On January 12th 1944, my
father, Richard B. Campbell was ordered to report for induction into
the United States Army. Like so many other young men, he left his
family, wife and his 11 month-old son and reported to Camp Blanding
in Florida. He was 26 years old.
During his stay at Camp Blanding, he earned the grade of marksman,
not so much for his accuracy, but because some of his fellow
soldiers were gracious enough to shoot at his target, in the hope
that they might not be called to serve in the war raging in Europe.
After the completion of Basic Training, he was
assigned to F Company of the 106th division, 422nd regiment U.S. Infantry
known as the Golden Lion.
On October 21st, 1944, he traveled by ship from New York City to Glasgow,
Scotland arriving on October 30th. The 106th stayed in the United Kingdom
until their orders to join the fight came. After crossing the English
Channel on December first, they proceeded from France and on to Belgium on
December 9, 1945 and were stationed in the "quiet zone" on the
Belgium/German border on the Siegfried line in the town of
On the 16th of December at 6:45 am the German forces, under Field Marshal
Karl Von Rundstedt, mounted their attack, shelling relentlessly. After 48
hours of fighting, and trying to halt the Germans spearheaded attack, the
106th suffered some of the worst casualties in the Battle of the Bulge. On
December 18th radio contact was lost. Over 7000 soldiers were reported
missing in action.
On the 19th of December, my father was captured and was forced to march
without food and water for over 24 hours to a
train depot, where he and his fellow Prisoners of War were transferred to
box cars crammed with their fellow soldiers in Gerolstein, Germany
surviving on only the melted snow.
Two days into their train travel, Allied planes, resulting in over 100
deaths, strafed their train. On Christmas Day, he arrived in Bad Orb,
Germany where he was assigned to barracks # 44 in Stalag 9B. PFC Richard
B. Campbell, wearing the uniform of a master sergeant that he had taken
from a dead soldier in Saint Vith, to fight the cold was appointed the Barracken Fuhrer, head of the
barracks, because he was able to speak German.
Back in the States, my mother followed as best as he could the progress of
the war not knowing the fate of her husband. On January 11th, 1945 the
front door bell rang and she was presented a telegram, bearing 2 purple
stars. It wasnt until weeks later that she would learn the significance of
the two stars. The two stars signified that her husband had not been
confirmed as killed in action.
With such uncertainty as to my father's fate, my grandfather tried every
avenue he could to learn of his whereabouts. He had written to Brigadier
General Paul Hawley, at Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, who
had married my grandfather's cousin. In a letter dated January 22nd, 1945,
General Hawley provided the first news of the 106th division. Over a month
later, my mother received her second telegram.
While in prison camp my father was given the opportunity to write letters
home. The Germans reviewed all mail from POWs and the horrible conditions,
in which they lived, weren't known until after the War.
On April 2nd, 1945 at 6:15 am
Kommandant Stammlage surrendered, as U.S. tanks appeared at the entrance
to Stalag 9B. Later that day my father, thirty pounds lighter and still
wearing the master sergeants uniform, along with some of his fellow
soldiers were photographed in the back of an U.S. Army truck. Shortly
thereafter my mother received her third telegram. During his time as a
prisoner of war, my father used any scraps of paper he could find.
He had made a calendar, so that he could keep track of the days, and down
wrote the names of some of his fellow POWs Stanley Tracy, Robert Doyle, Joseph
Waveris, Caswell Williams, Floyd Bailey and Martin Lawlor.
These were his Band of Brothers.
On May 1st my father landed in Southhampton, England awaiting his return
home. On May 14th my mother received her 4th Telegram.
The battle at Saint Vith, despite the high number of deaths and prisoners
taken, has been regarded as an important part of the containment of the
German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Like many veterans my father
never talked about the battles and horrors he witnessed
during World War II.
After returning from the war, my father served out the rest of his time in
the Army and retired as a Sergeant.