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Stalag 221 Camp de Souge in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- Stalag 221 Camp de Souge during the Second World War -


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Stalag 221 Camp de Souge





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    Those known to have been held in or employed at

    Stalag 221 Camp de Souge

    during the Second World War 1939-1945.

    • Johnson Curtis Leonard. PFC This page is new, as yet no names have been submitted.

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    PFC Curtis Leonard Johnson Bronze Star Headquarters Company 3rd Btn 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment

    My Dad, Curtis, Leonard, Johnson, service number 16156023, was part of the 82nd Airborne Division, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion Headquarters Company as a Field Linesman 7641, Radio operator (low speed).

    He trained at Camp Blanding, Florida and then Camp Benning, Georgia. He shipped to Europe leaving the Camp in late November 1943 and arriving in January 1944 somewhere around Belfast Ireland (Cromore Estate) according to letters. The 82nd moved to Nottingham, England in March 1944 to continue training. We have a couple of pictures of him with his buddies in England/Ireland but no names on the pictures. His unit was to drop on D-Day on the west side of the Douve River, south of Amfreville and secure the bridges across the river.

    Either before the loading aboard the C-47 or during the flight over the Channel, an American Indian soldier next to my Dad asked to exchange positions in the jump stick because that guy was number 13 in the stick. My Dad said sure and they swapped places. As the C-47 crossed the coast of France, it started to receive ground fire and flak (Our plane was hit lots of times). The fellow my Dad exchanged places with died on the plane from that fire before the Red light came on.

    During the jump my Dad said he saw tracers flying everywhere and some of them started swinging his way. There was nothing he could do and his chute was full of holes and 5 or 6 lines cut before he hit the ground. Upon landing in a ditch along side a field, he cut himself free from the parachute.

    He heard shooting all around him but never saw another live paratrooper. He went over to another trooper in the field and found him dead. He said he landed virtually on top of a German Tank park and kept firing at anyone who approached the vehicles. Shortly several bullets struck the ammo he was carrying and glanced away from his heart and one buried itself in his left shoulder. Fortunately for him he was loaded down .30 cal MG ammo belts that criss-crossed his chest. He was wounded again under his right arm (Just a nick) and right wrist during the continuing firefight. He thinks he may have hit 5 or 6 Germans (It was hard to tell how many I hit in the dark) before he ran out of ammo for his rifle and passed out from loss of blood some time just after dawn. His letters indicate he thinks he killed 3 Germans (three notches on my rifle).

    From a letter he wrote home about the jump on 11th September 1944.

    Imagine the feeling you would get if your were in a plane flying across the channel headed for the most formidable fortress the Germans have conceived. When out of the darkness comes a big full moon and lights up the whole place. Rockets, tracers, and every kind of bullet known starts heading for you. Bullets rip through the plane, sound just like hail on a tin roof. A rocket bursts, and the plane lifts just as if a giant hand throws you up. Tracers come in endless chains, wave and follow you, cling, clang, and chew away at the vitals of the vitals of the thing that holds you, just above hell.

    At this moment you stand up, hook up and head out the door, into the muzzles of those guns. Imagine drifting down into that. Off to my left I see the tracers start their path toward me, not the plane, they wave, and start chewing through my chute. I slipped desperately trying the slip away from the bullets and I keep drifting toward the woods, where most of the fire was coming from. Hold it, I'm below the line of fire now I'm hiting the ground. I stopped slipping and wham!

    I wasn't shot in the air, but five or six of my suspension lines where cut and dangling. I tangled up in them when I hit the ground. I cut myself out of my chute with my trench knife, the suspension line that were shot hung on to me as I made it away. All the time the Jerries were coming closer and closer, bullets wistled shells bursted. I made my way to the nearest chute to mine to help the fellow out, he was dead. I left him. The remaining story is just as movie like, but can't be exposed.

    This letter was apparently a two or three part story and unfortunately the rest of the letters have not been found. On 6th June 1945, my father's D-Day story was broadcast/read/dramatized over the Fort Benning Radio station along with that of another 508th veteran.

    He woke up after noon still lying in the ditch looking at some red poppies and blue sky. German soldiers were walking by all around assuming he was dead. With no ammo and severely wounded he decided the best thing to do was surrender. When he stood up in the ditch with his hands raised, the Germans panicked and shot several times until they saw he was surrendering. The captors then took everything he had on him (about $4 in Francs, his clothes, boots, and gear right down to his skivvies) except for a bloody piece of his parachute that he used as a bandage (It's full of holes and blood).

    He said he was treated by the local Battalion Medical Officer, during that time my Mom said he had another close call. The building he was supposed to stay at was overcrowded with German wounded and so he was locked up nearby in a barn when the other building was bombed and blown sky-high.

    After that day he was loaded onto a marked ambulance with several wounded. He didn't mention whether any other paratroopers were with him. After the ambulance traveled some time, Allied aircraft attacked it killing everyone but my father. He was wounded again by this attack with several fragments to his face and chest. He waited by the burning ambulance for several hours before another German vehicle came along and picked him up.

    From a letter on 6th June 1945

    This letter may make up for the letter that I couldn't write one year ago today. I the very hour I'm writing this letter a year ago today I was laying in a small ditch beside a road in Normandy, France. The sun was beating down as it is today, hurting my wounds in the chest and arm, which at that time were about twelve or fourteen hours old and hadn't been treated.

    As I lay there, I was wondering if it was my last day on earth. Germans were everywhere. Blood was still ebbing out of my chest. I had managed to stop the bleeding in my wrist. Even while thoughts of death and wonder filled my mind I could still see the beauty of the poppies around me and recall. In Flanders's fields the poppies grow, between the crosses row on row. Next Sat. my story of the Invasion will pass over the radio, only the people of GA. Alb. and Florida Tenn. and South Carolina can hear it though.

    It took about a week for my Dad to get to the Rennes, France, German POW camp called Front Stalag 221. We have some German Medical papers that show that he got admitted to the hospital there on 13th June 1944 with his last medical entry 31st July 1944. He said that he was fed very little food most of the time and to the day he died he would not eat German black bread. Other POW stories about the Hospital emphasize how bad the food in particular the bread.

    Some time in July, he and another POW in the hospital noticed a pear orchard just over the back wall of the hospital compound. Those two snuck out of camp and were eating pears when the Germans noticed them and shot some warning shots to get them back to the compound. The pears were not ripe yet and gave him a stomachache and diarrhea.

    Another thing he said happened at the hospital was that a German Luftwaffe Officer came in and was talking to some of the patients in the hospital. There was a photographer there taking all sorts of pictures of the German Officer (Josef Priller?) including one that had him describing his flight over the D-Day beaches with his wingman in the hospital. My Dad said he was next to the photographer when he took that picture that is shown frequently whenever the Luftwaffe's role on D-Day is brought up.

    His letters indicate he wrote home twice during his captivity, but none of those letters arrived. (One letter did eventually arrive and I have it.) My father escaped the POW Hospital on or around the 31st July or 1st August 1944. He said that the town and hospital came under artillery fire from a passing column of Patton's army (4th Armor Division). As the artillery fell closer aiming at the Gestapo Headquarters across the street, the German guards went into their bunkers, leaving the hospitalized POWs alone. My father and several others then killed a guard and walked out of the compound, leaning on each other for support.

    Shortly in the town, they met members of the French Resistance who harbored them until they could be liberated. He told me he fought with the Resistance for several days until Rennes was liberated. His letters indicate that he rejoined the Yanks on 7th August 1944 and another V-Mail has his written date as 4th August 1944 (the day the 13th Infantry took Rennes).

    His letters also seemed to imply that he saw some very unpleasant things during this time (man's inhumanity to man) but he never elaborated.

    Dale Johnson







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