John R. Woodruff
by The Woodruff Family
Two GI's and two Russians
The following narrative and accompanying pictures are submitted by the Woodruff family.
From Staff Sergeant John R. Woodruff’s diary we read this account of how he and Technical Sergeant Michael A. Stabile, after being released from a Romanian prison camp in 1944, met two Russian officers:
“On Aug. 23, when the Russian troops started coming into Bucharest the Roumanian Govt. capitulated, and they opened the gates of the camp. We were told to stay around as they might move us out of the city.
“On Aug. 24, the Germans who still had control of some of the airfields started bombing the city. They bombed for 48 hours without letup. They hit the prison camp hospital & some of us helped get the wounded out.
“They moved us to an airfield outside of the city. We had air raids for 2 more days, off & on. Russians entered the city Aug. 30. We got to walk around the neighborhood near the airfield. We met a couple young Russian officers. They were about our age. We had a picture taken in a little photo gallery, of the 2 Russians & us. We wrote our names & address's on the back of each other’s pictures.”
The Russians names are Pavel Suprunenko and Volodya Soklakov.
In 1987 John received a letter from one of the Russian officers, Pavel Suprunenko. In 1944 John was 19 years old living at his parents’ home in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The letter was mailed to that address. John's parents were deceased but his brother, Bob, lived across the street; so the mailman gave him the letter to forward to John who had moved with his family to Glendale, California, in 1960. Pavel invited John to come to Moscow. After 45 years, John and his wife, Helen, went to Moscow for a reunion in August, 1989. John was the only one Pavel could get in touch with.
While they were visiting in Moscow, Pavel told John “Our commander on political education tried to intimidate us: ‘These Americans one can suppose spies.’ But we, younger than he was, didn’t suffer from spy suspiciousness. And we didn’t follow his advice to throw away these pictures.”
A copy of the original 1944 picture, front and back, is included in this post. From left to right are John R. Woodruff, Volodya Soklakov, Pavel Suprunenko and Michael A. Stabile. On the backside is the writing of Pavel, Volodya and John.
A copy of a 1989 picture with Pavel on the left and John on the right is also included. This picture was taken in Moscow during John’s visit with Pavel.
Here is an account from Pavel’s perspective, in his own words, how he and John first met:
“It was in memorable August of 1944. After the exhausting march on foot (70 km per day, sleeping by the way) we were suddenly putten on new ‘studebeckers’ (americans send them according to the agreement) and rushed into the Bucharest after the tanks.
“Rumania to that time had gone out of war, and we were met with flowers and vine. During such greetings I saw two american fellows in dusty uniform. Their aeroplane was shooted and they not without adventure landed on parachutes, for several months were jailed in Rumanian concentration camp. I with my friend Volodia Saklakov, soldier so as I, embraced our allies. And joked upon them, why didn’t they open the second front against the fascists so long, as was promised by their governments.
“Full of hopes we were explaining with them on some special international language, hoping in our, maybe common happy stars. Enterprising Rumanians without delay made for each of us five-minutes photo-pictures and we wrote on the opposite sides warm wishes, but the americans, as people more initiative then we were, wrote their addresses.”
A 1989 newspaper clipping from the Glendale News Press is submitted with this post.