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Mon, Oct. 21

<I>One mission too many</I><BR>Dewey man spent time in prison camp after being shot down in Europe

Courier/Dorine Swayze

Dewey resident Don Hobert points to a World War II drawing of the B-24 Consolidated Liberator.

"They were great people. They talked to me and brought water and blankets. But the Germans put a stop to it soon."

Hobert, who lost about 25 pounds during his five-plus months of captivity, said the prisoners survived primarily by sharing food in Red Cross parcels. He still has labels from M&Ms, tuna fish and peanut butter that were included in Red Cross parcels. The Germans provided one small potato daily, he said, touching his thumb to the tip of his first finger to show its size, and thin soup.

"Eventually we ate the worms and all."

But nobody ate well, he said. It was nearing the end of the war in Europe and neither the German military nor civilians had much to eat.

His captors were strict, he said. But they showed moments of humanity. Once, during a game of catch, the prisoners' ball rolled into the barbed wire perimeter surrounding the prison.

"Normally, if I'd just walked out there I would have been shot," the tail gunner said. But a guard gestured to Hobert that it was OK to retrieve the ball. He did, then waved thanks to the guard and that was that.

Before their liberation on April 29, 1945, the prisoners were moved from the Nuremberg camp to a prison camp near Moosberg, about 35 miles north of Munich. During the early April forced march, the Germans told the American prisoners that President Franklin Roosevelt had died.

"We thought they were lying," Hobert remembered. But they weren't. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, just weeks before the war in Europe ended.

He said the Germans showed their respect by standing the prisoners at attention, "saying some words in English and shooting three volleys in his honor."

Seventeen days later, General Patton's 14th Armored Division liberated prisoners in the Moosberg camp.

"I saw Patton," Hobert said. "He wasn't a bit wishy-washy." For the 19-year-old the war was almost over.

The feeling hit full force on June 17 when his troop ship passed the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. "Silence fell, and one voice came out amongst the men. 'Hey, Ma – I'm home!'"

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