Stalag Luft IV,Gross Tychow
M./Sgt. Frank Paules
On January 28, 1944, 1500 Americans were sent to Barth (Stalag Luft 1). T/Sgt. William Schilds was made the transport leader. Lt. Boges was the medical officer. On the 2nd of February, 1500 Americans were sent to Nurnburg, with T/Sgt. Guider in charge. Capt. Kingston was the medical officer. On the 6th of February,the remaining 5700 Americans left camp.
Telegram from American Legation, Bern - Switzerland to Secretary of State...February 28,1945:
"Northern Line of March: About 100,000 prisoners are moving along the northern German coast to the west. The great mass of prisoners are now resting in the area between Anklas, New Brandenburg, Deumin and Swinemunde. The rear guard is still on the roads west of Danzig, between Stolp and Lauenburg. The prisoners will continue their march westward until they reach the region of Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck. The southern edge of this group reaches to Schwerin and Oustrow. The prisoners, German officers and guards are eating the same rations ; which consist of approximately one quart of hot water and three potatoes daily, plus 200 grams of bread every four to five days ( when available). The prisoners are selling everything they have, in order to obtain food, but with little success. Eighty percent of them are suffering from dysentery, which is apparently contagious ...The information in this telegram...was obtained by Schirmer, personally."
T/Sgt. Frank Paules
The thing that really saved our lives, just before we went out on that Black March ...we received carloads of food, shoes and clothing. Without this, we could not have survived that awful period of 80 days through the ice and snow. Before we left camp, a couple of the guys came to me and said they wanted to stay behind and wait for the Russians. After we left, they hid under the barracks and did get liberated. Only thing was, they were sent back to Russia, and it was a long time before they got home. In fact, after the march out from Luft 4, about 200 guys just disappeared. Some went back to Italy or England to see their girlfriends or what not. Others just did not want their families to see them.
On the march out of Luft 4, we picked up a contingent of American Army officers at a German hospital; they marched with us. One of them was Col. Alger, a very fine man who stayed at the head of the column with my aids. This allowed me to fall back to the rear and look out for casualties. We had to protect the guys in the back from getting batted on the head by the guards, if they were too slow. We marched on foot, from the lager to Swinemunde, across the islands into the New Brandenburg area; from there on to the Ludwicklust and Hanover area.
There were 5000 Americans left on the march and those were split into two columns. Three thousand went to Fallingbostal, and 2000 marched to Valzin. I was with the latter group. We were transported for 100 kilometers and moved to Lager 11 A at AltonGrabow...put in tents for 14 days...then evacuated on the 14th of April, and marched on foot to Annaberg. There we were put in an aircraft factory for five days. We marched across to Trossin, then Korna; rested one day and the column marched into Bitterfeld. It was there we were liberated by the soldiers of the 104th Division. There were few physical abuses on the trip, due to personal contact, but there was starvation and forcing the sick to march (when that meant endangering their lives). Two men, to my knowledge, died of pneumonia, exhaustion and starvation. They are S./Sgt. William J. Palmer. He died of pneumonia at Briggon, Mecklinberg, on the 26th of February 1945; after having marched for several days. It was very cold at night. S/Sgt. John C. Clark died of pneumonia on March 18,1945 in a hospital at Lubs ( S.E. of Schwerin). He died five minutes after arriving at the hospital. He had been taken from a barn, over a distance of 30 kilometers, in an open horse drawn cart. After the death of Sgt. Palmer, I protested to the commandant, Col Bombach, that he and Capt. Zommer ( the doctor) would be held responsible for that death and any future deaths that might occur on the march. When drugs or medical equipment were given to us by the German doctor, they were small portions of the Red Cross supplies that had been taken from us...the Red Cross had reason to suspect that Col. Bombach disposed of parcels that were supposed to go to their representatives. Major Zallman was in charge of the column at the time the two men died. The only one who helped us was a Sgt. Schwitzer, who had lived in the States. He did some good things for us. Col. Bombach, Capt. Pickhardt and Sgt. Fahnard ( along with the rest of the Abwher), as well as the Lager officers Wolf and Weinert, remained in charge until our column reached Alton-Grabow. We were turned over to Wehrmacht officers and men, who remained in control of us until we were met by Americans.
At one point, late in March, Col. Bombach came to me and said he wanted to turn over the guards weapons to us. I told him: " No Dice!" We didn't want the Russians overtaking us with arms. If they wanted to overtake the Germans, well good!! But, we didn't want to be liberated by them. Soon after, we crossed the Elbe ( it was the 26th of April and a great day for us). We were free men! The night before, we got a message to let us know that the American Army was coming the next day. I got all the leaders together in the cellar: " We've come this far now...I don't want any mishaps. Let's keep our men together and not have any funny stuff. Get them settled down, and we'll get out of this in one piece." The next day, we had to cross a bridge and there was an American Colonel sanding there, waiting for us. As our weary column crossed the bridge, I went back and forth among our men: "All right boys! Let's straighten up and look good. Damn it! we're not going to slouch our way over!" So, they did it proudly, and I think we looked pretty good that morning. I went back to the head of the column, as we crossed that bridge and brought our guys up to attention. I saluted the Colonel and said: " Two thousand American prisoners, sir!" I couldn't resist it, and to this day, I still get a kick out of remembering.
That was a great moment for all of us, after 15 months behind barbed wire and eighty days on the road. That night, we were in a little town, roaming the streets. Wouldn't you know, a young MP stops us and asks: " What's the password?" We just stopped cold in our tracks and after a moment, one guy says to him: " How the hell do we know what the password is? We just got here, damn it!" We found a Rathskellar and tumbled down the stairs. Still plenty of Beer and Schnapps left, so we had ourselves a hell of a party that night. Making up new kriegie passwords, just in case anyone else wanted to know.
T./Sgt. Carter Lunsford When we left on the March, lager D was composed mainly of the original number of Stalag Luft 6 people; it was close to 2000 men. Most of us ended up at Bitterfeld. They split us up into groups and I had charge of between six and eight hundred men. It had the responsibility to see that food got distributed properly. All the Germans did was give us bulk; so many liters of potatoes,so many kilos of bread. It was my job to see that every man got his share... which was a hell of a hard job ! As Frank once said: " There's nothing worse than a hungry man!" I remember when we first started out, it was quite an ordeal walking through the snow. We'd walk for an hour, then the Germans would give us a break. We had all manner of things wrapped around us... for example, I had an extra pair of pants that I used for a knapsack. We'd walk for an hour more, then just fall right down on the snow! You got so tired and achy, that you just lay there, the Germans got us up again. This went on for weeks, until the spring thaw. You remember going through a village in the early morning, after having spent the night in a barn or out on the ground, in some field. There might be some farmhouse nearby and you could smell the bacon cooking...Oh Jeez! All you'd had for breakfast would be a little cup of ersatz coffee and a piece of bread. If you were lucky, maybe a few potatoes would come your way for lunch. If you were very, very lucky and they went to a place that had them, you could get a few Red Cross Parcels.
Eating every day was by no means certain, so the guys tried to trade for food when they could. You could trade for anything with cigarettes or powdered coffee, but you didn't always get the chance. I had a guy named Arnold Stoney looking after me on the March. When I was out dickering with the Germans for food or trying to get the guys settled for the night, he would find a place for me to sleep, set up my bed and so forth. He was an excellent scrounger. One time, when we were really down, I gave up my wrist watch. It was the last thing I had to trade, and I said: " Alright Stoney, see what you can get with this!" He came back with a pretty good load of stuff, and that carried us through for a little while longer. Even with so many days out on the road, and so many years gone by, there are moments that you never forget. Several weeks after we had left 4, we came to a town with a railroad depot and some Red Cross Parcels awaited us there. The Germans assigned a guard and a Russian Prisoner along with a wagon and two horses.I had to go with them to pick up forty-odd cartons. The Russian and I had to load the wagons and it was damn heavy work. On the way down, of course, I sat in the back with the German guard, a man in his mid-forties. He had been in World War One, and he talked about his life; you'd be surprised how you can pick up a language. He said it was very difficult marching, carrying a loaded pack and his rifle... it was hard on his legs. He said: " If I only had a walking stick!" On the way back, as we're sitting on top of all these food parcels, the wagon went by an old bush. He stopped the wagon, jumped down and handed me his rifle. As he cut himself a branch, he said:"Ahh, this is what I wanted!" We took off again, with me still holding his rifle on the back of the wagon, and him marching behind with his stick. Not long afterwards, the guys had all moved out, except for one sick fellow. The Germans said:" Alright, you can put him on a wagon, but you have to load up the food stores,first." It was a rainy, sleety day and I loaded the whole damn wagon by myself with those heavy parcels. Jeez, I loaded and loaded! What a misery. Finally, I finished and we put the sick guy up on top. I guess I felt sorry for the horses, because I ended up walking behind the wagon in the rain and mud.
Bill Krebs and Frank Paules were in a house that I passed along the way. Later, Bill told me that they could see me coming and just watched me. There was a fire going and it was warm and comfortable in there. Bill asked Frank:" Why don't you go out and bring Carter in here for a moment?" Frank said: "No, Bill. He's got to do this by himself! He's got to show fortitude!" So they let me walk by.I never got to thank him properly for that cold and miserable walk! Liberation came on April 26th at Bitterfeld. They transferred us to the twin cities of Halle and Liepzig. They put me in charge of a mess hall. Now, I'd never been in charge of a mess hall before in my life, but I guess they didn't know what to do with us. We were close to 2500 PW's and the 104th Division said:" Look, you've been one of the leaders ... you run the mess hall. We'll get you the food and you'll operate it, until we get organized and find out what we're going to do with you"..It was several weeks before they got their staff together and had a regular outfit run things.
Military Intelligence had been looking for us because we were one of the first groups to be liberated. Bill Krebs and myself were at camp Lucky Strike when they found us. They grabbed a hold of us and sent us to Paris, where we spent a week. Then, they flew us back to Washington to be debriefed at the Pentagon. From there we were sent to a secret area where all our escape material, coded messages and the radio had originated. They would not tell us where it was located or the name, but we would meet the men who had engineered the whole affair. After being driven to the location, we had a moment to lay out in the shade underneath some trees, near these big brick Army barracks. It was June of 1945 and the place was somewhere near Ft. Belvoir. They were waiting for us, so we went in and met the officers and enlisted men of what I now know to be Fort Hunt, Virginia. It was completely destroyed after the war, including all records, files and artifacts. We were the first kriegies to return there and it was a most rewarding and joyous meeting. Bill and I talked about P.O.W. life, how the escape material was received, how it was used and especially about the tiny camp radio.
During our march through Germany, after we left Luft IV, I carried the radio that Fort Hunt had sent us, in the lining of my flight jacket. We listened to the War news wherever we were put up for the night, until the radio wore out. That was in the first two weeks of April, 1945 and we were all mixed together in a big tent camp at Alten-Grabow. Even though we couldn't repair it, I had planned to bring it home with me as a souvenir, to give to my father. He was an engineer at Raytheon up in Massachusetts. After talking a while, one of the MIS guys said:" We understand that one of you may still have the radio we sent you." The radio was outside in my bag, and because they were so enthusiastic and dedicated to their work, I went out and returned with it. You should have seen them! They passed it from hand to hand and kept saying:" Think of it! This is what we made and it's come back to us." I told them," O.K. You keep it." They said:" We're going to put it in our museum." I never saw it or heard about that place again.
In camp we learned how to do all manner of things, in situations you know nothing about. The bottom line was that, if you put your heart and effort into it, you could make a go of it. I think a lot of us carried that back into our personal and business lives. Nothing is impossible. I still have my PW number tag hanging from the letter I received, when I got the Bronze Star. I look at that every once in a while, when I think things are tough.