Talking Proud Archives --- Military

The Kriegies of Oflag 64

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German Identification Card for Lt. Francis E. Liggett, 158th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division, Prisoner of War, Oflag 64, Sczubin, Poland, dated March 10, 1944. Presented by 45th Infantry

Preface

Oflag 64 was a German POW camp in Poland exclusively for American Army officers captured in Europe during World War II. The first to arrive came from Tunisia. The Germans had many camps throughout Europe for POWs, some better, some far worse than this one.
When you study even just this camp, however, you learn a great deal about what all our POWs endured under German captivity. You also learn much about WWII in Europe and the genesis of the Cold War. Most important, you absorb some inner meanings of what the phrase "American soldier" is all about. They served as they ought, "with pride and dignity, continually on the alert for the opportunity to seize hold of beloved freedom."
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Editor's note: Since I published this article in 2006, I have learned of a book about it. It is Kriegsgefangener (Prisoner of War), by Clarence Ferguson. David Ferguson, the author's nephew has told me that the author was in Oflag 64. He says it is well written and very informative. He believes there are some facts not revealed in anything he has read, especially the account of the trial where his uncle defended Lt. Col. Scheafer and Lt. Schmidt before nine German judges, in Dec. 1944. Before the war his uncle was a county attorney and after the war had a long career as district judge of the 77th District. David says "how he survived prison and the march with acute malaria that he picked up in north Africa, is a miracle. He lived to the age of 92! There are also photos which are not found elsewhere, like the funeral of Capt Richard Torrence." (072809)

September 17, 2006

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Becoming a prisoner of war (POW) in Europe during World War II (WWII) was one thing. Surviving in one or more German POW camps was another, and traveling between camps yet even another. Finally, getting liberated and making it home was, well, quite another. Nothing in war is easy.

Germany's leader, Adolph Hitler, ordered the POWs be shot at war's end. His advisors urged him to take the POWs and what was left of his army and hide in the Alps of Bavaria and Austria. Neither of those eventualities happened. What did happen, though, was no cake-walk for the POWs. To their eternal credit, they learned what human hardship was about and they learned to survive. Like the rest of their colleagues at war, they earned victory the hard way, inch by inch.

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Battles for the liberation of the Odessa region in Ukraine, 1944. Photo credit: V. Ivanov, RIAN Novosti. Presented by "People who won the war."

During 1944 and 1945, the Soviet Army swept through eastern Europe, and the western Allies swept through western and southern Europe. The war in Europe ended in May 1945.
Germany was soundly defeated. Most of Europe was in shambles.

We are going to introduce you to a group of POWs at one German prison camp, named Oflag 64, located in Sczubin, Poland as a representative example of how most POWs in Europe were liberated. There was nothing easy in the process. We will address what it was like in the camp prior to the processes that led to liberation. Many of the links we have set up for you will address that.

There is one link we want to highlight. It is the
Oflag 64 Association web site, developed and produced by Bill Caldwell, Elodie Caldwell, Lorien Caldwell, and Chris Weatherford. We commend it to you.

We have used the phrase "liberation processes." Our POWs did not simply walk out of their cells and into a hot rod for a quick ride to a local tavern in town. American and allied POWs captured by the Germans either fell or walked into Soviet hands
or endured prolonged and lengthy marches under German control to stay ahead of the advancing Red Army, or died. When liberated by Allied forces, the liberation process continued, sometimes easily, sometimes with incredible difficulty. These guys were not home-free until they were home-free. There was no such thing as a "slam-dunk."

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US Ambassador Malcolm Toon (left) and Russian General Dmitri Volkogonov co-chaired a World War II Working Group from 1992-1996 to, among other things, describe what happened to American POWs while in Soviet hands, describe how they were returned to US control, and determine whether any live American POWs were not returned by the Soviets. The findings of this working group are available on the internet.

The report says that the Soviets overran German POW camps in two sequences.

  • The first occurred during the period late January - early February 1945 in Poland and East Prussia.
  • The second occurred during April and May 1945 in central and northern Germany.

The report assessed that the experiences of American POWs in each of these sequences differed markedly.

That is true. The men of Oflag 64 at Sczubin, Poland (also seen as Szubin in Polish, Schubin in German) experienced both sequences. This is what we will explore.

Before proceeding, we need to cover just a little bit of vocabulary.

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New arrivals entering Main Gate at Stalag Luft One, Barth, Germany. Art by Colonel Charles Ross Greening, USA Air Corps. Presented by Stalag Luft I On-line

Our POWs in Europe called themselves "Kriegies." It's short for the German word, "Kriegesgefangenen," which means prisoner of war.

"Oflag" means "Offizierlager" in German, "Officers Camp" in English. For the most part, only officers were held at an Oflag. Many Americans are more familiar with the word "Stalag, or "Stammlager," which means base camp. The Stalag was for enlisted POWs. Both the Oflags and Stalags were administered by the Wehrmacht, or German Army.

"Stalag Luft" was a camp for airmen, and was administered by the German Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. The "Dulag" was a collection point for POWs recently captured prior to reassignment. There were also Marlags for naval personnel, Milags for merchant seaman, and Ilags or Jlags for civilians.

The camps were numbered. If there were a letter following the number, it meant that the camp was subordinate to the other; e.g., Stalag XIIIA would be subordinate to Stalag XIII.

Finding photography to help you envision the story we are about to convey was hard. Often we use photography that is not of the Oflag 64 situation, but is similar enough to give you an idea of what was happening.

Introduction to Oflag 64 in Sczubin, Poland

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A partial map of the locations of German POW camps, which were located throughout Germany, Poland, East Prussia, and Austria. The red arrow points to the location of Oflag 64 in Poland. Presented by Stalag Luft I.

Prior to WWII, the camp at Sczubin, Poland was a boys' school. When war became obvious, the Poles closed the school, built some barracks, and used it as a billeting area for Polish cavalry.

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German soldiers destroy a Polish border checkpoint in Sopot in September 1939, a few days after the invasion started (September 1, 1939). If you look closely, you can see a few of them laughing. This is when the Germans were having fun. Presented by Wikipedia.org

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German troops parade through Warsaw September 28-30, 1939, after Poland surrendered. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD. Presented by Holocaust Encyclopedia.

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This is a map diagramming the German and Soviet invasions of Poland, September 1939. They had earlier agreed to partition the country. The red dot is the approximate location of Sczubin. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD. Presented by Holocaust Encyclopedia.

The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Poland surrendered on September 28. By prior agreement with the Germans, the Soviets invaded Poland on September 17 and took what they could get. The Germans would later push them out on their way to Moscow, and, following that, the Soviets would push the Germans out of the USSR and Poland on their way to Berlin.

The Germans found the Sczubin barracks, ringed it with barbed wire, added more barracks and turned it into a POW camp. The camp was named Oflag 21B, but that camp moved to Usedom, a Baltic Sea island that was, at the time, German. The camp at Sczubin was re-designated Oflag 64.

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Artist's drawing of the Oflag 64 camp. Artist: Jim Bickers, among the first group of American POWs to come to this camp in June 1943. Presented by Oflag64.us.

Initially, the camp was home to captured French, British and Soviet officers. Then, in June 1943, it became exclusively a POW camp for American Army officers at the rank of full colonel or below. We have read that Oflag 64 was the only German POW camp for American Army officers in WWII during this period.

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This is a model of Oflag 64 constructed by Major Robert Eckman, USA (Ret.), 168th Infantry Regiment Supply Officer. Presented by Iowa National Guard.

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Diagram of Oflag 64 layout. The yellow arrows point to barracks. The White House was the German administration building. The POW staff also worked in this building. The red cross marks the camp hospital. Presented by Task Force Baum

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This is a model of Oflag 64 constructed by Major Robert Eckman, USA (Ret.), 168th Infantry Regiment Supply Officer. Presented by philmoibm at webshots, which has a number of different photo perspectives of the model.

The camp was about 300 x 200 yards, surrounded by two barbed wire fences. Richland College described it as follows:

"It contained a large, three-story, stone building formerly a Polish college and three brick and concrete barracks. Within enclosure are theater, sports field, chapel, infirmary, canteen, huts for classes and several unused barracks fenced off by barbed wire."

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This photo shows the multi-fence lines and the barracks off to the left.

Oflag 64 was initially populated mainly by American Army officers captured in Tunisia in February 1943. We want to talk
about this a little bit. It will help you understand the incredible journey these captured officers were on during the full course of their service in this war.

How the first group of Americans got there: The Tunisia campaign

Oflag 64 was initially populated mainly by American Army officers captured in Tunisia in February 1943. We want to talk about this. It will help you understand the incredible journey these captured officers were on during the full course of their service in this war.

We need to remind you of the historical military setting.

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Adolf Hitler in Paris, June 23, 1940. Presented by the US National Archives.

By May 1940, Germany occupied most of western Europe. In April 1940 the Germans invaded Norway and Denmark, arguably opening a second front in Scandinavia, some call a northern front. Norway surrendered in June 1940. By year's end, the Germans were attacking Britain daily by air and had taken most of eastern Europe, though the British had repelled the German Luftwaffe (air force) during the year in the Battle of Britain. By April 1941, the Germans had taken Greece and Yugoslavia.

It is worth a reminder that the Americans did not enter WWII until December 1941. Germany had overrun and occupied almost all Europe by this time, thge Italians and Germans opened a third front in North Africa, and the Germans opened a fourth front by invading the Soviet Union.

North Africa is our focus at present, so let's pause and step back to June 1940.

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Italian Army early 1940s. Presented by feldgrau.com

In June 1940 Italy, a German ally, part of what came to be known as the "Axis," declared war against the British and French.


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Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. Official photo credit: Istituto Luce. Presented by wikipedia.org

The Italians then occupied British Somaliland in August. The Italians had about 500,000 troops in its Libyan colony in North Africa. They invaded Egypt in September 1940. The British and Commonwealth forces in Egypt suffered multiple defeats, but regrouped, reinforced and went after the Italians with abandon. The Italians folded like a tent in a rout.

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German Field Marshal Rommel in Africa in the summer 1941. Presented by wikipedia.com.

In January 1941, Germany sent one of its best generals, General Erwin Rommel, to take charge of a German expeditionary force in North Africa, in part to bail out the Italians, but also to make sure the British could not secure a foothold from which they could attack into Italy and approach Germany's underbelly. From a strategic point of view, the Germans now had opened a third front in what came to be known as the North African Campaign. The Germans would then open a fourth front by invading the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

We'll underscore here that the Germans had suddenly put a lot on their plate. What began as a simple blitzkrieg of most of western and parts of eastern Europe, was now an expansive endeavor on four fronts. Not only that. On December 8, 1941, a day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war against the US. All together, these were fatal German errors.

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With war now underway between the US and Germany, on January 8, 1942, US Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI) was established in London, Major General James E. Cheney in command. The first contingent (4,058) of US ground forces arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on January 26, 1942, Major General Russell P. Hartle, 34th Infantry Division, in command. This was known as the MAGNET Force, later part of US Army Northern Ireland Force, subordinate to USAFBI. The 34th was the first American ground combat division to enter WWII in Europe. Pvt. Milburn H. Henke of Hutchinson, Minnsesota, shown here, Company B, 133rd Infantry, was credited as being the first American soldier to step off the boat in support of the war effort. The 34th was an Army National Guard Division, mostly from Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

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Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in London on June 24, 1942, designated Commanding General European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA).

At this point in time, the US and British were looking at a cross- channel attack into France by September 1942. But Rommel was building his forces in North Africa and threatening the Egypt, which was still very much under Britain's influence. And, the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union and the Soviets were struggling to stay afloat.

As a result, the British, supported by the Soviets, persuaded the US to use the forces it had already assembled in Britain plus additional forces from the US to invade North Africa, codenamed "Torch." In November 1942 , Lt. General Eisenhower became commander-in-chief Allied Forces in North Africa. The American invasion of North Africa began that month.

In a sense, the US took on more than many Americans had bargained for as well. Initially the idea was to fight in the western front. Now the US was committing to the North Africa front, which meant it would eventually commit to an invasion of Italy, and it still had to invade from Britain into western Europe, an invasion that would have to wait two more years, until 1944.

But, the strategy had purpose. First, defeat the Germans in North Africa and then invade Italy and threaten Germany's underbelly. Second, give the Germans a run for their money in North Africa and provide relief for the Soviets. In the mean time, American and British air power could attack German positions in western Europe and take the war to Germany itself.

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German Panzer racing across North African desert. Presented by Flames of War.

By July 1942 Rommel was in Egypt threatening British positions at El Alamein, a western gateway to Alexandria and Egypt. The British 8th Army stopped Rommel's thrust at Cairo in the first battle of El Alamein. But Rommel stayed in the area, regrouped, British forces were depleted by transfers to Asia, and the Germans prepared for their second thrust at Cairo.

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Lt. General Bernard Law Montgomery, Commander, 8th Army during the second Battle of El Alamein. Presented by Free Republic.

British Lt. General Bernard Montgomery was brought in and took command of the British 8th Army on August 7, 1942. For the strategy to work, Montgomery had to deal with Rommel in Egypt while the US got its forces prepared and deployed to the region.

Shortly after taking command of the 8th Army, the New Zealanders drove back the Italians on the El Alamein line. On September 2, 1942, Montgomery drove back Rommel in the Battle of Alam Halfa. As a result, Rommel handed the reins of command to General Georg Stumme and returned to Germany. On October 23, the second Battle of El Alamein began, Stumme died, and Rommel returned. By November 2, 1942, Montgomery's 8th Army had defeated Rommel but, unlike the first Battle of El Alamein, the British intended to force Rommel to retreat westward through Libya and into Tunisia; that is, toward the Americans.

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Map of North Africa, showing the southern approaches of the Allies to Europe. Presented by US Army.

This map is tough to read but reflects the strategy. Fundamentally, Tunis (red dot) was the objective, the British coming from El Alamein (blue dot) and the Americans coming from their landings in Morocco and Algeria, with the Italian-German Panzer Army squashed in the middle.

In November 1942 , Lt. General Eisenhower became commander-in-chief, Allied Forces in North Africa, his first major combat command, and a politically difficult combined command. On November 8, 1942, the Americans, commanded by Eisenhower, in Operation Torch, landed in three locations:

  • Morocco near Casablanca with 35,000 troops (2nd Armored Division, 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions) led by Major General George S. Patton. Forces shipped from the US.
  • Algeria near Oran with 18,500 troops (509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division) commanded by Major General Lloyd R. Fredenhall. Forces transshipped from Britain.
  • Near Algiers with 20,000 troops, half US (34th Infantry Division), half British (78th Infantry Division), led by Lt. General K.A.N. Anderson, Royal Army. Forces transshipped from Britain.

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Operation Torch landings in North Africa, November 8-12, 1943. Presented by Rolfs Reisen

Rommel's forces made it to Tripoli, Libya in January 1943 and entered southern Tunisia in February. Even though Rommel and his forces had been on the run since El Alamein, Rommel's force remained strong and reinforced.

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The Jefna Region of Tunisia, west of Tunis, gives you an idea of the mountainous terrain. Photo presented by the US Army.

Rommel decided to cut through the mountainous area that separates coastal Tunisia from the desert interior, and get to and hold Tunis. The battle hardened British were still chasing him from the east, but it was the unseasoned, newly arrived Americans who Rommel would tested. The Americans were defending the approach Rommel chose to use on his way to Tunis.

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German Mark VI Tiger Tank. Department of Army photo.

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General Grant Medium Tank M3 in the Kasserine Pass area, Tunisia. Department of Army photo.

On February 14, 1943, Rommel commenced his powerful attack and the Tunisian Campaign began. The Americans took a beating. The two photos above help explain why. As usual, the Americans were not prepared for WWII, neither in terms of manpower of equipment. The entire Allied plan in North Africa was now threatened. The Americans had no choice but to stand, defend and fight in the mountainous areas south of Tunis with what they had.

It was during this period in February that the Germans enjoyed great successes in Tunisia, and were able to take a substantial number of American prisoners, mostly ground forces. On February 15, 1943 alone, the Germans captured 1,600 Americans. By February 20, the Americans listed 2,546 as missing.

We will stop the history of the Tunisia campaign here, because it stopped for so many Americans taken prisoner. It most certainly stopped for the initial American cadre to go to the POW camp, Oflag 64, in Poland.

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Naples-Foggia - Invasion of Italy, September 1943 From the Naples-Foggia Campaign Brochure by Col. Kenneth V. Smith. Presented by the University of Texas.

We will simply say that the Allies ended up defeating Rommel. The battered and out-classed Americans held out of shear valor. The British 8th Army got there and linked up. Rommel attacked the 8th Army and lost, and he sped off to Germany. The Allies took Tunis. The vaunted Italian-German Panzer Army surrendered on May 13, 1943. Rommel left 250,000 of his soldiers as POWs. In September 1943, the Allies crossed to Sicily and into Italy thereafter. Germany's underbelly became exposed.

But those February successes gave the Germans some prizes ---- Allied, especially American, POWs. The Germans needed a place to put them. The Germans had always sought to assure their captives would not be able to return to fight. But with an end in sight on the southern front, enduring a most gruesome suite of battles on the eastern front, and aware that an invasion from Britain was inevitable, many in the German high command saw the captives as potential hostages. As a result, rather than keeping the American captives in Africa, the Germans decided to move them to Europe.

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Junkers-52 (Ju-52 transport aircraft). Presented by wikipedia.org

Indeed, the Germans felt compelled to get these POWs out of Tunisia as fast as they could and expended considerable effort to do so, even during the difficult Tunisia Campaign. The Germans used small transport aircraft such as the Ju-52 flying at water-top level over the Mediterranean Sea to an airfield near Naples, known as Capua. They also used merchant and passenger ships.

The Germans selected the camp at Sczubin, Poland for the American Army officers. The Germans cleared out the POWS from other countries already there and put the American officers from North Africa in their place.

We'll describe how three men were captured and ended up at Oflag 64 to give you a flavor for the trip: Lt. Col John K. Waters and Lt. James F. Bickers, captured in Tunisia, and Lt. George Sparks, captured in western Europe.

Lt. Bickers has compiled a list of surviving officers housed at Oflag 64 and provides some brief remarks on how they got there in an article entitled, "How we got there and what we did." We commend this overview to you.

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Lt. Colonel John K. Waters, a West Pointer, shown here, was the executive officer of the 1st Armored Regiment. As the fighting in northern Tunisia intensified, Waters was tasked to take command of the 2nd Battalion 168th Infantry Regiment (less one rifle company) and a company of medium tanks (15) from the 1st Armored Division. He was told to get in control of Lessouda Mountain (marked by the red dot on the map below) in Tunisia. Others in the 168th were sent to Ksaira Mountain east of Lessouda and together they were to defend the Faid Pass, which provided a direct route through the mountains to Tunis. The Germans were on their way.

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The red dot marks the location of Lessouda Mountain, Tunisia, guarding one side of the Faid Pass. Presented by Lone Sentry.

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Faid Pass troops disposition: red line reflects the disposition of the 168th Infantry. Dotted green lines the positions of the Germans. Solid green lines the route of German attacks. Grey line main roads. Extracted from a graduate school paper by Karal Lynn Garcia, May 2004, entitled, "World War II in Microcosm: one soldier's experience."

Waters and other American forces were attacked by two German Panzer divisions on February 14, 1943. The 168th was surrounded and cut off from Allied forces. Waters was captured, we believe on the 14th. Waters would ultimately be liberated and rise to the rank of four star general, his last job serving as Commander, US Army Pacific. An interview with General Waters to recount his experiences from the time he was told to mount a defense of the Lessouda Mountain through his capture and time at Oflag 64 is available on the internet, courtesy of the Marshall Foundation. We commend it to you; it is fascinating.

Colonel Thomas Drake, commander, 168th Infantry Regiment, surrendered his forces on February 17. Close to 1,500 men were captured with him.

Waters was first taken to a holding area near the battlefield, where he met three German colonels enjoying the fruits of victory. Waters commented:

"They treated me as an officer. The treatment by the fighting soldier that captures an individual in war on each side is much better. It gets worse as you go to the rear. That's normal, I mean, soldier versus soldier, when they capture one another they both have the same mission to fight the battle, and as a result, they respect each other. So there was no mistreatment at this stage of the game. They put me on a motorcycle; I was in a sidecar; one man driving the cycle and one sitting there next to me. They took me to a holding camp on the other side of Faid Pass. They put me in a pup tent for the night, and had a couple sentries walking guard. The next day, with more prisoners they had captured, I was placed in a truck and taken back to Mateur and then to Tunis."

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This photo shows US Rangers marching over the rough terrain in Tunisia. It gives you a sense for what a forced march for POWs escorted by the Germans must have been like, especially since the Germans were in a hurry. Photo credit: US Army Signals Corps. Presented by National Geographic, November 1944 edition.

We have read several accounts of other POWs captured in Tunisia. Most of them were forced to walk through the deserts and mountain passes to Tunis in grueling forced marches with very little water and food. At this juncture, Waters was lucky.

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For example, British Lance Corporal Jonathan Wilkinson, shown here before capture, was taken in the Battle of Sidi Nsir, sent behind German lines, left out overnight on a pile of rocks in the pouring rain, and given no food. He was handed over to the Italians, then thrown into the cargo hold of a ship to set sail on a four day voyage to Naples with no food, drink, or toilet. Arriving in Naples, he and his colleagues were treated harshly by the Germans and spat on by the Italians.

In any event, after reaching Tunis, Waters was put in a school house holding area, and then flown out with other American prisoners to Naples, to an airfield at Capua, Italy.

Colonel Drake also showed up at Naples, along with Lt. Colonel James D. Alger, who commanded one of the tank battalions in the same fight. These three were put on a passenger train and sent to Eichstadt, Bavaria, a camp for British and Commonwealth POWs, known as Oflag 7B. Slowly the camp grew to have 45-50 American officers. They stayed there for about three to four months.

Waters has said the Germans made a big mistake holding them with the Brits. The Brits had been there for a couple years and taught the Americans everything they needed to know about organizing a POW camp, escape and other clandestine things they could do while incarcerated. Lieutenant J.E.R. Wood, Canadian Army, captured at Dieppe, said the same. He has commented that when the British POWs arrived at Eichstadt:

"They had the Germans taped. That is, what you could get away with and what you could not. They had everything organized: theaters, sports, cooking, study groups. Officers turned themselves into B.A.'s, Chartered Accountants, Engineers, Lawyers, Linguists, Agricultural Students, etc. ... We learned about the Geneva Convention and Red Cross parcels. Ridiculous as it sounds, none of us had ever read the Geneva Convention, and few, if any, of us knew the score on parcels."

Indeed by the time these 45-50 American officers arrived from Tunisia, the Commonwealth POWs were sufficiently entrenched, perhaps even somewhat in control, at Eichstadt that they were putting on first-class theater at the camp with lavish sets. This was thanks in part to Michael Goodliffe, a British actor who was commissioned into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Royal Army, as a second lieutenant, and wounded and captured at Dunkirk.

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Presentation at Oflag 7B of "The Case of the Frightened Lady," by Edgar Wallace, produced by POW Wallace Finlayson. Presented by Michael Goodliffe: Wartime Shakespearean Actor and Producer.

Colonel Alger, whom we mentioned earlier, had a part in the play even though he was only at the camp a short time. We believe one of the actors on the stage in the above photo is Col. Alger. Goodliffe would go on to appear in a number of war films after liberation. It turns out theater productions at many of the POW camps was a big deal for the prisoners. That was surely true at Oflag 64.

Waters said as the American POW population grew at Eichstadt, the Germans felt compelled to move them out. The British POWs had a lower ranking German "stooge" in the camp commander's office and learned the Germans intended to move British and Canadian POWs out of a camp in Poland and replace them with these Americans. That turned out to be true.

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POWs arriving in July 1944 at Barth train station, preparing for march to Stalag Luft I. Presented by Stalag Luft I.

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Arrival of new POWs to Stalag Luft I, July 1944. Presented by Stalag Luft I.

So Waters and about 100 others were shipped by train to Sczubin, arriving there on or about June 4, 1943, among the very first American POWs to arrive there. More would come from Tunisia over the next days. Other American POWs held elsewhere were also moved to Sczubin, raising the initial cadre there to about 400.

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Colonel Drake (shown here thanks to former Oflag POW Bob Thompson) was the senior ranking officer, a WWI vet as a first sergeant, and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross in WWI. Waters described him as "a tough hombre" and commented that the German camp commander was afraid of him. Waters served as his executive officer in the camp.

Major Raphael L. Uffner, USA (Ret.), has written his "Recollections of WWII with the 1st Infantry Division." He traces his experiences with Drake from the time he was a major with the 26th Infantry through to when he was colonel commanding the 168th Infantry in Tunisia. He tells several stories about Drake that will bring a smile to your face. Uffner, a lieutenant, had a run in with Drake but it was settled. Drake later became his battalion commander, but never showed him any malice. Uffner would comment:

"I could live with a man like that."

Uffner also reported that when Colonel Drake surrendered, he was "badly wounded." He, Matty Smith, George Juskalian,
and Capt. Bradley and other captured 1st Division officers were sent with Drake to Oflag 64. Uffner than says:

"Drake, as senior officer in the camp, was so mean to his captors that the speedily repatriated him."

Herman Littman has said:

"(Drake) was a real martinet. He made us exercise every day. He got that camp commandant scared of him."

We have seen a report that Colonel Drake was released from Oflag 64 for "stomach ulcers" on July 27, 1944. In short, he drove the Germans crazy.

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He was succeeded by Col. George V. Millett. Millett (shown here), a West Point grad, who commanded the 507th Parachute Infantry on D-Day and parachuted with his troops into France. Three days later he was captured and sent to Oflag 64. He spent seven months there before escaping, making his way to Odessa and eventually home. Interestingly, the woman who would become his wife, Lt. Sally Blaine, an Army nurse, was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines and was sent to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila. She served there from September 8, 1942 until liberation in February 1945.

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Col. Millett was the senior officer at Oflag 64 for only a few months, succeeded by Col. Paul
R. "Pop" Goode (shown here) when he arrived on October 16, 1944. Goode was captured in the Normandy Invasion, after landing at Omaha Beach. Goode had commanded the 175th Infantry. Millett then became the executive officer. Waters moved to be the welfare officer.

As events happened, Col. Goode would lead the Oflag 64 men through until liberation. He would also be the senior ranking American officer to command more than 110,000 prisoners at a camp from which they were liberated, and would be a central figure in negotiations for that liberation. We had a devil of a time getting this photo of him; our thanks to Bob Thompson, a former Oflag 64 prisoner, who had a photo and sent it to us.

Let's now turn to Lt. James F. Bickers, 17th Field Artillery. He and his unit landed at Mers El Kebir, Algeria in November 1942 and immediately came under fire from French troops. His first battle was with the French! They had to fight through hostile French fire prior to chasing after the Germans, only to be captured by the Germans in Tunisia on February 14, 1943. In his notes, Bickers says he and those captured with him were the first American ground forces to be captured by the Germans. His battery of howitzers was being moved across country when they were approached on two sides by German panzers.

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Following capture, he and his men were marched to Tunis where they boarded German Luftwaffe Ju-52 tri-motors, known as "Iron Annies," and flown at water-top level, "on the deck" to Naples, Italy. This aircraft type kept the German forces in Northern Africa supplied throughout the North Africa Campaign. They must have flown supplies in from Naples and then turned around with prisoners. These aircraft were shot down by the Allies by the hundreds. Indeed, Bickers noted that his flight to Naples was escorted by British fighter aircraft. Fortunately, the British knew what the cargo was and did not fire. Once in Naples, Bickers and his colleagues then traveled by truck and train through Italy into southern Germany and finally, on June 6, 1943, arrived at Oflag 64, just a few days after Col. Waters.

We'll note here that none of these trips taken by POWs to get to their camps was safe, and the accommodations were most often deplorable, especially on the trains. Private First Class James Maier, 1st Infantry Division, said the day he left Tunis the city was bombed. His aircraft landed at Palermo, Sicily, and it was bombed. The evening he landed in Naples, it was bombed. Bickers mentioned the British fighter escort. Naples itself was arguably the most bombed Italian city in WWII. In 1943 alone, the US ran about 180 air raids against the city, each raid consisting of many, many aircraft. Trucks employed for POWs were often cattle trucks with straw bedding. The box car trains might have one can for a latrine, which would fill up quickly. They were always overcrowded with POWs. There was little food or water, and when going through the Alps, troops dressed for desert war were exposed to bone-shattering cold. Most men were variously sick when they arrived at their camp.

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Lt. George Sparks, a Texas A&M grad (shown here as a cadet, by Palacios Beacon), and member of the 54th Armored Infantry, 10th Division, was not captured in Tunisia. He led a squad of five during the night of November 27, 1944 at Bord, Germany, in the middle of the Siegfried Line. During a German attack, two were killed, two were wounded, the three left alive were surrounded, and Sparks decided to surrender to get care for his wounded.

They were moved through German lines to Frankfurt and stayed at Stalag XII-A at Limburg until late December. This camp was originally set up to be a processing center for POWs arriving to the Stalag system. As a result, its facilities were very poor and the population was always high.

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Three German guards standing in front of the main gate, Stalag XII-A. Presented by Prisoner of War.

Officers were immediately separated from the enlisted men. Interrogation was a first order of business. Lt. Sparks spent one week in solitary confinement for interrogation at Dietz in an old castle. He and others were loaded on a boxcar, they endured RAF bombing, losing six men, and then arrived at Oflag 64 at night on December 31. The total time spent getting to Oflag 64 was 34 days. He would remain for only 21 days. Compared to the first 34, these were pretty good days. He was greeted by American inmates, allowed to get a shower, given Red Cross packages, and had time to write home. He spoke of the library, a swing band, and the small theater group.

At its peak, there were about 2,000 American POWs at Oflag 64. Chesley Russell, a POW there following his capture during the Normandy invasion in 1944, said there were "engineers, doctors, dentists, actors, cobblers, tailors and businessmen" in the camp.

It's now January 1945. The war would end in five months. Both the Soviets and the western Allies were putting the squeeze on the Germans from all directions, on all fronts. Initially, the Soviet advances impacted the men of Oflag 64 the most.

The Soviets attack, the POWs are moved

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Map of the Eastern Front, 1945, "Approaches to the Reich," from Time Magazine, February 1945. The red dot marks the approximate location of Oflag 64. The names to the right in black boxes identify the commanders of the five Soviet Army Groups on the march. Each Army Group had multiple armies. Presented by the University of San Diego.
The Germans had invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, employing 3.6 million soldiers organized into 153 divisions, the
largest force in European military history. By January 31, 1942, almost a year before the US invaded North Africa, this German invasion already had failed and the Germans had to fight their way out of the Soviet Union. We make this point for a number of reasons, one of which is that the Germans were moving their POWs to Europe from North Africa in February 1943 knew damn well their forces were retreating from the USSR and the Soviets were in hot pursuit. While they were moving them, they also lost the North Africa campaign and knew an invasion of Italy was very likely. It did kick off in September 1943.

The Soviet military had lost anywhere from 8-15 million soldiers in this war thus far and as many as 20 million civilians. The Germans treated Soviet POWs worse than dirt on the street, worse than garbage in the can, viewing them as a lower form of life. Estimates are that of five million Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans, only two million survived. As the Soviets headed toward Germany through Poland, they were in no mood to be benevolent, and the Germans knew it.

By January 12, 1945, the Soviets had taken back Odessa in the Ukraine, and Minsk in Belarus; they had captured Romania, and Romania then turned about and fought against the Germans; Bulgaria had surrendered to them and declared war against Germany. The Soviets occupied Estonia, and they re-entered Poland. Indeed, the Soviets had 27 armies lined up from Lithuania in the north to Czechoslovakia in the south, ready to advance toward Berlin. By mid-February Soviet Marshal Zhukov was closing on Poznan, and Marshal Konev was closing on Silesia, ready to cross the Oder River into Germany. The red dot on the map above marks the location of Oflag 64 --- right in the line of advance.

The Germans knew they were in trouble. The Germans knew what to do with themselves: high-tail it westward. But what about the POWs facing the eastern front?

In the August 25-September 7, 1997 edition of
The Stars and Stripes, Arthur Spiegelmann of Reuters reported the following strategy of the German leader, Hitler:

"In the last days of WWII Adolf Hitler wanted to 'exterminate' hundreds of thousands of Allied prisoners of war, according to newly discovered evidence from his air force chief (Hermann Goering). Even though almost all top Nazi officials opposed Hitler’s plan, he might have done it had the war lasted three more months, according to a previously classified Allied interrogation of Hitler’s henchman, Hermann Goering, that was recently discovered in the U. S. National Archives."
It is hard to know whether this is true or whether Goering was trying to save his neck. It is known, however, that Hitler did plan to renounce the Geneva Convention protecting POWs, and that was not a good sign for the POWs and does support the Goering rendition.

For most of the non-Soviet POWs, the Germans took two approaches:

First, march as many of them westward as possible. Get them into Germany, preferably southern Germany.
Second, leave behind those who could not march out for the Soviets to handle.

About 10 percent of the POWs were left to the Soviets or escaped the marches westward and made it to Soviet lines. The rest were marched westward to Germany.

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One of the important figures leading the Soviet advance was Marshal General Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov, commander, First White Russian Army Group, shown here. He had six armies on the line, with four more right behind them, all headed westward into Poland south of the Vistula River, the location of Oflag 64.

The Germans abandoned Warsaw and in January 1945, the Red Army entered the city. But the Germans only withdrew after a nasty fight against Polish nationalists trying to take the city before the Soviets got there. The Germans put down what is known as the "Warsaw Uprising," and destroyed most of the city at the direction of Hitler. Hitler told his generals to turn the city into a lake. Legend has it that Zhukov held his forces outside the city while the Germans destroyed it and left, instead of taking them on. His argument: Berlin was more important. It is also true that the Soviets did not give a hoot about the Poles.

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This is a photo of one locale in Warsaw as the Soviets marched in, completely destroyed. Presented by Polonia Today.

The Red Army was in Poznan and Danzig by the end of January. Germany would surrender all together in May and WWII in Europe would end.

But the intervening months were hard-fought and very destructive, on all fronts. For the moment, we are going to concentrate on the Soviet advance because initially this had the greatest impact on the Oflag 64 men. But please recall that the western Allies invaded mainland Europe at Normandy in June 1944 and were also racing toward Berlin from the west and coming up through Italy from the south. These advances were the ones to eventually liberate hundreds of thousands of POWs, our men from Oflag 64 included. The late Vic Kanners had said that "Come on, you Ruskies!" was a most familar phrase at the camp.

Quite interestingly, Kanners said that Colonel Goode, the senior ranking officer, ordered his fellow prisoners to walk a certain path just inside the barbed wire enclosure for one hour every day in order to be in shape to leave.

But in January 1945, the Germans still held our men at Oflag 64 and at most other camps. The Kriegies at Oflag 64 had a secret radio, known as "The Bird," and they were able to keep informed about the Russian advances.

On January 21, 1945, the Germans marched most of the American POWs out of Oflag 64, just ahead of the advancing Russian Army. The word in the camp was the Russians were within 23 miles. We have seen different numbers about how many prisoners were in the camp at the time the Germans made this decision. We have seen numbers as low as 1300 to as high as 1800. The War Department in 1945 said there were 1,557. We'll talk in terms of 1,500.

There are also different numbers for how many were marched out and how many remained. The War Department in 1945 said 1,471 officers and enlisted men were matched out of the camp by the Germans, while 86, mostly sick and infirmed, stayed behind, led by Col. Frederick Drury, USA. Dr. Peter Carl Graffagnino, MD was a medical officer at the camp and has written most interesting recollections of Oflag 64. He has said they were able to leave over one hundred officers in camp with five or six doctors to care for them.

We've also learned from men such as William R. Cory that he and four others hid in a tunnel the POWs had built at Oflag 64 until the camp was evacuated. They then joined the others who stayed behind. We do not know how many more might have done this. Others hid and left the camp on their own toward Soviet lines. Some returned.

We tell you this only so you do not spend too much time trying to make all the numbers we will present work out. Good records of our POWs were not kept, and different people remember different numbers. The numbers we use will be close enough.

We'll first discuss this latter group, the group that was at the camp when the Soviets liberated them.

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The Soviets arrived at Oflag 64 on January 23, 1945, two days after the majority of POWs were marched out. Col. Drury had long discussions with Colonel General Pavel A. Belov (shown here), the Soviet 61st Army commander, to make arrangements for the repatriation of the Americans. This matter of having to have such long discussions with the Soviets will be an important point later on. Suffice to say here that the POWs were liberated by a Soviet Army intent on getting to Berlin. The war was still on. With regard to the POWs, logistics became an important question for Armies that had more important business to which to tend.

In the mean time, about 200 of the 1,471 POWs who were marched out toward Germany escaped from the columns, and turned east toward Soviet lines. Some of them returned to the Sczubin camp.

Richard A. Parker, who had been captured at the Battle of the Bulge, and would go on to become a three-time US ambassador, to Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco, said this about
what happened at the end of the first day's march:

"When the Soviets finally began moving west from Warsaw, where they’d been stopped the previous September, the Germans started marching us back to Germany. About 200 of us, out of the thousand or so men in the camp, said after one day that we were too weak to walk any further. So they left us, and the Soviets arrived that night."

On January 28, the Soviets transported the sick Americans, and those who had escaped and returned to Oflag 64, to Rembertow, Poland by truck. Rembertow is a district on the far northeast side of Warsaw. They arrived there on January 31.

Rembertow has a sordid history, the site of a very harsh POW camp in WWI. It was also designated as one of 14 Jewish residential districts under German occupation. K. Karlsbad, a Polish underground warrior, in "Pages torn from my youth," described Rembertow as follows once the Soviets took it:

"A temporary Russian concentration camp (near 'liberated' Warsaw) where thousands of political prisoners were waiting for transport to Siberia."

Others from the group of 200 that had escaped from the westward march made their own way to Rembertow and joined with Col. Drury's group. Others went to other cities in Poland or the Soviet Union and were repatriated.

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This is a photo of a New Zealand passenger ship, the Monowai, which was converted to war time use and was used to move POWs out of Odessa. We believe this kind of ship to have been typical of the ones used to repatriate Allied POWs from that port. Presented by NZ Maritime

The Soviets moved Drury's group, which numbered in the hundreds by now, to Odessa by train on February 22, they reached the Odessa port on March 1, and were taken home by ship or plane. Lt. Marvin Danielson, 407th Infantry, was one of the sick who ended up in Odessa. He has said he boarded a British ship to Cairo, where he was taken to a US hospital.
From there, he went back to the US. Others have said they went by ship first to Istanbul, then to Cairo, and then to Naples.

Lt. J. Frank Diggs, on the other hand, escaped, ran into the advancing Russians, hitchhiked to Warsaw, traveled by boxcar to Odessa, got tied up in the bickering between the US and Russia about repatriation, and finally made it home. He has written a book about this ordeal, Americans behind the barbed wire.

Lt. Col. Tom Riggs, on the day they were to march out, hid behind a walk-in ice chest in the mess hall, walked to the outskirts of Poznan where he met up with the Polish underground, and then joined up with a Russian unit that arrived in the city. The Russian colonel said Riggs could come with them to Berlin, so Riggs went along, fought with them for 10 days, and was then put on a train in Warsaw that took him to Odessa and out.

Col. Doyle R. Yardley escaped from Oflag 64 on January 23, the day the Russians arrived, but came back and remained with the Russians through March 1945, some time of which was spent at Rembertow. He has written about his experiences in a book entitled, Home was never like this.

As we indicated when Col. Drury had to negotiate with the Russians at Oflag 64, nothing in life was easy when dealing with the Soviets. For starters, the USSR did not sign the Geneva Convention in 1929, so they didn't recognize any of that stuff. The Soviets also had "POW-issues" lingering on from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. These reared their ugly heads in one form or another as the defeat of Germany seemed assured.

Patricia Louise Wadley, in 1993, produced a doctoral paper while attending Texas Christian University entitled, "An examination of the Soviet refusal to repatriate liberated American World War II Prisoners of War." We commend it to you. It is a real eye-opener.

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This is a photo of an official Soviet inspection of Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany, May 4, 1945. Left to right: Colonel Zbovanik, US Colonel Zemke, General Borisov, and Group Captain Cecil Weir, chief of staff, Provisional Wing X. The Soviets had liberated the camp on May 1, 1945. The Soviets were hesitant to release the Americans, so 91st Bomb Wing B-17s flew into the airfield near Barth and took them. The 91st sent in 41 B-17Gs on May 13, 1945. The operation, known as "Operation Revival," lasted three days. Presented by Stalag Luft I.

Among other things, the Soviets insisted on having control over all POWs in their hands right up until the last minute. They also did not want to permit foreign aircraft to land at their airfields in Poland to pick up the POWs and take them home. They also insisted that American representatives to meet the POWs and take them in their charge be limited to Odessa. The western Allies wanted their people to be all over the place to pick them up.

The Soviet motivation was to conceal from Allied eyes what they were doing in Poland and to the Polish people. Much of this was not a pretty sight, and simply repeated what the Soviets had done during the time they occupied eastern Poland while Germany occupied western Poland, what some have referred to as a "double reign of terror." In addition, the Soviets were not only chasing Germans; they were also chasing "enemies of the state." Many Poles fought against the Germans but were loyal to the Polish government in exile in London. The Soviets in turn viewed them as "enemies of the state," because they wanted democracy instead of communism. Regrettably, the western Allies sold them out at Yalta, essentially ceding Poland to the Soviets. The history here is horrific.

The Soviets also wanted access to all US POW camps. They wanted the US and the other Allies to forcibly repatriate any Soviets in their hands. Furthermore, they wanted soldiers and civilians from countries annexed by the USSR returned to the Soviets. Allied compliance, of course, meant certain death or expulsion to Siberian Gulags for these people.

On January 24, 1945, just a day after the Soviets arrived at Oflag 64, Col. Drury somehow got a note to the American embassy in Moscow informing it there were US POWs all over Poland. He told them of the 1,400 forced by the Germans to march out of Oflag 64, some 120 from that column were hospitalized near Kycnia, Poland, and 90 under his leadership were back at Oflag 64. He added that there were Americans, and others at Schoken (Oflag XXI-B) and Wollstein (Oflag XXI-CH). He asked for help to evacuate all these POWs immediately.

The embassy was uneasy about this letter, because the Soviets had failed to tell it there were American POWs in Poland, and Poland was at this time under Soviet charge. The story from here on gets diplomatically complicated and, frankly, very frustrating. The Soviets were playing a distasteful game with their Allied POWs and American POWs were roaming all over Poland during the winter in various stages of health. The Soviets even refused to repatriate POWs they "liberated" in Germany, but instead moved them to their repatriation center in Odessa under Soviet guard. Odessa was the only place where American contact officers were permitted to meet POWs held by the Soviets. It was not until the war was virtually over that they finally agreed to let them cross the lines directly into American hands. In short, a big mess and a real indicator of the Cold War to come.

Drury got his men from Oflag 64 out on March 1, and he was damn lucky to do so.

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We'll stop this discussion here. There is an enormous amount of history tied up in the repatriation of Allied POWs through Odessa and elsewhere in the USSR, much of it filled with mind-boggling bureaucracy and revolting gamesmanship. There are those experts even today who believe not all Allied POWs were returned by the USSR. US Ambassador to Moscow Averill Harriman, shown here, told FDR as much, saying this in a previously classified personal message on March 8, 1945:

"I am outraged that the Soviet Government has declined to carry out the agreement signed at Yalta in its other
aspects, namely, that our contact officers be permitted to go immediately to points where our prisoners are first collected, to evaluate our prisoners, particularly the sick, in our own airplanes, or to send our supplies to points other than Odessa, which is 1,000 miles from the point of liberation, where they are urgently needed ... there appear to be hundreds of our prisoners wandering around Poland trying to locate American contact officers for protection."

There are more than one Allied POW who have said they were treated better by their German captors than their Soviet liberators. Many Americans refused to go into a Soviet camp. The Soviets often treated their own returning POW soldiers badly, shooting some, perhaps many, because they had been "contaminated" by non-communist ideology while in captivity.

We need to switch gears now, and return to the second group of Oflag 64 POWs, the ones who were marched out of camp by the Germans. The framework for our description of their journey comes from notes kept by John P. Sanford. We do not repeat the entire ordeal and commend his notes to your attention. We took his framework and then searched for other stories, filled in holes, tried to reconcile differences in memories, and added interesting items along the way. Two significant sets of notes we employed were those of Lt. Sparks and Dr. Graffagnino. We must also mention that we also had access to the notes of Victor Kanners, provided to us by Jerry Kimble of Powder Springs, Georgia.

Why did the Germans march their POWs out instead of using trains or trucks? Clearly the march would be hard on the older German guards, the POWs in a march would slow down the German escape from Poland. The Germans needed to get away from the Soviets faster than did the Americans.

The late Eric Fearnside, a British POW (born in Yorkshire) at Stalag XVIIIA at Wolfsberg, Austria, has said that there simply was not enough time to arrange for trucks or trains. We do not understand why the usually careful German planners did not account for this, especially since the German High Command prized their POWs, hoping to use them to negotiate more favorable peace terms. But for sure, the Germans were in a great hurry. The Germans had to make a quick decision:

Leave men in relatively good condition to the Soviets, and avoid later allegations of inhumane treatment, or, March them out understanding the inhumane conditions to which they would be exposed, accept whatever losses of POWs were incurred, but still have POWs to use for future negotiations.

The Germans chose the latter option. We do not have the numbers, but confidently suggest that thousands of POWs moved by the Germans died on the road, either during the march or during their escapes from the march, and many, many more were emaciated when finally liberated. Many of these suffered for the rest of their lives.

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This is a photo of the Polish landscape in February 1996, part of a vacation portfolio. We have presented it here in black and white to give you a feel for the terrain and cold our POWs must have endured in their long march. Photo credit: Martijn Vermeulen

Lt. Sparks said the men knew the march out was coming. They were told on January 20 they would be moving out within 48 hours, and indeed departed the next day at 10 am, carrying only their Red Cross box and a few extra clothes.

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This is a photo of an interfaith pilgrimage march through winter in Poland, taken December 1994. These are not our POWs, but it is a scene with which they are likely to have been familiar. Photo credit: Skip Schiel

To start the march, the POWs formed up in platoons of about 50 men each, roughly 30 platoons; Victor Kanners says 27
platoons. Medical men were distributed throughout the platoons. Sparks said there were about 1,500 officers and men; Sanford said 1,280 officers and 109 enlisted. The War Department in 1945 said there were 1,557. The POWs had to wait around outside in the cold and through a blizzard for German guards to search for hiding POWs. It is January in Poland, blistering wind and blistering cold. Indeed, there was a blizzard during the night of January 20-21. There was a light snow and the temperature was about 16 below zero when they left on January 21.

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Elderly German soldiers preparing to escort a column of prisoners on their "long march." Presented by The Pegasus Archive.

The German guards were, for the most part, older than the POWs and in worse physical condition. Some were as old as 70 and had to endure the same environment as the POWs, though they had more belongings and more access to food. Kanners estimated there were only about 100 guards, and lamented they didn't try to overpower them and wiat for the Russians with their German prisoners. There is evidence Colonel Goode wanted to avoid losing any of his men in a fight, though as it would turn out, many died in the long march that was to come. While Kanners lamented the lack of a mass escape plan, he went on to say Colonel good was "an able leader."

Oberst (Colonel) Fritz Schneider, the camp commander, accompanied the POWs. Jack van Vliet described Schneider this way:

"A portly old man who was strictly like a Hollywood creation. All he needed to resemble a Hollywood villain was a monocle. You remember how he had us all turn out to hear him make announcements? He would stand before us with his enlisted interpreter beside him; then he would say a few sentences, stop, and take one big step to the left. The interpreter would tell us in English what the Camp Commander had said. This was followed by more of the same, always with the big step to the left. A long speech could result in a 30-foot progression to the left."

Dr. Graffagnino described him as "portly and officious." Graffagnino said the colonel hopped in a "small, battered car" and headed to the front of the column. There was an old truck, carrying supplies and "a dozen or so grumbling guards to serve as relief relays for those who marched beside us." Indeed Graffagnino said that at the outset at least, the POWs were excited and in good spirits while the guards were quite unhappy, "slogging along beside us."

There were times some POWs fell behind, and shots were always heard. Former POWs reporting on similar marches from other camps confirm the Germans shot and killed those who straggled. As a result, the prisoners worked hard to keep everyone in formation. There were many temptations to try an escape along the way, or to hide in the farms where they remained overnight. For the most part, the POWs figured their odds were better sticking together as a large group, though some did escape. Lawrence Naab noted that the guards would jab the hay with fixed bayonets, and, when they found someone, would shoot with their machine guns. Naab said he did not know how many were killed or how many escaped, but he did note there were fewer and fewer POWs at the end of the first week than when they started.

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These are French refugees fleeing the German advance in 1940. You can bet the weather was worse and refugees more frantic while fleeing the Soviet advance into Poland in 1945. We show this to reflect how easily roads could get filled by refugees Photo presented by Encarta.

Throughout the trip, the roads were often clogged with POW and civilian traffic moving away from the approaching Soviets. Many Germans lived in Poland, ordered to go there to operate farms and businesses and supply German forces. Many Poles understood well life under the Soviets and wanted out.

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This map shows the general route and distances involved for what would be the first of two marches for Oflag 64. The yellow arrow points to the location of Oflag 64, the red arrows the general directions of march. The final destination for this first march was Hammelburg, the site of Oflag XIII-B. After an abortive American raid on Hammelburg, they were marched out on the second segment of their journey, farther south to Moosburg, home of Stalag VII-A. The POWs had no way of knowing, but those who would finish the trip, start to finish, traveled about 450 miles. It was done in two stages, and took from January 21 to April 20 to complete, about 90 days.

We're going to walk you through the trip, almost day-by-day, using contemporary maps from Mapquest and the itinerary as logged by Sandford and Sparks. The dates on the maps below show the date of arrival at that point; almost all were one day, daylight marches. You will also note that both POWs, Sandford and Sparks, use the German names of the towns; Germany had apparently renamed all the towns in Poland under its occupation. Fortunately, Sandford also used the Polish names, which helped us find these places on contemporary maps. We list the Polish names in parentheses. You will see that the route through Poland was jagged, in large part because Colonel Schneider would scout ahead to see where the Soviets were,
and he concocted a route on the run that would avoid them.

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Col. "Pop" Goode was at the lead of the POWs when they left Sczubin on Day 1, January 21, arriving at a barn near Eskin (Exin or Kcynia) that same day. Some of the POWs had to discard clothes and heavy articles along the way. The Germans provided them nothing. We want to stress here that throughout this march, intense cold and hunger hung over the POWs every minute of every day. Victor Kanners said they passed by many open doors to homes, and thought more than once about ducking into one of them to hide. He didn't do it, but said others did. His buddy Mike didn't want to try it. Escape was always on Victor's mind.

On Day 2, we have two accounts we want to relate. The first, in the notes of Lt. Sparks, is that they had to leave 200 sick behind. The second, conveyed by Clarence Meltesen in his book, Roads to liberation from Oflag 64, is that a major group of POWs escaped from the column at Wegheim and made it to Warsaw, Kiev, and Odessa by March 7 for repatriation. He said this group sailed on March 8 to Istanbul, Port Said, and Naples. Sandford also commented that sick were left behind, but he also noted "others marched out," by which could have meant they escaped.

Whatever the case, already on Day 2 the ranks of the POWs diminished significantly. The rest of the POWs marched about 15-17 miles to Eschfield (Eichfelde or Polanowo), arriving there January 22.

Sparks said the Poles were very friendly and gave them a little bread and cheese. Sandford commented that the formation was now loose and slow-marching. Kanners said they simply could not hold a formation one mile long, four columns together given the ruts in the road. Their formation would extend 3-4 miles. Remember, it's winter in Poland.

On Day 3, January 23, they woke up and found their guards gone. They thought they had been liberated, as they heard small arms and artillery fire in a distance. We do not know what the gunfire was, but we do know the first Soviets arrived at Oflag 64 on this date, just two days after the POWs were forced to march out. In any event, local Poles whipped up a ham soup over a fire after slaughtering some hogs, and brought in cherry preserves. There was singing.

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The Latvian Waffen SS fought on the side of the Germans against the Red Army in World War II. Photo credit: Trey Rim. Presented by The Moscow Times.

But the guards came back at about 3 - 4 pm along with SS Latvian troops. The Germans and Latvians marched them about 4 miles to Charlettenburg (Falmirowo), arriving there January 24, a short walk. During their absence, some of the POWs escaped. Snipers in white garb chased after them by truck. Kanners and two of his buddies decided to hide, wait for the column to leave, and then high-tail it east. Once it left, his two buddies decided hiding was a bad idea, Kanners could not win the debate, and together all three ran after the column and joined it in the rear

It appears that Colonel Schneider tried to escape with his men back to the west, thinking the POWs were slowing him down. The SS Latvian troops, who were motorized, caught them and forced them to return to the POWs and continue the march.
One SS officer went with them. The SS confiscated Schneider's car and he was now forced to walk like everyone else.

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Graffagnino said the temperature was about 30 degrees below zero, adding, "we were isolated in a vast expanse of winter wasteland in the middle of nowhere."

Graffagnino said that the brief taste of freedom caused some POWs to pick fights with the guards, and the feeling was they could overpower them. However, the consensus was that the end was near, they had come a long distance, and they needed to hold together. Some of the POWs would not listen, and the next day they had to leave a handful of wounded and some dead (shot) POWs behind.

On Day 4, the Germans finally gave them something to eat, some pea soup. The weather remained cold and the ground was covered with snow. They marched to the town of Lobsens (Lobzenica), where Poles, ignoring a Gestapo presence, provided them bread and cheese. The SS in the town strutted around flaunting their "power," and tried to hold back the locals. The old guards from Sczubin rejoined the group and 17 POWs who had earlier tried to escape were caught and returned. Kanners mentioned that he and some others met up with Col. Schneider, who had the gall to scold them for not behaving like officers, even after he, Schneider, had tried to escape from his post as well.

On Day 5, now January 25, the Germans got more generous and provided the POWs with a little bread, some margarine, cheese and a cup of hot oatmeal. That said, the Germans checked possible POW hideouts in the barns by shooting them up with their machine-guns. It was on Day 5 that they would enter Germany, as the borders were then drawn, following a march of about 13 miles to the town of Flatow (Zlotow). Gun and artillery fire could still be heard in the east. The group saw Russian and British POWs in a nearby barn.

Day 6, January 26, was a day of rest, their first. The Germans informed the prisoners that the Soviets had declared war
against the US and Britain. Kanners said that Schneider told them that Russia had recalled her ambassadors to London to Washington. This is worth noting. The Germans were trying to set the stage for the Americans to believe that the Soviets were their enemies. The Germans would later ask the Americans to help them fight the Soviets. Kanners said the POWs weren't much intefrested in the US-Russia-UK issue, but instead were focues on getting food.

On Day 7, now January 27, they marched 12 miles to the town of Jastrow (Jastrowie). During the day they came upon large columns of English, French and Russian POWs. The Yanks slipped them some cigarettes as they passed by the resting Allied columns. For the last several days, Sandford describes the marching column better organized, perhaps because the men were finally getting some food.

The weather became a major issue on Day 8, January 28. Most of the prisoners' shoes were frozen, they faced deep snow drifts and windy plains. Sandford described the land as "snow swept tundra." They covered 11-12 miles this day and slept in a schoolhouse at Zippnow (Sypniewo). Fortunately, the schoolhouse had a wood burning stove, and they found enough wood to dry out their shoes and socks. Sandford said he slept in a church. Kanners said many had to stand out in the cold for well over an hour until they found places to sleep.

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Entrance sign to Oflag II-D on a nice summer day. Presented by "Rawelin" History.

On Day 9, January 29, Dr. Graffagnino said the column of Americans was down to 800. They made it through weather and terrain similar to what they had faced the previous day, through Westhofen German barracks, which seemed half deserted, and stayed at Oflag II-D at Grossborn in Pomerania, also known as Camp Rederitz-Westfalenhof (Nadazyce). The Germans had just evacuated their captive Polish officers from this camp. Sandford noted this was Oflag XI-D, but we believe that to be an error. They covered only six miles this day. Once again they found coal to keep themselves warm. Sandford noted on this day that there were only 766 men left out of the nearly 1500 that started, not much different than Graffagnino's report. This means they had lost 40-50 percent by this time.
Some escaped. some were left behind ill, others were dead, either from disease or German guns. Thus far, they had walked about 75 miles in terrible weather conditions with only limited rest and food.

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The intent on Day 10, January 30, was to have a day of rest, but the German colonel said the Russians had just captured Jastrow and they would have to move out. This meant that the Soviets had crossed the border, as then drawn, and were now inside Germany. That was true. By month's end, the Soviets had reached the Oder (traditional border between Poland and Germany), and advance units started crossing into Germany. To some POWs, this meant that it was going to get more difficult to escape. Many wondered where the Germans would set up their defensive lines, and what would happen once they did.

Sandford said the Germans were scared to death of being taken by the Russians. So many reports had reached them of life for German POWs in Soviet camps that they had good reason to fear the Soviets; plus, they knew what the Germans had done to the Soviets during their invasion of the USSR.

The German colonel said fresh German forces had been brought in to thwart the Soviet advance and offered the prisoners the "opportunity" to fight against the Russians. They refused. After eating, they marched seven to nine miles, mostly at night, making it to Machlin (Machliny) on January 30.

On January 31, Day 11, again after being fed, they marched toward the town of Templeburg (Czaplinek). Rumors started flying that they would catch a train there. After marching 10 miles to Templeburg (Czaplinek), that turned out to be only a rumor and they stayed in barns near the town. A German farmer fed them milk, noodles and potatoes. In Templeburg, the Kriegies were getting housed in groups of about 100, and housed all over in about a three mile area.

The weather started to improve, eating conditions improved, and the men marched about the same distances each day, walking to Heinrichsdorf (Siemczyio) on February 1 and Zulshagen (Suliszewo), arriving there on February 2. Before leaving Heinrichsdorf, they had to leave a few sick behind. Sandford reported that the town was filled with Gestapo SS troops who accused the POWs of stealing food. That said, Sandford noted that the German military troops were themselves living off the land, butchering hogs, for example. Kanners said the POWs were actually trading things with the SS. He said they had cigarettes and coffee, which the SS did not have and dearly wanted.

They remained here overnight, leaving on February 3. They then marched through the town of Dramburg (Drawsko) and slept outside town on February 4 in a small quadrangle of barns. By this time, billeting had become such a problem for the Germans to solve that Major Hazlett annointed himself billeting officer and would march ahead of the columns with some Germans to arrange places for the POWs to stay.

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The march on February 5 they headed west through Wangerin (Wegorzyno) to Ruhnow (Runowo). At Wegorzyno, they turned to the north. There was a railway station at Ruhnow.

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This is a photo showing the German boxcars used in transporting POWs. Extracted from "Berga, Soldiers of another war," presented by PBS. This is a slideshow of the Berga POW camp, where there were American POWs of the Jewish faith, who were treated differently than the others. There are some slides showing the "Death March" for these POWs that will also give you a feel for what that was like. We commend the slides to your attention.

Sandford reported that about 180 officers left Ruhnow by boxcar to points unknown, leaving about 550 officers in the group. Kannrs refused to go on a train, saying that all he could hear from inside the boxcar during the eight-day train trip that brought him to Szcubin were bombs. He said, "No sir, no train rides. I'll keep walking." The remaining group marched on to Zeitlirz (Siedlice), arriving there after a 13 mile march on February 5, again marching in a northerly direction.

They kept on to Regenwald (Resko) on February 6, to Lebbin (Lubinek-Lubin) on February 7.

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We're not sure if the marching POWs knew they were so close to the Baltic Sea until they got there. On February 8 they made it to Stuchow (Stuchowo). During this march, Sandford said they saw Russian, British and Canadian POWs "herded along the road at fast pace, guards beating them with rifle butts, (a) forlorn sight."

Following this, they marched on to Stresnow (Strzezewo) on February 9, where they passed French POWs, then Dievenow (Dziwnow) on February 10. Sandford noted this is where they crossed the Oder. Sparks said they crossed the Oder Estuary Technically, they crossed a branch of the Oder called the Dzwina River and/or the Dzwina strait, and marched to and across what is known as Wolin Island to the town of Neuendorf (Wiselka), arriving there on February 11.

Sandford commented that the area around Dievenow was "scenic tourist country, neat, trim cottages, town chock full of children of the Goering Home for Children - stayed in barracks at airport for seaplanes on island - air school with many singing marching youths in attendance."

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On February 12 they arrived at Swinemuende (Swinoujscie) which was home to a major German naval base. The men got to sleep on barracks floors, they had heat, and got some food. It is a city that also straddles two islands, the island of Wolin, which the men had just been on, and the island of Usedom, on which they were about to travel. It is also a present-day Polish city, right on the current border with Germany. Swinemunde at about this time was experiencing a major inflow of Polish refugees fleeing the advancing Soviet Army. The Poles were yet again in a very tough position. They had been occupied by the Germans and the Soviets, then just the Germans, and were now being overrun by the Soviets. Many chose to head to Germany rather than remain in Poland. Many who remained in Poland were murdered by the Soviets or shipped to Gulags in Siberia.

The story of Swinemunde is very sad. We recommend you study it during this period.

Some time during this period, February 12- 15, the Oflag 64 group had to leave about 150 men behind who could not continue. Graffagnino said it was at Stettin, which would have been February 12, while Sandford said it was at Murchin, which they left on February 15. In any event, Graffagnino, and Lt. Col. David Gold were the two doctors left with the group. Gold decided that Graffagnino should stay with the 150, as the Germans promised to move them by rail. Gold went on with the rest.

We'll pause for just a moment to convey what happened to Graffagnino and the 150 POWs left behind at this point.

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Berlin under Allied air attack by the US 384th Bomb Group. Photo credit: Contributed by Richard A. Alderman. Presented by 384th Bomb Group, the Alderman Collection.

They were taken the day after the groups separated to a rail yard and loaded on two boxcars, one slatted for cattle, the other an open coal car. They headed for Berlin, got there in about four days, and sat in the cars in the Berlin rail-yard for three days, through persistent Allied bombing. They were then taken to Stalag VIII-C about 40 miles southeast of Berlin. While none of these POWs was hurt during this bombing, many POWs transported by unmarked trains in Germany were killed and wounded as the result of Allied bombing and strafing raids.

The rest of the POWs went on to Gorze (Garz), getting there February 13. At Garz, they were separated in groups of 50. On to Stolpe on February 14, where they stayed for an extra day. Over the past days, the men had been able to get some food, mostly potatoes, and they found Germans willing to give them a few cigarettes.

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On February 15, they left for Murchin. Sandford said they were told they were going to Stalag IB, but they did not; it was at Hohenstein a bit to the south. Instead they arrived at Murchin. They crossed a bridge outfitted with demolition bombs. This is the first day Sandford reported having gastrointestinal (GI) problems. On February 17 they traveled on to Jarmen, where they observed German youth engaged in glider contests, having fun while the Soviets were advancing into Germany itself.

The POWs remained overnight at Jarmen. Sandford and Sparks both reported they stayed on the estate of a German countess whose son had been captured by the Americans and was in a POW camp in the States. The POWs assured her that her son was fine, so she talked German Colonel Schneider to let them have a day of rest. Sandford reported he still had the GIs. He also said there were now only 490 POWs left, about a third of the original group.

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The POWs marched out of Jarmen on February 19 and arrived that same day in or around Demmin, described by Sandford as a large and colorful city. Sparks said they remained overnight in Eugenienburg. Once they stopped, German Colonel Schneider told the POWs their march was almost over, two more days at most.

Schneider also announced (you will remember he was fond of making announcements) he would be catching a train out within a few days, and told the prisoners that after failing to get permission for more Red Cross supplies, he commandeered some intended for the Canadians and would give them to the Americans. The POWs did receive some Canadian boxes and even got coffee from the coffee wagon.

They would march on to Dargun on February 20, and they stayed a second night, the night of February 21. By February 21 the POWs were making their own varieties of food, using the potatoes given them to make french fries, creamed potatoes, mashed and even au gratin.

The POWs pressed on to Basedow on February 23. They saw American soldiers working on a damaged rail line.

Again a brief pause. Major units of the Soviet First Ukrainian Army Group had by this time crossed the Oder River. Units of the First White Russian Army Group had taken Poznan and continued moving westward. The Second White Russian Army Group had crossed the Vistula farther north and were headed northward to the Baltic. East Prussia was in the hands of units from the First and Second White Russian Army Groups.

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The POWs proceeded on February 24 to Cramon, and Plauerhagen, where they got another day of rest on February
26. During their march to Plauerhagen, Sandford said workers would sneak out and give the POWs food, and the guards would chase after them. The workers would duck into houses and barns, grab some more food, and sneak it back to the POWs, with the guards going in and out of doors chasing them. Sandford described it as a "Merry Go Round." Sandford called them "arbeiters", meaning "workers," so we're not sure of their nationality.

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The POW march continued, maintaining a westward direction begun when they hit the Baltic Sea. On February 27 they arrived at Lutheran, where Sandford reported French workers were on a small farm, and they bartered with food and coffee.

Their march to and arrival at Sieggelkow on February 28 would mark the beginning of a major turn of events. Sandford said they walked a "circuitous route across country in a long 'short cut' in sight of Parchim," a fairly large city. They heard air raid sirens from that direction. Sandford added that they were greeted by a "'Welcoming' group in top hats and tails." The owner of the land on which they stayed gave them firewood and they got huge loaves of bread from a local bakery. While conditions were never good for the Oflag 64 men, the farther they moved into Germany, the better the food and the better the hospitality of the German people.

The POWs were then told they would remain at Sieggelkow until a train was ready for them. They waited nearly a week, until March 6, and were marched to Parchim where there was a train waiting that was, miraculously, marked "US POW" on the roofs.

We're not sure whether the POWs knew where they were going, but they were heading south to Hammelburg, home of Oflag XIIIB.

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We have zoomed out on the scale of our maps so we could show you the distance to Hammelburg, the southerly direction. The train trip took two days (March 7-8), and then by foot to their new Oflag, arriving on March 10.

Life changed dramatically, and so did events on the ground.

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A group of American soldiers captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Extracted from "Berga, Soldiers of another war," presented by PBS.

Oflag XIII-B was populated mostly by officers captured during the Battle of the Bulge, a battle that began on December 16, 1944 and extended through January 7, 1945. There were 23,000 American troops captured during that battle. The Germans executed many. They moved the others to various camps, Oflag XIII-B being one of them. Lt. Herndon Inge, Jr, captured at the Battle of the Bulge, said he and others from that fight arrived at Oflag XIII-B at about the same time the men from Oflag 64 arrived. He estimated there were about 1,500 American officer POWs at Oflag XIII-B once these arrivals were concluded.

This long march from Oflag 64 to Oflag XIII-B at Hammelburg was over. Lt. Sparks calculated they had marched 357 miles.

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Chesley Russell (shown here), who would retire years later at the rank of lieutenant colonel, US Army, said this about the march:

“To survive I learned to trade cigarettes for food, steal potatoes and vegetables and even bread, and to keep walking some days on my
nerve alone. For the first 48 days I didn’t take my clothes off once, then I took a bath in a pigpen. Many incidents occurred during this trip which I don’t have time to mention here, but, if you’re interested, I’ll tell you about them sometime.”

The German colonel Schneider gave his prisoners a farewell talk, commending them for being good prisoners, and told them they would now be under the command of a general at Oflag XIII-B.

We don't know what the POWs knew of the overall situation regarding the war in Europe, other than they knew the Germans were close to defeat. The bulk of the Soviet force that had been moving westward was now in position to advance against Berlin. This map tells the story.

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This is the Eastern Front in 1945. The orange colored area reflects the advances made by the Soviets from January through March 30, 1945. The green reflects the Soviet advance thereafter through the end of the war on May 11, 1945. The red dot is the approximate location of Oflag 64. The red arrows mark their march out. Recall that they left on January 21, 1945, got to the Parchim rail-yard south of Rostok on March 6, and took the train to Hammelburg off this map on March 10, 1945. The Soviets commenced their attack on Berlin on April 16. The Germans put up a very stiff resistance. The western Allies held positions about 60 miles west of the city, ordered to leave its conquest to the Soviets, but continued advancing eastward throughout the rest of Germany below Berlin. This would turn out to be very important for the POWs.

Back in Washington, there were now serious worries about the fate of American POWs at this point of the war. Washington was worried that Germany would put American POWs in a holding area in Austria and use them as some kind of bargaining chip. The Germans had five Stalags in Austria.

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A 1945 U.S. Army map showing the possible extent of the National Redoubt. Presented by Wikipedia.org.

Germany made Austria a German province in 1938. Now there was information to indicate Hitler's lieutenants were urging him to take what was left of his Army, go to Bavaria or Austria, into the mountains, and make a stand. This came to be known as the German National Redoubt, or "Alpenfestung," Alpine Fortress. The term "National Redoubt" is used to describe an area to which the forces of a nation can be withdrawn if the main battle has been lost, or if defeat is inevitable.

Well, the men of Oflag 64, and their colleagues from the Battle of the Bulge, and the others at XIII-B, were now in northern Bavaria, at Hammelburg, northwest of the Redoubt area sketched above. Those who remained at Oflag 64 were in the hands of the Soviets and on their way to freedom.

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Oflag XIII B's population included hundreds of Serbian prisoners who had been there since the war's early days. The Serbs graciously shared their highly prized Red Cross packages when none arrived for the Americans, a favor returned when the Americans liberated the camp. Extracted from "Faith was there," presented by Company, the world of Jesuits and their friends.

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Oflag XIII-B had been known as Camp Hammelburg since 1935. It was a German military training area. When WWII kicked off, the Germans used parts of the camp for two POW camps, one for Serbian, the other for American officers. The POW camp was commanded by Generalmajor Günther von Goeckel, shown in this photo on the left (courtesy of Gareth Collins). The training area was commanded by a German colonel, Colonel (Oberst) Richard Hoppe, shown here on the right (courtesy of Christel Paul, his daughter).

Col. Goode, the Oflag 64 commander, turned out to be the senior POW officer at XIII-B as well and took charge. Among his first orders of business was to instruct the XIII-B men to "shave and clean-up by morning." Most of the POWs there were new to the "Kriegie" business, while Goode and his men were now the veterans. They helped the new guys get organized, reinvigorate their discipline, and prepare for liberation.

You might wonder about why the need for such discipline. Air Commodore Len Birchall, Royal Canadian Air Force and a POW of the Japanese for four years, in a riveting speech about leadership, has echoed the words of British Field Marshal Slim when talking about the importance of discipline:

"At some stage and in some circumstances, armies have let their discipline sag, but they have never won victory until they have made it taut again, nor will they. We have found it a great mistake to belittle the importance of smartness in turn-out alertness or carriage, cleanliness of person, saluting or precision of movement, and to dismiss them as naive, unintelligent, parade-ground stuff."

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This map, courtesy of multimap.com, shows you the location of Oflag XIII-B at Hammelburg, marked by a red dot, and the Rhine River, marked by the red arrow. US forces, led by General Patton, had advanced in this area to the east of the Rhine River, not far from XIII-B. Oflag XIII-B was in the heart of central Germany, and the Americans were cutting a swath across it while the Soviets concentrated on Berlin.

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The Germans, being squeezed by the Soviets and the western Allies, were on the run, but they had by no means lost their fight. They fought fiercely against Patton's troops and against the Soviets. In this photo, presented by Search Beat, you see soldiers of the US 6th Armored Divisiondashing across an open street and fresh fires in a tough battle for a German town in the Rhine River area on March 22, 1945.

On March 26 a task force from the 4th Armored Division fought through German lines and made it to Aschaffenburg, marked by the blue dot, which was within 60 miles of Hammelburg. At this point, Hammelburg was still behind German lines, by about 50 miles.

On the afternoon of March 26, orders were received at Combat Command B to organize a task force to strike at Hammelburg and free the American POWs there. It is said that the order came directly from General Patton. It turns out Lt. Col. Waters was married to one of the general's daughters, and legend in some quarters has it that Patton sent the force to free his
son-in-law. Maybe so. We prefer to believe he wanted to free all the POWs there. The problem was that the attack order was not supported by a very good plan.

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The Task Force (TF) was commanded by Captain Abraham Baum (shown here later as a major, courtesy of Bob Thompson) from the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion and drew its forces from the 10th Armored Infantry and the 37th Tank Battalions. It became known as Task Force Baum. In retrospect, the force was too small and perhaps too hastily assembled.

Up until now, the POWs at Oflag XIII-B had returned to their normal POW life. But then on the March 27, while at church, they heard tank fire in the town of Hammelburg, and small arms fire was everywhere around the camp.

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Task Force Baum tank smashes through the fence at Oflag XIII-B, Hammelburg. US government photo. Presented by Free Republic.

Some elements of the TF made it to the POW camp and smashed through the double barbed wire fence. What became known as the Hammelburg Raid is described very nicely by Lt. Herndon Inge, Jr., a former POW who experienced the entire event. We commend his memoir to your attention. It was also described with greater journalistic liberty by Time magazine on October 15, 1945.

We would simply like to highlight a few points. First of all, the raid ultimately failed, much of TF Baum was captured, and most of the POWs who got out were returned to the camp. The Germans knew the TF was there from aerial reconnaissance, and the Germans were not about to permit Allied forces to operate within German lines. The Germans were also
concerned that the 4th Infantry Division as a whole had commenced a major assault against their lines and sent a major combat force to put this fire out at Hammelburg.

Second, when it became obvious the liberation effort was in serious trouble, Col. Goode gave the POWs choices: return with him to the camp and the custody of the Germans, who had re-taken the camp, try for the American lines on their own, or remain with the task force and join in its fight to survive. Most decided to go back to the camp. Col. Goode grabbed a piece of white paper and led the POWs down a dirt road back to Oflag XIII-B.

On their way back to the camp, the POWs heard the sounds of major combat in the area of the TF. The Germans had been able to mount a strong attack against TF Baum and surrounded it.
The TF and the POWs who chose to go with it attempted to break out; some made it, some did not, and many were captured. The best statistics we have seen said that of the 307 members of TF Baum, only 15 managed to get back to American lines, with the rest either killed or captured. Capt. Baum, of the Jewish faith, was captured. We mention his faith because we know that American Jewish POWs were treated far differently than the others, far worse. Baum survived and made it home at war's end.

Those following Col. Goode returned to the camp later on February 28. It was empty. The POWs were exhausted. Soon, well equipped and well-armed German guards returned. Col. Waters went out to meet the arriving Germans to call a truce and the Germans shot him. He was moved to a field hospital, ultimately survived, and also made it home.

As an aside, there is an annotated aerial photo gallery on the internet of the area of operations for TF Baum and the Hammelburg Raid taken in June 2005. Those familiar with this area will find the gallery most informative.

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These New Zealand POWs are packed into a cattle truck on a train being taken from Italy to Germany in September 1943. You get the idea. Photo courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, Reference: War History Collection DA 11319. Presented by New Zealand History.

With this attempt to liberate Oflag XIII-B having failed, the Germans told the POWs they were to catch a train at Hammelburg. They boarded box cars, 37 men and two German guards in each car, and traveled southeast arriving at Stalag XIII-D, Nürnberg on April 1. This was a very large POW camp. One well documented source said that at the end of 1944, the camp had 29,550 POWs. Some 14,000 of these were Soviets, 11,000 French, and the rest filled out by Italians, Belgians, Serbs, Poles, and some few British and Americans. Of the total, about 8,680 officers were separated into Oflag 73 located at the same site.

The Nürnberg Stalag-Oflag became a destination for POWs from other camps that, for example, added 6,000 US and British aircrew alone. Many men from camps in western Germany were moved to Nürnberg. Because of this enormous influx, POWs had to be marched out, and most of the marching was into the heart of southern Bavaria and toward Austria, toward the area where the Allies worried about a German National Redoubt.

We hate to belabor the point, but POWs had now been marched out of Poland and out of western Germany arriving at camps in south central Germany --- to wit the worry about the Redoubt in Austria. We have found a marvelous map maintained by the Australian War Memorial that shows how POWs were moved
from one camp to another.

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Map of prisoner of war camps in Europe during the Second World War. Arrows indicate movement of POWs from one camp to another. Presented by the Australian War Memorial.

We recommend you study this map full size. But you can see how the POWs in the east were moved west, how they were moved east and north from the west, and then, in the area we have circled, how they were moved from the east and west to the south, to Moosburg, close to Austria.

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The yellow arrow shows the location of Oflag 64, from where this journey began. The POWs then marched (first two red arrows) across the frozen tundra of Poland and northern Germany to Parchim. They then took a train south to Hammelburg (third red arrow). Then they marched to Nürnburg (first blue arrow) and then to Moosburg (second blue arrow).

On April 4, Col. Goode and his crew from Oflag 64 began what would be their second march (blue arrows on map above) on a trip that would take them farther south, to Moosburg. By now, of course, they were marching with many other POWs from all over the European theater of war. Through a driving rain they finally reached a church at Beching after having marched 23 miles. On April 7, they continued their march for 18 miles to Sandersdorf, they would then march to Neustadt (12 miles), then to Niederumelsdorf (nine miles), then to Holzhausen (seven miles), arriving at Moosburg, the location of Stalag
VII-A on April 20, about 20 miles northeast of Munich in Bavaria. Please note how close Moosburg is to Austria (colored green) and the Stalag located there.

This second march, about 90 miles in all, took almost 15 days. The men were very weak and Allied bombing in this region was constant. That is in large part due to the fact that the Allies were fighting their way to Nürnberg, capturing it on April
17-20, 1945.

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This is a typical train of French-type "40 and 8" box cars (40 men or 8 horses) used by the Germans to transport POWs. Presented by the US Air Force Academy.

These men walked to Stalag VII-A at Moosburg. Others came by train. The photo shows the typical train used for POWs. The caption that came with it reads like this:

"The Germans packed many more than 40 POWs into such cars. At Spremberg, the columns of Kriegies were loaded into the cars, which were littered with manure. They were so crowded that they could not all sit or lie down at the same time. They were locked in these cars with only two breaks for three days and two nights before reaching Stalag VIIA."

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Stalag VII-A Sign. Presented by B-24.net, the official web site of the 392nd Bomb Group.

Moosburg was tough in the sense that there was a great deal of chaos. There were POWs here from many nationalities, including British, Indians, Mongolians, Poles, Americans and others. The estimate is that on January 1, 1945, there were about 76,000 POWs here, mostly French (38,000) and Soviet (14,000). We have seen estimates that the population rose to over 100,000 as POWs were moved from other camps to this one during the final days of the war.

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They put about 300 men into each barrack, some POWs have said as many as 400. This second set of marches for the Oflag 64 men made their total journey about 450 miles.

The POWs are liberated, but it "weren't" easy

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Aerial photo of Stalag VIIA, Moosburg. Photo courtesy of Jim Huddleston. Presented by 303rd Bomb Group (H) Association, "Hell's Angels."

As you can see from the photo, Stalag VIIA at Moosburg was a big operation, but it was not big enough to hold the approximately 110,000 POWs from an estimated 27 countries.


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Eventually, tents had to be erected at the camp to house the tremendous influx of POWs. Estimates of the final population range from 110,000 to as high as 130,000. Presented by US Air Force Academy.

In their book,
The Dominguez Family: A Mexican-American Journey, Donna S. Morales and John P. Schmal, Ms. Morales talks about the experience of her uncle, Pvt. Erminio Lujan Dominguez, 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized) at Stalag VII-A. He and others from the 117th were captured on September 3, 1944 at Montrevel in France.

By April 1945, General Patton's Third Army was cutting through Germany like a hot knife through butter. Morales, other inmates and the German guards all heard serious artillery fire on April 28, and the fire was stepping its way toward the area of Moosburg.

The American force had to fight its way through Moosburg and to the camp.

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The SS resisted about as well as it could, but the fight was short, and they surrendered. Eric A. Orsini, shown here, then an Army captain with the 14th Armored Division, ultimately served the Army for 64 years and retired as Special Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics- G-4. United States Army. During those later years, he told a group of former Stalag Luft I POWs the following:

"The German command would not submit an unconditional surrender. Instead, German SS troops moved outside the city and set up a defense perimeter. They opened the fight and we were ready for them. Every tanker, infantryman, truck driver, clerks and cooks took up arms. By 1030, the SS were lying dead in the fields and along the roads, grey-white faces and open mouths, twisted and staring sightlessly at the cold, blue sky above. And American medium tanks were roaring through the cobbled streets of the ancient city."


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This photograph shows the Camp Commandant, Maj. Gustav Simoleit (left), Major Alton S. Kircher, Executive Officer 47th Tank Battalion (center), and Group Captain Willets, RAF, senior British officer (right). This is the moment of official surrender and Major Simoleit is establishing the time needed to get his men in from the many guard posts around the camp, disarm them, and form them up to be trucked away to POW camps. Photo credit: Capt. John Bennett of South Camp with a clandestine camera. Presented by the US Air Force Academy.

By April 29, American armored forces were outside the gate and the camp was liberated.

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A very emotional moment as the American flag replaces the Nazi flag. Saluting troops cast respectful shadows on the fence. Presented by the US Air Force Academy.

This liberation of the prisoners at Stalag VII-A was important to the Allies for many reasons, one of which was the lingering fear that the Germans might move some or many to a Redoubt in Salzburg, Austria and hold them hostage. American planes repeatedly dropped leaflets on the camp warning that the camp staff would be held responsible if any of the POWs were moved out of the Moosburg camp.

It is worth noting that while General Patton's 3rd Army has often been acclaimed for racing to Berlin, many of his forces were actually racing through southern Germany and into Bavaria, which had the effect of cutting off any German thoughts of withdrawing to the Alps and Austria, and enabled the Americans to link up with the Soviets south of Berlin. This had to be done.


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Part of a group of more than 7,000 former Allied prisoners-of-war, liberated by the Americans at Moosburg on April 29, 1945. Presented by City of Kingston, Australia.

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Except for being under American control, which of course was big, very big, the reality was, for the moment, that little at the camp changed. Colonel Goode and Group Captain Millet remained in charge. Some of the German administrative personnel remained at their posts in the camp, while the remainder, including the guards, were taken prisoner.Awaiting evacuation from Stalag VIIA, Moosburg. Presented by the US Air Force Academy.

It still had 110,000 or more people in it. Even though liberated, most of the former prisoners did not immediately run out of the camp, for good reason. They were unarmed, they had no idea what enemy forces were left out there, and they had no way of knowing how to get to safety on their own. That said, many did venture out to walk the Bavarian countryside, with some walking as far as Munich.

American artillery batteries set up shop in the fields near the camp. For their part, the troops who took the town uncovered arsenals of weapons. Some prisoners walked the streets of Moosburg. Some broke into liquor stores and warehouses, food shops, and clothing stores, others took motorcycles and cars and rode them around. Most of the ex-prisoners threw themselves a party in the streets.

American support troops began arriving at Moosburg on April 30 with food rations. Frank D. Murphy, 418th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, has written that General Patton arrived on May 1. He described Patton's visit this way:General George S. Patton, Commander 3rd US Army, tours the camp, May 1, 1945. Presented by the US Air Force Academy.

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"On May 1, 1945 a grim-faced Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., commander of the U.S. Third Army, paid us a visit at Stalag VIIA. He was dressed in a crisp, neat, fresh uniform and wearing his legendary wide black leather belt with a huge silver buckle to which were attached his famous paired set of ivory- handled six-guns. Maj. Gen. James A. Van Fleet, III Corps Commander, and Maj. Gen. Albert C. Smith, commander of the 14th Armored Infantry Division accompanied General Patton. As he walked briskly through the camp General Patton occasionally stopped and exchanged a few brief words with small groups of American prisoners. When he came upon my group the General paused, looked at us, shook his head in disgust at the sight of the thin, unkempt scarecrows standing before him and said in a low voice, 'I’m going to kill these sons of bitches for this.'"

While most surely the troops loved that kind of talk, a story by another prisoner reported that the arrival of two Red Cross women overshadowed even General Patton's visit. GIs are GIs, thank God.

Frank Murphy said they were deloused and allowed to bathe and shower, given new uniforms, and on May 9 they were trucked with other POWs to a former Luftwaffe base at Regensburg, placed aboard US C-47 transport aircraft, and airlifted to Liege, Belgium. Milton Long has recorded that over the ensuing days the POWs were trucked to Landshute Airfield and "hundreds of C-47s flew out the former POWs on their first leg of the trip back home."

That first leg was concluded at a place known as to Camp Lucky Strike, about 40 miles outside LeHavre, France, which was used as a collection point and rehabilitation center for former American POWs.

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Tent city at Camp Lucky Strike, France. Extracted from "With a weapon in his hands, but his heart toward home, WWII, my grandfather's story," by Jordan Abbott. Presented by angelfire.com

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An aerial photograph of Lucky Strike taken August 27, 1945 by the 540th Photorecon Squadron. At times this camp hosted more than 100,000 US soldiers. Almost all liberated American POWs went through this camp on their way home. Contributed by Wesley Johnson; reprinted courtesy John Kline, CUB Magazine. Presented by The Skylighters, the 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion.

For his part, Murphy was X-rayed and found to have a touch of pneumonia and was down in weight by about 50 pounds. He was treated in hospital for two weeks with a new miracle drug, penicillin, released, and put on a commercial ship re-fitted as a hospital ship and sent home, in a 30-ship convoy. The crossing took 12 days.

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USA or bust. Presented by The Skylighters, the 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion.

It is very hard to determine how many men from Oflag 64 survived the war and made it home. Oflag 64 prisoners have estimated anywhere between 400-500 made it to Moosburg. Of the remaining 900-1000, some ended up in local hospitals, some were liberated by the Russians, some were sent to other German camps, and, we are certain, some, perhaps many, died.

We will never know how many Americans were held as POWs during WWII in Europe, or the Pacific for that matter, how many died in captivity, how many were murdered, or how many were taken against their will to the USSR or hideaway destinations of German political and military seniors.

The Russians have acknowledged that some American POWs liberated from German POW camps at the end of WWII were imprisoned by the Soviets.

One final note. We have seen an estimate that only 20 percent of US POWs from WWII remain alive today. If you meet one, for God's sake, kiss him, hug him, shake his hand, and thank him for his service.


Some of the men of Oflag 64 whom you have not yet seen

Those who have photos they wish us to post here, please e-mail (edmarek@mac.com) or send to Edward S. Marek, 1209 Easthill Drive, Wausau, WI 54403.

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Prisoner of War Medal

In the center of a bronze medallion one and three eighths inches in diameter, an eagle is shown with its wings displayed. Forming a circle around the eagle and following the contour of the medal, barbed wire and bayonet points may be seen. The eagle is the American bald eagle and represents the United States in general and the individual prisoner of war in particular. It is standing "with pride and dignity, continually on the alert for the opportunity to seize hold of beloved freedom."Thanks to Mary Hopper, daughter of William A. Shular, we have a copy of the Army's statement of Recovered Personnel for then Lt Schular, and show it at the close of this page. We have never seen one of these, and wanted to show it to our readers. All those trials and tribulations of being a POW, all those emotions, pains and memories, on an Army form, sterile, as it should be, for the record. We commend it to your attention.
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Photos of the Oflag 64 Kriegies


Henry Vincent McCabe, 1Lt., USA, 88th Division

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Lt. McCabe was part of the group that marched out on January 21, 1945, and then escaped from the column the next day. He and Lt. Campbell stayed together while traveling west for a week or so with the Russian units that found them, before the two of them headed back east to Odessa. My father reached Odessa in early March.

While in the POW camp, my McCabe was a 1st Lt. He served in the 88th Division and was captured in October 1944, north of Florence, Italy. He made Captain after returning to the USA.

McCabe told his son, Michael, that at the camp there was a
fenced-off section which held Russian POWs, perhaps a thousand. He said the Germans wouldn't let the Red Cross inspectors see this part of the camp. The Germans treated these Russian prisoners like dogs, and dead dogs were about the only meat that they fed the Russians. I haven't seen anything about this today on the web sites I have visited.
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Thornton Vernon Sigler, Commander, M Company and battalion S-3 for the 3rd Battalion, 175th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division, US Army

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Captain Thornton Vernon Sigler, USA, was captured in France on August 6, 1944 following the D-Day landings at Normandy in June 1944. At the time of his being captured, he was participating in the liberation of Vire, France. He arrived at Oflag 64 on September 15, 1944. He participated in the long march to Luckenwalde from January 20 through February 5, 1945. While a POW, he maintained an illegal log which is available on the internet.
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Ann Hart Otterbein's father-in-law was Capt. Louis Otterbein, shown below. She never met him,. He died at a young age, 51. He was an artist and drew many pictures of what he saw, and also built the stage sets that the prisoners needed for the plays they produced while imprisoned. Anna has been kind enough to send us some group photos.

Otterbein, Louis, 504th Parachute Infantry, US Army

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Captain Louis Otterbein, 504th Parachute Infantry, made it through WWII as a POW but died at the age of 51. While a POW, he drew many pictures of what he saw, and also built the stage sets that the prisoners needed for the plays they produced while imprisoned.
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Teyssier, Roger J., 755th Tank Battalion, 5th US Army

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Photo taken in Africa, 1943, before his participating in the invasion of Italy
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Shular, William A., Co. E, 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division

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William Shular, August 2006

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Carter, Amon G., Jr.

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Left: 1943. Right, 1975

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Bustad, Leo K.

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Cipriani, Anthony "Tony" J.

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Creech, John, 1st Infantry Division

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Donovan, George M., H Company, 179th Infantry

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Garrett, Franklin T., 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment

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Graffagnino, Dr. Peter Carl, MD, 45th Infantry Division

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Heisler, Walter Christoff "Chris", 507th Parachute Infantry

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Higgenbotham, Carrol "Higgie"

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Hill, Jonel, 26th Infantry Regiment

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Left: 1944 Right: 2001

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Holder, H. Randolph

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Inge, Herndon, Jr., 301st Infantry Regiment

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Jacobs, Jerome, 364th Fighter Squadron

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Jones, Curtis, Lt. Col., USA (Ret.)

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Jones, Lloyd Martin, 43rd Infantry Regiment

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Left: Circa 1986 Right: Circa 1942

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Juskalian, George, 26th Infantry Regiment


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Left: 2004, At the rank of colonel (captured at the rank of captain) Right: 1944
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Kanaya, Jimmie, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

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Liggett, F. Eugene, 158th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division

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Left: 1943 Right: 2003 with wife, Rosalie

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Michaud, Lawrence A., USA

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Naab, Lawrence, 88th Infantry Regiment

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Left: 1943 Right: 1996

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Parker, Richard B., 106th Infantry Division

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Russell, Chesley

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Wright, Hiram J., I Company, 3rd Battalion, 357th Infantry

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Yardley, Colonel Doyle R., 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion

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Statement or Report of Interview of Recovered Personnel

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Group Photos

Otterbein Collection

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The Germans allowed the POWs to put on plays. This is a crew on their set. Captain Lou Otterbein is seated.

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This is a photo of POWs standing in the snow at Oflag 64. Captain Otterbein is on the left. It is remarkable to me that their uniforms are so well pressed and cared for.

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Another group of POWs in the snow. Capt Otterbein is right rear with the mustache.
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Sweeney collection


Ross Valles advised that he had come across a large collection of letters and postcards written by Captain James Sweeney to his wife while he was a prisoner at Oflag 64, starting in March 1943 to December 1944, about 21 months. He has provided us a group photo and photos of a few envelops.

Sweeney was captured on February 17, 1943 in North Africa and was placed in Oflag 64.


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