April 15, 1955
To Whom It May Concern;
While overseas in the Armed forces I served with Company L. 47th Infantry Red. 9th Division. On the morning of March 16, 1945 while in action in Rotschied, Germany a group of us were capture by the Germans and taken prisoners. Without hesitation they began walking us through our artillery fire deeper into their territory. We marched all day until we came to a place where we stayed for the night. This seemed to be a prison camp of some kind. It was something like an old barn with a high barb wire fence all around it. Inside it had very crude wooden bunks with straw for bedding. It was while there we acquired lice and bugs, which we carried on us till after we were liberated, causing very raw sores and very much discomfort to us.
The next morning they started us out walking again, walking us till some time after dark. We reached a building and were taken in there for the rest of the night. We were all put in one bare room. Then during the night they cam in and took us out one by one. We were taken to an upstairs room where we were questioned by the Germans by candlelight. Some of the men were mistreated in the most painful sort of ways.
(Note: I was always told the story that upon discovering his last name, the German soldiers did not mistreat him as harshly as some of the other soldiers because they believed his to be a German last name. I have researched this paternal line, and there is no German ancestry - although I am grateful they thought it at the time.)
It was while we were at this place, the end of our second day, we received our first bite to eat. The food consisted of a bowl of grass soup I presumed having never eaten anything that tasted quite like this, I couldn't be sure of what it was.
The next day we started out walking again and walked continually this time until we came to Limburg, Germany and were taken to Stalag 12-A.
It was here at this camp we were given a little more food and some cigarettes. We stayed at Stalag 12-A until the American Armies were about to overrun the town of Limburg. While we were there the camp was bombed. The majority of prisoners were put on a train of box cars and locked in. We moved only a short distance, due to the tracks being bombed by our air forces.
We sat here overnight. Being spotted by our Air Corps, they began strafing the train, not knowing it was a train load of P.O.W.'s and at this point we were allowed to run into an open field beside the train. We stripped down to our waist, forming what we hoped would look like, from the air, a huge P.O.W. During the strafing there were several Americans killed. The Air Corps seemed to recognize our signal and immediately ceased firing. Although they were above us all day, they didn't offer to fire upon us again.
That evening we were loaded and locked in the cars again and moved into a tunnel, staying there all the next day. Then that night we started marching again. We walked steadily, stopping only at brief intervals for small rations and little rest. From here on the going became steadily worse. Not only were our Air Corps trying to stop everything moving but we had the S.S. Troops to fear at all times. It also seems as if the German guards, in charge of the group of P.O.W.'s I was in, was becoming more disgusted with their job of guarding us.
After walking what seemed like an eternity we came to a small town near the city of Geason, Germany. It was here on the morning of March 28, 1945 that the 11th Armored Division caught up to, and liberated us. As soon as transportation was available we were put on planes and flown back to France and put into hospitals. The most of us were suffering from very acute cases of diarrhea and nerves, and the raw sores caused from the lice and bugs we had contacted.
From the time I was taken prisoner until I was released from the hospital in France, I lost 28 lbs. Now, 10 years later, as I sit and think about it, this experience seems like a bad dream of which I can't remember the details to plainly but neither can I forget it entirely.
|The letters POW mark the roof of a barracks at Nazi Stalag XIIA|