Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Memorial day

This is reprinted (and edited) from 2011.  It's the story of my Uncle Roger Scott (Scotty):

By way of introduction, this is an uncle who had never really spoken to me before, but we found ourselves seated together at the far end of the family table at a dinner and he began telling me about his experiences in a prisoner of war camp in World War II.  It killed me that I had NOTHING to take notes with--no paper & pen, no recorder, not even a camera that would record video.  When we returned to my mother's RV after dinner, I raced into the thing, dug out my laptop and wrote as much as I could remember.  Here, unedited, is what I wrote..
I think I knew he was a P.O.W., but I had never known much about it and there we sat, the two of us, oblivious to the rest of the table, and Scotty talked on and on about his experiences in Germany in WW II.

He was shot down over Germany and spent 9 months in the camp.  I can't remember where he was at first (a name I couldn't pronounce and don't remember hearing before), but he was moved to Nuremberg and then marched 100 miles to (Musberg?).  On the march he befriended an older German sergeant, about 55 years old, who was in no shape for a 100 mile march.  The sergeant was trying to find a truck to hop aboard, and Scotty signaled to him to let him (Scotty) carry his (the sergeant's) pack, which he did.

After they got to Musberg, they were sitting around cooking C-rations when this sergeant and another officer walked by.  The sergeant shoved his hand in Scotty's pocket and walked on.  Scotty put his hand in and found an egg and 2 onions.  Nobody in the camp had even SEEN an egg, much less one, in literally months and he said "you wouldn't believe what I went through to cook that egg without anyone seeing me."  The next day on the march he ate the onions, though "we weren't supposed to eat vegetables because they put human manure on the fields, but I ate them anyway."

Another tale was when one guy was going around with an empty can trying to collect a spoonful of powered milk from everyone in the camp.   The deal was that there was a guy who said he would masturbate in 3 minutes and if he was unsuccessful, he would contribute a whole can of powdered milk.  The whole camp gathered in the bathroom to watch and the guy did masturbate in 3 minutes...and then asked if anyone wanted to bet another spoon of milk for him to do it again (nobody did).

There was a German sergeant they called "Mr. Stoop" who had, it is reported, strangled 3 American POWs with his bare hands.   But Scotty ran into him one time and the guy gave Scotty a cigarette.  After the camp had been liberated by Patton's troops, they lined up all the German officers and paraded the POWs past them to indicate which were the ones who had done them wrong.   The sergeant who had given Scotty the egg, "I think was taken into another room and given a medal; everyone liked him," he said.  But Mr. Stoop was not to be found.  Later they found his body in one field and his head in another some 12 miles away.

They were liberated by Patton's troops, as I said.   Scotty said that this one day he and his friend decided to take a shower.  It was the day for officers to shower, but he and his buddy had not showered in something like 6 weeks, so lined up with the officers (I am not clear on whether they were without clothes or not--they must have been because Scotty said that you couldn't really tell the officers from the enlisted men--they had to argue to get the group in because there were 2 too many and the officers weren't going to give Scotty and his friend away).  Anyway, they had to cross a courtyard beneath a guard tower to get to the shower, and as they were making their way across the area, Patton's troops in tanks arrived and opened fire on the guards in the tower.  Scotty said, "if you've ever seen men trying to dig instant foxholes in concrete, this was it!"

After the liberation, Scotty's friend came across an English soldier who was roughing up a German housewife who hadn't really done anything, but who was German.  His friend tossed the Englishman over the bridge, 40 feet to the water below.

He said that he weighed 174 when he went into the service and 138 when he came out of the camp, but returned home on a troop ship on which the baker had just quit.  There was a sign up that there would be no bread unless someone volunteered to take on the job.  Scotty said he had worked as a baker when he was about 12, so he agreed to take on the job.  He was so good to the troops that he ended up with a key to all the store rooms, full run of all the ship's stores, and his own private stateroom.  And when he returned to Galt, he weighed 174.

I don't know if all this reads interesting in the telling, but the best part of it was that it was fascinating, and it was just Scotty and me talking and I think that it was the first conversation I have ever had with one of my uncles about anything.  I left the restaurant feeling as if I had discovered an uncle--and feeling that this was the best night of the whole trip.

NOTE FROM TODAY:  Scotty and I never had another conversation and he died a few years after this incident took place.  But I will treasure it always as a wonderful night.

After he died, my cousin Peach found a lot of things pertaining to his time as a POW, most special of which was this little book:

The cover is corrugated cardboard, as if it was cut from a box and the pages inside are like tissue paper--apparently it was toilet paper.  On the pages, he recorded the names and addresses of the guys in his unit (some had X's on them, and we wonder if those are the ones who died when the plane was shot down).  But he also recorded the forced march that they made shortly before they were liberated by the Americans.

This is the telegram his family received letting them know that he had been taken prisoner.

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