5:21 | After a hearty breakfast with his German guard, Bob Honeycutt left the comfort of the Alps, where he had bailed out, for the misery of the German POW system. First came the mind games of the interrogation. Then, he wound up at Stalag Luft IV, one of the worst camps, where he learned new meanings for "cold" and "hungry." Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Keywords : Robert Bob Honeycutt Prisoner Of War (POW) German guard Ed Froehlich Frankfurt Germany interrogation cameraman spy Stalag Luft IV Baltic Sea prison camp dead man rail cold food escape
As a young Army Air Corps recruit, the only thing Bob Honeycutt didn't like was Morse code, but he was slotted to be a radio operator on a B-24 crew, so he shrugged it off. After dodging plane crashes in training and German torpedoes in the Atlantic, he made it to the Middle East where he going to be based. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Bob Honeycutt was trained as a radio operator but he was switched to weatherman when his unit got to North Africa. Attached to the RAF while he trained, he rejoined his B-24 squadron in Libya, where he also was wounded for the first time in an air raid. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Once the B-24 squadron moved to Italy, the required number of missions was increased. Bob Honeycutt describes the missions over Ploiesti, where the anti-aircraft fire and German fighters were intense. His primary job was cameraman, but he became a gunner if any of them were wounded. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
It was his 29th mission, a bombing raid over Austria, when Bob Honeycutt's luck ran out. First they lost an engine. Then, when they dropped behind the formation, they were swarmed by German fighters. As the gunners fell one by one, a rocket finally set the plane on fire and blew him right out into the air. Part 1 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Injured and dazed from his bail out at 18,000 feet, Bob Honeycutt was taken into the home of an Austrian family until the local officials came to arrest him. He was cared for so well, he had to wonder, why were these civilians treating him like a friend? Part 2 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After eight months in the prison camp, Bob Honeycutt could hear the guns of the Russian Army approaching, but he was not going to be free anytime soon. The German guards forced 10,000 men out of the gate and onto the road, where they began a forced march, with no known destination. The deprivation and cruelty was mind numbing. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
The little known "death march" of the men of Stalag Luft IV lasted 86 days. That was when an Allied tank column rolled up and the Russian prisoners took their revenge on a particularly sadistic German guard. With a friend, Bob Honeycutt set out toward a small town, where they spotted a truck in a garage. Mighty tempting. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
With a commandeered truck, newly liberated POW Bob Honeycutt made three trips into Belgium, loaded down with as many freed US airmen as he could carry. He'd lost half his weight and was eaten up with lice, but he'd made it. When he got back home to Chattanooga, both he and his family had a big surprise. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
The Russians used the cattle wagons to transport McClough with her mother and two siblings to Siberia. They were put in barracks along with incredibly malnourished prisoners that were already being kept there. While she was deemed too young to work, her mother was forced to strip bark off of trees, and eventually was worked to death. McClough and her siblings were lucky if they got one meal per day.
Leaving Liverpool, Angelo was bound for the front lines to be assigned to his new unit. He recalls landing on Omaha beach, seeing the remnants of war, and being trucked to the Gremercy Forest where he’d reach the Company Command Post. Soon after, he’d see his first trial by fire.
Former altar boy Frank Bertino was drafted into the army in 1942 and was called upon for that role during Christmas mass while in training. While waiting with his unit in England, sudden orders came through to pack up and move out, right in the middle of another Christmas preparation. By sheer luck, he missed boarding the ill-fated SS Leopoldville. (This interview made possible with the support of CHARLES A. KOFFLER.)
From Christmas of 1944 to May of 1945, Curtis Brann slept in the open and he found out how cold it could actually get. You couldn't build a fire because the German 88's would zero in on the smoke. (This interview made possible with the support of LOIS WALTON in memory of JOHN H. FINK.)
After narrowly escaping death on the torpedoed SS Leopoldville, Claude Reagan's unit regrouped in Cherbourg. The ship had gone down very slowly and he couldn't understand why there was such a great loss of life. (This interview made possible with the support of FRANK DIEGMANN.)
Cyril Reshetiloff's unit was at a standoff with German troops, who were the targets of a daily American barrage. A lot of shells were expended trying to hit a building that was frequented by German officers. Just what was in that building? (This interview made possible with the support of TSGT JACK FRONTAL USAF RET.)
He had been helping out on the family farm and in his father's saw mill when he got the call to arms. Curtis Brann and two of his brothers were drafted into the army in 1944. One of the brothers was destined for tragedy in the Pacific, while he was sent to the European theater.(This interview made possible with the support of LOIS WALTON in memory of JOHN H. FINK.)
His unit had not been in England very long when they were ordered to the docks to board a ship to cross the channel. Claude Reagan was unimpressed by the rusty old SS Leopoldville, a converted Belgian liner. The food on board was even worse than the ship. (This interview made possible with the support of FRANK DIEGMANN.)
The orders came suddenly on Christmas Eve. Pack up, we're crossing the Channel. The scene was chaotic when Cyril Reshetiloff dutifully boarded the SS Leopoldville and chaos ensued again when it was torpedoed only a few miles from Cherbourg. He held on until the last minute and swam for his life. (This interview made possible with the support of TSGT JACK FRONTAL USAF RET.)
Since the 66th Infantry Division had lost so many men in the sinking of the SS Leopoldville, they weren't sent on to the battle raging in the Ardennes. Instead, they were assigned to contain the German troops guarding two impenetrable submarine pens in Brittany. George Marchi recalls that it was dangerous enough for him. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
After the war in Europe was over, Dan Locicero had the usual occupation duty. After the Japanese surrender, he was handed an unusual job at the enlisted men's club. At least it was easy and soon he was home, trying to find a job and meeting his future wife. (This interview made possible with the support of CHARLES & NANCY VAUGHAN.)
The 66th Infantry Division regrouped after losing 800 men in the sinking of the SS Leopoldville. Cyril Reshsetiloff describes the campaign they then faced, and his reassignment to military intelligence after becoming a cook. He went from the mess hall to hanging out in bars in Vienna, listening for information about the Russians. (This interview made possible with the support of TSGT JACK FRONTAL USAF RET.)
The letter began, "Greetings..." Claude Reagan's time had come to join the war effort. After training with the 66th Infantry Division, he crossed the Atlantic and was bivouacked in a lovely English village. (This interview made possible with the support of FRANK DIEGMANN.)
He was the only man in sick bay on Thanksgiving as the troop transport crossed the Atlantic. Hit with strong seasickness, Dan Locicero got turkey soup instead of the real deal. His luck changed for the better when it came time to cross the English Channel. He was not on the ill-fated SS Leopoldville, on which 800 men from his unit perished due to a German torpedo. (This interview made possible with the support of CHARLES & NANCY VAUGHAN.)
It was a clear day, but it was windy and cold. That's how Claude Reagan remembers his channel crossing on the ill fated SS Leopoldville. Just as he settled into his hammock, a German submarine struck the troop ship with a torpedo. Much of the crew fled on the lifeboats and hundreds perished in the confusion and chaos. (This interview made possible with the support of FRANK DIEGMANN.)
Frank Bertino had occupation duty in France prepping troops for shipping out to the possible invasion of Japan. He describes the appreciation of the German prisoners who were working for the American victors. (This interview made possible with the support of CHARLES A. KOFFLER.)
Dan Locicero was drafted at 18 years old, but his deployment overseas was delayed because of a policy change demanded by American mothers who marched on Washington. He was sent for further training with the newly formed 66th Infantry Division. (This interview made possible with the support of CHARLES & NANCY VAUGHAN.)
It was mass confusion when the SS Leopoldville was torpedoed in the English Channel. It started back on the docks in England with units separated and no sensible loading. The Belgian captain couldn't speak English and no one was issuing orders. Cyril Reshetiloff credits some cool headed NCO's for saving as many as possible. (This interview made possible with the support of TSGT JACK FRONTAL USAF RET.)
After recovering from the SS Leopoldville disaster, the men of the 66th Infantry Division were tasked with containing a far larger force of German troops who were holed up around two submarine pens on the coast of France. (This interview made possible with the support of FRANK DIEGMANN.)
While in the concentration camp, Maria McClough and the rest of the prisoners were guarded by soldiers with machine guns and guard dogs. Fortunately, General Wladyslaw Sikorski was able to help free many Polish people from the clutches of these camps, and so she and her siblings were shipped out of Siberia and over to Tehran, Iran. While there, her father found them but wasn't able to bring them back with him.
Graziano went aboard the Queen Mary to go overseas to Europe. Luckily, the ship was able to zigzag in a motion that avoided all of the German U-Boat attacks. Upon docking in Scotland, he and the other men were transported to England and from there he was instructed to take over a barber shop. He was part of the 3rd wave during D-Day on Omaha beach, and fought his way to Reims, France.
After being sent to Tehran and then to Africa, where she attended school, McClough was transported in to Yorkshire, England and lived in "camps." These camps, however, were much different and nicer than concentration camps. A few years after the war ended, she went to work on an airbase. There, she met her future husband.
After spending nearly a year in Eisenhower's Intelligence Staff, World War II was finally coming to a close. Unfortunately, the aftermath of everything was a terrible sight for Sayler, who witnessed the horrors of Dachau. In June of 1945, Sayler came back home to the United States.
On one mission Graziano's captain had special orders for him, and so they went to retrieve the 3rd Armored Division and tell them to go to Bastogne, Belgium. During the Battle of the Bulge, his feet were frozen and it almost resulted in irreversible trench foot. Had he gone a little longer in that state, he could have lost his feet altogether. While in Reims, France, he successfully helped construct a mess hall for the Army, which resulted in him taking on a lot more building projects later on.
After working on an American base in Europe, McClough went over to America in 1957. She has lived in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and retired there many years later. She gives her final thoughts about WWII and what she wants the younger generations to remember about it.
After the events of World War II, Henry Sayler got to visit the White House courtesy of the president at the time, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sayler's family had gotten close to Eisenhower during the war, and were now invited to have dinner with him and his wife, Mamie. He tells this story as well as gives his reflections about World War II as a whole.
From East Aurora, NY, Louis Graziano grew up with parents that originally came to the US from Italy. After 8th grade, he had to stop going to school to focus on helping his family financially. He began working in his sister's beauty shop, and from there he was drafted into the second world war. He remembers how devastating the attack on Pearl Harbor was, and his training at Camp Hood, Camp Shanks, and Fort Dix.
Originally from Poland, Maria McClough was born into a rather large family with four siblings of which she was the youngest. Her father was in the Polish Army before the invasion of Germany from the west and Russia from the east. Soon after her family was separated by the Russians, and she was put on cattle wagons with her mother and two of her siblings. At one point on the trip they were stranded on the wagons because of a railroad track bombing and didn't have any food or water for three days.
Henry Sayler grew up with a father who was in the Army and Coast Guard artillery in World War I, and was always exposed to the ways of the military. His family was moving around a lot while he was growing up, and they were friends with Dwight D. Eisenhower long before his presidency. Sayler went to West Point for college, trained to be a pilot at flying school, and graduated three months early due to US involvement in World War II.
When the Germans surrendered, they came to the old red schoolhouse where Graziano worked to sign the paperwork regarding the surrender. He was there the entire time during that meeting, and he remembers everyone being very quiet and serious. From there, it was a matter of earning enough points to go home. Once he went home, Graziano went back to work at his sister's beauty shop. He gives his final thoughts about the war and General Eisenhower's leadership.