Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Uncle Wally: POW (WWII) 1944

Uncle Wally was in a concentration camp, during WWII, he talked briefly about it, and so I shall simplify the sketch as mildly as I can for the reader; it was not an exterminating center.  But a place to break the human spirit. Such camps have ceased to exist, but there are many more that have taken their place. From Iraq, to Afghanistan, Russia, and the Philippines, the POW’s of the ISIS, Iran, China, and so forth.

       Private First Class Wally and his platoon had landed on the shores of Normandy, France, the landing operations took place 6 June, 1944, right after the overnight parachute and glider landings; thus, after midnight, the conditions were far from ideal but the amphibious landing had to take place, there were five beaches the vessels were to land, Utah, Omaha, Gold Juno and Sword Beach, Private First Class Wally’s amphibious vessel—because of strong winds blowing from the east, he would land not at their intended position. Omaha would have the most causalities. The major objective would not take place until July 1, 1944. There would be 10,000-caualities, and nearly 4500-deaths of the allied forces. Somewhere between the landing on June 6, and July 1, Uncle Wally would be captured by the Germans, along with most of his platoon, of 44-men, he would be one of the 24,000-men who landed urging that amphibious landing. The Germans would take 9000-causalities.  During this period massive bombings, and or airstrikes would take place. German torpedo boats would kill nearly 800-American soldiers trying to land their amphibious vessels. During the advance inland and to redirect themselves to where their beach was, in the process Private Wally and his platoon were taken prisoners of war (POWs) by the Germans, perhaps on June 8, 1944, two days after the landing.
       Was there a way to escape? Once captured, went through Wally’s mind I’m sure? Standing in line looking here and there. Electrically charged wires everywhere. A triple strand of barbed wire circled the outer rim of the concentration camp as most did.  Said the soldier next to him perhaps: in a whisper, “We talk only in the fog, when in line usually we don’t, and nearly below a whisper if we do. And never when the wind is blowing against us.”   
       I will never know the full story of Uncle Wally’s POW time, and exactly where he was taken, for he never draw attention to it, but it was outside of France.
        For sure, PFC Wally checked out the watchtowers, a glance here and there, “It’s dangerous to spy on the towers as you’re doing,” a voice might have said.
       “Why?” would have asked Wally had someone answered him it would have been more bearable, but no one did.
        “Move them to the barracks” said the Strohshineider, in a matter-of-fact tone to the soldiers guarding the prisoners.
       There wasn’t any gas chambers, but there wasn’t any Jews neither, still yet, there were illegal exactions, and that was what most of the soldiers were worried about.  Uncle Wally would be released after the war’s end.

No: 1103/ 7-28-2015 / Reedited 10-2016

Note 1: the story is based on Historical Fiction, pieces put together from the author’s historical knowledge of “D-Day,” and the author’s filling in gaps, gaps that his Uncle Wally mentioned in passing while visiting his father’s home on Sunday afternoons (in the 1950s & ‘60s), while drinking in the cellar with the author’s other uncles and, Grandfather, over hearing bits and pieces of the war, to which seldom did he talk about it; Uncle Chris being in the Korean War of 1952.   Uncle Wally lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, lived to the ripe old age of 85; he was a survivor.

Note 2: for the forthcoming book “The Times We Live In”