1945: Adrian Man Survives Trip In Nazi Box Car


ADRIAN — Adrian’s only World War II army medic, Edwin Becker, arrived home Sunday after an absence of two years, the greater part of which time he spent on a European battle front and as a war prisoner. At the end of his furlough in mid September, he is due to report at Hot Springs, Ark., for reassignment to active service.

A Daily Globe reporter found Becker at his home making impressive inroads on a huge platter of bacon and eggs. His grandmother, Mrs. Catherine LeGros, beamed with pride when she gathered his army tunic from its hook and held it up so the reporter could see the service ribbons including purple heart, good conduct and service in the European theater of operations.

“Quite a change from POW chow, eh, Edwin,” the newsman suggested, meanwhile wistfully making a silent estimate of the red points represented on the breakfast table.

“Indeed yes,” Becker replied, “A very noticeable change from a ration consisting of one sixth of a loaf of bread and a little water which was all we had at times. It also is a welcome change to sleep in my own comfortable bed in my quiet room instead of on a bare floor in a German prison camp.”

Becker enlisted in June 1943 at Ft. Snelling. After being shifted in turn to army posts in Alabama and Maryland he sailed from New York in August 1944 and landed at Glasgow, Scotland. After two months he was sent to France.

Early in November he was assigned to active service on the front lines in Germany. After 12 days he was caught in a mortar barrage at Roetgen, Germany, when he was serving as a stretcher bearer and received a shrapnel wound in his right arm.

He was captured by the Germans in Clervaux, Luxembourg in December of the same year. With some 30 other army medics he was assigned the task of caring for German wounded in an evacuation hospital near Neuberg, Germany. This assignment lasted two months. The wounded German soldiers appeared indifferent and showed no sign of appreciation of what was being done for them, Becker said.

After American forces began shelling the town the Germans loaded their prisoners on a railroad train. Fifty-three men were crowded in each box car. The loaded train stood in the railway yards two days before it was dispatched on its way. The prisoners were given nothing to eat but scanty rations of bread and water. Advancing American planes bombed the railroad yards. Prisoners in the cars were killed or wounded by these bombs, Becker said.

In time the captive Americans were hauled over a devious route to a point 7 miles from Bremen where eventually they were liberated by a Scotch armored command on April 28 of the present year. The Germans put up a one-day fight during which the Ameri-can prisoners remained in dugouts they had made for themselves before the fighting began.

After being liberated the Americans were sent to Brussels where they were quartered in a British war hospital before they were moved along to an American general hospital in Liege, where in three weeks, according to Becker, he “put back all the weight he had lost.”

Next in order was a French sea port from which Becker and others sailed for the United States in the latter part of May.

“The men,” Becker said, “were more quiet on this homeward trip than when they were going ‘over there.’ Their experiences in the battle area sobered them. They had many things to think over and some of these recollections were not cheering. Speaking for myself, before I was liberated I had an idea that I should be greatly excited when the big day arrived, but when at last we were free again, my sensations were those of quiet thankfulness. I believe the reactions of my comrades were the same as my own.”

At 5 o’clock on the morning of June 24, we were met in Boston bay by a tug boat with military dignitaries and a Negro regimental band aboard. What did the band play? I don’t remember. I was more interested in the fact that Adrian was only a mere 1,200 miles or so further on and the trains were running.

“We landed at Camp Miles Standish outside of Boston. The next day I headed for Minnesota and home. That is all of the story ex-cept that those boxes of food which we received once a week from the American Red Cross when we were being held by the Germans, saved many lives.”