was a paratrooper in World War II. I was in the 82nd airborne - 508 Regiment,
Co. E. I trained in Fort Benning, Georgia. My drill sergeant had trouble keeping
up with me. Twice I was caught out of formation. I was found picking blackberries
on the side of the road. The other time, a dog had a squirrel treed and I had
to go help. At night, in the barracks when everyone was in bed getting ready to
go to sleep, I would stand up in the dark and give a loud tarzan yell. Later on,
the sergeant wanted to know who had been doing that. I was pointed out in the
crowd. He said, "Hill, I should have known it was you!" He wasn't too
hard on me though. These were good times compared to what was coming up next.
Dec. 25th, 1943 I left NYC going overseas to Ireland, then to England. Leaving
New York Harbor I saw the Statue of Liberty going out of sight. I left with a
sad heart not knowing if I would ever see her again. I arrived at Port Stewart,
Ireland and moved on to England. I camped and trained in the beautiful Nottingham
Forrest for the "big night". During the six months there, I met a girl
named Joan Pilgrim. Her parents took me in and made me more comfortable when I
was so far from home. Wedding plans were discussed but God had other plans for
me. On June 5th, 1944, I was part of the D-Day invasion into Normandy. While flying
over the English Channel, I made the greatest decision of all time -to give my
life to Christ. I had always heard THE WORD during my boyhood in Oklahoma at the
old camp meetings; but, now it all came back to me and the Holy Spirit was calling
my name. In that big old C-53, I kneeled to pray. I saw plainly the face of Christ,
but His eyes were closed. I continued to pray until ...Jesus opened His eyes.
I knew without any doubt that at that moment I was forever saved. Whatever happened
from then on was all in God's hands.
night" turned out to be a suicide drop to divert the enemy so in order that
the ground invasion could begin. It was a night drop with an unexpected storm.
The plane was bouncing and most of the men couldn't hook up to jump. They were
thrown about on the floor of the plane. The sound of gunfire hitting the plane
sounded like a hail storm. My fear level was off the chart. I couldn't even speak.
The night was black with bright spotlights on each plane and on each man. As the
moment came to jump, Lieutenant Allbright was first. He hooked his chute and told
his men to follow. I was second in line. On the way down I could see tracer bullets
coming at him. I thought He got shot. Then they were shooting tracers by me. I
landed in a big hackberry tree. My chute hung in the tree and only my knees and
elbows were touching the ground. My chute had bullet holes in it. I later found
out that the wind had carried us out of the drop zone. I landed on the Cherbourg
Peninsula in Northern France near St. LO. After I was on the ground for about
an hour, someone came up through the hedgerows. I couldn't think of the code word
for a friendly rendezvous. I was suppose to say "flash" and he was suppose
to answer with "thunder". When I finally thought of "flash",
he couldn't think of "thunder". About that time, I had noted my M-1
rifle and had it pointed at his head when he said, "thunder"...It's
a wonder I didn't kill him. His name was Coffee. We made that hackberry tree I
landed in our base. We stored our food and gear in its big roots that came out
of the ground. I just kept my rifle and a couple of hand grenades with me. The
second day we were really getting tired from no sleep. We met up with 2 other
soldiers and a lieutenant. We thought that the tracers had come from this farm
house in the distance, and maybe there were German soldiers still there. The lieutenant
instructed me to stay and watch the farmhouse. I was instructed if I saw anything
move, to shoot at it. Those three men and Coffee left in search of mortars and
equipment to take over the farm house. I never did see any of them again.
the third day, I met up with four other soldiers. We came upon a 4 man pup tent
and several motorcycles. The Germans must have stayed there while shooting at
us and had now left. We destroyed the tent and the motorcycles. We shot them to
pieces. Later, we were in an apple orchard when the Germans spotted us and began
to fire. They killed two soldiers that were sleeping in the hedgerow. I said,
"We gotta get out of here!" We were hiding behind the apple trees and
blossoms were flying in the air from all the gun fire. I got shot in the foot.
It wasn't bad, just grazed. It felt like an ant stinging me. The Germans were
closer to the Sergeant and He yelled to us, "Don't you think we should give
up". I was too afraid to do or say anything. He probably saved my life. He
held up a white cloth and the gun fire stopped. We stood up. There were five German
soldiers and they immediately took off of our bodies anything that they wanted
for themselves. I had about three packages of cigarettes that they took and our
jump belts. We started walking and they stopped us frequently so they could smoke.
They marched us up to an old barn. There must have been about fifteen other captured
soldiers there. They started to interview us and they would send a soldier asking,
"How many 504's or 508's here?" We would raise our hand. There was a
large straw bed. Several of us laid down to sleep. They began in two days to move
us further into France to Germany. On the first day that they tried to move us
out, we had some company from above. We saw an American P-37 shoot down one of
the German planes. We watched that done well. It was a great morale booster for
us, but not for the driver of the truck. Well, it really wasn't a truck, more
like an old school bus. We rode in it until we came to a small town. There were
just a few houses there and out buildings. Next, they moved us in big trucks with
about 5 POWs per truck. There were about 35 of us total then. As we travelled,
they kept adding more POW's. We were riding in the back of tarp covered trucks.
One day we heard the aircorp above us. I pulled the canvas tarp back and counted
11 P-47's. Five of them dove off. I yelled, "Get out! Get Out!!. The German
truck drivers had already stopped and ran for cover. Several POWs got killed by
friendly fire. The Army aircorp thought the trucks were carrying German soldiers
in the back. I saw the dead lined up on the side of the road. The wounded were
carried to a small house. One young soldier took a strafing across his mid section
and I held him in my arms as he took his last breath. He continued to yell out
for his momma as he died. He might be responsible for me being alive today. When
I started hollering to get out of the truck, we were moving so fast that he fell
down at the back of the truck. I caught my toe in the back of his neck and was
able to jump the hedgerow. I couldn't have jumped it again in the best days of
my life. I then went and hid behind an old stucco building. A large French woman
came out with her arms folded. She was just walking around mumbling something.
She didn't get shot. Nobody around the house got hit. I had been in the front
truck. It didn't get shot up as much as the back truck. After the P-47's got through
shooting at the trucks, the P-51's came in. There were five of them and they shot
those trucks all to pieces. There wasn't one bolt that could be used. Most of
the trucks had caught on fire. One of the trucks looked like a canon had shot
right through the motor. The motor wasn't even there anymore.
had been raining and one of the prisoners had some tobacco in a Prince Albert
can. He started a fire so it would dry out quicker. We were all standing around
watching the fire. A German soldier had a German Luger pistol on his hip. A POW
showed interest in the gun, so he took out the clip and let us look it over. When
it was returned and he put the clip in, the gun went off. It shot a POW named
Bohman in the stomach. He rolled around on the ground. I never saw a human take
anything so bad as that German soldier did. He fell down on his knees and started
crying. He crawled up to Bohman and started talking to him in German. At first
Bohman said some dirty words but then looked up at him and said, "I forgive
you.... l know you didn't mean to do that". We carried him to an old house
across the road on a ladder. He told me that he knew he wasn't going to make it.
He said he thought he might live if he could get medical care. I heard later that
he died that night.
We had trouble from then
on. They marched us or loaded us like cattle into boxcars, moving us East through
Alençon to Paris, France. Every time our American's would spot us, they
would bust up the columns we were walking in. The planes would shoot at any group
of men walking together. This must have been about the fourth day of captivity
and I was hungry...real hungry. They marched us to a place not far from Notre
Dame, France. We went to an old building where there had been about 30 monks marching
out as we marched in. They had their black hats and black robes on. We took over
what they had. They didn't have much to start with, being monks. Anyway, that
is where we found a cow that had got shot from aircraft fire. We got to eat her.
I got to eat the cow's liver. I ate as much of it as I could hold. I know that
helped me a whole lot. They finally got us through that mess, and we arrived at
Paris. They filmed us for propaganda. There were about fifty of us, and they marched
us through the streets of Paris. They filmed us over and over to make it look
like more POWs were captured than just fifty. The streets were lined with French
men. Many of them would make a victory sign at us or try to shake our hands. The
German guards would knock them back. This beautiful lady in a hat was standing
on a large cement block. She smiled real big at me and came trotting over to me.
She puckered up and I thought she was going to kiss me. I puckered up and got
ready for it; but, instead she reached out into left field and slapped me. I never
will forget it. It turned my head around. She slapped me hard. About the same
time, a heavy booted German guard kicked me in my back end. It messed up my tailbone
for life. For a couple of weeks I had to travel on my knees when we were riding.
That was so painful.
We finally got on a train
to take us out of Paris. The train was shot at twice. It's horrible to be locked
up in a box and someone above you is shooting target practice at you. We went
through Frankfurt and there they stopped and marched us into town. We went to
a building that was a white school house. They made up some food for us. It was
barley with milk. It was one of the best meals I got. Their coffee was also made
up of barley.
I was taken to a prison camp
called Stalag 13B in Weiden. There were 5 big ovens in a row. It was probably
used for heat but at the time in the back of my mind, I thought it was used for
something else. Once in the middle of the night, I was going to the bathroom and
I saw a man standing in front of me. He looked American and was wearing a white
T-shirt and khaki pants. I said excuse me so I could pass. He didn't move but
just stood there. I put my hand out to move him out of the way and my hand went
right through him. It scared me real bad. I thought I was losing my mind. Later
on, another prisoner saw the same thing. We found a light they were using to project
images. We never saw it again after that. I think they were trying psychological
torture. It sure was spooky.
I was moved to
Stalag 4B in Mulberg after a few days. The camps were run like little towns. The
British ruled inside the camps. Don't get me wrong, the German's were definitely
guarding it. It was run efficiently. If you worked a little bit you could trade.
You could also trade items from your Red Cross Parcel. They had a system already
in place on how much everything was worth. I got a small jar of mustard and some
black shoe polish. Looking back I have no idea what I planned on doing with shoe
polish. They would come in every morning and report the news. It was just like
it came over the radio. The Russians were housed next to us, separated by a fence.
We would barter and trade with them through the fence. The Russians were real
good at making things out of the tin from the Red Cross packages. I bought a heart
shape necklace that one Russian prisoner had made. The sleeping quarters were
3 bunks high with a straw mattress. I always drew the bottom bunk. You could see
the slots above you. I was fed mostly bread and a few potatoes. The potatoes were
good. Usually, they were mashed or fried. They also made a potato dumpling.
Stalag IVB I was sent to Sudetenland on the western border of Czechoslovakia.
I was picked by the British to work the coal mines. We went by train and then
marched. It was cold. We marched for miles and miles through the mountains. There
was heavy snow on the ground. We didn't have shoes. My boots were taken immediately
upon capture. I wore shoes made up from wood and rags. I'm lucky I didn't lose
my toes to frost bite, like some POWs did. When marching through Prague a woman
dropped a carrot, as big as a bottle from under her clothes. I picked it up and
ate it. She also dropped a pair of plush air core gloves, but I passed them by.
were expecting the camp to be something big but instead it was a small house.
I don't know the official name of the camp but we called it Howe. It might be
a shortened German name? About fifteen American prisoners stayed there working
either the coal mines or the glass factory. I stayed there for about eight months.
I worked about ten hours a day and hauled 10 to 13 tons of coal daily. I knew
a POW that tried to escape and was shot. He told me that morning that he wouldn't
be here the next day. I knew he was talking about escaping, but I didn't think
he would go through with it. He was a Jewish boy. He had problems. The rats would
bite him at night when he would try to sleep. The Germans shot him twelve times
when he tried to escape. They put his body in a big woven basket and left him
in our building. They wanted us all to get a good look at him. The next day a
few of the boys on detail carried him way up in the mountains to bury him. Once,
two other POWs tried to escape. After they were captured, some of the German guards
chased after them on their bicycles. They would ride their bicycle tires up against
the POWs legs and take the hide off their skin. Once, another prisoner and I were
accused of trying to destroy the mine. A German guard finally was accused and
took the blame. That could have been really bad. While there, hunger was gnawing
at our insides. We ate whatever we could to survive. We had dog for dinner a few
times. Once we tried to lure a cat past the barbed wire fence so we could make
a rabbit out of him. The cat never would come. We boiled grass for soup. The Germans
gave us potato peelings to boil. Little did they know that it was some of the
best of the potato. Fuehrer Hoffman was the main German guard over us during captivity.
His arms were lined with watches that he had taken from American and other soldiers.
Once, some of the Czech people had made some soup for the prisoners out of milk
and eggs. We were lined up with our little tin cups to get our soup when F. Hoffman
walked up and kicked the pot over. All the soup spilled to the ground. One German
guard had compassion for us. When Fuehrer Hoffman wasn't around he would let us
out of camp to steal potatoes. The Czechs had them buried in the hills in the
ground. I went from 160 lbs to 108 lbs. I am six feet tall. I almost starved to
death. I kept a little black book and would write in it all the things I wanted
to eat someday. Some of the food on my list was fried chicken and steak with gravy.
Once about five of us prisoners got dysentery. I was really sick. We did receive
some medicine that stopped it.
was coming. The Americans and Russian troops were closing in and you could almost
do anything you wanted to. It just faded away. The Czechs took over feeding us.
Most of the Germans ran away. Some stayed in an old church house. My buddy and
I took off to town. Being recognized as POWs we were told an American jeep had
come through earlier. Sure enough, about thirty minutes later a big American tank
came rolling through. I had always said I would kiss the backside of the first
American GI that I saw. Well, he was in a tank and was awful dirty and nasty.
He gave me the opportunity but I didn't do it. He did give my buddy and me a whole
package of cigarettes. He told us to get back to our Unit. There were plans to
move us out. It seemed like eternity but it was probably just a couple of days
before they came for us.
When we were liberated,
we were given the opportunity to take revenge on the mean Germans. They told us
to pick out some German soldiers and have some entertainment. Even though I might
have wanted to get back at the Germans, I knew God would be the judge and the
jury and I couldn't live with myself later. A fellow ex-POW did take revenge.
He put F. Hoffman in the middle and lined ten of the other mean guards up. There
were five men on each side of Hoffman. He started on the outside man and started
mowing them down, first at the knees until at last he was staring down at the
devil of them all, F. Hoffman. He finally shot him down. The man never opened
his mouth to beg for mercy.
We were taken
to a big deserted mansion and instructed to stay until they could ship us out.
We had lice and had to be treated for that. We were told to take some spoils.
There were several rifles thrown in a fish pond. I picked up a real nice Belgium
made rifle and got to take it home. The town had made every one throw all their
guns and weapons away. There were about 30 of us there. I stayed on the second
floor. I also got some really nice silverware. I shipped it home but it never
made it. At the end of the war, the army was confiscating anything of value for
themselves. I also got an inscribed gold pocket watch and a pipe made of glass
and wood. But mainly, I just wanted to go home.
flew us to Lucky Strike, France. There we had anything we wanted to eat. One of
the POW's died from overeating. He ate so many donuts that it killed him. I had
eaten four cans of peanuts and was starting on my fifth when they made me stop.
I could have died too. We had to be very careful how we introduced food back to
I left from Le Havre on a ship.
The sea was very rough. Arriving in New York I again saw the Statue of Liberty.
What a beautiful site! I left New York to Vancouver, Washington via train. The
MP's didn't last 15 minutes with us. The ex-POW's threw them off and then they
threw off the officers. It was strange. Nobody was going to tell them what to
do. Prisoners that had been close friends during captivity were now fighting.
Mostly I think alcohol was involved. They were drinking to celebrate. I stayed
at Barnes General Hospital in Vancouver for four months and then home to Healdton,
During my long year in captivity,
I was listed at "missing in action, presumed dead". My dad got so upset
and nervous that he got the hiccups for a solid year. He also had to be hospitalized.
My mom always said that she knew I was alive. Well, about half way through the
year, Mom and Dad received a telegram that came in to the post office in Clemscot,
Ok. It was from the Red Cross. It read that Private Richard R. Hill was listed
as a prisoner of war and not dead. My parents notified the war department that
they had received a post card from me. They knew I was a POW before the war department
did. I was able to correspond with them after that. When I first came home, it
was difficult for me to speak. My dad wasn't expecting me home. He pulled up to
the house and I was sitting out on the porch. He didn't get out of the car. He
just put his head down and cried.
I was supposed to be stationed in Ft. Leonardwood, Mo.... that I would be given
a chance to learn a trade. I knew that I would train in welding. I married a girl
from my hometown named, Lawanna. She had started writing to me when she found
out I was a POW. We took a honeymoon to Hot Springs, AR. But then the army had
another surprise for me. Immediately I got orders to report to Vancouver, Washington.
There they placed me guard over some Italian prisoners. Well, I didn't like what
I saw. I couldn't believe that they were having a grand old time. Unlike what
I endured, they were partying and courting American girls. Unfortunately I had
a few beers one night and went crazy. Before I knew it, I had one of them Italians
down with a gun to his head. I wasn't very nice to the girls either. I couldn't
understand how they could fraternize with the enemy. I finally realized what I
was doing. I decided that I better go back to the barracks and turn in my guns.
I started in the right direction but then layed down under a big tree and went
to sleep. Sometime later I got put back in my bunk. The next morning I got picked
up the military police. I was to report to the General the next day. He told me
that they had enough on me to put me back so far that I would never get out. However,
he also said that they should have never put me in such a position after the experience
I had just come from. I then was recouped and discharged from Barnes General Hospital
I heard later that only about
18 out of the 100 men in my company ever made it home. When I first returned home
I tried not to talk about my war experience. It was too painful. I would have
nightmares sometimes. Over the years, the Lord has helped me deal with my past
and now I want my story told. I have lived a long life and have been blessed with
a wonderful family.
This is a list of names
of soldiers that I had befriended during the war and had written down. Some I
met in training and some in captivity. Hester, Ralph (Greenville, SC) - Green,
Lester (Texas) - Norris, Bill (Tishmingo, OK) - Manning, Dan (Philadelphia, PA)
- Henson, Louis (Atlanta, GA) - Sears, Bill (Alabama) - Estes, Arthur (Clifton
Forge, VA) - Roper, Roy (Tyler, TX) - Fulkner, Truman (Big Springs, TX) - Hencherd,
Johnie (Norman, OK) - Bennett, Ray J. (Camargo, OK) - Lambeth, Bob (Texas)