B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

  Eight Months of Human Contact in a POW Camp
by Joseph R. Armstrong, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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High Point

 

I had been transferred from Obermassfeldt to Memmingen, Germany where I was in a sort of convalescent hospital.

I had an operation at Memmingen, and a closed cast had been put on my arm from fingers to elbow. As the doctor had said, there was no opening in the cast for drainage, which would help to prevent infection. There were no antibiotics, and he felt this was the wiser solution. The wound had developed osteomyelitis, and the serum that drained into the cast soon soaked through, and the whole cast was stained yellow. The stench was terrible, and despite the cold weather I spent as much time outdoors as I could without freezing.


Hospitals/POW Camps - Joseph Armstrong (442) 

Stalag VII A

Moosberg

Stalag VII B

Memmingen

Stalag XIII D 

Nurnburg-Langwasser

Stalag IXC

Obermassfeld

We were quartered in plywood buildings, raised from the ground no insulation, water or plumbing. They were about fifteen feet wide, and some forty feet long. There were double deck beds on each side of the room. There was a small coal stove at each end of the barracks, which, had we sufficient coal, would have been adequate. We were allowed one small scuttle of coal each day, which was used one lump at a time. There were never more than ten lumps in the scuttle, and despite our frugality, our last lump was used about three in the afternoon. It was December, and there were lowering snow clouds, and some two feet of snow on the ground. There were two piles of coal at a gate leading into the grounds, on for German personnel and one for POW's. Each morning we reported with our scuttle and were given our coal ration from the pile reserved for us.

One particularly cold day we used our last lump of coal, and the temperature in the barracks dropped to a level which had us all shivering uncontrollably. Dark came early at this time of year, and I had decided that we must have some heat before morning. At the dark we turned out the single light in the barracks, and I eased through the door, crouching beside the building. I had the coal scuttle in my hand. I lay on my stomach in the snow, and began a slow crawl toward the gate and the pile of coal reserved for German personnel. I could hear the snow muffled tread of the German guard at the gate. The night guards would strap a flashlight to the barrel of their rifle, and when it was turned on both light and rifle would be pointed at the target.

I finally reached the coal pile, and gently began to put lumps of coal in the scuttle. As careful as I was, the coal made a small clinking sounds against the metal of the bucket.  I was nearly frozen, llying in the snow, inadequately clothed and having only the use of one hand. My shivering hand clanked a piece of coal against the scuttle, and a flashlight beam was shown full upon me. Knowing the guards flashlight was strapped to the barrel, I knew his rifle was also pointed directly at me. I stared into the light for what seemed an eternity, and suddenly the light was switched off and the guard resumed his muffled pacing in the snow. (Continued)


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