Not very many people read this blog and that’s okay with me because I it’s about me writing and not about me being read. Today I noticed that on Labor Day, 2013 clicks had been recorded on this Pioneer Woman post. It was Memorial Day – maybe there was a marathon of her cooking show or perhaps her name appeared in a newspaper article.
A lot of people like her; a lot don’t. But it was Memorial Day and I’d like for this to be the first thing you see:
Diane Sawyer of CBS News once said that because of all the people who’d told her stories about where they were on Pearl Harbor Day; she sometimes felt that she too could remember that day — even though she hadn’t even been born by December 7, 1941.
Lately, my thoughts have been turning to German POW camps in the spring of 1945. I’ve read a lot about the war and seen film footage, but it was only this year that I talked face to face with a man who had been held captive after being shot down on a strafing run in his P-51.
This year, for the first time, I realize I have a feeling for, rather than just a knowledge of, the shock of captivity and the relief of being freed.
A few months ago, West Chester resident Bill Randolph sat not more than three feet from me and spoke of his experience 48 years ago in Germany.
Right up until the moment he bailed out, being a POW was something his mind would not let him consider.
I’d either survive or I’d be killed. I never once thought I’d be shot down over enemy territory.
The army took pictures of all the airmen to distribute to the French Underground so they could recognize us. And when they took that picture, I wouldn’t let myself think about it.”
But it did happen; and Bill Randolph survived that which he had feared most. He says he thought he was in shock; he thinks he kept himself in that state “so if something were to happen, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
Maybe so, then maybe young Lt. Randolph was just discovering a side of himself he did not know existed.
He was interrogated for five days in Frankfurt by a Luftwaffe officer — one who had a book of information on him as well as copies of what was on the squadron bulletin board back in England.
When was over, he was shipped to a camp. “This was a living hell,” Lt. Randolph states so matter-of-factly that there is no room for doubt.
The prisoners were sent to camp in boxcars. On the way, Americans fliers, unaware of the cargo, strafed the train. The memory of those minutes is clear in the Lt. Randolph’s mind.
There were three waves of them, and by the time the third wave came along I was down on the floor trying to dig into the fibers and saying prayers. Because of this experience, I felt like I had gotten closer to God…it was a spiritual thing.
It was there in that boxcar that I felt like that. I was allowed to go to the edge of disaster and brought back to live my life. I think because of that I’m more tolerant…that I know something I didn’t know before.
As the Allies drew nearer, the prisoners were moved farther from the front lines. It was a “terrible” 8 day march. The new camp was near Munich, about 20 miles from Dauchau.
You spent most of the time not thinking about anything. When you did think it was about food; no romance, all you thought about was food. I wanted a big chocolate sundae.
Then Patton came.
As far as I’m concerned , Patton won the war. He came in the camp and he was about 8 feet from me. We didn’t make eye contact, but I could see his eyes. He was saying, “Men, I’m proud of you.” And he was saying anything he could to make us feel good and he had kind eyes. He was gentle: he was a good man. I was very impressed with him; he could lead me anywhere.
After talking with Bill Randolph, I think I can almost remember it. Somehow he passed on to me a piece of experience..Now when I think of General Patton, I no longer see George C. Scott in front of a flag; I think of a man with kind eyes telling hungry, worn out soldiers that he was proud of them.
The past was in the air that day we talked; and I breathed it in.
This is interesting. Oh, THIS is an article in Working Range magazine about the Drummond Ranch – the place Pioneer Woman calls home. It loads a little oddly, coming up in the middle of the article. The Drummond Brothers are the 76th largest landowners in the US, according to the Land Report. Ted Turner is number one – sort of Turner Classic Ranches.
July 30, 2011
I see that the THIS link no longer worked, so I scrounged around and found another; now I have decided to take screen shots. The link will allow you to enlarge the pages; I have no idea what the screen shots will do.