The Woodward News

Features

September 16, 2012

Ex-POW’s from WWII share their stories

(Continued)

Woodward, Okla. — KEN BECKWITH

Ken Beckwith tells his story of marching with other prisoners through the cold German countryside.

"Feb. 6, 1945, an estimated 11,000 Prisoners of War, both American and English, and I was one of them, marched out of Stalag 4, just ahead of the advancing Russian Army. They said there was only a  30 mile gap to get us through. They (Germans) were planning on trying to get us to another prisoner of war camp at  Swanda Mundy only two days march. There was 24 inches of snow on the ground and the coldest weather in Germany in 60 years. We marched all night and finally in the early morning we stopped and everyone fell out in the snow, too tired to go on.

That 2 day march turned into an estimated 800 miles and 80 days later. 4 of us teamed up together for the whole trip. Andy Anderson - Cooper - Monty Childress and I. Our main food was potatoes that we could steal.

So many of the POWs had dysentery and just couldn't go on. They were left behind with a German guard and later in the day that guard was up with the group again. It took no imagination to know what happened.

We were recaptured by the American Army at the Elbe River where the American and Russian troops met. This is just a brief summary of my stay with the German govt. And if you really want to know what freedom means, talk to any ex-POW, if you can get them to talk about it."

RALPH E. BAIRD, Jr.

The story of how Ralph E. Baird, Jr. earned his Army medals.

"In Aug. 1942 Jr. married his wife Jackie. 17 days later Jr. took his Army physical. A month after the wedding he was Pvt. Ralph E. Baird, Jr.  Jr.'s father Ralph E. Baird, Sr. had served in WWI.  Jr. 's Army career was not  a smooth one. Jr. was inducted in August 1942 and discharged in October 1945. Jr. was a ball turret gunner and crew chief on a B17. On Feb. 22, 1944 his plane was shot down, on their 13th mission, over Germany. He was taken prisoner of war. Being in a prison in East Prussia he was moved several times. Each time ahead of the Russian advance. Jr. and Jackie's 1st son was 11 months old when Jr. finally got home. Jr. was awarded the purple heart, European theatre of operations with three bronze stars and the air medal with two oak leaf clusters."

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