|The above image was taken from a card among John's
papers. The message reads,|
"For Chistmas and a Better Year, Des Callan, 75 Green Street Milton, 86, Mass."
|John's Service Information|
|Copies of John's Service documents|
|Pictures relating to John's War Service|
|John was captured on November 28, 1944 at Mulhausen, Bas Rhin, France (Alsace). He spent the
next five plus months in POW camp.|
He said the whole time he was imprisoned the main food was some water with a few potato skins floating in it. The rations included two cigarettes a day and he said that saved his life. He didn't smoke so he traded cigarettes for "soup".
In late April, 1945 the war in Europe was winding down. Mussolini was killed on April 28th. Hitler committed suicide on April 30th. The Germans made an unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces on May 7. While there were still some pockets of resistance, VE (Victory in Europe) Day was declared May 8, 1945.
John kept a journal from the time he left the POW camp on May 7th until June 1st.
Highlights from the journal:
On May 7 about 1,200 men left the prison camp under the supervision of German guards and marched about 20 kilometers towards the German lines.He arrived stateside June 12, 1945.
However, he still had a ways to go before getting home. He spent several weeks at the Hotel Dennis in Atlantic City for "rehabilitation and recovery". He was finally discharged August 17, 1945.
Frank Don Diego, Pfc, Inf, 199 Bergen Street, Newark, who was captured with John and who John refers to in his diary as "my friend, Don" was on a list with John of personel who were asigned on June 15, 1945 to the Hotel Dennis in Atlantic City for 71 days "rehabilitation and recovery"
Transcription of the journal kept by John Blanck May 7th through June 1 1945
"MY JOURNEY HOME
On May 7 we left the camp with approx. 1200 men to join our forces. Most of the men were very, very weak and underfeed as a matter of fact one man had just died because of lack of food. We were very doubtful about the Germans bringing us to our lines, but we were hoping. The march was a sight that I never will forget and hope I never have to be a part of any thing like it again in my life. The roads were jammed with evacuees as they had all heard the Russians were on the move, this crowded condition didn't help matters. We marched 20 kilms. and settled for the night at a large barn. We discovered that the barn had a wagon full of food supplies. My friend, Don, swiped 2 hams and a very large bacon. This really is the first meat we have had in quite a while as horse meat is the only meat we have had in the last few months. I might add that we made pigs of ourselves, but it felt good. All during the night the Russian artillery was becoming more and more prominent and we certainly knew we would be in Russian hands if we didn't move, which would suit me fine, but of course the Germans are scared stiff of the Russians. Slept in the barn, but woke about 4 didn't sleep well at all.
Had a ham + fried potato breakfast which is about the first breakfast I have had since I have been in Germany. I don't think the Jerries believe in breakfast. By this time my friends and myself realized that the Germans we going to use us as a means of saving their own necks as a matter of fact they keep telling us that America and Russia are at war and if the Russians take us we will be prisoners again. We of course don't believe this, but this is a crazy war and we haven't heard or read a newspaper for so long that we don't know what to really believe. Myself and my friends (4) decided to leave the Germans and try to get to our own lines by ourselves, but this wasn't as easy as we thought because the German guards were firing on groups trying to take off. Add 1 Yank shot in head by guard for no reason at all as far as I know he is still alive, but the march is a tough one so I don't think he will make it. We finally got a break helping a German sergeant push a wagon. Went into the town and had coffee from the German civilians. There were strong rumors that the war was over or would be over as the German radio had made and announcement. The air raids were heavy and the artillery very, very loud. All the Germans troops we passed looked very tired and beaten. Our bread ration today was great 90 Grams of bread and fifty grams of butter one good bite and a days supply would be gone. We continued on today seeing troops and evacuees pass trying to escape the Russian drive. The German civilians are certainly afraid of the Russians as their propaganda has told them many cruel stories, but they forget how cruel their men were to the Polish and the Russians when they were the great master race. At about noon time we really started to penetrate the German front lines and the air raids continued every half hour and I don't mind admitting haw scared I was. The American force is something to be scared of. We were marching in a group with German wagons in front of us carrying the supplies from the camp we just left when as quick as a flash an air bomb burst about ten feet away from us killing two of our men and wounding two more. The men were all a few feet away from me so again I can thank God for sparing me. These air attacks continued all day. Myself and my four friends were really on our own now as the Germans seemed to be concerned about their own necks. The Russians really were on the move. We realized that something was wrong as all the Germans were throwing away their arms and putting on civilian clothes, but we never really believed that the war would really be over as soon as it was. We marched about (20Km) today also and stopped at a German farm house the farmer gave us potatoes and cheese and we had been getting supplies all day from German soldiers, as a matter of fact a group of Germans were eating and they gave us a loaf of bread each and pickles, now we really new something was in the wind. When a German gives anything away something is wrong. This was the first pickle I have had in about 8 months and it really tasted good. Slept in the farmer's barn. Couldn't sleep much lice were bothering me again. Woke about five and got ready to move. Had (2) glasses of sour milk I guess it was butter milk and started on our way. It was a strange morning.
Today was a great day for everyone, but Germany, but we didn't know it as yet. The morning was cool and clear as we walked along the road all we could see was wrecked equipment and dead horses. German rifles machine guns and uniforms were all over the road. The artillery was very loud and rifle shots were everywhere. It was dangerous walking, but we kept moving on. I can't possibly describe how an army as well organized as the German army could collapse this way, it was something unbelievable. We stopped at a farm and had more milk and moved on again. We saw a Frenchman with a bucket of jam and plenty of bread he told us the war was over, but we still didn't believe it. He said a German truck had been wrecked and there was plenty of bread in the wreckage so we decided to go and get some. While on the way to the wrecked truck we questioned everyone about the end of the war and one of my friends could speak Polish and he asked a Polish prisoner and he confirmed the news about the war being over. What a moment it was in the middle of the road we actually kissed each other all I could think of was how wonderful it would be to see my wife and two children as their were many times when I thought I would never see them. I love then very much and my prayer now is to stay home with them for good as this prison life has taken something out of me. It may be spirit as all I want now is comfort. Incidentally we each got a loaf of bread. Now that the war was over we decided to proceed on to Brooks where the American forces were supposed to be, but we never got that far. We were just marching through a village (Schonwald) when the Russian troops caught up with us. (the village had all white flags up as did every other village by now) The Russians were delighted to see us and the Russians Capt. swapped his pocket watch with my friend so you can see how well we were received. We were given food, liquor, candy and chocolate which we hadn't had since we were taken prisoners. The Russians were certainly gay and when their men knew we were Americans we could have anything. Had dinner in a farm house which we took over ham potatoes, bread jam chervier cheese. After prison life we really were eating like kings. The Russians ransacked the best houses, but didn't hurt or bother any women or children as the Germans had heard. At least I didn't see any. All day long we were eating and drinking what the Russians had given us. We were so full it wasn't funny. In one beautiful house the Russians had ransacked the German woman asked me to help her to stop the Russians as I was an American and she said Americans were all good. Imagine how I felt after the German had pushed me around for 6 months. Shoving coal in weather below zero and using their bayonets on us not to mention starving. I haven't had a vegetable in 6 months. I didn't say a word to the Russians naturally. All of a sudden the Americans are wonderful people to these Germans, but only because of their fear of the Russians. We took a bath in a stream and changed our underclothes (German civilian clothes) socks by the way. This is the first change I have had in 6 months after bathing and shaving we returned to the farm and had a supper of noodles and meal cheese bread and jam tea and cake which a Russian had baked for us. By this time I started to get diarrhea because of eating so much. We had obtain five bikes by the time from German soldiers to get started on our way to our troops which were at Chemnitz. For the first time since I had been a prisoner I slept in a bed it was so comfortable that I couldn't sleep (lice again).
(Note on side page)
On our whole trip we used about 15 or 20 bikes which we simply took away from German soldiers. We sure had our nerve as we weren't armed, but they were scared stiff. If we wanted anything real bad all we had to do is ask a Russian and it was our that goes for a car or a house or anything.
Woke about 8 o'clock and had bread and coffee as I didn't feel well after making a pig of myself the day before. All I kept thinking of last night was what was my wife thinking of as she hasn't heard from me in so long. I hope she is well. It must have been a great day at home when the news of the war being over was announced. I wish I could have been their (sic), but I am only too happy to be alive. Well we finally started out on our way home with our bikes. It certainly was great riding through Germany even though I hate the country, but one can't deny how beautiful it really is. This morning we met a Belgian fellow who had been a prisoner for two years and he has joined us on the way home. He is a very nice fellow. On the way to Dresden I had a nasty spill while coming through the mountains. I didn't feel it at first but when we stopped at a bakery near Dresden I actually fainted. The German people were very nice to us and took good care of me giving me medicine and blankets so I could sleep. The baker baked a very large butter cake for us (we supplied butter and sugar). It was delicious. It certainly reminded me of home. At about four o'clock we left to proceed on to Freiberg. We rode through Dresden. I had been to Dresden before it was bombed and to see it wrecked was something hard to believe. The city was bombed for 1 hr. by four thousand bombers and you can believe me there isn't one house that hasn't been hit. The bombing was so perfect that there are very, very few shell holes in the streets every bomb was a direct hit. We have been traveling quite a way and I don't feel well at all so the Belgian fellow is taking us to a village (Kasseldorf) where we can eat and sleep. We finally got to the house but I couldn't eat all I wanted to do was sleep.
Note: Dresden was bombed on February 13, 1945
Had a wonderful sleep last night awoke at 8 this morning had tea, fresh cow milk and the balance of our butter cake. We have decided to stay here and rest awhile before proceeding. Had chicken, potatoes, gravy, cherries for dessert.
(note on side: Lunch)
It was the first chicken we have had since we were captured. Again you can see know vegetables with the dinner. I can't understand how these people eat all they think of is bread, potatoes and turnips. Tonight we are going to have chicken again (two of my friends picked up another chicken and six eggs. After dinner we had the biggest surprise of all ( We actually saw and American tank outfit, boy were we happy. A sergeant took our pictures and the major said to me ( how the hell did you get here). It was a great day. We are going to stay at this house to wait for our trucks so we can ride to our lines as we are all tired.
We have just finished another chicken dinner with gravy, potatoes, eggnog, bread and a jar of delicious preserved strawberries with fresh milk from the cow. We certainly are living in style having two chicken dinners in one day. It finally happened the G.I. trucks have returned and are we happy. I rode in a jeep with two Americans and my friends rode in tanks or trucks. Most of us had our first taste of K rations in 6 Months. We are headed for Limback where our forces are stationed. Passed Chemnitz on our way and it showed how powerful American and Russian artillery is, the town was flat.
Arrived at Limback and in good old American style the first thing we did was eat. I had beans, coffee, white bread and peanut butter. Now we have good news tomorrow morning or at least sometime during the day we are going to fly to Paris or London in a C47 this will really complete the thrills I have had in the last few days. After eating we went to a large gym and slept for the night. I couldn't sleep because I am excited and just keep thinking of home.
(note on side page:) lice again
Woke up at 4 o'clock just finished shaving and being we are to fly today I just can't wait. I am also anxious for breakfast as I haven't really had a good breakfast in quite awhile. Left Limbach by truck for Gera where we will board trucks and proceed to the airport at Erfurt. The truck ride is long and very fast. We rode along a very beautiful highway and as far as the eye could see there was G.I. equipment. The Allies certainly have taken over Germany.
Arrived at Erfurt at 6 o'clock in the evening and found out that the planes would not leave until tomorrow. Had a real G.I. dinner last night Pork, potatoes, string beans, lima beans, cocoa, bread, butter and stewed apples. As much as we could eat. I believe if one of the Germans ever saw that meal they would drop dead. Sleep in the Luftwaffe barracks and had a good night's sleep.
Just finished a wonderful breakfast 4 Eggs, cream of wheat, prunes, 3 slices of white bread + coffee. I haven't had that much in a month in Germany. Left for the airport a 8 o'clock boarded the C47 at 8:30 headed for Rheims France. Flying is great I am writing this while we are still about 4000 ft. over Germany going about 200 miles an hour. I have a great urge to spit down on Germany but really want to do something else which I can't write. It is a wonderful morning and a great day for me because it means I am leaving the country I hate. We should be in Rheims in about 2 1/2 hrs. where we will shower and change clothes and in the next day or so hop another plane for N.Y. or a ship. Again I feel an urge to cry because all I can think of is hugging + kissing my wife and children. My four other friends are still with me. My friend Don who was with me when I was captured is still with me + I hope to see lots of him and his family when I get home. Lately he and I have had a few arguments but I think it is because we are both on edge. At any rate I hope it is because I think he is a good fellow. He certainly has a fine family and loves them very much.
The appearance of everything from the air is like a huge carpet, very, very beautiful. After using bike to travel with I have to laugh when I think of how fast we are moving. I had a great shock this morning I had my first chance to be weighted. I weigh 126 lbs. and was approx 170 or 174 when I was captured most of the other fellows are the same. I guess this helps tell the wonderful time we had in Germany. After what I have seen in Germany I can forget what I have gone through because the Russians will make them pay. We are twenty five men in the plane and everyone is as happy as can be eating and smoking. It is good to see men smoke when they want to because I have seen men starve + die because of cigarettes. Yesterday I had my first chance to write to my wife and I am ashamed to the letter I just didn't know what to write. It is strange after thinking of writing all these months, lots of my friends were the same way. I am sure she will understand at least she will Know I am all right and on the way home.
Plane 293715 U.S. Army- 25 men
Stayed in Rheims until 11 o'clock in the evening and went to the train station headed for La Harve where we would go through the last processing before going home.
I saw Rheims cath. but did not go in side it certainly was beautiful also passed the building where Eisenhower signed the unconditional surrender. I also saw his new air plane it is a (B25) silver job very beautiful. He was in Rheims yesterday.
Had a wonderful shower and all new clothes. It certainly seems strange to be in army clothes again. Eating good food all day. I am very tired. We have boarded a Red Cross train headed for La Harve. It is very comfortable.
We are still on the train and making stops all along the road for breakfast, lunch and so on, everything is well arranged and we certainly are being treated fine. It sure is good to be with our army again to be free and to eat well. Arrived at La Havre at 2 o'clock in the morning.
Had a good nights sleep in a tent on a cot it felt swell. All we are doing is resting, eating, having plenty of eggnogs and reading. Trying my best to relax, but anxious to get home. I am feeling good, but my nerves are shot it worries me. I hope it isn't anything serious.
Slept well again last night. Nothing new. Still eating well and relaxing. Waiting to be processed.
Nothing special today ate good chow had plenty of eggnogs and lots of rest. Weather is still good. Hope we get processed soon so we can get on the boat and started on our way home. Wrote 2 letter to my wife yesterday, 1 to my sister, 1 to my uncle John and 1 letter to Carl Lundeen. It felt good to be able to write again.
Repetition of yesterday, just eating and sleeping getting lots of sun. Wrote a letter to my wife - enjoy writing to her very much. Some of the other packets being processed so perhaps we will be going soon.
May 20 Sunday
Went to Mass this morning. Nothing extra today. Received our clothes today so that is another step closer to shipping. I hope we start to move soon. Had a very pleasant dream of home last night. Saw my wife in my dreams that should be a good sign. Wrote a letter to my wife today hope she gets my mail fairly regularly. I am still very excited about the thought of seeing my children.
Routine the same today just eating and resting. Raining most of the day went to bed very early- very cold. Heard some very bad news yesterday one of the boys who was at a prison camp in Germany with a fellow (Tom Belli) who trained with me in the states and who use to be in the same fox hole together- to be exact we were captured together. The day after the war was over he was riding in a G.I. truck which was strafed (?) + bombed by a Russian planes (mistake) truck turned over and he was killed. It was a shock he had a wife and baby daughter. Again I realize how good God has been to me.
Nothing new eating and sleeping as usual. Another rainy day. Rumors about moving to D area. I hope so it will at least be mean another step out of here. Wrote a letter to my wife again today also sent the third cablegram I sure hope she has at least received one by this time. I know she must be worried and anxious about when I am getting home. Eisenhower was in the camp yesterday and visited our area. I was at a show so I missed him.
Had a very good breakfast and lunch again today. Also had a nice sleep before lunch. Reports are that we are moving to D area today which should mean we will be shipped out in about 3 or 4 days. I hope everything will go according to schedule. Moved at 7 o'clock to D area. Feel that things will really happen now. Wrote a letter to my wife.
Called for an early breakfast this morning had a wonderful dish of oatmeal. Going to have lots of it at home. Well our processing finally under way. We have been interrogated. Had a physical check up and filled out a lot of other papers. Tomorrow we get paid $20.17 partial payment and with any luck at all we should ship out Sat. or Sun. When we had our physical I reported my ears they seem to have a pressure on them, told to have them checked in U.S. may have been caused by bombs. I only weighed 127 and that was with my shoes on after being about 174 when I was a prisoner it scares me, but I guess I will pick up when I get home. Still feeling nervous perhaps that is what is keeping my weight down. Reported that I thought I had a strain. Dr. check and said it could be my muscles from loss of weight, but advised I have it checked after furlough. Actually physically I feel the way I did after my operation. Sent another cablegram to my wife today 15 words. Sent a letter to Alice today. Went to the movies. Finished the day up going to the Red Cross had a good cheese sandwich and two cups of chocolate.
Had a good nights sleep picked up a few blankets last night slept warmer for a change. Had a very good breakfast. Just had a shower and clean underclothes feel better.
Had a very good lunch. Two more Generals visited our camp and had lunch in our mess hall. I don't know who they were.
Received a partial payment of $50.00 today. I went to try to but something for the kids especially Ilda + Lucille, but what they had was junk. I would be ashamed to bring it home. Going over to the Red Cross will try to have a chocolate and cheese sandwich. Hope we ship tomorrow.
Today is the same as any other day nothing doing. I don't know what's holding us up. Moving back to another area, so things don't look to good. Wonder when we will get home.
Had a good breakfast in the new area. Went to mass. Priest was also a prisoner and he stated that being a prisoner was just like purgatory and we should all be better men because of our experiences. I have always tried to do my best, but will certainly try to do better.
Nothing unusual today except that Eisenhower stated he would double bunk the ships in order to get us home faster. Had a few eggnogs today don't feel bad. Can't wait until I see Alice and the children.
Woke at 7 o'clock. Had a breakfast am going over for a shower.
Had a swell shower and change of clothes. Sure felt good. Keep thinking of how nice it will be to shower and sleep in pajamas at home. Nothing new happened at least I haven't heard of anything. Hope things will pop(?) soon.
Woke at 7 o'clock had a good breakfast, plenty of oatmeal it was O.K. Still waiting to ship nothing unusual happening
Still eating sleeping and drinking eggnogs. Feeling a little better, but still nervous.
Hoping to ship soon. Not sleeping very well.
Same routine, but looks like will ship in the next day or so. Here's hoping.
Finally happened we are going to ship tomorrow, very excited. I hope it will be a fast trip. I don't suppose I will sleep tonight.
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|Page created December 2004, most recent update March 2010.|