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Charles J. Graham 1945

Colorado Springs B24 Monument

Last Name: `
First Name Middle Initial:
Nick Name:
Street:  2305 Aaron St, Apt. 117 City & State: Port Charlotte, FL E-Mail:  cwaabash@aol.com
Zip: 33952 Phone:  239-466-1868 Spouse: BETTY A
Conflict: WW II Service Branch: Army Air Corp Unit: 8AF 702BG 445BS
Theater: Where Captured: KASSEL, GERMANY Date Captured: 09/27/44
Camps Held In: 4B How Long Interned: 217 days
liberated / repatriated: liberated Date Liberated: 05/02/45 Age at Capture: 26
Occupation after War:  MANAGEMENT

Military Bio:

Same socks, same clothes, same body lice, same flat feet, for 88 days and 700 miles of German roads, these were the constant companions of Technical Sgt. Charles J. Graham of rural route 2 who arrived home Wednesday discharged from the Army after eight months as a German prisoner of war.

Sergeant Graham's troubles all started when 33 Allied bombers out of a force of 36 were shot down over Kassel, Germany on September 27, 1944. It was on his 24th mission with planes from the 445th Heavy Bombardment group of the 702nd Squadron of the 8th Air Force from England that he was shot down. He was serving as a radio operator-gunner and the mission had been uneventful until the group was jumped by an overwhelming number of Jerry fighter planes. His B-24bomber was badly damaged and the crew of 10 bailed out. 'It was sort of a queer feeling bailing out in the middle of the night 10,000 feet away from solid ground with everything but the kitchen sink flying around you in the air', he said, 'five of the crew never made it, the rest of us got down all right. ' I lit in an apple tree. A German farmer and his wife got me out of the tree and took me to their home that wasn’t very far away. As they were getting me into the house a crowed of other Germans came running toward us with clubs in their hands yelling like a bunch of Comanche Indians. The farmer talked them out of doing anything and his wife sat me down to a meal of fried applies. 'Before I got through with those fried applies a big Kraut from the village came galloping up on a horse and marched me off to the village where he turned me over to the Volksturn (home guard). One of them grabbed me by the throat and waved an iron bar over my head hollering, ‘Verdampt Americaner schwein-hund.’ I didn’t resist and he didn’t hit me.

'They took me in a wagon to a solitary confinement camp where they kept me for four days and nights. They tried to make me talk but I only told them my name, serial number and rank. They brought out a big book on our bomber squadron that told more about it and me than I knew myself.'

'At the end of the fourth day in solitary, they took me by train to Dulag, a transient camp, where I found the other four fellows who had survived from our crew. After being held here for about a week we were taken to Stalag Luft No. 4 in the Pomeranian mountains. They kept us there until Feb. 6 of this year, when the Russians started their drive west.' It wasn’ t so bad there. The food was pretty scant and 24 of us lived in a room that was built for 16. They fed us on 'green death soup' made from grass, dandelion leaves, dehydrated spinach. We had potatoes, burnt barley coffee and sawdust and wheat bread. If it hadn’t been for the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. we would have starved to death and gone nuts. The Red Cross got food parcels through to us so each of us had from a fourth to half of a package apiece each week. That kept us from starving to death. The Y.M.C.A. somehow got us musical instruments and athletic equipment. I will never forget last Thanksgiving. We had a football game and the fellows who could play musical instruments came out and played college songs during the game. The German guards were flabbergasted. They let us alone however.

It was crowded in our room as there were only 16 bunks. Two of the fellows slept on a table and the other six of us slept on the floor. We got no mail or parcels from home all of the time we were there. On the first of February they came through and took the names of everyone who was sleeping on the floor. The names were put into a hat and drawn out. I was the only one in the room left there. The rest were transferred by train to Barth. It wasn’t so bad after they left. I had two guards. One of them was formerly a doorman at the Palmer House in Chicago and the other was from Toledo, Ohio. They both spoke perfect English and did everything they could for me; however, they said that if they got the order to shoot me they would have to carry out orders. The mental stress was pretty terrific, but there was no work, no abuse, no nothing.

When the Russian drive started they told us that we would have to take to the road - that we would be turned out of the camp and the camp was evacuated on February 6. They ferried us across the Oder River and we started out walking 15 to 20 miles a day. We slept in barns at night. We walked across the only remaining bridge over the Elbe River and into Camp II B at Falinbostel between Hanover and Hamburg. They left us there about a week until the British began coming in, then they evacuated that camp and took us back across the same Elbe River bridge that we had used coming to this camp. The 2nd Rangoon Division of the 2nd British army liberated us on May 2 while still on the road.

'I was in a British chow line when we heard about V-E Day on the 10th of May. I was flown to Brussels, Belgium and was in a hospital there for a month under treatment for malnutrition. I had lost 30 pounds and wasn't in extra good condition. At the end of the 30 day hospitalization we went by train to Lucky Strike camp at Le Havre where we shipped out on the USS Admiral H. T. Mayo. Vic Mature was chief petty officer in charge of the mess and had charge of all of the shows and entertainment on the boat coming back. There weren’t many funny things that happened in marching through Germany but there was one that was a joke on a fellow by the name of Bob Koontz of Rankin, IL and me. When they started there were 10,000 in the camp. They divided us up into groups of 200 and put us under guard. We marched for 55 minutes and rested five out of each hour. Food was doled out in packages. We were so scared that we wouldn't have any thing to eat that we started saving our packages, hardly eating anything. This kept up all during the hike. When the end came and we were in friendly hands Bob and I found that we had a whole package and half of another we had never touched. We had a lot of good laughs at ourselves on that one. I had dysentery for seven days on the hike and when I got to the hospital the doctors wouldn’t believe that I had made the 700 mile march when they looked at my third degree flat feet. They said it was impossible.

From Le Havre we went to Boston and docked there on June 21. I was transferred from there to Fort Sheridan and given a 60-day convalescent leave and reported to Miami Beach on August 26. There they told us that the civilians had taken over all of the hotels and we were flown to San Antonio. I was discharged from Fort Sam Houston on August 1 and arrived home Wednesday night on the Blue Bird.

Sergeant Graham was 13 months overseas in Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany and Belgium. He wears the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with three clusters and the European Theater ribbon with three battle stars.

My Message to Future Generations:

Returning to Decatur, IL in 1945 on the Wabash Blue Bird from Chicago to start a NEW life! This was a far cry from the day in 1945 when I was shot out of the B24 Bomber of the 445th H.B.Gp 702 Sqd., "The Fort Worth MAID" I married Betty Ann Barnes, Oct. 25, 1945. We have 2 sons, Robert-born 1946 and Gary-born 1952. Bob graduated Tri-State University in ANGOLA,INDIANA in Chemical Engineering and with wife Pauline, have 3 sons. retired from Monsanto Co. and Pauline from Real Estate and live in Fort Myers, FL. Gary graduated Virginia Poly Tech Institute have 3 children. Brian(WIFE CHISTINA), Carrie (HUSBAND BRIAN) and Candice(HUSBAND DARELL). Gary works as Assistant Warden at a Correction Center in Victoria, VA and lives in Blackstone, VA. Gay is an elementary teacher.RECENTLY RETIRED. I retired 24years ago from the Wabash and Norfolk/Western Railroad after 39.5 years of service. We enjoy six months in Bracey, VA and remaining time in Fort Myers, FL. Life has been good to us. BORN OCTOBER 3RD,1919 IN MUSKOGEE,OKLAHOMA AM LOOKING FORWARD TO MY 84TH BIRTHDAY. MY WIFE CELEBRATED HER 80TH ON JULY 21ST., MY ONLY SISTER STILL LIVES IN DECATUR,ILLINOIS SARAH FENTON AND CELEBRATED HER 88TH ON JUNE 9TH, TWO BROTHERS IN LAWS BILLY AND WIFE FUMIKO IN BELLEVUE,WASHINGTON AND JOE AND WIFE JOANNE IN DECATUR,ILLINOIS AND FT.MYERS FLORIDA,BILLY,WORLD WAR 2 VETERAN AND JOE KOREAN WAR VETERAN ROUNDS OUT THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY BUT HAVE SEVERAL NIECES AND NEPHEWS AS WELL AS GREAT NIECES AND GREAT NEPHEWS

Charles and Betty Enjoying Life 1999

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