Harmon of Michigan

HAVING JUST spent nine days locked in a German boxcar, during World War II, without food and little water along with 59 other American POWs. I stood before a German interrogation officer at Stalag IV B. The officer, in grammatically correct English, asked me for the third time what outfit I was in during combat. All I replied was name, rank and serial number.


He responded by saying, "Now let me tell you, you were the first squad of the first platoon of the 422nd Anti‑Tank Company. Do you have any questions?"

"Only one, sir," I said. Where did you acquire such a good command of our language?"


He smiled as he told of living on the campus of the University of Illinois, where he had played football and received a degree.


"I bet I watched you play against Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I lived and never missed a game."


He told me to have a seat, pulled up a chair and asked if I knew any of the players. I mentioned that Coach Crisler was a neighbor, and that I knew Tom Harmon. He began talking about the great times he had playing against Michigan, and how much he respected Tom as a player and valued Tom's friendship.


He moved his chair closer and said in a hushed voice, "I wish I could keep you here working with me, as we have so much to talk about, but there is no way without us both getting into trouble I am sure you know I don't hate Americans; I just hate what we are doing to each other. I can't promise anything, but I will try to get you a work camp assignment that won't be too bad."


We shook hands, and as I left the room he said, "Good luck, and hope we will see each other in Ann Arbor when this is over. Be sure to say hello to Tom for me when you see him."


I had no idea if my work camp assignment was better or worse than it might have been had we not discovered a common friendship. I have to believe that respect and sportsman­ship of two college football opponents over 50 years ago may have allowed me to tell this story in remembrance of a friend, Tom Harmon.


Dick Telfer

Page last revised 12/01/2005