|John J Blanck (1915-1976)|
John J Blanck (1915-1976) 179th
Infantry, 45th Division, POW Germany from
November 28, 1944 to May 8, 1945 |
John Blanck (ASN 42104261) served with Company F, 179th Infantry, 45th Division in Italy and France from August to November 1944.
John was captured by the German Army at Mulhausen, Bas Rhin, France on November 28, 1944. He was processed at Limburg am Lahn, Germany transit camp (Stalaf XIIA) before being sent to Stala IVB in Muhlberg, Germany (near Dresden). Subsequntly he was transferred to Stalag IVA which was a work camp with many different work contingents scattered around Dresden.
He was German POW #211261 until May 8, 1945 (when the war ended in Europe).
John was 29 years old and married with two children when he was captured and incarcerated for six months starting in November 1944. The war, which had started in September 1939, was winding down in Europe. The German army was stretched to capacity. Supplies were limited. The number of Allied POWs in German camps was extremely high due in part to soldiers captured at the Battle of the Bulge. The POWs captured late in the war suffered from the lack of adequate food. In addition, it was one of the coldest winters on record in Europe.
The POWs in the German camps suffered terribly from malnutrition, lack of heat, lack of hot water to bath, lack of clean cloths to change into. They were often forced to do manual labor in factories, on farms and in mines. They were, in fact, slave laborers. By the end of the war most of them were skin and bones.
After liberation they were offered several weeks or months of physical rehabilitation and then they quietly slipped back into their civilian lives hardly ever talking about their POW experience.
They are "unsung heroes".
The writer, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was a prisoner of war in Germany. He made references to his experience in several of his novels including: Slaughterhouse Five, Bluebeard, and Timequake.
In recent years several good books on American POWs in Germany have appeared. Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five by Ervin Szpek, Jr. and Frank J Idzikowski (2008) is the recollections of 150 American POWs held in Slaughterhouse Five in Dresden in January and February 1945. Soldiers and Slaves, by Roger Cohen tells the story of 350 American POWs held in Berga Prison Camp in Eastern German in the winter of 1944-45. This camp was known as Stalag IXC.
John spoke little of his experience as a POW. US Government records indicate that he was assigned to Stalag IVB, Muhlberg. His few personal recollections, stamps on the back of three photos of his wife and children and his diary indicate that he also spent time in Stalag IV A, Hohnshein, and Stalag IV C, Brux, (now Most, Czech Republic). His diary indicates that he was in Krasny Les, Czech Republic in early May 1945. I believe that this means he was at Stalag IVC Brux when the war ended.
The diary that he kept at the end of the war indicates that he went through Dresden sometime during the war. On the way back to the allied lines he passed through or near Gera, Freiburg, Dresden, Linbach (Leinbach?), and Chemnitz.
He left Germany from the airfields at Erfurts and went to Rheims, France. From Rheims he went to La Havre which is the last place he mentioned in his diary.
On his return to the States he spent over two months in the Hotel Dennis in Atlantic City on "rehabilitation and recovery". He was discharged from Fort Dix, N.J.
On this page I have attempted to tell the story of John Blanck and some of the POWs who shared his experience.
A Brief History of John's Service
Induction into the Army
I was surprised that John was drafted when he had a wife and child.
Lee Kennett in G.I. THE AMERICAN SOLDIER IN WORLD WAR II, says that marriage and children only carried weight if they preceded the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. After November 1942, when the US was also engaged in the war in Europe, the only real deferments were physical or if the potential draftee "was essential to the community or to the war effort"*
"Towards the end of the war the Army ran desperately short of combat infantrymen."Early in the war most infantrymen were young bachelors in the 20s. As the war progresses older bachelors were called up. Family men were largely protected until the last three months of 1943 when the Draft Board was forced to call up fathers.*
John had his draft physical on November 13, 1942. He received his 1-A classification on January 6, 1943. He was inducted into the army on January 14, 1943. He was allowed the typical two week furlough to get his affairs in order and reported for duty on February 4, 1944.
A private's pay was $50.00 a month
*Lee Kennett, G.I. THE AMERICAN SOLDIER IN WORLD WAR II
According to his discharge papers, John was in Basis Training for "4 months" starting February 4, 1944.
At the beginning of the war, basic training was by whole divisions at one time. By the time John entered the service basic training had moved to a program of readying replacements for already existing divisions.
Training by divisions had taken a year: 17 weeks of basic and advanced training, 13 weeks of unit training, 14 weeks of combined arms training and large-scale exercises, 8 weeks of final training.
Replacement training took from eight to seventeen weeks.
I do not know where John did his basic training. Since he was discharged from the army from Fort Dix, N. J. it is possible that he was inducted at Fort Dix.
Denis Blanck wrote in December 2005:
"John told me that he did basic training at Ft. Dix. He also went to advanced training in Pensacola, FL because he was scheduled to be sent to North Africa when he was deployed overseas. He also told me that he wound up going to Italy via ship across the Mediterranean Sea. The ship was very crowded, men being transported could not go "up top" for fresh air, and many became sea sick. He did not become sea sick and ate lots of eggs that the sick troopers could not stomach."Before shipping overseas a soldier typically had a ten day furlough. This would have given John a chance to meet his month old son, Tom, and to visit with his year old son, Denis, who he had not seen since he was 8 months old. John would not to see them again for a year.
John served with Company F, 179th, 45th Infantry in Italy and France.
| Soldiers at Fort Dix,
New Jersey, during WWII|
|Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck|
|John Service Pictures|
|John is seated with his legs crossed. This picutre is dated April 15, 1944.|
|This picutre is dated April 15, 1944.|
|This picutre is dated April 15, 1944.|
|These two pictures are not dated. They were obviously taken at the same place, the curb and fence are similar in both pictures.|
John shipped out for Europe on July 27, 1944. He arrived in Italy on 12 August 1944.
John's Service in Italy
John arrived in Europe in mid August 1944. He was in Italy from mid August until the beginning of October 1944 when he was shipped to France.
|I was in Caserta with my sons, Damian and Toby, in the spring of 1974. When I returned to the States, John told me that he had been in Caserta during the war. We had a discussion on the amazing fountains at the Palazzo Reale in Caserta, some of which are pictured below.|
|Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck|
|Caserta, Italy, Pallazzo Reale|
The Allied Air Forces Headquarters were in Caserta during the war.|
I don't remember if John told me what he was doing in Caserta.
"The Reggia di Caserta served as a rest area, headquarters for the American 5th Army and 15th Army and the center for Allied Command at various times during the war. In fact, on April 29, 1945, German forces in Italy surrendered to the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean in a 17-minute ceremony at the palace."John also said that he had been in Monte Cassino during the war.
"In World War II, the hill of Monte Cassino was part of a German defensive line guarding the approaches to Rome. Montecassino became the target of assault after assault by Allied troops, and was finally destroyed by air bombardment. The hill was captured at dreadful loss of life by the Polish Army and Italian refugees. After the war, the abbey was rebuilt based on the original plans."I do not know at what point John was assigned to company F, 179th Infantry, 45th Division. But I believe the replacements for the 179th Infantry were trained for mountain combat in the Appinines north east of Naples which would explain why he was in Caserta and Montecassino.
While John remained in Italy, for whatever reason, the 179th finished up there and moved on to France.
The 179th Infantry in Italy and France
John's Service in France
The 45th Infantry, of which the 179th was part, had been fighting the Germans in the Vosges Mountains in France from September 24, 1944 to early November 1944.
John (and other replacements) left Italy on October 2 and arrived in France on October 7, 1944. Their arrival must have been relatively calm as the area had been taken by the Americans in August of 1944.
John did not join the troops at the front until the beginning of November. I do not know what he did during the interim. Part of the time must have involved in getting from the landing beaches to the front. Supplies and troops were moved by truck — I am not sure how long it would have taken.
"On November 1, after Baker had driven into the village of La Salle, the RCT pulled up to facilitate its impending relief. Almost at the next natural barrier, the Meurthe River, Gen. Patch was now prepared to rest the old-timers and try out new divisions under his command prior to launching the next major operation"It would appear that this was when John entered the picture.
On November 2, the 2nd Battalion of the 179th was moved by truck to Baccarat. The 179th remained there until November 5 when they were moved west of Epinal where they rested for two weeks starting on November 7.
"Billeted indoors out of the increasingly cold and heavy downpours, the troops got daily baths, new clothes and equipment. The training schedule was light; drilling, physical conditioning, firing of weapons.Tom says that John did mention Epinal.
The rest also gave the troops the opportunity to get to know the new replacements.
The next campaign was called "Rhineland". This is the only campaign listed on John's discharge papers. A Brief Outline of 45th Infantry Division WW II History says of the Rhineland Campaign:
"Rhineland, 15 September, 1944-21 March, 1945:Note The Marginot Line was a series of defensive concrete fortifications build by the French to protect the country by invasion by Germany from the east. See Military History Online) Photos from the 45th Infantry Campaigns World War II can be seen at S France and Alsace and Germany
179th Infantry Regiment, The Story of A Regiment gives a brief day by day account of the Regiments exploits. Company F of the 179th Infantry (which formed part of the 2nd Battalion) is not necessarily mentioned every day.
Note: Mulhausen, Bas-Rhin is a small village near Bouxwiller and should not be confused with the city of Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin of France, close to the Swiss German border.
|NARA Photos, WWII 113. "Chow is served to American Infantrymen on their way to La Roche, Belgium. 347th Infantry Regiment." Newhouse, January 13, 1945. 111-SC-198849.
This image illustrates several aspects of the soldiers life in Europe in the winter of 1944. The weather was extremely wet with lots of snow and frozen rain. Keeping warm, keeping dry, getting enough calories to fight off the cold and to carry one's equipment were challenges for the infantrymen.
John's Capture, November 28, 1944
Sometime during the heat of battle outside of Muhlhaussen (Mulhausen, Bas-Rhin) on November 28, 1944 John and 27 others from the 179th were captured by the Germans.
According to a letter from the War Department dated March 9, 1945:
"Private Blanck was acting in the capacity of rifleman with a company in a defensive position near Wissembourgh, France. An enemy tank and three half-tracks attacked from the north and overran that part of the company area occupied by your husband's platoon, continuing the raid for about ten minutes. It was following this action that your husband's absence was noted, but a search of the area failed to disclose any trace of Private Blanck"
Most men at the front worried about being wounded or killed. Apparently few worried about being captured.
"Being taken prisoner is a terrific nervous shock" recalled a man captured by the Germans, "in the first place because it involves extreme personal danger during the minutes before the enemy decides to take you instead of keep shooting at you, and in the second place because you suddenly realize that by passing from the right side of the front to the wrong, you have become a non entity in the huge business of war"Fred Paul Dallas, who was also in Company F, 179th Regiment, was captured at Mulhausen on the same day as John. He says he was captured with 28 men of F Company. Paul Dallas tells of his capture in detail at To Honor A Generation
See more on Paul Dallas below.
| I bought this map circa 2000 at some genealogy meeting.
For some reason all I can find is a xerox copy of the section that included Wissembourg.
I don't know where I "filed" the original map.|
The city of Mulhouse is indicated with the red arrow. The commune of Mulhausen, Bas Rhin is indicated (more or less) by the red "X". Epinal, Rambersville, Baccarat, Mutzig, Wasselonne, and Bouxwiller (all mentioned in the 179th Regiment) are highlighted in yellow. As is Wissembourg which was listed by the War Department as the place of John's capture.
|Mulhausen in relationship to Bouxwiller, Google Maps, 2010.|
Bouxwiller is about 5 miles from Mulhausen. I believe that D919 follows the Moder River.
|NARA Photos, WWII The Low Countries
112. "A lanky GI, with hands clasped behind his head, leads a file of American prisoners marching along a road somewhere on the western front. Germans captured these American soldiers during the surprise enemy drive into Allied positions." Captured German photograph,
December 1944. 111-SC-198240.
Communication From the Army Regarding John's Capture
December 15, 1944 Telegram
On December 15, 1944 (about two weeks after his capture) his wife, Alice Blanck, received the following telegram from the US Government, addressed to 12 Cooper Place, Weehawken:
THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND PRIVATE JOHN J BLANCK HAD BEEN REPORTED MISS IN ACTION SINCE TWENTY EIGTH NOVEMBER IN FRANCE IF FURTHER DETAILS OR OTHER INFORMATION ARE RECEIVED YOU WILL BE PROMPTLY NOTIFIED
March 9, 1945 Letter
In early March 1945 (about three months after his capture) Alice received a letter, dated March 9, from the War Department stating that John's whereabouts was still unknown but:
"A report has now, been received, however, which states that on 28 November, Private Blanck was acting in the capacity of rifleman with a company in a defensive position near Wissenbourg, France. An enemy tank and three half-tracks attacked from the north and overran that part of the company area occupied by your husband's platoon, continuing the raid for about ten minutes. It was following this action that your husband's absence was noted, but a search of the area failed to disclose any trace of Private Blanck.
March 21, 1945 Telegram
On March 21, 1945 (three months after the first telegram) Alice received a second telegram from the Adjutant General, address 12 Cooper Place, Weehawken.
BASED ON INFORMATION RECEIVED THROUGH THE PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL RECORDS OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT HAVE BEEN AMENDED TO SHOW YOUR HUSBAND PRIVATE JOHN L BLANCK A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT ANY FURTHER INFORMATION RECEIVED WILL BE FURNISHED BY THE PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL
Originals of these papers can be seen at Copies of Military Documents
From Alice's Point of View
The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. John Blanck and Alice Azarian were married in June 1942. The first deployment of US troops in the European Theater was on November 7, 1942. John and Alices' first son, Dennis, was born in June 1943. John went to active duty February 1944. Their second son, Tom, was born June 1944. John was shipped overseas in late July 1944. From August to October he was in a relatively save position in an area of Italy that had already been taken from the Axis forces. On October 2nd 1944 John was shipped to France, arriving on the 7th of October. John was captured on November 28, 1944. Alice got the first telegram that he was missing in action December 15, 1944. She got a letter that he was missing in action March 9, 1945. She got a telegram that he was a POW in March 1945.
Basically, by her third anniversary Alice had two children and a husband who had been in the army for four months. I am sure he had very little or no time at home after his induction. Her son, Denis, was about a year and a half and her son, Tom, was about 6 months old when right before Christmas 1944 she got the telegram that John was missing. For the next four months she did not know if he was dead or alive.
I once said something to Alice about how difficult it must have been having two very small children just a year apart and not knowing whether your husband was dead or alive for months on end. She simply replied "You did what you had to do." and refused to discuss it further.
Capture Remembered in 1968
John spoke little about his experiences in the war. However, he did talk to me about it a bit as the result of an incident that occurred in August 1968.
Tom and I were visiting John and Alice at their home in Hackensack during the Democratic Convention of August 1968. John and I were watching the convention and related activities on TV. Alice and Tom were already in bed. There was a confrontation between National Guard, Police, and anti war protesters in which the National Guard and Police ended up clubbing some of the anti war protesters. See Jo Freedman.com for details and photos. John had fallen asleep before the broadcast ended at midnight. When I went to shake him a little to tell him it was time to go to bed he started to hit me with his fists and kick me with his feet. I, of course, started screaming, which woke him up. When he realized what he had done he was mortified. The scenes of the confrontation in Chicago had brought on war dreams. This was not an isolated occurrence. Apparently he suffered from such dreams for years but the only other witness had been Alice. By way of apology for hitting me he spoke to me a bit about his capture.
He told me he was asleep when his group was surrounded and taken by the Germans. He and the men he was with had become separated from the other American troops. They had not had much rest or food and were low on ammunition. Apparently the person or persons who were supposed to be on guard had also fallen asleep, so the group was completely taken by surprise. Upon wakening he realized what was happening and tried uselessly to fight off his captors.
Note: The story John told me differs from the account in the War Department letter and also that of Fred Paul Dallas, who was captured on the same day. See Fred Paul Dallas below.
Transient Camp Stalag XIIA Limburg an der Lahn
John was captured on November 28, 1944 at Mulhausen, Bas Rhin. He was processed three days later in Limburg an der Lahn (Stammlager XII A, Limburg (Lahn). John never said anything about the transportation from Mulhausen to Limburg. However, it is highly likely that he traveled to Limburg an der Lahn with Paul Dallas, another member of Company F, 179th Regiment who was captured November 28th at Mulhausen. Pauls Dallas says that he was interrogated and then:
"After the interrogation, the next morning they put us on German army trucks and carried us to Stalag 12-A [ph], which was near Limburg, Germany. I guess it was a prison camp with two or three thousand American prisoners in it. All of them weren't American. Americans and there were some British. There were also some Australians and some Italians. I think this was a transit prison camp where they took them temporarily because they were moving them about everyday. I stayed there three weeks, and then they herded several hundred of us down to the railroad track where they had us to get on boxcars, and we didn't know where we were going, but we loaded on these boxcars. We were packed in the boxcars so tight, it was standing room only, and when they closed the door on that boxcar that was it. We had very little light coming into the boxcar."
Stalag XII A was a transit camp which processed newly captured prisoners before sending them on to a more permanent camp or to a work camp. One of the main aspects of Stalag XIIA appears to have been interrogation. However, "interrogations of enlisted men in the ground forces tended to be perfunctory" [Lee Kennet, G.I.]
The POWs were housed in tents and the whole aspect of the camp appears to have been rather makeshift.
John was at Stammlager XII A Limburg on December 2, 1944 when he was issued some sort of receipt. The paper is worn and old and the writing is impossible to read. However there are seveal printed sections and one of them reads "'hat abgeliefert" [has delivered]. The back of this paper written in pencil are six names names: J Blanck - 311261, F Don Diago - 311263, E Catald - 311262, J Cando - 311264, E Dahl 311269, and Craft - 311272. In addition there is a notation "5A 1sect, Lince(?)". See below for more on these men.
At Limburg an der Lahn enlisted men and officers were separated. John was issued German POW dog tags with the number 311261. It is not know how long he was in the camp at Limburg an der Lahn. However it was most likely a few days to a few weeks based on other accounts and the fact that one of the soldiers on a list with him was captured at least two days after he was. He may have been moved at the same times as Paul Dallas who was captured the same day and was transfered to Muhlberg Stalag IVB after three weeks at Stalag XIIA.
The World Was II camp was actually located south west of Limburg in Diez. Diez is a small village on the Lahn river. The village is dominated by a medieval castle. I have not been able to determine the exact location of the camp site. However, it was relatively near the train lines as the camp was hit when the allies bombed the Diez rail yard on December 24, 1944.
Stalag XII-A, Limburg Images contains some images of the camp.
Interestingly Limburg had also been the site of a prisoner of war camp in World War I. That camp was located south of the road between Limburg and Dietkirchen. There are memorials to the soldiers who died in this camp in the Dietkirchen military cemetary. Dietkirchen is north east of Limburg. After WWI the camp served as a transit station for German soldiers who had been captured by the Allies. Many Irish POWs were held there during WWI.
|Limburg an de Lahn|
|Postcard collection on Maggie Land Blanck
Transfer From Stalag XIIA to Stalag IV B
From Limburg an der Lahn John was transported east to Stalag IV B near Muhlberg. John never spoke of the transfer from one camp to the other.
Fred Paul Dallas who was captured the same day as John and was also transfered to Stalag IVB recounts that after being processed at Limburg the POWs were loaded into boxcars and started moving almost a once. After 30 minutes British bombers and "bombed and strafed" the train. As a result the train sat for 5 days without moving. The POWs were inside without light, "sanitary facilities", food and water. It then appears that it took another six days to arrive at Stalag 4B, their destination. It is possible, even likely, that John was on the same train.
Paul Dallas recounts of his transfer from Limburg to Stalag IVB Muhlberg:
"Well, they loaded several hundred of us, I don't know how many, on these boxcars, and when they closed the doors, it was daylight when we got in there. It was like pitch dark because of no light coming in the boxcars that we were in. They had the one window, but the windows were partially stopped up and boarded up with boards.On December 23/24, 1944, 52 British Royal Air Force Mosquitos bombed Limburg railway yard. They had no way of knowing that the boxcars on the tracks were filled with Allied prisoners of war. Many exPOWs recount how they were singing Silent Night when the bombing started. Some were able to get out of the boxcars and run away but were later recaptured. Other who got out of the boxcars died in the bombing. Still other were locked inside the box cars. Apparently the box cars suffered minimal damage. The POW camp was also hit and there were casualties.
Other POWs have told the story of their capture and several personal accounts of capture and incarceration can be found on line. They all tell of being jammed into "40 by 8" unheated, windowless boxcars. Space was so tight that some men stood while other squatted between their legs. No one could lie down. The sick or injured were given the preference of being able to squat. Little food was provided. Water was not always provided. Occasionally the prisoners were allowed out of the boxcars to scoop up snow. When water was provided, the water pails also served as toilets. Alternatively, the soldier's helmets were used for the same purposes. Sometimes an icicle was within reach to provide some hydration. Dysentery was rampant. The trip to the POW camp took days or weeks. The trains were frequently sidetracked as supply trains went by. They were also fired upon by U.S. and British planes trying to stop the movement of German supplies (There was no way of knowing there were American prisoners of war on board). Death rates from dehydration, untreated wounds, and the Allied bombings were high and the dead were simply thrown off the train along the side of the track. Sometimes after a few days the train would stop and the men would be provide with some food, generally black bread and watery soup. When the trains arrived at their destinations the prisoners were gruffly ordered out. For many it was a painful experience. After days in almost total darkness the sunlight could be blinding. After days in a cramped position muscles did not work.
The Battle of the Bulge resulted in large numbers of Allied POWs and there was not adequate room at Stalag XIIA to process all of the soldiers. Many were moved immediatly to Stalag IVB, Muhberg. In additions to those who were transported by train, some were moved in trucks and some marched the entire way.
An American POW in Germany By George Rosie, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne Division Edited by Bill Carrington tells of a much more civilized transport from Limuerg to Stalag 4B in June 1944. Even Stalag 4 B sounds pretty tolerable until the weather turned cold cold in November.
Every soldier and POW agree that the winter of 19444/45 was miserably cold. Many suffered frostbitten toes and feet when their socks and boots got wet and there were no dry socks to change into.
Upon arrival at the camp, prisoners were told to strip naked, their clothes were taken, their hair was shorn, and they were given a shower while their clothes were deloused. This was the last shower most of them had until liberation. The only water available was cold and given the fidget temperatures in the camps in the winter of 1944/45 no one seems to have cared much for washing in icy water. There were no towels and no changes of clothes. Prisoners wore the same clothes (including socks and underwear) from the time of their capture (if not before) until their liberation in May 1945. John mentions getting a change of underwear and socks on May 9th, the first change he had in six months.
The prisoners were housed in unlit, unheated wooden barracks frequently with dirt floors. The prisoners slept in bunk beds, three or four levels high. Mattresses were of straw or saw dust or did not exist. Other prisoners tell of sleeping on straw on the floor. Frequently the men slept together in a group in order to share body heat during the freezing winter nights. Blankets seem to have been in short supply. Frost bitten toes and feet were a chronic problem. While the winter of 1944/45 was one of the coldest on record in Europe, the cold did nothing to deter the lice, fleas and other vermin.
Almost everyone suffered from dysentery necessitating frequent trips to the outdoor open latrine during the day or the hole in the corner of the barracks at night. There were no such luxuries as toilet paper.
John sometimes spoke of numbers of fellow prisoners who died, mostly of malnutrition. He said the main form of nutrition was "soup", which he described as a few potato skins floating in some water. Other POW talk of barley "coffee", dark bread made with sawdust, and an occasional piece of cheese. The only meat ever mentioned was horse meat sometimes served in the soup. John said in his diary on May 7th: "horse meat is the only meat we have had in the last few months". He also said: "I haven't had a vegetable in 6 months."
John said his rations did included two cigarettes a day. John credited his survival to the fact that he did not smoke and was able to trade his cigarettes for "food". When he was induced in the service in February 1944 he weighed 155 pounds. By May 1945 he weighted 86 pounds. (While Alice and John always said he came back from the war weighing 86 pounds he mentioned in his diary that he weighted 126 pounds at the end of the war.)
Towards the end of the war life in the camps became harder as the numbers of prisoners increased and the Germans did not have even enough food for themselves.
Before the fall of 1944 Red Cross packages usually reached the POWs. With the escalation of the War in Europe in late in 1944, Red Cross packages were not reaching the POW camps as regularly. A popular item in these packages were cigarettes. Cigarettes were, in fact, the currency of the POW camps.
Section III, article 49, of the Geneva Convention stated that officers were not required to work. However, the common enlisted men could be "compelled" do do certain types of work. See Section III articles 50 through 57 About.com: US Military
Non commissioned POWS were often sent on work details outside the camp. 150 POWS who were designated as being in Stalag IV B Muhlberg were, in fact, in "Slaughterhouse Five" when Dresden was bombed. It is difficult to determine exactly where other POWs were sent on work details. The work details were frequently housed in barns and warehouses and not at an actual "camp".
Apparently work detail had its pluses and minuses. While men on work details were supposed to get additional rations, it was not enough nourishment and it was difficult to do hard physical labor on the meager amount of calories they received. On the other hand there was some hope of obtaining additional food through the generosity of the local Germans or by stealing bits of this and that, mostly potatoes which were eaten raw.
John said in his diary: ".....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." This statement indicates that he was on a work detail. An English soldier assigned to Stalag IV B talks of working in the coal mines in Oberrobblingen, Saxony. See WW2 People's War. Des Callan, who knew John as a POW, "shoveled coal at a German factory". See Des Callan below.
The arrival of new prisoners was an exciting event in camp, as men would gather near the entrance to search for their missing buddies.
POW's were kept in separate compounds by nationality although there seems to have been some mixing of Brit and Americans.
There appears to have been some minimal correspondence between loved ones in the states and the POWs. Many letter were lost, only to show up once the war had ended. John clearly received at least one piece of mail that contained photos. See below.
The soldiers tried to entertain themselves with plays and talks. There were small libraries of books that had arrived in Red Crosses packages. There were a number of secret homemade radios in the camp. Consequently some information on the progress of the war was passed around. Most of the conversation was about food.
The nights were filled with the constant drone of Allied bombers on their way to bomb Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig. Dresden was close enough that the explosions could be heard in some camps. The POWs in Slaughterhouse Five were in Dresden during the bombings. POW work details were sent to assist in cleaning up the city after the bombing.
Wold War II movies like the, Great Escape, while entertaining, do not give a real idea of the suffering of the American GI in a German POW camp.The sometimes grittier Stalag 17 ultimately is as much comedy as drama. The TV show Hogan's Heros makes the whole experience seem like a lark.
alibris has many war movies for sale and it gives a fairly good recap of the plots.
Stalag (or Stammlager [base camp]) 4B (IV B), Muhlberg, #006.
Stammlager camps were POW camps for enlisted personnel versus officers.
The NARA records indicate that John was originally assigned to Stalag 4 B (IV B) Muhlberg. I do not know how long he stayed in this camp. Others captured in December 1944 and assigned to Stalag IV B Muhlberg were transfer to work camps within a week or two.
Stalag IV B (Identified as Camp 006 in US POW records) was one of the largest camps. It was located 8 km east-north-east of the town of Muhlberg (about 50 km north-north-west of Dresden).
Stalag 4 B Muhlberg was surrounded by a double barbed wire fence with flood lights about every 50 feet. There were numerous guard towers. It was both a permanent camp and a "lager" camp (transit work camp). In addition to Americans, there were prisoners from all of the Allied Forces in Europe. Crews of enlisted men were sent from the camp to work details in the surrounding area including German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The Geneva Convention allowed "that enlisted men were required to perform whatever labor they asked and able to do, so long as it was not dangerous and did not support the German war effort" (Wikipeida.org)
In general the camps were divided into compounds that were separated by barbed wire. Each compound contained several barracks which held upward to 40 men sleeping in tiered bunks.
By December 1944, there were 4,500 Americans in Stalag IVB . Half again as many are reported to have passed through on their way to other camps. The increase in the numbers of the POWs was in part the result of the Battle of the Bulge of December 1944 when over 23,554 Americans were captured.
While he was officially listed by the US Government in Stalag IV B John spent at least part of his time in Stalag IV A which may have been located near Hohnstein/Bad Schandau in the mountains near the Czech boarder.
Stalag 4 B was originally planned as a transit camp. There are a number of accounts by America POWs who spent some time in Stalag VI B and then were moved to other camps including Stalag IV A.
The writer, Kurt Vonnegut, was listed as a POW in IV B. He was assigned to a work camp in Dresden and wrote about his war experiences in Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969 Bluebeard in 1987,Timequake in 1997, and in several short stories published in Bagombo Snuff Box. Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five by Ervin E Szpek, Jr and Frank J Idzikowski puts fellow POW's of Kurt Vonnegut in Stalag IVA. See below.
A Canadian remembers the arrival of the Americans at Stalag IVB:
December 29th was our last issue of Red Cross parcels until Feb. 8th - but it was made to tied us over the New Years celebrations. On the same day the first of 6,000 American, captured just prior to Christmas in the German push, arrived. It was their condition that made us realize how cold it was. They had been traveling eight days in cattle trucks without any heating and very little food - some even suffering from frostbite. We wondered as we fed them with hot peas flour soup and cups of tea, that they still shivered after being in doors an hour. Our hut strength was increased from 210 to 329 men.
After the reunification of Germany a museum was opened in Muhlberg that contains photographs and maps of the camp. The address is Initiativgruppe Lager Muhlberg e.V., Klostersrtasse 9, 04931, Muhlberg/Elbe, Germany
The site of the camp lies outside of Muhlberg and can be visited. See below.
Stalag IV A, Hohnstein, Germany
While the records from the National Archives list John at camp 006, Stalag IV B Muhlberg, he is known to have been at "Stalag IV A". This information is derived from a stamp on photos he received while a POW.
A combination of records and personal recollections indicates that there were many POWs who were designation CAMP: 006 (Stalag IV B Muhlberg) in the German records but, in fact, spent at least part of the time in Stalag IVA and/or other work camps.
There are two listings for "Stalag IV A":
Note: There was also Oflag IV A which was a POW camp for officers. They were quartered in a castle in Hohnstein, Saxony While I have found reference to Stalag IV A on the German Czech boarder was about 13 miles south of Dresden in the mountains, I have not been able to find an actual "camp" for Stalag IV A.
I believe that "Stalag IV A, Hohnstein" was actually a series of work camps in and around Dresden and in the mountains south of Dresden. After the bombing of Dresden it appears that most of the POWs were moved near the Czeck border.
Henry E Hall and other in Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five say they were assigned to Stalag 4 A "which was in Dresden". The men of Slaughterhouse Five worked as general laborers in various factories and warehouses in Dresden. They were quartered in the infamous slaughterhouse when Dresden was bombed in February 1945. After the bombing they were moved to Hellendorf in mountains south of Dresden.
John received at least one letter from Alice while he was a POW. I do not know what happened to the letter, but among the family photos are three pictures taken in June 1944 (Tom is clearly a very young infant). On the back of all three photos in Alice's hand is written:
"John J Blanck 311261"Note: 311261 was John's German dog tag number.
Stamped on the back of all three photos is:
KFG.M.Stammlager IV A*[Camp area 5./393]
Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five: Recollections and Reflections of the Ex-POWs ... By Ervin E. Szpek, Jr., Frank J. Idzikowski
"I was captured on 19 December 1944, and carried to Stalag-4-B, which was near a town in Germany. I don't remember the exact name of the town, but when pronounced it sounded like "Muleburg". Then on 24 January 1945 I was carried to Stalag 4-A which was in Dresden, Germany. After the Americans started bombing the town we were moved close to the Czechoslovakian border on a farm, and stayed there until the war ended"Footnote to the diary of Thomas C Ballowe Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five
"Dresden Arbitskommandos were under the supervision of Stalag IV-A Hohnstein, southeast of Dresden. Once the POWs left the transit camp of Stalag IV-B they were transfered to IV-A. POW postcards sent during their stay at Slaughterhouse Five have the heading Stalag IV-A.Arbeitskommandos were sub-camps where POWs were kept close to a specific work sites such as factories, coal-mines, quarries, farms and railroad maintenance. These sub-camps were sometimes quite large holding up to 1,000 prisoners. The designated Stalag kept the personal records and administered the postal service and International Red Cross packages.
Stalag IVa mentioned in APOCALYPSE 1945 The Destruction of Dresden
Page 104Italics mine.
John made the following entry in his diary about Dresden and Freiburg.
May 10This leads me to believe that he had been on a work detail in Dresden before the bombing and like, Henry Hall, was moved south before or just after the bombings. He and his friends were not, however, in Slaughterhouse Five.
Note: Dresden was bombed on February 13, 1945.
|Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck
Dresden before it was bombed.
Stalag IVC Brux (Most, Czech Republic))
Over the years John said he had been in Czechoslovakia when he was a prisoner of war.
I believe that John was at Stalag IVC in Brux (Most, Czechoslovakia) at the end of the war.
Several online sites state:
"On December 15, 1942, Brux began output of Ersatz fuel synthesized from brown coal (German: braunkohle) at the Sudetenla ndische Treibstoffwerke AG (STW) Maltheuren plant and a subcamp of Sachsenhausen provided forced labor. Stalag IV-C (Wistritz bei Teplitz) was at the "Sudentenland Treibstoff Werke" and Brux was repeatedly bombed during the Oil Campaign of World War II. Post-War, Most was restored to Czechoslovakia and, following the expulsion of Germans after World War II (mainly 1946), Czechs replaced the Germans."Another repeated comment on line:
"Stalag IV-C was a German military prisoner of war camp in World War II, sited close to what is now the city of Teplice in the Czech Republic. "Stalag" is short for Stammlager, which is German for Basecamp and usually housed enlisted ranks of service personnel. The camp was run by the Germans and held many allied prisoners of mixed nationalities, including many of the Allied service personnel who were captured by the Germans in the Battle of Crete in 1941. Some inmates of the camp had to work at the "Sudentenlandische Treibstoff Werke" which is a coal hydrogenation plant, involved in the processing to get oil from coal. The factory was destroyed by the RAF in 1944. The POW camp was liberated by the Russians in January 1945."**This date would appear to be in error.
"For some of those who were set to work inside Czechoslovakia the last stage of captivity lingered on into May. The party at Christofsgrund in northern Sudetenland, now attached to Stalag IVC, worked on at railway maintenance through March and April. Nearby at Brux there were still some thousands of prisoners of war working in the coal mines. As the news got rapidly better, so the rations rapidly deteriorated. On 5 May the party was still doing railway maintenance, and the men received their pay for the previous month's work. They had the radio news, but the central area in which they were situated was one of the last to be reached by the invasion forces. One man wrote on 6 May, "The war appears to be over, but there is nothing to prove it". Within a day or so camps in the area were breaking up, and those who decided not to risk falling into Russian hands got on to refugee trains heading for the west. Eventually they were taken over by the United States forces."John's diary relates:
At the end of this 40 kilometer march John and friends were in the village of Schonwald. Schonwald is now called Krasny Les (Czeck Republic). It is just south of the German border, south of Dresden and near Teplice. Krasny Les is in the Karovy Vary District on the southern edge of the Ore Mountains near Klinovec mountain. Before the end of World War II it was mostly inhabited by ethnic Germans.
Backing up to the east from Schonwald (Krasny Les) 40 kilometers or so lies the town of Brux (Moat), the site of the POW camp IVC where prisoners of war shoveled coal.
Excerpts From John's Diary
Excerpts from John's diary indicate that he was in the the Czechoslovakian mountains near Brux (Most) when the war ended.
| 1892 Map of the Area
The red line indicates the border between Germany and Czechoslovakia.
| Google Map of the Area
The white line is the border between Germany and Czechoslovakia. The town of Most is near the green box marked E442. Teplice is indicated with a yellow arrow. Hohnstein, Hellendorf and Krasney Les were entered by me in yellow. The light areas around Most are, I believe, open pit mines. Open pit mining of brown coal has been carried out since the 15th century in the valley between the Ore Mountains and the Czech Central Mountains. The mines are located near Chomutov, Most, Teplice and Usti nad Labem.
The War Ends for the Men of Slaughterhouse Five
In April the POW from Slaughterhouse Five were moved from Dresden to Hellendorf, Germany near the Czech border where they were billeted in a Gasthaus. In early May, as the Russians advanced, they were moved across the border into Czechoslovakia. As the war came to a close they were marching down the valley through Wistritz and Teplice. From there they seem to have spread out in many directions trying to head away from the Russians who eventually caught up anyway. Some places mentioned were: Peterswald, Pilsen, Aussig, and Prague. Some turned back to Dresden and then made their way west towards the American lines. Others scattered to: Chemnitz, Leipzig and further into Czechoslovakia.
"At Hellendorf we got mixed up with some other GIs not from the Slaughterhouse. I met Sam Vicari from Dallas....."Note: According to the NARA POW records Sam J Vicari had been assigned to Stalag 4F + work Camps Hartmannsdorf-Chemnitz Saxony 51-12
"The guards moved us from Hohnstein to get away from the Russians."Question: Does this mean he was not with the others from Slaughterhouse Five in Hellendorf?
Several people in Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five mentioned going though Peterswald, which is between Hellendorf and Schonwald. Others mentioned Teplice which is along the same road.
Gilford Doxee remembers coasting downhill on bikes though Pirna and peddling on to Dresden.
Clearly the men from Slaughterhouse Five and John and his friends ended up in the same valley between the Ore Mountains and the Central Czech mountains. However, the men from Slaughterhouse Five appear to have been further East in the valley than John and his friends.
Kurt Vonnegut alludes to the fact that there were also Concentration Camp inmates in the crowd. Theresienstadt concentration camp was located at Terezin about 30 kilometers from Teplice. Terezin was liberated by Soviet troops on May 8, 1945.
The main objective off all the groups, regardless of nationality, seems to have been to flee the Russians.
*Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five
End of the War Stories for POWs from Stalag IVA
Ed Fridley who was a POW in Stalag IV A says:
"On May 7, the guards started marching us toward the American lines. We were too weak to hurry and the Russians were breathing down our necks. So the German guards just scattered.".....I did not find Kuhm, but Teplice is a few miles south of the Czech border south of Dresden. Kuhm may be the town of "Chlumec" which lies between Krasny Les and Teplice. So the POWs from IVA also appear to have ended up in the same valley as the men from Slaughterhouse Five and John and his friends.
"As the Russians approached the Elbe river the camp was evacuated and it was every man for himself. However Bill was taken by stretcher to a house on the west bank by some fellow prisoners where he was liberated two days later."
Sal Falato was was a POW at "Bad Schandau" near the Elbe River but he never names the Stalag. His "escape" to freedom is not very detailed but it does mention crossing the Elbe river by ferry.
End of the War at Stalag IV B Mulberg
The POWs at Muhlberg tell a completely different story. The Russians rather quietly took over the camp. There was no talk of bombing, refugees, mountain roads, crossing rivers etc..
Apparently a main topic of conversation in the POW camps was food.
It was a main focus of John's Diary for the first few days.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. on Being a POW
Kurt Vonnegut was a POW confined in a meat slaughter house in Dresden when the city was bombed.
He wanted to write about his experience but was not able to tell his story with a traditional beginning, middle and end. He published Slaughterhouse Five in 1969 over 20 years after the war ended. The story is told in an absurd and rambling fashion by the protagonist Billy Pilgrim and incorporates historical and science fiction.
Woven is the story is some basic facts that mirror Vonnegut's own war experience. Billy Pilgrim was an infantryman captured at the Battle of the Bulge. He is transported in a crowded boxcar to a POW camp. Later he is moved to Dresden. He and his fellow POWs are confined in a meat slaughterhouse, a building so strongly built that they survive the bombings. The POWs are forced to dig corpses out of the rubble of Dresden.
Vonnegut makes several references to the war's end in Bluebeard.
"Our guards vanished one night, and we awoke the next moring on the rim of a great green valley on what is now the border between East Germany and Czechoslovakia"
"Old Soldier's Anecdote Number Three: "One evening in May, " I said, "we were marched out of our camp and into the countryside. We were halted at about three in the morning, and told to sleep under the stars as best we could.
"We were standing on the rim of a beautiful green valley in the springtime. By actual count, there were five thousand, two hundred and nineteen people on the rim with us or down below........ There were farmhouses here and there, and the ruins of a medieval watchtower on the rim where we stood"When the war ended Krut Vonnegut and John Blanck were part of the hordes that were in that "green valley".
"For a few days after Germany surrendered, on May 7th, 1945...... there was a pocket of anarchy south of Dresden, near the Czech border........ Thousands of prisoners of war like myself had been turned loose, along with death camp survivors with tattooed arms and lunatics and convicted felons and Gypsies, and who knows what else."Souvenir (a Short Story)
"My best buddy Buzzer and Me," said the farmer, "were prisoners of war together in some hills in Germany — in Sudetenland, somebody said it was."
From the POW Camp to Schonwald (Czechoslovakia) to La Harve, France
On May 7th, 1945 about 1,200 POWs from John's camp marched about 20 kilometers west away from the advancing Russians.
On May 8th, 1945 they were in "a town. At about noon they "began to penetrate the German front lines". There was heavy air raids which continued all day. They marched about another 20 kilometers further west.
On May 9th, 1945 they knew the war was over. They arrived in Schonwald (Krasny Les, Czech Republic) where they met up with the Russians.
On May 10th, 1945 they set out by bike for Dresden via Freiberg. After going to Dresden the turned west again and spent the night in the village of Kesseldorf about 12 kilometers from the center of Dresden.
May 11, 1945 there is no indication where they were but this is the day they met up with the American troops someplace between Kesseldorf and Chimnitz. They waited wherever they were for G. I. trucks and then headed for Limbach going past Chimnitz.
On May 12th, 1945 they left Limbach by truck through Gera and arrived at Erfurt around 6 o'clock in the evening.
On May 13th, 1945 John and 24 other flew in a C47 to Rheims, France. His "four friends" including Don Diego were still with him.
On May 14th, 1945 they spent the day in Rheims. After getting some new clothes the group boarded a train for La Harve.
On May 15th and 17th they were on the train to La Harve arriving in La Harve at 2 o'clock in the morning.20 kilometers is about 12 and a half miles. Two days of marching 20 kilometers a day would mean that they marched about 25 miles form their starting point.
John spent the night of May 12 and May 13 in Erfert.
Recovered Allied Military Personnel (RAMP)
According to John's Diary:
May 11, 1945:
"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."May 12, 1945:
"Left Limbach by truck for Gera".
May 13, 1945:
"Left for the airport a 8 o'clock boarded the C47 at 8:30 headed for Rheims France."......"May 14, 1945: Rheims.
He saw the cathedral from the outside but did not go in. He also saw the building "where Eisenhower signed the unconditional surrender".
May 15, 1945:
Spent the day on the train and arrived in Le Havre at 2 o'clock in the morning.May 16 through May 19:
He slept on a cot in a tent. He spent his days eating and resting.May 20, 1945:
"Received our clothes today so that is another step closer to shipping."May 21, 1945:
John heard of the death of fellow trainee, fox hole mate and POW, Tom Belli, who tragically died the day after the war ended.May 22, 1945:
May 23, 1945:
Moved to "D area"On May 24, 1945:
"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."May 25, 1945:
Still waiting.May 26, 1945:
Moved back to another area.
May 27 through May 31, 1945:
Still waitingJune 1, 1945:
"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."This was the last entry in the diary. To read the full transcription of John's diary go to John's Diary
I do not know what camp John was at in Le Havre. The Army Camps in Le Harve, known as the Cigarette Camps, were named for American cigarette: Camp Chesterfield, Camp Lucky Strike, Camp Old Gold, Camp Philip Morris, Camp Twenty Grand, Camp Herbert Tareyton, Camp Pall Mall, Camp Wings and Camp Home Run. See this great web site about the camps The Cigarette Camps
Luck Strike was a camp frequently mentioned by exPOWs. Camp Lucky Strike
"When American prisoners of war (POWs) started to stream out of Germany, the several camps situated on the Normandy coast near Le Havre, and which had originally been used as staging areas, were now used to take care of the American prisoners of war until they could be sent home. The camps were named after popular cigarettes of the day. Our field hospital was called in to set up at Camp Lucky Strike to handle the massive number of liberated POWs coming out of Germany. Our exact location was at San Riquie en Caux."
The ship he was to return on did not arrive in Le Havre until two days after John's excited entry of June 1, 1945. According to the manifest, his ship left France on June 5, 1945 (a Tuesday).
John arrived in New York Harpor aboard the Admiral Benson on June 12, 1945. With him on the ship were several of his fellow POWs: Charlie Cole, Frank don Diego, Bert Leonheart, Howard, Linthicum, Joseph Manzari, and Robert Sulzer.
It must have been quite a scene. According to the New York Times on June 12, 1945: "17,000 jubilant men poured of nine ships in the greatest mass arrival in the history of the harbor" The first ships arrived in the early morning fog and all day long the ships took their turn discharging their passengers on the piers. While the process was slowed because of the heavy fog, the returning veterans were ecstatic: shouting, singing, dancing, hugging while the Army bands played tunes on the piers.
The Navy supertransport, Admiral William S Benson docked at near-by Pier 88, at Forty-eighth Street, with 5,196 soldiers aboard.
To that date 107,000 returning soldiers had passed through New York Harbor.
Note: The list for the S.S. Admiral Benson which sailed from LeHavre, France, included a US ARMY EMBARKATION PERSONNEL ROSTER. I have no idea how it was organized. There is no alphabetical order. It contains a ton of ex POWs but they are not listed by camp, by division or in any kind of order that I can determine.
USS Admiral W. S. Benson (AP-120) launched on 22 November 1943 was a transport ship. She arrived in LeHavre on June 3, 1945
"The following afternoon, she commenced embarking troops, a task which she completed very early the following morning. Among the 5,026 passengers were repatriated allied military prisoners (RAMPs). Standing out of Le Havre at 0800 on 5 June, Admiral W.S. Benson anchored off Staten Island on the evening of the 11th, and then stood up the North River early the following morning. Despite the early hour, the RAMPs on board Admiral W.S. Benson received a hearty reception; the transport "dressed ship" and exchanged whistle signals with passing ships. "New York always does things in a big way," noted the transport's historian."See Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945, AP-120 USS Admiral W.S. Benson for images of the ship.
Hotel Dennis, Atlantic City
John appears to have had a furlough until June 20 when he was assigned to the Hotel Dennis in Atlantic City for "71 Days" for "recuperation, rehabilitation and recovery"
During World War II Atlantic City's convention center and many of its hotels were used by the Army as a training center and as a convalesce center for wounded service men and women. About half a million service men trained in Atlantic City beginning in 1942. Mock assaults completer with real bombs and machine guns were staged on the beaches in preparation for beach landings in Europe and the Pacific.
As large numbers of wounded began returning from overseas, one of the biggest hotels, the Chalfone-Haddon, was converted into a hospital.
At the war's end, retuning veterans, like John were sent to Atlantic City for "R & R" and to bring them back to physical and mental health.
The program was called "Camp Boardwalk".
The Hotel Dennis still exists and has been restored.
|Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck|
Hotel Dennis, Atlantic
City, New Jersey
Discharge Papers August 17, 1945
On August 17, 1945 John received an Honorable Discharge from the Army. He was discharged from Ft. Dix New Jersey. This document listed him in Co F 179th Infantry and says his date of active service was February 4, 1944. He entered the service in Newark, New Jersey. It gives the following information pertaining to his service over seas:
Miscellaneous information from the military papers.
John was listed on his discharge papers as RIFLEMAN.
"Was member 45th Infantry DDivision. Served in Italy and France. Was take prisoner of war by Germans in France on Nov 28, 1944. Is familiar with care and use of the following small ars. M1 Rifle, Carbine, Light machine gun, Tompson Sub Machine gum, Browning Automatic Rifle and 60 MM Mortar."
For Army privates who were POWs in German camps the major concern was probably just staying alive. Stalag IVB had a death rate of about 19 percent of its prisoners. Why did some survive and other not make it? Studies done after the war indicated that those with a strong desire to "make it", for whatever reason, had a major advantage. Older married men were men, like John, actually did better than younger single men.
See Joseph Land below.
Letter from the War Claims Commission March 1951
In a letter from the War Claims Commission in Washington, D.C. dated March 21, 1951 and addressed to John Joseph Blanck, 260 Standish Avenue, Hackensack, John was awarded $162.00 "to cover the period imprisonment and/or internment, etc. of yourself from 28 November 1944 to 8 May 1945".
Other World War II POWs With Some Association to John Blanck
Others From the 179th Captured November 28, 1944
He never mentioned how many other soldiers were captured with him. However, the records from the National Archives for World War II Prisoners of War (which are online) indicate that 28 soldiers of the 179th were captured on November 28, 1944.
Note: Those listed in lower case letters were sent to a variety of POW camps. Those listed in capital letters were sent to Stalag 4B (camp 006).
See more on these POWS below.
American Army Soldiers captured on by the Germans on November 28, 1944
264 American Army soldiers from various divisions were captured by the Germans on Nov 28, 1944. 97 of the were sent to camp 006.
Others Captured and Sent to Stalag 4B (AKA Camp 006)
World War II Prisoners of War Data File, 12/7/1941 - 11/19/1946 indicates that 8,416 American soldiers were captured by the Germans and sent to camp 006 during the course of the war.
It shows that at Stalag 4B:
162 + 819 + 7,408 = 8,389 leaving 27 men unaccounted for.
World War II Prisoners of War Data File, 12/7/1941 - 11/19/1946 indicates that of 143,374 Americans taken prisoner by the Germans 1,953 died in the camps — a death rate of over 13 and a half percent — so about one in every 13 to 14 prisoners died in the camps in general. The percentage was higher in Stalag 4B with a 19 percent death rate.
J Blanck, F Don Diago, E Cataldi, J Cando, E Dahl, and Craft
On the back of the scrap of paper from when he was processed in the camp at Limburg there are six names:
Who they were:
John also knew Des Callan who sometime after the war ended sent John a Christmas card with a print of a soldier behind barbed wire with the message "For a Better Year".
Callan, Desmond, PFC, Inf, was one of 1,547 American prisoners captured 21, December 1944, and sent to camp 006.
See more on Des Callan below.
Hugo Forte of the 23rd Infantry was captured on December 22, 1944 and sent to Stalag 4B. His grandson wrote to me in January 2010.
See more on Hugo Forte below.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr was captured December 21, 1944 and sent to camp 006, Stalag 4 B. While he had no known association with John Blanck, other than being assigned to the same camp, he is perhaps the most famous prisoner of Stalag 4 B. He incorporated some of his war time experiences in the novel Slaughterhouse Five.
See more on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. below.
Last Report Date: March 28, 1946
Death: 1992, Frank R Dondiego born 10 June 1918, died 31 July 1992, Newark, New Jersey
| Sources For The Study of the POWs on This Page
Related Web Sites
The Service Diary of World War II German War Prisoner #315136 Sgt. John P. Kline, M Company (1944-1945) 423rd Combat Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division, Army of the United States Squad leader, First Platoon, Second Squad, Heavy Machine Gun....
ANNA RESIDENT REMEMBERS GERMAN POW CAMP — Ed Fridley was in Stalag IV B and in Stalag IVA, Hohnstein.
|The Received by John while in Prison|
| Jovicic Petar
In January 2009 Milan Jovicic emailed the following picture which is stamped on the back
???M.Stammlager IV AMilan wrtoe:
My grandfather Jovicic Petar was a war prisoner 4 years long. His was from former Yugoslavia and his face is marked on the separate photo named "My Grandfather".
| Stalag IB Today
"A" shows the location of Stalag IV B. "B" is the location of the Stadtmuseum of Muhlberg.
"C" is the Initiativgruppe Lager Muhlberg.
Apparently B and C contain some memorials to the POWs. |
During WWII the camp held POWs from 33 different nations. It held about 30,000 POWs when the Russians liberated it at the end of the war.
Between 1939 (when the camp was founded) until May 1945 approximately 3,000 deaths occurred, mostly from TB and Typhoid fever.
Between 1945 and 1949 the camp became a "special" camp of the Soviet secret police.
See Muhlberg/Elbe for information (in German) and for several images.
Stalag IVA, Hohnstein
Work Camp 1170. — 93 men are working here in a iron ore mine. Accommodation is satisfactory, working hours are reasonable, no work on Saturday afternoons or Sunday. Motor Transport is to be arranged to convey prisoners of war to and from work.The American POWs at Stalag IV Hohnstein in December 1944 totaled 300. By February it had reached 2,217. It was composed of several work detachments including one that worked in Dresden.
| 45th Infantry Division, "Thunderbird"
Knowing nothing about the military it took me a while to figure certain things out. (And I still may not have it correct!!) The 45th Infantry Division was comprised of the following units from 1944 to 1945.
| John Joyce, British 8th Army
In October 2010 Peter Cain wrote to me about his uncle, John Joyce, of the British 8th Army:
"My Uncle John Joyce was in the British 8th Army and was captured at Tobruk. After illness in Italy and being cared for there by nuns he ended up in Stalag IVA. There was much talk in the family about John's time as a POW (John himself went on the drink and stayed there after the war, and was seldom home.) But amongst the tales that stick in my mind is that he was made to work in some kind of shoe or boot factory in or near Dresden. I have a copy of a letter he wrote from Stalag IVA in June 1944. His fatigue company (Arbeitskommando) is number 850."Here is a transcription of John Joyce's letter to his brother Tom:
| Joseph Land (1925-1945)
Joseph Land was my father's cousin. He was the only son of Joseph Land and Mary Elizabeth Lorah.
Enlistment Record: Military Service: Joseph A Land Jr Birth Year: 1925, Race: White, citizen Nativity State or Country: New York, State: New York County or City: Suffolk, Enlistment Date: 18 Jun 1943 Enlistment State: New York Enlistment City: New York City Branch: No branch assignment Branch Code: No branch assignment Grade: Private Grade Code: Private Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men) Source: Civil Life, Education: 1 year of college Civil Occupation: Student Codes 0x, 2x, 4x and 6x as pertain to students will be converted, for machine records purposes, to the code number 992. Marital Status: Single, without dependents Height: 48 Weight: 456
NARA POW REcord: SERIAL NUMBER 32971677 LAND JOSEPH A JR GRADE, ALPHA PFC Private First Class GRADE CODE 7 Second Lieutenant or Nurse or Dietitian or Physical therapy aide or Private First Class or Ensign or Second Class, Seaman SERVICE CODE 1 ARMY Infantry ARM OR SERVICE CODE 10 INF: INFANTRY DATE REPORT: DAY ( 20 MONTH 12 YEAR 1944 RACIAL GROUP CODE 1 WHITE STATE OF RESIDENCE TYPE OF ORGANIZATION 740 Branch Immaterial/Infantry Division Band/Dental Corps/Medical Department PARENT UNIT NUMBER 0110 PARENT UNIT TYPE 06 Group/Regiment/Commands/System AREA 72 European Theatre: Germany LATEST REPORT DATE: DAY 11 MONTH 07 YEAR 1945 SOURCE OF REPORT 1 Individual has been reported through sources considered official. STATUS 5 Died as Prisoner of War DETAINING POWER 1 GERMANY CAMP 089 Stalag 9B Bad Orb Hessen-Nassau, Prussia 50-09
POW: Joseph A Land captured at the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945) was originally taken to Stalag IX-B near Frankfurt. Joe Land was among 350 American GIs transferred to Berga Work Camp in February 1945 where they were treated as slave labor. Berga had one of the highest death rates of any Prisoner of War camp in Europe.
Death: Joseph Land was one of the 73 prisoners who died as a result of overwork and starvation. Just as the war was ending the Germans marched the Berga prisoners south. On the way many prisoners died. They arrived in Zedtwitz about 50 miles south of Berga on April 8, 1945. Sometime in the following five days Joe Land was one of 11 GI who died. The war ended May 8, 1945.
Information from Soldiers and Slaves by Roger Cohen, 2005
Burial: Joseph A Land Jr PFC service #32971677 was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia.
More: It was considered an irony in the Land family that Joseph died of starvation at the time his family ran a restaurant in Smithtown, Long Island.
| Willard Lester Brown
Willard Lester Brown was a good friend of John's. Dennis and Tom Blanck think that John and Willard were tennis buddies. A sketch in the 1933 Emerson High School yearbook labeled W Brown shows a young man playing tennis.
|The Emerson High School Year Book 1934.|
Alice Azarian, who married John Blanck in 1942, was a classmate of Willard Brown. Alice and Willard graduated from Emerson High School in Union City, New Jersey in 1933.
Entries on Willard Brown form the Emerson High Year Book:
The "Senior Directory" Willard Brown, TITLE Wotta Boy HOBBY Crooning ECHO YouzzaWillard, born in 1915, was the third child of Louis and Jennie Brown. His older siblings were: Harold born circa 1908 and Viola born circa 1909.
Willard (or Will, as he called himself in a letter to John) enlisted in the Air Corp in April 1941. The family story goes that John tried to enlist with him but was rejected because John was colorblind. Apparently colorblindness was a reason for rejection from the Air Corp but not the Infantry.
Willard wrote to John from Geiger Field in Washington state in January 10, 1942, a little over a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941). At the time he was flying the "Flying Fortress" and transports. He specifically mentioned the Douglas Airliner Transport, DC-39 "to the army".
The "Flying Fortress" or Boeing B-17, with a crew of ten, was a four engine bomber. It was mainly used in Europe but was employed in raids against Japanese shipping and airfields. See Boeing B-17
The DC-39 was a military version of the DC-2 — crew of three, pilot, co-pilot and radio operator. See Douglas C-39
Willard's return address was:
Lt. E. L Brown
During World War II the 39 BG (Bombardment Group) trained large numbers of airmen to fly the Flying Fortress and other planes. It may be that Willard was transfered to some other division when he was finished his training. The 39th was not deployed overseas until January 1945.
Willard lost his life in action in the Pacific on December 28, 1942. His name is recorded on the Honolulu Memorial, which was erected in 1964 to honor those who served in the Pacific during WWII and the Korean War and who were missing in action, or lost or buried at sea. There were 18,096 Americans missing in the Pacific in World War II. See HONOLULU MEMORIAL
He was honored at the War Memorial Building in Trenton and at Fort Dix New Jersey Air Base (date uncertain*) with a ceremony when the "new Wrightstown Post of the Regular Veterans Association" was named after him.
* Two newspaper clippings with no date.
1930 Census: 15th Street, Union City New Jersey, Louis age 45, born New York, Jennie age 45, born New York, Harold age 22, born New York, Viola age 21, born New York, "Williard", age 14 born Illinois
World War II Army Enlistment: Willard L Brown Birth Year: 1915 Race: White, citizen (White) Nativity State or Country: Illinois State of Residence: New Jersey County or City: Hudson, Enlistment Date: 28 Apr 1941 Enlistment State: New Jersey Enlistment City: Newark Branch: Air Corps Branch Code: Air Corps Grade Code: Aviation Cadet Component: Regular Army (including Officers, Nurses, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men) Source: Civil Life, Education: 2 years of college, Civil Occupation: Managers and officials, n.e.c., Marital Status: Single, without dependents Height: 74 Weight: 159
World War II Casualties: Willard L. Brown State Registered: Hawaii, Death Date: 28 Dec 1942, Cemetery: Tablets of The Missing At Honolulu Memorial, Cemetery Burial Plot: Missing in Action or Buried at Sea, Cemetery City: Honolulu, Cemetery Country: Hawaii,WAR: World War II Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart, Title: First Lieutenant, Rank: First Lieutenant, Service: U.S. Army Air Forces, Service ID: 0-430566, Division: 370th Bomber Squadron, 307th Bomber Group, Heavy Data Source: World War II Honor Roll
Note: Geiger Field is now Spokane International Airport.
|Emerson High School Year Book 1933|
|Willard Lester Brown, from newspaper clipping circa 1943.|
An Italian Prisoner of War in America|
In 1974 my husband and I spent a year in Padua, (Padova) Italy. A fruit and vegetable vender at the main market in Piazza delle Erbe liked to practice his English when I stopped at his stall. He spoke English well but had a tendency to use swear words and phrases. I assumed he had learned English at some military base. One day we had a long chat and he told me he had been captured by the Americans in World War II. He was sent to the States and spent the war outside of Tucson, Arizona. He was there two years or more and received good treatment with generous amounts of recreation, food and cigarettes. His only problems were homesickness and worrying about how his family was coping back in Italy.
|To see copies of the actual documents relating to John's military service, clink on the the copy of the Missing in Action telegram.|
|For a transcription of the diary John kept between May 7 and June 1, 1945 click on the image of the prisoner of war.|
|Maps relating to John's war experiences|
|G.I.: the American soldier in World War II, by Lee B. Kennett, is a well told story of the the American soldier in World War II. It is available from Amazon as well as other book sellers.|
|If you have any suggestions, corrections, information, copies of documents, or photos that you would like to share with this page, please contact me at email@example.com|
|World War II, Interview of Thor Ronningen|
|The Cigarette Camps, Army Camps at Le Harve|
U.S. (and French) abuse of German PoWs, 1945-1948
"Towards the end of the war in Europe, as large numbers of Axis soldiers surrendered, the U.S. created the designation of Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF) so as not to treat prisoners as POWs. A lot of these soldiers were kept in open fields in various Rheinwiesenlagers. Controversy has arisen about how Eisenhower managed these prisoners Many died when forced to clear minefields in Norway, France etc. How many died during the several post-war years that they were used as forced labor in France, the Soviet Union, etc, is disputed. The "London Cage", a MI19 prisoner of war facility in the UK during and immediately after WWII, was subject to frequent allegations of torture.
|America's World War II Prison Camps, Lew Rockwell.com|
|American Ex-Prisoners of War|
|NARA PICTURES FROM WORLD WAR II American Ex-Prisoners of War|
|WORLD WAR II DATA BASE American Ex-Prisoners of War|
|A & M Commerce Libraries Digital Collection|
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|© Maggie Land Blanck - Page created 2004 - Latest update, October 2010|