My Journal – Germany 2005

I’m in room 444 at the Intercity Hotel in Frankfurt. I got a little lost in the airport but it didn’t take long to get righted around. I tried to wait for Nancy and Joan and somehow I missed them. I wasn’t afraid to ask directions, after all I’m by myself and I need to be assertive. I finally met up with them again and felt relieved. My luggage showed right up and when walking out of the airport there was a gentleman there to greet us with the “Traveldesigns” sign so we were in the right spot. I met Bud (nickname) or Art who looks like Uncle Sid. Then Mary and Bob Bueker came. They are so full of information my head was spinning. There’s no way I can remember all they said as then I met Paul Schultz. Then, Joe and Shirley Reus. Joe started reminiscing with Bob. They talked about so many things. It’s early and I hope I can talk to each one before our time together is over. I met Vicki Morgan who knows so much about her dad, his crew, etc. Then I met John Tayloe, Don Menard and his daughter, Mellissa. I haven’t taken one picture yet and it makes me nervous. I want to capture every moment somehow. I just showered and then I’m going to meet with all of them at 2 PM in about an hour. We’re going across the street to the Railroad station where almost 60 years ago the POWs were brought in through the angry civilians as England had just bombed the area.

I just hope I get all the pictures and interviews. We daughters are like vultures all wanting to talk to the ex-POW’s. We all met in the lobby visiting a bit before we were to walk across the road to the station. While we were waiting for the others I talked briefly to Gib and Joe Reus. In the moments sitting with them I learned that the Klim, powdered milk that was in the Red Cross parcels that the POWs received, was milk spelled backwards. That was the first that I had heard that so I already learned something.

We went across the road to the Railroad Station.

Paul Schultz, Don Menard, Gib, John Tayloe in Frankfurt Station

Me with Bud Bodie at Frankfurt Train Station

What a busy place! The Kriegies (POWs) took their turns in telling where they remembered that they came in and where they walked out of the station. Joe Reus and Bud (looks like Uncle Sid) came in way at the back of the station. Bud didn’t think anything looked familiar until he got to the back of the station – then he knew it was the track. Bob told us that he remembered the civilians stoning him and the guards had to stop them and all it took was the shouting of one word. At that moment the civilians were more of a threat to his safety than the German guards.

John Tayloe had an interesting story – different from the others. His plane was the only plane shot down that day and it crashed into a schoolhouse in Amsterdam. He was captured quickly by the Germans and was treated well he said. He had given 3 interviews in the last couple of days in Amsterdam before joining our group. The crash of his B-17 is recorded in the Diary of Anne Frank. Anne Frank saw the plane crash into the school from her window in hiding and wrote about it. That is incredible! School was not in session on that particular day and no one was in the bomber so there were no casualties. That is an absolutely fascinating story. John said he lived a charmed life in Stalag Luft I, which is not the typical memory of those days by most POWs, but he was a member of the cook crew working in the kitchen so he never went hungry. He said that the guards he dealt with were decent as well. He was billeted in the West Compound. He has such a unique story. But then they all are unique and I love hearing all of them.

We’re going to dinner at 7 and it’s 4:15 now. I’m beat but I don’t want to sleep for fear I won’t sleep tonight. I found out they served breakfast on the plane which indicates I did sleep but it’s too bad I had to sleep then as now I haven’t eaten all day. Too bad for me – I’m whining about missing breakfast and lunch and what about the days that the POW’s went without food or water. How spoiled we are and how often we take things for granted.

I went out to walk around to stay awake and took a few pictures. Vicki Morgan’s door was open so I decided to go to chat with her. She napped all afternoon and was waiting for her German friends, Sabina and Janne, who will join us for dinner. She is going to sit with me on the bus so she can look at dad’s things. She has a book on her father with so much information and so many pictures and she has talked to his crewmembers and roommates. I have so little compared to her but she said that she could help me with my research. I hope so. I need all the help I can get. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a productive day tomorrow at Oberursel – the Hospital area – Railway Station – DULAG LUFT (Interrogation Center). I’m pretty positive dad had traveled through there as well as the train station . First – before bed – I’ll eat in an hour. Dinner was rib steak, beans wrapped in bacon and potatoes with peppers – white asparagus soup – ice cream. Glass of wine was 6 Euros. The two guests were 2 lovely ladies. They were 2 people Vicki had met and Janne lived in Germany during WWII. We all had to talk about why we came on this tour. I just said dad passed away May 4th without talking about his experience and I’m on a mission to find out as much as I can about his life then. I also said since receiving the pamphlet and signing up for the trip I’ve met wonderful people. I wish I could have thought of something really creative. Oh well, maybe I’ll get another chance. I’m going to bed now-10:30 and I’m getting up at 5:30 AM to go for breakfast at between 6 and 6:30. Luggage has to be out at 8:00 and we’re leaving at 9. PS. The glass of Dornfelder wine was pretty good.

4/27/05:  Before I left this morning I went down about 6:15AM for breakfast and sat with Gib and John Tayloe.  Gib left and Paul Schultz sat with us.  He’s not an ex-POW but a WWII Navy Veteran and a historian who is taking Vicki to meet the person who witnessed her father’s crash.  I talked to him a little bit about helping me find someone that knew dad but I think he’s pretty busy helping others.  That’s okay.  I won’t push it.  Vicki is really nice.  Her dad was in the service for 36 years so she has traveled the world over and still is as she’s into archaeology and travels all over to dig.  After breakfast I had time and I wanted to visit the train station by myself.  I thought about it as I lay in bed last night and I wanted to walk around as much as I could in the area that dad probably came through.  I crisscrossed the area in front of the train-back and forth-back and forth-a hundred times and I walked the length of the track to where the train entered the station.  I took pictures facing both directions.  If anyone were watching I’m sure that they may have wondered about my mental condition.  I continued this behavior until I was certain that I’d stepped where my father had.  I walked to the area where according to the ex-Kriegies (Kriegsgefangenens-prisoners of war) they had been marched out of the station and for good measure, took several more steps back and forth and around the area.  Took a couple more pictures and left satisfied I’d gotten the most out of that significant component of our tour.

 Upon our return from Oberursel, if I were my father I’d say it brought back memories.  I took pictures of the tracks but not positive exactly where dad came in at.  The original station is still there – the POWs would have been taken up the hill to DULAG LUFT which is an area vacant of the buildings in which the prisoners were held.  There is an original building still there that appeared to be a German administration building.  There was a cement platform where we were told that the Germans played soccer which had a million sketches etched into it.  I have a booklet regarding the artist who performed the etches of WWII airmen, planes, etc., and I took many pictures. We were given copies of what the camp looked like.  There’s a realtor there now who has developed the property with condos.  I’m sure dad would have seen the administration building as well as the chemical factory which is still there across the street.  There’s a question where dad was processed – either Dulag Luft or Wetzlar.  (His paper says Dulag Luft on it so I would assume it was there).  At Dulag Luft – they were interrogated and in solitary confinement for approximately ten days according to Bud and Bob.  Bob said that his picture had been taken right there in the train station.

We continued on to the Hospital, Klinik HoheMark, which was originally built as a mental hospital for

John Tayloe, Joe Reus, Bud Bodie, Administrator, Bob Bueker

the affluent until it became a hospital for the Kriegies after the war began; then after the war, and we took over, it became a mental hospital again but was bought and run by a Christian group.  The Administrator of the hospital was very gracious and they took a picture of the Kriegies for the newspaper.  The only one who’d been there was Vicki’s dad.  What a feeling that it was for her knowing he was there.  I’ve never heard that dad was and probably will never hear.  The chapel was added after the war.

In our drive to Feldberghof to eat lunch, Gib pointed out the blankets of yellow flowers along the way called raps, which are used to make safflower oil.  What beautiful ground cover.  Also, chestnut trees lined the roads in places.  The Feldberghof restaurant was a beautiful place at the top of the hill.  You could see Frankfurt in the distance but not a good photo-op due to the haze.  I ate potato soup and coffee.  Very good.

We drove to Aschaffenburg -staying in a really nice hotel.  We all sat outside with a Bitburger beer.  Very good “pils”.  We had dinner at 7 PM – delicious salad, pork with anise gravy, rice and a banana split.  The restaurant was beautiful and a few of us sat in the carriage that they had in the dining room.  Almost got in trouble though but it made for great pictures!  Mellisa and I sat in it and I even talked Paul Schultz into getting in it for a picture.  The windows were beautiful paintings on glass.  Will have to be up at 5:15AM for breakfast at 6, suitcase out at 7:30 and leave at 8AM.

4/28/05:  I forgot to say that this hotel that we’re staying in is The Post and at dinner Gib said that General George Patton also stayed there and he may have used it as his headquarters.  Just think, his headquarters may have been in this very room – number 202. 

We made the trip to Hammelburg which was very interesting.  We followed the route of Task Force Baum- the special task force dispatched from Aschaffenburg to Hammelburg, the location of Oflag XIII-B.  Patton’s son-in-law was in this POW camp and Patton sent the task force to liberate him.  It was a disaster as all the vehicles were either captured or destroyed.  Hammelburg is a permanent army post and we visited the army museum there.  There was a remarkable extensive display of medals and patches and uniforms and weapons.  We had an excellent guide.

I looked at Ruth Lawrence’s book about her dad and it is absolutely awesome.  She has quite a manuscript.  I’m so envious but in a nice way.  It took her time and hours of research to compile.  Maybe some day I can put my information together.  I have to get the info first though.

Bud gave me a copy of an article where he recently parachuted on the 60th anniversary of his parachute jump in Germany when taken prisoner.  I appreciate it so much.  He knows how interested that I am and I hope we get a chance to talk.

Stopped at 12:45 for lunch at Himmelkron.  I had white asparagus soup which was delicious.  It’s a long trip to Berlin.

Paul gave me a log to read kept by Colonel Charles K. Morrill who was ball turret gunner and RCM (Radar Counter Measurer) later.  It was a log that he kept from 12/11/44 to 4/25/45.  What great detail.  He completed 30 missions.  It is so interesting.  He logged every day and filled in the same categories on each mission.  It is great reading material to help me pass the time on our long bus ride to Berlin.  Paul said that it’s the most complete diary that he’s seen.  It gave me a good sense of the different areas that were targeted.  At the end of the diary he noted the record of the 303rd Bomb Group:  364 missions flown; 26,346 tons of bombs dropped on enemy; 104 probable destroyed and 182 damaged.  I read through the diary twice to absorb it.  I had the time and it was appropriate material for the trip.  Col. Morrill fortunately did not have to endure life as a POW although there were very close calls that he wrote about.  The threat was certainly lingering on each mission. 

We finally made it to Steigenberger-Berlin.  This place is too much!  We’re here for 2 nights and it’s gorgeous.  I’ll be wearing my dressiest attire to dinner.  This hotel is right across the road from a beautiful church that was bombed and left as a reminder of the horrors of war.  I need to get a good picture of it.  The new church is next door to it and it is nothing like the old – doesn’t even look like a church to me.  It’s a tall, plain, skinny building.  At least someone said it was the replacement church.

Our dinner was beef and gravy.  It was pretty good but when talking at dinner something triggered my emotions and I began to cry.  I left the table I think before anyone noticed and I went out into the lobby and just sobbed as quietly as I could so as not to draw attention until I found the ladies room.  I could not believe myself.  I think I know what happened to me, though.  Vicki was telling me about being told by one of her dad’s roommates that he prayed every day – I think she may have said he went to church or chapel.  Then right after that Ruth was saying she would be back at school teaching on May 4th.  May 4th is the 1st anniversary of dad’s death and I told her that and then it was downhill from there.  I went into the ladies room and threw cold water on my face and kept fanning it with my hands to dry the tears but I could not stop crying.  (I really miss dad and I wanted someone to tell me about what he did in camp.  Did he go to church too?)  I kept saying “please God, make me stop crying”.  What a stupid thing to pray for but I needed to get back to the dining room.  My face looked a mess. It was all blotchy and my nose was red and my mascara ran.  There is no way that I would let myself go up to my room and cry the rest of the night, though.  I had waited too long for this trip and I could not let myself miss one little part of it.  I did not want the others to wonder what happened to me so I tried to compose myself and went back to the dining room.  I must have looked a sight.  Nancy and her mom, Joan, called me over to where they were sitting and as soon as they looked at me sadly and asked what was wrong, I let loose again only this time I made noise.  It wasn’t just a silent cry but LOUD sobs.  What a jerk I was!   I thought what an impression I must be making on these people that don’t know me and don’t really know whether I’m sane or not.  They’re going to think I’m nuts.  Now I’d really done it.  Where did this noise come from?  I crouched down behind them so no one could see me but surely they had all heard and were looking my way.  I did not look right or left.  I just wanted to disappear.  If I could have slithered under the table and stayed until they were gone I would have done it.  I told myself I do not want this to happen ever again or it will be a long 2 weeks.   I’d been so excited and keyed up and so happy and all of a sudden I hit bottom.  It wasn’t a good feeling.  I did, however, go with Ruth, Nancy, John, Don and Mellissa across the street to the church.  I took pictures but it was pretty dark.  There was a group of kids there from Holland and Don was talking to their teacher who was acquainted with a friend of his that I believe that he had met during the war, who lives in Holland.  Small world.  We got in a picture with the kids.  I’d like to take a picture in daylight of the church.  You can imagine how beautiful that it was.   I am so glad that I forced myself to walk over with the others rather than go to my room and feel sorry for myself.  The girls told me that they have had their moments at the railroad stations and interrogation camp where they cried.  I never noticed that but maybe it’s because they didn’t make the noise that I did.  I told them that too.  They did make me feel better. 

Time for bed as up early to tour Berlin.  

April 29, 2005, Friday: 

I got up when my alarm went off and went in and showered, got all dressed for breakfast, and when I put my watch on, I noticed that it said 4:00AM.  Somehow the time button on the alarm clock must have gotten hit twice to put it 2 hours ahead.  If I would have looked outside I would have noticed how dark that it was.  I was just so anxious to get up and get going I guess.  I lay back down and tried to sleep a little longer.  We had breakfast which included my favorite breakfast item here – the pastries – and then we set off to tour Berlin.  Berlin is very busy.  Nothing like what I’m used to at home.  I never sit in the front of the bus because I don’t like to watch the traffic.  I’d be helping Walter (the coach driver) put the brake on and would drive him nuts I’m sure.  Our first stop was at the Reichstag and I took many pictures of the building. 

 Nancy thought that I should be in some of my pictures so people would know that I was there so she took my camera and took several pictures of me in front of the Reichstag and me on the Reichstag steps.  I’m sure they’ll be dandies.  It was quite a wait to get inside the building and then you had to go through security.  We didn’t really see much after we got inside and you spiraled around this big plastic-like dome that you could walk to the top of but when you got there, it was just the top of the dome.  You couldn’t even take pictures because of the framework.  Underneath it was a display of pictures and stories which were interesting but I just didn’t get what the attraction was to walk up to the top of the dome.  I thought I missed something but I heard others say the same thing.  The building was quite a place of interest though and I’m glad that we stopped.  We boarded the bus and continued on to Checkpoint Charlie but didn’t go into the museum there.  That was a busy place as well.  We drove to the Brandenburg Gate and walked around the display behind it.  In crossing the road to get to the gate you could see a double line of bricks in the road where the Berlin Wall had been. 

We returned to the bus and stopped for lunch and I had more of the white asparagus that I love here.  It’s called spargel and is much better than the green asparagus that we have at home.  It’s quite a bit more expensive also but worth it.  After lunch we toured Frederick the Great’s castle and saw his grave.  It was an interesting drive around Berlin.  But, the highlight of the Berlin tour was talking to Bud Bodei.  He told me about being shot down in France and of his capture by the Germans. He told of his crew members of which I believe that two died in the crash.  He talked about camp and how he had 3 days of solitary confinement because of a broken window that he had nothing to do with.  The guards thought that he did it to try to escape.  He is such a great guy.  He’s the one that looks like Uncle Sid.  Speaking of Uncle Sid, I’m trying not to think of home because I’m really missing it if I do and this is a chance of a lifetime so I don’t want to feel homesick.

Today while we toured Berlin, Vicki and Paul went to try to find her dad’s crash site.  She was in contact with a German historian and the side trip was arranged ahead of time.  She and Paul were quite enthralled with what they found out.  One of her dad’s crewmembers and good friends, Shep, had been killed by a civilian who is since deceased.  Apparently he served time for it but the town wants to keep it a secret and doesn’t want it dredged up but the historian is not going to give up.  He also feels that Shep’s body is buried in a cemetery there.  They even went to the cemetery.  I loved hearing them tell about it but I feel a little envious too. It is quite a story and how lucky is it to have a German historian so interested that he is not going to give up until he gets to the bottom of it.  Vicki will eventually know exactly where her dad’s plane crashed.  Sometimes I don’t feel like I should be here and I feel discouraged and the next minute I feel so motivated.  Everyone has all of these books they’ve compiled with pictures.  Boy do I have a long way to go.  The only picture that I have of dad is the one on his processing papers from Dulag Luft and it’s only the side view as the front view is missing.  I bet dad took it off.  He never liked his picture taken.  I don’t know as I’ll ever have as much information about my father’s former life because I started looking too late.  The others have been researching for years and have interviewed and befriended men who knew their dads.  If I had researched years ago I would have had the best source of information ever – my dad.  He could tell me everything that I wanted to know.  I realize that I have to quit beating myself up over this as I can’t change it but I can’t help it I want to hear about him not just guess.  I have no outstanding act of heroism that someone has told me about that would pique anyone’s interest in helping me build his story.  My dad hasn’t saved anyone’s life that I know of but who knows maybe he has.  Considering the kind person that he’s always been since I’ve known him – it wouldn’t surprise me.  I can see him putting his life on the line to save someone.  I have not much to offer except dad’s poems and drawings that I cherish and was so awestruck by but it seems they are a common thing among all of the POW’s but MY dad’s poems and drawings are more special than anyone else’s darn it.  But I can tell – alone they are not of interest to others, that’s why I have to create a very captivating story to go along with them.  I have my work cut out for me, that’s for sure.

Tomorrow I’d like to talk to Don if I get the chance.  His is the closest to dad’s experience as he was taken from Stalag Luft IV to Barth, as dad was, only he left a little earlier.

John Tayloe and I went to take a picture of the bombed church that’s a museum now.  I’m going to miss him the most I think.  He’s such a nice guy. .   Really everyone is nice.  We had to go across the street from the church to get the full view.  It took a while but we managed it.  The traffic is very heavy as you would expect in Berlin.

 I may be thinking too much but I wonder if some day I could do something that may sound really crazy like parachute over here as there’s a good chance I may not find a lot of info that I need and I really want to do something for my dad as a tribute if I can’t do him justice by writing.  I would love to trace his whole journey.  How do I find his whole route though? It’s something to dream about I guess but dreams sometimes do come true.  I’m here aren’t I?

Tomorrow is the day we’ve all been waiting for – the trip to Barth.  To bed now at 10:13.

4/30/05

The best day yet!  We arrived at the Hotel Speicher-Barth but couldn’t check in so we walked around and I took a couple of pictures.  John pointed out the direction of where the camp was in the distance and then there was the infamous church that I had heard so much about, St. Marien church.  The steeple certainly was outstanding as I had imagined it would be.

We traveled on the bus across the railroad tracks that dad would have been brought in on and then to the memorial site and I looked at the church steeple knowing dad looked at it from there. I could not take my eyes off of it.  I wanted to view it from the same place that my father had but I am not sure of the compound.  I’m confused as I had found his name on the “merkki” web site listed as being in the West or South Compound but the Ex-POW’s that I talked to about when dad was brought into the camp from Stalag Luft IV (February 8, 1945) said coming in that late, he would have had to have been in one of the North Compounds.  It is difficult to put into words what I felt as I looked at and walked around the campsite.   I have never felt closer to my father than I did standing in the midst of the barracks that he lived in all those years ago.  I was experiencing first hand his hidden life.  I could feel his presence.  Everybody was very emotional.  We all hugged and it was at that very moment that I knew that I belonged there.  I belong on this trip – this trip that was meant to be.  Any insignificance that I had felt because of my lack of information regarding my father’s previous life disappeared.  We were all there for the same reason.  We all shared a common bond and we all belonged.   What a feeling – a feeling that I could not possibly duplicate on paper but that I could possess forever in my heart and soul! It has never felt so right to be anywhere.  He had been there and I belonged there to remember him.  I looked at the plaque and the exhibits with pictures and layout of the camp at the memorial site.  We all could have spent hours at the site reflecting on what we knew or imagined.  I talked to Ruth and we felt that we wanted to walk from the railroad station to the Camp if we could fit it in as time was limited.  This is what our trip was all about – being in this very place and we wanted to get the most out of it.  It was as if we walked everywhere that our dads had been perhaps they would miraculously appear.  I could picture my father there. Oh how I wish that he could be here taking in the whole scene with me!  It would be so wonderful to share these special moments with him under such different and much better circumstances than those of 60 years ago.  We could retrace his steps together and he could share his memories with me.  He could answer the questions that keep arising.  Nancy asked for my camera and took a few pictures of me there.

We enjoyed lunch at Zingst.

 The Russians, Vasily Bezugli, a member of 133rd Guards regiment of the 44th infantry division of Guards, who took part in the freeing of American & British POW’s in Stalag Luft I, and grandson, Andrew, joined us.  Vasily and Don are good friends.  After lunch Ruth and I walked down to put our hands in the Baltic Sea.  

We went to the airport and saw the same airstrip that the men were flown out on in B-17’s after liberation.  Some of us caught up in the moment walked on the runway but were immediately halted as it is an active airport.

I’m not positive of the compound but Helga was at dinner this evening and she said dad’s name would be in the book that she has so I’ll know before we go back to the camp site.  I’m so excited and I also spoke with Dr. Martin Albrecht, a German historian, and he said he will try to help me.  I think I’ll write everything down that I have about dad and give it to him tomorrow.  I can’t wait.  We met Dr. Martin Nichol’s children.  He had been the camp doctor.  His son, David, and 2 daughters, Jan and Judy, came to our hotel and we sat on the balcony outside the restaurant a while and visited.  Also Thomas Obst, the son of a German doctor who had been friends with Dr. Nichols, was with them.  During the war, the 2 doctors were collaborating too much which caused the German doctor to be moved out of the camp.  There is also a very charming couple here from Denmark, Ejvind and Bjoerg Jensen.  Ejvind helped 2 American airmen escape.  I hope that I get to talk to him more.  It’s late and it’s a big day tomorrow.  Hope I can sleep, I’m pretty wound up.

May 1, 2005 (60th anniversary of the liberation of Stalag Luft I)  

We woke up early to be on the bus at 8:30 AM so we could attend a memorial service at 9:00 AM for those who died at the concentration camp in Barth.  The camp was discovered by the liberated POW’s of Stalag Luft I; therefore, it was significant that the Ex-POW’s were there.  Bud Bodei and Bob Bueker both gave their accounts of the horrible event and their shocking discovery of all of the bodies left in the camp.  It was a very moving ceremony in which speeches were given and flowers were placed  in front of memorial plaques which were mounted on the wall at the memorial site that signify “Torture”, “Solidarity”, “Conspiracy”, and “Liberation”.   There were 8 flags and markers signifying 8 nationalities of prisoners held at the camp with 10 names on each grave marker.  The people of the town participated in a memorial walk after the service.  Helga Radau And Sigrid Gotsch led us on a tour of the camp site.  We walked the path and saw the remains of a pit in the ground where they would drown the men.  There were cement steps that led to another area where the women were tortured.  It was all very depressing and difficult to imagine but it’s important to remember.  All of those poor souls, human beings who were treated less than animals, should never be forgotten. 

At 11:00 AM we went on to the museum dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.  Don Menard and Vasily Bezugli cut the ribbon and there was a warm welcome given for everyone.  Glasses of wine were being served.  Don was so kind and I will always remember watching them cut the ribbon and him motioning for me to come up for a piece of it – which I did.  The museum was very crowded and I was anxious to find Helga to see if we could find dad’s Compound.  She took me into a room and we looked in the book until we found dad’s name.  It was listed under “Hydekrug Sergeants.”  However, there was not any Compound listed.  It was so critical for me to know because we were going back to the camp site and I wanted to focus on the area dad was held in.  I couldn’t help myself – when I went outside the room I began to cry.  I ran into the girls from England and just explained that I was disappointed that I did not know my father’s exact compound.  It was going to be my last chance to return to the camp and I just wanted to know.  How could I possibly get the most out of my time spent at the campsite if I could not be sure of the area to concentrate on? 

There was a replica of Stalag Luft I on display in the museum and everyone was zeroing in on the area in which they or their father’s had been imprisoned.  I, however, studied the entire display.  There were also many historic articles and pictures relevant to camp life.  I was asked if I had seen the tape and walked into the room where a video of the POW’s standing in line to be flown out of Barth via the B-17’s.   I sat to watch it and as I stared at the faces I noticed one that resembled my father’s.  The tape was rewound several times to that area and each time I felt that it was my father’s face and he also stood like my dad always did.  I never doubted that it was him–reinforcement once again that this trip was meant to be.  My spirits were lifted having seen the POW who I was certain was dad.  My emotions have certainly reached peaks and valleys on this excursion.  I was excited to tell Paul and he was very pleased.  From hearing it from me he told me he was certain that it was my dad as well.

We walked from the museum to a hotel in downtown Barth for lunch.  It was a significant moment for Bob Bueker in that he had spent a night here 60 years ago, the night after liberation.  I believe also that the road we walked on was the same route that the prisoners had taken when walking through town.  While we were waiting for our lunch, I asked those that I was sitting with if they would sign my book (like my father had his roommates sign his book).  Ejvind Jensen, John Tayloe, Bud Bodei, Ruth Lawrence, and Jim Morrin* were all gracious enough to sign and also include their address. (*Author’s note:  Little did Jim or I know that, years after this address exchange, he would see the completion of my mission as editor of my book.

After lunch we walked to the beautiful church and were given a tour.  Helga gave me a feather that she found in front of the church.  I kept it too.  (My dad loved birds).  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to climb up the steeple (on the inside of course) – THE steeple that you can see from any part of Barth – the same steeple that my father must have looked at many times.  To think I was inside the steeple that my dad had looked at as a POW behind barbed wire 60 years ago!!  Imagine it and who would have ever thought.  It was quite a climb and the steps were very narrow and winding but it was so worth the effort.  When we reached the top, the view was spectacular.  There were windows all around the top that we could open and take pictures from to take in the entire area surrounding the church. We could see out hotel and the camp area!!  It was absolutely amazing! What an awesome view of this picturesque town!  

The bell was a sight to behold!!  I think that it was easier descending the steps than it was going up for sure! 

Our next stop was at the Barth Train Station.  It is the same building that was there when dad was brought in. This was where his walk began through Barth to his last home as a POW.  I walked on both sides of the building again seeing the same views that my father would have and surely stepping through the same area.  We walked onto the tracks and I picked up a rusty bolt for a souvenir.  If only the bolt could talk. 

Nancy again asked for my camera and took pictures of me in front of the railroad station.  (it seems I’m accumulating a large number of pictures of me in a lot of places.)

We then returned to the prison camp site.  I walked with some of the others to where the West and South Compounds were and picked up a stone.  I kept returning my eyes to the steeple as we would walk.  Helga was with us.  I knew that I couldn’t spend too much time there as I had more territory to cover in order to be certain that I’d seen the steeple from the same direction as dad not being sure of his compound.  I walked down the road quite a ways to where I remembered hearing that the North Compounds ended when we had visited the previous day.  I collected a piece of the old road as I walked.  I went a bit further just to be positive that I was taking in the entire site.  I picked up a stone or piece of brick from each area.  As I walked slowly, I watched the steeple and  would stop periodically lifting my eyes skyward, turning around.  I continued in this manner at the edge of all of the compounds and at one point  walked across the field until I felt satisfied that I had seen the same view that dad did of the church steeple as well as the same sky.  I was no longer disappointed that I didn’t know the exact compound and  left gratified!

We returned to our hotel and I wanted to make sure I showed Martin what I had of dad’s.  I went to my room and back to the restaurant to meet him for coffee.  He graciously looked at what I brought and I gave him copies.  I told him that I thought that my father was in the videotape that we watched in the museum.  I said that I wanted my mother and aunt to look at it and I would be sure then.  Don Menard had told us previously that he would send a copy of the tape to all of us so I can’t wait to see what my family thinks.  Martin said if it is dad to let him know and I will be sure to do that.  I just feel in my heart that it’s my father.  I thanked him for taking the time with me and then continued on into dinner.

Dinner was linguine with cream sauce and beef and was quite good.  Speeches were given honoring the “Kriegies” who were there.  They received a book on Barth (celebrating the 750th anniversary of the Barth Charter) and gifts from Vasily.  Vasily also brought gifts for the daughters and son which was a pleasant surprise!  There was a pin of the 44th infantry division of the Guards and articles regarding the liberation of Stalag Luft I, a decorative spoon, and a chocolate candy bar.  Helga gave me a map of Barth, a postcard, a sticker and a pin.  She is so kind!  I will treasure these souvenirs as a remembrance of this incredible trip!  I also purchased the Barth book.  Mellissa had asked them to bring them so that we could buy them if we wanted to.  Of course I wanted to.  However, if I took nothing home, it wouldn’t matter because all that I need is in my mind and heart.  What wonderful memories have been made here!

After dinner some of us sat outside on the balcony-I suppose to try to hang onto our time in Barth – to stretch it out as long as we could.  I collected some more signatures and addresses in my book (as my father had done so long ago). 

I’m back in my room and I just want to comment on Bud and Ruth’s relationship. Ruth’s father and Bud were roommates in Stalag Luft I and that is how they became acquainted. She located him when she was doing her research on her father. How lucky is that! They have become good friends and how wonderful for them to be on this trip together. He is like her stand-in father. What he recalls about camp life most certainly would be what her dad would recall. He is a special person and very pleasant to speak to. He brought a copy of a page in a book that he has at home that has a picture of a POW and a cat. He pointed the cat out and said “that’s the cat we ate” and I believe that the cat belonged to the man in the picture. I think that this trip brought back a lot of memories for him as well as for the other POWs. Ruth and her husband are coming back to Germany in September and will be traveling for a month and they plan to meet Bud in Rome in October. They also have gone to bomb group reunions together. I wish that I could find someone like Bud that knew dad. I was just thinking this evening that the only thing that could have made the time that I’ve spent here better would of course be if I was sharing it with my dad (like Don and Mellissa) and next, if not with dad, with someone who had lived those months with him and could tell me about him (like Ruth & Bud). However, if I cannot have those 2 choices, to be fortunate enough to have what would be my third choice – just being here and learning from those that I’m with – learning about the EX-POW’s and the fathers of the children who are here and imagining what would almost certainly apply to dad – it doesn’t get better than this – the third choice is superb.

MAY 2, 2005

Ruth, Bud, and Jim were dropped off in Berlin.  I’m going to miss them.  We were only together a week and I’m feeling sad to have them leave.  It’s as if I’ve known them for years.  They have all played a remarkable role in this trip and as I’ve mentioned I feel that we have a special bond.  In our drive to Berlin, I had such a nice visit with Jim.  I guess I mostly did the talking but what a good listener he was.  He was so knowledgeable about so many things.  I am in hopes and I really am most certain that we will all keep in touch.  I’m writing this on the bus.  I only got 4 hours of sleep last night and could fall asleep but I don’t want to—then I will be too tired to walk around. 

We stopped for lunch outside of Berlin and I ate a good sandwich.  I still feel so lucky to be here with everyone.  John Tayloe is who I pal around with most.  What a quality guy.  I would like to get to talk to him more about his unique story.

We are entering DRESDEN—–a city that during the war had been covered with bodies as the British bombed at night and the Americans during the day.  Paul Schultz gave us a brief history lesson on the intense bombing of Dresden.  There is no way to come up with an exact count but approximately 135,000 died in the bombing.  It was told that to escape the fire people tried to get relief by entering the water and the water was boiling.  The world has tried to determine the reason for this intense bombing.  The Air Marshall in charge of selecting targets was Arthur (Bomber) Harris and about 10 years ago a statue was erected and the night after the dedication, red paint was thrown on it and they were never able to get all of the paint out of the statue creases.

We were dropped off at the Square in Dresden to walk around.  The city had to be rebuilt and what beautiful buildings there are especially the opera house and the palace.  There still is much new construction going on.  I noticed the statues on many of the buildings are black as if they were charred and it seems that they may have been left from the bombings.  John and I walked around taking several pictures.  We also needed memory cards for our cameras and began a search for a store that would have them.  We were directed to a Mall and luckily could increase our picture-taking capacity.  I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have this digital camera.  It is so difficult not to take pictures of everything.  I hate to act like a country bumpkin or like it’s my first trip to Europe but—-I AM a country bumpkin and it IS my first trip to Europe so what do I expect.  I may never be here again.  I probably won’t be here again.  I also bought 3 necklaces in the Mall which I thought would make good gifts.  I really like them.  As a matter of fact, I may try one of them out at dinner tonight.  We’re staying at the Hotel Dorint Novotel.

Our dinner this evening was turkey filet with vegetables, vegetable soup and tiramisu.  I don’t know if I mention the speed with which I eat but once again, I was the first one done eating.  Oink, Oink.  I have to slow down.  Craig and Diane Dudley (Gib’s daughter and son-in-law) thoughtfully asked if I would like to walk with them to the Square about 9:30 this evening and naturally I did.  It was even more beautiful at night.  Craig and Diane were great company and it was surprising the people who were just eating dinner at 10 PM.  Every one was also so dressed up and we figured that they had been at the Opera House and it must have just gotten over.  It was amazing the number of people who were walking around.  Craig has a really good sense of direction.  I was glad that I went with them.  I don’t want to miss any opportunities while I’m here and so far I feel that I haven’t missed a thing!

MAY 3, 2005

We went to the Galerie Mall this morning before we left and I bought a few more necklaces (I mean charged), a cigar, and post cards and then we came back to our hotel and I bought Nick a shot glass to add to his collection. 

Our bus ride is about 186 miles to Nurnberg.  The devastation of Dresden was horrific.  It must have been terrible for the survivors.  How would you ever get back to normal?  Life could never be normal.  Not only were the residents victims but also East Prussian refugees who had traveled there to escape the Russians.  It’s impossible to have an accurate count of those who perished according to Paul.

To pass the time on the bus I just wrote a poem in my notebook that I want to read in dad’s memory on the first anniversary of his death, which is tomorrow.  The words came really easy.  It’s important to me to remember him with the others and this is the most appropriate way that I can think of as – judging by his logbooks – writing poems was a way to help him pass the time.  I’ll ask Gib if I can read it at dinner and I am sure that he will not mind. 

This is it:                 

REMEMBERING DAD 

I knew not a soul, but I knew my own heart

I needed to journey out of the country to Barth.

No doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do

So much about dad as a gunner and POW that I hadn’t a clue.

A few facts that I’d gathered important to pack

With God’s grace and some luck – to collect info to bring back.

Back and forth at the train station – I stepped all over the place.

I left confident that at some point I’d stepped in dad’s space.

I can only imagine and picture him here,

So young and courageous – full of suffering I fear.

I wanted someone to remember – to recall his face.

I wished to hear stories of him from roomies – but it would not be the case.

But it really didn’t matter because of everyone here.

I heard stories of you and your dad’s and felt my dad was near.

Uncertain of dad’s compound – I walked South’s edge & North 1, 2 & 3.

I ventured cross the field certain that he could see.

I stared to the heavens slowly turning around – not sure why.

But I was thinking all these years later – I’m seeing the same sky.

I was mesmerized by the steeple and glanced from every direction.

I’m sure I caught the same angle as dad from one of the sections.

I accomplished what I’d hoped for – I felt fulfilled.

For brief moments I became him – feelings that I cherish still.

One year ago today – just like that – dad was gone..

But what a tribute to remember him with Ex-Kriegies of Stalag Luft I.

I will be sure to read it tomorrow.

Vicki and Mellissa were speaking of Dr. Martin Nichols, the camp doctor at Stalag Luft I, whose kids were with us in Barth.  Dr. Nichols was one of the POW’s at Dunkirk and was a POW for 5 years.  It seems that after the war he did not live long.  His daughter told that he talked to her mother non-stop for 5 days.  Judy, his daughter, was 5 years old and frightened of this strange man when he returned home.  Can you imagine?  It was mentioned that he then was in bed for 3 months and his body was covered with boils.  He was an amazing man who took care of everyone else under extreme conditions and stayed well himself.  It was as though all of the sickness that he had seen and treated with limited resources for all that time was held in and was now free to emerge.  The girls said that he had also taken out someone’s appendix in camp.  As far as instruments, he would have had to improvise.  He must have had thousands of stories to tell about all those who he treated.  I wish that I could have talked more and heard more from the doctor’s kids.  What a significant role that their dad played all those years.   My dad most certainly would remember him.  Oh how I would love to have the opportunity to ask dad if he had any dealings with Dr. Martin Nichols.

I wish that I could have talked more to Ruth about her dad.  Hope she got home okay, as well as Jim and Bud.  I didn’t hear about Jim’s dad either.  I did hear him say that he was older than most others and they called him “Pop”.  I will have to find out 

I asked Bob Bueker to write in my book and he gave me his contact information as well as a little bit about his experience.  He was in the 454th Bomb Group flying out of Italy, his last mission being his 23rd on 11/22/44 to Bleckhammer, Silesia (synthetic oil refinery).  His permanent assignment was made to Stalag Luft I.  He arrived early December and suffered frostbite  from marching in snow with no shoes.  He was stoned by civilians in Frankfurt and knocked unconscious with a rifle butt to left side of head by Hungarian guard.  He wrote of being bombed by B-17’s in Berlin marshalling yard enroute to Stalag Luft I not unlike most Kriegies.  Bob had an 18” waist at liberation and weighed approximately 85-90 pounds.  He endured years of emotional recovery only made possible by his wife, Mary. 

I will not forget what a devoted, loving couple that Bob and Mary are.  They set a marvelous example for what marriage is all about.   They’ve been married for 60 years. 

Joe and Shirley Reus are also another prime example of a devoted couple.  Joe has shared some interesting stories of his experience.  Joe had been shot down twice and he also knew Jimmy Stewart well.  He said that Jimmy told him that every time that he was shot down, he (Jimmy) was promoted.  Joe could not say enough good about him. 

We are staying at Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Erlangen.  John,Vicki and I did a little walking around before dinner.  When we came back we enjoyed a pils with Gib, Don and Mellissa who were sitting outside.  It was a relaxing evening and I need a good night’s rest.  Whether I like it or not, tomorrow will be a rough day for me emotionally.  I would prefer not to think about the day I lost my father as it is a painful memory but I expect I will relive it.  I don’t want to recall that horrible evening but I cannot control my mind.     Why our minds allow us to think about the things that hurt us the most is beyond me.  I don’t want to dwell on it – I just want to remember him with my new special friends before the day is over; friends that I have met because of my father’s role in WWII.  ‘Remembering Dad’ with such an appropriate group is my plan for tomorrow.

May 4, 2005

We rode to Nurnberg and took turns standing on the famous platform at Zeppelin Stadium where Hitler stood to give his pep talks.  It felt weird to be there and to imagine the cheers for such a crazy man.  How someone like him could have so much power is incredible!  You could look out and see where the bleachers were although they are now overgrown with grass and weeds.  When you think about it, thank God that they are.  One could visualize Hitler walking through the door that he always entered the stadium through and then out onto the platform with the tremendous crowd feeding his ego with their cheers.  I have seen the old WWII footage of Hitler in this very stadium; a much quieter place now!  I can only imagine what my father would think about me being here!!

We continued on to the unfinished Stadium where Hitler planned to hold the Olympics after he won the war.  Again, thank God the Stadium is unfinished and the Germans did not win the war!  The world would certainly be a different place.  I would not be here and writing this if that had been the case.  After our stadium visit we drove on to the mile long Gross Strasse where the Germans marched in perfect step and perfectly spaced with the help of the blocks that comprise the marching area.  I’ve seen old video of this area also.  There were bleachers overgrown with weeds and shrubbery and again you could imagine how times have changed! (For the better!)  And again, so critical it is that they are overgrown today and that we are free to tour the areas where historic events once took place – more importantly that they are merely a tourist attraction today!

We stopped at a train station where the prisoners had been brought in to Stalag Luft XIIID in those God-forsaken box cars that were there normal form of transportation.  This was a significant stop for me because some of the POWs from Stalag Luft IV were brought to this camp and I thought perhaps someone that my dad was with came in on these very tracks; someone that he may have been good friends with.  I felt that it would mean something to my father if he were here.  I wanted to take pictures of the tracks and it was a bit of a climb to get up to them. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had not begun to pour down rain and I mean pour!  However, even the deluge would not discourage me.  Don and Mellissa were ahead of me in the climb and the thought of climbing back down became a concern as the downpour made it very slippery.  If my dad were still alive this would be a place that I would want pictures of to show him and tell him that some of his buddies may have ended up here or better yet if we were here together, he could tell me about the guys that he knew ended up here.  Even in this inclement weather we were able to snap the sought-after pictures.  We walked gingerly down the hill even hanging onto branches – Mellissa ahead of her dad and me taking his back.  We got soaked but we got our pictures!

We journeyed on to Center City.  There was a beautiful church there that was about the only thing left standing after the war.  John, Vicki and I found a nice place to eat lunch.  It was crowded but we were lucky to get a table.  I ate my first sausages since I’d been here along with warm potato salad and it was a good choice!  It was funny, as when we sat down there was a basket of huge complimentary pretzels, like the warm ones that we have at home.  We thought what a nice touch!  The only thing is they were not complimentary – they were added onto our bill.  We’re learning.  Just like we have learned that you pay to use the restrooms!  Oh well, the pretzels were good so it didn’t hurt a thing and we were so hungry it was good to eat something while we waited for our food. 

Gib told us about how he drove a tank down the very street that we walked on in the Nurnberg Marketplace!  I found that so fascinating.  What a feeling it must have been for him stirring memories from 60 years ago!  We walked around a while and I bought a book about Nurnberg.  By the time we were going back to our hotel I was very tired.  Nancy wanted to see my dad’s notebooks so I met her in the lobby.  John also came down and sat with us.  Our dinnertime as usual was 7PM so I told John that I was going to rest a while before dinner and if I didn’t show up to give me a call.  I was only kidding but guess what.  I came up to my room and was just going to lie down for a minute.  I immediately fell asleep and was awakened by the phone and it was Gib asking if I was coming to dinner.  It was 7:11PM!  Oh my Lord!  I jumped up and did not even look in the mirror as I knew that if I did that it would waste precious minutes because I must have looked a sight.  I could not worry about that and I could not miss dinner on this special evening when I planned to remember dad with the others.

I could not seem to get my bearings about me for a while at dinner as I was not fully awake.  I mean I literally woke up and ran right down to dinner.  It was going to be a few minutes before I was with it.  I began foolishly thinking that it would be dumb to read my silly poem and I was having second thoughts.  And then I thought again and realized that this day could not pass without doing what I’d planned.  I could not retire for the evening not mentioning my dad.  I finally asked Gib if I could read my poem after dinner and he made an announcement that everyone should go to the lobby when we were done eating.  I did it!  I read it and didn’t even cry and everyone listened and remembered my father with me and that was great! I don’t want to even think about how I would be feeling right now if I hadn’t followed through with the reading. Don told me that if I could not finish it – if I became too emotional – that he would have finished reading it for me but I did it!  It is the end of another fulfilling day.

Before we girls went to our rooms we had a little meeting to plan what special gifts we wanted to give the others on our last evening together which would be Friday, May 6.  Walter would not be with us May 7 as we leave Sunday (Mother’s Day).  We all contributed things that we remembered about everybody throughout our trip and it was my job to put it together in a poem so I had some homework (or hotel roomwork) to do but it’s something that I enjoy.  And I felt like I was playing the part of my father thinking of the poems that he had written in his notebooks. 

May 5, 2005

We visited Dachau today and viewed a 20-minute video that made my stomach ill that such a horrific place could exist! There was not a dry eye in the building. Don and Mellisa had to leave because it was too disturbing to him. He knew men who had been in this camp and he told how 2 brothers were ordered to stand in line by the Germans and the Germans shot every other man leaving one brother to survive. What a horrible memory to live with; how would one feel to be the lucky one? I walked the area by myself. We had to be back to the bus by 1 PM and there was a large area to cover in a short period of time. It was a very, very sobering experience. I bought Brad a book giving the history of Dachau. It never ceases to amaze me what human beings can do to other human beings. I wanted to cry the whole time that I was there thinking of those who lived through this wretched experience and those poor souls who did not survive. They were treated like animals – no – they were treated worse than animals. It is hard to imagine the suffering, degradation and total disregard for life. It was inscribed in several different languages the words “never again”. I took many pictures while I was there but it did not feel right to me to take those pictures where such a terrible event transpired. It felt almost sacrilegious.

We’re on the road again and the beautiful Alps Mountains came into view at 15:08 PM. They are breathtaking!! I tried to take pictures through the raindrops on the windows but I’m sure they will not do justice to the scene.

Walter told us something interesting that I was not aware of. Today is a holyday. It is the feast of the Ascension of Mary. The businesses are all closed and there are no trucks on the road as they are not allowed to travel again until after midnight tonight. The rest stops are full of semis in observance of the holyday. We are in a very Catholic area outside of Munich.

We arrived in Salzburg at 16:11 PM and the view of the Alps out of my Hotel Europa window is awesome and it’s a rainy day. I’m hoping for good weather tomorrow but it should be magnificent either way. Again, I tried to use the phone following the directions given and no luck. Sorry Brad. If I let myself think about it, I miss him and everyone so much. I won’t think about it. It’s been like I’m a different person in a different world. It will be hard to get back to work. I wish I could find some little souvenirs but I’m short on Euros and they won’t take a credit card which is why I didn’t bring as much money as I should have. I planned on using credit for everything. It just seemed to be easier. As it is, I probably just saved myself a lot of money by not being able to charge most places so that’s really not a bad thing and I really did have enough cash for what I needed it for – mainly lunch and beer.

I can also see a castle from my window. I drew a pathetic sketch of it. I guess I just was thinking of my father and the sketches he made looking out his window or door. I wondered if I inherited his drawing skill but I have quit wondering as it’s obvious that I did not. I rhyme pretty good though:

OUT OF MY WINDOW AS FAR AS I CAN SEE…
A MYSTERIOUS CASTLE IS LOOKING BACK AT ME.
HOW BREATHTAKING THE MOUNTAINS – A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT.
I STILL SEE THE OUTLINE IN THE DARK OF THIS NIGHT.

Our dinner was on the 15th floor and it’s a panoramic dining room with a spectacular view!! I really love it here!

Craig, Diane, Nancy and I took a taxi to the Old Town. Of course everything was closed because of the holiday but it was still quite fascinating to see the town at night. It was raining again but again it did not matter. We saw the building where Mozart was born. I am so glad that I ventured out with the others! I feel that I’ve made the most of every moment and spent quality time with quality people.

May 6, 2005

Gib came through the area that we toured today from Austria to Germany in an army tank 60 years ago. He had not even thought of the date until he began telling us about it but it hit him while talking that it was exactly 60 years ago today that he drove the same area in a tank. I found it so fascinating that he could give his account of what actually happened based on his own experience. He said that the weather was damp and cold. And he told of the German soldiers retreating towards Austria from Berchtesgaden. The air force caught them and massacred the troop of German soldiers on the sides of the mountain. There were burning vehicles and many bodies from the previous evening in the valley. In Gib’s words “it was not a pretty sight”. Some survivors were walking east to Austria.

There was a US MP on the corner waving Gib up the hill. The trucks and tanks drove up the entrance to Obersalzburg on Rossfeld Mountain Road. He told that the Fuhrer had come through here and that it was a major military installation. At night they would shut the tank down and sleep away from it. They’d go into the woods and dig a hole to sleep in and put brush and logs over it. The road was a gravel road at that time. The Zum Turken hotel is now where the SS Barracks had been behind Hitler’s Berghof home. Gib told interestingly that he had spent 2 nights in the SS Barracks sleeping on the floor. We all listened attentively to this fascinating story of his memories of the area that we were traveling. How fortunate that we were that Gib was sharing his memories and giving the first hand account of another aspect of WWII.

We were able to climb down into and walk around in Hitler’s private bunkers. Before we went into the bunkers, though, Gib took us around behind the hotel and showed us where he remembered Hitler’s home to be – where the garage was – where the porch was – where the steps were leading up from the road below. Melissa even uncovered parts of the steps. It was raining then but once again it did not matter as it was so special to be walking and listening to Gib explain things as they were 60 years ago today. How fortunate it was again for us to be with someone who could tell us the way that it was from their own experience just as the POW’s had been able to tell us at the train stations and in Barth of their experiences. This, too, will be a cherished memory of this extraordinary opportunity.

Another interesting story that Gib told was that it was quite a prize for whoever would get credit for taking Hitler’s home and the 101st Division claimed the prize. He said there was a conglomeration of units so he wasn’t sure who should. The Eagles Nest was never hit. Hitler’s home was destroyed and Goering’s house which was across the road was hit but not burned.

The Eagles Nest or Kehlsteinhaus was an extravagant 50th birthday gift for the “Fuhrer” given by the National Socialists Workers Party (Nazi). However, Hitler didn’t care for the height of the Eagles Nest and was only there three to seven times. Hitler was quite ungrateful I’d say among other things. It was rainy and foggy and there was still quite a bit of snow on the hill so, needless to say, we were unable to travel to this famous site. When we were across the mountain from it and Gib mentioned that it was across the way, I took a picture of it but, of course, the picture is of fog. It’s okay, I know what’s on the other side of it.

We had lunch at a hunting lodge called the Gasthof Alte Tanne which was quite an intriguing place. They were having a lodge meeting so there was a lot of activity. After lunch we stopped at Mondsee and toured the beautiful Sound of Music Church. It was absolutely gorgeous!

We then returned to the hotel and this evening was our farewell banquet. Some of the group was going to go to Old Salzburg but this was the one and only time that I said that I couldn’t do something. I was so glad that Diane had asked me to go there last evening so I don’t feel like I missed anything. The only difference is that the stores were open but it was probably a good thing that they weren’t last night. I tried to write some of the poems for this evening on the bus. If I went with the others to the Old Town I would not be able to finish up plus I was pretty exhausted.

Tonight was Walter’s last evening with us. He has been a gem – the perfect delightful tour guide – patient and diplomatic. He was always smiling and so kind to people. He was easy for everyone to talk to and we all took our turn sitting with him at meals. Diane, Vicki, Nancy, Melissa and I met in my room. They brought and wrapped up gifts that had been picked up for everyone and we split them and the poems up. We included the 3 members of our party who left early in our poems also and I was designated to read those. I also had Walter and Paul’s names. Everything was set and we went up to the 15th floor to the panoramic dining room. Honestly, the view this evening was astounding! Every time the sun would come out and highlight a different area I would take a picture and then a most amazing thing happened. We were all sitting at the table and someone said “look at the rainbow”. It was an absolutely beautiful scene which I captured on my camera. We all felt as though it was a sign from our fathers who could only be with us in spirit. What incredible timing! We then began our program of poems and gifts and it went rather well I think.

To top the evening off and it was a great thing to do, Diane, Craig, Melissa and I walked with Gib about 10:30 or 11PM to get a hot dog. Gib knew about this stand from previous visits. It is like one of those trailers at the carnival. It is not there during the day but is set up only at night – I think I heard at 10 PM. Gib recommended the “bosna” and I think that’s what everyone got and oh my, what a hot dog! It is definitely the best I’ve ever eaten – beats Sahlen’s all to heck. The mustard was horseradishy and the onions were sweet and the bun was long and crispy. The hotdogs were skinny and had to fit 2 in the bun to fill the whole length. I took a picture of it. Gib said on one trip that he was on that he went out to get the hotdog at 3 AM. The funny thing about getting the hotdog was that it seemed like we just finished eating dinner but it did not matter and it still went down easy and so did the Stiegl beer that I washed it down with. Another opportunity that I did not pass up – a bosna hot dog at 11 PM in Salzburg – doesn’t get better than that – and it contributed to yet another complete day.

May 7, 2005 

Today was a day of travel.  I could not write on the bus as I would miss the beautiful scenery.  Today, as planned last night, I spent the entire trip in the front seat.  It was a good day to pick to sit there as the mountains are breathtaking.  You almost want to cry they are so stunning.  I did not even bother Walter either.  I didn’t make one startled noise (the kind like you make when you suck in air) like I sometimes can when riding and I didn’t put the brakes on for him like I’m capable of doing.  I did not even talk because of the captivating countryside.  The only noise I might have made was maybe an “ooh” or an “ah” for the fantastic vista.  

We stopped at Center City in Innsbruck to shop or just look around.  It was so picturesque with the beautiful Alps as a backdrop.  I absorbed as much as I could walking around.  There was a free schnapp’s tasting shop which I entered and sampled the wares.  I ended up buying a bottle of a creamy caramel-flavored schnapps that I thought would be good in coffee.  Maybe I’d give it for a gift but probably I’d keep it.  Boy I’m selfish sometimes.  First I wear the necklaces so I can’t give away a used necklace and then I buy this bottle knowing that I will likely end up keeping it for myself.

Dinner was sad as our time together was coming to an end.  I had 3 Feldschlosscherr’s and, again, quite a good pils as I seem to be becoming a connoisseur of fine pils.  We had quite a wait for our table so they gave us our drinks on the house.  I gave the girl 5 euros regardless.  I have a few left so might as well get rid of them. 

What a great group that we have had!  Everyone took their turn after dinner with any comments that they had to offer to sum up their views on the trip similar to what we did on our first night together.   When it was my turn I stated that I cherished the time spent with them and that they were special and that their stories will be shared and memories told of them and their fathers in my corner of the world.  I also said what an inspiration that husbands and wives, father and daughter, mother and daughter, have been. 

 I have told that this was not a vacation – it was a mission – and the mission I feel was accomplished; however, the journey is to be continued.  We had our group picture taken – one final picture.

May 8, 2005 (These are comments that I wrote in my flights on my way home)

I ate my last breakfast with Paul.  Gosh I’m going to miss him.  He always tried to act a little mean and I even told him that he was mean but that didn’t ever keep me from eating breakfast with him or having a beer with him and talking his ear off.  I like being around him because he is enjoyable to talk to and is a wealth of information.  He has made some good comments; comments like “the first liar doesn’t have a chance”.  And he always said, “why do you care?” about things that I would ask about that were silly but everything that he says makes complete sense.  I was relentless because I knew that he wasn’t as mean as he put on and I was right.  I know that I was right because I asked him to write in my book last night and he wrote “I’m not as mean as I made out to be”.  I knew it, I just knew it.  He was one of my new friends and I know that we will keep in touch.

I have to admit that it will be a letdown to get back to normal life.  This was indeed the most incredible trip of my life.  I’m not sure what I need to do when I get home but I feel that it’s overwhelming.  I’ve so much investigating and documenting to do.  I also need to start saving for my next trip and any reunions that the girls may plan in years to come.  I really want to see everybody again.  I have so many pictures to print and I know that I’ll be in too much of a hurry to go through them and delete the ones that I really don’t need like the ones that I maybe took 3 or 4 of the same thing in order to ensure that I captured the moment.  I want to get them on disk for everyone.  I am in hopes that I will receive copies of everyone’s story.  I am very sincere about writing a book as well as my parachute jump dream.  To me that is the best tribute that I could give my dad and the men that he respresents to me.  He had to be so frightened not knowing what was in store for him as were the thousands of others.  What would one think of while falling to the earth over foreign territory?  Where would you land?  Could you escape?  Would you review your escape procedures as you were descending?  Could you drift perhaps to allied territory?  Where were the others?  Would you be together?   Would you ever see your crew members again?  Should you open your parachute now?  Were you going to die?  Would you ever see your family again?  Were you prepared enough?  Would you be listed as KIA, MIA or POW?  What does one think in that situation?

It was so heartwarming to see Ruth and Bud together and hear of the other crew members or room mates that they were in touch with.  Nancy’s dad (Joan’s husband also), John, had been with Ruth’s father and Bud.  I wanted to hear more about John.  I have to get Nancy’s e-mail.

 I spent a lot of time with John Tayloe.  At first I felt that I didn’t want him to go anywhere by himself.  I wanted to look after him but it seems that the roles reversed and he was taking care of me making sure I went the right direction as sometimes my sense of direction stinks especially in a foreign country.  I guess we both looked out for each other. 

There were certain people throughout the 2 weeks that I felt that I wanted to be around.  I wanted to make sure that I learned about everyone.  I took turns with people that I gravitated towards depending on my mood.  If I wanted to hear a variety of stories I spent time with Joe and Shirley.  Joe was very sharp and full of stories and jokes – his vivid memories were amazing.  I spent time with them at the beginning and then towards the end of the trip as they were very kind people.  Shirley was very complimentary of me and she made me feel good.  She was very charming.  I won’t forget them just like I won’t forget anyone that I’ve spent time with these past 2 weeks. 

I enjoyed relentlessly trying to crack Paul’s tough exterior.  My mission every day was to try to get him to smile and I kept up until I did.  He may have thought I’m nuts but at the same time he taught me “do I really care” what he or anyone else thinks about anything.  It doesn’t matter what others think.  He could be tough but he was very special and unique as were they all.  As was mentioned in the poem – he’s a “walking history book”.  He is so totally honest and I valued his opinion as I knew he would tell it like it is so I asked him at the last breakfast what his view of me was and what he thought others thought.  I guess it’s because I’m pretty sheltered – not traveling out of Kill Buck much.  His answer to my question was simply “why do you care?”  Really – he’s right.  I’m free to go wherever I want whenever I want and why do I care about what anybody thinks.

You should have seen Nancy and her mom.  They were so much fun to be with and to watch.  Nancy is an organizer and is so outgoing.  She can talk to anyone and is not afraid to stand up in front of a group of people and talk.  She’s not lost for words and has such a nice clear voice.  I think that her videos would have to be super as she talked throughout saying names of places and people.  Her mom, Joan, was her favorite subject understandably as she is beautiful.  How thoughtful it was of Nancy to take my camera and take pictures of me in different places.  Although, at the time I thought I don’t need to be in these pictures but I really am grateful.  And I know that my family will appreciate it. 

And then there’s Melissa and her dad, Don.  I think that she was the envy of every Ex-Kriegie daughter on the trip.  It was inspiring to observe them and there isn’t anything that we son and daughters present wished for more than being there with our dads to listen to, to talk to and to ask questions.  The word “envy” is used lovingly as I loved them both as it was obvious that they adore each other.  Don was helpful and attentive to everyone. 

It was such a fortunate experience for me to be there at Barth and watch as others who have an interest in being there came one by one.  I witnessed the reunions or introductions having also been included as a daughter of an Ex-Kriegie.  I couldn’t have been more proud or more honored to be among those who were at Barth.  Don and Vasily, the Russian, have been friends for years.  Vasily was overpowering in a good way and it was great to have him and his grandson among us!

Last night we told of our special highlights.  I guess I already wrote that but Barth was what it was all about along with the railway stations, Dulag Luft – all of the areas that were relative to retracing my father’s steps – that’s what I came for.  All of the other historic sights or towns were a perk – things I’ve never seen before but heard about and it was awesome and at times sobering to be there.  They were what you may call an extra bonus.

I told Gib how honored I was to be with him and listen to him tell his account of an event 60 years ago May 6th which happened to be the day we were there.  He excitedly relived his steps and we were there to relive them with him.  That was indeed another special highlight.  I have been so lucky to be a part of all of these special moments. 

I can’t leave out how much that I loved the German beer.  You would ask for pils and get what I suppose was considered their house beer and it would be served in a glass with the beer name on it as well as a matching coaster.  There was bitburger, Berliner, steigl and others.  I took a picture of the beer also.   I hope that I haven’t mentioned the beer too much. It was always consumed in moderation and it was just fun to sample different kinds.  It was every bit as good as I have heard!

I keep thinking about something that stands out in my mind – Bud and Bob painfully recalling the horrors that they found when walking through Barth.  This was at the memorial ceremony at the concentration camp site.  They relived a traumatic experience – an experience that I’m certain remained with them for the decades after the war.  For them I think maybe it was revisiting this site that may have helped them deal with the skeletons of the past.  I know that it gave Bob some piece of mind and maybe will help him through the rest of his life – to help rid him of the terrible memories that obviously, as he stated in my book, contributed to the years of emotional recovery.  I’ve mentioned what a beautiful, loving couple that he and wife, Mary, are.  It was not unusual to see Mary rubbing Bob’s back or Bob rubbing Mary’s feet.  These pictures and memories will make me smile admiringly when their names are heard in the future.  I wished that I had purchased a little music box that played “Love Story” for them.  I saw it at a rest stop and it would have been so appropriate and I thought I may see one later but didn’t.  It would have been the perfect gift to give them.

I hope that when I get the tape of the happy POWs exiting Barth in the B-17s and mom looks at it that she can verify that it is dad.  I can’t wait for Aunt Helen to see it also.  She will know.   

It is a true honor to meet the POW’s that I have become acquainted with.  The trait they all have in common is their humility and the fact that they do not look at themselves as heroes.  You tell them how honored you feel to be there with them and they respond and get the same look as dad used to on the very rare occasions that the subject came up.  Because they were shot down and captured, they feel as they were told when taken captive that for them the war was over.  They may not have been dropping bombs on marshalling yards or bridges any longer but they were constantly involved in a struggle or a fight to survive.  They were where they were because they were willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom – to rid the world of Nazism.  They had no way of knowing if they would complete all of their missions and I am sure in their minds that was their goal only to be disappointed with their demise.  They would have wanted nothing less than completing all that they set out to complete.  They had no control over the unfortunate mishap – it was the luck of the draw. 

After taken prisoner – it was then a dream to escape; however, once again, it requires the grace of God.  Everyone had the strong will to survive – for some that would involve their desire to escape and for others it would be the realization that, in their particular situation, to try to escape appeared like suicide.  Repeating myself, one thing that all had in common was the will to live.  And then you read of those who had to endure so much that they gave up.  They were just hurting too badly from the abuse and neglect – all of the toxic elements of their captivity combined to take such a toll that it was easier to expire.  THEY ARE ALL HEROES. 

 I know I am talking about one group but it is an important group to me because of my admiration of my father.  All of these men are like my father and it was such an uplifting feeling to be with them on the tour.  They represented dad and it was as close as I could get to dad’s life over 60 years ago.  I could feel dad’s presence and know he approved of me being there and I am certain that he could feel my love for him and the pride that I felt representing him.  I’m certain he would have loved us to be together and that he would have felt good to talk to the others that had been there.  I don’t think that I have ever done anything more right in my life.

As far as this segment of my journey into dad’s past – I have captured part C  (Stalag Luft I) of this chapter of his life.  My next mission is to capture parts A (Stalag Luft VI) and B (Stalag Luft IV) so I vow to myself that this journey is to be continued…….

Written after I returned home…..

 And continued it is.  This trip in 2005 opened so many doors for me.  Having met Helga Radau and obtaining her contact information so that we would keep in touch was very fortunate for me.  I can remember when I was planning this trip that I knew that everyone would want to talk to Helga and I wondered if I would be lucky enough to get the chance.  I hadn’t much to offer but was full of so many questions.  She is so knowledgeable and so kind and I appreciated her efforts in helping me, knowing how important that it was to me to learn as much as I could about my father and his compound.  She knew that I was looking for stories of my dad.  Dr. Martin Albrecht was another person I will never forget for his kindness and attentiveness when I showed him the few articles that I had brought with me pertaining to my father.

I was so fortunate to have talked briefly with Ejvind Jensen and his lovely companion, Bjoerg.  It was the beginning of a special relationship that I treasure.  Ejvind and I began corresponding after our return home and it would lead to the discovery of kind individuals who discovered details of my father and crew and their B-17. Ejvind was like my private detective and his efforts laid the groundwork for another chapter in my mission.  He felt indebted to the Americans for liberating German-occupied Denmark and my mission became his as well.  How fortunate for me that he was as motivated as I was and became very involved in helping me find pieces of the puzzle.

Throughout the months after this first excursion, I learned that another trip was being planned for 2006 and this time it would include a visit to the former POW camp, Stalag Luft IV in Poland.  This was another opportunity for me to get to an area so connected to my father’s role as a POW.  I could not pass it up.  So I signed up for the trip immediately.

Having committed, it seemed to me that it might be a good idea to try to get to other areas important to my father’s journey and incorporate them into the trip by perhaps adding them to the front end of the planned dates.  I contacted Irv Baum of dad’s 92nd Bomb Group and he put me in touch with Gerry and Audrey Darnell.  Gerry grew up near Podington and had guided others when they returned to the area as he remembers well “Station 109.”  He was more than happy to accommodate me.  I called him to find out which airport that I should fly to as well as other details of the trip.  The trip was not scheduled until September but I made the arrangements months ahead of time. 

In January of 2006, things really fell into place when I received a “surprise” email from brothers, Guy, Raimond and Willy Wendelen from Belgium telling me that they wanted to help me with details of the days my father and crew spent in Belgium.  They would put articles in the newspapers soliciting witnesses to the B-17 that crashed in Koersel on February 4, 1944.  Ejvind Jensen initiated this correspondence by contacting a librarian who in turn contacted the Wendelens.  These brothers, so enthusiastic in their willingness to assist a stranger in her endeavor, asked me if I would be willing to travel to Belgium to meet the witnesses. I responded almost immediately after I read the last word of their message that, yes, I would be willing to visit Belgium and as a matter of fact, I was planning a trip in September, a tour to two of my father’s POW camps.  I told them that I intended to visit England prior to the tour to Germany and that I could possibly go early enough that I could visit England first, then Belgium before joining the tour group.

How could I be so lucky in the way things transpired!!!  It was as if it was meant to be.  I could hardly believe that I would be traveling to areas so critical to my father’s past. This all seemed like a dream to me; an impossible dream.

I failed to mention that not only was I going to participate in another tour, but my eighty-five year old mother also expressed the interest and strong desire to go with me. We checked with her doctor and he saw no reason that she couldn’t make this trip.  I explained that it would involve three weeks and would cover an extensive area including several flights.  She was good to go so my plans and reservations included the two of us.  And, to make things even better, Ejvind and Bjoerg planned to travel from Denmark to meet us in Belgium and visit the areas relevant to my father’s experience.  After all, if it wasn’t for Ejvind, Belgium would more than likely not be on the agenda.  It was going to be wonderful to reunite with these two special friends.  We had been writing about the days ahead for months and all of the planning and anticipation were becoming another chapter in the story.

The tour part of the trip was nearly canceled because of the lack of participants but with some finagling on the part of Gib, who would not be going on the trip, ten of us were able to continue with the plans. It would have been disaster had the tour not materialized as flight arrangements and hotel reservations had already been made for the England and Belgium portion of the trip as well as all of the flight reservations for the tour segment. It was not just because so many reservations had been made but it would have been extreme disappointment if I could not follow through with the plans.  Walter, who had been our driver from the Travel Agency the previous year, fortunately agreed to serve as our driver and guide.  It wouldn’t be so easy to handle everything for us but he agreed so that we wouldn’t have to cancel.  

We had another setback when I was notified by Guy Wendelen that his brother, Raimond, had passed away unexpectedly.  I lost someone who I was looking forward to meeting; I lost a friend who I would never meet.  I told Guy that I would understand completely if we canceled the trip to Belgium.  He responded that it should go on as planned otherwise his brother’s efforts would be in vain.  So we would carry on as planned.

My mother and I were going to be able to cover an extensive part of my father’s wartime past after all and it was scheduled to take place in September, 2006 . . . . . .

Click to Continue to 2006 Journal. . . .