Chapter 8



We arrived at Stalag Luft III (which means camp air) toward the

end of May, 1944. It was located about 100 miles Southeast of

Berlin near the town of Saigon. it consisted of several compounds

of several acres each and had been cut out of a heavily forested

region. The trees were all pine, planted In rows and it seemed so

dark underneath them that it must have been the 'Black Forest' of

Germany. Each compound held about 2,500 prisoners and when it was

filled, they would clear another separate area and build another

using Russian prisoners for labor. The compound I was in was

opened April 27, 1944 so there were already some prisoners there

when I arrived. I was assigned to barracks number 167, Room 12 and

Bruce and I, who were still sticking, together like two peas in a

pod, were in the same room. There was no one else in the camp from

our squadron in England, so we were glad to be together.


The camp was rectangular in shape with the buildings occupying

about two thirds of the space and the remainder was Just the rows

of stumps left when they cut down the trees. A high barbed wire

fence surrounded the area with guard towers at each corner and two

on each side. There was always a guard with a gun in each tower.

About thirty feet inside the fence was a low wooden rail. Between

it and the fence was white sand. If anyone was caught in this

area, they were shot. We had a large white sweatshirt with a large

red cross on it and when we had to enter this area to retrieve a

ball or something else, some one would put on the shirt, get the

attention of a guard who would then give you permission to go get

the object. You still had to trust the guard in the farthest tower

not to shoot, so you would proceed cautiously with your hands in

the air.


Each barracks had a center hall with a door at each end and rooms

along each side. There was also a washroom, a small kitchen and an

outdoor john. There was also a large outside John about a

twenty holer, in a separate building for daytime use. We slept

triple bunks and I was in the middle one. The mattress was made of

wood shavings in a burlap cover and was really just a pile of

lumps. There were 12 men to a room and at the and of the building

there was a small room for one or two where the ranking officers

of that barracks lived. We had a major in our barracks and the

highest ranking officer in the camp was a colonel. I had the same

bunk for the eight months we were in this camp and had the map

that I made fastened to the wall in my bunk.


The compound next to ours was where 'The Great Escape' took place,

the one about which they later made a movie. Their tunnel came

under our compound and the ground had a dip in it where we used to

walk around the edge by the warning fence. We were told that they

filled the tunnel in with human manure so that it would never be

used again and the ground had settled over it. We were lucky in

that these camps contained only American and British airmen and

the camp was run by the German Luftwaffe. They had respect for any

air force personnel and we were treated much better than the army

prisoners. I understand that their camps were terrible and they

were forced to work outside the camps. After being at this camp

awhile we gave up any hope of escape as the security was very



Our camp was not full yet and every week another group of

prisoners was brought in. We would all run down to the main gate

when they came to see if there was anyone we knew. We had only

been there a couple of days when some new prisoners arrived, among

them Neil Ullo. We found a place for him in the room next to ours

as our room was full. He had quite a story to tell about his

experiences. His plane was hit by large shells, and either when he

was hit or when he bailed out and his chute opened, he broke his

back. The pain was terrible and hence he didn't really know how it

happened. In that condition he was worried about what it would do

to his back when he hit the ground. He landed in the woods and his

parachute caught in the trees leaving him swinging from the

harness. He was only a few feet from the ground and the branches

bent to set him down on the ground light as a feather. I don't

remember how he was captured, but they took him to a Catholic

hospital in Berlin where he was kept for five months. He said he

received excellent care and treatment under adverse conditions. At

this time the Americans were bombing Berlin days and the British

bombing at night. Every time there was an air raid they strapped

him on a plank and carried him down to the air raid shelter. He

was doing okay when he arrived in camp, but his back was stiff and

he bent forward a little.


We were locked in our barracks each evening at 10:00 and the

lights went out at midnight. One guard patrolled the area at night

with two huge German Police dogs. We had one large window in our

room and opened it for ventilation in warm weather. It was about

six foot off the ground and sometimes at night one of the dogs

would put his front paws on the sill and look in, which gives you

an idea of how big they were. Needless to say, no one thought of

going out at night! Every morning we had to line up outside our

barracks for 'appel' (roll call) when we were counted by the

German camp commander and guards. About once a week during roll

call they would put guards around a barracks and not let anyone

return until they made a thorough search. They would crawl around

underneath the floor looking for tunnel digging and count all the

silverware and dishes to see if any were missing.


They also counted all our bed sheets to make certain that we were

not using them for some form of escape. This usually took about an

hour and we would hang around outside and harass the guards. The

guards were usually older men or those unable to be in the army.

They always checked our knives and forks to see if we were making

weapons from them.


Alfred Jocque was in the bunk next to me and he was the bombadier

on a B-17 that was shot down. One day he took his shirt off and

his longjohns were pink and red. He told us that the pilot and

co-pilot who were directly above him in the bomber had been shot

and their blood ran down over him and stained all his clothing

before he bailed out. All the enlisted men from the bombers went

to different camps so there were only officers with us. We all got 

along well with the men in our room and there were no

difficulties. Most of the guys were a happy bunch, no doubt due to

simply having survived. It was June and the weather was warm so we

spent a lot of time outside mainly walking the perimeter, which was

about 3/4 of a mile.


The Red Cross provided us with almost everything we got while in

prison camp aside from the food from the Germans. (when it was

available). Red Cross deliveries were made by truck from

Switzerland and were not dependable due to air raids, strafing

attacks and poor road conditions. The Swiss volunteers who drove

the trucks certainly deserved a medal for bravery. The food

parcels were about one foot square and six inches high. We

received one each and it was to last a week. Mostly the parcels

were American and some Canadian. The American ones contained KLIM

(powdered milk), a D-bar (chocolate), prunes or raisins, Spam

liver pate, one cake of soap, peanut butter, margarine, army

crackers, sugar, cheese, coffee or tea and two packs of

cigarettes. Most items were in cans and sometimes hard to open.

There was always someone yelling for a "church key" (the metal key

on the bottom of a can) to borrow. The Canadian parcels had

different contents and were not as well liked. Their tins of

margarine were always rancid and later on I will tell you what

they were used for.


Each room did its own cooking and we put a clothes locker on its

side beneath the window to store food in and as a work surface.

We also had a table with a couple of chairs and picnic benches. It

wasn't long before we decided to divide our room in half to make

it simpler for the one doing the cooking. Eventually I took over

the food preparation for our side and did it for about three

months with the help of Bruce. You were responsible for the food,

how to ration it as well as preparation and cleanup. Due to the

shortage of German food, the cookhouse was only used to dispense

hot water for beverages and another pot for washing dishes. Before

each meal I would run to the cookhouse before they ran out of hot

water, and run back before it got cold. They also gave out

potatoes, kohlrabi, bread and blood sausage at times.


The one kitchen for the whole barracks was a room with a stove and

a daily ration of coal to be used at mealtime. A time for that use

was assigned to each room. We also had a small stove in the corner

of our room to use for heat when we could got something to burn in

it. We would cook on this when we could, but actually most of the

food was eaten cold. When we got potatoes we would draw straws to

see who would peel them as the Germans used human fertilizer and

the smell was terrible. This was the only time I smoked

cigarettes. You put one in your mouth and turned your head as far

as possible while peeling. After we had been there several months

and became more desperate for food, we just washed them well and

ate the skins also.


They must have had a lot of beehives in this area of Germany

because when we got honey, we got three gallons at a time. We

carried it back to the barracks in a wash basin. This amount was

for just the twelve of us! Once a week we got a ration of German

black bread which I believe was one loaf per man a week. It was

very dark with a sour taste and was baked on a layer of sawdust

about 1/4 inch deep an the bottom of the loaf. We tried at first

to scrape it off but it was so hard we gave up, left it on and ate

it. As it was so heavy, each loaf weighing about five pounds, when

we went to the cook house to got it we took along a door off one of

the lockers. It took two men to carry the twelve loaves back on

the door. We had one sharp butcher knife for slicing and I got so

I could get 60 slices out of each loaf. The bread was so hard, you

could slice it paper thin and could almost see through it. We

sliced it this way so we could have enough for breakfast, dinner

and supper, as well as a snack before bedtime. When we had honey

there usually was so much of it that we would have a paper thin

slice of bread with at least 1/2 inch of honey on it.


We tried all combinations of whatever food we had and most were

better at it than I was. The prunes could be cooked and whipped

with powdered milk to make a topping for our attempts at desserts.

We tried Peanut butter pie which was made with a cracker crust

with the prune whip mixed with the peanut butter for the filling

It tasted good then but I tried it once after I got home and

couldn't eat it. The Canadian crackers were large round ones and

we would soak them in water until they swelled to three or four

times their dry size, then fry them on a hot stove. This way they

were more filling. The kohlrabi were grown extensively in Germany

and tasted alright but were very woody in texture.


The blood sausage was another story and it was a long while before I 

could eat it. You might say I needed to be starving first. It came 

like salami, in a tube, and was nothing but congealed blood from 

animals. If you could stand the smell of it cooking, you fried it in 

a pan until it was black and as hard as grape nuts. You could eat it 

by washing it down with a hot drink. The powdered milk was in a can 

with the word KLIM written on the side. After we had been there about 

six months one of the guys was laying on the top bunk with his head 

upside down. He looked across the room at the KLIM can and suddenly 

jumped up yelling "KLIM" is milk spelled backwards". It was amazing 

that we had gone this long without anyone noticing this. 


It may sound like we were getting a lot of food, but it was just 

enough to keep us going and most of the time we were hungry but not 

starving. It was interesting that talk did not include girls wives or 

girl friends. The main topic of conversation was food. We talked food, 

thought food, and dreamed food all of the time. We were surprised 

to learn that food preferences were so different in the areas of 

the U. S. represented by the prisoners. One guy in our room was from 

Kentucky and he had never heard of goulash (but couldn't wait to 

try it when he got home.) We were always discussing recipes and 

ingredients of different dishes. The girls were not talked about, 

although they were on our minds all the time. Several times 

there were work groups of Russian prisoners that passed by 

outside the fence and among them were women. They didn't appeal 

to us as they were all short and heavy and wore old brown 

overcoats that reached the ground. It was wintertime and they were just 

plodding along in a line. 


The indoor toilet in our barracks was very interesting. It was 

used from 10PM till 6AM. There was a trough down one side and seats at 

the far end. When sitting there you would have a line of guys 

standing right in front of you. One had to get used to them 

all standing there yelling at you to hurry. Between ten and 

midnight the lights were on and some characters had the nerve to sit 

there reading a book while ignoring all the others standing 

in line swearing. After midnight it was totally dark and you 

had to feel your way around to keep from bumping into 

someone. Neil Ullo had gotten himself a pair of wooden 

slippers and one time in the middle of the night we heard 

him clomping down the hall on his way to the bathroom. The 

next thing we heard was a lot of yelling and swearing and 

the clomp, clomp, clomp of the slippers going at a high 

rate of speed down the hall. The next day Neil secretly 

told us that he had gone down there in the dark in such a 

hurry and thinking it was the trough, got on the back of a 

fellow standing there! At night in Germany it was total 

blackness and you could see absolutely nothing.


Most people have no idea of the many good things that the Red

Cross does. Without them we would really have had a terrible time.

Besides the food which we couldn't have done without, we were

supplied with sports equipment musical instruments and books. You

could even order things through them and it was not long before

they would be delivered. Some of the boys were in the middle of

their education when they were drafted and they ordered books to

help them continue their college education. I remember one who

was studying to become a mortician and he got several very

expensive books on the subject. We also received playing cards.

Although I didn't play, several in my room played bridge day after

day. One I'll never forget was Robert Ripstein from New York City

who whistled "Holiday for Strings" through his teeth a11 the time

he was playing cards. He nearly drove us all nuts! Even today I

can't bear to hear that music! He was the only one in camp that

irritated the fellows in our room and to me all of them were just

great guys to be around.


I was always telling jokes, playing practical jokes and seemed to

have a happy outlook on life ... maybe just because I still had it.

I knew a lot of jokes from the days with the old gang back at home

and every night just after the lights went out and we were all in

our bunks, I would tell a joke. I told a different one every night

of the eight months we were in this camp. It got to be like a

bedtime story and they expected it.


Murphy was another boy in our room and sometimes he would get a

package from home with cigars in it. He would be so happy he'd put

two cigars in his mouth with a cigarette between them and smoke

all three at once. When he got letters from his girl back home,

who was receiving all his allotment checks, he would hear of all

the things she was buying with his money to furnish their home

when they got married. I remember there was a piano bought along

with all the other furniture. When we were back in Atlantic City

waiting for discharge, I met him standing on a street corner

looking very dejected. His girl had married someone else and used

his money to furnish their home.


I can't remember receiving much mail but I must have gotten some.

About once a month we were allowed to send a letter home through

the Red Cross, but I didn't know whether they went through or not.

My father sent me two cartons of cigarettes every week but I never

received a single one of them. I imagine that they were taken by

the Germans as they opened our parcels before they came into

camp. There was so much dehydrated food that seasoning was one of

the things we missed the most. One time the two higher ranking

officers in our barracks had received a parcel with some dried

onion flakes in it. When they cooked with them about a 100 guys

would go stand in the hall outside the room to enjoy the smell. It

was almost as good as eating them!


It was too bad that there was no way to tell the people back home

about the things that we would really like instead of cigarettes,

soap and other non-essentials. The parcels had to travel so far

with so much handling that very few ever reached the camp. By this

time the German people were so short of everything, including

food, that they must have made off with a lot of it.


The washroom in our barracks contained a row of sinks where we

washed and shaved. The water was from underground springs and was

a hundred times colder than ice water. it made your hands and face

numb so we got as little as possible on us and did it quickly!

When we got so bad that we just had to bathe (not very often) we

did it when there was still some heat in the stove in the communal

kitchen. We would heat up a tin can of water on the stove, go into

the washroom and splash on Just enough ice water to make suds then

have a friend pour the can of warm water over you and hope it was

enough to get the soap off. Even in the summer time the water was

just as cold so one or two baths a month was enough. There was a

building in camp for doing laundry, but there was no hot water

so nobody ever used it much.


We washed our clothes in an old pail with a plunger we made from a

three foot piece of tree root that was fairly straight and nailed

to a powdered milk can at the end. The can made good suction and

by pulling it up and down we could get our clothes fairly clean.

Our pants would get so stiff with grease and dirt that we could

stand them up in a corner. The last four or five months it was

winter and we didn't wash any clothes, at least not after we left

this camp.


A monetary system was set up with each item in the food parcels

having a value of a given number of points. Food could be

exchanged for D-bars or cigarettes used to pay debts. The army hard

chocolate D-bar was the most prized and valuable item besides

being our only candy and was nutritious. It was considered to be worth

five dollars and some fellows sold all they could get for IOU

notes and planned on collecting the money when they got home. I

knew these guys were honest and no doubt some made several hundred

dollars this way. This system worked very well and points were

given to every article in camp. even clothing was sometimes traded

for D-bars.


The enterprising guys were keeping busy with different projects

like the one from Pennsylvania who wrote the book about the prison

camp. Ht had a rough draft and went all through the camp taking

advanced orders for it. He had it printed after the war and

contacted everyone. He made three dollars a book. Someone else

drew a poster of a pilots head in uniform with the left side all

gears, wheels and levers depicting the makeup of a pilots head. It

was an exceptional picture poster.


At one of the camps we were in one of the guys bribed a guard to

get a camera and film. He took several rolls of pictures and also

took orders for $5 and I signed up for them. I received these

without any problem after the war. Another fellow had a real

business going. He melted the solder off the bottom of the cans

which held the "church key'. He made a small ball of this solder

and took a three inch piece off your dog tags chain and soldered

it to your pilots wings, then soldering it to the ball. This

signified your inability to fly with the old ball and chain

symbol. He would do this for a certain number of D-bars in

payment. This way he had more to eat or to sell for IOU's to

collect later.


The making of the athletic field was a major accomplishment which

we undertook in the early summer. This large area at one end of

the compound was Just the way they had left it after clearing away

the forest. Hundreds of stumps of pine trees in neat rows covered

the entire area. The Germans gave us one ax, a telephone pole and

one guard with a rifle. About two thousand of us each took an

empty powdered milk can and we looked like a colony of ants

digging the dirt away from the stumps and roots. It was sandy soil

and dug quite easily. Wt took turns using the ax and cut all the

roots from each stump as fast as we could. Then, with the guard

watching us, we put the telephone pole under each stump and all

the guys that could get onto the pole would Jump on and pry the

stump out of the ground. I don't remember what happened to the

stumps, but we had no tools to cut them up for firewood so the

Germans must have hauled them out of camp.


Each man then took a bed slat from his bunk, a board about four

inches wide and three feet long and we used this to level the soft

dirt as there were no rocks. It is amazing that it only took us

two days and there was room enough for a football field and two

softball diamonds. The football field was seldom used but there

was always someone playing softball. The Red Cross furnished the

balls, gloves and bats.


Naturally I played baseball and as a shortstop most of the time.

We had some good games as the talent in camp was exceptional. One

of the pitchers had been the national softball champion of the

U.S. and he threw the ball so fast that you could hardly see it. I

just took a chance and started swinging the bat when he started

his windings. I didn't get many hits as they were too good for me!

There was one pitcher by the name of Brown who acted nervous all

the time and would fidget on the mound, shake his arms and keep

leaning down to pick up pebbles while getting ready to pitch.

There were usually several hundred of us standing watching the

game and just as he would get ready to pitch someone in the crowd

would yell "What's the color of a horse?" and everyone would

yell 'Brown!' We did this several times each game and it really

got him rattled!


That summer was hot and the summer clothes were a sight to see. Paul 

Duncan from my room pitched on a softball team and all he were was a 

small piece of cloth in front tied around the waist with a shoestring. 

We used to play catch a lot for exercise And to keep busy. Sometimes we 

played a different game of softball which was probably thought up by 

someone in camp as I had never heard of it before. When you got a hit 

you could run either way, to first or third base, but you had to 

continue in that direction all the way around. Sometimes there would be 

six men on base and it made for a lot of activity when there was a hit!


One day I leaned across the table to lift a pitcher of water and that 

was the first time my back went out. The pain was so severe and I 

didn't know what had happened. I didn't go outside to the hospital but 

saw the two pilots who had had two years of chiropractor schooling 

before being drafted. They were our medical team. There were no 

supplies, other than aspirin and band aids. They did help me with 

massage and they decided it was caused by the jolt when my parachute 

had opened. When this happened, several times while in prison camp, I 

would lay on my stomach on a bench with my arms around under the bench 

and sweat. After a couple of hours this way I could get up and move 

around some. A couple of times I could not get out for morning roll 

call count and a guard was sent in to check on me. This is the only 

medical problem I had in camp, except for hunger and, later, dysentery.


We fixed a place between the barracks to play volleyball and played 

occasionally. We also made a boxing ring and got the padded gloves from 

the Red Cross. We didn't allow any fighting in camp so when there was 

an argument, those involved were scheduled for three one minute rounds 

in the ring. We would gather around for these events and usually no one 

got hurt, but this was the way to settle arguments. Neil Ullo was a 

very serious type and did a lot of studying. Being in another room he 

made friends with a different group and spent less time with Bruce and 

I. We did everything together and I did learn a little from Ullo about 

the stars. We would go outside after dark and he would point out the 

primary stars. I remember learning about Orion a formation of Seven 

stars and I still look for it in the night sky today. I always think of 

Ullo and that time in our lives when I see it.


We had one Black pilot in camp and one day we were at the main gate 

watching another group of now prisoners being brought into camp and he 

saw another Black pilot he had flown with. They were only about 100 

feet away so we could talk to them as they went by. The fellow was so 

excited to see his friend he yelled "What did you do with my clothes?" 

and the new man replied "I sold them!" To this day I can still hear 

them saying that in their deep southern drawl.


The best Joke of all was the one that I played on Bruce. Every time 

that my back hurt or I didn't feel well I would ask Bruce to do my work 

for me like getting meals, washing dishes, peeling potatoes or carrying 

the hot water. I was very generous in paying him back with packs of 

cigarettes, which I had because I didn't smoke. I even got so I would 

try to convince him I was sick when there was a dirty job to do and he 

would do it. The important thing (to me at least) was that I was paying 

him with packs of cigarettes I was taking out of his locker. This went 

on for about five months and all the guys in the room knew it and were 

really enjoying it. One day he noticed everyone laughing and you could 

see the wheels turning in his head as he finally figured it out. He 

started for me and I went out the window with him right behind. He 

chased me around the camp for hours before he finally gave up and 

forgave me.


Bruce's bunk was just inside the door and he was in the middle bunk 

with his head next to the door. I used to get up first in the morning, 

go across the hall and hold my hand under that cold ice water till it 

was numb. I would throw open the door and stick my cold hand down his 

back and wake him up. My hand was so cold he would lay stiff as a board 

and couldn't even move, which was better than jumping up and hitting 

his head on the bunk above. It was a wonder that we remained such good 



There was a Catholic priest in camp and I believe he came by way of the 

Red Cross from Switzerland. We had church services every Sunday outside 

the cookhouse. We had one tenor with a beautiful voice and he would 

sing "Danny Boy" after church. That is the song I remember him best 

for. Some of the guys tried to have a small garden, but the soil was 

just sand and pine needles and wouldn't grow anything. It was possible 

to get seeds and some other items by bribing the guards with 

cigarettes. The guards were usually older men, to old to fight, and 

they were glad to get food or cigarettes.


The guards lived in a building just outside the main gate and they 

raised chickens. Sometimes the birds would wander into the area we 

could see but not go into. One of the guys got a few kernels of corn

and tied them at the end of a long string. He would throw it out near 

the chickens and slowly pull it back trying to got a chicken to follow. 

He did this for hours and finally caught one. We heard all the 

commotion and ran down to see what was going on. He had the chicken 

tucked under his arm, it was squawking like crazy and he was running in 

one end of each barracks and out the other with a German guard chasing 

him. After going through five or six barracks, the chicken was silent 

and the guard lost them. The guard searched awhile then gave up. 

Somewhere along the way the chicken had been hidden and some POWs had a 

chicken dinner that night.


Many of us tried to catch birds, mostly sparrows, which we intended to 

eat if we could catch them. We put out a cardboard box with one end 

propped up with a stick and attached was a string that led in the 

window. We put bread crumbs under the box and took, turns watching from 

the window. The birds were so fast that they always got away before the 

box fell. We never got any but we never gave up trying. Another way we 

passed the time was by laying on our bunks and watching flies light on 

the ceiling. How do they get their feet on the ceiling? Do they do a 

loop the loop, half roll or flip? We spent hours arguing about this but 

we never solved the puzzle.


Another interesting story was about Paul Duncan, a guy in our room who 

was from Kentucky, where he had been studying to become a physical 

education teacher. He had been shot down over the Mediterranean Sea and 

had floated for several days in his life raft near the coast of Italy. 

When he got to camp with us he was very skinny and shriveled up from 

being so long in the salt water. He and another boy from the next room 

got some cement from the guards and a metal pole and built weight 

lifting equipment. The weights on the ends were tin cans filled with 

cement. They would exercise for hours each day and it was amazing how 

he built up his body. He could squat down with his hands an his hips 

and hop like a frog. The two of them were a sight, hopping around the 

perimeter of the camp this way. By late summer they could go 3/4 of a 

mile around the compound in that position. He would do 100 pushups at a 

time and would lay on a bench with his ankles tied to the end of the

bench raised up then touch his elbows to his knees. At one time he did 

several hundred of those before we made him stop. He was the one who 

wore just the loin cloth all summer and he would shave all the hair off 

his legs and body so he could tan all over. He was not in the cooking 

group that I was, but when I was sick and couldn't eat my share I would 

give it to him as he was exercising and needed the extra food.


Supplies were brought into camp by a big old wood burning truck. It 

didn't go very fast and after unloading the two Germans would try to 

get it going again. Several hundred of us would watch them and give 

advice. The boiler was on one side of the truck and they had to keep 

throwing wood in it to get a good fire going. When they finally got it 

started we would all cheer add clap our hands as the truck slowly 

chugged its way out of camp.


We had many styles of haircuts and some shaved their heads or wore a 

Mohawk. A lot of the men grew mustaches and we even had a contest for 

the longest one measured tip to tip, with a prize for the winner. When 

the mustache got long enough they would melt the wax off waxed paper 

from the Red Cross parcel and make the hair pointed or curled. A man 

named Irons won the contest with a mustache nearly a foot wide.


There was an in ground cement swimming pool in the center of camp but 

we couldn't swim in it as it was to save water in case of a fire. 

Several guys built boats out of the metal cans using only a knife and 

fork for tools. We were told that someone in the English camp had 

built a grandfather's clock that way and it really worked. These boats 

were as much as a foot long and waterproofed. A boiler was made out of 

a tin can with a metal tube to throw the steam against a paddlewheel. 

The can was filled with water and the rancid butter that came in the 

Canadian parcels burned in a tray under the can of water to make steam. 

Everything we received was used for something. If the butter burned 

well the boat would go about 30 feet across the pool. Some of these 

boats were masterpieces with a rudder for steering and a cabin on the 

deck. I remember having a big race an the Fourth of July with betting 

on the boat of your choice. If you were wealthy, you could bet a D-bar. 

It took a lot of patience to build anything this good with the material 

and tools we had, but it kept us occupied.


One of the barracks down by the main gate had two young cats that had 

wandered into the compound and been kept as pets. They talked about 

eating them if they got hungry enough. Later in the summer one of the 

cats died and they decided to have a military funeral for it. It took 

several days to make preparations for this big event. The grave was dug 

and a small wooden casket was built. In the English compound next to us 

was a British, naval officer who happened to be in Europe when the 

Germans first started war activities it 1939. He was the first one 

captured and had been in prison camps for six years. During all that 

time he had received many packages from home and had a complete English 

Naval uniform with al1 the ribbons and insignia on a white uniform. He 

wore it every Sunday while walking around his compound. The German 

guards allowed him to bring a delegation to the funeral and he led the 

procession in full uniform. It was a half day event with the Catholic 

priest giving the eulogy. There were even pall bearers. Several days 

later some of the men killed the remaining cat and ate it. Probably it 

was not from hunger, but just to say they had eaten a cat in prison 



We had a room in the theatre building for a news room where we had maps 

of Germany and two German newspapers were posted which gave some 

information (even if you didn't understand German). I remember seeing a 

copy of the paper on the day the Allied invasion began. It said 'Die 

invasion is begun'. If I could have gotten a copy I would have liked to 

bring it home. The maps in the news room had to have the front marked 

according to the German news… we got the correct version from the BBC.


The British in the next compound had a radio which they took apart And 

different men carried the parts. They put it back together Just for the 

broadcasts. The news was written down and passed to the other compounds 

by way of the hospital building. Usually someone had to make a trip 

there each day and It was read to us in the newsroom after making 

certain that there were no guards in or around the barracks. The one 

who read the news was Abe (I forget his last name) who was Jewish and 

always afraid of what the Germans might do to him. Ht would break out 

in a sweat while reading, but refused to give up the job to anyone 

else. He never lost the fear that the guards would find out what he was 

reading and how he got it. This news was the way I kept the map by my 

bunk up to date. We had a camp newsletter each week that was posted in 

the newsroom and contained news from home which came from prisoner's 

letters from home. We also had a wonderful cartoonist in camp and he 

had a comic strip posted every week. The heroine's name was "Needa 

Leigh" so you can guess what the cartoon was about. The newsroom posted 

this cartoon each Sunday and It was the highlight of the day. Guys 

would come by the hundreds to see the new episode. The age group 

represented was of college men and there was no end of talent.


The theatre had been built with a stage and a large auditorium. There 

were no seats so we built two hundred seats out of the wooden boxes the 

Red Cross parcels came in. They were like orange crates and by cutting 

part of it out it made a seat with a back. As the theatre only held two 

hundred, each program had to play several times. Some guys had 

theatrical experience and several plays were done. The German camp 

officers and some guards came to the shows and sat in the front row. 

Some of the entertainers made jokes about them, but they laughed right 

along with the rest of us. We soon received musical instruments through 

Switzerland and an orchestra was formed. Again, the exceptional talent 

of so many gave us good musicals. The Germans always came to the 

musical performances. I remember one fellow had a baseball uniform and 

a bat and he would recite "Casey at the Bat" with all the appropriate 

motions. It was great entertainment.


Fall weather arrived and we were not looking forward to the cold 

weather as we only got enough coal to use while cooking. All the sports 

ended and we had to find things to do indoors. Some of the musicians 

formed small groups of four or five with banjos or guitars and provided 

entertainment to the rooms. You would ask them to come to the room in 

the evening and they would play sing and tell Jokes. After an hour and 

a half we would pay them by feeding them our late evening snack. We 

would try to have some special dessert for them. It gave us 

entertainment and them food.


Two or three guys had been out to the hospital and were suspected of 

having TB. They were taken out of camp and we had no idea what became 

of them. We were told that there was no TB in Germany and they were 

anxious to get rid of them. We also had a few guy's who couldn't stand 

the captivity and began to act very strange. As we said in the service: 

they went "round the bend". I know of a couple like this and they 

disappeared. They were perhaps sent home through the Red Cross in 



One day the Germans told us they were going to give us a horse to eat 

and we were all looking forward to having some meat. We saw the wagon 

coming and all rushed down to the cookhouse to climb up and look in the 

wagon. It was a horse alright, the head, four feet and the tail. We all 

went back to our barracks and forgot about meat and German promises.


The German pilots knew our location and would fly over our camp often 

and very low. One day we saw a large bomber go over with a smaller 

plane sitting on top of it. They were probably testing something new as 

none of us had ever seen anything like that. Another day a plane flew 

very low over us at very high speed and it mystified us. After the war 

we learned that the Germans were testing Jet planes and these were the 

early ones undergoing testing. One day one flew very low over us and 

just after it disappeared over the treetops there was a loud explosion, 

a ball of fire and smoke going up. We knew it had crashed and we yelled 

and clapped... just trying to let the German guards know how we still 

felt about it.

It was getting to be colder weather and the Red Cross sent us warmer 

clothing. I got a GI overcoat which was very heavy and came down to my 

ankles. I also got two blankets, one a beautiful British Royal Air 

Force blanket. It was dark blue and very thick, With the air force 

insignia in the center. There was snow and that part of Germany had 

weather about the same as upstate New York. We were cold most of the 

time. I put my flannel pajamas on under my clothes and didn't take them 

off for several months. It was too cold to bathe very often and our 

clothes were getting quite dirty. I was still wearing the logging boots 

I had bought in California and my feet were always cold. I was again 

wearing the orange sweater that came down to my knees so I must have 

been a sight. I took some cloth, perhaps from one of my shirts, and 

made a pair of booties the size of my feet and another larger pair. I 

cut a German newspaper in narrow strips and packed it about three 

inches thick between the cloth booties and sowed them up. They were big 

and bulky, but I wore them in the barracks and they kept my feet warm.

The Red Cross sent us some hockey sticks and skates so we decided to 

build a hockey rink. In an open space where the ground was level we 

smoothed a large area with the bed slats and piled up dirt about four 

inches high around the sides. We carried cold water in our water 

pitchers and poured it on the rink. Each night it would freeze and we'd 

put more on the next day. After a few days and thousands of trips with 

the water, we had a real nice rink. We made a puck out of a piece of 

tree root and teams were formed. The Canadians in the next compound had 

a very good team and we challenged them to a game. The big day arrived 

and our team was ready. The goalie was a tall red headed guy from our 

room and he slept in the bunk above me. The day before the game we all 

gave him some of our food so that he could build up his strength enough 

to play the entire game. I think the Canadians won but we had a lot of 

fun watching the game. The guards in the towers also watched the game 

of course. After a couple of months of hockey playing the sticks were 

broken off at the end and we had to play with them that way.


Soon it was Christmas and my third away from home. Under such bad 

conditions it was very hard to be cheerful. We did the best we could 

with decorations. Even though we were in a forest of pine trees, we 

couldn't get any inside the compound. We mixed the gritty powder that 

the Germans gave us for toothpaste with water and pasted it in the 

corner of the windows like snow. We also saved up a little extra food 

so we could have one good meal. The Germans had promised us each a 

bottle of beer for Christmas and we were eagerly looking forward to 

that. We each got a bottle, to our surprise, but when we got back to

the barracks and opened it we found it was only a bottle of charged 

water, not beer. The only thing we could do was dump it out and save 

the bottle. Our spirits were low and this didn't help any. We spent the 

rest of the day thanking of our loved ones at home and wishing we were 

with them.


In January 1945 we began to hear the big guns from the east and we knew 

the Russians were advancing from that direction. On January 23 we were 

notified by the camp commander that the Germans had told him to prepare 

to leave this camp before the Russians came. They didn't want any of 

the highly trained airman to be liberated and have the chance to fight 

against them again. We were instructed to walk 10 laps around the 

perimeter each day for a total of 7 and 1/2 miles. This was not easy 

due to the weather and our weakened conditions, but we knew it was 

necessary to build up our bodies for long marches. We discussed 

different ways in which to carry our belongings and food. We had large 

safety pins and a shirt could be pinned up at the bottom with the arms 

tied around the neck, thus forming a sack. Another carrying device was 

to pin up the bottom of our heavy army coat and put everything inside.

This was the method which I chose.


Our biggest problem was to eat more food and try to build up our 

strength for what lay ahead, while saving some food to take with us. On 

the evening of January 28 we were told to get ready to leave. We put on 

all the clothes we had and I put on the flannel pajamas over my

underwear, not knowing that it would be two Months before I took them 

off again. We divided our remaining food as equally as possible and sat 

around waiting for the order to march At the last minute they gave each 

of us a full Red Cross parcel and we were sorry we had not eaten more 

during the last few days. Just after midnight, at approximately 12:30 

am on January 29 we were ordered to leave. I put on my overcoat carried 

the heavy Royal Air Force blanket and suddenly realized what a heavy 

load I was carrying, the miserable conditions, and that it had only 



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