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US Army

Ex-POW Tells his Story

Ex-POW Tells his Story
 
 The 44th Engineer Combat Battalion was attached to the 28th Infantry Division from 17 to 22 December, 1944.
 
I had just graduated from high school when in November 1942, Congress lowered the draft age from 21 to 18.  I was 19, and I heard from the draft board in early December.  I went to Camp Croft, South Carolina, for my physical examination, and on December 19, 1942, I was inducted into the army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  A few days after Christmas I went to Camp McCoy, in snowy Wisconsin for basic training.
 
After basic training I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, then to Lebanon, Tennessee, for maneuvers.  One day there seemed to be more rabbits in the field than men.  We killed enough rabbits to make a good meal of rabbits stew.  Our cook, “Pee Wee” Dossett, got permission to prepare the rabbit stew.  Following maneuvers I went to Fort Breckenridge, Kentucky.  In Marsh of 1944, I went to port of embarkation in Boston, Massachusetts.  From Boston we sailed to England.  I was in England on D Day, June 6, 1944.  I went to France about three weeks after the invasion.  Lloyd Brumfield and I slept in a pup tent as we made our way through France.
 
In France I can remember seeing and hearing in the distance the bombing of Saint Lo.  Brest, France had been the target of brutal bombings.  I was with a convoy of troops traveling through Brest when a wall of a bombed building fell on the truck just ahead of my truck.  The rest of the day was spent digging out bodies, a few did survive.
 
By mid-December, 1944, the German army attempted to regain Luxembourg and Belgium.  Several American army units were in the Ardennes Forest at that time, including the 44th Engineer Combat Battalion.  At one point I remember an American plane dropping bombs and killing 18 Americans and some German citizens.  The casualties were great.  Benjamin Southerland, Company Commander of the H & S Company, told us at a reunion of the 44th, that Company “B” suffered the most casualties.  Only about 12% of Company “B's” troop survived the Battle of the Bulge.
 
I was among the troops captured at Wiltz, Luxembourg, on December 19, 1944, exactly two years from the date I was inducted into the army.  I recall marching in the snow, from Wiltz, Luxembourg, to Limburg, Germany, more than two hundred miles.  In Limburg we were loaded into box cars and taken to Stalag IV B.  Later we were transferred to Stalag IV A.  From Stalag IV A, we could see the sky light up when the American planes were bombing Dresden.  More than 50.000 German civilians were killed in that raid.  When the prisoners were taken back to Stalag IV B, we were told not to smile as we passed through Dresden, for the German people might be intimidated, but who wanted to smile?
 
In prison we slept in a flat building with rows of cots.  Cleanliness was an impossibility, one cold shower, but never a change of clothes, once we were dusted for lice.  Weak soup and bread, once a day, was the menu.  One day I swapped my high school class ring for a loaf of bread.  On one occasion, I was watching a guard eat a pickle, the guard saw me and slipped the pickle to me.  Ummm!  What a good pickle.  Most of the prisoners, including me, weighed a mere 100 pounds or less when released.
 
In early April 1945, we got the news that President Roosvelt had died.  We though Henry Wallace would be our next president, for we had not heard that Harry Truman had been elected vice-president.  Sometime around the last of April, 1945, the Russians liberated the prisoners in Stalag IV B.  They took us to Riesa, East Germany, where we were kept until after V.E. Day, (victory in Europe), May 7, 1945.  We were told that transportation would be sent for us, but Lou Grant and I didn’t wait, we started walking across Germany.  We marched into Germany as prisoners.  Now we were marching to FREEDOM!
 
Source: Bulge Bugle August 2013
By Pfc Jesse H. BURNETTE

"B" Co

44th Engineer Combat Bn

  

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium