MY CAPTURE AND RELEASE AS A POW
by William T. Hatry
PFC, message code clerk, 143rd Signal Co.
Written in May, 1945
||NOTE: Bill Hatry's account below
was found in 1996 by Don R. Marsh in the History of the 143rd
Armored Signal Company while Marsh was researching material
for the upcoming biography of Major Gen. Maurice Rose. That find
subsequently appeared in the September, 1996, 3AD Association
Newsletter. Hatry was one of seven soldiers riding in Gen. Rose's
Command Radio Armored Car in the small convoy that would run
head-on into German tanks on the evening of March 30, 1945, outside
of Paderborn, Germany. It was in that convoy that Gen. Rose,
riding in a jeep, would be killed.
||Hatry's own words:
Before we ran into those tanks, we were in the column that was
cut off from both ends. We lay in the ditch for over an hour
under intense tank fire. When they got around to trying to hit
the armored car (which they never did do), the shells that missed
were riccocheting off the road by our heads and finally landing
in the field on the other side of us. The reason I bring this
up is the fact that Jones, the boy from G-3 who was with us that
day, got hit with a large piece of shrapnel which luckily only
pierced his clothes and left a large burn on his skin.
As you already know we tried to get into Paderborn after it got
dark. After leaving the highway and going on a back dirt road,
we ran smack into one Royal [Tiger II tank] which the peeps [jeeps]
had already passed. Because of our size we couldn't possibly
do the same, so Steve (Pvt. James Stevenson of Hq. Co., driver
of the armored car) ran right under the gun, which under those
circumstances looked like the Holland Tunnel. The tank commander
yelled something and they moved the big thing over. We took advantage
of that and then passed him.
About 200 yards from there, we ran into two more that were sitting
in the Y in the road and another in the corn field. They did
open up with small arms on us, but luckily no one was hurt at
that time. They threw a white flare over our heads and we must
have looked like a bunch of clay pigeons. When they started to
swing the 88mm's around, we all figured we had had it, so we
lost no time in getting the hell out of the car. I did remember
to toss my Luger overboard first though.
With a gun in my back, I was "escorted" to another
Royal and put on the back of it with the rest. By the way, on
total count there were four Royal's, five Mark V's and eight
or nine SP guns. They were evidently trying to get out of the
pocket and eventually succeeded by doubling over the route that
the Division had come over - the part that was cut off from both
sides. What vehicles that weren't burning along that stretch,
they shot up.
One brave guy [3AD soldier] had stayed on a fifty in one of the
half-tracks and opened up on the tanks we were riding on, with
bullets hitting the turret a few inches over my head. They finally
rode us out of the pocket and dumped us off at one of their service
companies in a small town just behind the lines. They started
to interrogate us, but the officer was rudely interrupted by
our 155mm's landing in the street. We were loaded in a truck
and went along with the whole outfit as it moved towards the
The next day they worked us in an immense gas dump, which was
about ten miles from the front judging by the sound of the artillery.
They were trying to evacuate as much of it as possible, and brother
I don't want to ever see another gas can. Later that day they
took us and dumped us off in a Yugoslav work camp. We stayed
there that night and were recorded and interrogated for the first
time. They questioned us on an overlay of the General's map and
also on the armored car. They had a pretty good idea who we were,
but no one gave them a bit of satisfaction.
The next day, April 1st, we were loaded on a wood burning truck
and traveled half a day to a corps headquarters where we were
again interrogated that night. On the second morning of April
they walked us to a railroad station and from there we went to
Hanover by train. Luckily the weather was bad and we didn't get
shot up. From Hanover we went north by train to a town called
Fallingbostle, directly between Hanover and Bremen. By number,
the camp was Stalag XI-B.
By this time I was pretty hungry and it wasn't until the fourth
day in camp that I received the first Red Cross box. In one week
all we had was a little bread and some watery soup they served
in camp. On the fifth day in camp gunfire was audible and then
they decided to put a lot of boys on the road. The Germans were
particularly down on the Air Corps. Among the [3AD] men they
took out were Neil and Tex (Fleischer and Ellison), and Steve
and I were the only ones out of our bunch left in camp. The Colonel
(Lt. Col. Wesley Sweat, Division G-3) with the rest of the officers
was taken to a railroad station, but before they could get on
the train the Spits and Tempests came down to strafe the station
and the train. The Colonel was hit in the arm by shrapnel and
his face was pretty well banged up when part of the station wall
fell on him.
A few days later the German staff and most of the personnel took
off [fled]. The Colonel took over the job of senior officer of
the camp and a joint M.P. staff was set up with the British,
Americans and the remainder of the German guards that stayed
behind - 85 in all. Steve and I worked on this [as MP's] and
it certainly kept us busy. We were in complete control of the
camp for five days before we were liberated on April 16 by British
7th Armored Division (90% U.S. equipped). Thus ended 18 days
of "seeing how the other half lives."
On April 19 we left with the Colonel and went to an airport from
which we flew to Brussels in a C-47. There we were deloused,
given new clothes, baths and 20 bucks (off the record) by the
British Red Cross. On the 21st we went by train to Namur and
for the first time were in American hands. Here we went through
the same thing as in Brussels, except that the 20 bucks wasn't
off the record.
From there we went by train to Le Havre to a camp called Lucky
Strike, an immense tent city. We sort of missed the Colonel's
company since he left for the Division at Namur after he made
sure we were going home. I can hardly say enough to convey to
you what a help and a friend he was to us for that month.
We stayed in Lucky Strike for nearly a week for processing and
waiting for a ship. One week to the day we finally shipped aboard
the George Washington, a U.S. ship. They treated us swell and
the food was excellent. We stopped at Southampton to pick up
wounded. We arrived in New York on the night of May 14th and
three days later I was home.