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Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:22 AM

On Veterans day, I present a photo and story of a hero.

Last edited Mon Nov 11, 2019, 04:39 PM - Edit history (7)

My grandfather, (squatting, lower left) on the day he exited Stalag II A in Neubrandenburg Germany, 1945. I would challenge a certain moneyed multiple draft dodger who has said that only those who "weren't captured" are worthy of his admiration, that the men in this photo are more heroic than he could ever imagine. He was in the Army 142nd Infantry. I remember him looking at the television as a kid when the movie "Patton" was on, and saying, "I was shot at by those things. We were cannon fodder." He was the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and many campaign medals.



He never talked much about his time there. In 2000, the POW newsletter he subscribed to published this photograph. It was in some personal effects that were discovered after the death of a vet in the photo. The son of the veteran listed the names written on the back, in hopes of finding the others in the photo to send them a copy. My grandfather answered and got a copy of it.

This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote my spouse, who has an interest in WW2 history, included with a copy of the photo he had. I've included links to more information on some of the places mentioned.

I went through bits and pieces of this 50+ year old story. I went through the Italian campaigns Sicily, Naples, Santa Maria, Anzio Beach, Rapido River, Salerno, Rome, Florence.

Then Invasion So. France, Frajtes Beach, captured Aug 30th 3:30 am, Rhone Valley outside Valeure France.

I was a machine gunner (30 gal water cooler) C.O.M. 142 INF 36th Division. Held in France 6 weeks, put in box car to Stalag 12A Limburg, Germany. Wound up in the prison hospital 5 days later with pneumonia.

After released again loaded on boxcar “40 ton car.” Locked in 14 days. Wound up in Neubrandenburg Germany, Stalag II A on the Baltic Sea. There I stayed till liberated by Russians in April ’45.

Escaped once, Ray Vanarsdale, Frenchie Thibadeaux & myself. Were caught 20 days later, when Ray got too conversational with a pretty frauline. Put in City jail til German guards came and got us. We evaded the guards when this young German soldier took us up through the compound. (LUCKY).

The picture of Ray, Frenchie, Henry Morris, Rohland Stager and myself and the horse and buggy we stole 5 days after the Russians left. We stole a camera off the body of a guard who killed himselfo when thers ran when they heard the Russians were coming, to take pictures & map. We traveled 11 days hiding out in barns, etc. We ran into the 82nd Airborne Headquarters 11th day. They deloused us, burnt our clothes and gave us uniforms & we were on an Army plane within 50 minutes. Taken to LaHavre France Army Hospital.

They kept us 6 weeks fed us 6 time daily 2 oz servings. Our stomachs had shrunk. They said that if we ate full meals it might kill us. Then they shipped us home on a deluxe liner 6 days. (took 28 to cross over) Paid us 2 yrs Back pay and 60 furlough and we all lived happily ever after. HA. I’m quite sure you know that there is a lot more to this story, I just touched on some of it.

You can feel blessed you are the only ones I ever told this much. Hope it Helps.

As far as I know, I’m the only one living in that picture, unless it is Frenchie Thibodeaux. He’s from Weeks Island, LA. Cajun country. I’ve tried to find him to no avail.


What he left out, and what I found out later was just how horrific the conditions were during that 14 day "40 Ton Boxcar" trip to from Stalag 12A to Stalag IIA were:

The cattle trucks that the prisoners were herded into possessed not even the luxurious comforts that they had become accustomed to at Stalag XIIA. Typically 50 men were packed into each car, and most had to stand throughout the duration of the journey as there was not enough room to get down and sleep, though in some cases it was possible for men to rest in shifts. During transportation very little was provided in terms of food or water. Sometimes men were issued with a large sandwich before departure which they had to make last for a week, whilst others received nothing to begin with, but were given a foul brand of cheese along the way. However the German guards were willing to trade their own food for any items of the prisoners kit. Each car contained only one toilet, usually in the form of a deep tin of one description or another. The opportunity to empty this container did not come too often, and as such the already stale air inside each carriage became something to behold. Due to the nature of their diet since arriving at Stalag XIIA, the men often suffered with diarrhoea during transportation.


http://www.pegasusarchive.org/pow/cSt_12A_History1.htm

More about "Rapido River"

The scene at the Rapido River in Italy in 1944 would be forever seared in the survivors’ memories. “There were bodies everywhere,” said Private First Class Bill Hartung, “mostly parts, arms, legs, some decapitated, bodies with hardly any clothes left on…. And there was always that spine-chilling cry for ‘medic.’ But there weren’t any left.” They had all been blown up by mines or hit by German shells or swept down the raging river and drowned. Hartung’s company had begun the attack—which was to have taken them to and over the river—with more than 200 men. When it was over, only 27 came back.

Sergeant Billy Kirby talked about “boats being hit all around me and guys falling out and swimming. I never knew whether they made it or not. I had never seen so many bodies of our own guys. Just about everybody was hit. I didn’t have a single good friend who wasn’t killed or wounded.”

It was the night of January 20, and the men of the 36th Texas National Guard Division—the T-Patchers they called themselves—were trying to cross the Rapido, in the shadow of Monte Cassino. Over the next 48 hours, in what was intended as a diversionary attack, these men would be ordered to do the impossible, leading to one of the greatest tragedies the U.S. Army suffered in World War II. Of the 4,000 T-Patchers who made the attack, less than half returned. The rest were killed, captured, wounded, or missing in action. The Germans lost 64 men, with another 179 wounded.




https://www.historynet.com/rage-over-the-rapido.htm

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Reply On Veterans day, I present a photo and story of a hero. (Original post)
ehrnst Nov 11 OP
Baked Potato Nov 11 #1
ehrnst Nov 11 #5
Bayard Nov 11 #2
lucca18 Nov 11 #3
Hermit-The-Prog Nov 11 #4
Hekate Nov 11 #6
demigoddess Nov 12 #7
homegirl Nov 12 #8
efhmc Nov 13 #10
efhmc Nov 13 #9

Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 12:11 PM

1. Thank you for your story

You have a remembrance to treasure and pass on.

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Response to Baked Potato (Reply #1)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 04:27 PM

5. Thank you. (nt)

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 12:39 PM

2. Wow....

Thanks for this post. Most veterans I've known do not want to talk about what they went through, including my grandfather (WWI), and dad (WWII). Quiet heroes, who accepted their duty and got on with it.

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 12:54 PM

3. Thank You....

Wow, so intense, so terrifying.

Than you again.
We should never forget.

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 02:57 PM

4. onboard ship's newspaper, August 19, 1945

U.S.S. Stewart loaded with troopers headed from European theater to Pacific, suddenly diverted to New York because the war ended before they reached the Panama Canal.











(Each jpg above is also available as a png for printing)

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 05:20 PM

6. KnR

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Tue Nov 12, 2019, 01:55 PM

7. that is the kind of man I respect. My father fought in the Pacific

in WWII. Uncle was in the Navy in the Pacific. Thankfully, they came back.

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Tue Nov 12, 2019, 06:03 PM

8. After all these years

your journal has brought back the relief and joy I felt the day the war ended. My family was fortunate-two ucles and five cousins returned physically whole.

We should never forget.... our defenders and heroes.

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Response to homegirl (Reply #8)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 10:08 AM

10. All five of my mom's brothers served and returned. One was wounded. I thnik it effected them

all but was too young to see or ask about it. Wish I had.

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Response to ehrnst (Original post)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 10:06 AM

9. An amazing story.

I wish that young Americans would actually see and read this history.

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