The author was born at Mt. Olive, near the Faulkner-White county line. He is married to Betty Jo Fisher from Beebe. His family moved to Phoenix when he was 12 and he went into service from Arizona when he was 21. Assigned to the 45th Infantry Division, he took his training in the United States and then was sent overseas. During the war he fought through North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was captured in the invasion on Anzio Beachhead. Following are his experiences as a prisoner of war, as published by the White County Historical Society in its 2001 edition of White County Heritage.
was captured February 23, 1943, in the invasion of Anzio beach in Italy. I was captured alone, as all of the others in my gun crew were killed. As I came out of the foxhole, the Germans just pointed in the direction I was to go and I did. As I was walking across the battlefield, some artillery shells exploded close to me. I was hit in the face and foot. My face was bleeding. I didn’t think it was very bad, so I just kept walking as I was told to do. After a while, a German soldier took me to a ditch. There was three or four other American prisoners of war in the ditch. I was so glad – I did not want to be alone. It is very scary being a prisoner in a foreign country not being able to speak or understand the language. I asked one of the guys to look at my face. He said the skin was broken; however, it didn’t look like there was shrapnel in it and it would probably be okay.
We were there for a while when a German officer came by. He took us on down the road to a building with a red cross on it. We thought it was a Red Cross station, but when we went inside it was not a Red Cross station – it was an ammunition dump. They had put the red cross on it to keep it from being bombed. One end of the building was filled with ammunition. The other end had about 30 or 40 American prisoners of war and we joined them.
I was sitting there and my foot was hurting. I took off my shoe and I could see it had a piece of shrapnel in it. I was lucky; one of the prisoners was a medic. He still had his bag and equipment with him. I asked him to look at my foot. He said he could see it had a piece of shrapnel in it and he would have to go in with tweezers and try to pull it out. He pulled the piece of metal out of my foot and put some powder on it to keep it from being infected. He bandaged it and said he thought it would be okay. Eventually it healed and I had no other problem with it.
We stayed in this building for a while. The Germans took us out of the building and started walking us on down the road. We walked all day until dark. We stopped at a place that looked like an old mining cave. The cave had a big shed over the entrance. They took us into the cave that made an L-shaped turn from where you entered and went in a different direction. The Germans tied a rope across the entrance. We were told if anyone came near the rope, we all would be killed.
While I was lying there that night I was thinking – and I’m sure all the other guys were thinking too – that the Germans were going to close the cave and leave us there. No one would ever know what happened to us; but they didn’t do that.
The next morning the Germans got us out and started walking us toward what we thought was Rome. We walked all day. That night when it started to get dark they walked us to a field. They motioned for us to lie down in a circle. We were told if anyone gets up and moves around for any reason, “we will kill you.” No one moved and no one was shot. The next morning they got us up and we started walking again. We walked until about noon. Some trucks came by and we were told to get in the trucks. The trucks took us on to Rome.
When we got to Rome they had us loading trucks with ammunition, boxes, crates and other stuff that was in the streets. When we finished loading the trucks they marched us back the way we had come in, along the railroad tracks. By the railroad track was a big building that the Germans told us was a studio where they used to make movies and it looked like it could have been so, because it was a big place.
It was night when we got there. We were so hungry, as we had not had anything to eat since being captured. They built a fire around a big iron pot that was just outside the fence. They filled the pot with water and a little bit of barley. They boiled it and that was our dinner. When we went to get some of it, it was mostly hot water with a little barley floating through it so you might say we had a little hot water to drink. We were getting weak and so hungry.
The next day the Germans said they had some moldy bread and if we wanted it they would give us some of it. We told them we would take anything they would give us. One of the guards crumbled up some of the bread and threw it over the fence. We scrambled for that bread! The Germans really had a good laugh about that as we were sort of eating like chickens. They laughed and flapped their arms like chickens. That was okay – we were just trying to survive.
After a day or two they brought in an old mule and tied it just outside the fence. The guards said they were going to kill that mule and put it in the pot for us. Well, they did kill that mule and when they told us to come and get some soup, we looked in the pot and there was the old mule head. So, you might say we had greasy water.
They decided to move us again. They told us they were taking us to Latrina, Italy. They got us all outside and lined us up and we started marching. They marched us through the streets of Rome. They had a lot of Italians lined up on the curbs. As we walked by they threw water on us, spit on us and called us names. That was okay if that's what they wanted to do – we just kept right on walking. I don’t know how long it took us to get to Latrina – we had no concept of time – we were tired and hungry. I know we walked for several days. Every night they would put us in a circle like they did before and that’s the way we would spend the night.
We finally made it to Latrina. They took us to an old Italian Army camp. There were a lot of buildings in this old camp and they were all in a row. They had a lot of prisoners – Americans, British, French Moroccans and civilians. They believed the civilians had betrayed them so they were in with the rest of us.
he camp was surrounded by two barbed wire fences located about 10 feet apart. A guard would constantly walk between the two fences. They also had lookout towers and they could see what we were doing at all times. There was one more strand of barbed wire about 10 feet from the last fence. We were told that if anyone ever crossed over that strand of wire they would be shot. We called that stepping over the line. One day one of the guys was very close to the line. His hat flew over the fence. As he reached to retrieve his hat they shot him. That sure scared the rest of us.
As time went on the guys got so hungry they could not take the starvation. Some did step over the line and they were killed.
There was a big playground out in front where you could walk around if you wanted to do so. Every morning we were brought out in front, lined up and counted. They would make us stand there for an hour and sometimes two hours. We had to stand there at attention until they decided to come in and count us. As time went on we were so weak that some of the guys could not stand up that long. They would fall down to their knees. When the guards saw them on their knees they would shoot them in the back of the head. After that, we would hold each other up to keep from being shot. It was a horrible thing to have to go through day after day.
The camp had no water in it. There was one faucet out by the gate. They turned the faucet on once a day and we were allowed to go there and get some water to drink and then they turned it off. The camp had no beds, just concrete floors with straw. There were no wash basins, no showers or any place to clean up. There was a trench that went the length of every building. It was about six inches wide. That was our toilet. Once a day they turned the faucet on and washed it out and turned the water off again. They just wouldn’t let us have water except when we went to the faucet once a day.
The straw where we slept was infested with every kind of bug you can imagine – body lice, ticks, etc. They were all over us, literally eating us alive. The only way you could get rid of them was to take off your clothes, go through the seams and pick them off. The next day it would be the same thing over again. They were all over us – you can’t imagine how hard that is to live with.
I remember once a wagon came into camp to pick up trash, weeds and garbage. A POW jumped underneath the wagon. He was trying to get outside the gate to escape. When the wagon went out the gate the guards knew he was under there. They had spies planted in with us who had told the guards he was there. The guards waited until the wagon went out the gate and they turned the police dogs loose. The dogs tore him to pieces and when they got him out he was dead. The guards then lined us all up again and told us 10 men would die the next day because we didn't stop him from trying to escape. I hardly slept at all that night. I just kept thinking, “Will that be me?” It was a long hard night. The next morning they got us up, took us outside, lined us up and randomly picked out 10 men. They were ordered to come to the front, kneel down and bow their heads. The guards walked by and shot every one of them in the back of the head. Blood just flew everywhere. It was a horrible, horrible thing to have to watch. I had many nightmares as a result of that, but we did what we had to do -–we were forced to watch it.
There was an old building outside the camp they called the hospital. It consisted of wooden beds and straw mattresses. There was no medicine and no doctors. They just took you over there to die. The guys were getting so sick from starvation they were getting pneumonia. They had lost so much weight they were just skin and bones – nothing left to fight with. They were sent to the hospital – they were just sent there to die. We saw them carry men out every day. They had a mass grave bulldozed and that’s where they would take them. They had another building that was full of cardboard coffins. They would put them in the coffin and take them to the mass grave. When they came to the end of the grave, they just started another layer. Many POWs died and were buried there. It was so sad.
ne day the guards seemed to be in a good mood. They were laughing and talking. We asked them if they had won the war. They said no, they hadn’t won the war yet but were going to. They said they were happy because it was Hitler’s birthday and on Hitler’s birthday everyone would have fish to eat. We asked them if that included prisoners of war. They said yes, everyone would have fish. That night they brought in the pot. In it was a bunch of fish heads boiled in hot water. That was our fish dinner – we were so disappointed.
As time went on we were getting so hungry all we could talk about was food. We would make a pact not to talk about food. Invariably we would go back to the same topic – it was always on our minds. One night I went to sleep and I was dreaming about all of this food floating by and I was reaching out trying to catch it and it would always be just a little out of reach. I woke myself up grabbing at food. I pushed myself up against the wall. I was looking around at the other guys asleep and they were doing the same thing. They were dreaming about food and had their hands up trying to grab it just like I did. It was sad to see the guys so hungry.
After a while it looked like we were going to die anyway, so we started digging a tunnel to see if some of us could get out alive and tell what happened to us. We worked on that tunnel for a long time. We would put the dirt in the cuff of our pants and we would go outside, kick it out and stomp it down so you couldn’t tell it was there. It was a long, tedious job but we finally finished it. We were waiting for the night we would escape. You couldn’t escape in the daytime – it had to be done at night. We had all decided that night we would go. Spies had told the guards about the tunnel. They came in and found the tunnel and made us cave it in and do away with it. What a disappointment! We all felt so bad about doing that work and no one got out.
The Germans started talking about moving us out of camp as punishment for digging the tunnel. There were rumors that they would take us to the gas chambers. Hitler had said no prisoners of war would be left alive. He gave the order, but it was never carried out. They decided to take us into Germany. They took all of the officers first, next the noncommissioned and then the privates.
They loaded all of us into boxcars. We spent days and days in those boxcars with nothing to eat but bread and water. They would open up the boxcars and put in two milk cans – one for drinking water and one for sewage. It was so dark in the boxcars at night you could not tell which can was which and both cans got polluted. Some of the guys drank the water and got sick. You could hear them moaning and groaning. I didn’t drink the water. It wasn’t because I didn’t want it, I was very thirsty, but I could see what was happening to the other guys.
Finally, they took us out of the boxcars. I think we may have been in Poland. You never really knew where you were. We were put in a camp there. It wasn’t any different than the rest of them – very little food and not much water.
remember that in the camp next to us they had Russian prisoners of war. They worked them very hard. They had them pulling big rollers. Ropes were hooked to the rollers and the men pulled them to pack the roads. They had a guard sitting on top of the roller. The men would get weak and fall over. The guard shot them and just dragged them out of the way and kept going. I felt so sorry for those Russians – they were having a hard time too!
We were all getting so weak and sick that the guards decided we could see a doctor so we went on sick call. When we got to the doctor they took us in one at a time. The doctor would ask us what was wrong with us and we would tell him. He then instructed the guard to treatment. We found quickly it wouldn’t do any good to see a doctor – he wasn’t going to do anything for us anyway.
We did not stay in this camp very long. We were loaded back in the boxcars. We spent days and days again locked in the boxcars. We were scared as we could hear airplane flying over our car and we knew they were bombing the railroad tracks. Some of them were bombed and guys were killed by our own planes.
It took us a long time to reach Germany because they kept bombing the railroad track. We finally arrived in Ausburg, Germany. I was sure glad to get out of those boxcars.
In Ausburg we received a Red Cross parcel. Were we ever glad to get that food. We had not had solid food so long that our stomachs had shrunk and we couldn’t hold much food. We were so hungry we would eat anyway and get so sick. We had a difficult time but it was good to get a little food.
They took us out every day and made us work. Ausburg had been bombed. The whole city was destroyed. They had us cleaning up the rubble from the streets. They also worked us in machine shops. The machine shops were located outside of the city. They had not been bombed. We operated drill presses, drilling holes and whatever needed to be done. We worked there every day and were taken back to the camp at night.
e were in Ausburg for a month or two when they decided to move us again. They were taking us to Memmingen, Germany. Back in the boxcars again to Memmingen. Here we were placed in Stalag VII B. I was registered as a prisoner of war for the first time. They gave us a card and told us we could write home and tell our parents we were prisoners of war. They told us exactly what we could say. Finally our families were told what had happened to us. The only news my family had received thus far was that I was “missing in action.”
Memmingen was a small town and there were no factories there, so we didn’t worry about being bombed. We didn’t stay in Memmingen very long. We were split up into groups of 24 and we were sent to different places on work detail. We were put back in the boxcars and moved on to Babenhausen.
Babenhausen was a small city. It was a nice city. It had no factories and had not been bombed. The railroad tracks outside the city had been bombed. They had us repairing the railroad tracks. We worked on the tracks for a long time. We finally got it all finished. All of this time we were living in boxcars. Once while we were there they locked us in the boxcar and took us back into Babenhausen. We worked in a warehouse, loading boxcars with wheat, potatoes, meat and whatever the farmers had brought in. The farmers had to turn in everything. It was all shipped out to various places. We were locked in the boxcar every night. There were no guards once you were locked in – there was no way out – you were there to stay.
One morning they woke us up to go to work. I was a little slow getting out that morning. When I reached the door the guard gave me a hard kick in the back. I fell forward and hit the ground on my hand and broke it. I worked all day with a broken hand. By that night it was badly swollen and extremely painful. I could hardly stand it when we were taken back to the boxcar. I was down to rock bottom.
I felt at that time I had to cross the line and get it over with. I could take no more punishment. I told the guys what I planned to do. They talked to me and told me not to give up, that somehow maybe we could get my hand fixed.
The next morning when we got up we had new guards. They were always changing guards, every few days we had a new one. It didn’t make much difference; they were all about alike. That morning I showed the guard my hand. I told him I had to see a doctor, I could not work like that. He called two or three other guards and they looked at it. They decided I could see a doctor – was I ever glad.
One of the guards took me to a doctor there in Babenhausen. It was a Catholic hospital only about three blocks away. When we entered the hospital, we walked down a long hallway to an emergency room. There was a doctor and a nurse. They were busy at the time so we sat down and waited awhile. The doctor came over and asked the guard what the problem was. The guard told him this POW has a broken hand, he would like you to fix it for him.
The doctor walked over, looked at me and said to the guard, “Get that pig out of here.” I had not had a bath or clean clothes for a year and I smelled so bad the doctor refused to treat me. I could understand what he said. I got up, walked out into the hallway and after a few minutes the guard came out and we started walking down the hallway to go back to work.
I didn’t know how I was going to work. As we were walking down the hallway I looked up and saw an angel. She was dressed in white with a white hood on her head – to me she looked like an angel. When she got even with us, she stopped the guard and asked what the problem was. The guard showed her my hand and she told him to leave me with her and that she would take care of it.
The guard left and she took me into the bathroom, started the water running, poured in some soap and she told me to get undressed and into the tub and get washed up. That water felt so good to my body. I washed the bugs off of my body and out of my hair – what a feeling to be clean and rid of the bugs.
The sister came back in, handed me a towel and told me to get out of the tub. I got out of the tub and wrapped the towel around me. The sister looked down at the water, saw all of those bugs floating on top. She made a sign of the cross and said, “God forgive us for what we have done to this man.” She gave me a pair of pajamas and took me into a prison ward. She put me to bed and chained me to the bed. She looked at me and said, “That’s the rules.” That was okay – I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.
Later on that day the doctor came in. He was the same doctor who had ordered me out of his office earlier. This time he was with the sister and he was a different person. He came over, took hold of my hand and pulled it back into place. I’ll never forget how painful that was. He put a brace on the top and bottom and taped it. He told me he thought it would be okay. I can't tell you how happy I was to have my hand fixed.
Later that day the sister came back and got me. She took me into a room where there was a table and chairs. She had a plate filled with food on the table and told me to sit down and eat. I said to her, “Sister, this must be your food.” She said, “Yes, but you need it more than I do.” I was so grateful. She was the most wonderful person that I had ever met. I will never forget her and often I dream about her to this day.
The next day she asked me if I was Catholic. I could not understand the word “Catholic” in German, as I had not heard it before. She kept asking the same question over and over. I could not understand and finally I said “Yes.” She seemed pleased. She brought me a robe and told me to come with her.
She took me to what looked like a telephone booth. I went in and I noticed a father sitting on the other side. I asked him if he understood English. He replied a little bit, just go ahead and confess as you do in America. I confessed everything I thought of that I had done wrong. The father said a prayer. I went back out to where the sister was waiting for me and she took me back to bed.
The next day she brought me a robe again and told me to come with her. It must have been Sunday because she took me to church. The father made a speech and offered the “Lord’s Supper.” He dipped the wafer in the wine and put it in my mouth. He said a prayer and church was over.
I thought it was great that I could go to church. It was unheard of for a prisoner of war to go to church in Germany. I thought it was such an honor.
I can’t remember how long I stayed in the hospital but every night the sister took me into her room and gave me her food. My hand was much better. The doctor removed the braces. The swelling had gone down and it seemed to be okay.
The guard came and got me and took me back to the boxcar. I joined all the guys I had been working with. I was happy to see them again.
e were moving again – they decided to take us from Babenhausen to Kettershausen. It was about five miles down the road. It was a farming community so they were taking us there to work on the farms. They lined us up and started walking us to Kettershausen. While we were walking one of the guys started singing “God Bless America” and we all joined in. The guard could speak English. He stopped us. He was furious. He fired several shots over our heads and said, “If any one of you starts talking or making any noise at all, I’ll kill every one of you!” We knew he meant it so that was the end of the singing. We were weak and hungry so that was a long five miles.
We finally reached Kettershausen. He took us to a place we called the JailHouse. Barbed wire fence around the front and bars over the windows – it was a two-story building. Inside, there was a table and some benches and also a stove. That was great – we could build a fire and stay warm. We were assigned one person to a farm.
The farm I was assigned to had a Polish girl and Russian girl working there. They were placed there for forced labor. The Russian girl cried all of the time. She had been taken from her home in Russia. Her parents had been killed.
My job was to work with them. They had been there for quite a while and they knew what to do. We were to harvest the wheat and hay, dig the potatoes and bring them to the barn. When that was done we had to clean the barn, milk the cows and feed the chickens.
I remember one night the Russian girl came out of the hen house with a bucket full of eggs. I asked her if she would give me some of those eggs. She said, “No, I can’t give them to you. If they caught you with them they would shoot you and me too!” That night when I went to get my coat from the barn I discovered she had filled my pocket with eggs. Luckily I got into the Stalag with them. We found an old bucket and boiled those eggs. We had a feast! The farmer had a pig that they fed boiled potatoes. I found them, put some in my pocket and when there was no one looking, I would eat them. Actually, I was stealing the pig’s food. I was so hungry and they gave me strength. If you could steal any food at all, you had to do it to survive.
As time went on we had dug the potatoes and harvested the wheat and stored it in the barn. All we had left to do was rake the hay. The farmer sent the girls out to the field to rake the hay. The farmer and I came out to the field with the wagon. When we reached the field the farmer handed me a rake and told me to go help the girls. As I started walking over there, I saw two German soldiers coming down the road. They came over to where I had started raking. They yelled at me that I wasn’t working hard enough and to give them the rake. I gave them the rake and they started beating me with it. They knocked me down and kept beating me with the handle. The other soldier was kicking me in the back. They finally threw the rake on top of me and told me to get up and get to work. I managed to get up and started working and they left. I was glad they were gone because they had broken my ribs and it really hurt to breathe. I was black and blue when I got to the barn that night. The farmer’s wife knew what had happened. She had me take my shirt off and she saw how badly I was beaten. She gave me some elastic to wrap around me to help ease the pain. It helped a lot. It took a while for my ribs to heal, but I finally was okay.
From then on when I saw soldiers coming down the road I would hide. If the wagon was in the field I would lay down so they couldn’t see me. The German soldiers used the back roads a lot as the main roads were being bombed. I wasn’t the only one that had been beaten up. The other guys were beaten too. That’s what we had to live with.
he weather was getting cold. The Germans decided to take us to the woods to work. Every day they took us to the woods they would work us until it was so dark we couldn’t see the saw or the wood and then they would bring us back to the Stalag. I remember one night I was walking back to the Stalag and there was a creek that ran across the road. That night we talked about it and decided that the next day when we reached the creek, one of us would fall in. The rest of us would jump into rescue him. That way we could get wet and clean up a little bit. The next day we did it. The guard got mad and fired his gun a few times and yelled and screamed and told us to get out of the water and start walking. We did, but we did feel better. It was worth it.
The weather was getting colder and colder.
I remember one day they took us to the woods and it was raining and so cold our clothes were just soaked, but we had to work sawing wood all day. The guards had marked a lot of trees. They told us if we didn’t finish sawing all those trees we would be punished. We knew and they knew too that there was no way we could saw all of the marked trees. We were too weak and didn’t have the strength to do it. Well, we didn’t get all of the trees sawed.
Our punishment was that we had to stay in the woods all night. When it got too dark to work they chained us to a tree one at a time. It started snowing. The snow was getting heavy. Our clothes froze. We had to keep moving around as much as we could to keep from freezing to death. We were so frail – we had no fat on our bodies to keep us warm. Towards morning two of the guys stopped moving and they froze to death. They actually died standing up. Eventually they just fell over.
When daylight came the guards were sitting by the fire with their dogs. Our clothes were frozen and also our feet. They decided to take us to the Stalag. We could hardly manage to shuffle along, but we finally made it back to the Stalag. The guards went to a doctor and told him that our feet were frozen and asked him what to do. The doctor told him to have us put our feet in cold water. They brought in tubs of cold water. We sat there with our feet in those tubs, moaning and groaning. It was very painful. I don’t know how long it took, but our feet finally thawed. We could walk again. We asked the guards to take us back to the woods to bury the two guys we left out there. They would not let us go. They said there was too much snow. As far as we knew they were never buried. We were all sad that we left them out there and couldn’t go back and see about them. We had become very close – each of us felt responsible for the other.
hey took us back to the farms. We could not work outside because there was too much snow. They had us cleaning the barn and working other odd jobs. Later they took away all of the guards except one – they were getting short of men.
The guard would come every morning, unlock the Stalag and send us out to work and then came back to lock us in at night. One morning he came in at 4 o’clock and told us to get up and get ready to go to work. He said he would be back for us in a little while. He left, we got up, dressed and went downstairs and he didn't come back. We sat there and waited about two hours and he finally showed up.
He opened the place up and told us the Americans were about ready to take Babenhausen only five miles away. We noticed he had on civilian clothes. He told us he was going home and we could do whatever we wanted. He left and we never saw him again.
We all left the Stalag, went to the edge of town, sat down and talked about what to do. We decided we should split up in twos and hide in the barns until the
Americans came to liberate us.
There was a church close by. We went inside and thanked God that we were about to be free.
To the best of my knowledge, it was two or three days that we stayed hidden in the barns. The farmers knew we were there – they even brought us food. One morning we woke up and the Americans were there. I can’t tell you what a wonderful feeling it was to be free. We actually cried with joy. They put us on top of tanks and took us to Babenhausen.
The General met us. He said he told the Captain to get those prisoners and bring them back to him as soon as possible, if not sooner. The Captain said that was one job he was glad to do. The General told us to go to Camp Lucky Strike in France. He said he had to keep going because he had other prisoners to liberate. We told him, “Go to it, we will find out way to Camp Lucky Strike.” He told us that if we needed a place to sleep to just go tell the people to leave and go in and sleep – he said we had been out in the cold long enough.
Some of the guys went to the road and started hitchhiking, hoping trucks would pick them up. The rest of us walked to the airport to wait for a transport plane. That night we went to a house, knocked on the door and told the people to leave and let us sleep. We wouldn’t hurt them or bother anything. They left and we went to bed. We got up the next morning and left everything as we had found it.
I always felt bad about doing that, but heaven knows we needed the rest. We walked on over to the airport and waited for a plane to come in. The next day a plane landed, picked us up and took us to France.
The pilot had radioed ahead that he had some prisoners of war aboard and to have a bus waiting to take us to Camp Lucky Strike.
When we got to Camp Lucky Strike they issued us new uniforms. We took our new clothes and went to the showers. What a relief to be clean again. I went to the barbershop and told the barber that I had been a prisoner of war. I told him I had no money but I needed a haircut and a shave. He said, “You don’t need money, sit down. I would be happy to give you a haircut and a shave.” He did and I felt like a human being again.
I joined the other guys and we went to the mess hall. Our stomachs had shrunk so we could eat very little at one time. We were told to come to the mess hall day or night and eat whenever we felt like it. We were given vitamins to build us up and it did help.
e were there for about a week. The Captain came in and told us if we wanted to go to the United States to go down to the dock, board a ship and go home. There were several ships there; however, we didn’t all get on the same ship.
The one I got on took off immediately for the States. I was so happy. Everything went well until we got way out to sea. Early the next morning we ran into a lot of fog. One of those ships got off course and was headed straight toward us. The Captain got on the horn and told everyone to come on deck and bring our life jacket. He repeated it several times. We jumped out of bed and went up on deck. That ship was turning in one direction and we were turning in another. We missed them by an eyelash – was I ever glad. The Captain came back on the horn and said the danger is over and go back to our quarters.
If we had collided, the water was so rough we probably would never have been found. It all happened so quickly. As I was going on deck my thoughts were, “After all I have been through, now I have to jump in that ocean.” From then on the trip home was great. The sailors and officers were so nice to us. They gave us money so we could buy candy and ice cream. We sure enjoyed it. It was the first time we had that in a long time.
One morning the Captain got on the horn. He said, “If you guys would like to see the Statue of Liberty, come up on deck,” we would sail right by it. I jumped up and got dressed and went up on deck. There it was; I have to admit I started to cry. This is what I fought and suffered for so long. To me it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
The ship docked and we went ashore. The Red Cross was there with coffee and doughnuts; we could have as much as we wanted.
We were all separated – each of us got on the train and went to the camp nearest our home. I was sent to Ft. Bliss, Texas, near El Paso. When I reached Ft. Bliss I was given a 60-day pass to go home. The bad thing was, I had no money to go home. I was having a hard time collecting my back pay. I had to call home and my family wired me the money. It was good to get home. I had often thought I would never be free again. The bad thing is I was not free. Every night when I laid down to sleep, I would become a prisoner of war again. I would dream over and over about the things that I have told. No matter how hard you try to forget, it keeps coming back. Fighting more than a year on the front lines and over 14 months of torture as a prisoner of war. Every day there seemed like a year, you never forget it. It is better than it used to be. Now that you have read my story, I thank you for reading it. God bless you.
When Warren Thornton was liberated he was not in good health and did not work for approximately a year. Then he returned to Arkansas to visit Betty Jo Fisher at Beebe. “Betty Jo was a girl I had known for some time before the war,” Warren recently wrote. “We were married and moved to Phoenix and have lived here ever since. We have one daughter and one grandson.” He retired after 30 years of service to the City of Phoenix.
The author’s wife,
Betty Jo Fisher, is shown with the
Beebe freshman class of 1940. Left to
right, Front row: Reba Owens, Betty Jo
Fisher, Bera Price, Adlee Smith, Mary Ellen Risk, Mary Lou Fisher, Louise
Norman, Ruby Lynch, Ruby Bland, Juanita Fuller, Evelyn Burkett, Nadine Welch. Second row: Mora Lou Lane, Mary Dean Rice, unknown, Medean Walker, Jewel
Bevils, Mary Frances Irvin, Patty Dean Burns, Wanda Hardin, Arlene Campbell. Third row: Earl Welch, Estelle
Cross, Doris Lee Springer, Ruth Sheeks, Ila Mae Jones, Gwendolyn Fecher, Eula
Mae Fecher, Dorothy Baker. Fourth row: Merold Daniel, Wayne Harden, Bennie Price, B.F. Bruce, Lindell Harrell,
Artemus Thomas, Darrell Henry, Lamar Bennett, Merrill Shue Jr. Back row: Lilbert Lee Doss, Ollie
Haney, Winfield Jones, Solon Johnson, Nelson Stamps, Billy Harper, Paul
Olmstead, G.F. Harvey, Finis Long, Herbert Vandament.
Photo courtesy Mary Reynolds
Beebe freshman class of 1940. Left to right, Front row: Reba Owens, Betty Jo Fisher, Bera Price, Adlee Smith, Mary Ellen Risk, Mary Lou Fisher, Louise Norman, Ruby Lynch, Ruby Bland, Juanita Fuller, Evelyn Burkett, Nadine Welch. Second row: Mora Lou Lane, Mary Dean Rice, unknown, Medean Walker, Jewel Bevils, Mary Frances Irvin, Patty Dean Burns, Wanda Hardin, Arlene Campbell. Third row: Earl Welch, Estelle Cross, Doris Lee Springer, Ruth Sheeks, Ila Mae Jones, Gwendolyn Fecher, Eula Mae Fecher, Dorothy Baker. Fourth row: Merold Daniel, Wayne Harden, Bennie Price, B.F. Bruce, Lindell Harrell, Artemus Thomas, Darrell Henry, Lamar Bennett, Merrill Shue Jr. Back row: Lilbert Lee Doss, Ollie Haney, Winfield Jones, Solon Johnson, Nelson Stamps, Billy Harper, Paul Olmstead, G.F. Harvey, Finis Long, Herbert Vandament. Photo courtesy Mary Reynolds