Life and Death of POWS - Part II
I do not
have much recollection about being released from the Detention Barracks and
being put in the general population. I was too sick from acute dysentery,
impetigo, and whatever else it was. But somehow, somebody got me into the Punjab
Compound. (The most interesting people I had ever met.)
They are the ones from India who wear the beard, sward, comb, and a turban. They
fought with the English (I remembered them from books I had read,
Arundel and Gunga
as they are called, worked in the fields, and were able to bring some fresh
vegetables back to their barracks where I was hidden. I attended their
and lived among them as their
Within weeks I was healthy,
and escaped back to the American Compound, but I never forgot the Punjab. It
was years later before I understood some of the things I had learned from these remarkable
By the time I got back with the American POWS, it was mid-summer, my
sores from infection were healed, and I was again planning another escape with an old friend
from the States, Fred Newcomb (Fred was from Maine, as I was) Only this time we had a pair of wire cutters, a
map that gave us directions to Switzerland, and some food. Our first objective
was to get out of Stalag VII-A, several had already been shot trying to get over
the fences. (One was Barbed Wire Johnson, but that is another story.)
All of a sudden, the siren was going off, The camp speaker system was
announcing Octung. Octung. (Attention!) and Floodlights and Searchlights were
flashing over the entire camp.
We had our escape route already mapped out from our barracks, to and
around the latrine and (a large framed building painted white) then across a small
area to a double fence that separated our compound from another that was
unoccupied... Once we reached that point we would be close to reaching the last
fence enclosing the Camp from the outside world.
Well, it did not
work out quite that way. The
what we were planning and sent a Serb and a Russian to talk with us. "Americanish,
besser sitenzi here. Kreig fertig shnell"
(Better you sit her. War
finished, soon.) When they realized that we were not going to change our mind,
they told us about a better way to at least get to the vacant compound. They
had us meet a Siberian work group when they came to our compound to do some
work. We simply changed places (They gave us their phony POW ID Tags and
clothes) with two of their people. Later they got us into the unoccupied
compound and we got into the barracks they told us to hide in until their
people would meet us the following day. The forgot to tell us about the millions
of little creatures that lived in the straw mattresses. Fred had a worse time
than I did. Not that you ever get used to those nasty little cannibals crawling
all over your body, but because of my past experience, I did not get infected
like before, but Fred did, and seriously.
Suddenly, we heard
a voice, "Hey, you guys! Roy, Fred. This is Shorty Gordon.
wherever you are. The Russians set fire to a barracks. In any minute this place
will be swarming with guards. Hide between some of these old palliasses (straw
mattresses) and be silent." (I knew Shorty's voice. I had talked with him a
few days ago. He was planning an escape of his own.)
Within minutes, Four
soldiers) with two dogs came running into the barracks. Two of them started
poking the mattresses with their bayonets, and the other two had the dogs that
were sniffing up and down the rows of empty beds. I didnít
think we were going to get out of this one...Fortunately for us, however, the
ticks became more than the dogs and guards could take, and they left...Shorty
and his friend got us back to the American Compound, and Fred and I had to
forget about our little adventure, at least for a while.
Gordon escaped from Stalag VII-A just a few weeks later. He was able to
dress like a Hitler Youth and managed to make it to Switzerland, then to
England, and home. One of the first things he did when he got home was to call
my family. Hearing from him after receiving a Telegram that Your son was missing in action (my mother said)
was like receiving a message from God...
while after Shorty got back to the states, he told about his experiences, and
"How to survive behind enemy lines" at
different Air Force Centers around the Country. (I have since met Several POWS
who had attended his Survival lectures before they were also shot down, and
After the war, I spoke to Shorty over the phone. Some time
ago, I had received word that Shorty had died. That was the wrong information.
Today (Dec. 12, 2005) we receive a phone call from Shorty's
daughter, Chis Gorden, that Shorty is alive. He is at at the VA Medical Center
Nursing Home (20 miles from San Francisco. Bldg. 331, D Wing. (Shorty's story
was on the History Channel.) We will be in touch with his sister, and we will
also get to speak with Shorty. We will update this article at that
time. God Bless Shorty.
By Roy E. Livingstone
Shorty Gorden died in Summer of 2008.