GERMAN PRISONERS-OF-WAR

 

LeHarve, France

Late January 1945

Wearing a white helmet with the letters, “MP” on it and white leggings, a member of the Military Police entered our office in Le Havre. He said, “We have eight boxcars full of German prisoners. They have been

prisoners of the French, and they are in very bad shape.”

I followed him out to take a look. We opened the door on one of the boxcars. I was shocked by what I saw. The men were haggard, sick, and malnourished. Some were dead and many prisoners appeared nearly so. We opened another boxcar and found the same conditions.

Boxcars like those the prisoners rode in.

Boxcars like those the prisoners rode in.

Some GI’s from the Railroad Operating Battalion saw the situation, too. One said to his buddies, “Hey! Let’s get some K rations and whatever else we can find and give it to the prisoners.”

I immediately squelched that offer. “Our food is too rich for these men’s condition.” I insisted, “No one is to offer these men food. They can have water, though.”

I felt that my stomach would react rather violently if I were in that condition and ate K rations. I told the MP, “Watch the open boxcars or close the doors. I will get help.”

Back at the office, I called the nearest US Station Hospital, and told the commander, “We have eight box cars filled with starving and dying prisoners-of-war.”

The commander and a motorcade arrived an hour and a half later. They began inspecting the prisoners. I told them I had denied the men food, but had given them water.

He said, “You did the right thing. Normal food would cause a lot of problems with the prisoner’s digestive systems. We will begin feeding them chicken and beef broth, then gradually add solid food.”

Standing by and watching the evacuation, I noticed that the prisoners did not speak. Perhaps words could not even express the relief I saw on their faces.

Le (June ‘15) says: “I often thought of how many of our GI’s who were prisoners of the Germans and Japanese, and how they are being treated. Never did I think that I would feel sorry for our enemy, but this time I did.”

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