as proudly recorded by his daughters
John F. Peters from McKees Rocks, Pa. joined the US Army in Feb. 1941. He was a member of the 29th Infantry Division/Ft.Meade. He completed maneuvers in North Carolina. In 1942, he became a member of the US Army War Show Band. He played trumpet and toured 18 cities in the US with the band. The band joined up with the 17th Airborne at Camp McCall, N.C. and that was the end of stateside for them.
They were all shipped out to Codford, England for 6 weeks basic training. At that time,they joined the 28th Infantry Division-"THE BUCKET OF BLOOD". After basic, they were taken by train to the Huertgen Forest and stayed there without incident for 2 months. Trucked to the city of Clervioux, Luxenborg, on December 16, 1444 John was on the Front Line of the BATTLE OF THE BULGE. He was wounded within hours of the battle with shrapnel to the face(cheek)and finger. He was sent to the Battalian Aid Station which was at the Railroad Station to be attended to when the Germans captured the entire aid station. He was rounded up and taken to a "beer garden" across the way from the station and spent his first night in captivity. The next morning, John was marched and trucked to Bit berg, Germany. Then, they were trucked to Limburg-Hahn which had a hospital(?) inside the prison camp-Stalag 12-A. He remembers as the nuns cared for his wounds at that time. He was also processed and given his POW papers. He does not remember much interrogation. His most horrific memory was when the Officer's Barracks was bombed. It was located 2 barracks from his and the Germans made them pick up the body parts and dispose of all the "debris". He does not know how many perished.
John's other horrific memory is the boxcar herding, four days and nights,without much water and limited(?) food. Not knowing their fate and the terribly crowded/standing room only conditions left them all sick and weary. Final destination was Stalag 3-A, Luckenwald. He doesn't know when but his boots were confiscated and he was left with wooden shoes to wear out in the coldest winter on record. Frostbiten feet is his legacy from that time. He was in barracks quarters in Stalag 3-A with a wooden stove in the middle. Two to a bunk, one up and one down. They were fed the standard issue of "sawdust bread" and "grass soup". He remembers Pea soup at Easter and two Red Cross Parcels. Dad jokes about how he traded his Lucky Strikes for a Hershey Bar. He couldn't believe that anyone would want a smoke instead of food as they were starving. He recalls how they always talked about food. One standing joke was about salami and how "It probably tastes the same" as they lamented how it would taste...
Life in Stalag 3-A was work from sunup to sundown. He delivered coal to German civilians via truck and horse drawn wagon. He remembers a Polish guard(?) older man driving the horse team. They also planted potatoes, and dug up tree stumps. The time off in barracks was spent trying to care for and perfect ways to stave off the adverse effects of the cold weather-especially in foot wear. They cut up blankets and wrapped strips around their feet and wooden shoes to secure them. Hunger and cold was the norm.
Confusion reigned the day the Russians liberated the camp. The men seemed to all scatter as the liberators motioned for them to disperse. Somehow, he joined a group of 2 Brits, 1 Italian, himself, and another unknown and they walked/ran to Halle. (Previously he only ever saw three barracks in his camp life-all Americans. It amazes him still that the camp had all these nationalities and other barracks/tents.) This band of POW brothers "acquired" some bicycles along the way and pedaled to what was freedom. This was where the height of confusion reigned as the Russian did not allow them to cross the Elbe River. They waited for cover of darkness and "acquired" an old small boat and crossed over to their lines. Free at last!
John was a slight man going into the Army. He was never with too much "meat on his bones". His post prison camp weight isn't remembered. He was "painfully thin". They flew him to Camp Lucky Strike in France where he fondly remembers the eggnog. Stateside, home, and two glorious weeks in Miami for R&R, Camp Blanding and then mustered out in Indiantown Gap, Pa.
John took advantage of the GI Bill and went to Meat Cutters School. He married a gal named Gaberia(Bea). They married, raised 2 daughters, and owned/operated a grocery store in McKees Rocks, Pa. Married for now 59 years, they moved to Largo, Florida where at 81 & 86 yrs young, they are happily living the Sweet Life.