Fred B. Chase
Halle, Germany March 13, 1945
While lying here on my bunk, being quarantined for diphtheria, I shall try to relate my experiences as a POW since the time of my capture, as well as my time spent overseas.
I will start with my arrival in New York from Camp Miles Standish, Mass. I arrived in New York the evening of October 20, 1944. After being served refreshments by the ARC, we immediately boarded the ship, Acquitania. I was hurried to my quarters and settled down for the night. Early the next morning, we weighed anchor and at approximately 0800 hours we passed the Statue of Liberty. It was a very lonesome feeling in our hearts to see the old lady waving goodbye. All of us wondering if and when we would ever see her again. Aside from being seasick that first evening, the trip across proved more or less uneventful. A USO troupe went with us and offered entertainment. The trip took seven days before we finally dropped anchor at Gurock, Scotland, on the 'Birth of Clyde River.' We had sighted land for a day previous.
The next morning, we disembarked and boarded a train for Southern England. In the wee hours of the morning of October 30, we found ourselves comfortably settled in a camp at Fairford, England. We stayed at this camp for a month and on the morning of November 29, I found myself all packed and ready to leave for the port of embarkation where we were to cross the channel. This proved to be Southampton. The next morning, we boarded an LST and started across the channel. We entered the port of Le Havre and sailed up the river Seine to the town of Rouen, France. Here, we disembarked with our vehicles and drove to our bivouac area, which we later nicknamed, 'Mudhill'. The reason being that It rained almost continually during the time we were there and the bivouac area was located in a pasture lot. The mud was ankle deep over the whole area. We were there for three days when we started on again towards the front. The next afternoon, we again bivouaced in a heavy wooded area. The snow had fallen nearly a foot deep. We stayed here for two nights and a day. This time, our final destination was the front lines. Upon our arrival we immediately set up our weapons on the different outposts. Our purpose being to relieve the 2nd Division and hold positions already established.
We then billeted ourselves in dugouts and lived a rather quiet existence for about a week. The long cold nights standing guard on the gun positions proved to be a real hardship. Occasionally, a sniper would take a pot shot at us, and we caught a few prisoners. The casualty list was very small considering our close contact with the enemy.
On the morning of December 16, it seemed as though all hell broke loose. The Germans had started their attack. They threw two Panzer units and three SS Divisions against our lines which were weak due to the distance we had to cover. We held them off for a short while, but the casualties mounted so rapidly that we were ordered to retreat and take up defenses in the rear.
We made our rendezvous in a small wooded area and doubled the guard. We hoped to hold them off, expecting support from our artillery. This support never came because we learned later, the artillery was already knocked out and the few survivors taken prisoner. We still held them off as best we could with small arms fire. Then on the last day, they brought up their 88's and rained shells on us. As I lay on the bottom of my foxhole. I turned my last hopes of existence over to the will of God and prayed as I never prayed before. It was a hot spot that day and night. We were completely helpless. The
Germans apparently realized our plight and called for a truce. Our officers realized that we were done for, so they agreed upon a formal surrender. On the morning of December 20, I found myself marching over to the German lines, having discarded my armament. This was the beginning of my life as a POW.
The dreadful days that lay ahead were not yet realized and I offered my thanks to God that I was saved from the horrible experience I had just been through.
We started marching to the rear of the German lines that first morning and marched far into the night, with a promise of food and a place to sleep that night.
We finally arrived at Pruim, Germany, at about 2300. We slept on the floor of an old bombed-out hotel and the food never did materialize. The next morning, we started out again and marched all day. This time, we were given a quarter of a loaf of bread and a small piece of cheese. This went on for several days, marching and sleeping in cold, damp places. Our resistance was gradually being run down. Our feet were sore and frostbitten so that every step was a torture. On the morning of the 23rd, we boarded box cars for a ride to the camp. We rode about ten kilometers and found the tracks ahead were bombed out. We were locked in the cars and left there all night. There were seventy men in one car. This proved to be quite a discomfort as the cars in Germany are about half the size of an American boxcar.
About noontime, on the 24th, we were strafed by the American Air Force, killing eight men and wounding forty-two men. Christmas morning, we were given a quarter of a loaf of bread and a spoonful of molasses and started marching again. We marched all Christmas Day and until 2200 that evening. Again, this went on for several days. Finally, we boarded a train and after a day and night, we arrived at Mulberg on January 1. This is a transit camp for POWs. For a bunch of tired, sick, and weary men, this was a haven of rest. We were given a hot shower and shots for typhus. We lived in huts with some British NonComs. After two weeks, we were moved again to Belgern. This proved to be a small town. Ae lived there for a month with little work to do.
On the 12th of February, we moved to Halle, Germany, where we lived in a large sports stadium. It was the nearest to living in comfort we had known since we left England. The rations are barely enough to live on. With the occasional arrival of Red Cross parcels, we manage to keep the pangs of hunger from our stomachs.
We started to work on the 15th of February. Our job is cleaning up the damage done by the air force.
On February 27, Halle suffered a severe bombing raid and the stadium was in the path of the heaviest barrage. Our kitchen and part of our quarters were burned by incendiaries, leaving us without a home. Consequently, we moved across town to a British camp and are living here at the present time.
Now, with high hopes of an early ending to this horrible conflict, we are anxiously awaiting the day when we will again join our loved ones and live a quiet, peaceful, and happy life. Many times during the past few months, have our minds turned to that glorious day and our families.
Previously published in CUB 1952-02-03-V8#4
Page last revised 05/06/2007