This is very hard to write since my husband very rarely talked about his experience as a POW. He passed away November 3, 1998 and I am writing this on December 20, 1998.
He was drafted into service while a senior in high school. When he returned home he went back to complete his high school education, and he wrote an essay about his service time and the following is what information I have. He didn't write a great deal about being a POW, we now believe it must have become too painful for him.
He was captured on 12-18-44. He states: "They were marched for several hours without water and food to a town called Gerodstein, Germany where they were crowded into German trains. There were 55 men crowded into each boxcar. They remained in the box cars until 12-28-44." My husband told me many times this is where he met the Lord.
He stated, "They traveled very slowly and stopped in every big town or factory district where they thought our planes might hit." On 12-23-44 they pulled into a town called Driets Germany. Within half an hour or so they heard the siren begin to blow, soon they heard bombing. Those bombs, he stated, "sounded like they were three times larger than they were. For about 2 hours the allies steadily bombed the railroad and yard. The flashes had the place lit up brighter than daylight."
When they were bombed on 12-24-44 he was on his knees in that boxcar, and he gave his heart to the Lord and he remained true to the Lord until the minute of his death.
They stayed there three or four days and received water every other day and their first food since being captured -- a one- man Red Cross box to four of them -- was all they received until the end of their journey. They unloaded in Bad Orb on 12-28-44. They were marched up a mountainside for about 1 1/2 miles to a camp. The snow was about 3 or 4 inches deep all that winter.
When they reached their camp they received some greens to eat, mixed with carrots and sugar beets, it made nearly all of them sick. They asked for food, but were told there was no more.
They used their helmets or anything they could find to eat out of. They made wooden spoons, which were poor utensils.
Stammlager IXB Bad Orb Germany was divided into many sections with high barbwire fences. They stayed there until 2-8-45. They received a little potato soup the first week there, then they were fed on sugar beets andturnip tops the rest of the time. On 8 February 1945 they were marched out and loaded them on a train for another camp. They traveled about 4 days with nothing to eat. They stopped at a little factory town on the Elba River called Berga. They marched up on the hilltop to a small camp. They worked there for nearly two months digging an underground factory in the side of a mountain near the Elba River. Every day they saw hundreds of our large bombers overhead.
This is where my husband left off. I do not know much more except he told me that during the 125 days he was a POW he did not have a bath or a change of clothes and very little to eat. He lost about 70% of his body fat. He did not blame the German people. He would always say, "They were as good to us as they could be." My husband was a hero. He died with COPD (a lung condition) that was caused from being exposed to God knows what and digging those underground factories; yet our Government denied his claims for his lung condition. I have nightmares because they denied his claim and wouldn't recognize what he gave up for his country. He deserved better from our government.
I am sure my husband would want future generations to know what the POWs went through for their country and what they gave up for their country. He would want everyone to do their best in whatever they have to do and to do it without complaining. This is what he did, HE WAS TOUGH. I think he learned this by being a POW. He was on oxygen the last two years of his life and was a very sick man, but he didn't complain, he always had a smile.
He was however VERY DISAPPOINTED that his Government wouldn't approved his claim for his lung condition (he never smoked a cigarette his whole life). He fought for his claim for six long years and now that he is dead they still don't accept the fact that the CPOD was caused from the condition he was in while a POW. He deserved better than this!!! But it is a comfort to know that now he is well and can rest with the Lord. My husband always felt that voting was a very hard earned privilege that he and everyone in the service fought for in fact the very last thing he did in this life was to vote. The one thing that my husband could not understand was the apathy that young people had toward government. He believed that as citizens of this country we had the privilege and the responsibility to vote and let our voices be heard by these who were elected to represent us in our state and in Washington. Now and always ,my husband and many others gave their lives for this right. Information provided by Helen Fowler, his loving wife.