Capture at the Bulge
Veterans’ Voices is directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
Stalag 9B was situated in the outskirts of Bad Orb in the Hessen-Nasau region of Prussia. 51 Kilometers of Frankfurt-on-Main. On Dec. 17, 1944, 985 soldiers were captured during the first two days of the German counter offensive, were marched for four days from Belgium into Germany.
During the week, they received food and water only once. The walking wounded received no attention except such first aid as American medical personnel in the column could give them. They received Gerolstein (mineral water) and were packed into box cars, 60 men to a car. The cars were so small that the men could not lie down. They entered the cars on December 21 and did not get out until December 26. En route, they were fed only once.
Eight men seeking to escape jumped into a field and were killed by exploding land mines. The German sergeant in charge, enraged that anyone had attempted escape, began shooting wildly. Although he knew that every car was densely packed with prisoners of war, he fired a round through the door of a car, killing an American soldier. The day after Christmas, they all arrived at Bad Orb.
On January 25, the camp reached its peak with 4,070 American enlisted men. The following day, 1,275 NCOs were transferred to Stalag 9A, Ziegenhain. On February 28, 1,000 prisoners left Stalag 12A, Limburg, for Bad Org. They marched in a column which averaged 25 miles a day.
On leaving, they were given half a loaf of bread and a small piece of cheese for the five-day march. No medical supplies were available. Men who collapsed were left behind under guard. They had no blankets, and some only had a shirt and a pair of trousers for clothing. Their arrival, plus that of another prisoner of war camp, brought the camp strength to 3,333 on April 1, 1946.
Some 290 to 500 prisoners were jammed into barracks of the usual one-story wood and tarpaper types, divided into two sections with a washroom in the middle. Washroom facilities consisted of one cold water tap and one latrine hole emptying into an adjacent cesspool which had to be shoveled out every few days. Each half of the barracks contained a stove.
Throughout the winter, the fuel ration was two arm loads of wood per stove per day, providing heat for almost one hour per day. Bunks, when there were bunks, were triple deckers arranged in groups of four. These barracks were completely bare of bunks, and two others had the number needed only with the result that 1,500 men were sleeping on the floors. If some of the prisoners were fortunate, they received one blanket each, yet, at the camps liberation some 30 prisoners still lacked any covering whatsoever. To keep warm, men huddled together in groups of threes and fours.
All barracks were in a state of disrepair; roofs leaked, windows were broken, lighting was either unsatisfactory or lacking completely. Very few barracks had tables and chairs. Some bunks had mattresses and some barrack floors were covered with straw — which prisoners used in lieu of toilet paper. The outdoor latrines had some 40 seats. A number totally insufficient for the needs of 400 men. Every building was infested with bedbugs, licas, lice and other vermin.
Any comments,email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
• • •
— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army/Vietnam,
1st Cav/9th Infantry