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Life and Death of




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 Din). The Punjab, or Sheiks 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  Meetings and lived among them as their Brother. 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 people.

 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.)
          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 Escape Committee got word 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.

 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.
           Suddenly, we heard a voice, "Hey, you guys! Roy, Fred. This is Shorty Gordon. Sit tight, 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
Wermacht (German 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.  

Shorty 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...
             A short 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 were captured.)
    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                                               

     PS: Shorty Gorden died in Summer of 2008.