Chapter 10

Second March

On April 4 we began marching to the southeast away from the advancing 

Americans. It would have been nice to wait there for liberation, but 

the Germans had different ideas. At least now we knew it would not be 

long before we would be free. The Germans did not guard us much this 

time and we were nearly on our own as we marched. Our ranking officers 

made the decisions to march mostly at night to avoid mistaken attack by 

American fighters. We also had ten minute rest breaks every hour and 

the Germans gave us enough bread and soup to keep us alive. We went 

through the railroad yards at Nuremburg and saw the bomb damage. We 

were glad to get out of there before another raid came. Our line was 

soon spread over seven miles and we made the decision to stay with the 

group instead of trying to escape into the woods and head for the 

American front. Probably some of the crazier ones did try it.


We spent the first night in barns and any building we could find. The 

weather was much warmer and we enjoyed the nice spring days. I pinned a 

sock to my pant leg, found a pop bottle in a trash pile. and carried it 

full of drinking water. When we went by houses the Germans stood along 

the road watching us and very often they would fill my bottle with 

fresh water. The Germans in the areas that had not been bombed were 

friendly, but those in the cities were more hostile. The American 

fighter planes were flying over us every day and we could see the smoke 

from the bombed cities all around us.


The second day I was on a blacktop road and just coming out of a wooded 

stretch where I could see the line up the straight open road ahead. 

Some P-51s came over and started shooting at the line of men about a 

quarter mile ahead of me. The men dove to the side of the road and 

spread out a POW sign we had made from strips of white cloth to be used 

on just such an occasion. The planes stopped shooting, but not before 

two were killed and several wounded. I was lucky to have been still in 

the woods where we could dive for cover in the trees. After that we 

marched at night when we could but that too presented problems. It was 

so dark at night that we suffered from vertigo and had trouble walking. 

We finally pinned small pieces of white cloth on the back of the one in 

front of us in order to have something to follow. Sometimes we walked 

with a hand on the shoulder of the one in front too for orientation.


When we came to the village of Neumarket, the first thing we saw was a 

long section of railroad track balanced on the roof peak of a two story 

house as the result of a bombing. The next two days of rainy weather 

left everything in mud and we were miserable. We were caught along the 

open road with no buildings so we spent the night in the open in the 

cold rain. 1 just stepped off the road and lay down under a pine tree, 

covered up with my overcoat and tried to sleep. In the morning my 

overcoat and blankets were soaked and weighed a ton, but I had to wear 

them because I would need them again. I never even got a cold and was 

thankful for all the shots we got in the service, thinking they must 

have helped.


One sunny day after a night's march we stopped at a farm house to spend 

the day and rest. Bruce and I were in an apple orchard just behind the 

barns. Within minutes there were little fires going everywhere and we 

could smell strange odors of food. Eggs and chicken, and whatever else 

could be found around the barns, were cooking. Bruce got some eggs and 

potatoes while I got a little fire started. We cooked in rusty old tin 

cans we found in junk piles as we had no other utensils. We must have 

cleaned out some of these farms but it was either that or starve. 

Sometimes along the march the Red Cross trucks would catch up with us 

with some parcels that we divided among us. We also discovered that the 

mounds of dirt in fields near the road covered stacks of potatoes or 

rutabagas to keep them from freezing. We would dig out the rutabagas 

and eat them raw.


When we stopped in the small villages we took over all the empty 

churches and buildings for sleeping and guys would immediately start 

out to trade cigarettes and anything else we had for food. I was never 

any good at this so Bruce used to scrounge for us. In friendly places 

we did quite well at this as the people were desperate for American 

cigarettes. This type of marching and spreading out in farms and 

villages kept us mixed up with different guys all the time. We were all 

in the same situation so it didn't matter, but Bruce and I were still 

together. I don't know where Ullo was by this time.


One day we crossed the Danube River and there was a large unexploded 

bomb sticking up out of the pavement in the center of the bridge. We 

walked a little faster until we were by it. Towards the end of this 

march I remember being in a large open area near some buildings when a 

heavy rainstorm started and we all ran for cover inside them. One lone 

figure was laying out there under his coat in the rain and nobody 

helped him inside. He must have been separated from the friends who had 

been helping him. I found out later that he was John Bradey from 

Victor, N.Y. and when I got back to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey he was 

there and still sick. We became acquainted and he borrowed a clean 

shirt from me to wear home. He promised to return the shirt and about 

four weeks after getting home his wife sent it to me. There was 

enclosed a letter telling me that he was it the Buffalo VA hospital 

very ill from having a ruptured appendix. It had happened when we left 

the first prison camp, so he had suffered with that through two 

marches, two camps and all the way home. The will to survive was so 

great that it had kept him going all that way.


All the pilots in England must have been briefed on our location 

because during the remainder of the last march and at the last camp we 

were never again bombed or strafed while cities all around us were 

bombed. Our fighter Planes were flying over in increasing numbers as

the time went on. We were fortunate to have been shot at only the one 

time when marching in open country. After ten days and marching 91 

miles we arrived at the last camp in fairly good condition due to the 

frequent rest stops and warmer weather.

next page
Return to index