THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tales from the old-timer
I had landed in Normandy six days after D-Day as a Field Artillery Replacement along with several hundred others. I joined my unit, Battery B 42nd Field Artillery of the 4th Infantry Division, and rode to the unit on a 6x6 truck. Some German .88 millimeter artillery shells arrived a short time after I did, and I jumped into a foxhole occupied by one of the cooks.
I went up forward with the Forward Observer party two times before being captured by the Germans after taking a wrong turn in the woods.
I ended up in the upstairs of a large warehouse with several other Americans when the German Ardennes Offensive called The Battle of the Bulge started in early December of 1944. We could see German troops tearing around in American Jeeps through the upstairs window.
I was taken to Kriegsgefanenlager 12-A but it filled up quickly as the Germans had early successes and a new division fresh from the States (the 106th) which surrendered almost en masse when the Germans had early success in the Bulge Battle.
A hundred or so of us were loaded into box cars to be taken to a large POW camp at Milburg, in central Germany. It was cold in early December and the boxcar had no heat, except the body heat of us prisoners. Toilet problems were handled by giving us no food or water enroute.
We were not a priority train, and were frequently sidetracked. Peeking through the cracks one day we saw a flight of American P-38s circling around, looking us over. Sure enough, one peeled off and ran the whole length of our train hammering away with 40 mm wing cannons. We hoped the German anti-aircraft gun on the siding was a good crew when it fired at the American planes! They peeled off and decided to look elsewhere for an easier target.
When we got to Kriegsgefanenenstalag 4-B in central Germany we had 7 dead men on our train.
4-B was a huge camp and had hundreds of Russian POWs along with American and British soldiers. We spent a pretty grim Christmas 1944 at Kriegsgefanenenstalag IVB. There were no fat guys there in the one meal a day routine with watery soup and a small chunk of bread for each man.
I and my comrades stayed at IV-B until about March 1, when we were sent to a lab labor camp at a place called Lillienstein on the Elbe River about 10 miles from the large city of Dresden.