S/Sgt. Len Deranleau (376 BG)
T/Sgt. Francis Troy was in charge of the 2000 men in C compound; so when we took off in February, he acted as the leader. We also had Dr. Caplan with us.
There's a picture of us that shows Troy, John Kohl (our interpreter) and the last German officer from Luft IV (Hauptmann Stetter). I remember standing there and watching the German surrender his pistol over to the British officer. It was May 2, 1945 when we were liberated somewhere around Lauenberg, near the Elbe River.
You have to realize that our original group broke up into segments of 600 or so, and we were scattered all over the place. Francis was a very aggressive guy, and strong. There wasn't anybody in that camp he couldn't handle physically...but he was fair and he was elected by the other guys.
The night before we were liberated, Troy came up to me and another fellow from his crew, and told us: "We're going to be liberated tommorrow- but don't tell anybody- or this place will go beserk! So, I didn't sleep all night, anticipating it. That morning he and the German officer took off with towels on sticks as a notice of surrender. Before too long, the British troops came in. There was no resisitance; the War was over and they knew it.
We went to Lucky Strike and then on to Rheims,France. Eisenhower was there; he stood on a stand, and I was right up in front of him. He was dressed just as casual as any GI, and he had that poise about him... He said "Well, we can send you guys home in style (he laughed) on one of the Queens; but believe me, you'll be more comfortable going home on one of the Liberty ships. We're going to get you out of here as quick as possible!"
****Veteran's History Project text and video****