Life of a POW
You live in a barbed wire
world, day in and day out. Days turn into weeks, then months, and years. Roll
call (apell) in the morning. Then black tea, and black bread. Roll call at noon.
Some kind of greasy soup for lunch. Roll call at night. Then more cabbage soup
at night, and a ration of bread, and you hear somebody throwing up in their
bunk. Not enough light to read at night. Nothing much to read, anyway, so you
read that last letter you got last month from home. Home. I wonder what they are
thinking. Dadís probably listening to the radio to see if there is anything new
about us over here. Momís probably praying.
During WW II, the Allied Countries and Germany participated with the
Geneva Convention and the International Red Cross - Japan did not
of us who were prisoners of war in Europe were more fortunate than those who
were captured by the Japanese. There were some exceptions, however. Russian
prisoners in German Prison Camps, without question, were treated much more
harshly than others who fought with the Allied forces. (Russia was not a member
of the Convention, but under the Convention rules, that should not have
mattered. but it did.). The German military was very rank conscious. Officers
generally were kept at Offlags, and received better treatment, better food, and
better housing. Enlisted personnel were housed in Stalags. The non-commissioned
officers (Sergeants and up) were not required to work, but the corporals and
Over 130,000 Americans were prisoners of war in WWII and were
in dozens of POW Camps in Europe. For the average American interned in these
camps, living conditions were similar. For those who tried to escape, and those
who were on lengthy forced marches, or who were trouble makers for the Germans,
it was a different story, for example,
crewmate, Bob and I had escaped from a prison train, and were recaptured after
fourteen days, we were first put in a civilian jail, then into solitary
confinement in something that resembled an old French
This happened about a month after we were shot down, around the middle of May,
1943. It was so dark that it was difficult to tell if it was day or night. The
only sounds I heard were the ravings of a Scottish prisoner in the next cell,
who had been there since Dunkerk, or when some guard shoved a can of warm soup or tea, and a piece of bread, or
potato up the same trough that I used to relieve myself.
The place was filled with lice. I had sores and scabs all over my
body. I could not urinate when I awoke unless I removed a scab from my private
part...When I was taken out, the sun almost blinded me..
One day they took my shoes and chained my legs together. Then two guards showed
up with my friend, and crewmate, Bob Hansen. We were taken to a train station where we had to wait
for hours while civilians would scowl at the two
Two days later we were dropped off at Stalag VII-A in Mooseburg
too far from Munich - Bavaria, Germany.
Finally, I thought,
we will get to see
some of our guys. No such luck.
They threw us into the
Detention Barracks with about 200 half
starved Russians. Iíll never, never forget the horrible stench of decayed flesh
that was in that barracks. There was not enough room for everyone to lay down at
the same time. We took turns. Fleas and lice were fed better than these two
Americans and 200 Russians. The Germans permitted us to spend an hour a day
outdoors in a triple barbed wire fenced in area. One day two guards got into it
with two older Russians in the wash room. More guards came pouring into the
barracks and dragged the two Russians into the yard...Somehow, the wounded
Russians got away and crawled under the barracks...More guards came with two
German Shepherd dogs, and they went under the barracks after the men. We never
got the whole story on what happened. We heard the dogs growling, then yelping,
then some shooting.
And this was to be our
home for the next six weeks P.S.
One day while it was my turn to go
outside, a group of American soldiers who were captured in Africa were walking
under guard past our fence...I noticed one had a medical insignia... Quickly I
tried to explain about my problem with my scabÖ"I donít know if this will do it.
But give it a try," and he tossed me a small can of sulfur ointment.
By Roy Livingstone