CAPTURED AFTER FRIEDRICHSHAFEN

By Delmar Johnson, Pilot

© - Copyright 2017 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association - All rights reserved.

After being loaded into a truck with Sgt. Milliken, and accompanied by several uniformed Germans, we left the village where we'd been captured and where our plane had crashed after bombing Friedrichshafen. The truck collected several more Luftwaffe men on the way who appeared to be going to town on pass and were singing various German songs. One was "Lili Marlene," which also became very popular with the Allied Forces.

Eventually we reached a town which I believe was Villingen, southwest Germany, taken to the local jail to spend the night and given a threadbare, damp blanket. The cell was dank, had little, if any, heat and we had only a sandwich each. So it was an uncomfortable night.

The next day a guard took Sgt. Milliken and me to the railroad station, where we boarded a train. The cars (train carriages) were like those in England; each passenger compartment had two facing seats with a door opening directly onto the station platform. The compartment could hold about six people on the two seats - in this case, made out of slats like garden or park bench.

We were the only occupants of the compartment and the train wound it its way through the mountainous Black Forest (named the Black Forest because of the darkness of its high fir trees) for quite some time before we reached the university city of Freiburg, about 10 miles east of the French border and about 30 miles north of Switzerland. Freiburg has one of Germany's most splendid medieval cathedrals. Incidentally, this was the area of Germany where craftsmen had invented the cuckoo clock in the early 1700s.

From the railroad station we were taken by Luftwaffe truck to a nearby Luftwaffe base. There we were taken to a large room where there were several American fliers who had been shot down the previous day. One Luftwaffe man held up a "dog tag" (metal identification tag) asking if anyone knew Robert Hunter. He was bombardier on our crew, but being concerned about somehow revealing something to the enemy, Sgt. Milliken and I didn't respond. In retrospect, after further experience as a prisoner of the Germans, I wished I had. I believe we had to complete a brief identification, sheet on which we gave our name, rank and serial numbers. My dog tag was issued at a time when name and address of nextof-kin was included, so I also gave that. We were then briefly interrogated individually and any USAAF-issued equipment, except clothing, was taken away.

After interrogation I was taken to a Luftwaffe ambulance. While I was sitting in the back waiting for the driver, a young Luftwaffe pilot, on crutches with one leg amputated at the knee, stopped to talk. He spoke excellent English and tried to start a conversation. However, after what his compatriots had done to my crew the day before, I was in no mood to respond and he soon gave up. The ambulance took me to a hospital where my left ankle was x-rayed and put in a plaster cast. Afterwards I was taken to Lazarette St. Agnes, a convalescent center for slave laborers from the Nazioccupied countries of Europe.

Thus ended my first full day as a prisoner of war in Germany. For about six weeks I shared a large room with four American sergeants who also had been shot down on 18 March: an English soldier, an Italian, a Frenchman and a Yugoslavian. However, the story of our stay is too long to tell here.

Eventually, we Americans were sent to a Luftwaffe interrogation center, Dulag Luft, near Frankfurt-Am-Main, and then to permanent POW camps. I went to Stalag Luft III, Sagan and Sgt. Milliken went to an Enlisted Men's POW camp, (RAF and USAAF). As the Russian Army approached their camp in February 1945, they were moved west to Stalag XIID, Nurnberg, where my section of Stalag VIIA, Mooseburg, was liberated by Gen. Patton's Third Army on 29 April 1945.