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The prisoners at Stalag 13C are freed.

Charles Pensyl of Biglersville answered a knock on his door on December 1944 and saw a soldier standing in front of him. The man asked to see the Logan children. The five children of Otis Edward Logan were staying with their Aunt Maude and Uncle Charles. Maude Pensyl was Logan’s sister. The army officer told the children that their father was missing in action and believed captured during the first day of the Battle of the Bulge in Europe.

 

Logan was among the millions of Americans who either joined or were drafted into the Armed Forces during World War II. Despite the fact that he was a married father of five children, he entered the U.S. Army on December 1, 1942.

He trained for nine months at Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi and Camp Maxey in Texas before he was shipped overseas to fight as a “mortar gun operator” with the 99th Infantry, 393rd Division, Company B.

The Logan family waited anxiously in the following weeks wondering whether Logan was alive or not. Then on February 17, 1945, Logan’s father, Otis A. Logan, received a card that Logan had written from a German prison camp. He had been captured and was now a prisoner of war.

Logan was sent to Stalag 13C in Hammelburg, Bavaria. The camp had been created in the summer of 1940 when short, wooden barracks were built to house POWs. The first prisoners housed there Belgian and French soldiers captured during the Blitzkrieg of 1940. Serbian, Polish, Italian, British, Russian and American POWs were also eventually housed in the Stalag 13C. Each nationality was housed in separate barracks.

Enlisted men, corporal and below, were required to work while in the camp. They were assigned work groups at nearby farms and factories. After the war, Logan told the Gettysburg Times that the food and treatment he received at the camp were “pretty bad.”

The Red Cross agreed about the camp conditions. A Swiss delegation from the Red Cross reported in March 1945 that prisoners consumed only 1050 calories a day about half of what the average person needs. The average temperature in the barracks was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Men were sick and malnourished. Morale and discipline were low. “No Red Cross packages had reached the Americans since they started arriving in January. They only reason they didn’t starve was the generosity of the Serbian officers, who shared their packages,” according to the web site, Uncommon Travel Germany.

In 1945 as the Third Reich crumbled, Gen. George Patton sent a tank force to penetrate the German lines and free the prisoners in Stalag 13. “The men of Task Force Baum, as it was called, ran into heavy resistance coming in but they reached the camp on March 24, 1945. The tanks knocked down the fences, but they also started firing at the Serbian officers, mistaking them for Germans,” Uncommon Travel Germany reports.

Things were quickly straightened out and the tanks eventually left with many of the prisoners who were fit to march. “On the way back, the Task Force was ambushed and forced to surrender. Out of the 314 men in the unit, 26 were killed and most of the rest were captured. Most of the POW’s returned to the camp as well,” according to Uncommon Travel Germany.

The 47th U.S. Tank Battalion ultimately liberated the camp for good on April 6, 1945. Logan finally left the camp on April 29.

“At the time of his liberation the prisoners from Stalag 13C were being evacuated to the rear. Yankee tanks took the guard completely by surprise and they laid down their arms without a fight,” the Gettysburg Times reported. “Pfc. Logan said that he had his first decent meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy after liberation, and that he had no personal belongs when he was freed. All had been taken from his by the Germans.”

Once freed, Logan received a 60-day furlough and returned to Biglerville to reunite with his family in early June 1945.

Because he had also been injured before being taken a prisoner, Logan also received the Purple Heart for his service.

Logan died on March 16, 1986, at the age of 77. He was living on Middle Street in Gettysburg and died at home. His service was held at the Peters Funeral Home and he was buried in the Biglerville Cemetery.

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The WWII POW camp at Gettysburg. Courtesy of the Adams County Historical Society.

Gunter Habock was imprisoned in Gettysburg, but rather than considering it a trial, he enjoyed his time here as a prisoner. It was so enjoyable, in fact, that he returned to Gettysburg in 1970 to show his wife and son where he had spent part of World War II.

 

“He was a boy of 15 in 1939 when Hitler’s Brown Shirts demonstrated for possession of the Polish Corridor and remembers the Polish army in the city,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

An 18-year-old Habock was in Danzig in 1943. He was studying architecture when he was drafted into the German Army.

Habock had served in the war as a paratrooper in the German army, but he had been transferred to infantry when the Germans lost all of their planes at St. Lo, Normandy, after the Allies strafed the location. He was sent to fight in July 12, 1944, and captured along with 24 other paratroopers on July 28.

The captured Germans were taken to Le Havre, where 42 ships waited to sail to the U.S. These ships were loaded with 2,000 German prisoners.

The ships docked at New York and the prisoners were off loaded onto trains to be transported to various prisoner of war camps in the U.S. Several hundred were put on a train to Carlisle. At Carlisle, trucks were waiting to take about 100 of the prisoners to Gettysburg.

Gettysburg housed German prisoners of war from May 31, 1944 until February 1945. It was one of hundreds of POW camps throughout the country during the war.

The early POWs had to build their own camp at Gettysburg. They constructed a 400-foot by 600-foot stockade surrounding the camp along Emmitsburg Road next to the old Home Sweet Home Motel. During this construction phase, the prisoners were housed at the National Guard Armory on Confederate Avenue.

They were primarily put to work supplementing the work force at nearby orchards and canneries. Habock spent a lot of his time working at Peach Glen.

“I ran the cider press and drank lots of apple juice!” Habock told The Gettysburg Times.

Later, he would work at a fertilizer plant in York and loading pulpwood onto trucks and railroad cars in Ortanna.

For their efforts, the prisoners received 80 cents a day. The remaining amount of their daily earnings, which was usually between 50 and 60 cents an hour, was sent to the federal government. According to the National Park Service, the federal government received $138,000 from the Gettysburg POW camp from June 8 through November 1, 1944. On days that a prisoner didn’t work, he received 10 cents a day. The prisoners were paid in coupons, which they could use as cash in the camp exchange.

Habock left Camp Sharpe in February 1946 and was sent to Indiantown Gap, then to Ft. Meade, Md., and finally to Camp Shank, N.Y. From there, he was returned to LaHavre in June 1946 and discharged in Babenhausin, Germany.

He returned to his hometown of Danzig, but found that the Russians had expelled all Germans from it so he and his family had to be relocated to Hanover, Germany.

He earned his degree and became a contractor building apartments and homes. The married in 1947 and went on to have three children.

The Habocks flew into Ontario on vacation and visited Niagara Falls before visiting the sites where Habock had been as prisoner.

“They visited the Peach Glen plant today, where Habock found many changes,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

While in Gettysburg, he met with Eugene Clapper who had also been captured at St. Lo. However, Clapper had been captured by the Germans and sent to a German POW camp. As the two compared notes on their POW experiences, Habock told Clapper, “It was much worse for you than for me. I had enough to eat and the work was not like that.”

At its peak in July 1944, the Gettysburg POW camp held 932 prisoners of war, some of whom, like Habock returned after the war to visit Gettysburg as guests.

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