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Pte. John Meulendyk
US Army 648th Tank Destroyer Btn. 36th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron.
from:Grand Rapids, MIJohn Meulendyk POW Stalag IIA Neubrandenberg, Germany 15 Dec.1944 to 2 May 1945, Recorded by: Jeff Meulendyk (Son)
This is a story told to me by my father, John Meulendyk, about his time as a German POW during World War II.
Dad had been in country only two weeks when on the morning of December 15, 1944, Dadís squadron (36th Calvary Mec Recon) was sent out on a recon patrol to search for German tanks. They had spent the whole day looking and then started back to camp. The Lieutenant decided that since it was getting late they would return by the same route they had taken during the day. Dad said this was not standard practice but followed orders. Another soldier was assigned the point position and was scared. He had a family back home so Dad, who was assigned the right flank, switched places with him. While crossing a field a shot rang out and instantly killed the other soldier. Dad jumped into a ditch and was confronted by a German soldier. Dad was able to over power the German soldier and held him captive. The German forces were overwhelming and soon dad had to surrender.
Dad was taken to a German camp and interrogated. The German captain asked Dad about which group he was with. Since Dad had only been in country for two weeks he gave the officer information about the unit he had replaced and not his. The following morning the captain returned and told dad that he had lied. Over night the Captain had somehow found out the correct information he was looking for.
Dad and one other US solder were put on a train along with one guard. They were to be transported to Stalag IIA. During the trip the train entered and stopped in a town. Dad didnít know which town but it had just been bombed. The German guard pulled down the shade over the window and told dad not to peek out. He said that if any of the townís people knew there were Americans on the train they would kill them.
When Dad got to Stalag IIA he had a short learning curve. Slicing bread very thin to avoid the glass the Germans baked in the bread became a habit. He was told that disease was great in the camp and to try and get work outside of the camp as much as possible. In the spring he and another soldier were assigned to work on a farm. The farmer was kind to Dad and one time while the farmer was milking his goat squired some of the milk into Dadís mouth. Dad said that if the German guard had seen this he would have killed the farmer. Dad and the other soldier were given to eat, a half of a horseís head and some bread with lard. Neither could eat the horses head and gave it to the farmer. The farmer was overjoyed since they rarely got any meat.
Dad described the two guards that switched off guarding them at the farm. He said one was like Sgt. Schultz on Hoganís Heroes. They use to play jokes on him. Once they took his bayonet and hid it. He became very angry because had his superior officer found out he would be sent to the Russian front. The other guard Dad described as being a ďson of a bitchĒ. Anyone knowing Dad would know this is a phrase he never used so the guard must have been pretty bad. In the spring of 1945 (around May 1) the camp awoke and found that all of the Germans were gone. The Russians were close and the Germans simple left. Not wanting to be under Russian control the entire camp left to return by foot to the American lines. Dad was returned to U.S. control on May 2, 1945.
36th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized Activated as the 90th Reconnaissance Squadron on 15 September 1942 organic to 90th Motorized Division and organized from 90th Infantry Divisionís old reconnaissance troop. Relieved when division reorganized as infantry division in early 1943, attached to 4th Headquarters Special Troops in June, then to 11th Cavalry Group. Redesignated 36th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 22 December 1943. Arrived in UK 11 October 1944; Le Havre, France, 23 November. Entered line in Roer River sector 13 December. Operated between Ninth Army and British forced during Roer crossing and drive to Rhine beginning 27 February 1945, sent first patrol across Rhine 15 March. Raced across Germany to the Elbe River near Wittenburg by 15 April.
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