The sound of being pulled out into the slipstream -you'd almost have to hear it, and a person telling you probably can't describe it either. The best way I can think of to describe what happens when you first jump out of an airplane is this: if you're traveling down the road in an automobile and you throw a piece of paper out of the window, you notice how it flutters and turns and does all kinds of whirlygigs. All of a sudden it just calms down and very gently floats down to ground. Well, the initial reaction to a jump is very much the same. When I rolled off that catwalk and into the slipstream, it just turned me every which-way but loose for a few minutes. Then it sort of comes down to your normal falling speed - around 120 miles per hour. But you have no sensation of falling, because you have no reference point. If you fall off a ladder, you can see the house go by. When you're 5 miles up in the air you're not passing anything (although there were pieces of airplanes falling down all around you).
It isn't noisy - you don't hear anything but the wind whistling next to your ears. I know when I first came back, I told my father I had glided for over 4 miles before I pulled the ripcord. I thought I opened my chute between 2,000 and 3,000 feet - I don't know.
We flew enough to have a pretty good idea about how high we were when we got to a certain place, because of the way things looked on the ground. So I'm telling my dad about straightening out and flying like a bird -- well he says "you oughtn't to tell people those kinds of things" He didn't believe me, so I said "come on dad! It really happened" and he says "yeah, yeah - I know".
I was kind of worried about jumping before I did it – I didn't know if I could do it, but in our case, there I was standing in the bombay with fire all around me. I didn't think twice about it. I said to myself "Gee, mothers going to worry now!" Well, finally I landed - I ran - tried to get away and they caught me - they took me to a little town that was close by there and threw me into a stable. I was in there overnight and the next day a policeman came and took me to a Gestapo headquarters. They kept me there overnight in a cell. The following day I went by train to this camp (Dulag Luft) that (Hatton) talked about. It was at Frankfort. It was the interrogation center and they put me there for several days. I was alone in a cell; they gave me a piece of bread every day and some water - that’s all. Then they took me out, put me in a room with an interrogator and he's got this questionnaire. He asks me my name, rank and serial number and then these other questions. I tell him: "I'm sorry; I can't give you that information". He keeps asking me these other questions and I keep telling him, "My name is Roy L. Kennett -- staff sergeant - Army serial number ----- "
Well, he starts to yell and scream at me." Dis is for de ret chross! Don't you vant you mutt er and fatter to know ver you are? If you anser dees kvestions, you can go out ant play wis zee boys!" You can see out the window, there are guys in the stockade throwing a baseball around. So after a while he says "we already know the answers to all this anyway; we know who your pilot was and your bombardier". He tells me what kind of a plane we flew and where we were stationed and the whole thing.
Then they take me out and who should come walking down the hallway, but Hymie Hatton! And that's when we met for the first time after the crash. We grabbed each other and hugged each other...and they took us both out to the stockade.
I had been in solitary and hadn't seen anybody (since the crash) until I came out of interrogation. Hymie was standing down the end of the hall, waiting. There were 4 or 5 of us waiting. After we went into the stockade, we spoke to Krushas. He was really despondent and didn’t want to talk. It was a rough time for all of us.
They took us on a truck or train (after several days) up to the Baltic Sea. At Memel, we went first class on a regular passenger train, though I can't remember the route. We had a compartment, but they didn't let us look out of the windows. That's how they took us up there. It was a civilized journey, that particular ride and it was the only one! Hydekrug was our camp (Stalag Luft VI) in East Prussia on the border of Lithuania.
Now these first few months, Hymie was in bad shape and he never did get medical attention. Never had any! I understood that when he went up to Stalag Luft I, he would get hospital treatment, but I guess not. The Germans would start to go to sleep - so you'd start to get it out and finally pull it up on top there. They did let us get out on the deck and go to the bathroom, off the rail. I know I crawled up that ladder and out of the hold. When you looked down at all those people its like you were looking at a can of fish worms - It’s hard for anyone else to visualize just how that would be. Anyway, we finally got to Stalag Luft IV.
Now somebody carried Hy Hatton on the march, when they ran us up that road (into Luft IV). I remember the guy was about six feet -four and ball player from our compound at Hydekrug. He was a very great person and picked Hatton up and carried him into that camp at Stettin or Keifheide. (After that) Hy was in bad shape, really hurting because he got a rifle butt to the back.
When your dad and I went up that road, and Kirby came along, we all ended up out in an open field for 2 or three days there; you weren't allowed to stand up. If you stood up they'd open fire and they did that a couple of times. They shot over our heads, but we just had to lay out there. We could move if we stayed on our hands and knees, but we just weren't allowed to stand up - AND BABY, I DIDN'T STAND UP! A few people did and they would open up with those machine guns and fire a few rounds over our heads.
One time they took us over and let us get a shower -- it crossed my mind that maybe this was it, (something was up) but I didn't know any orders had gone out (to kill us) - it never crossed my mind that they could really do that - I knew that if you did something you weren't supposed to do, they would shoot you cause they did that to a few people. But as long as you behaved yourself you were ok - I know of one that got shot and I thought that a whole mess of em were gonna get shot one other time. Your dad might have remembered that - I think he was in the other compound. A German soldier was up working on the power lines and got electrocuted.
A bunch of G.I.'s were standing out there saying "Yay!" - "that's the way to go baby! Kill another one" and yellin' all that kind of stuff. The German officer in charge told the guards to open fire - I thought we had had it.
I remember a boy from camp got a letter from his mother, which said they had a German prisoner who was working on their farm (he came from a farming area). They gave him the guys' room and hoped the German people were being as nice to him as they were being to the German boy! They’d take the kid to the movies on Friday night and take good care of him.
Well, our boy reads the letter, goes over to the wall in the barracks and starts beating his head on the wall! We said, "Wait a minute what are you doing?" He says," Read that goddamn letter - that friggin krout! Yah know? "
Right at the end of the war, they marched us down to Nurnberg -which is where our final camp was. It was right outside of that stadium where they had the Olympic games. They moved some of the prisoners from Luft 3 into our compound. That’s when we saw Dave Purner again.
When we first got to Nurenberg, the Senior American Officer, named Spivey, came into our enlisted men's compound. He said he wanted 25 orderlies to come over to the officers' side to sweep out the officers' rooms. Well - nobody would go and he threatened us. People were yelling things at him from the ranks and he said "He is going to have us court marshaled." "Who said that" and so forth. Well, he finally left and never came back; but can you imagine that. That big blow hard guy believed that officers were God and enlisted men were servants; and we'd better hop to or else he'd make trouble for us. Everybody was yelling obscenities at him from the ranks. He kept on trying to find out who was saying that to him!
Now some of the officers came over to our compound, when they first came in to Nurenberg. After they got things straightened out they put all the officers into a separate camp. I remember one of the guys had diarrhea bad. I had a few extra rolls of toilet paper and I gave him some, because he was in such bad shape. We cut up cigarette packages to make playing cards and toilet paper. If you rubbed them between your palms a whole lot, then straightened them out, you could make them real soft. I had a whole stack which I made (along with some regular toilet tissue from the Red Cross package). I figured the guy needed them more than I did.
Hymie Hatton was with me up at Luft IV, but Smitty was there in Nuremberg. That Smitty was something else; always ready to mix it up. We used to play a lot of bridge to kill time. One day at Nuremberg, I was playing with Verdie and Smitty was partners with some other guy. Smitty's sitting there and he puts up the Ace of Clubs; the King is gone. I've got the Queen in my hand and a couple of little Clubs. I reach into my hand to take out the Deuce of Clubs, and throw it down.
Instead it's the Queen, so I say "Whoa - I didn't mean to play the Queen." Well Smitty comes back with "A card laid is a card played!"
I said, "Oh... I"ve got the Three and the Deuce here, why would I play the Queen? I just grabbed the wrong card out of my hand!" So he says, "A card laid is a card played!" I say "Like hell!" and I pick up the Queen.
About that time the table went flying and Smitty hit me, so I hit him; and we went round and round. We had a hell of a fight! There was a heavy little pot bellied stove with Klim cans tied together to make a pipe, and that whole thing came crashing down. All 26 guys in the room were trying to grab us before we could get at each other!
It's a funny thing, but the Germans gave us stoves without stove pipes. We took Klim cans and cut slices in them on the edges. Then we’d save those metal strips you get when you open the can with a key; they would be clinched all around the outside of the joints. You would stack them up on top of the stove and put it out through the chimney. That way we could use our stoves.
The next day we apologized ... But isn't that terrible. I was closer to him than anyone in the camp - just he and I, out of our crew. That Smitty was always ready to fight and he didn't care who you were or what you were - he was ready! He was a tough little rascal; just like a guard dog that comes at you and growls at anybody.
They decided to move us to Munich, Germany (that was on April 4th) and we moved out of Nurnburg. They were marching' us - as I understand it - there were about 9,000 prisoners walking down this road 3 abreast (3 files). We really weren't walking abreast - it was more or less a route step.
When we left on that April fourth march, Smitty and I talked it over. We said: "Now this will probably be a good time to escape." We don't know how soon the war's going to be over or anything. Smitty says: "Yeah, I think you're right." I said, "If we see a chance, let's go!" So he says, "OK, I'II stay behind you. If we see a chance and you think its ok, then I'II be right behind you!" I said, "Oh- Kay!"
So we're walking down the road and these P-47's come over us and do an Immelmann. They start strafing us from the back and are coming towards us. Well - everybody starts jumping into the ditch - P.O.W.'s are running up and down this road. There's no guards, so I say, "Now's my chance!" I take off through the woods like a scared ape and I get way up on the side of a hill. I turn around and say, "We made it Smitty!"
Well, by God, Smitty's no where around! He's lying down there in the ditch and I'm all by myself. So I get up there on the side of that hill and watch, while they reform the column. The planes are gone and they march away. I just set up there and watched them leave.
I was free for about seven or eight days, trying to work my way back to the front lines. I followed the sun and the stars (I kept them in line - just kept walking and when the sun came up, I knew which way was east. I could just keep it behind me and then I'd tried to hide during the day. At night I'd go out again.
That was a story unto itself, because so many things happened to me during those seven days. I met one of those guys who flew the P-47's over us on that march. He told me, that their orders were to "fly over Germany and shoot anything that moves". They didn't know that we were prisoners of war; they just thought that we were German troops going towards the front. When I was sitting up there on the side of the hill, I could see guys hooking towels together - anything that was white! They went out into the field and made a big "P.O.W." sign.
This pilot ended up being my boss, a few years after I got out of college and we got to be buddies. One day we started to talk about our war experiences, and it turned out that he was a fighter pilot. I was telling him about our being strafed by P-47's and he said "Hey that was me! I remember that ... there was a long string of guys down there and four of us. We just flew over you, then rolled over and started shooting at you guys. Our orders were to shoot anything that moved! "Well," I said to him, "you dirty so and so" -
He replied, "Heck, we didn't know!" Well, we both had a laugh over it.
Smitty told me later, that, he had the best time as a prisoner after that strafing business. The column moved on and farmers were coming out, trading for eggs and bread. The guards got pretty lax.
When I came back on the ship I met some of the guys who had gone down to Munich and they had been liberated too. Well, they said that it was really a mistake for me to have run off like that, because it was the easiest time they had ever had as prisoners. They were trading cigarettes to farmers. They were getting fresh eggs and cooking them down along side the road. They were just having a picnic. The German guards knew the war was over and they didn't care.....
I had a little something to eat. I carried with me the crackers and grape jam in those short cans that come in the Red Cross packages. The guards hadn't punched ours with a bayonet, the way they usually do. I also had a D-Bar and two boxes of Domino sugar. That sugar will keep you going for quite a while.
I stopped one night and dug out some potatoes that were in a farmer's field. They buried them over there, under big mounds, and I could dig down and get some. That night I had an interesting experience. It scared the hell out of me.
I was walking down this road, and I was hungry. I spied one of those mounds and I thought this must be full of potatoes. I went over to it and started digging down, when all of a sudden these dogs started barking. It seemed like there were dogs all over Germany. I though: "Oh my God! They're after me!" So I got up and started running down this road to get away from them. Just then, these sirens started going off. I thought: "They've seen me and they're blowing the sirens! Pretty soon they'll be after me with cars and motorcycles and trucks!" I saw these other big dirt mounds - maybe four or five of them alongside the road. I ran over to them, but they were pretty high, so I laid down right along the edge of one of them.
Soon, a bunch of Germans came running out of this building - maybe fifty yards away. They were coming right towards me! I'm thinking: "Oh .... They got me!" Well, they come up and start to climb those mounds and get down inside (up at the top).
I laid there as they went along this little path right by me. It was pitch black and I could see them against the sky as I looked up, but nobody saw me.
They were all up in the mounds, but I couldn't figure out what they were doing. I laid there for ten or fifteen minutes and listened as they talked to each other. I was afraid I would sneeze or breathe too loudly. Finally the siren went off again - it was the "all clear" signal. The Germans all came down off those mounds and headed for their barracks. I crawled up there when they were gone to look: Do you know what I was in? I was right in the middle of a Flak Battery. They had those great big guns up there and I was lying right in the middle of all that crap. If they would have caught me, they would have killed me for sure. They'd have figured I was trying to sabotage their guns! Boy, I sure cleared out of there fast.
I knew I'd have to find a place to hide, so I went off down that road, apiece. I saw a barn and tried to get into it. But there were dogs all around and they started barking. I took off up the road again.
Now it was getting daylight and people were starting to move about. A German guard from the Volksturm was standing on this bridge. He was a policeman with a long green coat and a hat with the spike on top. A milkman with a tricycle type of milk cart was selling stuff to the people walking by me. They were saying "morgen" and I'd say "morgen" under my breath.
Now I've got this knit hat on, that I'd made out of the sleeves of a Canadian blue sweater and it had "USA" written across the top. I had a U.S. Army overcoat with British shoes, okay. So there I was, sticking out all over and I say "morgen" and keep right on walking. I'm thinking: "The only chance I have, is to get across that river and into the woods over there. But there's a guard on the bridge!"
I kept on walking and I got pretty close to the bridge. I bent over, with my head down and my arms tucked in, and I let spit drip down onto my chin and started to breathe heavy. I went: "Hughh .... ahhh ... hughhh ... ahhh ... hughhh..." You know, I walked right by that guard, right across the bridge and straight into the woods. He never stopped me; he just stood there looking, shaking his head. Man, I was willing to do anything just then!
I was out in the middle of those woods with no place to hide. A big patch of brambles (like a blackberry bush or something) was all there was. So I tunneled into it and unrolled the British blanket I had on my back. The Germans had given us a spoon and a bowl which I used to eat something. It was daylight when I finally pulled the blanket up over my head.
After some time, I awoke and heard people out in the woods, having a picnic. It was a bunch of frolicking boys and girls. I thought, "Oh damn it, couldn't they find someplace else to have their picnic?"
A guy and a girl came walking down towards my bramble bush and saw me in there (my head was only a foot inside the bush). They crawled under, stuck their hands up and pulled back the blanket to see what was under it. I looked up, saw them, and then pulled the blanket back over my head. "Nichts," I said real loud. The girl looked at me and said, "Ohh - Schlafen gutt." They left me alone and never turned me in. When it got night, I headed on my way; but I got out of that mess.
I went through a little village while they were evacuating it" I knew I was getting close to the frontlines. There was a wagon and people climbing on it. Meanwhile, I was doing my act, limping and so forth. This feldwebel (that's sergeant in German) says to me "Blah blah blah - blah." I said back to him, "jawohl" and kept on walking. He comes over to me, grabs me by the shoulder and spins me around. He points to the wagon and tells me again in German, "Boo lagga da blaggada blah blah!" You know ... so I say to him "Yawohl" and just keep on walking: He shrugs his shoulders and says "Humphh" as if to say "Get on the wagon - we'll give you a ride away from here." And I'm walking forwards to the front lines. I guess he was saying "To hell with you - go on ahead!" He let me go - boy that was something!
Later that night, the Germans were marching troops up to the front lines. They were really old guys and I watched from the woods as they sat around smoking their pipes. Big fat guys, they were, with big old mustaches.
Now I thought, "What better way, then to just follow them!" So I'm following along and I think: "This is crazy, me fighting through the woods - when I could be out there on the road walking right along with them." These old guys were talking with each other as they marched and pretty soon someone said "Take five (or whatever they say in German) ". Well, they all sat down and lit their pipes up, so I sat down right close to them. When their sergeant hollered for them to get up again, I just fell in and marched right along with them all night! With U.S.A. on the front of my cap! It was dark and they weren't allowed to have any lights.
When it started to get daylight, I skidded off into the woods and found a place to hide. I knew I was real close now, because I could hear the small arms fire.
Eventually I got into this little town with a river and I knew the front lines were right across there. I figured to get across and find some place to hide, because I thought the Germans would be defending the river. I thought: "If I can get across one more river, get in about half a mile and get low... I can wait for our troops to go by, stand up and surrender. I will have successfully escaped."
I go into the town, but I don't want to go into the river. It had rained on the 5th or 6th of April and I had just gotten dry. Walking all night in the rain gets you soaking wet and I’d had enough of that - no, I wasn't going to swim across that river.
I found a doorway overlooking this little bridge and just watched and waited. First two people crossed over, and then someone went by on a bicycle. A couple of ladies were going out towards the woods to gather firewood and they came back with bundles under their arms. Those woods over there were always so darn clean because of this. Time passed on and I thought, "Well, there's nobody around."
It was quiet. I imagine the time was around 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, so I walked away from the doorway and out towards the bridge. Boldly, I walked across ... there was nobody about and I tried to act like I was a regular citizen just going about my business.
Well ... I got half way over that bridge when EVERY GERMAN IN THE WORLD jumped out and said, "HALT - HALT" man, they had guns and everything. They wanted my "pistole" -of course, I didn't have anything.
My hands up, they marched me across and took me to a little room somewhere. I figure there was a home guard watching that bridge for anything suspicious. They saw me in the doorway and just waited for me to make my move. Then they grabbed me. I never will understand why all of a sudden they paid so much attention to me. I didn't hear or see anyone and I don't even know where they came from!
After I was recaptured, they put me in jail overnight in Nurnberg. It was the same jail where they would hold prisoners for the Nurnberg trials...they put me in a cell there with a couple of Aussies...I think there were 3 and the Aussies wanted some water. The Germans wouldn't give us any - well they had tin cups and they went up to the bars and yelling "Vasser-Vasser" and the guards came running down there and told em to be quiet .Pointed their guns at 'em and everything - well - they just kept it up !! I thought any minute they were going to fire right into the cells and just do away with all of us. They didn’t fire, but those Aussies were crazy...they'd do anything.
Anyway, they caught me and took me and right back to the camp that they had first moved us out of. A couple of weeks later, Patton's 7th Army came in there and liberated us.
At our camp (when we were liberated) there was some Aussie prisoners there...and a couple of them guys took some German rifles and went right up to the front. They were up there and I guess it was about a day later that a couple of tanks rolled into that camp - We were just sitting around waiting to see what was going to happen next .They brought these Aussies back in camp and this tank driver told me that these crazy bastards were up there fighting. They were holed up in a shed and they were defending against some German tanks. About that time, 4 or 5 American tanks rolled in and captured the Germans.
"Those crazy bastards. If we hadn't got there, they'd have been dead in about four or five minutes!" Wait!... Now the Aussies said they were really pissed because they had those tanks cornered - they had 'em zeroed in man! The Americans came up there and took all the credit! I guess its all in your point of view!
Now you take your Russians . We had a couple of sheep that were around our camp (not in it). When we got liberated the Russians chased those sheep into a shed and they come out eating big hunks of meat - raw - they just killed 'em and ate' em raw - I couldn't believe those guys.
We had to stay there (after liberation) for a couple of days - and then there were trucks going through all the time carrying German prisoners I bummed a ride with one of those guys and it took me back to the rear lines. We just had to find our way back by ourselves. Those front line troops who came in there and liberated us - they took the Germans ,made them prisoners, sent them back, and then they went on up to the lines. They didn't have time to fool with us! We got back, one way or another, to the rear eschalon. There they organized us, took our names, did all that kind of stuff. But you had to get back pretty much on your own, because those guys that were fighting' had other things to do. They couldn't be fooling around with us.
When I got to Nancy or Epian, France I got in with this group of guys who came from my area of Ohio. They had a bunch of German prisoners there - they had a compound for the prisoners and they asked me if I'd like to see the German prisoners quarters. Well, I said "yeah". They had Simmons mattresses on their beds; they had sheets and pillows with pillowcases. I couldn't believe it!!! We'd been sleeping five slats and straw tick, in- flea infested buildings. I couldn't believe that the Americans were treating them so good. I bet they didn't even have it so good in their own army! The Americans really took the Geneva Convention seriously.
When I got to Camp Attleboro, Indiana (which is where they sent me from camp Kilmer) they gave us all new clothes and like that! I go in the mess hall, and there's German prisoners behind the mess line - they were working back in the kitchen. Americans were passing out the food. I go along there and two Germans were sitting back at a table in back of the kitchen area.
This German gets up and comes over to the food line with his tray. He just starts dipping in there, throwing food up on his tray - and this guy who was working in the mess line says nothing. I tell him I want some more potatoes or something so he says, " Eat what you have - come back if you want some more".
All of us were prisoners who'd just gotten back and that didn’t sit well with us. - Well...I was the first one over the steam table after that guy and then the rest of the guys stormed over -- all, this clatter and noise brings the mess officer running out, wanting to know what was going on .The guys told him, you know, so he says "ok-ok. Everything is alright now - just get back over on the other side of the line. You give these guys whatever they want!"
Right. So we didn't have any more trouble , but can you imagine - here a German guy walks up there, just dips in and gets whatever he wants and the guy tells me: "Eat what you got on your tray and if you want anymore, comeback!" You know the old line in the Army! We heard it a lot, before we went overseas! But not now, with all those Germans back there eating all they want! Boy what a thing.