CORBIN:Bill, would you tell us about your experiences while a POW?
BARRON: When we arrived in Ligneuville, they had taken our mackinaws and arctic gaiters from us and we had to walk through the water on the road instead of going around d the water. That night Anderson and I rubbed each other's feet to keep the circulation going. Later on that evening they took Sgt. Anderson and me and three or four other prisoners into a house where there was the German Soldier that was burned from head to foot. They told me to look after him during the night, and that if he died, I would die. They moved us the next day, and I was separated from Sgt. Anderson.
I was interviewed by a young German Officer that had graduated from Michigan University in 1939. His English was way better then mine. He said you are out of the 8 Armored Division are you not. I said if you already know there is not need for me to tell you. You could admit it said he. I can admit only my rank and serial No. Then He slapped me beside the head and said, "you are a good soldier, have a cigarette, which he gave me. We started getting a lot of other prisoner from the 99th. and 106th. and 9 Armored, but none from the 3 AD.
We walked for days and days until we came to Geroldstein, which seemed to be a transit camp for POWs. They worked us while we were there. We were ordered to dig gun emplacement and I balked on that but after an Officer told me I was not a registered POW and I could be killed, so I dug it along with five others. We then were marched to another camp that was run by Germans and an American Master Sergeant. They had Red Cross parcels but would not give them to us because they said there would be many more prisoners to follow and they would need the parcel worse than us. This did not set well with me, as I had not eaten a meal in five days. While we were there a train came in with Red Cross boxes of parcels. And we had to unload them. Each box weight 47 lbs. and contained 4 parcels. I broke into one that contained tins of foodstuff, and candy, coffee, peanut butter and cigarettes. I filled the lining of my pants with all I could, and passed them out later to other prisoners. Later the master sergeants were reported for the poor treatment of their own comrade prisoners, and we felt good about that.
We were on several work details and we found out that not all Germans were bad. Because one lady gave me a frozen carrot, which I broke in six pieces for our guys on the work detail. Later when the guards went by she came out with a bowl of cabbage soup with strings of meat in it, and a spoon which the six of us took turns with the spoon. It was the best we had ever eaten. She told us her son was a POW in an American and he had gained 35 lb. I was a skinny boy when I got out of the POW camps, having dropped down to 100-105 lbs. I was a skinny boy at 6ft-1in
CORBIN: Do you remember which Stalag camp you were in?
BARRON: Yes indeed I do. They put 80 of us in a boxcar and if you were sitting you could not stand and vise versa. They kept us on the train for 6or 7 days. They gave us rations when we got on, so we ate it right away, not knowing that was all we were going to get until we reached our designation. They stopped the train every day or two so we could go to the bathroom and we would make snowballs for water. I was captured on December 17th 1944 and I did not get to Stalag 4-B at Muhlberg near Dresde until Feb.12 th. I was eaten up with lice and in a weaken condition because of lack of food. After six or eight weeks there, the hair began to fall of my arms and legs, and by the time I was liberated I did not have any hair left on my chest, legs or arms. due to dehydration.
CORBIN: What was your worst ordeal?
BARRON: Lice! The gave us a cold shower, and gassed our clothes and the barracks, while searching for our radios. It wasn't long before the lice were back. While there we were given tetanus shot in the neck by Italian POW medics.
CORBIN: What about escape plans, digging tunnels, radios, and weapons.
BARRON: There was no place to go and everyone was weak from undernourished. We could do all that, and we had weapons, and radios. The radios were disassembled each day and hid. Some parts of the radios were even used for cooking. The Germans never found them.
On the 13th of April was liberation day for me, supposedly. The Russians came in on horseback waving savors above their heads, the only weapons they had. The Germans had left two day before and told us not to leave or we would be killed. There were about 12,000 Russians and 10,000 British and 200 American, French and Belgium troops. The Russians told us to sit tight and the Americans would come and pick us up soon, but this not happen as they kept us for 13 days. Then they told us if we would walk to Regent, Germany which was 13 kilometers away the Americans would pick us up. Just before we left a truck came with some cigarettes and each POW was given a pack, which was worth its weight in gold. When we got there it was the same situation as Stalag 4-B with gun emplacement and machine gun nests, only the Russians had replaced the Germans. We were there for about a week and I went in the office to find out t why we were being held, because the war was over. I did not stand at attention when the Russian Officer came in and a Russian soldier slapped me so hard I was knocked out of the chair. Then the officer told me we could not be released because there were no high ranking Americans. I found out later that our Government was paying the Russian Government a lot of money for each day they kept us.
We broke the gate down and walked to Orshats near Torgell. Some of us stopped at a house at night, and I knocked on the door and when the lady opened the door, I said "Slaven" and we waved us in and gave us a place to sleep. The next day we saw some American trucks and they took us to their base and the next day were flown in a C-47 to a camp called Lucky Strike.
CORBIN: I thank you Bill Barron for your story. I know it was hard on you then and also now.