July 4, 1944 (WAR TIME)
Roy was 22 years old and had just been woke up by the usual prison guards making their rounds and yelling at the soldiers. The treatment at Stalag 17B was never good and at times brutal. It was a beautiful summer day and besides being July 4th, it was a great day to play a competitive game of softball. The Wehrmacht (German soldiers) had much friction with the Americans, but they did let them play their games.
The GIs’ loved playing ball. It passed the time by and it was one of the only real morale boosters the soldiers did have. The International YMCA almost always fulfilled requisitions for sports equipment for the American soldiers in prison. It is also noteworthy that the Wehrmacht let the Americans have their things to play and enjoyed watching the fierce competition of the American GI with his brother in captivity!
“We formed our teams. You know the North Versus South. I was of course on the southern side since I grew up in Alabama.”
I laughed with Roy and said, “Yes. Alabama would certainly make you a southerner. No doubt.”
“Well, the game was very competitive. We bet our rations from the Red Cross. This was serious business and you better believe I wanted the south to win!” Roy stated as if he could still hear the crack of the ball being hit by the old wooden bat.
Chuckling I said, “Seriously, you did not take the other soldier’s food over a game.”
Roy said sternly,”You damn straight we did.”
I guess that answered that.
In fact, the rations were like betting your life’s savings. The normal ration included:
Bread, Potatoes, Cottage cheese, Sugar, Jelly, Coffee, and Raisins. The International American Red Cross would try their best to supply what the soldiers needed at that time.
There was a large recreation area in the camp that sports did take place. Pride was taken in teams formed and thus the first POW baseball league was born.
On the playing field that July 4, 1944, the south and north began their game.
“Who won?” I asked
“Well of course, we did. You know the south.” Roy stated.
“Did you really take the Northerners’ rations?” Half seriously I wondered.
“Yes we did. They lost.” Sternly Roy stated as if the war could still be going on.
In fact, as he and I talked of a time that was over 70 years ago, I could see in Roy’s eyes that he was taken back to that ball game and that ball field. It was still war-time to him at that very moment when we spoke. There was nothing else going on at all.
Happy July 4, 2014 to all my readers. May you know how free we are because of many who fought and gave their lives for us. America-what would you have been if not for the brave soldiers of times gone by? Would you have been at all?
Great story. And you are so right. Your father’s sacrifice won our freedom.
I about about what to write about and when I talked with him and he shared about his story of playing baseball on July 4 —70 years ago–it just hit me and so ordinary yet here we are free. It is a simple story that I hope would resonate with others. Thanks always for stopping by.
I hope Roy understands that a lot of people still appreciate what he and his buddies went through so we could enjoy what we do today, and this weekend. Thanks for sharing this story. And next time you talk to Roy, tell him thanks from me too.
I will Jean!
A peek at courage up close. We’re built on a strong foundation!
I agree. 70 years ago and it’s hard to imagine, but here we are.
Interesting story about things you don’t read in history books. Funny on taking the rations. I guess winning was the point.
Winning was the point for everything to them! Lol You know that not too long after this time period , the rations were becoming scarce as the enemy stole the soldiers’ food. American POWs were treated better than others though if you can really say that during war time.
Great story. My parents married about a month after Japan surrendered.
The veterans will be forgot before we know it. Our younger generations do not understand how significant and different the world could have been…