MEET OUR VETERANS:
Loyd Anson Taylor
Born: Dec. 2, 1918. Died: April 14, 1999 (Aged 80)
U.S. Army Reserve and Regular Army
Company K, 179th Infantry, 45th Division, (WW2)
Prisoner of War (KRIEGIE or KRIEGY) – Oflag 64, Szubin (Shubin) Poland April 12, 1944 – January 21, 1945.
The Germans renamed the town of Szubin and called it Altburgund which it remained until some time after the war. The Poles today spell the name Szubin. The Germans today spell the name Schubin.
Written by Phil Smith, PR Director of the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial in Canton, Texas.
Excerpts for this story are from an audio interview of Loyd Taylor by Jo Prince on August 31, 1979.
It is with a tremendous amount of honor to share with you the story of a World War II veteran, Loyd Anson Taylor of Canton, Texas.
From his induction into the U.S. Army to the incredible story of his escape from Poland as a POW at Oflag 64 in Szubin, Poland on January 21, 1945.
When veterans talk about “The Greatest Generation,” they are referring to men like Loyd Taylor, U.S. Army.
“Let no man believe that there is a stigma attached to having been honorably taken captive in battle. Only the fighting man ever gets close enough to the enemy for that to happen. That he is not listed among the slain is due to the infinite care of providence. Be proud that you carried yourselves as men in battle and adversity. You will be enriched thereby.” ~ Col. Thomas D. Drake, Company Commander Oflag 64
(Col. Drake was the Senior American Officer in charge while he was at Oflag 64.
PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL OR THE MILITARY:
Loyd Taylor graduated from Canton High School in a small town located in east Texas in 1936. All indications are he played the sport very early in his life and soon realized he was a good ballplayer. Most of the information found indicates he always played shortstop.
There is a picture of Loyd when he was a boy playing baseball. His passion for the game would soon land him contracts from the Major League.
Before joining the military Loyd was offered a professional baseball contract and was being scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played shortstop for several Class C and Class D league teams in Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Mexico.
Howard Dunn: Former Bank President First National Bank/Canton:
“Loyd was a great baseball player,” said Howard Dunn, a longtime friend and golfing buddy of Lloyd’s.
“He played in the Mexican League before he went into the service. He was a teammate with Josh Gibson and a lot of the black ballplayers of his time. He said he could never hit the curve ball,” laughed Howard.
Western Union Telegram from Tink Riviere:
There is a Western Union (Document) sent to Loyd Taylor to REPORT DOUGLAS HOTEL AT ONCE TRANSPORTATION REFUNDED ON ARRIVAL COME BY TWO. Signed: TINK RIVERE BIGSPRING BASEBALL CLUB.
Tink Riviere was a Major League Baseball pitcher. He was a right-handed pitcher and played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Tink attended St. Edward’s University and the University of Texas at Austin. His last game he pitched was on July 16, 1925.
In 1938, a third recognized semiprofessional club existed in the state of Puebla: it was Club De Béisbol Hudson founded by Sir Delfino Pérez. (Loyd is pictured 2nd from the left).
The club’s colors were green and white. In 1939 the club was sold to Don Castor a local car dealership owner who changed the club’s name to Chevrolet and that same year entered the club in the Mexican League. This was the first team that represented the city of Puebla. The club’s uniform was white with the club’s name Chevrolet in the middle of the shirt with blue numbers. They played from 1939 to 1941 when they won the Winter league title.
There is a contract (Class C) approved by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. A Uniform Players Contract. Parties included Baseball Club of Olea, Inc and Loyd Taylor Box 84, Canton, Texas. It was to pay the Player an aggregate salary of $80.00. (no dates were specified on the contract)
There was a second Western Union Telegram (Document) sent to Loyd from Fred Hahn. He was a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fred Hawn: Manager ( Western Union ) 8-2-43 Union City Tennessee
– Offer of 75 month is best terms: Fred Hawn, mgr.
Fred Hawn’s connection with the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization, for whom he would work for more than 35 years, likely started in 1936 when – after a year out of pro baseball — he managed and played for the Fayetteville team.
In 1938, Hawn did not manage a team, but had some new experiences: he assisted with the Cardinal’s spring training camp in Florida, then worked as a coach with the Columbus Red Birds, the Cardinal’s AA farm team, its highest-level farm team at the time.
I believe Loyd was torn between a career in baseball and what was going on in Europe. His patriotic duty and honor led him into joining the military. By January 1943 he was heading on a troop carrier to train in Africa and on a troop ship headed to Sicily, Italy.
It had been a little over a year since the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. His brother, Odell, was now a First Sgt. based at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas in the U.S. Army.
Duties Performed While in Prisoner of War Camp: Athletic Director
During his stay at a Prison Camp in Szubin, Poland (Oflag 64) Loyd played spring baseball. In a document from his military forms was a statement that he was the “Athletic Director at Oflag.”
He is also mentioned in a September ’44 article where his name comes up playing on the Team Color – Purple, Barracks 6-A. He played on the National Team called the St. Louis Cards.
It makes you wonder if Loyd named the team he played on while a Kriegy at Ofag 64, the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We had a softball and touch football team when we had good weather,” said Loyd in his audio interview. “We were about 150-miles south of the Baltic Sea. It snows there a lot and it gets very cold. Once the snow started falling it just keeps falling. We had about a 2 ½ acre track with the barracks layout,”
Loyd Joins Army Reserve:
Loyd Anson Taylor enlisted into the U.S. Army Reserve on August 26, 1939 at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas for the term of (4) years. (His brother, Odell, was in Company “A” 9th Infantry stationed at Ft. Sam Houston).
He went into the active Army on January 7th, 1943 and trained at Camp Barkley in Abilene, Texas. “I was in Company K, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division,” Loyd said in an audio interview taken in August of 1979 by Jo Prince. “It consisted of three Regiments in the Division, three Battalions to the Regiment, and four Companies,” he said.
“We moved to several camps throughout the United States and then we boarded ships from Newport, Virginia in a tremendous envoy and landed in Oran, Africa seven days later.”
DIVISION CHRONICLE: The 45th Division landed in North Africa, 22 June 1943, and trained at Arzew, French Morocco. It landed in Sicily, 10 July, in its first major amphibious operation and moved inland under minor opposition. The enemy resisted fiercely at Motta Hill, 26 July, before losing the four-day battle of “Bloody Ridge.”
iandrplatoon.org / 45th Infantry Division
“There were several troop ships and submarines, and destroyers, “said Loyd. “It was a big convoy. We stood on the deck during the daytime but you couldn’t tell what was going on or what had happened the night before. We spent about seven days in Africa getting our legs back.
The weather was supposed to be good and calm in the Mediterranean but the biggest storm they had in years, and they didn’t call it off, and we had a rugged, rugged landing in Sicily. Our Regiment lost several boys in Sicily because of hitting reefs outside the shoreline, before we even got to shore. There was a 22-man boat we boarded from the big troop ship.
We had overhead fire from the battle wagons when we hit the reefs, which we thought were clear, because frogmen had been in there. The coxswain lowered the ramp and water gushed in and several of the boys drowned. We had about a hundred pounds on our back and the water was over our heads and you couldn’t get ahold of your Mae West (military life preserver). I had a very good friend, Mark Texas, who was in my Battalion. My Company lost 14 of 22 boys that drowned, before ever getting to shore. Our first endeavor was in 1943 when we invaded Sicily.”
The 45th Division sailed from the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation for the Mediterranean region on 8 June 1943, combat loaded aboard thirteen attack transports and five cargo attack vessels as convoy UGF-9 headed by the communications ship USS Ancon. By the time the 45th Division landed in North Africa on 22 June 1943, the Allies had largely secured the African theater. As a result, the division was not sent into combat upon arrival and instead commenced training at Arzew, French Morocco, in preparation for the invasion of Sicily.
Allied intelligence estimated that the island was defended by approximately 230,000 troops, the majority of which were drawn mostly from weak Italian formations and two German divisions which had been reconstituted after being destroyed earlier. Against this, the Allies planned to land 180,000 troops, including the 45th Infantry Division, which was assigned to Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s II Corps, part of the U.S. Seventh Army under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, for the operation. Wikipedia
“The Sicilian Campaign lasted 39-days and then we boarded troop ships again and hit the boot of Italy at Salerno. We invaded the continent with the Texas 36th Division and one Division of the British and the 45th Division. The 36th Texas Division took the brunt of the landing. We came in late in the afternoon as reserves of the 36th Division. We got to shore trying to capture a piece of high ground behind the German lines. It didn’t work,” Loyd said.
The division was subsequently assigned a lead role in the amphibious assault on Sicily, coming ashore on 10 July. Landing near Scoglitti, the southernmost U.S. objective on the island, the division advanced north on the U.S. force’s eastern flank. After initially encountering resistance from armor of the Hermann Goering Division, the division advanced, supported by paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, who landed inland on 11 July. The paratroopers, conducting their first combat jump of the war, then set up to protect the 45th’s flank against German counterattack, but without weapons to counter heavy armor, the paratroopers had to rely on support from the 2nd Armored Division to repulse the German Tiger I tanks. As the division advanced towards its main objective to capture the airfields at Biccari, and Comiso, German forces pushed back. Wikipedia
“One unit of the 36th had to come in and helped us get out. We all fell back to a Railroad track which was inland about 2 ½ miles. We stayed there for some time because the Navy was standing by in order to evacuate us if it didn’t work. It did work and we got a load of heavy equipment ashore to repel the Germans from firing down on us. It was a success but with heavy casualties. A lot of friends in prison camp were from Texas and we fought together at Salerno and we had a lot to talk about.
My Company Commander Lt. General Clark at the close of the campaign, recommended me for a medal and a Battlefield Appointment as a 2nd lieutenant. (dated: December 29, 1943) He said, “You are a good man and you are going to take the battlefield appointment.” (Attached: 2ND LIEUTENANT BATTLEFIELD CERTIFICATE)
Sergeant Loyd A. Taylor was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Army Division.
“So, I was commissioned as an officer. My papers were sent in October. The Company Commander gave me his jeep and his driver and I was to drive back to Naples, grab all the invasion money in the Company, and buy the best cognac and wine I could find. When I got back around 4:30 that afternoon my Company Commander had to make up a lot of excuses of where I was. He told them Lt. Taylor went to the hospital in Naples and took some wounded men there. So now, instead of the men cussing me, they were saluting me,” said Taylor.
Having gotten a battlefield promotion to 2nd Lieutenant, Mr. Taylor and his company fought in and out of the lines until February 16, 1944, when the Germans counterattack resulted in the capture of Allied troops.
Without having being “Field Promoted,” I would not be here telling you Loyd Taylor’s story. Because of his promotion, he ended up at Oflag 64 and not some other prison camp in Europe. As officers, our POWs were treated more professionally and humanely than other enlisted military soldiers during WWII.
On 3 September 1943, Italy surrendered to the Allied powers. Hoping to occupy as much of the country as humanly possible before the German Army could react, the U.S. Fifth Army prepared to attack Salerno. On 10 September, elements of the division conducted its second landing at Agropoli and Paestum with the 36th Infantry Division, on the southernmost beaches of the attack. Opposing them were elements of the German Division and XVI Panzer Corps. Against stiff resistance, the 45th pushed to the Calore River after a week of heavy fighting. The Fifth Army was battered and pushed back by German forces until 20 September, when Allied forces were finally able to break out and establish a more secure beachhead. Wikipedia
“From Salerno it was slow progress,” Loyd said. “In the very high hills going up into Venice, there was a Canadian 10th Corps. On our right was the 35th Division and the British 8th Army penetrating the Boot of Italy. It was very slow going and during the latter stages we started getting heavy cold weather. We had a lot of problems with our transportations and equipment trucks and supply wagons. That was the year that the Army invented the “MULE TEAMS.” A mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. While they may have had a reputation for being stubborn, no army in World War II could have survived without the mule. They could carry anything- from weapons to medical supplies- and they could travel places that no horse or vehicle could go. Wikipedia
“They would carry the ammunition and food supplies up the steep hills to the boys dug in at the top of the hills,” Loyd continued. “The Germans would have three men dug into position and repel 35 of us with their “BURP” guns, which was the fastest shooting guns anybody had in the Italian Campaign at that time. Our guns were trigger fed one at a time. There’s was like a machine gun, but faster. They would scatter us pretty bad, especially at night, when we couldn’t see. Sometime, we would make it and sometime we would have to withdraw for a while, but temporarily.”
“Loyd told me they would go out on a patrol,” said his friend Howard Dunn. “The Germans had shortwave and a lot better equipment than we did. He said, we would go out there about three hundred yards and just hide. We didn’t go all the way up the mountain, that would have been just a suicide,” recalled Howard. He said, “when you see those pictures about the GI’s would go up to those tanks and hang around them. That is lie, he said, we never did that. When the tanks came thru, we stayed as far away from them as we could.”
“This went on until we hit Monte Cassino,” Loyd said. “My particular outfit had patrols that had seen Cassino thru field glasses. They said it was calm and we pulled back to Naples after a stalemate of days on end. There was a lot of serious casualties and loss of life at Monte Cassino. We couldn’t break it with the Air Force or artillery or with infantry, at the time. We always understood that Hitler sent his best paratroopers into this area.”
ANZIO, ITALY: (February 1944)ANZIO: https://history.army.mil/brochures/anzio/72-19.htm
Although battered and exhausted, they managed to maintain a coherent line and were reinforced on 10 February by the 1st Armored Regiment, CCA, 1st Armored Division (itself at 50 percent strength), the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 179th (2nd Lt. LOYD A. TAYLOR’S DIVISION) and 157th regiments of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division. Ordered to counterattack and retake Aprilia on 11 February, the 179th Infantry and 191st Tank Battalion began a two-pronged attack seeking to outflank the Germans holding the Factory. In two days of costly, hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans failed to retake the lost ground, but inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. Lucas still expected further attacks in the weakened central sector and removed the British 1st Division from the line, replacing it with the British 56th and U.S. 45th Infantry Divisions. As an added precaution, VI Corps artillery was strengthened and Allied tactical air attacks were stepped up.
Spurred by the elimination of the Campoleone salient, the Germans continued their counterattack on 16 February by moving down the Anzio-Albano Road on a four-mile front. The brunt of the assault hit the 45th Division sectors held by the 157th and 179th Infantry regiments. The initial attacks by the 3d Panzer Grenadier and 715th Motorized Infantry Divisions were beaten back with heavy losses, allowing only minor penetrations, while the 180th Infantry rebuffed lighter attacks. Just before midnight, however, enemy persistence paid off. A gap was created between the 179th and 157th Infantry, which was promptly exploited by three German regiments supported by sixty tanks. By dawn the Germans had driven a two-by-one-mile wedge in the center of the 45th Division and were poised to break the Allied line, threatening the entire beachhead. Compounding the already critical situation, the 179th Infantry attempted to withdraw in full view of the enemy the following afternoon and suffered heavy casualties.
The LXXVI Panzer Corps: (PHOTO: LXXVI Panzerkorps, 76th Armored Corps) was a panzer corps of Nazi Germany during World War II. The headquarters were formed in France under Army Group D on 29 June 1943 as LXXVI Army Corps but renamed a month later. In August it shipped to Italy to become part of 10th Army. It spent the rest of the war in Italy fighting in the Italian Campaign mainly under 10th Army but with short periods from February 1944 (Battle of Anzio) Source: WIKIPEDIA
“We fought for nine months up the boot of Italy. When we took Venafro, we pulled back to Naples, filled up with new recruits, and went to another landing behind the German lines at Anzio January 21, 1944,” Taylor recalled.
“We loaded our landing craft, go out into the Mediterranean, and land again in back of the Germans in the Battle of Anzio. We walked to shore and the 3rd Division had the lead. It was a rest area for the German officers. We landed January the 21st. We saw a few dead Germans there. We had the British 1st Division, American 45th Division, the Rangers, an Engineer Regiment and some units of the paratroopers (82nd /504PIR) with us. We were there from January 21st until February 16th. The Germans had rushed a Czechoslovakian unit in this area to face the situation. We would do 2 to 3-night stands and then we would be relieved by the other Divisions.
The night we went up we relieved a paratroop unit. (82nd/504PIR) Everyone ahead of them had set out land mines ahead of them. We had a stucco home which was crushed in and used as our Company CP (Command Post). About a hundred yards down was the Mussolini Canal. There was just one caliche (gravel) road going up that way. I had an outpost there for three days and three nights. I had a 30-caliber machine-gun Company to my left. We had wired connections with them and a BAR man (WW2 rifle) to the right of my house. There was a cow shed in the back of the house with a protected wall and that is where we stayed in. Patrols would come and work thru us and report to us at night. I had 18 boys at the time.
I was the 2nd Lieutenant and was the Platoon leader. (PHOTO: Platoon Leader Papers K COMPANY/179th/45th) I was 23 at the time, and an old man, because these were like 18 and 19-year-old kids. Some had combat experience and some had none. Most of them were replacements.”
“Loyd told me a story about when he was in Italy near Anzio that his Lieutenant would call down and he would ask for his location. Loyd was a Sargant at the time. Every time he gave him their coordinates the German would bombard our location. After the third time of giving their location up, He told the Lieutenant, when you hear that damn dog barking, I am about two hundred yards from him,” laughed Howard. “He wouldn’t give him his coordinates.”
Last Ride at Anzio: The German Counterattacks, February 1944: Good Article on the Battle of Anzio:
“The Germans had a machine that looked like a toy tank that were remote controlled and they could run their wires for communications. You could hear those machines. One or two were not bad, but we could hear them all night long. I finally got on my radio and called my Company Commander. He was about 800-yards back. I told him the Germans were going to hit us and assured him I was hearing these machines all night long. It was the most I had ever heard. So, about 1:00 a.m. I called him again. I said, get ready, I just have never heard them like this before. About 4:00 a.m. I called again. He said, I have called the Battalion and they have contacted the Regiment. I went to bed. At daylight there was a tremendous fog. We had been used to fighting in the mountains.”
(PHOTO: SHOWS WHERE 45TH ARMY DIVISION NEAR MUSSOLINI CANAL WERE HIT HEAVILY BY GERMANS)
“All we could see were knees walking toward our direction. We opened fire. They got into the mine fields and they paused their march. In a short while they came in behind us. Twelve out of my 18 boys were wounded. Some of them were seriously wounded and died. They captured us all. I could have ran and gotten out of there, but I had twelve wounded and the rest were just kids.”
LOYD A. TAYLOR CAPTURED AS A POW: (16th February 1944)
“They marched us all night long,” Loyd continued. “The Germans had a hospital unit set up in this huge cave and brought us in there for interrogation purposes. I only gave them my name, rank and serial number. He wanted to know why I had machine gunners attached to me. He spoke better English than I did.
Italian POW camp (photo) near Florence, Italy
We walked and rode and walked and rode in vehicles. They put us in a former Italian POW camp near Florence, Italy and we stayed there for a few days, then we moved North to another Prisoner of War camp. (NOTE: After Benito Mussolini had been overthrown the Germans took over Italy, there were many POW camps set up around the country)
Our whole Battalion had been captured including 405-officers and there were 16-25 troops per officer. It looked like a refugee camp.
(DOCUMENT: MISSING IN ACTION TELEGRAM)
The Red Cross came into the 2nd camp and got our name, rank and serial numbers to make sure we were alive. All the government sends out is a missing in action telegram to the family.
My dad said he sweated it out for a couple of months before the Red Cross came thru. They confirmed I was a Prisoner of War and was alive.
After spending a few days at the Italian POW camp near Florence, Italy, I and the other soldiers were taken on a train to a POW camp outside Munich, Germany (Moosburg). That was their separation point.”
POW camp Stalag VII/A (MOOSBURG)
Stalag VII-A was the largest prisoner-of-war camp in Nazi Germany during World War II, located just north of the town of Moosburg (30 miles NE of Munich, Germany) in southern Bavaria.
The camp (Stalag VII/A) covered an area of 35 hectares (86 acres). It served also as a transit camp through which prisoners, including officers, were processed on their way to other camps. At some time during the war, prisoners from every nation fighting against Germany passed through it. At the time of its liberation on 29 April 1945, there were 76,248 prisoners in the main camp and 40,000 or more in factories, repairing railroads or on farms.
“They separate all nationalities there, more ground troops from Air Force, I assume for interrogation purposes,” said Loyd. “I stayed there for a few days, I forget how many. They got us separated and sent us out to different camps on. Stalag camps were named for enlisted men. Officers were in Oflags and Air Force went into Luft camps. They had about 20-25 camps.
OFLAG-64 PRISONER OF WAR CAMP (POW or Kriegy): (ARRIVED APRIL 21, 1944):
“We were put into boxcars. There was barbed wire across the center. There was hay to lay on and a bucket and two guards. We had to remove our shoes, tie them together and throw them over the barbed wire,” said Loyd.
21 April 1944 arrived at Oflag 64:
“I was captured on February 16, 1944 just North of Anzio, Italy. It took about two months in the separation camp before we were put on the boxcars. I was sent to Oflag 64.”
It was about halfway between Berlin and Warsaw. It was formerly a French POW camp. When I got there, the camp was made up of about 405 ground officers.
Our group ran that up to about 800 POW’s. That was from the Italian front. The officers from the Western Front in Europe, brought the number up to about 1,600 in the camp.
We stayed in this little town named Szubin, Poland (Oflag 64). It was a small town about the size of Edgewood, (Texas),” he said.
The camp was established in June 1943 by the Germans to detain American officers. It initially held 150 prisoners. By the time the camp was evacuated in January 21, 1945, their ranks had grown to over 1,500. Prisoners including the African and Italian Campaigns, from the D-Day Invasion of Normandy up to the last major battle of the war, The Battle of the Bulge.
Kriegy from Oflag 64 was from Tyler, Texas. His name 2nd Lt. Frank N. Aten, POW#4166 (Known as the escape artist)
He wrote a book later called, “The Name on the Wall.” Aten jumped off a moving POW train in Italy, (Train to Moosburg) only to be recaptured. He broke out of Oflag twice, was caught and spent time in solitary. On the “The Long Walk,” on January 21st Aten hid in a “secret tunnel” inside the prison and avoid the long march from the camp. He escaped 4 times unsuccessful and the 5th time successful by hiding in the dispensary when he left Oflag 64.
Book entitled, “THE NAME ON THE WALL”
1910-WW2 Photos of the camp:
Most of these photos were sent to by Lapka’s Camp Photos in October 2005. The buildings pictured were photographed at different times and are labeled as such. A few are historical photos taken from the internet and are identified as Oflag 64 buildings. Until the late 1930s, the site was an educational center for boys. At the beginning of WWII, the site became a POW camp for Polish soldiers and was called Stalag XXIB. Beginning 1940, French and British POWs occupied the camp which was then called Oflag XXIB. In June of 1943, the camp was redesignated as Oflag 64 and was occupied primarily by American POWs. The camp was vacated in January 1945.
Prisoners of War Bulletin: American Red Cross (April 1944)
There was an article in the American Red Cross in April 1944 describing the conditions at Oflag 64. The article named “German Camps-Oflag” 64 authored by J. Townsend Russell
“We respected them, and they respected us,” Loyd said. “The officers did not have to work. The enlisted men worked in the potato fields or whatever the Germans wanted, loading the railcar, or whatever. There were 30-enlisted volunteers who came to our camp. They would take care of the kitchen duties. A German guard would take 3-or-4 of them out on work details for the day.
The Red Cross was supposed to furnish a box at least once a month. They included coffee, powdered milk, D-bar, hard crackers, 3-packs of cigarettes and little sweets of some kind. Cigarettes were the dollar in our camp. The guy who didn’t smoke was well off because he could trade for food. I smoked. I fooled around and got a racket going that kind of helped me out a little bit. I knew some of the enlisted volunteers and traded cigarettes for half a loaf of bread and one time I got a little sugar in trade. That German bread and butter sure tasted good with a little bit of sugar. I weighed about 150-lbs. when I was captured, lost about 32-lbs., but I was still in good shape, because of age. I got out and exercised I didn’t lay-up and read a book or play cribbage all day or gin or bridge, dominoes or whatever.”
There were guard posts on the corners. When we got crowded from the western front we had two blankets, but we had to give up one. We slept on a straw mattress. Most of the guys cut out every other slat out of their bed and cut up small chips in put in the milk cans upside down when they were emptied and cut us a little hole like a stove and heat up our coffee,” said Loyd.
Oflag 64 Kriegy Frank Aten p.67 “Smokeless Heater”
At “tea” on my first day, Ray Cowie introduced me to the most famous of all Kriegie inventions, the smokeless heater, or more often called, the “heatless smokers”. These little billowing lung cloggers undoubtedly were invented by some designing engineer. The principle of these little midget cookers is the same as with gas heaters. Holes were punched at the top of the inside can. After the fire was started and going, air coming through the jacket formed between the inside and outside can was heated enough to burn the oxygen when it rushed from those holes at the top of the inside can. This is the same as when oxygen and gas are mixed and burned in a gas stove. Paper, cardboard, wood, or most any flammable material can be used as fuel. They make a good fire with a small amount of fuel, if you can stand the smoke. They don’t smoke much the first couple of times they are used, but after the tin is burned off, they really smoke!
Some of us would take our sweet potato for dinner and a chunk of black sawdust bread, typical German bread,” Loyd continued. “We would eat part of it and save part of it because we would only get soup at night. The coffee was horrible. We got the little cans of instant coffee from the Red Cross. The Germans were taking a beating and they said they needed their transportation for their Army. We did not get the Red Cross boxes when we were supposed to. They were taking a beating in Europe with the Russians fighting on one side and the Americans on the other. They were putting a squeeze on them.
We had 25-35 guards across the street in a barracks like we had. Most of them had been on the Eastern front and had been shot up by the Russians. They understood what combat was all about. They seemed to have a little more feeling than some who hadn’t been in combat. They weren’t as arrogant after they had been shot. They treated us good and we treated them good. We would get soup at lunch and seven people sat at the table. We would get one big loaf of bread. We would rotate each day; a different man would slice the bread. There were seven slices. That was the ration for the day. We would get the potatoes, count em, and divide them, and count them by seven and they would usually come up to about three potatoes each, at each table. All you got for breakfast was their ground coffee or they would furnish hot water. By the time you got back to the barracks it was cold and you would have to heat it back up again. I don’t like cold coffee,” Loyd said on his audio interview.
For more info see www.friendsofoflag64.org
Our partner The Polish-American Foundation for the Commemoration of POW Camps in Szubin. www.szubinpowcamps.org/en/
Many Kriegie stories from Oflag can be found here: http://www.oflag64.us/long-cold-march.html
Loyd was in the camp’s Oflag Broadway Theatre. He was working in the theatre within the camp in which he participated in a show called “Business is Business” and played a character named Wash Wohen, published in the July ‘44’, the Oflag Varieties of ’44. The local YMCA in the town was very helpful in furnishing equipment and materials for the weekly plays, skits, minstrels and other variety acts.
The Oflag 64 Item:
The Item was a 4-8 pages newspaper, printed once a month. It was printed nearby in the town of Szubin, by a German printer who did not speak English. The layout contained camp news, sports and cartoons. Lt. Frank Diggs of Baltimore, Md. and former reporter for the Washington Post was the editor.
From Oflag 64 Kriegie Jim Bickers:
“Always innovative, Oflag 64 was probably the only prison camp in the history of the world to have its own printed newspaper. No one yet knows why the Germans permitted it, in view of their sorry record in other matters.
But the Oflag Item was actually printed by one of the German guards and his surly wife who had taken over a Polish print shop, with its old linotype machine and many fonts of type. They did a good job of it, too, after the many language typos were corrected.”
Friends of Oflag 64
July 4, 2020
Independence Day 1943, Oflag 64, Szubin, Poland
How were the POWs in Oflag 64 celebrating July 4th? The Kriegies had been at Oflag 64 for nearly a month and were still getting themselves organized. They had not yet established their theater group and it would be months before they received musical instruments from the YMCA. But they were undeterred. As described in an article in the July 1944 camp newspaper, The Item, “…a year of entertainment began on July 4th of last year with a stage less, lightless, scenery less variety show produced in the mess hall by Frank Maxwell. That night Wilbur Sharpe sang ‘This Is Worth Fighting For’ accompanied only by Bob Rankin on the Trumpet”. A choir sang songs of the States, Kriegy Jim Bickers drew cartoons “accompanied by patter” and a skit entitled “If Men Played Cards as Women Do” was presented by Kriegies Bill Farrell, John Cramer, Jim Koch and Harry Schultz.
Some 70 years later, Ex-Kriegy Bill Sharpe reprised the song “This Is Worth Fighting For” which was captured on video. You can view that video at: https://youtu.be/iz5r-yMR1fk
Oflag 64 Kriegy Leo W. Fisher:
“We have a small theater built by the ingenuity of the officers. Also, an excellent band, which gives us light and heavy music of good choice. Each Friday is play night and once a month we have a three-act play. The costumes are home-made. We have put on “Three Men on a Horse,” “Brother Orchid” Variety Shows, “Petrified Forest” and ”The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
We also have a newspaper, THE ITEM, which is run by Frank Diggs, ex-city editor of THE WASHINGTON POST. The paper is published once a month and will be a valuable file of camp events for the future.
RADIO: “THE BIRD IS GOING TO SING”
The “Bird” was the code name for a secret radio receiver which was built by Kriegy Lt. Jim Shoaf inside the camp and was kept tuned in on BBC every day. According to Kriegy Frank Diggs, Lt. Shoaf “was an electronic genius who kept us in touch with the outside world by creating a workable secret radio out of unlikely stuff available in a remote prison camp plus one smuggled-in vacuum tube.” Such items as foil from cigarette packs were used to make an electrode, wax paper from Red Cross parcels for an insulator, coil wire from an abandoned camp speaker and a field coil magnet found in main barracks became useful components of the radio. Since electricity use in the camp was monitored and also unreliable, a manual generator powered by hand to power the radio was built by the Kriegies in a machine shop they set up. Pure genius! With guards posted to warn of prying Germans, every afternoon the news from the BBC was received over the “Bird” and was written down by Kriegy Frank Maxwell who knew shorthand. Afterward, the “news” was read to Kriegy “newscasters” who read it that night after lights out to the men in each of the barracks. To avoid detection by the “Goons” (guards) during the reading, a look-out was positioned who had full view the grounds. If a “Goon” approached a barrack where the briefing was being given, the lookout would move to another location. His movement was the signal to end the briefing. The men would disperse and the briefing would resume when the coast was clear.
To avoid detection, the “Bird” was disassembled each day and each component hidden individually until needed the next day. In the two years of operation, the radio was never found by the Germans. When the POWs were marched out of Oflag 64 in January 1945, the “Bird” went with them and they continued to listen to the BBC each night.
After the war Lt. Shoaf worked as an engineer for RCA. He passed away in January 2007.
BBC radio hidden by Kriegies at Oflag. Alexander Cochran Interview
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING: (JANUARY 21st 1945)
Loyd A. Taylor:
“We could hear the Russian artillery firing from a distance. It kept getting closer and closer. At about 9:00 p.m. the German Commandant came in and gave us orders to pack what we could carry with us, leave everything else. We burned everything we couldn’t take with us. We had a blanket and our clothes. We pulled out early in the morning,” Loyd said.
The Start of The Oflag 64 Long March:
January 21st 1945, the Kriegies of Oflag 64 began their Long March to Germany. The winter of 1944-45 saw the Russian Army making its way inexorably toward Germany. Oflag 64 was directly in the path of General Zhukov’s Red Army and rather than leave the POWs to be liberated by the Russians, Hitler ordered them evacuated to Germany.
The Kriegies were told at 7:00 PM the night before to be ready to depart Oflag 64 at 0600 on January 21st. The weather was bitterly cold. The temperature was below zero with 2 inches of new fallen snow. Their departure was delayed due to the German guards’ inability to get an accurate count of POWs so they were forced to stand in formation for hours in subzero weather. Not a good start for men who were already weak and hungry. At about 0900 as they marched out the gate, the Kriegies found themselves intertwined with a German refugee wagon train traveling west hoping to stay ahead of the advancing Russians.
(ACTUAL PHOTOS TAKEN DURING MARCH OUT OF OFLAG 64) (We’re trying to determine if these are actual photos from the march from Oflag 64. We suspect they are but don’t yet have proof. If we find proof, I will let you know)
Kriegy Clarence Meltesen describes the conditions:
“The wagon ruts were a freeze/dry situation. Walking trails on each side of the wagons was hazardous. Walking off the road worked for short intervals until you hit a ditch and knee-high snow, or a wire fence with drifts.”
Kriegy Dr. Peter Graffagnino later reported in a medical newsletter:
“The countryside through which we were moving was blanketed with deep snow. We were bundled in clothing with our heads and faces swathed in makeshift hoods of blankets, scarves, and sweaters, but the cold was still penetrating and bone-chilling. There was no way to crowd more than more than a few layers of socks into a pair of GI shoes, and it was our feet that suffered most.”
Kriegy Tony Lumpkin:
“One night the column bedded down in a large barn,” Everyone started looking around for a place to get warm. In the barn were some cows and hogs. I slept with the hogs that night, as they really felt warmer to my way of thinking, than the cows.”
Approximately 1400 Oflag 64 Kriegies marched out of the camp. 86 were left behind due to sickness and a few hid in the uncompleted tunnel to wait for the Russians. But for many of the Kriegies this was the beginning of a trek that took them 45 days traveling 345 miles before reaching their destination in Germany. Along the way a large number escaped and made their way to liberation, many with the selfless assistance of Polish people along the way. Others were not so lucky. When the column arrived at their final destination, there were less than 500 POWs remaining.
p.148. Oflag 64 Kriegie Frank Aten stays at camp:
“By now it was 11 A.M. While standing in front of my platoon, awaiting my turn, I spotted Colonel Millett, the XO (Executive Officer), standing with his arms folded, watching the proceedings as the platoons executed a “column right” and moved out the main gate. Since I knew it would be some time yet before my platoon moved out, I casually sauntered down to where he was standing. “Colonel Millett, you know my record. I have tried to escape from these Krauts four times, and I have spent a lot of time in solitary for my troubles. I believe if I had one more chance, before my platoon moves out that gate, I could make it.” “Go ahead and good luck!” That was all I needed to hear the good colonel say!
In the center of the south side of this building was an entrance to the shower rooms, which were located on the ground floor. The doors to the rooms were locked, but on the left wall of the hallway, about 10 feet inside the door, was a water spigot, where Kriegies had been filling their canteens, if they were lucky enough to have one, or water bottles, or anything else that would hold water for the march. The German guard, who was posted at the door to see that we went no further than the water spigot, had walked to the other end of the porch and was looking toward the far end of the parade grounds where the last platoons were started toward the gate.
The door to the storeroom was locked, but this did not matter. It was nice and dark, the quiet was appealing. Looking back up to the head of the stairs, I judged that if the guard did not look down the stairwell, I could see him much better than he could see me. Of course, he had a rifle, but with my third base throwing arm and my trusty bottle, I’d be willing to bet I could pop him before he would pop me with the gun.
The stakes, I realized, would be my life against his. If I hit him, I couldn’t let him wake up. If he shoots me first, I’ve had it.
My feelings of suspense were needless. The sounds gradually died down, until there were no sounds at all.”
Frank Aten and four others hid in a “secrete tunnel” at camp. The group was told they were going to walk to a town called Exin, 12 miles away, and there, loaded on trains to move further west. Led by Colonel Goode (SA) Senior American Officer. The Germans lied.
Oflag 64 Kriegy Frank N. Aten returns to Oflag 64:
“I felt it would be much better to stay away from the main roads so I cut across country and headed east. This way, there would be much less chance of being recaptured by evacuating German troops. As I walked for the next couple of hours, I detoured around any houses or farm buildings, if I thought someone might be in or around them. It began to get dark, and I had to find some safe place to spend the night. Locating an isolated barn, I cautiously opened the door, and finding no one inside, went in. A portion of the barn’s floor was covered with hay, which I managed to arrange into a passable bed. Freedom “felt” good, but my first night as a free man was very cold and restless. By early morning, I could hear the dull booms of artillery fire; they were much louder and nearer by daylight. The loft had doors on both the north and the south ends. I used them to survey the countryside. Nothing was moving in any direction, but the artillery fire was getting nearer. The barn, which offered some protection from the cold, had no food in it, and as the day dragged on, I had to make a decision. I was too cold and too hungry to stay here for any length of time.
I had two choices. One, walk towards the east and try to get through the German lines to the Russians without getting shot. Two, go back to Oflag 64 and wait for the Russians. Hopefully, they would by-pass the camp, but their rear echelon troops would be in the area.
By mid-afternoon I had made my decision. I would go back to Shubin and hide in the camp. I waited until dark to enter the camp. The hole in the fence was still there. Again, I stayed in the shadows and walked slowly towards the front of the camp. There were lights on in the hospital and I could tell by the noises coming from the inside that the sick, lame, and lazy were still there. Kriegies began returning to the Oflag. It became a rallying point, possibly because this was the only place they knew how to get to. Our group included twenty who had been left in the hospital, and the three who emerged from the tunnel.”
“There were 1,605 of us that left the camp,” Loyd remembers. “We walked 26-kilometers (approx. 18-miles) west toward Berlin. A lot of the boys had to fall by the wayside because they had been in Africa, Sicily and in prison camp a long time and just weren’t up to it. The Germans had an old open Dodge truck and they would pick them up. We were walking the country roads because we had to stay off the main road. All the roads were frozen over. We would take a step and slide back a step. It was rugged walking.
Our first stop was a place the Germans would say, “we are capturing so many compounds today.” “A compound meant there was a big house there and there were little houses for the Polish people. You had stables and barns we stayed in. It was dark about 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. We were dead tired. I don’t remember the Germans feeding us anything. They told us to find a place to sleep in the barns. A paratrooper friend of mine and I bedded up in loft of the haybarn. We had no blankets, we were just wrapped up in hay.”
The place Loyd and the other Kriegies stayed at was called The Baron Hans Von Rosen Estate, owned by a Wehrmacht Lt. Colonel known as the Grocholin Estate in 1933.
“The next thing we hear is singing going on. Loud singing. It was daylight. We heard a Polish boy yelling, “the Germans left, the Germans left,” said Loyd.
(PHOTO OF LOYD IN KRIEGY JACKET TAKEN IN POLAND)
“The German guards had left in such a hurry they did not even wake us up. They left with all the prisoners and left 53 of us sleeping. We didn’t know what to do. Rank took over. We had a Colonel Gans but nobody would listen to him. (Colonel Edgar A. Gans) He said, “we will stay as a group.” About noon that day a Russian Tank Captain in an American tank painted white, came by. He told the Polish people to tell us, “to get back to Warsaw the best way you can and we will take care of you. The Russians were hell bent on getting to Berlin.”
Loyd and his group left the Baron’s barn and headed to LVOV, Poland for a couple of nights with a local resident. Fearing German and Russian troops, they travelled mostly at night. From LVOV, the group headed North to Warsaw where they met up with hundreds of other officers from prison camps. The large group took a train to the port of Odessa and boarded a British Hospital Ship on February 17, 1945. They had been on the road, avoiding capture for 27-days.
“LIVING HELL: The true story of Oflag 64 Kriegy Mays W. Anderson and his life as a German POW.” Told by Norley Hall
“The countryside was utter chaos. Refugees crowded the roads. The Germans were poorly organized and in a hurry to get away before the Russians could catch them. Train travel was entirely disrupted with nothing moving at all. In the confusion the temptation to escape was eminent. When such an attempt was made, the Germans would turn dogs loose to hunt the escape down. When they were found they were shot on the spot. The 1st day we marched 23 kms, all in a very weakened condition due to lack of food and inactivity. We received no food from Germans. We moved into a barn and slept the night. With the weather as low as -50 degrees, warmth was an extreme problem. Anderson solved it the first night by finding 2 agreeable cows in the barn and sleeping between them. The next morning Doc DiFrancesco approached me and said, “do you want to go on like this or shall we try to escape?” I answered that we might as well be dead as go like we were. We burrowed real dee in the hay stack and waited. The Germans were in such a hurry to get away that they didn’t wait for a body count, or they would have found us missing and looked in the barn with blood hounds. Had they found us they probably would have shot us. As it was the guards prodded hay stack with bayonets but fortunately didn’t reach the 2 escapees.”
Oflag64 Kriegy 1st Lt. Herbert Garris:
“We realized the German soldier was never one to slightly question an order. If the order had come down (we hoped it wouldn’t) to set fire to the hay or to fire weapons at random into the hay in search of missing prisoners, the German would have done. The entire Army guard detail had gone with the column excepting three German soldiers staying for a short time. At the Baron’s house there were several of our officers now sick. The German plan to return later with a vehicle proved entirely impossible with thousands of civilians cluttering the roads westward and followed by a victory drunk Russian Army under the admirable Marshal Zhukov only a few miles away.
Beneath the straw we saw neither the column move away on a miserable tortuous march nor heard the Russian advance spearhead arrive the following night. Incidentally, January in Poland is cold at the best but in a hay loft it is Hell! We slept and rested close to each other depending on whatever blanket and body heat we could find to keep us alive. We saw other Americans in the courtyard below when we decided to come out. Very cautiously we walked out to get the “poop on the group.” In the Baron’s house were some 85 officers who had been left here sick, or had escaped along the road. Colonel Edgar A. Gans, assuming command, immediately assembled us all.”
Book excerpt from Final Escape by Kriegy #270144 Reid F. Ellsworth
“We marched on until well after dark at which time we turned off the road through some other roadways back to a large residence or mansion. This was probably one hundred and fifty yards from the main road and protected from view by a wooded area. It consisted of a two-story building with a large quadrangle of outer buildings plus a brick residential building that housed probably three slave-labor families. The outlying buildings of the quadrangle consisted of an open-faced shed which covered numerous bales of straw by a pile of logs well stacked. At the far end of the quadrangle was a building with a wheat-grinding mill and also a barn that housed a number of cattle or horses under ordinary circumstances. To the other side of the quadrangle were buildings that housed some sheep and pigs. We were told to all find such places to sleep as we could for the night not knowing what the next day held.
Among those of us who had remained behind was a full Colonel who in my estimation was a very poor leader. I often wondered how he obtained the rank of Colonel. He realized that he was the one with whom contact would be made. Accordingly, he set himself up at a table covered by an American flag and sat stiffly not knowing when the Russian officer would appear. I noted that this Colonel seemed unnerved almost to the extent of being ill, I presumed in fear.”
“The Lieutenant Colonel tried his best to keep us together, but seven of us got together and took off the beaten path and we were going down to the southern part of Poland where we could get something to eat. Two of them decided they were going to go to Czechoslovakia.”
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: (2) left
1. 2nd Lt. James J. Hannon Kriegy #3216. C. Italy 2-12-1944 a. 4-21-1944
2. A Ranger Kriegy
3. 2nd Lt. Lt. Loyd Anson Taylor Kriegy #3237 c. Anzio, Italy Feb. 12, 1944. A. April 21, 1944 ( departure: Odessa )
4. 2nd Lt. Thomas Avery Murphy Kriegy #80791 c. June 12, 1944, 82nd Airborne, 504PIR, from Ellwood City, PA. Died August 23, 1987 (departure: Odessa)
NOTE: not 100% sure Murphy was part of this group. However, he is in a picture taken with Loyd on April 8th, 1945 in a Ft. Worth Star Telegram photo when they returned to America in Boston Mass. He also fought with the 82nd/504PIR in Africa and Italy Campaigns before heading over for Operation Overlord in Normandy, France.
This is a great article about the 82nd /508 and others on D-Day.
Oflag 64 Kriegy Eugene Castle:
In later years Loyd reached out to the Ofag 64 family and sent a letter or email making sure they knew his friend had passed away the previous year.
This was when Kriegy Loyd Taylor wrote to Oflag64.
“Make sure his obit got in.” Was Eugene Castle with Loyd when they escaped from the barn? He was captured same place in Anzio. There is a possibility that either Diane or Tim may later turn up letters that Loyd wrote. His Godson Tim Turner recalls of seeing a letter from Loyd when he was a Kriegy at Oflag stating, “this person could get things done,” wrote Loyd. Who was that person he was referring to?
(PHOTO LVOV, Poland)
“We ended up going down to “LVOV” in southern Poland.” We were walking down the middle of the street and this American speaking dentist came out and knew we were Americans. I was still wearing my old battle jacket. He told us to get off the streets, that the Russians did not allow anyone on the streets after dark. He took us to his apartment. We stayed there two days and two nights and ate him out of his house and home. He gave us $200. from a sewn in patch on his shirt. He treated us royal. We ended up walking and got rides on wagons and headed to Warsaw.”
Another item Diane found in the treasure trove of information on her “Uncle Jake,” was a picture of a veteran by the name of Arthur W. LeSage, Jr. (Kriegy #3225). LeSage was a 2nd Lt. with the 82nd Airborne and was a paratrooper who jumped into Sicily. Later he boarded a landing craft and went ashore into Anzio. He was wounded and captured at Anzio in January, 1944 as a 21-year old officer and sent to Oflag.
Diane did not recognize the soldier’s picture and when she picked it up for a closer look, a note fell out from the back.
The note is to Jake and dated Jan. 23-45. Underlined is the word Liberation! What a day Jake. You, Bill and I in Poland a big Dirty Barn. I will always remember this Date. I Hope your civilian days will see you playing big time Ball Jake. We’ve went through a lots Jake as a Kriegy. Best of Luck. “Red” LeSage
There is a TV interview with Kriegy Arthur LeSage :
Interview with Arthur LeSage by Renee Passal, WDIO TV and next to it is a TV story about Arthur at a Medal Ceremony by Page Calhoun from the same station. He is awarded seven medals for his service to his country.
On Page 30 of a listing of all Kriegies in the camp (Possible Barracks 6-A) as of January 21st, 1945 is the name LaSage, the top (Kriegy #3225), and at the bottom is our Kriegy Loyd Taylor (Kriegy #3237).
I was not at Oflag but could LeSage have been one of the seven who left the barn near Exin, Poland with Loyd?
In the TV interview LeSage (Kriegy #3225) talks about leaving with another Kriegy by the name of Lt. Bert Goldmann (Kriegy#3281). (photo on right)
He says they stayed with a Polish family and were treated very well. (sound familiar). There is no mention of Loyd’s name so I can’t be sure if LeSage and Goldmann were part of the group who broke away from the barn on the first day out.
Lt. Bert Goldman (Kriegy #3281) according to Oflag records was captured on May 30, 1944 in Velletri, Italy and departed from Odessa.
When LeSage was referring to you, Bill and I in his note to Loyd, was this Bert?
(PHOTO: Warsaw Poland with Russian soldiers, on right is Port at Odessa)
“The next 10 days we gathered up 405 senior officers. We got to Warsaw and I hope I never see another scene like what I saw. We had to walk about 6-miles thru town. There was a large church they had turned into a reception center for refugees. They had Russian ladies out there feeding us.
The 405 officers were kept in billet and fed for a few days, then we were loaded into boxcars and taken to Odessa, on the Black Sea. We were put up in billets for about four days and nights under double guard by the Russians.
The next day about noon an Army Major, a 1st Lieutenant and a Master Sargant flew down from Moscow and met us and bought us some C Rations which tasted like a Turkey dinner. We stayed there a few days,” Loyd said.
Oflag64 Kriegy Frank N. Aten “We boarded a British ship”
“Late in the afternoon, we started passing bombed-out buildings on the edge of Warsaw. The driver stopped twice and asked directions from Russian soldiers. There were thirty Americans already quartered in the building on the first floor. This floor was for Americans and a few Russian soldiers. The other three floors were crowded with displaced persons from other countries: Russian, French, Polish and other nationalities whom the Germans had enslaved. Three wide shelves were built in each room, taking up most of the space. Lighting was nonexistent in most of the building, and if you had a flash light, as Bill Fabian did, you could walk to the door of some of the rooms when it was dark and see all kinds of activities going on. The Russians frowned on our leaving the area and walking into Warsaw, but we did it anyway. Their excuse was that they expected transportation for us at any time to Odessa, a seaport on the Black Sea.
We gathered our belongings and walked down to the railroad siding where we boarded boxcars for a cold five-day ride south, to the Black Sea port of Odessa. Two hundred miles from Odessa, the snow stopped, as if an imaginary line was drawn on the land. The people on the no-snow side were different from the ones we had been with. The natives dressed with some fashion and the women wore makeup. On our arrival in Odessa, we were quartered in buildings formerly used by the American Consulate. That’s what we were told, anyway. After two days there, we were transported to the port in Odessa and we boarded a British ship.
Oflag 64 Kriegy Frank Aten:
“I had been a soldier for much of my lifetime, and as such, had witnessed many horrible and disturbing things, but none affected me as deeply as these hangings. Death is so final– whatever the reason.
On the sixth day in Naples, we were transported to the dock for a big surprise and the prettiest thing we’d ever seen–an American ship to take us home. When I looked at that ship and what she represented, my nightmares of war disappeared. I was going HOME. To my family. To my friends. To my country–The United States of America. My God had never left me and he was taking me HOME, today!
No more bug infested cells or filthy uniforms. No more tasteless food, or hunger, or disease. No more jumping from trains into hostile countryside. No more prisoner of war camps, or jails. I had come to Naples twice, and left it twice. This time I was much happier. I am an American and I am going home. I am an American fighting man and I have paid my debts. God, it was good to be home !!!”
Frank N. Aten, of Tyler Tx., retired after 20 years of service with the rank of Captain, US Army and died June 26, 1987 after serving his country as a “enthusiastic recruit” and an experienced officer. He was designated by the German military as an “escape artist” because of his five escape attempts. A memorable Kriegy, his name, exploits, and those of many others are noted and discussed in multiple sites both on-line, in books and articles and in the movie, The Great Escape.
Aten was buried with full US Army Military Honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
NOTE: of the approximately 1,605 POW’s leaving Oflag on January 21, 1945 less than 800 arrived at Stalag VIII some 357 (572 Kilos) miles to Munich (Hammelburg Lager XIII-B) on February 2, 1945.
Many of the prisoners made their way across Poland, caught a train and were shipped out on various ships from Odessa on the Black Sea.
“A big British hospital ship came into port and they loaded us on that thing,” said Loyd. “We ate so well. Ham and eggs, anything you wanted. We stopped at night in Port Said, Egypt. We went right back into the Mediterranean and to Naples, right where it all started. We spent the night in Naples in a hotel before departing to the United States.”
Military papers show PRISONER AT OFLAG 16 Feb 1944 to 17 Feb 1945
Loyd Anson Taylor of Canton, Texas was taken prisoner near Anzio, Italy on February 16th, 1944 and left the Port of Odessa, Russia (Black Sea) on February 17th 1945, a free man. He spent 1 year and 1 day as a Prisoner of War during WWII.
In a newspapers clipping from the Van Zandt Newspaper (September 1994)
“All Canton rejoiced with a homecoming welcome this week for Lt. Loyd Taylor, Canton’s first liberated prisoner of war. The greeting, “That you have not changed,” he says is the nicest thing he ever heard for so much he did want to be the same. The horrors of war, the personal experiences he has endured on the field of battle and in a German prison are avoided in conversation. He is so grateful and happy to be with his family and with friends again and for the welcome he has received. He says this mean more than he could ever express in words and he says, “Thanks.” He also said, ‘Please remember the other boys and see that they are made as happy as I when they return.” Good American food is already doing its part during the two weeks he has been in the states as he has gained five pounds and is now only a bit under his normal weight. He has sixty-days to spend with relatives and friends, including his father, H.H. Taylor of Ardmore, Oklahoma who met him in Dallas and accompanied him to Canton for the week-end home welcome. After his furlough he will depart to Fort Sam Houston for his new assignment. Lt. Taylor is a veteran of Sicily, Salerno and Anzio beachhead. He went overseas with a sergeant rating but at the later engagement he received an officer’s commission as a second Lieutenant. His brother, 1st Lt. Odell Taylor is now in Germany.”
News clip Germany signing surrender papers
In another news clipping Jake left to his niece Diane, stating “The Rapid Red Push Liberates Many Yank Prisoners.” At the top, scribbled in pencil were the words….. Jake Free. More than likely momma or daddy wrote those words.
Loyd Taylor was a free man. He had fought the enemy in WWII and escaped from a German Prison camp called Oflag 64 in Szubin, Poland in 1945.
His battle was over… and now was returning home.
Odell and Jake fishing together Jake and his dad Hermie
ODELL AND LOYD, MILITARY BROTHERS:
“They were brothers and they were two different people,” Diane said. “My dad was nine and my Uncle Jake was six when their mother died. It was during the depression and some really hard times. My grandad remarried to a woman named Hallie.
My dad thought he was nine and nobody was going to take my place but my Uncle Jake warmed up to her. He had a good relationship with her. When my dad went into the military, he sent half of his paycheck to Uncle Jake and my grandfather. My father went into the military first. He told Jake to not volunteer unless he could help him. My dad thought they could stay together but they did not.” Odell was in the Army serving overseas and Hitler had started his march into Poland.
He entered the Army on February 23, 1933. He was assigned company “A”, 9th Infantry and went to boot at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. He worked his way up and served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Infantry. On July 6th 1944 Odell was sent to Normandy, France and the Ardennes forest in Belgium. He fought in France during WWII and moved Eastward towards the “Battle of the Bulge,” until the end of the war. He arrived back to Boston on 17th of August of 1945. He was discharged November 1, 1945.
The entire time he was fighting the Germans, his little brother, Loyd was a POW in a remote town called Szubin, Poland at Oflag 64.
(PICTURE: SHOWS LOYD TAYLOR, BACK ROW 2ND FROM LEFT)
Baseball after the War:
“Loyd played short stop around on a local baseball team when he returned after the war. Edom and Van both had league baseball teams and Loyd played with a team from Edom, called the Red Birds. “I remember going to those games,” said Howard’s brother Larry Dunn. “I remember going to one in Edom and Van. That was one heck of a stadium they had in Van. He played shortstop then too,” said Larry.
Dolly Bunting from the Edom Historical Society did some research and sent this article written by John Bryant Beal, Sr. in a book called, A History of Edom, Texas. Loyd Taylor is mentioned as being recruited from Canton and played short stop for the Red Birds. Some of the players they recruited were Loyd Taylor from Canton and James Bolton and Truit Reagan. They put together some outstanding amateur teams. His name is underlined.
Diane Norrell, niece of Loyd Taylor:
“When I was a baby I was around him (Uncle Jake), and I was his favorite, of course,” laughed Diane. “When WWII was over my dad, Ozier Odell Taylor (Loyd’s brother), was stationed at Newport Rhode Island.
My grandmother owned the Dixie Hotel, and she had come down with cancer so we moved to Canton to take care of her. I was around nine years old when my dad retired from the military.
It was around 1952-53 when he got out of the Army.” http://cantontx.gov/history-canton
THE EAGLE DRUGSTORE:
“When we moved to Canton Loyd was partner at the Eagle Drugstore and he ran it. There was the Eagle and the Palace Drugstore. The Palace Drugstore had a soda fountain and gift items. The Eagle Drugstore had a soda fountain and a pharmacy.
Herman Gullet also had a jewelry store in a little section of the store.”
“He lived next door to the Turner/Taylor duplex on Buffalo Street,” said Tim. One of the greatest guys a boy could live next to. He rebuilt a Piper J3 Cub in his garage in spite of my help. The highway patrol blocked off Highway 243 between Buffalo and Highway 19 for him to take off.
Each of the pharmacies had a Doctor upstairs. Dr. George Hilliard was upstairs at the Eagle Drugstore. People would come into the drugstore and go upstairs on the spiral staircase to see the doctor. Dr. Turner was in the Palace Drugstore. You could buy Penicillin over the counter in those days. Loyd and Harold Turner owned the Eagle drugstore together. there was an older pharmacist named Bird Riley who worked there. “Bird Riley was a pharmacist. She would come in periodically. Neither of the owners had a license, but she did. Mrs. Riley would come down when the state men would come in. When they needed a licensed pharmacist, well then she would come in,” laughed Howard.
“I was his favorite, so I got to get something extra when I came it,” laughed Diane. “He would always make sure I got a double-dip strawberry ice-cream. He would give me all kinds of things and joke with me, he was fun. He was the fun uncle. I went pretty much every day,” said Diane.
“He would give me sound advice, and I wished today I had followed his advice a little more. Uncle Jake was a big influence on my life.”
The nickname “Uncle Jake”
“On weekends I would go to my “Uncle Jake’s house,” and visit with him and my Aunt Lilla. They lived about a half a mile away from us. I felt like sometimes I was born into the wrong family because I was more like my Uncle Jake and Aunt Lilla, than I was my parents. I was very energetic and a little bit antsy and so was Uncle Jake. When I went to their house I was the kid and I had to do what he said. He was a type A personality, very meticulous about everything. That was the military in him. I have a son today who is very similar to my Uncle Jake. I am very proud that trait was handed down to him.”
Where did the name “Uncle Jake” come from? and Diane started laughing. “Tim Turner (Ruth and Harold Turner’s son) is Uncle Jake’s Godson. He and I talked about that and we could never remember why we called him that. Other than he would never tell me his middle name. When I asked him what his middle initial stood for (A) he said, it stood for Angel. I said, “I don’t think so.” But he said, “it’s Angel.” Tim and I finally came up with the story about this old man who came up to the store in a wagon. Tim was only about 7 at the time. They called him Ole Jake or something. That is how we picked up on the name, “Uncle Jake.”
“In regard to the origin of “Uncle Jake,” I can’t remember if Ga Ga, my name for Lilla from when I began speaking until her passing, or if my mother told me this. When Loyd was a child he was very fond of a man who drove a wagon in town whose name was Jake and he wanted to be called Jake,” said Tim.
“I have heard the recording he made with my Aunt Jo,” said Tim. “I listened to it again last week. I listen to it about once a year. Most of the knowledge of what happened to Loyd comes from that interview. I don’t have any recollections or anything like that.
When I was much younger, Jake gave me an Iron Cross he had picked up. I can’t tell you where. I would guess he found it after they had left Oflag. I think he said he found it in a burned-out building. There was a lot of damage on it. I was a child when he gave it to me and I do not know where it is today. It is heartbreaking. I was probably 10. I don’t recall him giving that to me. It was a treasure. I have no story to go along with it. Maybe it was my age at the time, but I don’t know. We were incredibly close, he was like a father to me. We didn’t talk about the war very often. We would watch war movies together. He would say, “Yeah, yeah I was there, I did that.” We didn’t talk a lot about it and I think it was too painful for him,” Tim told me over a phone conversation.
“As I grew up and was older and gotten married we would have Christmas at my house every year,” recalled Diane. “He would always make sure he got the best gift. He once told my Aunt Lilla, that he was surprised that she (me) could keep such a clean house and she knows how to cook and I like what she cooks. It was fun to be with him and be validated by him. He made me feel important. He made me feel like I was someone special,” Diane said smiling. “We had the most fun in life when he was alive at Christmas time. My mother was fun and when she and Uncle Jake got together we had a fun time. It was time to party.
My Aunt Lilla was just a jewel. He hit the jackpot when he got her. She was from Canton and during the war she attended North Texas and got her degree in Home Economics. I had my Aunt Lilla as my 6th grade teacher. She taught in Canton for many years and then she moved up to be the Home Economics teacher. She later commuted over to Commerce to receive her Master’s.
He took one look at her and it was love at first site. What a beautiful couple they were. Loyd and Lilla married in 1945 up until his death on April 14, 1999. They were married for 54 years.”
“Uncle Jake gave me his Oflag 64 dog tags when I was very young,” recalled Tim. “I think the ID tag was worn around his neck. It has a couple of holes punched on the length side and a long string. I assumed and think this was an ID tag he wore around his neck. (This was a German issue ID tag, not an American one.)
The ID tag is still in good shape and kept dry over the years.
It looks like it may have been made out of zinc because of the discolor on it. it is two pieces like one could go with the body and the other for documentation. It looks like you can bend and break it in half. It is similar to the two dog tags our veterans wore. I have held it and looked at it a lot.”
His wife Lilla once told me, “we didn’t speak about it much, but sometimes when thunder and lightning was going on in the middle of the night, he would jump up out of bed.” It reminded him of artillery fire,” said Tim. “He put the war behind him. I was a child, but you would have never known what he went thru. He was an incredibly personable guy. When he spoke, he got your attention. It was because he was talking to you. He would look you in the eye. It was like there was no other person in the room.”
In later years Loyd started the Taylor Man’s Shop in Canton. He carried a line of “Fine clothes” and he gave many people suits that he never told anybody about. “I knew those kids who went to school and didn’t have a suit for graduation,” recalled Diane.
“He would always make sure they had a suit. He also carried the Florsheim line of shoes at his store. He owned the Men’s store about 15-20 years. He was on the board of the First National Bank.
He was a former Canton council member as well as serving as mayor from 1975-77. He was a charter member of Van Zandt Country Club, member of Castilian Masonic Lodge, Canton Lions Club and former president and member of Chapter of Council of Wills Point Commandery.
He loved to play golf and was a very good athlete.”
“I played golf for many years with him,” said Howard Dunn, a personal friend of Loyd’s. “He was always called “Little Buddy” on the golf course. “I started playing golf with him in the 60s. Our family was from Ben Wheeler and we were too poor to trade in the men’s store, but we played in a foursome about three times a week, (Charlie Parker, James Hooks, Howard Dunn and Loyd Turner). We played together for about six years. Loyd played golf almost every day, weather permitting. He carried about a five handicap. He was a good golfer and as he got older it diminished. That was when he went to a shorter compact backswing, but he was still a very strong person and still a competitive golfer.”
“He was absolutely an athlete,” Tim said. “As long as I can remember, Jake called guys, especially young men and boys, whom he didn’t know or couldn’t immediately recall their names “Little Buddy.” After I left Canton, a group of friends at VZCC started calling him Little Buddy. I’m sure it’s because of the frequency they heard the phrase.
Attached is a photo of a golf bag they bought him. Ga Ga (Lilla) gave the bag to me.
He started playing golf when the Van Zandt County Country Club started around 1969. He was not a young guy then and had never swung a golf club. He was a scratch golfer and had like a 2-handicap. He had an incredible ability.”
“My dad had a harder time putting his military experience behind him than my Uncle Jake did,” Diane said.
“The motivation that drove Uncle Jake was, “I have survived.” Looking back, I would have liked to ask him more questions. I don’t know if he would have answered them. He just made a determinization that he was just going to have a good life. He had a zest for life like I am going to live it every day like it is my last. All of the documents that I have been able to furnish you with, he kept in one cabinet. Everything was in place.
He would not talk about his military experiences. He would kid around about it. He didn’t get serious about it. When I saw everything he had, I knew it was very, very deep and what he had been through. He gave it to me, knowing I would take care of it for him and he knew I would take care of his wife if something happened to him. I did.
He called me over to his house one time and told me what he had thought about when he died. I was with him when he died. He told me, I know you will take care of everything, so this is what I am going to give to you.” I started crying and said I don’t want to do all this, but he sternly said, “but you are going to,” I did, and I was faithful in what he wanted me to do,” Diane said as her eyes started tearing up.
Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial Museum in Canton, Texas is very proud and honored to display a full shadow box containing Loyd Anson Taylor’s POW jacket stenciled in black ink on the zipper, L. Taylor 3237.
The Jacket and a “Treasure Trove” of military records copies were graciously donated by his niece, Diane Norrell. Tim Turner, Loyd’s Godson, graciously donated an Oflag 64 ID tag with the name “Oflag 64 and POW#3237” stamped in. We thank them for their generous donations for future generations who visit the Museum in Canton.
As of this date, May 2021, of the over 1,500 Kriegies from Oflag 64, only six (6) are still with us.
THE REST OF THE STORY: (POW march to Stalag VII-A/2 February 1945):
Among the last arrivals were officers from Stalag Luft III who had been force-marched from Sagan in Silesia (now Żagań), Poland). They arrived on 2 February 1945. They were followed by more prisoners marched from other camps threatened by the advancing Soviets, including American officers who had been marched from Oflag 64 in Szubin, via Oflag XIII-B, under their senior officer Lt. Col. Paul Goode. By the end of their march the number of POWs from Oflag 64 were less than half. Wikipedia
MARCH 27th, 1945 ATTEMPTED LIBERATION by 4th Armored Division:
Liberation: TASK FORCE BAUM (A desperate attempt by George S. Patton to raid the camp thinking there were only 300 Oflag Kriegies housed there). He was wrong, very wrong.
Twenty-six officers from the Long 350-400-mile march from Oflag 64 were killed. OFLAG X111-C POW Liberation attempt.
See Abe Baum in Oflag 64 story “All Those Brave Young Men.” His story on Task force Baum:
2nd Lt. William Warthen, Kriegy#3385:
“I was at Oflag only from Dec. 25, 44 to Jan. 21st, 45 , when we were marched out. Though you mingled with those from other barracks you talked very little about anything but food, your units and how you were captured. So, until we moved out on the March those of us who were captured from the same units or who had traveled by 40 and 8, were the people you knew.
While on the march you were so wrapped up with anything that might keep you warm, you didn’t learn to associate names and faces.
We had three different routes home, and he has memoirs from each of these. One is about those who were sick or hid at time of our ‘march out’ from Szubin on Jan. 21st. Those, about 100, came back through Poland and Odessa Russia. Another group of about 300 hid or pulled out of the column on Jan. 24th when our guards left for about 12 hours for fear of being taken prisoner by the Russians. About a week later several hundred who were discouraged or sick were moved on two different days by rail to a camp S. of Berlin, at Luckenwalde, (a French POW Camp originally), There are memoirs from that group.
About 350 of us stayed together walked for 45 days, and then moved by rail south to Stalag XIIIB, Hammelburg, which had been a Yugoslavian Officer POW Camp until the Bulge, when about 1,000 officers captured during the Bulge were squeezed into those barracks.
We, the 350, arrived on March 9th, were there until March 28th, when the camp was temporarily liberated by a 300-man task force, from the 4th Armored, and initiated by Gen. Patton. We thought we were free, then in hours the task force was stopped, and about half returned to our barracks, and were moved by rail that afternoon to Nuremburg POW Camp. Several hundred tried to hide, move by night, and hopefully reach the American Lines 35 miles away. Nearly all were recaptured, about 12 to 14 made it.
Those who were recaptured were moved by rail or marched towards Nuremburg Camp. One of these groups with about 130 Kriegies was caught near Nuremburg by an American Bomber, and 29 were killed and many of those were injured. Those who had gone by rail to Nuremburg, were marched out 5 or 6 days later, and in the 2nd hour this group was hit by an American dive bomber and 6 were killed. This group, commingled with well over 1,000 Air Corps non-coms from Sagan, Luft 3, POW Camp, walked for 14 days and finally reached Mossburg, Stalag VIIA, on April 21st. There were over 70,000 POWs there from all over the world. We were liberated there on April 29th, over a period of about 20 days. All American POWs from all camps(who hadn’t either escaped or were previously repatriated) were first moved to Camp Lucky Strike in Normandy, then shipped home on mostly Liberty Ships.”
Flag removed and replaced by American Flag upon Liberation:
This is a picture of the Nazi flag that flew over Mossburg and taken down after the liberation of the Kriegies. Several signed the flag after it was replaced by an American flag.
(PHOTO) 45th Infantry Division plaque in Abilene Texas
“My son, Dustin Loyd Turner, and I have discussed a trip to Europe to follow Uncle Jake’s “trip,” said Tim. What a nice tribute and honor to “Jake.”
This is a link to interviews (both audio and video) from former Kriegies of Oflag 64
OFLAG 64 Today
Camp photos taken in October 2005
Oflag 64 Quarterly paper written about Kriegies and a tremendous amount of resource material and publications written about Oflag Kriegies are listed here:
(1) Canton News September 1994 by Terry Britt, titled “Taylor recalls time spent as prisoner of war.”
(2) audio interview: AUGUST 31, 1979 by Jo Prince in Canton, Tx. home (3) Friends of Oflag 64, Inc. (3A) Flag 64 Remembered, www.Oflag64.us
(4) Oflag 64 blog page, http://oflag64altburgund.blogspot.com
(5) Van Zandt County Line, Elvis Allen, VZC Historical Commission / Tribute to
Van Zandt County WWII Veterans / December 2001
(6) The Big Break, Stephen Dando-Collins “The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Never Told”
(8) Polish-American Foundation for the Commemoration of POW Camps in Szubin
(9) Roads to Liberation from Oflag 64 ( Clarence R. Meltesen)
(11) “The Name on the Wall”: BOOK Frank N. Alten (Ofag 64 Kriegy) Tyler, Tx.
(12) Warhistorynetwork.com / Sainte-Mere-Egilise: The 82nd Airborne Drops into France
(13) Ft. Worth Star Telegram – Ft. Worth, Texas
(14) The Canton News – Canton, Texas
(15) Larry and Howard Dunn
(17) Edom Historical Society – Dolly Bunting
(18) American Red Cross: Prisoners of War Bulletin
Photos, documents and generous donations to the Van Zandt Veterans Memorial, Canton, Tx. from Diane Norrell (niece to Loyd A. Taylor), and Tim Turner, (Loyd’s Godson).
And the many others linked with the source of the article
Loyd Anson Taylor, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Army. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of www.vzcm
and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
(Some photos on this Facebook page are ©2021, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved. Other authors have given us permission to use their photos.