On the morning of April 29, 1945, elements of the 14th Armored Division of Patton’s 3rd Army attacked the SS troops guarding VIIA. Prisoners scrambled for safety. Some hugged the ground or crawled into open concrete incinerators. Bullets flew seemingly haphazardly.
Finally, the American task force broke through, and the first tank entered, taking the barbed wire fence with it. The prisoners went wild. They climbed on the tanks in such numbers as to almost smother them. Pandemonium reigned. They were free!
Two days later, General Patton arrived in his jeep, garbed in his usual uniform with four stars on everything including his ivory handled pistols. The prisoners cheered and cheered. The Longest Mission was finally over!
As Pete remembers, the American soldiers fought the young German soldiers for about two hours. Pete saw General Patton from a distance of about 30 feet and he could see his ivory handled guns. After the German guards left, Pete was told not to leave the camp; it was safer to stay because there were pockets of Germans outside the camp. However, Pete did leave for one day. He met an ordnance group; he asked for and received food. He remembers that the food was good and that he had chocolate pudding.
From the camp, Pete could see a church in Moosburg that flew the German Swastika flag. He saw that flag lowered and the American flag raised. The POWs cried for joy. Their country had not forgotten them.
The former prisoners from all nations including Britain and the United States flew in DC-3s to LaHavre, France. The Red Cross fed them and sent them on Liberty Ships across the Atlantic to Camp Shanks in New Jersey. From there, Pete called his sister in New York. He then took a train to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. The train had priority over all other trains except one in Indianapolis, Indiana that carried repatriated Japanese wounded prisoners of war. From St. Louis Pete went to Mason City, Iowa, where his Aunt Laura, Uncle Henry, Aunt Hilda, and Uncle Alfred met him. They took Pete to lunch, and all he wanted was an American hamburger and a coke. On May 29, 1945, he went to Hartley and caught up on the news about his family. Pete called Peggy.