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©2014, Aaron Elson



Tim Dyas

Page 2

© 2014, Aaron Elson

    Aaron Elson: When was your first combat?

    Tim Dyas: Well, we jumped on 9 July, ’43. I want to show you something. Read that poem, The Intercept:

    Aaron Elson: (reading) "Truth set in a Galway Pub. Students of everything in which the crump of shells landing was featured and discussed a rumor about an invasion of an island called Sicily. One said, "I heard they dropped the poor bastards on top of a German tank division." The other said, "And that’s not half the story. For the boys at the top knew the tanks were there but they didn’t tell them so." "Oh, and why was that?" "Well, they cracked the code, and if they used it for a sideshow, then they wouldn’t have it for the big show." "So you’re telling me," the other said, "They landed atop the tanks?" "Aye, that I’m telling you, but don’t feel sorry for them, because they were, I was reading, the elite. So did their things, and guys who never heard of Sicily left their mark there forever." 9 July 1994, 51 years later to the day.

    Tim Dyas: That’s what actually happened.

    Aaron Elson: You jumped on top of tanks?

    Tim Dyas: Well, the tank division was all around us, but we didn’t know they were there. Neither did our division commander.

    Aaron Elson: The higher-ups knew?

    Tim Dyas: Who was that famous English guy? He was a brilliant scientist, they had cracked the code. And if we didn’t jump in Sicily – the Germans knew we were planning to jump – then they’d figure we knew something. So they let us go ahead. They didn’t even tell our division commander, because he would have told them to go to hell, General Ridgway. So we jumped. But you know? It turned out well. There’s a German general called Student, and he claims that if we hadn’t jumped in Sicily, the German tanks would have rolled right down to the waterfront and wrecked the seaborne landing. But we had them so confused back there, because we were confused. As one German officer said to me one time, "You know, war is a series of mistakes and the guy who makes the fewest wins." Which is true. So we were able to do – I was with a small group that, I’ve got another poem called "A Small Engagement." Our bazooka team, guys I had with me, when I landed I was knocked cold. We landed on the side of a mountain. Sicily is very mountainous. Some guys had broken legs, back, hips.

    Aaron Elson: Was this at night?

    Tim Dyas: At night. You know why you wouldn’t jump during the day? They could see you and shoot you. So we jumped at night. We were supposed to jump about 300 feet; I swear to God I think it was about 200, my chute opened and I hit the ground like a rock and I was out like a light for I don’t know how long, but as soon as I came to I started moving around. But we had a – every American Indian who was in the service, Native American, was always called Chief. So we had a guy, Chief Bradley, and he broke his hip. I didn’t see this, but the guys that saw it, when we all got captured, told me. The Germans had run out of morphine so they couldn’t deaden his pain, so they gave him wine to get him drunk. And he liked the booze anyway. So when the guys were carrying him to put him in the back of a truck to get him to a hospital, he leaned over backwards and said, "What a hell of a way to fight a war!" And all the Germans spoke English, they laughed like hell. But they were going to kill us because we – one of the bazooka shells hit, their commander was up in a tank like this, they didn’t know we were there. And a shell hit him and killed him right away. So they were going to kill us at first. But they were soldiers. And if you’re going to fight, and you’re gonna be captured, be captured by the best, because they will treat you with respect.

    The men on the front – I wrote a poem called "In the Circle," and this guy, he’s the retired emeritus Woodrow Wilson professor of English Literature at Princeton, agreed with me 100 percent that – I started out by saying the Blue and the Gray came together because of Antietam and Gettysburg, it brought them together. And following World War I the olive drab and the field gray came together because of the Argonne and Verdun. And in World War II it was Normandy and so forth. And he agreed with me 100 percent. He says, "Except about the Japanese."

    I have a letter upstairs from a German general, his niece lived in town here so she sent him a copy of this poem. He wrote right back to me and told me, "You’re absolutely right." But we were up against a hillside. I had about ten or twelve men, and the German infantry was throwing hand grenades down at us. We were throwing them back at them. And the tanks were burning on the road down there. But they smartened up after three or four hours I guess. I have a – I didn’t know until a couple of years ago, I had to have an MRI because of some fall I had taken – they found a piece of shrapnel in me. But finally they got past the [burning] German tanks and came and just turned their guns up at us. So I looked around quickly and I said to my men, "Surrender!" I still; you know, intellectually it was the right thing to do. Emotionally it was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life. Because we were, you know, the difference between the Air Force and the ground forces, the Air Force, when their plane gets hit, they have no control over that. But on the ground you have control over your destiny. We had no control. As a psychiatrist told me, he said, "What could you have done? All gotten killed? What would you have accomplished?"

    I said, "Intellectually you’re right, but emotionally it’s a terrible blow and I have never recovered from it." One of the men with me went on to become the chief justice of the Supreme Court in Louisiana. We talk on the phone occasionally, we go down to visit him, John Dixon. And sometimes he says, "I thank you for what you did, you saved my life, and then I turn around and say, ‘That sonofabitch.’ But you were right, there’s no question in my mind, I know you saved all our lives."

    I said, "Yeah, but it doesn’t feel very good to this day."

    Aaron Elson: Up until that time, what happened? From the time you hit the ground? Who manned the bazookas and how many tanks did you have burning? I assume that the ones that were burning were because of…

    Tim Dyas: Of the bazooka team, right. I came to after I fell – I don’t know how long – I would guess about a half hour or so because men were still around me trying to get out of their chutes. And I had whacked my head; one of my five contusions of the brain. And I gathered men around me – we had little clicking devices as our signal– and I began to move; I always head for the high ground.

    Aaron Elson: How dark was it?

    Tim Dyas: Pitch black. You couldn’t see a damn thing out there. And … in the history books they talk about – I never knew this till after the war – it was one of the worst storms in the history of the Mediterranean. We were tossed around like this up there. How those pilots did what they did is beyond me. And the British – two plane loads of British paratroopers were dropped right down into Mount Etna. Right into the volcano. The second night, our Navy shot down about 24 plane loads of our unit, and killed our assistant division commander, Kierans.

    Aaron Elson: And you went on the first night?

    Tim Dyas: We jumped the first night, thank God, bad as it was. I didn’t know about this until I came home, that that had happened.

    After I gathered some men together using these things, I must have had about eight or nine men with me.

    Aaron Elson: Was it still raining and storming?

    Tim Dyas: There was no rain. It was just windy and blowing. I began to move the men.We were quite a distance from any hills; we’re out in the plain, which was good in a sense that the hills were sloping gently. If we’d landed up on the other thing, none of us would have ever … and we were doing various things and getting together and checking men and stuff and making sure, and there was firing going on all around us. Big shells. What is it, a 16-inch gun on a battleship, when that goes over your head it sounds like a railroad car. And they were going over our heads.

    So I got these men together. We ran into a lieutenant, but he had another mission he had to accomplish, so we conferred a little bit. And then I began to move the men towards this – very carefully because we didn’t want to make a lot of noise – towards this hillside. And just as it began to get light enough, we went up on the top of the hill, and as we hit the top of the hill, German tanks came right up the top of the hill at us.

    Well, I can run. Even at my advanced age. We took off like rabbits for the side of the hill, which was the worst thing, we should have gone the other way. But then they would have got us with their guns. A couple of guys got killed; they weren’t fast enough to get down there. And that’s where I had the men, and then the bazooka team was down alongside the road. John Dixon was with them; it was Pat Sheridan and John Ribluski. They were firing their bazooka at these tanks and got the two of them to burn. And we were throwing grenades up, they were throwing grenades down, and the tanks were burning on the road below us, but there was noplace we could go, because if we walked out from the hill there, the guys on the top could have shot us, they would have seen us then, but this way they couldn’t see us. All they could do was throw the potato mashers at us, which they did with great frequency.

    Then, when the German tanks finally came around at us, with their guns, the 88s, pointed at us, we had no choice. I had to surrender the men with me, and the Germans, whoa, they were gonna kill us, because their colonel, the commander of their unit, had been killed. But they were too good of soldiers to do things like that. So they took us over to a gathering area.

    Aaron Elson: Do you remember what they looked like? Did you see their faces?

    Tim Dyas: Oh, sure.

    Aaron Elson: At the point where you thought they were going to kill you?

    Tim Dyas: They were very angry. They were fine-looking soldiers. This was an elite unit. It was the Hermann Goering Panzer Division. I didn’t know a word of German at that time and I’m sure they were debating whether to shoot us or not, but cooler heads prevailed, and they took us and marched us across – we’re on this side of the road, here’s the road down below there with the tanks – they marched us over to the other side of the thing where a friend of mine had been picked up. They were up on top of a hill, and when the Germans came out to fire their artillery pieces they were picking them off from the top of the hill, and they got them, too. There were too many people and too many tanks around. All over the damn place. But as General Student said, if we hadn’t dropped, they would have gone right down to the sea and the seaborne invasion of Sicily would have been totally wiped out.

    Aaron Elson: Was it still dark?

    Tim Dyas: Oh no, we’re in light now. We’re in daytime. And it was a very hot day. Sicily and that part of the world is extremely warm in the summertime, and this is July 10 now. So I had about a great 12 hours of battle. But this was typical of a paratroop unit; you either achieved your objective or you were dead, or you were captured.

    And this is the last thing any soldier ever thinks about. In those days. The thought of getting killed. In fact, I’ve got a poem on that, I really expected to be killed. And on the ship coming over I told this lieutenant, I said, "You know, I’m not coming back."

    "Oh?" he said. "I am."

    Of course he has the grave of honor. He was killed.

    He and I on the ship. I was supposed to get a battlefield commission. Ridgway said as soon as the first thing is over, you’ll get a commission right away. But then I got captured. So one of the sergeants in my platoon took over my job as platoon sergeant and he eventually became first sergeant, and he got my commission and he got killed. So he took the bullet that had my name on it.

    (Reading from a diary that Dyas kept as a POW) "The Germans started to transport us back from the Balakoni area. Degen on hill, Sayre across valley. We tried to get over the hill. House and the tanks. Trapped."

    This guy Sayre I talk about got the Distinguished Service Cross. He was our company commander, from Texas, and he got the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day. Then our battalion commander stood out there and tried to stop the tanks with a bazooka and they riddled him, and killed him. He was only about 26 years old. His name was Art Gorham. His son is – I’ve seen since – he’s a dead ringer for his father physically. He’s a colonel in the Army now.

    "Trapped." I’ve got the word. "House and tanks. Trapped."

    Aaron Elson: Did you have this book with you at that point?

    Tim Dyas: No. I picked it up as soon as I could and began writing from memory, the beginning of the thing, and when I got into prison camp I tried to jot – not every day because not every day was there anything worth writing about, you know, it’s pretty monotonous and deadly in there. We were in Catania, Messina, and – it’s funny, my wife’s grandfather came from the town of Reggio, which is right across the Straits of Messina. When we were there, American bombers came overhead, so the Germans made us go into an air raid shelter, and I led the way. I don’t know, there were maybe 30 or 40 guys there, and it was a filthy hovel; there was defecation all over the place. I came right out the other side and we stood there watching the bombers. We began to cheer like hell.

    Some Italian officer’s pointing and he’s yelling and screaming at me, and all of a sudden he goes about six feet in the air. A German officer comes over and he kicked him. And this German officer was an English teacher in civilian life, and he told me, "He wanted to kill you."

    So I said to my wife, "Yeah, I know about Reggio. Those damn Italians wanted to kill me."

    Aaron Elson: Now, was that where you told me earlier that something happened where you heard people screaming, they had been lying down and somebody stepped on their faces?

    Tim Dyas: Oh no, that was later on, in the prison camp. That was towards the very end of the war. I didn’t have much paper left at the end of the war. "Four on a loaf … Hitler’s birthday, and terrific air raid." Oh, God. We were bombed for forty nights in a row in the last part of the war. You know, twice the Germans took all the paratroopers out with the idea that we were going to go to an Air Force camp. They took us out to kill us. This was orders from Hitler, but the German high command would not follow through on anything like that.

    "Terrific raid in the afternoon. … Piggyback plane … Another all night job." That meant we got bombed all night long. We were right near the Benz plant. "Two trucks over the embankment as the plane knocked them off…" We were watching this right from our little damn thing. "Terrific air raid." Again. "Dive bombers and fighters. Plenty antiaircraft. Ammo dump hit." Right near us. "Air raid. …Crabs crawling…"

    Aaron Elson: Crabs are the lice?

    Tim Dyas: Yep, exactly. Everybody had them. "Raid … Sirens … Shakedown … Raid." From 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. they were bombing.

    Aaron Elson: That must make you crazy.

    Tim Dyas: It does.

    Aaron Elson: What kind of shelter did you have?

    Tim Dyas: Nothing. We had this little tiny air raid shelter which guys wouldn’t even go down there. That’s where the guys jumped out of the window; the guys would stay in the barracks, they got pretty blase about this. But some of them jumped out and just lay on the ground, and the other guys stepped right on their faces.

    We left that place and headed for the Elbe River, and when we got to the Elbe River on the 27th of April, the night before, SS troopers asked for volunteers to dig a hole. So I volunteered. And all they wanted was for us to dig a hole. I’ve got the word "unbelievable" here. Then they sent us back to the regular unit. And the next day this German captain took us to the Elbe River and said, "Go."

    Aaron Elson: You must have thought that they were gonna …

    Tim Dyas: Of course. We thought we were digging our own graves.

    Aaron Elson: So why did you volunteer?

    Tim Dyas: I don’t know. I also, I have a poem that I’m working on called "I Cross the River Twice." It was chaos in Germany towards the end of the war; everybody and their brother was on the roads. We had no food. And there were packages of food across the river. We had just crossed at great peril, so about six of us volunteered to go back over to get the food. You’re gonna die if you couldn’t eat anyway, so we might as well go back and get the food.

    "February 4, see dead Jew in woods." We had a Polish Jew shot the day before. They had the uniforms on, you know, the concentration camp uniforms.

    "Walked 35 kilometers."

    "Ludwigsberg. The Daimler-Benz plant" was about 15 kilometers from us. So they were bombing that all the time, and you know, they weren’t that accurate.

    Aaron Elson: Let’s go back to the beginning, and work our way through. Where did they take you after you were captured?

    Tim Dyas: They took us to a camp outside; they had barbed wire around this place, it was right below Mount Etna. And we stayed there for a brief period of time. What did they do with us? They took us to a town called Cataligarone, and we had to go in there and police the area, clean up the mess. And then the 13th of July we were in a prison camp below Mount Etna. Of course at that time I didn’t know about the British paratroops. I found out later from other British guys.

    The 14th they took us to Catania, and they put us on a ferry to go across the Straits of Messina, to land in Reggio, and that’s where that other incident took place, the guy who wanted to shoot me. And then we took a train from Reggio up to Naples, and when we got up there, we got off the bus and we went to Capua, which is where the Romans were, that’s below Mount Vesuvius. One Volcano to another. They had an American camp there. And the French Foreign Legion was there, and they were bombing Naples, and again we almost got in trouble because we were yelling "Hooray! Hooray!"

    Then on the 1st of August they put us on a train to Germany, and we were on there, I don’t know how many days that took, we went through the Brenner Pass and some of us were going to try to escape. We were on there seven days. Some of us were going to try and escape in the Brenner Pass, and this John Dixon I told you about and another guy got out, they knocked the back of their boxcar out and escaped, but they got recaptured. We were all going to do it but they did it a little too early unfortunately; they were in a different car.

    Aaron Elson: What happened when they were recaptured?

    Tim Dyas: Oh, they were just taken up to our stalag. We were taken to Hammerstein, Stalag 2B, which is way up in East Prussia.

    Aaron Elson: After you were captured, when did you have your first meal?

    Tim Dyas: I don’t remember, I really don’t … oh, oh, oh, oh … that’s kind of funny. The Germans gave us some cheese that they had taken out of a pile of horseshit. This is apparently what some farmers or peasants did to make the cheese become good. It was delicious. Best cheese I ever ate in my life. I was starving to death of course.

    Aaron Elson: They kept it in horseshit?

    Tim Dyas: They kept it in shit or whatever the hell it was. It smelled to the high heaven, but you held your nose and you at it. And then, commandos – these were guys that had to go out and work on farms and stuff, and I was, an NCO by the terms of the Geneva Convention cannot be forced to do this. But the Germans took all our documents, and we had no proof. And they told me, and I got the word "arbeit," I had no papers, so I wouldn’t go.

    And the Germans lined, all the guys refused to go and they lined us all up and at the end, this German walks up and down and he points at me and he starts jabbing. He puts me in charge of the whole group.

    Then I got jaundice. Oh, was I sick. You’re not supposed to eat meat if you have jaundice. We weren’t allowed to have meat [laughing]. I was in this small type of a hospital.

    Aaron Elson: What do you think you got the jaundice from?

    Tim Dyas: Lack of nutrition. And, let’s see, the first Christmas in the prison camp, I got very friendly with some Belgians who were there; they’d been there for years, and they did trading around for various things, and somebody traded with the Germans for a rum fruitcake, and they had some rabbit. I don’t know where they got the rabbit from but they had rabbit there. Then we became very, very friendly with the Serbs who were there. This is hard for me to reconcile what’s happening in Serbia today with the Serbs I knew in the prison camp; they were magnificent people. I met one Serb, Shockovich I guess his name was, he spoke seven languages and he was Serbia’s leading actor. His father was ambassador to Sweden, so periodically he’d get a parcel from Sweden. Oranges! And at the end of the war he went to Penn State University and became a professor of romance languages; he spoke seven languages.

    So we began in this prison camp to sort of get a life of our own, and then periodically we would get packages they call them from the Red Cross. Actually, the food inside of it was supplied by the Army but the Red Cross took care of everything, which made sure that it got through.

    Aaron Elson: What was in those packages?

    Tim Dyas: I’m trying to remember now. Let’s see if I can find it. Usually there were some cigarettes. A can of corned beef. A can of powdered milk. A D-bar usually. The Nescafe coffee which usually was solidified like a rock, but I didn’t drink it and I didn’t smoke, so I could use those to trade. Some guys would rather do that than eat, which always fascinated me. And after I got out of the hospital, I went to work in the camp post office; it kept me from going out of my mind.

    Tim Dyas: First my mother got a telegram that I was missing in action. I have the telegram with the infamous guy in World War II, his name was Ulio, he happened to be the adjutant general of the Army, it was his responsibility to send telegrams to homes.

    My mother knew, and my brother was still in the States, and after a while packages would come periodically; I think once every three months we’d get a package if we were lucky, and when the package came instead of her name, my brother’s name was on it. I wrote to him about it, and he wrote back and said not to worry about it. Of course she was already dead.

    Aaron Elson: Do you know the circumstances?

    Tim Dyas: She had an intestinal blockage, they told me when I got home. Then, when Italy capitulated in January of ’44, a lot of Italians came into the camp. I have here, "I traded garrison belt and fountain pen from Italian officers at delousing. One handsomest man I’ve ever seen." One of them, we had a Sergeant Nicosia, and he meets Captain Nicosia in the Italian Army. Then we had, one of the guys had been the conductor at La Scala, and he volunteered. He said he’d come down and play the piano for me; there was a piano someplace, and I got in that day and waited, he never showed up. I’m sure they kept him from going.

    We got cigarettes. It says, "I donate milk, margarine and cigarettes for gift box for Escoffle," this was a Frenchman, and you know, I wrote to him a few years ago, and his daughter in law, she said, "He died two months before he got your letter. He would have loved to have heard from you." She said, "He was one of the most marvelous men I’ve ever known in my life." He was an engineer on a train. The Germans, there were about four trains that he wrecked before they realized he was sabotaging the trains.

    Aaron Elson: Why did he need a gift box?

    Tim Dyas: Ahh, we just gave it to him.

    Aaron Elson: Was he ill?

    Tim Dyas: You know, POWs have a feeling of taking care of each other when you’re down. Oh, in January I found out, "First letter from home, worried over fact Mother didn’t write it." I was worried. And I found out, I got it from my brother I guess that my cousin Bob was in England. He’s the guy that got shot down and lost all his teeth. He was like a brother to me. And then on January 22, "Saw Russian prisoners eating swill. Threw cigarettes to them in defiance of German guards’ orders. Germans beating them with rifle butts and whips."

    Aaron Elson: Did they do anything to you for throwing the cigarettes?

    Tim Dyas: No, they just chased me away and used their bayonets like this.

    Aaron Elson: That must be a dehumanizing thing.

    Tim Dyas: "Gave cigarettes to sick Russians. A Russian doctor told me his grandfather lived on Mott Avenue in Brooklyn."

    "A lot of packages came in January. A letter from my aunt. She said I was the only POW in town."

    And we used to worry that people would hate us when we got home. What was going to be the reaction to some people who had surrendered when they got home? We had no idea. We felt terrible.

    Aaron Elson: Did you make a note of that in the journal?

    Tim Dyas: Oh yes. Here it is right here. "All the boys worried about civilian reaction against POWs after the war in the U.S. A lot of bitterness prevails."

    One of our guys got thrown in the stockade for three days, and we tried to get D-bars to him.

    Aaron Elson: What would they throw him in the stockade for?

    Tim Dyas: Oh, trying to escape. It could be anything. I’ll never forget, one time this package came, and the Germans checked, but I grabbed this one and hid it, I had a good idea what was in it from the label on it. And I’m walking down the street, from the post office to our barracks, and one of the guys says, "The goddamn electric cord’s hanging down." It was a radio. I walked past the guard, "Hiya, wie gehts!" I would have been at least in the stockade.

    Aaron Elson: How did you know that there was a radio in it?

    Tim Dyas: We had a feeling, there was something about this package. I think there was something that indicated it.

    "Hoppy is in the prison jail for seven days. His offense was cutting the American issue overcoat down to mackinaw size." So the Germans put him in the stockade for seven days.

    Aaron Elson: Why would he cut it down?

    Tim Dyas: It was easier to move around in a mackinaw. The Germans put clothing given us by the Red Cross on their cards as being issued by them. And then the U.S. would be charged for it. This I’ve got in my notes.

    Then we’d argue with the Frenchmen and we’d always yell about 28 days. Remember how they surrendered in 28 days? "Still arguing relative merits of the frogs vs. the Italians." They’d argue like hell.

    Then when Hoppy – Hopkins his name was – got out of jail, I said, "God, it’s good to see him. What I wouldn’t give to be in front of that old platoon."

    Aaron Elson: He was one of your men?

    Tim Dyas: Yes. I tried to take care of them.

    Then on Feb. 14 of ’44, these guys that got out of the train, "Wonder of wonders, John Dixon and Sherry Sheridan show up after getting recaptured when they jumped our train."

    Then I got toothpaste for them; you know, we took care of each other. I was starting to feel like a chaplain.

    Aaron Elson: Speaking of toothpaste, how did you take care of hygiene? If somebody had a toothache did they pull the tooth? Was there any dental treatment?

    Tim Dyas: There was a French dentist I believe. I went to one dentist one time and all his instruments were rusty. What could you do? There’s something in here I had about a cavity or something. "Got tooth filled. Young French dentist. Very good." That’s when the Russian doctor, I saw him, he told me his grandfather lived on Mott Avenue in Brooklyn. "Hoppy in jail for seven days for cutting his jacket down." "Gave a pack of Old Golds for bribery of German guards."

    I was worried about civilian reaction. That was a real concern of ours. "Got all the Long Island boys together and we had quite a cracker barrel session."

    "625 new prisoners in. Sewed socks."

    "Worked giving out blankets and cleaning barracks. … Tears in my eyes as I saw amputation cases."

    Aaron Elson: That must have been getting to be quite a big camp. This was still in Italy or in Germany?

    Tim Dyas: Oh no, we’re up in Germany, Stalag 2B, Hammerstein. They had a couple thousand prisoners in there. They had the Americans in one compound. And actually, we could walk down and get together with the French and the Serbs or the Belgians, but the Russians were over in another area. And later on, that’s a poem too, in fact, you don’t get that prisoner of war magazine, do you? The last issue that came out the other day; some guy had written an article that he said was in response to one of my poems, "Even unto death," because the Russians, what the Germans did is made a count every night how many people were there, and they gave you rations based on that. Well, the Russians would carry a guy out until he smelled, after he was dead, as long as they could, to get the count, and get a little bit of extra food.

    Aaron Elson: How was the day structured?

    Tim Dyas: Well, for me because of working in the post office it was better than other guys, but it was pretty grim. We’d get up in the morning, and they would give us ersatz coffee which I didn’t drink, so you got hot water in essence. And then at noontime there was a watery, I denigrate the use of the word soup.

    Aaron Elson: What was in it?

    Tim Dyas: I don’t know, really. Oh, you know what a rutabaga is? Have you ever seen a dehydrated rutabaga? You don’t want to. Oh my God. That’s all I could describe it, dehydrated rutabagas. Then in the evening, we’d probably have eight to ten men on a loaf of bread, and there was sawdust in it, so you had lots of fiber. And you might get a pat of ersatz margarine, or a blood sausage, which I didn’t eat. And then at a certain time of night, they put out the lights, and you had to be in your bunk. I’ll never forget one night – my stomach was a mess all the time and I was throwing up bile, leaning out the window, and the guard was gonna shoot me because it was after hours.

    But for the men who were in the camp and didn’t work, they had a pretty damned boring time. But the YMCA was great. They brought in some books, and they brought in some musical instruments eventually. Naturally we had guys in the camp who were very fine musicians, so we got a little orchestra going.

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