Edmund Eugene Reilly Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Edmund Eugene Reilly Memoir R273. Reilly, Eugene Edmund (1910-2000) Interview and memoir 1 tape, 90 mins., 9 pp. PRISONER OF WAR EXPERIENCES IN WORLD WAR II Reilly, a medic during the WWII, discusses his capture and experiences as a POW of the Germans at Stalag XIIA and Stalag XIB; transportation by foot and train; medical care; burial details; and liberation. Also included are photocopies of letters, maps, and an article by Robert M. Bowen, "Hell Train." Interview by Glen Kniss, 1985 OPEN See collateral file Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1985, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface This manuscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by Glenn Kniss for the Oral History Office on November 25, 1985. Joyce Fisher transcribed the tape and iliester Rhodes edited the transcript. &lgene Edmund Reilly revi~ the transcript. Eugene Edmund Reilly was born November 2, 1910 in Springfield, Illinois. fust of his business life was spent operating an insurance office, first with his father, then by himself. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Helen, in Springfield, Illinois. Gene joined the U.S. Army in 1944 and saw service with the 45th Infantry Division as a 'llEI:iic. He was capture:l by the German Army in Jarruary, 1945, wle he was attending to a w:run:led American soldier. He was the only medic in the P.O.W. camps W.ere he was interred, ani therefore, his His story reveals a SOIIle\\hat different services ~re very much needed . experience fran the conventional P.O.W.'s because of his first-hand look at 'V.OUilded and sick Al:oorican P.0.W. 's and how they ~re, or ~re not, cared for. In this interview, Gene C<:mriEilts on the lack of record keeping, and tells of the treatment and envirornnent that he and other P.O.W.'s errlured in the prison camps. He also tells of his subsequent liberation by the English Army in April of 1945. Mr. Reilly was discharged from the U.S. Army on NovEmber 24, 1945 and is a member of the Springfield Area Cllapter, American Ex Prisoners of War • Glerm Kniss is a graduate of M,)rmouth College and has lived in Springfield, Illinois since 1940. He has received several awards from civic and human rights groups. A past Ccram:u"rler of the Springfield Area iliapter, .American E'.x Prisoners of War, he presently serves as its Historian. Activities in the field of history have been: guide, Old Illinois State Capitol; Lincoln Depot; member of the Illinois State Historical Society; interpretor and demonstrator at Clayville Folk Arts Guild and also New Salem State Park. Readers of the oral history manoir should bear in mirrl that it is a transcript of the spoken ¥Drd, ani that the intervi~r, narrator arrl editor sought to preserve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangam:>n State University is not responsible for the factual accuracy of the naooir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. It may not beThe manuscript may be read, quote:l and cited freely. reproduced in Whole or in part by any neans, electronic or IIEC.hanical, without permission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sanganon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708. UUL-------------------------~------- Eugene Edmund Reilly, November 25, 1985, Springfield, Illinois. Glenn Kniss, Interviewer. Q: Gene, let's start by your telling us something about how you happened to get into the war, and sorrethi.ng about your ear1 y war experiences. A: I was the last of my parents five children to enter service. I was 33 years old, married with one daughter, Maxine, age 10. On March 13, 1944, I was inducted into the Army at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Fran there I -was taken by train to Rockford, Illinois to Camp Grant. I was assigned to the 31st M:!dical Training Battalion, Where ~ spent n:ost of our training in classrooms. After six n:onths basic, they said we were on a rot ship:nent to England. After six ~eks in England, I crossed the English Channel to Frat"'Ce. I was assigned to the 45th Division, !57th Infantry, E Company. Q: \-here did you join your outfit? A: Nance, France. The date I don't know, I was too scared. llir lieutenant was new on the job. He forgot to assign rre to a fox hole. I sat under a tree in 5 degree weather the first night. I was afraid to m:JVe because I didn't know the passw::>rd. I was with the 157th Infantry for 100 days. I do believe that in length of service I was the oldest man in E Company. 'lhe turnover was terrific . Q: W:lat were some of your major engaga:nents? A: On December 12, 1944, the 45th Division entered Germany, just outside of the city of furrlerthal . \..e stayed tw:> days and were driven back under heavy fire. Our real engagE!IIEilts started on Jarruary 1, 1945. ~ encountered fresh 88 troops. The enany was later identified as the crack 11th Regiment of the 6th SS M::runtain Division from Finland, a strong unit, carefully trained fighters me \<llere experts at this type of struggle, aver m:n.mtainous snow covered terrain, in weather below freezing. F..Ven their clothing was the best (fur lined boots and parkas) . \..e were close to M:ruterhous, Frat"'Ce and the Maginot Line. Th.e Germans had started the "Battle of the Bulge." 'lhey attacked e1ery day with artillery, rockets and n:ortar fire. Casualties on both sides were heavy. I was hit by IIDrtar shrapnel and knocked dO'Wl'l several times by concussion of exploding shells. On January 10, 1945, we receive:l orders to m:JVe back. N>t knowing we were surroun:led, we broke camp. The lieutenant of E Canpany and I were walking ahead just talking. It was getting dark When we saw tw:> rren in front of us. The lieutenant called out, ''What outfit are you with?" 'lhe soldier let out one w::>rd in German. The lieutenant ran to the right, I ran to the left, d<Ml a hill. I tried to Eugene Edilllild Reilly 2 circle back, after some time I heard saneone talking. I did not know if they ¥.Ere German or Amarican. I just took a chance and calle:i out 11E Company coming in.11 I was lucky that it was G Company. Q: DJ you recall the details of your capture? A: Ch January 16, 1945, Ccmpanies E, F, and G of the 157th Infantry surrerrlere:i. ~ receive:i our orders from Colonel 0'Brien. This was a very sad time for all of us. We bunche:i together and said little. I think 'VIE ¥.Ere all saying to ourselves, '"'hings can't be nB..lCh w:>rse." ve -were cold , tire:i and lrungry. I often think of the men -we ¥.Ere leaving on that rrountam. I was the only nedic and the last to start dov.n. I was looking for a lieutenant from G Company who had a face vrnm:l and. could not see. The lieutenant and I starte:i dov.n the nountain, as the terrain was very rough, I was having trouble. A German soldier who didn't look over 18 years old, cane to my assistance. At tines 'VIE had to use both hands to help the lieutenant. Th.en the German v.ould hand ~Ie his gun. It A: They made no attempt to search ~Ie, or take any of my equipnent. That cane in handy later on (sooeplace I read that a gocxi soldier always carries an extra pair of socks and plenty of toilet pa:per) I had both with my m=dical equiplEilt. Canpany's aid man equiplEilt was a vest that fit over our shoulders with two large pockets. took t\1U hours to get doWl. lieutenant in the ambulance. gave him my watch. The last hour The German s was oldi in the dark. shooker and I ve ha put the nds and I Q: Did they search you? Q: At the bottom of the nountain what happene:i? A: I was given some coffee. 'Ihe bread was gone by the time I arrive:i. Wa spent the night in an old house. The next day 'VIE starte:i on the march. Q: How long did you march? A: ve marche:i for three days. At night after the Germans rerrove:i the horses, 'VIE VDUld enter the barn in the dark. ve v.ould crawl arourrl to find a dry place to sleep. In the noming 'VIE ¥.Ere given coffee and a slice of bread . We could see that Germany was losing the war. They ¥.Ere using horses to IIDVe supplies. On the second day, one of our group calle:i to one of the German guards, "I know Wla.t Hitler's secret v.eapon is, the Tow iliain.11 We all laughed. Germany was out of gasoline. No planes ¥.Ere in the air and f!.lery truck was towing another truck. Q: You walked to your first camp? A: ~ walke:i to our first camp at Lindberg, Germany (Stalag XIIA) Q: How did you like this camp? • D dicott 2•1109 222 . West '77th. Street N• York 24, I. I. ,. ..... tud.lJ' ., ...... ltll., llln1l 11, lNI .lprilllfteU• I11tM1• . • The fol~mring announcement was made at ltU .t..J, Eastern lfar Time ·by' tbe German Government Short lave Station in Berlin• ....... ..... Ril.,, UeSa'A.tW.. nptw.. I"IOIIlG; •wriJic tlle. ftchtinc oa tile W•tera J'reat u4 !1 •• ia a ,..laoa Out t• O••BJ• eat• ••• ••11.• No other message at thfs time . I sincerel1 hope the above information will be a source of· help and eacouragement to you. Ver.y tr~ yours, ~~· ~~LOWE THE AmVE IIFORJUTIOM DANATJS FROM INM SOURCES ABD IHit.! NOT CONSIDERED OFriCIAL, IS AU'l'HMTIC. ••·•.&.•llaoe · · s-te'lda, •••ua1pp1 _ P. S. Postage contributed by: , who received a message froa ll• ••, I.JJ..11MI , who is a prisoner in Cltta1lf . This is a 2AtJf1 aessage forwarded 'tv me from T~io and Berlin.lease refer to this number when acknowledging mes~ge. INDEP!MDDT SHORT WAVE MONITOR , I I I I FGI Ealmt.. C fiR IIIYY iiDIEICIIIIT IUIIIEJ FOI IIIIIEII~~-----~ Fill llfFliiUI a m omwr IITDIIEEL ___o IIISPITIU,_____~ THE~AIII:THEMUIIIIICIOI'"IIE ADIEY1A'I'IONS VIED OfiTIIII MAP:: STAUC:---. c..,. f,........ tor ........ -l [··,' WI"·IA~~-.. ....., MAltU.C:---DM~~p i1oM ..aar. • B ASED OD infonnatioa receiYed '""" Germany throuqh MILAC:-_.ICifT n~~~_p 5tALAC ltJFT:--. :lor -... ...., Inlemationallled c.ou. lhil map mow. the camps b. ~ DUI.AG LUT1':~...wt c:-cn.p lor •inMn cmd bo.pitalo wheN American prisou.rs of war have ~T· ' Ort.AG:~ lor ,.,.,_. .....__ ...... beld by the Nazis. Naturally, the c:orrectneas of all the BCS. LoU.:_,...,... itollpikll ILAG:.....a..._ ._...._.. eg.. IWII'IU 8F tOCIITIIIEJ__. -the location is definitely known. The reader wiD notice =:=~c.!:="::'::! I ~ K ~ . -'ll'iiniOiMOf 1lii i:iiriiPo are' in lii'iiiCi'ftliiil is no longer in -I I !lit ; •u ~'"' ,... Nazi banda. l'rilon.n kmnerly held at those campo were, , acconfinv to nportL moved to otbers before the German 5UIJ'r-7rrn •NO _ ...'@!j~ azmiee !.U bock. with 1M exception of the aiclr ond wounded ..u~ ' ' "" ·! • • ---• -~· ;';.C:.:::=:,.~~..··~~·~~J :___~ rr4~+'-l ·~~ . r 5 Eugene Edmurrl Reilly 3 A: Not goai , our quarters vvere in an old building, no heat, vve had to sleep on the cold brick floor. Wa receivai no issue of blankets. W! were fed on:e a day, one cup of soup and a slice of bread . Q: Vhat was the first thing you did at Stalag XIIA? A: 'Ihe only utensil fum.ished us v.as a spoon, so the first thing was a trip to the garbage dump. ve had to find sCJJiething to eat off of. I foun::l a 29 ounce size can. To clean the can I usai sand and an old rag. Water was very scarce. I carriai this can on my belt until I was liberatai. Q: How long were you at Stalag XIIA? A: From January 20, 1945 to February 1945. ve knew our troops vvere caning closer by the sound of the artillery. Ch several occasions ~ vvere marched to the railroad tracks, about one mile from Stalag XIIA, each time our air force v.uuld show up and bomb the tracks. The first of February vve ~re put in bo::xcars , 52 nen per car. Previously horses had been transported on this train. D.lr latrine consistai of one ten gallon lard can. Robert Brovn in his article callei, ''Hell Train." Q: How long were you in the bo::xcar? A: Wa vvere in the bo::xcar nine days and nights. The nights vvere the wrost because all 52 men could not lie down at the same time. You never knew When SOIIEOne had to go to the latrine and 'WJUld step on your face. At times tempers v.uuld flair up l:ut we did manage not to have any fights. Each nnrning the German guards 'WJUld open the door and let tw::> nen out for latrine details. Wa -were fed once a day, one loaf of German bread per six men and a piece of cheese per man. For water, Whe train stoppai we ~ld beg the little children for some, gee they looked lrungry. Q: How did you divide the bread? A: As I was the only medic in our car I was selected. Che man had a pocket knife. 'lbe hardest part was to give each man his share. If you have never seen German bread , the color is dark br<Ml, it's as hard as a brick and could be tw::> to three mnths old. Q: Vby were you so long on this train? A: Frcm Lindberg, Germany to Falling Boatel I 'WJU!d say the distance 'WJUld be 160 miles. We vvere delayed three times. 'Ihis was due to our very active and accurate air force. Wlen the banbers came CNer the German guards w::>uld go to their shelters along the tracks. Q: Did many I1El get sick in that nine days? A: Yes, every man had dissentary. Ch the seventh night tw:> man passed away. For the past tw::> days they had just sat and stared into space. We asked the German guard if they could be ranoved. 'Iheir answer was "No." They said they had to account for 52 men. Eugene &im.md Reilly 4 Q: Vllere was your next camp? A: After nine days v.e arrived at Falling Boatel, Germany. From there ~ marched about tw:> miles to Stalag XIB. Q: Vllat ld.nd of camp was Stalag XIB? A: Stalag XIB was a large camp. There \<!Jere English, An:erican, French, Russian and Polish soldiers, each in their ow:1 cCIIlpOUI'rl. In our barracks there \\ere 200 men. OJr b.mks ~re made of tWJ by fours. We slept on tWJ boards (1 x 6). We ~re issued one blanket. lllr focxi was about the same (soup, potatoes, bread and Red Cross packages once a mnth) We had to share with four men. Q: Did you trade with the Germm guards? A: Yes , as a me:lic I could leave our cCIDpOUI'rl. and enter their canpounds . I traded Arrerican cigarettes (20 for bread) fran the Russians (tw:> for a rudabaga) . Ulr cigarettes came fran the Red Cross package. I also traded with o~ soldiers. Q: Did you have a doctor at Stalag XIB? A: OJr camp doctor was an English major. He was a prisoner for four years. I would take sick call each IIDming. At one time I had four men with erysipelas. Their faces and eyes were one big scab. Saretimes the doctor WJUld prescribe rore focx:i or aspirin. For bandages we ~re using paper. In the course of time we were at Stalag XIB, we transported six men to the camp hospital. This was done by four nen carrying the litter fran our cCIIlpOUI'rl to the hospital, which was one mile. Saretimes I had trouble getting three men to help. Q: Did you have your OWl burial details? A: The English performed burial detail. 1be casket was a w:>cxien box. 'Ibis was placed on a tv.n \\heel wagon that tv.n nen pulled. 'lhe English soldiers, dressed in their best, w:mld march in slow step. As they went by, we v.nuld stand at attention and salute. The cenetery was outside of the camp. Russians mo received no Red Cross packages, were on a w:>rk detail and paid in foal. One day, our doctor asked ne to deliver soae medicine to the Russian canpouni. I entered the wrong barracks, this was a sight to behold. I v.nuld say there were one hun:lred men lying on the floor in rows. 'Ihey did not have strength to IIDVe, only their eyes. These men were on their death bed. I talked to the doctor about theae men. He said , There is nothing we can do. 'Ihey are Russians and in Russia soldiers are not vaccinated." Q: Did you receive any news? A: I do recall that it was on a Surrlay and a Gennan general came to our compound and said he had an announcemant to make. He told us President Roosevelt had died and that next Sunday we had permission to atterrl church services. 5 Eugene Edmund Reilly Q: Vbere was the church7 A: The church was an old building inside of the camp Yhere German gpards attended. On Sunday tv.enty of us 'W:>Uld march to the church. Th.e German guards me attended bad no guns. 1he se1Vices ~re held by a French and American priest. Q: Did you have your own staff that did the administration of food and just looked after the IIEn7 A: ve bad two sergeants Whose living quarters ~re separated from the rest of us. Q: Did you rNer feel that there ~re any irregularities in the rationing of the food? A: 'lhere was sane grumbling, maybe the sergeants v.ould get tw:> potatoes, and the rest of us 'WJUld receive only one. I think they did a good job. Q: Vl"la.t did you do in regards to keeping clean? A: water was a1 ways our main problan. 'Ihere was one faucet and it w:ruld take forrNer to get one glass of water. ve did make a deal with the German guard for a razor, soap and scissors. We took up a collection of 40 cigarettes. OJr barber \IBS Italian fran New York. He charged oo cigarettes for a shave and hair cut. He made a fortune for he could sell the cigarettes for ten dollars each. (this 'WJUld be in marks and franks) Q: Did you give the IIEn any instructions on reDDVal of the lice? Or was there anything they could do? A: The lice was fiNery man's problan. My instructions was to take their pants doWl. and look along the seams and kill as many as you can. Then do the same thing with your undershirt. Lice are small , but how they can bite. Q: Did the Germans let you have a bath? A: Yes, I think it was the lOth of April 1945. Th.e Germans told us to line up ~ were going to take a shoY.'er and have our clothes "deloused . " 'Ihe last time I had a bath \IBS December 1944. Q: Did you hear any runors about being liberated? A: Yes, soo:e news c~ fran the German guards but mst cane fran the English. Ch April 18, 1945, a German officer informed us ~ Yl)Uld be IOO\Ted out in the DX>rning. HoY.JeVer, the next rooming there was no guard at the gate. I went to the Fnglish barracks and they told rre the Gennans ~re leaving the camp and ~ w:ruld be on our OWl. Q: With the Germans leaving you ~re on your own? A: Th.e next day, April 25, \<le ~re liberated by General M:>ntgomery, of the British Army. 1he tanks IOO\Ted in first, then the infantry. Gei1fral M:>ntgonery gave a ten mi.rrute talk and took off. · 'G" • ., )... .:;; Jl<,.• .., "( ,., ·•v, :"I .:£.il.._. H .. ~ ... _,. 1f i( ....• --·. ----1'1.---........... _.,... - --·---......~.. . .. ~.,;._,;.,;..( J.'h tr .,:.... 6·t··~iv:". c·~)'j I.J!'·,;~: '1-= . recd.tl"'ci · •·n~~.l· ·~·ol1..E--~:0e>d ::.t .. t h ~ J i . f'l ~ ... ......... ; ..... . . u :-... l·.: eu., o·1 vJ.U•P •.• ~-,..,....:., ,:., !..2 .."r t"K ::.•---------- ..____________........_ ___......_. ------.~------- _....._.._,........,~ STALAG llB . · · . .... POtf it • ,_; •. *•.r :.:..~· -:t,.. • ........ ----..-.....~~-........._.,_.__,.. -· .,.. ... ---~-.......... -.. -..:.;~ ssuad at HQ, RAMP. R.O •. OBS .. .. <-n .. ·:~:/ ..-~.; :':}:,;~;i~~~ . ·-......... -........ ~....__.~ 26 APRIL ,.-·. . ~' .. -_ ~ Returned, to U.S.· Je>ntrol __1__6_:~ 1945__~:::.:_·----·-·~ ··-~··-··-·~ ~. ·_ ..~' J -----------·--.....---..,______________._____________ . ' . I -------. -.. --. -~ • • • ....:...___ &. • • • --• ~. ~---•• ~~-::..-;.;;.-::.;:::--...:::=-_--~~ ·---,-=--.-,..~Itt:;~---~-~--...:....--. -. ---·~'-.:...."'!...._..___ . --------·-·j b-!.¥_----~---21:!.----''"~~.!'."L£!.·1'-ri!_ .I.L.} I)._,)'" :: . : • . -........... _.. __.___.__ ~-....._ -~---------------.~ -~.....--4 i..:. ·• ·•1· )• :r i.' i . ~ 'it~= • · j J---·.•1•-·-·· n.·..---------· ... ,._ -· u:e-": ··;: .",!! 'J'r); :::-l ~ 1t r:: _r_...._. ___..,_,._.,_ -··---·-' ........ __ -...-----.......-~...........• ~-.--·-·-· ..... _ .._,., ---111111!1' --_......_._. ........._____.,._ --....._,-.__. ----------...----..-~-----_,.,.._._.. •.· 'v .;iY.,.J • ...t~ c · . a ~"-·• --------··----------------------1 . ?!:Y.:;:~c ;~. G~.F~....?T..:: ---..---------·-------.--......____ ~-----_._,_~ ---·----;q----:--z·.--· 'ii~hX'I.r":C.·N: , - .__.. ------------- ---.. _.. .__,.~-- ·--------------...-""""""-'".__...._____________....__... ________________ ---·------·--.... -------_._._________________,______ -----~·----·------· ··---- Eugene &hmmd Reilly 6 Q: Did the general give you any fooo? A: No food, just cigarettes. Q: What did you do for fo<Xi? A: The camp was in disorder, scavengers v.1ere running all a.~er the place looking for fooo and souvenirs. I stayed in our barracks with three nen on sick call. My friend "Chief'' \\he was a full blooded Indian from New ~o, said he w::ruld fini us sOIIE fo<Xi; The only thing he found was rice. In cooking the rice I don't think he p.1t enough water in the can. 'lhat night I thought my stomach vvuld b.lrst. 'Ihe next day the English prisoners t:OOV"ed oot in trucks. The third day \le "Were p.1t in trucks and transported to Hanover, Germany. Fran there \le flew to Brussels, Belgium. There we were ''deliced" and given all new English unifonns. (I still have my British jacket) ve ~e in Brussels ~days, then by train to LaHarve, France. ve are now with the Americans, the nane of the camp was lucky Strike. Q: Could ~ go back to your prisoner of war days again? A: Being a prisoner of war was a horrible experience. The first oonth was the hardest, you spent too IWCh time thinking about fooo . To ex:i.st I llEiltally detached myself frcm my surroundings and I made up my min:i oo live, regardless. Q: W:len did you sail for home? A: Ch VE Day, May 8, 1945, \le sailed for home. We arrived in New York on May 21, 1945, was served a fine steak and a clean bed. The next m::>rning the ones going to Fort Sheridan ¥.Jere put on a rus to the tra:in station. I think thirty of the forty IIEil ¥.Jere from <lrl.cago, Illinois. At Fort Sheridan they did a t~Underful job of processing us in four ho.Jrs. 'lhis included issuing back pay, clothes and train tickets to Miami, Florida and a forty-five day pass. later I was sent to Percy Jones Hospital, Fort Custer, Michigan, fran here I was discharged (prisoner of war personnel) on Nov"anber 24, 1945. I received the following decorations: American Theatre Ribbon, EUropean African Middle Eastern Theatre Riblx:m with twJ Bronze Campaign Stars, Gooo Corrluct ~dal, Purple Heart with Oak leaf Cluster and the Victory Ribbon. A new Anerican PG1 ~al will be awarded sanetime in 1987. Just a little trivia. Being in canbat and a prisoner of war, I know the body can starrl mre than the min:i thinks it can. End of Tape One Jv ~ t ~· \ ,1'-' v ~..) ' )~ ,, I t /(/ 4¥; POW MedalTotteGiven ... To 140,000 .,...,_.............. ................ _.. ,.. ...........cllcoAillaft-..... Iiiii ill Wcwtd WU' I. WGI'td W.v 0. ... a-u. War Ud 1M v..._ w.,., I& ....11_el__dled•~. ,...............III8Cifte ......... .,n.n..,.........DoO .. cUll...............ra&ed .......... ................'hll...... llauwl daeorattou for walor &ad tor .......... "'-....... .....,•• til~_.. ......,...,.,........ fii1ICIIII ..........,.._.,...... fDrUa .... flccure. DoD oftWma aaul it will .....,~.00....,. &Mit abe .._.IIIW'I. It EDli'OR'S NOTE: 'This account of POW experience was submitted by Robert M. Bowen of Linthicum Hgt., MD. Our thanks to him for sharing with EX-POW BULLETIN readers. by Robert M. Bowen ..HELL TRAIN" left Stalag XD-A, Limburg, Germany, on March 6, 1944, carrying hundreds ofAmerican NCO POWs. Seven days later the train reached Bremervode, about two hundred and fifty miles to the northeast, as the crow ftiei. Much of its human cargo was more dead than alive. The box cars holding the POWs were terribly overcrowded and with the most primitive toilet facilities. The men lived on a half Red Cross parcel each, a small bit of meat and sahed fish. several chunks of black bread and a few cans ofwater. Many men were weak from months on a starvation diet; others were sick from di!!'fhe& or related complaints. When the train finally reached its destination, some had died, others were dying, and many had severe physical problems. As a rifle platoon leader in Company C, 401 G lit, 101st Airborne Division, I had seen action in Normandy, HoUand and now Belgium. I was wounded and captured near Bastogne when the aid station I was in was overrun by the Germans. The roadblock I was manning, supported by a tank and TD was hit at daybreak by a company of infantry supported by seven tanks and heaVY weapons. It was cold, the coldest winter in forty years, with the around covered by over a foot of snow. A bone-chUting wind whipped over the rolling · hiUs, freezing feet and fingers and tilling wounded before they reached hospitals. By late iD the day the roadblock was a shambles with the armor knocked out and many of the defenders casualties. With nightfall the enemy made a final attack. Some of the defenders slipped away under a full moon, easy targets if seen. The wounded were abandoned. I had been in a German military hospital in Eustichen for three weeks, several more at Hoffenstahl Lazarette and for a month in Limburg, a transient stalag. It had an infamous name. Accidentally bombed on December 26, with mey dead and wounded POWs, its three barracks holding American and British POWs were horribly overcrowded. The prisoners slept 38 --------·----r· on concrete floor!. covered by Jice·infested straw. There was no heat, h•Jt water. soap, towels, shaving articles or toilet tissue. A portable shower wa~ some distanc(' away, but 1 had one bath in a month. Each prisoner had a blanket. A prisoner's sole possessions were what he had with him when captured and •ot taken by the enemy. He was dirty. his Clothing mted with lice, as were the blankets and straw he slept on. His diet consisted of a sixth loafof black bread a day, a bowl of thin soup, and a cup of ersatz coffee. Several times he was given several cigarets, which were quickly swapped with the guards for bread, and i/ several times a small portion of cheese, chocolate or jam. Those who had been POWs for any length of time had lost much .bodY weight from the diet and frequent attack'S of dysentery. The sick were sent to a lazarette if very ill. It was only slightly better than the barracks, as there were few medicines to treat illness. It was a relief for me to know that I was going to be moved to a permanent stalag where things couldn't possibly be worse. We answered Appell in the snow in front of the barracks. It was bitter cold and we shi-vered in the wind. Many of us had neither overcoat nor winter boots. We were counted several times, then marched to a large building where we were to spend the rest of the day and night. It was not nearly large enough for the h~ndreds of men in the transport, but the Germans drove us inside with kicks and curses. We were like sardines in a can. No food or water was passed out. The next morning we were ordered out; given a piece of bread and a cup of ti~t. '•'· powdered milk. It was good, but gave many of '· us diarrhea later. We formed into groups of a hundred and marched to a railroad station where a train of boxcars were waiting. They were smaller than the American version, about. half the size. We were loaded aboard, about sixty men to a car. Two cans in a corner seryed as toilets. As soon as we were inside, air raid sirens started to wail. The guards locked the doors and ran for the shelters. i I could hear the approaching planes, fighters by the sound, and knew we were in fotj it. Screaming dives, the· rattle of rannon ~nd machine gun fire, the explosion of bom~. I said a prayer as the sides of the car trem.led from concussion, pieces of shrapnel •nd STALAG LOFT IV excess of that for whtch the <'amp wa., Between the two ~lnces was another fence ofdesigned. There was conunuous con~truction rolled barbed wire our feet high. An area 200in the camp, both indoors and out Indoors, the feet deep, from the fence to the edge of theprisoners were trying their utmost to make forest was left clear, making it necessary fortheir meager quarters more habitable and anyone attempting escape to traverse this area outdoors, the Germans were feverishly work in fuJl view of the guards. Fifty feet inside the ing to complete additional barracks. The camp wire fences WafS a warning wire. A prisoner I was set in a forest clearing about 1Y2 miles could expect . to be shot first and then I. square. That particular forest was chosen questioned ifhe stepped over this wire. Postedbecause the dense foliage and underbrush at close intervals around the camp were towers served as an added barrier to escape. There which were equipped with several powerful were two barbed wire fences ten feet high spotlights and bristled machine guns. Thecompletely surrounding the camp. Rumor had railroad station was named Grosstychow, and it that the outer fence was electrically charged, the camp was south of the Baltic Sea where the but we can't vouch for that and had no desire to meridians c'ross on the globe of54' and 16'. test it. Funatsu \ James H. Goodman, 2955 Shasta St., Redding. back from the front), the only other person I CA 96001, writes: can identify is Captain Wayne C. Liles, the senior Americ-an officer. I do not remember I recently came across this picture in some this picture being taken. 1 do remember the things that had belonged to my mother. My smaJJer ID photos they took of us, and I have sister told me that they received it in the mail, mine. I have the original, obviously Japanese source unknown. print, and the negative from which this one was printed, in case anyone wants a copy. I would It is a picture of the camp at Funatsu. Besides guess that this was taken right after we arrived myself, (tenth man from the right, third row from the Philippines in September 1944. 37 debris. Several cars were damaged with casualties, we later'learned. Although the raid was shortlived, it seemed an eternity. It was late afternoon before the doors were opened again. The guards gave us a can of water and thirty Red Cross parcels, to be divided two men to a parcel. They were about a foot square and six inches deep, and contained small cans of meat, stew, biscuits, powdered milk and eggs, tea, chocolate, soap and cigarets. My partner and I had a can of meat paste with bread we had saved. ~came and the train was still in the yard. ( we waited, unable to lie down because of the '-....... crowding. Most sat and tried to sleep. About midnight the door slid open and the guards began to shout. No one could understand them, so they climbed into the car and used their rifle butts on us. We scrambled out in utter confusion. Finally someone understood. They wanted us to find places in other cars. My partner and I stuck together until we got settled. Now we were about seventy, so crowded that there wasn't room for everyone to sit. It was pitch black. We lost all sense of orientation or ( system. Tempers flared, harsh words ex·r changed, punches thrown. We were cold, ( hungry, sick and without leadership. The small boxcar swayed and threw us about as the train made slow progress with as much time spent on sidings as running. Daylight finally came. My partner and 1 went into the parcel for breakfast. Much of the food either had to be heated or mixed with hot water. We had neither, so we wolfed it down cold. We made the same erratic progress during the \..\ day. The train seemed to be playing hide and ~seek with our planes, dashing from one pine forest to the next or from one tunnel to another w.ith long waits in between. At one stop, we could hear air raid sirens wailing. Darkness "'-. came and we stayed there. The cans were 'voverflowing, so someone tore up a floor board and we used the hole as a latrine. Finally the door slid open and the guards passed out salty fish and a can of water each. They allowed us to empty the cans, but only the few men involved were let out of the car. We continued on·, no better off than the previous night. Because we were all from different army units and had no common bond except being POWs, the morale was terrible. Finally; someone suggested that half of us stand for several hours while the others sat down, then we would change. It was agreed upon and we followed this system the rest of the trip. Even so, there was no room for one to lie down. One sat against someone else, usually with someone else's legs, arms, or head in one's lap. Morning came finally. Some of the tension eased. Again we attacked the parcels, eating the powdered milk dry. At one of the late afternoon stops. the guards put a bucket of water and some pieces of horsemeat in each car. We were near a village and the townspeople came to the train and peered at us like spectators at the zoo. When they learned we had chocolate and cigarets, they offered to fetch more water from a nearby pump. Men crowded around the cracked door to barter with them. For the most part our guards were either too old or too young for combat duty. As a lot, they were cruel, indifferent and filled with hatred because of the bombings. They never understood that the few men among us wbo could speak some German knew the language poorly and could not follow them wben they went into their frequent tirades. How differeat it was in America. Night came with its same chaos. One of the older mea was on the verge of insanity. Twice during the night he attacked the men next to him, screaming incoherently. Each time he was forcibly subdued. I prayed for daybreak.Whcm it came I struggled from the crush of bodios ............................... i ~II i : THE WAR YEA.RS-1941·1945 t • From Pecul Harbor to the dedcloltheUSS. Mlllow1. Llslen : : to the 11W1Q hlllori ot lbc:illt umes. those pklc:el. cmd to • ., the dJamaUc: evenllo1 that e10. • • 60 minutes o1 lhe Ac:nrAJ. volee$ ~as NlloiV : • wasbelngmade. • : 49 DIFFERENT SEGM:Dmll : • • FDR'Dayotlnlcmlf'SpMeh • 41 • Tire Rationing Commercial • : • V·Mall eomm.tdal : • • ZeroHour"Tokyobe''(lholt·WGW) • ~ • Ronald Reagan.Jorns the S.Mc:e!ll ! ... • Hiller DecldIRiln Hec:al Allac:kl'1l?l1l ... : • Moc:Arthur onu.s.s. Mlaourt·Tokyo Bay : ., cmcl MUCH. MUCH MOREl .. : Thls tape docurnentory IS a tribute to the lighting men : • cmd women ot the Allied FOI'ees who loughl to pr-rve • f lreedom101 the world In Worlcl Was 11. • • Give lhll tape too World Wcr Dvetetan.lrlend or neigh· : • bor who hod a IOfl or doughier In the war. too child or ,. • Qmndi=hlld1en who have heclrd about or t..n told cl • • the war. or 10 the liiUdenL hlltory l:lW1. and I'IOIIolglo ton. « : ODly pnm!Um quauty cassette~ aN UMC1 to guarcm. : « tee YOW' u.ten1ngpleaaur.. « : CASSETTE TAPES SELL FOR $7.50 .. • WE PAY na: POSTAGE! I : RADIO GEMS lf-902 'hl!r.s S~et tzootmvs. SD 57006 39 pu!lcd on a o;1dll11?. "0m~ :.~drvJd worker<; 'Saw our condltwr.. wn~t il'!to a field and brought bad ~om<' half frNt:"n -;u~ar hccto;. Thev threw V <we:-me and tried jo ~tand. I m:!d~· tt 1:-l.!t ~.ank hAck to the flO(lt. My right kg wa" a hundiC' of pain. My m•1ghhnr wa~ a mediC who had recently been capturrd. He o;ttll had an aid ktt ?round his waist. He sa"· m~· discomfort and had me remove my boot and sock. My right leg was red and swollen to the knee. He gave me his last sulfa tablet and told me I had an infection ofsome kind. We rode all day with the same leap-frogJling progress. We stopped near a village where the cans were emptied. The guards pasc;cd ~rot•!:1 some water, but there was no food. The parcel:; were about empty; they barely contained enough for two men for two days. I had developed a fever and couldn't eat the few morsels m~· partner and I had hntded. I gavt> mine to him. Each time it was my turn to &tand. it became more difficult. During the night the crush of.. bodies on mine made the pain in my leg nearly unbearable. Our fifth day on the train was almo<:>t a carbcn copy of the others. The lab('tious pace, frequent stops. but no food or even water. Theguards claimed they were short of food too, but we didn't believe them. The older man went beserk, p:1lling a hidden knife from his boot and slashing about like a madman. He wa<; subdued and tied up with a scarf. He Jay sobbing and pleading for water. There were a few canteens around. but the salt fish had created such thirst that most of the water had heen drunk. Neverthelc~s. someone managed to volunteer a mouthful. During the night he became hysterical again and finally died. Another day passed with the same slownes\. The train crew was terrified of our planes and would take no chances. Without food or water for days. we were desperate now. Later we learned men had died in other cars also, but "'-... ' the guards refused to let their bodies be ~removed. I could no longer stand. The medic cheeked my leg. The swelling had gone to the groin in a hard, red streak. 1 was not required to take a turn standing any longer. Finally we 90 DAYS OF RICE R. JACKSON SCOTT This Is a &tory of a Marlne from c.,·lte tbroa1h Bataaa, Correakior, and 31/J yean In aeveral Japaneae POW Campa darlna World w... D. Sc:ett, uow a ~red teaeber, wfD ~e~~d you aa autop-apbed 1:0py for S5.9510ft boUDd or $8.98 banlbaek, lneludlna tQ ad malllua. Order at 600 W. Columbus, Sp 90, Bakenfteld, CA 93301, or~(805]325·3063. 40 th('m in thr care; through' tht:" c;mall ventilator. Th... l'-C'~t<i were cut up a:td pa!>\cd arouncB. I wa<; tno Ill to eat. Nilzht came ltke a niehtmare. Again, no food or water. There were oth('rS who couldn't get up any longer. 1 felt that if we didn't reach our destination soon, few of us would survive. Some of the sick were hysterical, begging for fr•od and water whtch wasn't availablt:' Most of the chao!> had ended. Men were just too tired and sick to have as much aggression. All nightmares must end and ours did the fl"llowing day. Even though there wac; no food l"t water again, we reached our destination \, before noon. The train pulled onto a sidmgh near Bremervode, a small village just east of Br~n. r-.s~ )( 0 The door shd open and we were ordered out on a platform. I had to be carried. as were many others. Some went out like sacks of grain. The guards insisted we line up to be counted. Men began dropping all along the line. The camp commandant and an Amencan master sergeant -a Ranger by his insignia -walked onto the platform. When the sergeant saw the condition we were in, he went into a tirade in German. I could see the commandant was shaken by the sight of us too. He told us that there would be a five kilometer hike to the stalag. l1ose who C'ouldn't make it would be taken there. There were a lot of us. We waited an hour until a passing truck was commandered by our guards. It was loaded with bricks. As many as could be were loaded on. I went directly to the lazarette, operated on ten days or so later, on Easter Monday. The 5.urgeon was a Yugoslav POW. Two long mcisions were made in my leg, one in the c:alf, the other the groin. The wounds were packed with a drain and my leg put in an open cast. Every other day the wounds were dressed. Days passed into weeks. My wounds healed from the out~ide. but not the inside. We were liberated bv the British the first of Mav after a four dav battle around the stalag in which twenty·six prisoners died. A month later I was in Walter Reed Medical Center, bedridden by a massive pulmonary infarction from the leg. Expert care and a faith in God got me through. Nine months later I was discharged, never to forget the "HELL TRAIN." This narrative was written while I was a patient at Walter ReP.d Medical Center in 1945 and 1946.
|Title||Reilly, Eugene Edmund - Interview and Memoir|
World War, 1939-1945--Germany
World War, 1939-1945--Prisoners of War
|Description||Reilly, a medic during the WWII, discusses his capture and experiences as a POW of the Germans at Stalag XIIA and Stalag XIB; transportation by foot and train; medical care; burial details; and liberation. Also included are photocopies of letters, maps, and an article by Robert M. Bowen, "Hell Train."|
|Creator||Reilly, Eugene Edmund (1910-2000)|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||Kniss, Glenn [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Relation||PRISONER OF WAR EXPERIENCES IN WORLD WAR II|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Collection Name||Oral History Collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Title||Edmund Eugene Reilly Memoir|
|Source||Edmund Eugene Reilly Memoir.pdf|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L Brookens Library
Edmund Eugene Reilly Memoir
R273. Reilly, Eugene Edmund (1910-2000)
Interview and memoir
1 tape, 90 mins., 9 pp.
PRISONER OF WAR EXPERIENCES IN WORLD WAR II
Reilly, a medic during the WWII, discusses his capture and experiences as a POW of the Germans at Stalag XIIA and Stalag XIB; transportation by foot and train; medical care; burial details; and liberation. Also included are photocopies of letters, maps, and an article by Robert M. Bowen, "Hell Train."
Interview by Glen Kniss, 1985 OPEN See collateral file
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1985, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
This manuscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by
Glenn Kniss for the Oral History Office on November 25, 1985. Joyce Fisher transcribed the tape and iliester Rhodes edited the transcript. &lgene Edmund Reilly revi~ the transcript.
Eugene Edmund Reilly was born November 2, 1910 in Springfield, Illinois. fust of his business life was spent operating an insurance office, first with his father, then by himself. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Helen, in Springfield, Illinois.
Gene joined the U.S. Army in 1944 and saw service with the 45th Infantry Division as a 'llEI:iic. He was capture:l by the German Army in Jarruary, 1945, wle he was attending to a w:run:led American soldier. He was the only medic in the P.O.W. camps W.ere he was interred, ani therefore, his
His story reveals a SOIIle\\hat different
services ~re very much needed .
experience fran the conventional P.O.W.'s because of his first-hand look
at 'V.OUilded and sick Al:oorican P.0.W. 's and how they ~re, or ~re not,
In this interview, Gene C<:mriEilts on the lack of record keeping, and tells
of the treatment and envirornnent that he and other P.O.W.'s errlured in
the prison camps. He also tells of his subsequent liberation by the
English Army in April of 1945.
Mr. Reilly was discharged from the U.S. Army on NovEmber 24, 1945 and is
a member of the Springfield Area Cllapter, American Ex Prisoners of War •
Glerm Kniss is a graduate of M,)rmouth College and has lived in Springfield,
Illinois since 1940. He has received several awards from civic and human
rights groups. A past Ccram:u"rler of the Springfield Area iliapter, .American
E'.x Prisoners of War, he presently serves as its Historian. Activities in
the field of history have been: guide, Old Illinois State Capitol;
Lincoln Depot; member of the Illinois State Historical Society; interpretor
and demonstrator at Clayville Folk Arts Guild and also New Salem State
Readers of the oral history manoir should bear in mirrl that it is a transcript of the spoken ¥Drd, ani that the intervi~r, narrator arrl editor sought to preserve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangam:>n State University is not responsible for the factual accuracy of the naooir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge.
It may not beThe manuscript may be read, quote:l and cited freely.
reproduced in Whole or in part by any neans, electronic or IIEC.hanical, without permission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sanganon
State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708.
Eugene Edmund Reilly, November 25, 1985, Springfield, Illinois.
Glenn Kniss, Interviewer.
Q: Gene, let's start by your telling us something about how you happened to get into the war, and sorrethi.ng about your ear1 y war experiences.
A: I was the last of my parents five children to enter service. I was 33 years old, married with one daughter, Maxine, age 10. On March 13, 1944, I was inducted into the Army at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Fran there I -was taken by train to Rockford, Illinois to Camp Grant. I was assigned to the 31st M:!dical Training Battalion, Where ~ spent n:ost of our training in classrooms. After six n:onths basic, they said we were on a rot ship:nent to England. After six ~eks in England, I crossed the English Channel to Frat"'Ce. I was assigned to the 45th Division, !57th Infantry, E Company.
Q: \-here did you join your outfit?
A: Nance, France. The date I don't know, I was too scared. llir lieutenant was new on the job. He forgot to assign rre to a fox hole. I sat under a tree in 5 degree weather the first night. I was afraid to m:JVe because I
didn't know the passw::>rd. I was with the 157th Infantry for 100 days. I do believe that in length of service I was the oldest man in E Company. 'lhe turnover was terrific .
Q: W:lat were some of your major engaga:nents?
A: On December 12, 1944, the 45th Division entered Germany, just outside of the city of furrlerthal . \..e stayed tw:> days and were driven back under heavy fire. Our real engagE!IIEilts started on Jarruary 1, 1945. ~ encountered fresh 88 troops. The enany was later identified as the crack 11th Regiment of the 6th SS M::runtain Division from Finland, a strong unit, carefully trained fighters me \
|Collection Name||Oral History Collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield|