| First Lt.
8th Air Force
I am Joe Kunze, a native of Columbus, Georgia.
I was navigator on a B-17 Bomber in World War II. I am here to represent
the Valley Chapter of Ex-POW's.
The prisoner of war experience is one few men
& women are able to share. It is neither dishonorable nor heroic
to be taken prisoner. Capture is usually an accident, part of what
has come to be called the "fortunes of war". They have
been victims of such war crimes as torture & mutilation, beatings,
& forced labor under inhumane conditions. POWs have been targets
of intense interrogation & political indoctrination. They have
often faced the most severe privations because their captors had
not been prepared or had but the barest rations for their own men.
Prisoners of war have always had a miserable time.
In World War II, in the European Theater, there
were 95,532 POW's. This seems like a large number but in the Civil
War, there were 346,950 & my grandfather, Patrick Deignan, was
one of them. He was captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and he
served the balance of the duration of the Civil War in northern
prison camps. My mother used to say that since she had a father
as a POW and a son as a POW, that it ran in the family. "I
served in World War II with the 8th Air Force and was shot down
over Cologne, Germany.
We were out of control and on fire when the pilot
said: "BAIL OUT MEN, BAIL OUT." This was my 28th mission
& I had always dreaded hearing those words but I responded immediately.
On the way down, I began to think "DID he really say to jump?
Was I just imagining that he said it? Was I the only one who jumped?"
I thought, I'm going down behind enemy lines and the rest of the
crew will probably sleep in warm beds in England tonight. I didn't
really know until I met the engineer in prison. After wandering
around for a couple of days in an effort to get around lines, I
approached what appeared to be a barn where I could spend the night.
When I got close I spotted an armed guard and
realized it was a blacked out guard station on the Rhine. After
spending the night there, a soldier marched me to jail. From there,
I was taken to Frankfort for interrogations and was assigned to
Stalag Luft 111. There were 10,000 of us POWs at this camp. We lived
there until January 28, 1945 when the Historic Russian Push into
eastern Germany caused an evacuation by foot at midnight. There
can be no doubt that 10,000 or more despairing men of Luft 111 who
"hit the road" that momentous night as hope sounded from
the east will forever remember the tortuous trek that followed in
the ever increasing fury of a blizzard.
After walking through this sub-zero blizzard weather
for a night, a day, and a night, we found ourselves headed for Muskau,
Germany. I sat down for a rest period-every bone & muscle in
my body ached. After about 10 minutes, I began to feel real good
because my aches and pains were leaving me. I was beginning to freeze
and it felt so good. The pilot of our plane walked over to me and
said "Joe, are you going to make it?" I said "I don't
know, Mac." He said "I have one D-bar left. I will share
it with you." (A D-bar is a concentrated chocolate candy bar)
The energy in this half a candy bar could be the difference between
life and death. I said-"Its too much to ask. I can't accept
it but I will make it." I got up and continued to walk. We
ended up in southern Germany at Mouseburg, Stalag 7A in the Munich
I spent the rest of my imprisonment in this camp.
April 29, 1945, General Patten came into camp leading the long awaited
liberation. I shall never forget the most beautiful sight I have
ever seen-the Swastika coming down and the Stars & Stripes rising
gloriously in Mousburg not far from camp. I went through the regular
routine of being returned to the states and now, on behalf of the
Valley Chapter of the Ex-Prisoners of War, I would like to state
that we would love to have more members but not if they have to
go through what many of us had to go through.
Shoulderpatch of the 8th Air Force.
The article in the local newspaper about Joe
who was being held as a POW at the time.