why he did it and he said we sit around here taking this crap, and I get to where I can't take anymore so I blow my stack. At Least I get to move around a little bit. Besides, it keeps those SOB's on their toes. I guess this was his way of getting away from the everyday routine.
Our quarters were nearly as cramped as solitary. We were extremely over crowded. We had two tables that we pushed together and men were sleeping on the tables and under the tables. The bunks were also stacked up higher than they were supposed to be. We had~no room to move around at all. This was the main reason we spent as much time outside as possible.
We had some prisoners that were just disagreeable. We had one man that I turned in to our camp leader because of his attitude and behavior. He was one of the last prisoners to come in. He was well educated which made him hard to figure out. He came to us with his heated suit and we asked him for it, for the wire in it, and he flatly refused to give it up. It was his, it was issued to him and he wasn't going to give it up. All he would talk about was what America was doing wrong. The way we were conducting the war and how merciless we were to our prisoners. We began to get fed up with his attitude. Than he began to tell us how good the Japanese were, how far ahead of America they were. He was going overboard and I finally asked the camp leader what he thought of this guy. "He's got to be quieted down," he said, "it's bad for moral to have him going around like this. The only thing I can do is turn him in to the American camp leader when I deliver the news." We all agreed that was a good idea and about a week later he was moved out.
While in Grosstychow we would see and hear German fighter planes fly over quite often. They were testing synthetic fuel that the Germans were experimenting with because of their low fuel supplies. These planes would spit and sputter because the synthetic fuels were not working well. This particular day one of these German planes was flying over and began to spit and sputter and it finally quit, causing the plane to crash. We all heard it and could see the smoke raising from the wreckage. We could see the smoke, but we couldn't see the wrecked plane. We cheered. . .and that was a stupid mistake and we shouldn't have done that. When we started cheering, the German guards in the towers started shooting machine guns over our heads. In one end of the compound was, a hill about ten feet high. This was where they stored the potatoes. It was like an underground cellar only about half of it was above ground covered with earth. We all dove behind this hill for cover and stayed low. I don't think they were trying to hit us, but they could have, accidentally, and we weren't taking any chances. This went on for about fifteen minutes and all of a sudden it stopped. They evidently got word from the German officers to stop and they did. I guess we asked for that one.
One morning we were out for appeihalten (roll call), we called it appel, and O'Brien, who I spoke of earlier, was standing next to the German Camp Commander and the American camp leader. O'Brien took the count and checked it against the master sheet. He would then tell the commander that it was alright, or it wasn't airight. This is when they would find out if any of the prisoners were missing (escaped). Evidently this particular day something was wrong. O'Brien was looking over the list and spending more time than usual. One of his men who took the count and handed O'Brien the sheet, was standing over O'Brien's shoulder. O'Brien took offense to this and he slowly, and methodically, turned around and hit this guy an awful wallop right on the chin and knocked him on his rump. O'Brien, as unconcerned as could be, turned around and continued what he was doing. The German Camp Commander stood looking straight down the line as if nothing had happened. The American camp leader looked from O'Brien to the German Camp Commander and then he looked straight ahead as if nothing happened. The guy got up, dusted himself off and went over and stood where he was supposed to be. He was equal to our PFC or corporal and O'Brien was a sergeant and no damn PFC looks over a sergeant's shoulder. They were very rank conscious and from corporal to sergeant was a big difference.
O'Brien still came in on us fairly regular. We got to know him pretty well and we could tell when his superiors were getting on him, because he would come into our barracks and complain if the stove was dirty, or the floor needed sweeping, or the beds weren't made. Other times, he would be in a laughing and joking mood even when the place looked like a dump. We'd clean the place up and make him happy.We also had two guards that would get together and come to our barracks. A~che was the name of one of the guards and he was a teacher, as was Snyder, who I mentioned earlier. One of our guys was interested in birds and he had a nature book. These two guards were interested in looking at these books so they would come in to chat with us and look at our books. The next thing we knew an hour had gone by without realizing it and they'd look at their watch and leave in a hurry. Time had gotten away from them and they didn't want to get into trouble themselves. They had four other areas to cover so they weren't our guards all the time, but whenever they were together, they'd spend time looking at our books. By them coming and talking to us it also gave US a chance to learn about them.
As I stated earlier, our room was very crowded, and if Asche came in and there were more than three or four in the room, he was strictly business. However, if there were only two or three of us in there, he would sit down and tell us about his family. He had two sisters and his folks were meat cutters (butchers). He told us where he went to grade school and high school, and on to Heidelberg University. His family had a car and was considered middle class. He'd tell us about Germany and how things were before Hitler. It was the middle class that was hurt the most in Germany. Listening to Asche and some of the other decent guards is why when people ask me if I hated the Germans I always said, "No, I hated the Nazis."
The Russians were beginning to move in, so the Germans were getting ready to move us out. While we were getting ready to leave Grosstychow, Asche was helping us get ready to go. He was tall and blond, in fact his hair was so blond it was almost white. He was a good looking man and he had one eye. He had been on the Russian front, so he knew what war was like. We were leaving Grosstychowo and- we wanted him to come with us. We liked him and offered to get him clothes to look like us, but he said, "No, I've run from the Russians once, I can do it again." He had lost his whole family. He showed us how to pack by making a roll and tying it on to fit over our shoulders and it worked well. He also cautioned us in taking good care of our feet while we were walking. We anticipated we were in for another long march as we left Grosstychow.
NEXT OF KIN PREPARED FOR WORST
I, along with the other wives and next of kin, received a letter from the Red Cross telling me that the Red Cross had visited Grosstychow and found it to be abandoned. The prisoners had been moved, but no one knew where. The Red Cross notified all of the next of kin, and prepared us for the worst. It didn't look good.
BACK ON THE ROAD.... TO FALLINGBOSTEL, STALAG XI
We had no idea where we were headed, which was to be expected, I guess. We were in better condition now than when we ended our "Black Hunger March", but we didn't know if it would last. We never knew about food. We were always conservative because we never knew when there would be none. We knew that was always a strong possibility.
We hadn't been out very long when the German in charge of our group told us that we were in luck. They had just located a warehouse that had prisoner of war packages inside. We were glad to hear this because our food was already gone. The Germans went into the warehouse and counted the packages and found there were more packages than there were prisoners in our group. The Germans felt there was no reason to leave any packages behind, so they gave each prisoner two packages. The Germans took all they could carry for themselves before we got ours. Most of the time the Germans open the packages. They had to "check" the packages for contraband by opening candy bar packages or punching holes in tubes of toothpaste, subtle little ways of ruining good food packages. However, they gave each of us two food packages and we were rich, really well off.
We opened one food package and was very miserly with it because we didn't know how long it had to last. The very next day we met another prisoner of war group from Grosstychow that were on a different route, to their unknown destination. They were stopped beside the road. The two German group leaders spoke and we learned that the other group had no food. We were in that same position the day before, before we found the warehouse. Each of us gave them one of our food packages which left us with one each. They would have done the same for us had the situation been reversed, and we knew that. We now' had one package apiece, which was still better than one package for two people. I never ran into another prisoner that was not willing to share whatever he had. If there was something that was needed, and one man had a little more than the rest, he shared with someone who needed it. You never had to ask, it was just done.
O'Brien came out and found us on the road. We had stopped at a farm and for some reason we were there for two or three days and O'Brien found us there. At the farm was a big tank that was used to cook pigs food. There was a fire under the tank and we were told that if we could get water enough, we could heat the water in the tank and take a bath. We jumped at the chance, because up to this point we were hardly able to keep our hands and face clean. It was while we were taking our bath that O'Brien came in. When we left Grosstychow we hadn't seen him for a while. He came out to tell us that he was being transferred and wanted to say good bye, and wish us luck. He told us that Germany had lost the war. We asked him to change his clothes and come with us. He smiled and said he would like to, but he had a wife and two daughters, and he would sweat it out in Germany. We wished him well and understood his position. He was German, but certainly not a Nazi. Of all our guards, O'Brien stands out above all others. O'Brien was a German guard we first met in Grosstychow that was very much up on discipline but was usually fair. I respected his position and the way he treated us. This was the last time we would see him.
We left the farm and continued our march. We walked by a group of people that had a settlement out in a field. They were French prisoners of war, and they had their own settlement of tents and buildings. There were men, women and entire families. On the other side of the road was the same situation only Italian. At night they had their fires and music, and it was really something to see. Not far from here we came to the prison camp that we were evidently headed for, Stalag XI, in the town of Fallingbostel.
The outside of the prison camp looked like a regular prison camp with the barbed wire and big high gates, but when we went inside the gates, we were right in the prison itself. This was different than any other prison camp that we were in. There was usually a space, than rolled barbed wire, another space and barbed wire, but not this one. The buildings were spread out haphazardly. It was a very crude prison with dirt floors, no cots, and we had to get our own water wherever we could find it. At the prison camp was a house, like a farmhouse only without a farm, and there was a hand pump at the house. We got water by walking through the fence to this pump. Whenever we went there, anybody that was at the house would leave. There was one elderly man at the house, and he would go in the house and shut the door when we came. We'd go to the pump, fill our cans and pails with water and return to the camp. After we left the house, the old man would come out and go about his business.
In camp, I met a fellow named Kangus, from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. We were sleeping beside each other on the floor. Somehow, I wound up with the equivalent of three slices of German bread which was actually one hunk and we were hanging onto that. Kangus also had some bread that we were eating from. We got up the next morning, of course hungry, and Kangus cut a piece of bread and that's what we ate. There was a strange feeling in the air this particular morning, things felt funny, something was different. The silence was deafening. We walked outside and there wasn't a German in sight. We looked in the towers and they were empty. There were no Germans around.
We all walked toward the main gate which was close to the building we were in. We heard a rumbling down the road oto our right. This is where we had marched up from, where we passed the French and Italian camps. We heard cheering from down there and in a few minutes the British 10th Army came through with their tanks. By now we knew that the Germans had left in a hurry during the night. They knew that the British were in the area. It didn't take long for us to get hold of the gate, and we flattened it. It was a large, barbed wire gate, and we flattened it. The men in the tanks were cheering and throwing us cigarettes, candy bars and anything they had. As the tanks rolled by the British were hollering, "You're free to go boys." Of course this was a great day for us… . WE WERE LIBERATED! They were cheering us and we felt great. They shouted, "It's alright, there's no damn Krauts around here, they left last night." One of the tanks stopped and one of the men said, "There's a village down the road," and he pointed back down the road in the direction that we had come from. We knew about the village because we came through it just a few days ago. He continue on to say, "There's nobody here to bother you." "Over there," he said, "there's a magazine (warehouse)." Each village that had any size at all, had it's own magazine that stored everything that the community would need. When the 10th went through, we went looking for this magazine and found it right away. We went into the magazine and we saw so much that we didn't know what we wanted. Some were taking fancy German backpacks, some were taking -silverware and all kinds of stuff.
Most of us went for the canned goods. The canned goods were large cans but were not labeled. They were coded on the ends, in German, so we didn't know what was in the cans. We took what we could of the cans and went back to the camp. Don't ask me why we went back to the camp, but we did. We wound up with macaroni and what have you, and I wound up with gravy. Of all the cans that were in there, I wound up with all gravy. I traded for something better and we all ate. Our stomachs weren't in condition for any amount of food and we wound up going outside and regurgitating. We waited until our stomachs settled down and we'd eat some more, and regurgitate that. It's really awful. It's a pitiful situation.
The next day one of our men from Grosstychow, a good-looking man with scars on his face as evidence of German abuse, had come back from the warehouse. He had a complete set of Sterling silverware. He gave me two of the forks which I still have today. I asked him if he thought he could get it home and he told me he was going to try. The forks are just as good today as the day he gave them to me and we use them every day. I still have the original German issued fork that I got when I was taken prisoner. It was made of aluminum and we were told by the Germans that they were made out of B-24's that the Germans had shot down. I used this fork every day while in prison camp.
The following day I took a walk by myself down to the village. I was still walking with the aid of a staff. My leg still bothered me at times. I came to the Italian and French settlements and they were celebrating and when they saw me they waved and cheered. I got to the outskirts of the village and there was an old lady shaking out her doormat and I said to her, "Guten Morgen," (Good morning) and she answered, "Guten Morgen." She turned and went into her house and I continued walking. I came to a tank repair outfit parked in a barn yard. I went into the area and a big English sergeant came up to me and said, "Hi Mate" and I answered, wHi, you fellows just released us. I'm from the prison camp up the road." "I thought so," he said, "you don't have much of a uniform, do ya?" I said, "No." He asked, "You hungry?" I said "God Almighty, yes." He said, "Prisoner of war, you've got to be hungry." He hollered to somebody in his group, "Hey, we got a POW here. Get him something hot to eat." Someone in the barn answered, "Right-O," and he came out with the biggest frying pan I have ever seen in my life. The pan was about three feet in diameter, used for cooking for their group. He walked across the barnyard and into a chicken house. When he did this, an old lady came out shouting at him in German. He came out of the chicken house with a half dozen eggs and he said to the lady, "Now quiet, Mandy, they'll lay more tomorrow." He waved to her and she was still yapping at him in German. I just stood there laughing at the whole situation.
The sergeant asked me into his tent, and I went in. He asked, "How about a cup of coffee?" I said, "Yeah." He asked, "Don't you think that should be enriched a little?" I said, "Do you have a little...", he said, "I sure have." He poured me a good slug of brandy in the hot coffee and boy did that taste good. While I was sipping the coffee, the guy brought in four fried eggs. They baked their own bread and he brought me some hot, fresh bread. Did I ever lay into that. It was delicious, but I couldn't finish it. The sergeant said, "That's all right, Mate, that's all right." We sat and talked and during this time three of four tanks came up and stopped at the barnyard. One of the officers from the tanks asked if there was any trouble up here, anything that they had to clean up? The sergeant said, "Yeah, further down the road there is a "V' in the road and there's a building there. We keep hearing shots from that area, I think there may be snipers in that building." The officer said, "We'll take care of that." He brought a couple of tanks up and shelled the building and nearly leveled it. They waited until the dust settled, which was about twenty minutes, and asked, "You think that's taken care of, sergeant?" The sergeant said, "Sure, if there's anybody there, they won't do much harm," and the tanks went along.
After the tanks left, I had another cup of coffee fortified with brandy. It was getting late in the day so the sergeant said, "Mate, I don't want to hurry you, but soon it's going to be dusk and we're not sure what's left here. These houses can hold anybody. Some could be diehards and have to be flushed out, while some will just stay there, not hurt anybody, and wait for us to go through. I think you better go back before it gets dark." It was good advice and I headed back to the prison camp.
Soon after I got back to the prison camp, a truck with a loud speaker came through saying that the Army of Occupation was now taking over and to stay in the area. "In the morning there will be people here with a roster to check you against, and you'll be processed to be moved out of there." That was good news.
During the night the Army of Occupation came in with little houses about four feet square. They had a door and a roof and looked like old country out houses. These were used for delousing. The following day the Army of Occupation came in and the first thing they did was put us through the delousing process. We stripped and left our clothes outside, on the ground. We put on a facemask and went inside one of the little houses and were deloused. It was rugged stuff and it killed everything. When we came out of the little house there was a pile of clean clothes waiting for us. We picked through the pile and took what we needed and put it on. There was pants, shoes, shirts, but no underwear. From there we were met by another group of people that were preparing us to be loaded into army trucks. As soon as there was enough men to fill a truck, we were loaded in and taken away. We were being shipped out about as fast as we were being deloused.
We were taken to an encampment of tents about ten or fifteen miles from the prison camp. We had our first big meal there and of course we had trouble keeping it down. This whole operation was done by the British. From this encampment we were flown to Belgium the same day. When we landed in Belgium, we went immediately into a building for processing. As we went through we stated our name, rank and serial number and were given an ex-POW identification card to keep with us. In this building was a long row of tables, full of clothes, that was manned by the British Red Cross and The Order of St. John. The first thing I remember seeing was woolen socks. As we went up the line we received a tooth brush, comb and shaving supplies. All of this issue was handed to us as we moved along. We received underwear, I finally got some underwear! The sizes were posted and most of them were too big, but we didn't care. We had probably lost more weight than they had anticipated. We received all the clothes to complete a full uniform. When we got to the other end of the building, there was an area like a large gymnasium that was filled with cots and as we walked in, there was someone there to take us to a cot.
After most of us were settled in, an American officer of the Army of Occupation came in and told us that we would be staying there for the night and we would be flying out the next day to Camp Lucky Strike, in Le Havre, France, just across the channel from England. They gave us an opportunity to send telegrams, or we could have the officer who had the name of our next of kin, take a message and see that it was sent. The latter was the better and faster way to get a message out and that's what I did.
THE MESSAGE REACHED HOME !
On May 3, 1945, I received the telegram I had been waiting for! It was from Washington D.C., telling me that Jim had been returned to military control on April 21, 1945, and he was not hospitalized. He was liberated! The wait was over. I received letters from Senator Styles Bridges and Representative Sherman Adams, expressing their pleasure with the liberation of Jim, which as very gratifying. It would only be a short time, now, before Jim would be home! I received a telegram from Jim telling me he would see me soon, and by coincidence, it was that same night that he arrived home.
THE PROCESSING CONTINUES IN BELGIUM
That night they told us that if any of us felt good enough or rambunctious enough, and wanted to go out and visit the town (it was in Belgium, but I didn't know the name of the town) they would advance us Belgium Francs. They advanced us some Francs anyway, but I wasn't interested in going out so I didn't us mine. I kept mine and brought them home. We were told that no doubt whatever they gave us would be deducted from our pay. I made note of how much they gave me and wrote it on the back of my ex-POW identification card. We didn't care if they deducted it or not and I don't think they did. Most everybody decided to stay in and get some sleep. There was a few that did go out. They got loaded and celebrated. We heard them come in and it seemed good to hear our men having a good time.
By this time we had a couple of good meals and they were staying down pretty well, so we felt pretty good. We did, however, have to eat very moderately to keep the food down.
The following day we were given a medical examination and then we waited to be air lifted out. We were flown out by British officers flying C47's that took us to Camp Lucky Strike, in Le Havre, France. Camp Lucky Strike was a gigantic tent city. It was huge and just fantastic. There were two men to a tent and we received blankets, a camp clock and anything we needed. The mess hail was open 24 hours a day. We could go in any time we wanted, order anything we wanted, eat it and even if we went out and regurgitated, if we wanted more, we could go right back and get more. The big item was steak, but most of us couldn't eat half of what we took. Then after a half hour or so, we'd decide that we wanted desert. That was ice cream, so we'd have that knowing it would probably come up before we went to bed that night. This went on for three or four days because they wanted to put some weight back on us.
Our neighbor in Swanzey, Nate Ellis, was in charge of a section of Camp Lucky Strike, but I didn't know it until after the war and, we were talking about it one day.
We were debriefed in Lucky Strike, which was a timely process. We went in for debriefing several different times, plus there were several times they came to our tents for debriefing sessions. They had their clip boards and they knew how, and what questions to ask. There were different people interviewing us at different time, bu always one on one. There were eight or ten of us in a room, but there were also eight or ten people doing the debriefing. They wanted names, places and reports of any abuse and things of this nature. Of course there were many instances of abuse, especially in Grosstychow. We told them what they wanted to know.
In Camp Lucky Strike, there were other prisoners of war from other branches of the service and I ran into a guy from Ackworth, New Hampshire. Most of the men had souvenirs; guns, cameras and things like this. After liberation you could walk into a store and take what you wanted.. I got two blankets in Belgium and two blankets in Le Havre and I brought all four of them home. I still have two in the car, although they are pretty well worn out now, but they were good blankets. That's all I brought home. I had no contraband. They were only spot checking for contraband and some guys got through with German Lugers (the German Luger was a hand gun which was considered a prize souvenir). I didn't care about that, I just wanted to get home.
We were taken by truck to the Port of Le Havre and there was the SS George Washington. The $S George Washington was a German ship that was captured by the U.S. during the first world war. She was set up as a troop ship and we were taken aboard. It was very crowded. They put bunks and hammocks in every place imaginable to get us all on board. We left Port of Le Havre and headed for home. This was before Germany capitulated, so on the way home there were submarine alerts. We stood on deck and could see where we were zig zagging to throw off possible enemy tracking systems. It was just before we reached New York when Germany capitulated. Of course they sounded it all over the ship. I was speechless. Oh God, were we happy! It was May 7, 1945. The war was over! By this time, we were about a day out of New York.
After landing in New York we went to Fort Dix in New Jersey. We stayed there until we were processed. When we got to Fort Dix we were treated very good. We had to wait to be processed and in the meantime, we had plenty to eat. The only orders we had was not to leave the base. We were kept separate as a group (POW's). We had to be where we could be reached anytime, so we were either at the mess hall, day room or the barracks. We were not integrated with anyone else. We had another medical examination here at Fort Dix and three or four days later, we were sent to our nearest place of demobilization, which for me was Fort Devens. I was moved to Fort Devens by truck, along with other POW's from my area.
When we got into Fort Devens and were settled in, we were issued new uniforms. We received our patches and ribbons and took them to a designated area where the patches would be sewn on for us. The people sewing our patches were none other than Germans, our Prisoners of War. When we gave them our patches, we were given a ticket with a number to identify our belongings Mine was number 27. There were three or four Germans sewing, so I knew about when my number would be called. In German, a one is like an American seven. They called out number 21. I knew it was mine but I let them call number 21 three of four times and then I stepped up and said, "It's mine." He asked, "You 21?" I said, "No, siebenwndzwanzig (27 in German)." He looked at me and said, "Yeah, yeah, 27," and he looked at the rest of us and I said, "Yeah, all POW's from Germany. You're now in America, numbers are American." Everybody stopped what they were doing and all was quiet. I was number 27, and I said it in German so everyone could hear.
We left the building where all this had just happened and I was walking with two or three other ex-POW's. It had been raining and we met a bunch of German POW's marching back to their barracks. They were equipped with foul weather gear, but it was raining and it was too wet to work. That really angered us. They were our POW's and they were being treaded better than our own troops. In Fort Devens there were taxicabs on base and one of the guys in our group wanted to get one of the cabs. "I'll run it right through the middle of the whole damn group. Too wet to work, I don't believe it." I believe he would have, had he been given a chance. He was regular army and had been in prison camps other than the ones I was in. I guess he had been through plenty.
We got a little perturbed because while we were there the German POW's went on strike because they wanted a 10 PM lunch. When we heard about this we were really wild. We didn't get many 10 PM "lunches" where we were. I later heard that another major complaint they had was that they didn't receive enough cigarettes while in our prison camps. I found it very difficult to feel sorry for them after what their people put our boys through.
When I got home, I learned that the American women were baking cakes for the German POW's and handing them through the fence to the prisoners. They felt sorry for them. That kind of got to me, but I suppose they didn't understand what was going on overseas.
In the mean time, Annie received a telegram saying I had been released from prison camp and I'd be home in the very near future. About a week later I was home as Annie explained earlier. I was home on what was called a "delay enroute". I was home for a couple of months and then went to Atlantic City for two weeks of more debriefing and demobilization. I received all of my metals and back pay to date. I was formally discharged and came home.
While I was home, Japan surrendered and the war "that would end all wars" was officially over. It would never be entirely over for some of us. We still have our memories, some good, some bad, some we can live with and some we can't without the love and understanding of friends, doctors and particularly family.
POST WAR...STAYING IN TOUCH
As it turned out, I was the second man in Cheshire County to be taken prisoner. The first was Al Ricci of Keene, New Hampshire. We greet each other with "Kriegie", a name that ex-POW's call each other. "Kriegie" is short for Kriegsgefangenen which means war prisoner. The Germans would come up with a name of something, usually involving more than one word, and make one word out of it. For example, war prison camp is Kriegsgefangenenlager.
I have stayed in touch with all of the crew with the exception of Losey, our engineer and Heavy, our assistant engineer. The rest of us exchange Christmas cards every year and of course we include a note. I have talked with Berger on the phone several times. He sometimes calls on the anniversary of our last flight. As far as the eleventh man is concerned, none of the crewmembers have ever seen, or heard from him since we were shot down.
When our son, Pete, was living in Maryland, he was able to locate Galler. We were visiting Pete and his family in the early seventies and Pete called Caller while we were there and got Caller's wife on the phone. Galler wasn't home at the time, but I talked to his wife and she was very excited. She asked where we were, and I told her and she wondered if we were going to come over to see them. I told her that Pete had a rough idea where they lived and he would bring us over. "Oh," she said, "wait until Izzy hears this, wait until Izzy hears this, he's going to go crazy." never called him Izzy, it was always Caller. We never called each other by the first name. She was so excited! Galler's wife and Annie corresponded while we were in prison camp. Galler's wife bad a nervous breakdown during that time.
Pete took me over to see Galler and we had a great reunion. We were only able to spend a half a day together, but we had a great time. We haven't seen each other since that time. Galler and I were probably closer than the rest. We were nearer the same age and we just seemed to be together more.
I learned that Heavy had died. To this date (1988), Heavy is the only member of the crew that is no longer with us.
The last time I heard from Royal his hand writing was barely legible. His health is failing and he isn't doing wery well. I have not seen Royal since the service, but we have always corresponded.
In 1972, Pete and his family moved to San Francisco, California. During one of our first trips out to visit them, Pete had his secretary try to locate Berger and was unable to do so. As it turned out, she was looking under "Burger" and not "Berger". So that time out we were not able to make contact. However, in 1983 we made another trip out and Pete was able to locate Berger. Pete had business in Sacramento, which was just outside of where Berger lived, so he took Annie and I to see Berger for the day. Clover was there and it was great to see them both. We met Berger's wife and one of his daughters.
Berger was a regular army man and he transferred to the air force during the war. After the war he transferred back to the regular army and became a career man. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He had an office in his house and it was full of memorabilia from his service. He had actual pieces of the fuselage of the Jungle Princes. He even had the pilots wheel from the Jungle Princes. He told me he went back down to the plane after we crashed landed and took the wheel out of it and sent it home. Berger painted a picture of the Jungle Princes from a photograph.1 and he did a good job.
I had often wondered why we flew that last mission, because we weren't scheduled to fly for another couple of days. While visiting Berger he told me the story. He started by saying, "You probably have wondered why we flew that last mission. I don't know how to begin this, Ross, but I'll tell you what happened. The night before, I got kind of lit up in the officers club and I was dared to perform a tap dance on one of the pool tables. When I was in the middle of my tap dance, our company commander came over, looked over the situation and said if you fella's have this kind of energy at this time of night, there's no reason why you can't fly tomorrow. That's how we come to be put on the flight list. . Up until now, I've been scared to death to even mention it." I just sat there and roared. After nearly forty years, I finally learned why we flew that mission. He was glad that I took it the way I did and he was relieved after telling me the story.
When Berger knew we were coming over, he called Clover to come over and join us. Clover only lives about eight miles from Berger. Berger and Clover filled me in on the rest of the crew. McMillan moved from Ohio to Sacramento, California, for a year or so and he saw Berger and Clover while he lived out there. McDonald also visited Berger and Clover before I saw them, so I was updated on him also.
While we were there, Annie took the photograph of Berger, Clover and myself. Notice the photograph I'm holding, along with the pilot wheel. From left to right is Berger, myself and Clover. Berger and his wife were great hosts and hostess. The women had a great time together and of course the three of us had a great day also. Pete came for us about 5 o'clock and when we left, Berger gave me a small piece of the fuselage of the Jungle Princes.
I have never seen Royal, McMillan, McDonald, Losey or Bell since our discharge. We have, however, written letters over the years with the exception of Losey and Heavy. It would be nice to see them all, but at the time of this writing I'm 75 years of age and I don't know if that will happen. Whether I see them or not, I will never forget them. They were the best, each and every one of them.