I flew with my original crew from Hastings, Nebraska via Trinadad, Brazil, Africa and on to Torreta Air Force Base in Italy.
We flew twenty-nine missions together and then I was a replacement gunner on my 30th mission flying a bombing mission to Munich, Germany; but was shot down before reaching the target. The crew bailed out; as I hit the ground and started to gather up my chute to head for the woods, I felt something hit the right portion of my back and was knocked to the ground; that was followed by a shot through the right upper arm. I walked to the side of the road and laid down. A priest came by and gave me a crucifix.
I was taken to a Catholic hospital where I was operated on the wounds in my back and arm. After a month, I was transferred to an interrogation center and then sent by boxcar to Stalag Luft 4. I was put in a room with 19 other POWs. It contained a coal stove and a table. We slept on straw mattresses on the floor. According to the Geneva Convention, NCO's were not required to do physical labor. We filled our days reading, walking, talking, playing cards and some sports. Food consisted of boiled potatoes, cabbage or carrots. This food was supplemented by Red Cross packages. The Germans would puncture the cans to keep prisoners from storing up food for an escape. While in that camp, I met a POW who had a Masters Degree in Engineering who encouraged me to go to college upon returning to the States.
By early February 1945 the Allies were closing in from the East, and we were forced to march to the Southwest. During this time we slept in barns and were fed the food that was prepared for the hogs. At one point on the march, someone stole my shoes and I had to make sandals out of cloth cut from the bottom of my overcoat and tied them on with string. I got blisters all over the soles of both feet, which made walking painful. Later on the march I found a pair of shoes in a bombed out factory with wooden soles and leather tops.
On May 25th we marched into American lines near Halle, Germany at which point the German guards turned over their rifles to the American troops and we were free! Here we got "deloused" and received new uniforms and shoes. From here, we were sent to Camp Lucky Strike in LeHavre, France where we were given good, tasty food. Also, egg nog each afternoon. One day General Eisenhower came in to see why troops were backing up and ordered leave for those who would like to go to London. We received ten-day passes and advance pay.
After eating our way through London, we were sent by hospital ship back to the States. I went to Camp Kilmer, N.J. and then home for leave and then on to Miami, Florida for discharge.
German Nazism and Japanese Imperialism threatened the freedom of people all over the world in the early '40s. Those of us who enlisted or were drafted went to fight for our country. This was no pleasant experience, and wars still continue to rage in the world. I would not want my children and grandchildren to have to be involved in conflict. However, I would say to them that there are some things that are worth fighting for.
I would tell them to stay in school, continue their educations, choose their friends and activities wisely, and keep their faith in God. The United States of America must be protected for each succeeding generation. Therefore, it is important to be informed about world events and to take an active role in one's government by taking advantage of the privilege of voting.
It is necessary to educate future generations about the wars America has fought on foreign soils not only to keep Americans free, but too help those who are oppressed by tyrants seeking to force their will on others. Many lives have been lost in all the wars fought by Americans beginning with the Revolutionary War. By becoming aware of the causes of these wars, perhaps future generations will be able to prevent other conflicts that would take the lives of America's young people. May peace on earth, good will towards men be the words by which we live in the future.