Share Your Story

 

As part of constructing the South Dakota World War II Memorial, we want to preserve the stories of South Dakotans during that period. Please share with us a story of your experience during that time.

 

Leon W. Lowe

Leon W. Lowe and his three brothers were in WW II. They were from Meadow, SD. Leon was in the 5th Army Air Force,  Charles E. Lowe was in the Army,  John H. Lowe was in the Air Force,  and George T. Lowe was in the Seabee. They all survived the war and came home. Only Leon is living now in Spearfish, SD.

 

Siegfreid Goetz

Siegfreid Goetz entered the Army July 1942 from Onaka, SD where he was raised. Josephine S. Goetz was known as “Rosie the Riveter she followed him around from camp to camp. First at Glen L. Martin Plant at Baltimore, then to Pomona, California at Lockheed P-38’s.  Siegfreid Goetz died on Oct 10,1959.  Siegfreid and Josephine have three sons.

 

Roger J. Thomas

Roger J. Thomas a World War II Veteran was a Graduate of Instrument Pilot School at Bryan, Roger Field, and trained young pilots.

 

Lee Beard

Lee Beard was inducted into the Army from Yankton, SD.  He served in the European Theater, mainly Italy. He is now living in California

 

Evvard N. Roe

Evvard N. Roe was born August 8, 1920, he served in the Marines in Iowa Jima. He ended up with ear infections and did not get on the hill with the flag. Evvard, is married to Merlene Gregerson.

 

Ross Norris Roe

Ross Norris Roe did well in Service. He worked with General Patton. He was and inventor. He was born March 1, 1928. Ross is married to Annette Krause.

 

George U. Pond

Staff Sergeant George U. Pond entered the service on December 28, 1941.  He was in the South Pacific Theatre of operations in the 5th Air Force Unit.  He was discharged December 13, 1945.

 

Vic Markley

Vic Markley was aboard the Colorado for about four years.  He was right along side of Missouri at Japan for the signing of the peace. Vic was at Tavawa, Kwajalein, Enivatok, Siapan, Gwau, Tinian, Leyety, Mindoro, Lizon, Okinawa and Japan.

 

Fritz Lindeman

Fritz Lindeman was a truck driver hauling Telegraph Poles for the Army for four years. He went into the service out of Selby, SD.

 

Bernice Fox (Gaffey)

1st. Lt. Bernice Fox was an Army Nurse. She went into the service in 1944 was overseas for 20 Months. Bernice was discharged in 1946.

 

Wayne D. De Vries

Wayne D. De Vries was a Marine he served with the Fourth Marine Division on the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima landing on D Day on all operations.

 

Robert Benson

Robert Benson went into the service from Fulton SD.  He was in the service for three and a half years in the South West pacific Theater. He attended a little high school in Fulton SD and graduated in 1938. In the classes from 1937 through 1945, there were 26 boys who graduated, 24 served in the military in WW II.  Four in 147th Field Artillery, five other Army units, 8 Navy, 6 Air Force, and 1 Marine Corps.  One was a fighter pilot in Europe, one was a bomber commander who led the last raid out of Bologna, Italy over the oilfields of Ploesti in Rumania.  The Marine operated an amphtrac at Tarawa and survived, though wounded.  One was a Navy pilot in the Pacific. One was an infantry platoon sergeant in a rifle company during combat in the Battle of the Bulge and later across Germany. One was a paratrooper captured in Italy. He survived a German prisoner of war camp.  One was in fighter training in Texas and a plane clipped his plane his last week of training, he bailed out but his parachute caught on the tail of his plane.

 

Ed Vacek

Ed Vacek was in Army Air Force. He flew 34 Combat Mission as a Ball-turret Gunner on the B-17. He flew his first mission on June 8, 1944. Norm Klare and Ed finished together on September 22 the rest of the 9 men crew finishing up within days after them. I just had to kiss the earth after landing on September 22nd. Having the tail wheel shot away and numerous others, flak hits. He put his life on the line 34 times. Ed was a farm boy from Avon, SD.

 

Gerald P. Brunskill

Staff Sargent Gerald P. Brunskill was with the 3rd Army Battle of the Bulge under General Patton. He is now living in Murdo,SD.

Paul J. Elpert

Paul J. Elpert was in the Army three and a half years, two and a half were in the Pacific. His outfit made a total of three landings into enemy territory.

 

Marvin Heckenlaible

Marvin Heckenlaible was inducted in the U.S. Army January 13, 1944, and entered active service Feb. 3, 1944, at Ft. Snelling, Minn.  Private Heckenlaible completed his basic training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, and his infantry training at Ft. Mead, Maryland, and Ft. Benning, Georgia, where he became a Heavy Machine Gunner.

On Jan. 3, 1945, Private Heckenlaible departed the United States for overseas duty.  Upon arrival overseas, Marvin was assigned as a machine gunner to “D: Company, 5th Infantry Regiment, 71st Division, and would spend 20 long months of combat with his unit.

As a member of the 71st Division, now squad leader and fire director, Heckenlaible and his unit were part of a major breakthrough in German defenses during July 1945, when they cut of the Brittany Peninsula during the invasion of Normandy.  Onward they pressed through France, Belgium and into Germany.

In December 1945, U.S. forces began the eventual methodical crushing of Hitler’s war machine in one of the war’s most fierce and critical battles, the Battle of the Bulge.  The liberation of Europe was now inevitable with this allied victory.  Sgt. Heckenlaible paid a very painful personal price during the battle, suffering wounds from shrapnel that he would carry with him the rest of his life.

On May 8, 1946, SSgt. Heckenlaible was discharged and returned home to Highmore, but for only a very short period.

When the Korean Conflict erupted, his country called Heckenlaible, as a member of the Reserves, for a second time and he faithfully responded.  As a member of the 63rd Ordinance Group, Heckenlaible served as an ammunition depot director in Sasebo, Japan, from Oct. 10, 1950, until Aug. 26, 1951.  He was discharged Sept. 4, 1952.

Marvin Heckenlaible was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Good Conduct Medal, American Theatre Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal—Germany, European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Service Medal, two Overseas Service Bars, the Purple Heart and was awarded the Pistol, Rifle and Machine Gun Expert Marksmanship Badges.

 

Roy Frederick Schroeder

He was inducted in the Army on September 30, 1944 at Fort Snelling, MN.  Had his basic training at Camp Hood, TX.  When this was completed, he was directly sent over to Okinawa, where he served with the 382nd Infantry Regiment.  He was wounded on Okinawa and was flown to the United States and entered the Letterman General Hospital there in California, while awaiting transfer to Camp Carson, Colorado for treatment.  He was discharged at Camp Carson, Colorado with a honorable discharge, on October 24, 1954 with APT Ribbon with 1 bronze star combat infantry badge and a purple heart.

 

Edward Spevak

            We were awakened about 4:00 AM on the morning of May 17, 1943 for a mission to Lorient, France.  We were briefed and ate our breakfast.  The briefing told where we were going an all about it.  By 9:00 AM, we were on our way.  I did not have all of my original crew.  Instead of Sgt. Charles Norris, I had Sgt. Wells from Brown’s crew.  In addition, Parks from Brown’s crew took the place of Neurveiler (dead) tail gunner, and another fellow in ball turret.

            Every thing was good.  We made a diversion to the northeast and then back into the Breast Peninsula.  We no more than hit the French coast than here comes Jerry, German Focke-Wulfe 190.  They fought us all the way into the target.  A few times our engines ran away, caused by too fast movement of the throttle.

            We were the target but could no release our bombs because another ship was directly under us.  We were flying about 27,000 feet, No. 3 position, high.  About that time flak hit our #1 engine and it ran away and could not be feathered.  All the rest of the planes had dropped their bombs, thus being much lighter, gradually left us behind a little.  We then let our bombs go, and tried to regain our position in formation.  About that time, #3 went out, hit by a Focke-Wulfe 190 gun.  We got it under control and feathered.  All this time #1 was on fire and running away.  It had busted a couple of mountings and was hanging on two more.  I knew it would not be long before it would fall off.  By this time, we were way out of formation and about 40 fighters Focke-Wulfe 190’s were taking us for all they were worth.  They set the whole ship on fire by bursting 20 millimeters.  It was blazing from front to rear.  All the controls were hit and vibrated so that Nick (co-pilot) and I could not hold them.  Once before a Focke-Wulfe 190 lined up our cockpit with a 20 mm. However, I could see them coming and hit the stick with all my might.  They miss by inches.  The boys (crew) got about 5 ships.  I could not control the ship anymore and we were down to 15,000 feet.  About that time a 20 mm. Came in on my side and did not explode or I would not be here today.  It hit the oxygen behind me and left the cockpit a blazing inferno.  I gave orders for the crew to bail our.  They all left about the same time, all but Melaun.  He had a seat chute and waited too long to put it on and a 20 mm. Blew his head off.  Ford was shot through the legs and jumped out the bomb bay.  Contopidis was blown through the emergency escape hatch by a 20 mm. And was left with only half a chute.  He made it okay.  So, Nick and I left together.  I got caught in the emergency exit and he gave me a kick and we both went sailing out together.  Just as we left our just a little before, #1 engine fell off in a ball of flame and half of the left wing came off.  It went on a little further because it was set up on automatic flight equipment as we left.  It then went into a noseward pitch and finally blew up—Midnight.  It was now 12:00 noon.

            I no sooner left the ship, a horrible feeling, and I started reaching for the ripcord.  It is hard to move your hands when you fall through space.  By this time I had lost everything in my pockets, ration and money.  I finally managed to get to my ripcord and pull it at about 12 to 13,000 feet.  I tumbled a few times and then saw it open.  I was really relieved.  It opened with such force it almost broke my back.  It knocked the wind out of me for a few seconds.  Everything was fine now.  Peace and quiet prevailed.  Only the burning ship could be smelled.  I looked all around me and saw 6 or 7 chutes scattered all over.  It sure felt good to see them.  But, here came Jerry-Folke-Wulfe 190 zipping past me.  I then thought sure he would fire at me, but all he did was follow me to the ground.  Just the same, he gave me the thrill of my life.  It took about 10 or 15 minutes to get to the ground but it seemed like years.  I was now drifting toward a little village 10 kilometers (7 miles) south of Morliaux, France.  About 1,000 feet from the ground I could see the ground coming toward me.  Anything above the altitude seems like suspension.  Swaying back and forth it wasn’t long before I hit the ground.  I really did hit hard and tumbled a few times.  I was a sorry looking sight.  Blood and dirt all over my face and a cracked left ankle and a couple of broken ribs.  When I hit, Jerry zoomed off and away.  I also thought I was breaking in little pieces when I hit.  It was a terrible impact, and there I was on a street with peasant running toward me and not a German in sight.

            I hit the ground pretty hard, cracking my left ankle, and two ribs.  I was also scratched and bleeding around my face.  I may have gotten that from the glass as a 20-mm shattered my windshield.

            I lit near or on the edge of a small village (Finistere-Le Cloitre) 10 kilometers south of Morlaiux, France.  I no sooner was on the ground than a bunch of French peasants started toward me.  I was then really scared, as I didn’t know whether or not they were friendly or enemy.  Anyway I threw off my chute and hobbled to a clump of trees, thus evading them temporarily.  I could see them looking at my parachute and hiding it.  I also threw away my Mae West lifesaver.  They followed me and attempted to find me.  They looked rather friendly, so I took a chance and came out into the open.  At once two small girls decided to hide me further away.  There were no Germans there for a little while, but soon came from Morlaiux after about ten minutes.  This gave me plenty of time to hide.  I stayed in this one place a little while and the girls brought a French-English dictionary, some wine, bread and butter.  After some deliberation they decided to hide me in another place which was almost unfortunate for me.  I was in my new hiding for out an hour when they decided to take me to still another place.  We were walking along a path when all at once the girl saw a German soldier coming around the bend.  He evidently did not see her as we hurried back to our old hiding place and he walked by us, which was only a couple of feet away.  I believe I could have touched him.  I decided to stay here that afternoon and the girls left me and said they would see me later that evening—made out in our dictionary.  About thirty minutes after they had left me, I heard dogs, and so I really became frightened, thinking they were hounds as they wailed like hounds.  So I left my hiding and crawled on my hands, stomach and feet.  I must have crawled about two miles, when I came to a corner road.  I no more than got there when a couple of Germans on bicycles came into view.  I could not go back because they would see me.  I crawled and dug down in the ditch by the road as best I could and waited for the worst.  If they had quit their jabbering and looked a little harder they would have had me.  Anyway I was plenty scared.  As soon as they were out of sight I started crawling and crawled over to the other side of the hill.  All this time I could hear the dogs wailing closer.  I could see Germans all around me by now, beating the brush and looking.  Some got pretty close to my hiding place.  In fact, I could hear their breathing.  I stayed here until 16:00.  On the other hill, I saw the girl that hid me herding cows.  She must have known that I left my hiding place as she looked for tracks all over the field while herding the cows.  So, I crawled back to my original hiding place.  By this time, it was getting dusk.  I was not there very long before the three women came for me.  It was pretty cold by now and I was really shivering.  They brought me a coat and we proceeded up the path toward the village.  A woman would always go ahead and check for Germans.  I found out later that about twenty-five Germans on bicycles had been looking for us, but had left a few minutes earlier.  But, there was always a chance of one being around.  We went right into the middle of town by the back way.  Let me tell you, I was shaking with fear by now.  They took me into a house—by the way, the one woman was an elderly woman about 50.  I always will remember her, she cried as we left the next morning.  I no sooner got inside than I came upon my waist gunner.  They also had taken care of him.  He was bleeding all over, as a 20 mm shell had cut him up, while he tried to help the other waist gunner, Melaun (DFC posthumously) put on a parachute.  Melaun’s head was blown off just a second before.  The French doctored him up with iodine the best they could.  I want to say that the French are wonderful people.  After a while another French man came in and told them he also had a fellow at his place.  He also had a note from another one of my crew, Wells, but he was taken prisoner shortly after said he was giving himself up as he was shot through the legs.  The French man went back after this fellow and brought him back to where we were staying.  To my astonishment, there was Nichols, my co-pilot.  He was in good shape.  He was only knocked out upon landing.  After eating a little they decided to keep us upstairs for the night.  So they gave us their best bed and we three slept there that night.  In the morning we were to go into hiding in the church steeple.  About 6:00 the elderly lady woke us and took us to the steeple.  We were there about an hour when she came back and told us the Germans were coming to look for us in three directions, thus forcing us toward the ocean.  So we were taken out the back way into the country again.  They gave us some ragged clothing the night before, but she had us change into our flying clothes that morning.

            The three of us, Nick, Parks and I walked for a little way until we came to a small grain field.  I decided we should stay here that day.  It was just tall enough to hide us.  Intelligence briefing before we left England told us that was the best place to hide.  We no sooner got settled than we could hear and see Germans beating through the brush and ditches again.  They kept this up most of the day.  It was torture for us as the day went by.  The sun beating down and we could not move around much.  Just stay on our back or stomach.  In the afternoon we decided to leave this field as Jerry now was now employing an airplane to look for us.  so we took to another hill which was heavily wooded.  We stayed here until nightfall and then we decided to go southeast.  I had lost my money and emergency rations when I jumped from the plane so we all three lived on Nichols and Parks rations.  These had compasses in them and we went for direction by these.  We left about 2300 that night and traveled all night until about 5:00 in the morning.  Nothing much eventful during the night.  Dogs would mark our route by their barking.  We would no sooner leave one and another would bark fiercely.  The three of us were still learning of when we should wake or where to stop.  So, we found a peasant farmer’s house, which looked okay.  We slept for an hour or so in a straw stack.  All this time the dogs were howling around.  It got pretty cold after a bit so I decided to wake the French farmer and ask for food and warmth.  Nick even wanted to build a fire but we persuaded him not to because it might give us away.  After much knocking on the door a French man stuck his head out and asked us something.  I told him “American, American” and he said “we”.  He came down and I told Nichols and Parks to come ahead, that everything was all right.  The man and his wife built a fire and boiled us some eggs.  All this time we were using sign language and finally got their full confidence.  At first, they were a little frightened.  We told them we were going southeast and that we were shot down.  They made us stay there that day and outfitted us with clothes.  We looked a sorry sight, but anything to escape.  The French man’s wife took us outside later and covered us with straw and there we stayed all day.  This is where I gave a young French girl my wrist bracelet because I was afraid to carry it.  All that day different French who probably wanted to see what an American parachuter looked like reviewed us.  Here is where I gave up my cadet pants and shirt, which I thought of very highly.

            About 2300, we departed.  The French man took us down the road about a mile, showing us which direction to take.  That night we traveled about another 25 miles.  We even go so bold as to go right through a town at midnight.  Which, if caught by a German, was punishable by death.

            All through France and Spain, I must say we were under a nervous tension.  Never knowing what was going to happen from one minute to the next.

            It got cold at night, but as long as we kept walking, we could stay warm.  Again, there was our usual accompaniment of dogs barking.  Once we had to pass a certain farmhouse where a German was courting a French girl.  We could no go around because of high banks on either side.  Therefore, we just waited for an hour until they left.

Just as it was getting dusk, we decided we had better find another farmer’s house.  Again, it was up to me to knock for assistance.  After I knocked, I noticed a swastika burned in the door.  However, it turned out to be just two women and a child.  We again told them who we were and they built a fire and gave us some bread.  However, the one lady hurriedly departed and brought another young French man with her, evidently she was scared.  Later he took us to the barn and gave us blankets and straw to sleep on that day, and sleep we did, as we were pretty tired.  That evening they brought an elderly fellow with them.  He happened to be part of the underground.  Therefore, after much deliberation, they took us to his home which was right in the middle of town, about a mile from where we stayed.  He happened to be the Mayor of this town.  We stayed there in his house about three days and they treated us swell.  This was the first real food and beds since we were shot down.  However, the days seemed like years.  Finally, the day came when we were to leave for another friend’s house, which later proved to be the real organization.  All the while we were at this place we had to be very quiet and not show ourselves to anyone.  In other words, stay right in the room.  By this time Nick and Parks were getting pretty low on tobacco and were about robbing the poor man blind.  Later they even smoked weeds dry or otherwise.

            We left that night with the Mayor as our guide.  The next morning we saw hobnailed tracks, so we left the road and went through the fields.  The old fellow wanted to make it to a clump of trees on the opposite hill, but we had to go through enemy territory, so we stayed in some brush on the hill that day.  Just below us was a highway and railroad.  All day long, we could see German cars and trains full of Germans going to the tip of the Peninsula.  In the afternoon, it rained and we got pretty wet.  The French man left us early in the morning and came back with food just as it started to rain.  He took us down near the highway into a little garage that had a car in it but it was not working.  He left us and evidently went to his friend’s house.  He came back later with food and another man.  We were really scared because the Germans were going back and forth.  Once a troop of soldiers on horses went by but lucky for us they did not stop.  The French man came back later that night and we left, continuing our trip to his friends’ house.  It seemed we walked for hours before we came to the little village of (Plousant).  He had missed it by about a mile, which is pretty good, as we were going through and around dangerous areas as Germans were all through this vicinity.  When we got to this man’s house, he was a Lawyer; he gave us a good meal and showed us a room, which had wonderful beds.  He must have run a hotel previously.  The next morning we met the rest of the family, two daughters and his wife.  The daughters were about twenty years old.  We stayed here about two days until he thought the Germans suspected him.  A woman that spoke English also worked with him.  They gave us some clean clothes here and we felt lots better.  They took us to some farmer friend in his car.  There we stayed for a couple more days.  This is where the food and lodging was not so good.  We had food at times that had worms crawling through it.  I refused mine, although the peasants ate it.  I guess they like fresh meat, and not only that, it was all they could get.  After a couple of days the man who had us first came back after us.  He walked this time and we walked back with him always along the back roads.  We were nearly back to the lawyers house when we were crossing a highway and were just half way across when we could hear a motorcycle with Germans coming around the corner.  There could not have been a funnier sight!  The man had a cane and he placed it forward and his two feet side-ways, undecided which way to go.  We just scattered in every direction.  After they went by, he wiped his forehead and sighed with relief.  The house we then stayed in was one of his good friends home.  Here we stayed a couple of more days.  Finally, we got word we were to move on.  Therefore, the man took the three of us to a town about fifty miles in his car.  Here we ran into all kinds of Germans and let me tell you, we were really scared.  However, we drove up one street and down another until he let Nick and Parks out with his two daughters to walk to this butcher shop.  He drove me up; maybe I didn’t look enough like a Frenchman.  Here the people fed us really good.  We were to wait until a fellow name Joe was to get us.  He arrived a couple of hours later and we were going to a go on a bus further on to (St. Brieuc).  Joe figured it was too risky, as we didn’t have any identification papers, so he borrowed the butcher shop peoples truck and took us.  It burns on charcoal and would stop every once in a while and I thought we would never get there.  The driver would go faster every time we would go through a town and once almost ran into a German car full of Nazi’s.  We finally got to about three miles from our destination and Joe said we would walk to avoid suspicion.

            This place was an old chateau where Cardinal Richilieu had his head hidden for a time.  Around the place was a high fence and here an American Countess lived.  Upstairs she had 17 of us boys hidden.  We had to enter this place with caution because not even the neighbors knew about us.  We got there just as they were having a party for some of the fellows.  This Countess had a couple of maids helping her out.  Outside of that, no one else knew that we were there.  Here we stayed for about two weeks, which seemed like two years.  We had to stay upstairs all day but were allowed to come to the Library at night and listen to the radio.  The chateau had about 50 rooms in it.  The Countess managed to take care of us boys just by begging the food from the black market and other places.  After we were there a week, 8 of the boys that were there first, left.  Joe took them to the border in two days, but we heard later that the Spanish Government held the boys in jail for a few weeks and had shaved their heads.  On or about July 1st, we were ready to go to Paris.  The night before we left Joe had another helper.  He was a French-Canadian sent over by the Intelligence Department (Paul).  They took five of us this time.  We caught the train and rode to Paris.  It took us 12 hours.  We took a little train to (Le Mans) first, which took three hours, then a big one.  It was crammed with French people on their way to Paris.  We had to stand all the way.  All this time we didn’t know what would happen to us, we were always under nervous tension.  When we got to Paris we broke up into two’s and followed each other.  Here we went to the “leader’s” apartment.  It was a lady in charge of the organization.  We found out that Germans caught the main leader in Bordeaux, so things were kind of shaky for all of us.  They divided us up that night and sent us to different places.  Here I rode on a Metro for the first time.  While at this apartment we were fed quite well.  This organization was receiving money from British by airplane, so they bought black market.

            A girl took three other fellows and me to a run-down hotel.  Here we slept on the floor and it was a lot better than some of the places we had slept previously.  The next morning she came and got us and we went back, by Metro, to (Elizabeth’s) apartment.  If we were to be separated, none of us would be able to find these places as we traveled too long and so many different directions that only a person having lived in Paris would know.  What I saw of Paris wasn’t bad.  Germans, Gestapo everywhere, and here we were, young men walking boldly around.

            The French have toilets outside and think nothing of “doing their business” out on the street, especially small children.

            After we arrived at Elizabeth’s place again, we found out we were to stay at another place that night.  After the third night, we were sent to a lady’s home that lived near the Renault ruins.  Here Allen and I stayed together.  He and I met at the chateau.  Incidentally, he and I came back together.  He had married an English girl previously.  We stayed at this lady’s place for over a week.  She had a daughter about 22 and they had spent half their time in England before the war so they could speak good English.  The mother worked for the French Red Cross.  She told us about a Frenchman who had just returned from Germany.  He had been sent there as a laborer three years before.  When he went he had one child and when he came home, he had three.  So, he took his own child and left for Nice, France.  At this place, Allen and I sunbathed in the back yard, which was all fenced in.  Traveling to all of these places required use of the subways.  This was a risk as we did not have identification cards, and quite often the Germans would ask for them.  Then I was just lucky.  Also, if there was a large congregation of people, they would throw a Dordogne around them and ask for papers.  After a week at this lady’s place we were taken back to Elizabeth’s apartment.  By the way, she and her Mother were running the organization.  Elizabeth’s husband escaped and was in the English army as an office.  This was the last time we were to see Elizabeth.  A “heavy-set” lady took us to another woman’s house.  I was left at one place and Allen at another.  This was an entirely new address and only the “heavy-set” lady knew it.  We were there for a few days when Paul told us that the Gestapo arrested Elizabeth and her organization.  Also the Countess at the chateau.  A supposedly French person living with Elizabeth and her mother at the time was a Gestapo agent.  He was 21 and was posing as a poor bombed out person for the Rugh Valley and they felt sorry for him.  He also was the one who tipped off the Gestapo about Val, the real leader of the organization.  Oh yes, Joe, the one who brought us to Paris, was also caught.  We all were shaky at the time but the organization did not tell the Gestapo where we were.  Paul and one of his friends killed on of the Gestapo in the alley (beat him over the head).  Now we had to wait to find another organization.  Here I waited another month.  All I could do was wait day in and day out while the lady that kept me went out to find some kind of help.  But, no luck!  It was agonizing just waiting.  Finally Paul and another lady came and said we would be ready to leave for Spain.  Everything was all set.  Therefore, the next day the lady of the other organization took me to the Railway (Aust) Station.  We were to congregate in a large park near there.  Here we waited impatiently another two hours.  We didn’t know if everything would be okay or not.  Finally, there were four of us in all with two guides.  Just 19-20 year old boys.  We went on to the trains, Allen and I together.  God, but we were scared.  Anything could happen to us if we got caught.  Finally the train left and it was packed so we boys had to stand all the 24 hours out in the aisle where I knew we look suspicious.  When we got to the demarcation line, a German officer looked at our identity cards and again my heart was in my shoes.  If we got through him, we would stand a good chance of getting out.  He looked at mine and just grunted.  Shortly after a French man didn’t have his work card and you should have heard the two argue, but the funny part of it the German officer backed down and let him stay on the train.  (I think the French man realized who we were and engaged the German officer in the argument to protect us).  The train we were riding on was electric until we got to another place and here we changed to a locomotive.  At night, we lay on the floor and people going past would stumble over us.  We were too tired to care.  All this time we feared we would be caught at every station, but no, luck was with us.  Finally we stopped again and shifted to a little train, which was electric and went into the Pyrenees quite a way to a town called (Ferra).  As we rode along, we could see German installations, airfields, etc., quite a sight.  At Toulouse, we saw them practicing in boats.  After reaching our destination we unloaded and disappeared over a hill.  Here a truck picked us up and brought us back down the way we came.  Into another town we went.  All around us were police, because this was right on the border.  One of the guides was to go with us and the other was to go back to Paris.  The one with us was trying to escape to Africa with the Free French.  We waited until night, 1100)) at the side of a mountain.  Finally our guides to take us through the Pyrenees came.  There were two and they had 6 smugglers with them.  Our objective was Andorra.  We had to be very quiet and we traveled in single file.  It took us about 8 days to get there.  These were agonizing days.  Sometimes we walked 16 hours at a time, and at times had no food.  We finally started walking mechanically.  I mean we were so exhausted that we had to drive ourselves.  There about 25 of us in the party including the guide, French and the smugglers.  God, I thought we would never get there.  We traveled mostly by night because of the German patrols.  They were stationed all along the border.  We also had to go along precipices, which meant if we slipped; we would tumble to our doom.  The Pyrenees are the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen, especially on the French side.  We passed through several villages and always the guide would clear the path with his machine gun before letting us go.  Always on the alert!  We had to ford beautiful and fast mountain streams.  I remember it took us 8 hours to get up the side of one mountain.  We were getting low on food on about the third day out, so we would pick wild berries and whenever we went through an orchard, we would pick it clean.  I think these orchards saved our lives—apples, pears, etc.  By this time, I was getting pretty thin and my feet were pretty sore and in bad shape.  All the guides would say, day in and day out, was fall or continue.  We got so mad at them at times and our nerves were getting so bad that we were ready to quit.  We were always taking the back trails because of Germans.  About two days out of Andorra we had to go through a pass around the mountain ledges.  We could not go through Andorra we had to go through a pass around the mountain ledges; we could not go through the pass because of a German sentry with dogs and machine guns were down there. —We crawled along the ledges, which seemed like ages. —Finally, we made it.  We rested by the side of a lake for a while and ate what little we could find.  Then we continued our trip.  We were never bothered with a water shortage as there were plenty of mountain streams and it was really good water.  Andorra is situated in a valley and the next day we started descending into it.  We slept always in the open during our whole trip.  We would freeze to death in the night and roast in the daytime.  By this time I had a pretty good tan.  Before we got here, we encountered great herds of cattle with herders, generally Basques in the mountains.  These are some that Hitler could not get.  It took another day before we got to Andorra.  We really were tired by this time and as we went down toward Andorra; we passed several villages in between the mountainsides, which to my estimation were larger than any of our mountains.  It was beautiful.  Here we felt much safer but we had a long way to go yet.  We were all so tired that we strung down the road for two or three miles.  We got to a town about 10 miles from the city of Andorra where we stayed for a couple of hours, had some wine and chocolate.  It really tasted good.  However, it made us all sleepy and we were all so tired.  Pretty soon one of the guides came back with a car and we rode on into Andorra.  Here we stayed in a hotel for a day, had some good food, and got cleaned up.  The next day we moved to another and stayed there for two or three days more.  There were some other boys there who were escaping.  We had to hide here because of the Gestapo agents.  We felt pretty good after a few days rest.  Now, our main objective was to pass the Spanish guards.  We had to do it the hard way because those damned smugglers were with us and if they were caught, they would be shot, whereas we would only be put in prison.  So we had to follow obediently as we did not know where we were and what direction to take.  Several times the American and English boys in our party plus the two French women were ready to abandon this party.  However, we finally decided to stay and I think it took us 8 more days from Andorra to Barcelona to the Embassy.  Generally the fellows are caught by Spanish and thrown in jail a month or so until the British Embassy could get them out.  We lived on a few sardines most of the time and I got pretty sick one day just after we got over the Spanish border.  We also hunted fruit and we really cleaned the trees whenever we found any.  These next days were holly hell!  We slept whenever we fell and ate whatever the guides could find, usually potatoes and if we were lucky, some bread.  The guides always told us we were almost there, but this continued for several days.  We were ready to mutiny several times, especially Allen, my chum.  He was ready to shoot hell out of the guides if he could get their guns.  I do not know how they knew where they were going, as it as dark and we could not see each other a foot away.  Many times, we got separated in the darkness and the guide would have to round us up.  The guide did get lost at times but always seemed to find their way.  Once we had to go across a river just after we got over the border.  It came up to our waists and was pretty swift.  By this time, the French women were about all in and we took turns helping them.  Gee, but towns looked good, but we had to go around them.

            The Spanish peasants live in very unsanitary conditions.  They live in houses with horses in one room and other animals in another.  Flies were thick everywhere.  We had to leave the one lady at a farmhouse because of infected feet.  We don’t know what happened to her after that.  We continued until we got lost again.  We were just a mile from our objective and old farmhouse, but we were behind a hill and kept going around it.  The station was about 12 hours from where we were.  Here we rested up and the guides told us it would have to be a 12-hour forced march to catch this train or wait until the next day.  Some of them left, but Allen and the rest of the American boys decided to wait.  I was to go on this forced march but would not because Allen wanted us to stay together.  Therefore, we had quite a squabble with the guides.  We left that night, traveled all night, and traveled all night until the next day when we came to the railroad station.  Before we got there, we stayed about a mile away, cleaning up and dividing so as not to attract suspicion.  We finally got to town but the train left about five minutes ahead of us so we waited in an alley.  Spanish police were everywhere so we had to sneak around until another train came.  Some of the fellows made it, but I and a couple others missed it because police were walking back and forth in the alley exit and we did not want to get caught, especially after the time we had getting that far.  Finally, we caught the third train about two hours after the first.  This we rode for bout six hours in Barcelona.  The guides took us past the English Embassy and left us.  We waited because it was closed until a certain time.  We became pretty nervous as we waited outside.  Police were walking back and forth and probably knew who we were.  Finally, Allen and I went to the American Embassy (Fitzgerald).  They were just established and did not know much about it.  They did finally give us something to eat.  The American Embassy called the English Embassy and immediately they came after us.  Here they had everything organized and planned.  First we took a shower and got new clothes.  Boy, what a luxury.  Then we all had something to eat at a place, which the Embassy kept for all of us boys coming through.  Here we met the rest of the fellows that caught the train ahead of us.  We stayed here three days and the food was good.  The Embassy and bought fruit and ice cream gave us some pesatos.

            Finally on the 4th night we were to go in a car from Barcelona to Madrid, about a 12-hour trip.  We all took lunches along and the British Envoy went along.  It was long trip and a couple times guards stopped us, but the Envoy said he was the British Embassy so they let us go.  We finally got to the Embassy at Madrid.  There we stayed for about two weeks or more until papers could be arranged for our continuation on to Gibraltar.  The embassy was in the middle of Madrid and was enclosed by a high wall.  Here we did nothing but sleep, eat and sunbathe.  I got a fairly good suntan, but lost it in a short while.  The last few days the French that were working with the Embassy took a couple of us boys out at a time and got our papers much quicker from the police.  We then stayed in a swell hotel about a week or more and in general had a good time.  We generally craved fruit and they had lots of it and we hadn’t seen any in France.

            After that we were bought train tickets and started on our way to Gibraltar.  Spain as a whole is a dry arid country, very ugly.  We rode about 500 miles before reaching Gibraltar.  Once a Spanish Officer asked us for papers, and we had not received the right kind, so he told us that we could not go on.  However, a couple of French women argued him out of it.  The next day we could see the rock and was it ever a good sight.  We were let off near the Rock, about 30 miles.  I don’t remember the name of the Spanish town.  Anyway, we hired a taxi after much deliberation and it took us to the border.  Once on the other side we were a bunch of happy fellows!  A Major and medical officer met us.  They gave us rooms and GI clothes.  We waited for a plane in Gibraltar about three days to take us back to London.  After 9 hours over the water, we landed in London.  The Intelligence took over from there.  I spent about a month at the Jules Cross Club taking it easy and getting business straightened out.

Submitted December, 2001

 

The Soldier

A protest raged on a courthouse lawn,
Round a makeshift stage they charged on,
Fifteen hundred or more they say,
Had come to burn a Flag that day. 

A boy held up the folded Flag,
Cursed it, and called it a dirty rag.
An old man pushed through the angry crowd,
With a rusty shotgun shouldered proud.

His uniform jacket was old and tight,
He had polished each button, shiny and bright.
He crossed that stage with a soldier’s grace,
Until he and the boy stood face to face.

“Freedom of Speech”, the old man said,
“Is worth dying for; good men are dead
So you can stand on this courthouse lawn,
And talk us down from dusk to dawn.”

But before any Flag gets burned today,
This old man is going to have his say!”

“My father died on a foreign shore,
In a war they said would end all wars.
But Tommy and I wasn’t even full grown,
Before we fought in a war of our own.” 

“And Tommy died on Iwo Jima’s beach,
In the shadow of a hill he couldn’t quite reach,
Where five good men raised this Flag so high,
That the whole world could see it fly.” 

“I got this bum leg that I still drag,
Fighting for this same old Flag.
Now there’s but one shot in this old gun,
So now it’s time to decide which one.”
 

“Which one of you will follow our lead,
To stand and die for what you believe?
For as sure as there is a rising sun,
You’ll burn in hell ‘fore this Flag burns, son.” 

Now this riot never came to pass
The crowd got quiet and that can of gas,
Got set aside; as they walked away
To talk about what they had heard this day.
And the boy who had called it a “dirty rag,”
Handed the old soldier the folded Flag. 

So the battle of the Flag this day was won
By a tired old soldier with a rusty gun,
Who for one last time, had to show to some,
This flag may fade, yet these colors don’t run!
It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. 

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has give us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier, who salutes the flag who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag; who allows the protester to burn the flag.

America Freedom Don’t take it lightly!

Submitted December, 2001

 

William Francis Gould

He entered the U.S. Army on March 4, 1943.  He was shot down over Germany and was Prisoner of War.  He was honorably discharged on January 18, 1946.

Submitted December, 2001

 

Peter J. Mattern

Peter J. Mattern of McIntosh, SD was born in Glencross, SD on 23 October 1920.He was inducted into the Army on 15 July 1942 and entered into active Duty on 3 August 1942 at Ft. Snelling Minn.  He was a QM Supply Technician and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge on 24 December 1944. He left the United State on 9 August 1944 arriving in the European Theatre 17 August 1944. He was in the Northern France, Rhineland and Central European Campaigns. He was entitled to wear the European and Middle European Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars and the Bronze Star Medal Go #124 HQ 95th Inf. 26 May 1945. He left Europe 20 June 1945 arriving back in the US 29 June 1945.He was given an Honorable Discharge on 28 August, 1945 from the Separation Center Camp Fannin, TX.

Submitted December, 2001

 

James Edward McMullen

On September 12, 1934, Jim enlisted at Huron and was sent to San Diego, CA for boot camp.  In December of 1934, he was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, a battleship operated out of San Diego.  His rank was that of a Seaman Striker in Communications.  He worked on the Pennsylvania for the next 16 months, during which he was promoted, to the rank of Quarter Master Third Class.

            From August 1936 to December 1937, Jim was assigned to the USS Moffatt, a destroyer that operated in the Pacific.  Jim was then assigned to the USS Mac Dougal.  In the spring of 1939, Jim was assigned to the USS Paul Jones, a destroyer that operated in the Asiatic Sea.  While on the Paul Jones, he was promoted to Quarter Master 2nd Class, Quarter Master 1st Class, and an ANC Chief Quarter Master.

            From February 1942 to October 1944, Jim was a Lieutenant on the USS Keokuk, a minelayer.  Due to his excellence in the field of astronomy, he was also a navigator.   From January to August of 1945, Jim was assigned to the USS Tphone in the Philippines.  His rank was that of a Lieutenant.  From February to August 1946, Jim was a Lieutenant on an LST in the Philippines.  When the Korean War broke out, he was sent to Guam as a CIC Instructor until April 1951. 

            Jim was then stationed at the Navel Ordnance Test Station in China Lake, CA, where he was the Executive Officer of Enlisted personnel.  From January 1954 to May 1955, he was the Commanding Officer of the USS Avocet, a minesweeper.  When Avocet was put out of commission, Jim earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was transferred to the Federal Center in Denver, CO. 

Submitted December, 2001

 

Vern Charles (Mike) Duncan

Mike was inducted into the U.S. Army in September, 1941, at Fort Snelling, St. Paul, MN.  Then he was shipped to Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, NC, where the group received training and were assigned to the Medics where he was classed as a truck driver.

Next his unit went to Tennessee where they engaged in full field exercises with other units in the spring and most of the following summer, then they returned to Fort Bragg.

Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, they went to New Jersey and boarded the Queen Mary and landed in Liverpool, England.  Then they were shipped south close to Wales and lived in a school until D-Day took place.

The June Normandy invasion was a very large one and covered several days’ landing on Omaha Beach.  Liberty ships built by Kaiser crane loaded their trucks and medical supplies in the bottom of the ships.  Large gates dropped into the water, and the trucks drove into 3-5 feet of water.  remember, the Engineers and Infantry always precede the Medics.  The Germans were waiting for them, and many lost their lives.  Mike gunned his truck and “drove like hell” on the sixth day of the invasion.

They drove through Paris where the French people were lining the streets happy to be liberated; Luxembourg; Belgium (fifty miles from the Battle of the Bulge); Holland; and southwest Germany where the unit operated hospitals.

World War 2 ended with the surrender of Germany in spring 1945.  The rest of the summer was spent in southern France.  Before Thanksgiving they sailed through the Mediterranean Sea back to New Jersey.  From there they were sent to Camp McCoy, WI, where they were separated from the Army, and sent by train back home to Moody County.

He remembers he was given a Good Conduct Medal, but this writer thinks surely he was also awarded overseas medals and perhaps other.

Submitted December, 2001

 

Ruth Kruse Adams

Ruth Kruse Adams, was employed by the US Civil Service with the Board I, of Economic Welfare in Washington DC from Feb. 2nd until Enlisted it the WAVES, USNR on 11/15/42 ONOP Washington DC. as an Apprentice Seaman. On 12-15-42 I started Boot Camp at Cedar Falls, Iowa USNT SchvCollege. Upon completion of this training, I was sent to US.NT School at Milleggeville Georgia with a rating of S2c. I graduated Yeoman 3rd class and was shipped to Washington, DC where I began my duties that consisted of top secret work in the Casualties Department as assistant to Commander J.H. Sanders

in charge of the Department. My job was to research the Jackets (files) of Navy men and compare their records with the ships Navy Log to see if they were actually on duty at the time of the disaster of a ship sank or other battle. Then it was my responsibility to type a letter to the next of kin and advise them that their Navy man was mission in action or dead. This was a difficult task.  I did some dictation for Commander Sanders regarding battles and casualties. I'm proud to have served my country during WWII. I was given an Honorable Discharge from the US Navy in Washington, DC on 8-26-45.

Submitted November, 2001

 

Evert Olof Johnson

Evert Olof Johnson of Morristown, South Dakota enlisted in the United States Navy’s Construction Battalion (Seabees) on 10-14-43 at Choteau, Montana. He was a Carpenter’s Mate 2/c. During his tour of Duty in the South Pacific he was attached to Construction Battalion’s USNCTC, WTMAV: 145th Naval Construction Battalion, Special Augmented Hospital Number Three, Navy 3256: Navy Hospital, Navy Ten USNH Seattle, Washington. He lost an eye in a Construction Accident. He was entitled to wear the Asia-Pacific Area Medal and the Victory Medal. He was discharged from the UNSH, Seattle, Washington on 11/23/45.

Submitted November, 2001

 

Maurice W. Anderson

1st Lt. Maurice W. Anderson entered active duty in the US Army on 12 March 44.  He went through Basic Pilot Training in ST Louis, MO and Advanced Pilot Training at Foster Field in Victoria, Texas and was assigned to the 395th Fighter Squadron, 368th Fighter Group. He left the United States on 26 April 45 and arrived in the European Theater 5 May 45. He was entitled to wear the European African Middle

Eastern Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Germany) American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He left the Europium Theater 29 June 46 arriving back in the United States 8 July 46. He was Honorable Discharged from the Army at the Separation Center, Fort George Meade on 15 Sept. 46.

Submitted November, 2001

 

Charles Andrew Anderson

Charles Andrew Anderson was inducted into the United States Navy on 26 April 1945 in Lemmon, South Dakota. He took his boot training at the Navel Training Center in Great Lakes Illinois. He was attached to the In Service Craft-3237 and the USS AFDL #7 This was a floating dry dock and ship service unit located on the island of Eniwetok He was a Motor Machinist Mate 3rd Class He was Honorable discharged from the United States Navy on 1 June 1946 at the USN Personnel Center, Minneapolis, MN

Submitted November, 2001

 

John George Hausauer

John George Hausauer was born 18 November 1919 at Grand Valley South Dakota. He was working at the U.S. Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington when the war broke out. On 16 October 1942 he joined the U.S. Naval Service-Coast Guard. He served on the following stations or ships; PTTS 10/16/42 to 11/13/42, RS Seattle 11/13/42 to 12/2/42, CGS Newport Ore 12/2/42 to 9/2/44, CGC Acacia 9/5/44 to 10/19/44, OP Base Toledo 10/19/44 to 12/20/44, CGC Mackinaw 12/20/44 to 3/21/45, Kenmore WA. 4/13/45 to 6/30/45, Paine Field Brks. 6/30/45 to 9/19/45, Sep Cntr Seattle WA 9/19/45 to 9/21/45. He served on the West Coast of the United States and in Alaskan waters. He was Honorable Discharged 99/21/45 at the Personnel Separation Center No. 13, Seattle WA.

Submitted November, 2001

 

Royal Lee

The old German army truck bounced down a cobblestone road in northwestern Poland.  Lieutenant Royal Lee and two other U. S. Army officers bounced along in the back of the truck, guarded by two German soldiers.   The guards were in an easygoing mood.  They were happy to have an afternoon’s duty away from the nearby prisoner-of-war camp.  Lee and the other two POWs would be doing all the work.

Lee tried to look relaxed, too.  POWs would naturally have been pleased to be spending a day outside their cramped, barbed-wire world.  The day’s errand was a happy one of picking up a shipment of packages for the camp-packages from home.

But Lee wasn’t feeling relaxed.  He was “concerned”-an emotion he says he felt frequently during his two years in Nazi POW camps.  “You were concerned,” he says, “because you didn’t know what would happen if you got caught doing what you were doing.

It was June 1944, the month the D-Day invasion of France began the decisive Allied assault against Nazi Germany.  A thousand miles behind the battle lines, Lee and his fellow POWs also continued waging the war, fighting as best they could along what was called the “barbed-wire front.”

The humanitarian packages that Lee and the others were to pick up that afternoon would include two fraudulent parcels sent by the U. S. War Department.  These would contain not sardines, cigarettes, and coffee, as most packages did, but two .22-cabiler automatic pistols.  Lee’s job was to help sneak the guns past the Nazis.

Lee was part of an elaborate, top-secret network that kept American and British POWs well supplied with contraband and constantly attempting escapes throughout World War II.  Only in the 1990s was the story of the “escape factory” made public, allowing veterans of the effort to share their ling-untold stories.

Lee was born in 1916 in Madison, South Dakota, the only child of middle-class parents.  He attended the University of South Dakota and graduated in 1939, the year of World War II broke out in Europe.  Lee immediately joined the military, commissioned as a second lieutenant because of his education.  In the winter of 1942-43, in North Africa, he was among the first American troops to take on the Nazi war machine.  In those early battles, the Americans were outgunned and outmaneuvered.  Lee was in command of a fifty-man infantry platoon in February 1943, when a German attack overran American forces in Tunisia.  Lee and his men were trapped forty miles behind German lines.  Taken prisoner, they were marched to a temporary POW enclosure, where they joined thousand of other captured Americans.  “It looked like they had the whole damn army,” Lee remembers. Life as a POW began with interrogation.  Lee refused to tell his Nazi questioners anything beyond his name, rank, and serial number, as required by the Geneva Convention.

Later, he says, “One of the boys in my platoon came over and said, ‘Lieutenant, I’m going to be your orderly.  The Germans asked me if I knew any of the officers out here and what unit they were from.  They said if I could identify them, I could go along with them as their orderly.”

“It was just a ruse,” Lee says, to discover here various units had been deployed, a valuable bit of military information.  “He didn’t go with me as my orderly.”

Officers and enlisted men were soon separated.  On cargo plane carrying some forty captured officers to Italy, Lee got his first glimpse of the ceaseless battle of wits that would be waged between POWs and their captors.

There was only one guard on the plane, and the prisoners quickly hatched a scheme to overpower the guard and the pilots and fly the plane to freedom.  But the Germans knew what they were doing.  The plane crossed the Mediterranean at a frighteningly low altitude, just a few feet above the waves.  The hazardous altitude made any attempted to attack the pilots suicidal.

In May 1943, having crossed Europe by boxcar, Lee arrived at Oflag 64, a prison camp for American officers near the town of Schnubin in Poland.  There, he was soon drawn into an intercontinental escape conspiracy.

When the old army truck pulled up to the railroad depot in Schubin, Lee and the two other POWs got busy unloading humanitarian parcels from a freight car.  Their guards found a shady spot to lounge and enjoyed the cigarettes the Americans had given them.

The POWs made a list of prisoners receiving packages.  But they were careful to make no record of two packages addressed to POWs named Grimm and Howard.

There were no POWs by those names at Oflag 64.  These were the phony parcels containing guns, sent by a mysterious military-intelligence service agency called MIS-X.

Lloyd Shoemaker, who worked for the agency, first told the full story of MIS-X in a 1990 book, The Escape Factory.  Publication of the book has freed veterans, such as Lee, to talk about experiences they had kept to themselves for half a century.  Sworn to secrecy when he was discharged from the military service, Lee had never even told his wife, Harriet, whom he’s married in 1945.

The idea behind the secrecy was that MIS-X tricks might come in handy in some future war, if the techniques remained unknown.  MIS-X was established soon after America entered the war in 1941.  It was modeled after a British operation.  The purpose was to stay in contact with POWs throughout Europe by means of coded letters, and to help them attempt escapes, largely by smuggling “escape aids” into the camps.

Maps of the regions surrounding POW camps were inserted between the cardboard layers of chessboards, or glued in fragments to the backs of playing cards.  Baseballs were wound around radio components.  Tiny saw blades and compasses were hidden in shaving brushes or cribbage boards.  Money, cameras, travel documents, clothing, flashlights, and much more were successfully slipped into POW camps by MIS-X. not to mention pistols.

The packages addressed to fictional POWs Grimm and Howard were what MIS-X called “super-dupers,” according to Shoemaker.  These were used when the contraband that POW’s needed could not be effectively camouflaged.  Super-duper packages were addressed to nonexistent POWs, and it was left to the prisoners themselves to somehow sneak the “hot” parcels past their Nazi captors.

Heavy with POW parcels, the old army truck entered Oflag 64 late in the afternoon.  It passed through the single gate in a double barbed-wire fence that stood eight feet tall and stretched about three hundred yards long on each side of the camp.

The prison compound surrounded a former boarding school for girls.  One of the old brick dormitories housed the “tin stores” where POW packages were received and inspected.

“Tin” is a British term for a tin can.  At the tin stores, German censors would inspect every package arriving for POWs and would puncture every can containing food.  This prevented POW from building up a supply of food to use in escapes.

“Super duper” packages had to be slipped past the Germans uninspected.  Lee and the other tin stores workers would stand at one end of a table, opening parcels and pushing them down the table toward the Nazi censor.

Then Lee, remembers, “You can remembers, “You’d start stacking the parcels up.  You’d get so many stacked up they couldn’t keep track of them.

“Then, you’d offer the guard a cigarette.  Somebody would suggest brewing a pot of coffee.  You’d distract them, and then somebody would pick up the hot package and quick move it over to the pile of packages by the door that had already been checked.”

In this way, the automatic pistols sent by the MIS-X entered Oflag 64 unmolested.

To Lee’s knowledge, no contraband was ever intercepted at the camp.

Many guards at Oglag 64, as at many compounds housing American and British POW’s were older soldiers.  Often less than fanatical Nazis, many were also less than perfectly hostile to Americans.  “You’d be surprised,” Lee recalls, “how often they’d say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a cousin in Milwaukee,’ or ‘I’ve got a sister in Nebraska.”

The success of MIS-X in Europe owed much to the comparatively humane treatment Germans often extended to American and British POWs-at least in allowing humanitarian parcels to reach prisoners.  In the Pacific war, the Japanese were much harsher to POWs, as Japanese military culture considered surrender dishonorable.  MIS-X accomplished little in the Pacific Theater, according to Shoemaker.

Meanwhile, Russian POW’s, Polish civilians, and, of course, Jews and many others were brutally abused by Nazis, as Lee sometimes witnessed.  On occasion, he says, Oflag 64 would be visited by “mean suckers” from the Gestapo or the SS.

But Oflag 64 inmates often succeeded famously in fooling and manipulating their everyday guards.

“Most everybody is subject to a little blackmail,” Lee says.  Guards were bribed with cigarettes, coffee, candy bars, and other wartime luxuries that POWs possessed.  (MIS-X made sure they had plenty.)  Oflag 64POW’s built a radio, called a “bird,” with parts obtained through such bribes, Lee says.  When the bribed guard became fearful and refused to bring any more “bird” materials, Lee says he was told:  “By God, you better bring what we need, or they’re going to find out where we got the rest of this stuff.”

Once maneuvered into such a helpless position, a guard was called “tame.”  Escape efforts, Lee says, were constantly in motion.  A group of five senior officers approved or disapproved all escape schemes.  Tailors fabricated civilian clothes and German army uniforms for escapes.  Documents were forged.  Keys were fashioned from pieces of tin cans.

To safeguard such doings, an elaborate deployment of “stooges” was maintained.  POWs would station themselves at key points throughout the camp, each stooge within sight of one other.  Prearranged signals-closing an open book, shifting from sitting to a standing position would indicate approaching guards or other dangers.  The warning would be instantly relayed be all the stooges across the compound.

Often, POWs harassed their captors mischievously.  They would throw cans or other debris into the barbed-wire fences to set off alarms and “irritate them a bit” (as well as to monitor how the guards respond).  During roll calls, especially in darkness, POWs would change positions in line to confuse the guards’ count.  They would plant cigarettes or other items being stolen and demand that camp personnel be searched.

Escapes seldom succeeded.  Shoemaker reports that of some 96,000 American POW’s in Europe, 737 made “home runs”-escaping captivity and returning safely to their commands.

But the antic of MIS-X and the POWs had a serious military purpose-to enlist prisoners as still-active combatants, causing the Nazis as many headaches and distractions as possible.  Eventually, the strategy became so successful that the Nazis struck back.

The most ambitious escape attempts usually involved tunneling.  At Oflag 64, Lee says, a 150 foot tunnel was dug that began beneath a barracks stove, stretching out beyond the camp fence and into a nearby wood.

Not the least of the many challenges in such an uncanny project was disposing of the dirt excavated from the tunnel.  POWs used what they indelicately called “peekers”-long cloth tubes that could be filled with dirt and concealed in one’s pant leg.  Pulling on string would open the tube's bottom and release the dirt onto the campgrounds where many tons of soil were thus concealed.

Though the Germans never discovered it, Oflag 64’s tunnel was never used.  In spring of 1944, senior officers canceled plans for a mass escape, citing the atrocious consequences of what became known as “the Great Escape,” an event immortalized in books and movies.

On March 24, 1944, seventy-six British air officers escaped from Stalag Luft III in eastern Germany through a 335-foot tunnel.  All but three of the escapees were soon captured, but the venture had been only too successful in traumatizing the Nazis.

Adolf Hitler was so enraged by the mounting audacity of POWs that he ordered the Gestapo to shoot fifty of the recaptured British officers.  This was done.  Soon thereafter, notices went up at all POW camps, including Oflag 64, announcing that escape would no longer be considered “a sport.”

Yet within months, an even more ambitious escape was plotted at Oflag 64.  The new scheme called for a coordinated POW uprising and commando assault that would rescue the entire camp and carry four hundred POWs to freedom aboard B-17 aircraft that would land in nearby fields.  It was for this operation that the automatic pistols were requested and sent.

But in the end, the rescue attempt was also canceled.  The U. S. Secretary of War refused to approve the dangerous mission, fearing Nazi retaliation against other POW’s.

By January 1945, Soviet forces were closing in on Oflag 64.  The POW’s were marched some two hundred miles to the west.  They joined thousands of civilian refugees trudging across a bitter, war-scarred winter landscape, sometimes living off the flesh of the dead horses.

At a large camp south of Berlin, Oflag 64 POW’s were thrown together with some twenty-five prisoners from many countries.  In April, Russian troops overran the region and took control of the camp.

It quickly became apparent that this “liberation” did not mean immediate freedom for Americans.  The Soviets intended to exchange American POW’s for numerous Russian solders in American hands that did not want to be sent home.

Lee didn’t wait around to be used for trade.  After two years as a rebellious prisoner of the Nazis, he finally made up his escape from Soviet custody.  When an American reconnaissance unit passed by, Lee and some fellow POWs scrambled over the barbed wire and were free at last.

Though proud of the secret war waged by World War II POWs, Lee dismisses any suggestion that he suffered or contributed more than any American soldier who saw combat service in any war does.  In fact, Lee says one of the benefits of the war along the barbed-wire front was that it smoothed the “little guilt complex” POWs suffered over having allowed themselves to be captured.  “You wondered sometimes: Did I really do my job?  Did I do enough?  Could I have done more?”  POWs, Lee says, needed ways of continuing the fight.  “A lot of guys got killed, you know.”

Submitted November, 2001

 

Roy D. Beukelman

Lientent Roy Beukelman enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, in January of 1942.  He graduated as a navigator on November 13, 1943.  He left for overseas duty in February of 1944.  On March 23, 1944, he was reported missing in action, in the vanity of Meppel, northeast of Amsterdam, Holland.  He was officially reported as dead by the War Department, on September 2, 1945.

In August, we recovered an RAF Typhoon fighter, and though the pilot was killed and buried at the time, we did find yet parts of his remains.  Luckily, I was able to keep it all under cover, in particular too away from the press.  Would you believe it, we found the pilots Smith & Weston .38, slightly damaged.  I had it repaired by our armourers and later fired it again!  How is that for good quality!

            Then too we lost 7 a/c in resent crashes, 3 F-104’s, 1 NF-5 and 3 F-16’s!  Luckily 6 pilots were able to eject safely, but I has a lot of work to do as you will understand.  Not only to get them out and up (two fell in the Old Waddensea) but also the paperwork afterwards!  Ah well, does keep me fit and slim.

            Then, and I should of written about this earlier, at least that was what I had in mind when the above mentioned happened.  I would once again ask for your help, and your advice.

            You will no doubt recall that we did recover Lt. Albino (55th F. Gr. FTR 29th Nov. 1943).  Altogether GP 38’s did not return that day, 8 of 55th, and 1 of the 20th F. Gr.  Part of those came down in Holland as far as I know some baled out and some (or one) are still “Missing” I had a report on a P-38 crashing on that day and in order to fully investigate this.  I would be grateful to you for the MACR reports on them.  They are Mr.’s 1424 (20th F. Gr.) and 1427, 1429, 1248, 1272, and 1273 (all 55th F Gr.).  I do have 1428 on Lt. Albino.

            On the 23rd of March 1944, two B-24’s of the 466 B. Gr. Had a mid-air collision and crashed near Vollenhove in Holland.  One coming down in the water, the other more or less on land.  Part of the crews baled out, part of the crews were killed (some were able to escape).  As far as I know no one of those crews is missing, the a/c were recovered already during and shortly after the war mainly, through small parts of the B-24 in the lake, and its bombload are still there.

            Skin diver friends of mine did recover some small parts of the B-24 in the lake and found too, you never think it possible, a (Hailver USAAF navigation ring”), which they gave to me.  As far as I know, it must have belonged to a Lt. Beukelman, the navigator of B-24 42-5258.  Needless to say, I am of course willing to return the ring to the next of kin.  However, Beukelman has been re-interned after the war in the U. S. A. so I have on him no further information.

Futher to my letter of April 28th, here I am writing to you to send you the ring which must have belonged to 2nd Lt. Roy D. Beukelman, navigator of B-24 42-52587, 466 B. Gr., 785 B. Sq., which collided in the air with B-24 41-29466 of the same unit, on the 23rd of March 1944.  (MACR’s 3455 and 3456)

Of those B-24’s none of the crewmembers are reported missing, some came down alive with their parachutes, the others were killed, and at the time buried in the Cemetery of Vollenhove, including Beukelman, in Grave No. 603.  His body was, after the war, re-interned in the U. S. A. no doubt on request of the next to kin.

The aircraft collided in the air, partly broke up, and crashed in what is called the “Boschwijde”, a small stretch of water, part of what is called as a whole, the Beulakkerwijde, a few miles straight ease of Vollenhove.  Of those killed, the bodies were found floating in the water and/or found when the a/c were recovered at the time.  Small parts of the B-24’s remained, and those parts were found by some “skin divers”, good friends of mine, who immediately reported to me their finds.

            To explain this, what is now the lake Beulakkerwijde used to be land several hundred years ago and due to some floods in those days, the little village of beulakker disappeared and was covered by that water.  In those parts, no skin diving is allowed except for historical purposes.  Only a very few men have official permission to dive there, on the condition that everything they do find has to be reported and handed over to the official authorities.  This friend of mine, Rint Massier (his father died in a eran Concentration Camp) is one of the men who is allowed to skin dive there and has done so for several years.  Consequently, he does know the area quite well, and knew also, having lived in that area all his life, about the aircraft coming down there.

So he asked me if I had any objections for him to have a look at the spot those two B-24’s came down, anything he would find would be duly reported.  On those conditions, I did not have any objections, knowing him quite well, and apart from finding some small parts of the B-24, he also found this particular USAAF navigators ring.  Very important too, bits of the B-24 came up with the Serial Number “Ship No 25287” the number of the B-24 in which Beukelman was the navigator.  Giving in this way, in my view, proof that this ring did, without any doubt, belong to 2nd Lt. Beukelman (MAR 3455).

Submitted November, 2001

 

Richard D. Keefe

Private First Class Richard D. Keefe, son of Clyde and Ethel Keefe, was born on August 27th, 1925, at Salem, South Dakota.  At the age of eighteen months, the family moved to the vicinity of Seneca, where they have since resided.

“Dick” became the name by which he was best known, and his outstanding physique, genial disposition, and kindly nature, shall ever remain in the minds of all that were of his acquaintance.  He finished the eighth grade in North Canton School in 1939.  He then entered High School at Seneca, graduating with the Class of 1943.  He ranked well in the academic subjects and was active in athletics.

In March 1944, he enlisted in the United States Army.  On June 20th of that year he entered upon his military training at Fort Benning, Georgia, later being transferred to Camp McClellan, Alabama.  He was home on furlough from December 18th to December 29, 1944, leaving then for Fort Ord, California, and since embarked for overseas service in late January, of 1945.  He served in the invasion of Luzon.  Since the end of the war, he was stationed with the Military Police in Yamaguchi, Honshu.

After reaching the pacific area, illnesses prevalent in that area affected his health, finally contracting Small Pox, which proved fatal.  He passed from this life at a hospital in Kyushu, Japan.

Submitted November, 2001

 

Lewis Mackay

The first casualty from Bennett County was First Lt. Lewis Mackay who died in the crash of a bombing plane on January 16, 1941.  Then came the following: Lt. Melvin Ireland on August 14, 1943, near Ellsworth, Kansas, on final training for pilot for overseas duty. 

Submitted November, 2001

 

Ladimar Stanec

Lt. Ladimar Stanec on May 22, 1944, in a mid-air collision while on a routine gunnery flight from St. Augustan, Florida.  His body was never recovered.

Submitted November, 2001