Heroes: the Army



"...The Italians viewed this human suffering with casual indifference. The Italian doctors would have been more at home in a butcher shop. Wounds were allowed to fester and the ugly sight and smell of gangrene were everywhere. Prisoners were dying of their horrible wounds and lack of medical attention..."


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Arthur F. Gage

  • Branch of Service: Army
  • Unit: 18th Infty. Regiment,
    1st Infantry Division
  • Dates: 1940-1945
  • Location: North Africa Campaign
  • Rank: PFC
  • Birth Year: 1923
  • Entered Service: New Berlin, NY




IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal



IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal


IMAGE of WWII medal


IMAGE of WWII medal


IMAGE of WWII medal


  IMAGE of WWII medal

Arthur F. Gage: 1942


My Army & POW Experience

Arthur F. Gage


     This is the story of my Army and POW experience during World War II. It's in publications like the magazine, POW, which allow us to recall our stories and leave behind information that can be understood by future generations. It is my sincere hope that the reader will find it interesting and informative.

     In 1940, with clouds of war looming ever closer, seven friends and I from New Berlin, New York and the surrounding area decided to enlist in the United States Army. With my father's permission (I was only eighteen years old at the time) we traveled to the recruiting office in Utica, New York. Our request was granted, that we be allowed to serve in the same unit and upon passing the physical, were dispatched to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York for basic training where we became riflemen in the First Division. We were now officially members of the famous Division known as the "Big Red One" and assigned to the 18th Infantry Regiment.

     Ater basic training my regiment received the new MI Garand rifle. This semi-automatic rifle was a tremendous boost to the moral of infantry soldiers because of it's fire power and accuracy. Soon thereafter our battalion prepared to travel to Camp Upton, N.Y. to the rifle range where we could fire this new weapon for effect and also qualify for marksmanship. Soon we had completed the course and had learned every part of the rifle by heart. I qualified as expert, receiving the second highest score in my company. My company commander presented me and others with excellent scores, with the expert rifleman's badge and a three day pass to travel home. My father was elated at my success as a rifleman but he was not surprised because he had trained me how to use a firearm at an early age, and also how to become a woodsman and a hunter. Now his training had paid off. Returning to Fort Hamilton we prepared to move to another location, this time it was Fort Devens, Massachusetts for advanced infantry training.[2]

     It was at Fort Devens that the First Division was re-formed. Since WWI the division had been spread out over the country as separate units, until now. Once consolidated the entire division left Devens as part of the 1st Army Corp for three months maneuvers in North Carolina. This was another phase of training as we prepared to become amphibious forces. Boarding troop ships at the Brooklyn Navy yard we set out to sea, our destination, Virginia Beach, Virginia. It was here that we entered in joint maneuvers with the U.S. marines. After several landings we moved inland to secure our beachhead. Under cover of darkness we withdrew to the beach, loaded aboard our landing craft and returned to our mother ships far out at sea. A few months later we repeated this exercise again with the marines, this time at New River, North Carolina. We were now very well prepared as an amphibious fighting force. At this time there were several German submarines operating off the Atlantic coast. They had sunk several American ships, mostly oil tankers and cargo ships, even though we were not officially at war. Those ships were sitting ducks without an escort to protect them. An alert was sounded because enemy subs had been sighted several miles away. We made a hurried dash towards Norfolk, Virginia and the safety of the harbor defenses. We had to go into the dry dock area and disembark. Then it was back to Fort Devens by convoy.

     After another period of training at Devens we prepared to move to another destination. This time it was to Camp Blanding, Honda for desert and jungle training. A few months later, after completing this exercise we moved again to another location, Fort [3] Benning, Georgia for extended maneuvers and training in low level air attack and defense against tank attack. After some time at this base we demonstrated our skills to foreign military officers to be used by their forces in the Pacific arena.

     My two years of extensive training behind me, I was sent to the port of embarkation at Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania where I awaited orders to be shipped overseas. Soon afterward my regiment and the entire division were transferred by convoy to New York Harbor and boarded the luxury liner, Queen Mary.

     Thanks to Adolph Hitler, this huge ship's peacetime voyages were curtailed, and had been converted to a troop carrier. On August 12, 1942, we began the Atlantic crossing with our destination being the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. At that time, the Atlantic was the hunting grounds of the infamous "Wolf Pack" German submarines. The crossing was made without any escort and I couldn't help but think what a beautiful target the Queen Mary must have presented. Fortunately, the trip was made without the "Wolf Pack" adding another ship to its long list of sunken tonnage.

     From the Firth of Clyde we traveled by train to Tidworth Barracks, England for specialized training in street fighting techniques with British forces. After several weeks we returned to a Scotland ranger base near the outskirts of Glasgow named Polack Shaws where we underwent more training consisting primarily of hand to hand combat. Later it was back to additional amphibious maneuvers, making several night landings along the coast of Scotland. After securing our objectives we moved silently to the beach where our assault craft waited for us. Then it was back to our home base near Dunbarton for consultation with our British [4] counterparts that were attached to our force. We were lucky to have these men with us because of their experience, gained when they were previously under enemy fire several times as they made landings along the coast of Norway and France. The training was very difficult, under cover of darkness and stormy weather. We became even more effective in close combat techniques. The men became hardened for combat wherever needed. Soon this training transformed into reality as my regiment next boarded the British troop ship The Empress of India and set sail for the African continent. We rendezvoused at sea with an armada of other troop ships bound for the invasion of North Africa. Much time was spent aboard ship studying maps and photos of enemy positions set upon sand tables. We also studied many photos of German emplacements taken in October 1942 by a British submarine.

     On November 8, 1942, our ship slipped in close to shore unobserved, and under the cover of darkness, we hit the beaches at Arzew and Oran. We engaged French Vichy forces and took our objectives quickly and efficiently. The fighting was fierce. We moved inland and attacked the town of St. Cloud in bitter street fighting with the French Vichy and French Foreign Legion forces. During this battle, I captured my first enemy soldier.

     On November 10, 1942 at St. Cloud, North Africa I was able to save four others and myself from certain death when an enemy hand grenade was lobbed into our midst. I picked up the active grenade and tossed it through a nearby basement window where it exploded, wiping out the enemy position. For this incident, Sergeant Jones and Lt Howard Maconchi of Company B, 18th Infantry informed me that they were recommending me for the Silver Star. That information was confirmed in person by Major [5] Stockton while I was on guard duty about a week or two later. I never received the Silver Star.

     On Christmas Day 1942, my regiment was in Tunisia fighting along side the British "Cold Stream Guards". Our enemy was the crack troops of the German "Afrika Corps". The three-day battle on this mountain side was christened "Christmas Hill" by the British troops. We named it the "Battle of Long Stop". As we attacked enemy positions on a mountain range we came under heavy artillery fire and by German tanks. Soon we were engaged in hand to hand combat where both sides suffered heavy casualties. I captured my second enemy soldier here after wounding him with rifle fire. As the battle raged on I spotted an enemy patrol on open terrain below the mountainside about 1,000 yards away. This patrol was advancing toward a small group of American soldiers positioned nearby; unaware of the German's approaching presence. I was instructed by my company commander to intercept the patrol's forward advance and use hand signals to warn our men of the apparent danger. As I advanced toward them I was able to identify that the German riflemen were heavily armed and possessed a light machine gun. A German officer was in command of the patrol. He was standing next to an American Sergeant they had captured and were using as a shield in order to enter our lines. As I engaged the patrol with rifle fire, additional firepower was supplied from an area on the opposite side of the field from a GI who had taken up a position previously unbeknown to me and the Germans. With the advantage of having the enemy in a crossfire we were able to wipe out the patrol, taking two German riflemen as prisoners. One of them was wounded by rifle fire, his arm and elbow shattered. The other man kept repeating the same words over and over to me. I later found out that he was saying "please [6] don't shoot me, please don't shoot me, I'm not German, I'm Romanian". In the process, the American Sergeant escaped unharmed. I took the wounded prisoner back to a nearby aid station then returned to my company. In this battle we suffered many casualties. One of the men was a very close friend, from my hometown of New Berlin, New York who had enlisted with me. His name was Hugh Mickel. As a result of this battle, I was again recommended for the Silver Star, this time by my company commander, Captain Cameron. Sad to say, for whatever reasons, I have never received either of these recommended citations. In any case, I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time.

     I was captured by the German "Afrika Corps" on January 11, 1943 near a small Arab village named Med-jez-el-bab in Tunisia. That fateful day I was in command of a combat patrol. We had managed to penetrate the enemy lines and entered an Arab village where we ran into a formidable force of German Paratroopers. A furious firefight took place and we took a toll on these enemy troops until we finally became surrounded and were overrun. Only two of us survived, and were taken as prisoners to an underground bunker. We were then told to stand in a shallow grave they had prepared for us. As they were ready to execute us, a German officer drove up in his staff car and stopped the intended executions in the nick of time. To this day, I don't know who he was or why he did that, but am thankful that he did. Now the nightmare of captivity at the hands of these people was about to begin. The Germans put us in a staff car and drove us to the paratroop headquarters. We stayed there until after dark when we were driven to Tunis. In Tunis, we were guarded in an area surrounded by a high wall and watched by several trigger happy Krauts. After several days here, we were taken to the Tunis airport [7] and flown to Italy where we landed at the Naples airport. We were soon to learn of the dubious German-Italian hospitality. We were confined in filthy cells underground at the College of Naples. The Germans were monsters, but the Italians were a deep cut below them. These Italian so-called "officers" were a disgrace to the human race. As history knows, they abandoned the Germans to their fate during the war. Their supervision of POWs was less than that afforded to the common pig on a farm. After a few days in this hellhole, we were sent to Concentration Camp #66 at Capua, Italy. The camp was full of British Eighth Army prisoners, South Africans, Indians, New Zealanders, Australians and some Americans. Most, if not all, were taken in Africa.

     The camp at Capua, Italy was a hovel. Typhus, dysentery, starvation and filth were its trademarks. Many of the prisoners slept on the ground with no means to keep warm and no food. The Italians viewed this human suffering with casual indifference. The Italian doctors would have been more at home in a butcher shop. Wounds were allowed to fester and the ugly sight and smell of gangrene were everywhere. Prisoners were dying of their horrible wounds and lack of medical attention. One of the men from my company died in the befouled scrap pile of human litter. When the allies liberated this cesspool, they burned that place to the ground.

     Conditions were to get worse as time went on. Loaded onto open cattle cars, we Americans were being moved through the mountainous Alps in the dead of winter. When we think of the Alps, the picture of pleasant ski trips and luxury lodging in this playground of the rich and famous comes to mind. To us, this was anything but a playground, far removed from any form of luxury and closer to hell itself. We were jammed into these cars literally [8] on top of one another, freezing and without food. The cold was pure misery, without food it was almost unbearable. There were no toilet facilities and the train doors were locked and were refused to be opened by the German guards. These guards were traveling with us in protected shelters and most likely with full bellies. This inhumane treatment was an example of what lie ahead.

     We finally arrived in Germany where the train stopped in a railroad marshaling yard and the cars unhitched. We were left there on a siding for another day until they decided to move us to Stalag VII-A near Moosburg. It was terrible how we all suffered during this long journey from Capua to Moosburg. Once arriving at the camp we stood in lines for hours exposed to the cold while we were searched one by one and then sprayed with a disinfectant powder after showering. The Stalag was arranged in a manner that separated prisoners based on nationality. The compound had machine gun towers at each of the four corners and was patrolled by guards and attack dogs walking the outside perimeter.

     We estimated that there were more than 75,000 prisoners at VII-A. One group of men was Polish officers. They were extraordinary soldiers. Several men in our group were also of Polish decent and they spoke briefly with them until the German guards became aware, and at which time were whisked away. Later we were told that they had been taken to an undisclosed location and Nazi death squads had murdered them. They were buried in mass graves, which were long after discovered. The black hearted SS had a strong dislike for all Polish soldiers and were capable of such crimes.[9]

     There were thousands of Russian prisoners at the camp and those that assisted us when we arrived said that the showers we used were the same ones that many Jews had been put to death in. At one time the Russians were lined up in ranks for days at a time in the cold month of March. They were being starved to death in an attempt by the Germans to force them to volunteer for the German army. Most of these men were Mongolians and Ukrainians. I have one remembrance when many of them fell to the ground after a long time of standing in ranks and were left where they lay. We heard machine gun fire during the night and in the morning there were dozens of them hanging in the wire and electric fence. They must have attempted escape by crawling through the barbed wire fence that surrounded all of us. The Nazi guards seemed to take special delight in this "sport". The British soldiers in the camp informed us that a few of the Russian men who previously did give in, were provided food, German uniforms and a propaganda speech before being shipped out and placed on the anti-aircraft guns that ringed the large cities being bombed. During the heavy air raids wave after wave of allied bombers blasted these positions and destroyed them completely. Germans considered Russian converts expendable.

     There were several thousand British prisoners at Stalag VII-A who took us under their wing and taught us the "ropes" about prison life. They were a tremendous help to the Americans. I made friends with several of them as I did with New Zealand and Australian soldiers. I admired their spirit and discipline. They shared their food with us even though they were living on starvation rations. In order to boost the moral of each other we kept the guards on edge at every opportunity. An example of this being, during allied air raids, which were frequent, we would cheer [10] as the bombs exploded hoping that those included would be the SS and Hitler's secret police, the Gestapo. Some of the Gestapo had assigned duties at the camp watching our every move. We had to be very careful in just how we tested them because some of them would shoot at the slightest excuse. There was no punishment if a guard shot a prisoner.

     One day during an air raid, the German guards left the compound and took refuge in an air raid shelter in the camp. With no guards present some of us, curious of conditions and concerned about our fellow prisoners were able to enter the barracks in the Russian compound about 50 yards away and were horrified at what we saw. Dead bodies were everywhere. Men were so weak from starvation they could not stand and there were many of them on the floor where they had fallen. There was no medical aid whatsoever for any Russians. On rare occasions the German's would provide substantially more rations than normal and the starving prisoners would rush to get at the food. German guards, losing the slightest control at this point would bayonet these Russians, killing some, in order to maintain control. One has to wonder if this was a planned act.

     After about two months in Stalag VII-A, about fifty of us were taken to Stalag V-B at Villengen, Germany near Switzerland. This was a disciplinary camp for non commissioned officers and was considered one of the worse Stalags in Germany. I assume I was selected for this camp because when I was originally captured I was in charge of a patrol and must have been thought to be a noncom by the Germans. This Stalag had about 750 prisoners mostly Russians. The French numbered about half the Russians. The camp had about 6 buildings and was strategically located by the [11] Germans about three hundred yards from a torpedo plant, assuming the Allies wouldn't bomb this close to us. They were making these "fish" for their Wolfpack submarines. Again, Russians, French and Americans were separated from each other in barbed wire compounds.

     When we arrived we were cramped into a single room without heat, blankets and without any room to move around. The room had but one window to provide our lighting. We slept on the cement floor with straw as our bedding and our food rations were less than even that which was provided in Stalag VII-A.

     Air raid sirens blasting their warnings were common place as the Americans and British planes bombed targets across Germany. Search lights were used by the Germans in attempts to identify our planes for their anti-aircraft guns. During the many bombings we said a lot of prayers that this place wouldn't be hit. One bomb would have sent all of us to the Great Beyond. During this time we observed women daily being marched into the plant by German guards. The Russian prisoners in V-B told us that the women were Russians being used as slave labor.

     As the days passed, things looked a little brighter here than expected because we knew our airforces were inflicting heavy damage across Germany. This provided us with a moral boost, as did a guitar supplied by the French. In the evenings we were able to serenade the Russians who were bunked next to us. We sang country-western songs to them, and they in turn would sing to us. They would clap their hands in response to our music. I guess it offered a small pleasure to them in their suffering. Whenever possible, we would throw chunks of bread or a piece of potato [12] over the wire fences when we thought the guards weren't looking. 30-yard areas where "warning wires" were stretched that nobody was allowed to cross or enter separated the camp's compound. Sadly, once in a while some of them were shot in cold blood trying to take the food from us that landed in these areas.

     My next accommidations were at Stalag III-B at Furstenburg, Gennany where I stayed for more than a year. It was the largest of my seven prison camps and it like the others also contained prisoners of multiple nationalities. There were about four thousand Americans at this camp, and about 25,000 French and Russians. When Italy surrendered to the allies, the Germans rounded up an estimated 45,000 Italians from the Russian front and brought them here also. It was rumored that there was a huge, underground ammunition dump nearby with a railhead. I have sometimes thought that if that place were ever bombed, how I would never have written this document.

     Word was that a hidden crystal set was here being used by some of the prisoners, which provided news from the BBC in England. The Krauts must have been aware of it because they tore the camp apart several times looking for it, but they never found where it was hidden.

     To boost our morale, we again had a front row seat of all the bombings that took place, even Berlin, as our planes passed over in route to enemy targets. Day and night, month after month, we watched our planes head for their missions sometimes within a few miles of our location. We didn't have air raid shelters, and as the bombs exploded, the earth shook and trembled all around us. At times, the blasts were deafening and I thought that the earth would [13] open and swallow us up. Many nights, it was like the "Fourth of July", as hundreds of bombers dropped their loads, especially when the British dropped the heavy stuff, the blockbusters. Ahead of the bombers came the Pathfinders. They dropped numerous flares attached to parachutes to objectively light up targeted areas. Night turned to day as bombs and anti-aircraft fire mixed together and shook the earth where we lay. At the end of the bombings the Krauts would enter our compound with attack dogs and we would run for cover into our barracks.

     During my imprisonment in III-B there were Polish Americans among us that on an occasion when speaking Polish among themselves were overheard by a couple of guards. To their surprise the guards were also Polish, forced to serve in the German army under the threat that their families, who were being held hostage in slave labor camps, would be otherwise killed. Putting their lives in danger, these guards became allies of us. Today I continue to correspond with Harold Chesterman who lives in Florida and was a chaplain in this camp. He has communicated to me that at one point these same guards smuggled in a camera with film that was used to capture atrocities by the Germans.

     At intervals, we were subjected to periods of starvation when the only food available was soup, often with maggots and rotten meat from dead horses. We ate grass and even bark from the trees to survive. It was common to see men stripped naked, picking lice from their bodies. The straw beds where we slept were alive with them. The men were so starved that their ribs were visible and their bodies looked like skeletons. I myself went down to what I believe was below 100 lbs just before we started the 35 day march from Stalag III-B at Furstenburg to Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde. [14]

     In February of 1945, the Russians were pushing the Germans ever further into Germany triggering the Germans to force march us out of Stalag IIIB in sub-zero weather to avoid the Russian Army. This was to be a march through hell for me. We began as half-starved living relics of the sadistic treatment received at the hands of our German captors. I remember clearly how I ate only one raw potato for the first nine days. There was no water, so we ate snow to quench our thirst. When the column stopped for a break, we rubbed snow on our faces and hands to help our circulation and prevent frostbite.

     At night, when we stopped, the men would huddle together in groups for warmth against the bitter cold. You could hear many moaning as they suffered in agony. Some were lucky to have brought along half a blanket, with which they covered their heads and hands. Day after day, we plodded along without let up. Days turned into weeks. My feet were in terrible condition, bleeding through the strips of clothing I had wrapped around them. Every step was blinding pain, but I was determined that the Germans would not have the last laugh. My mind became lost to time and what was going on around me and I lost all sense of feeling except for the pain in my legs and feet. Soon, I could not bend my legs and walked stiff legged the rest of the way. At that time, I thought back in history to when our brave soldiers at Valley Forge had suffered the same as we did, and I found a hidden strength that I never knew I possessed. The will to live is a very powerful force, which can make men endure untold suffering and survive. Oh, how I love those brave soldiers who shared so much suffering and [15] hardship with me in the darkest hour of our lives. They never gave in to these animals.

     We were constantly on the go with only an occasional break. Guards were routinely changed in order to keep the staggering column ahead of the Russians. From time to time I heard rifle shots as GIs were murdered where they fell on the frozen ground. I saw these monsters shoot and kill one of the marchers as he struggled to regain his feet in a pitiful, painful effort. As I was struggling along, the man next to me gave in and fell to the ground. One of the German guards rushed up with his rifle pointed at the fallen GI. Something inside me snapped and I knew that I could not see this tortured kid slain by this animal. I stepped in front of the rifle and the guard shoved it into my stomach. I pushed the rifle aside and bent down, putting my arms under those of the fallen GI. Other marchers gathered around us so that the guard couldn't shoot me or the helpless GI. The disgruntled guard turned away and left us alone. I never found out whom that GI was. I often wonder if he survived the war and what happened to him.

     During the march, our column came upon the most pitiful looking human beings I had ever seen. A reeling column of human skeletons wearing the black and white striped uniforms of the concentration camp was slowly plodding in our direction. These were the Jews; the people marked for extermination by the barbarous Germans. They were being prodded along by black uniformed SS guards astride horses. The guards would club these poor souls, it seemed, for the sport of it. We started to boo the guards and soon the boos became a roar. We were lucky that the SS did not fire on us. They seemed confused at our reaction. As [16] the column went by I could see many rag clad bodies lying in the mud.

     Somewhere along the way our column met up with a marching column of men from Stalag III-C in Kustrine, Germany, also seeking to escape the advancing Russians. A man I later met from that column during the march and lated shared the same barracks with, became one of my lifelong friends. His name is Clint Daley. He lives in Sabattus, Maine.

     I was beginning to think we would not survive this ordeal when we came upon Stalag IIIA at Luckenwalde. This was a holding camp for thousands of prisoners being marched ahead of the Russian Army. A large group of us were put into a tent without food, heat or adequate water. A single water pipe had to be shared by over 500 men. After about two weeks I was hospitalized due to malnutrition and the poor condition of my feet caused by the forced march. I spent about two weeks in the German prison hospital which were essentially barracks used for medical treatment. After release from the hospital I was placed into barracks located next to a compound that housed Serbian soldiers.

     Within the first few weeks, Clint and I met and made friends with a group of Serbian soldiers. The Serbs told us about their king and how Yugoslavia was a democracy when they joined the army. Many stories were told and we all shared the same hatred towards the Nazi's. They told me of their countrymen who had fled into the mountains and fought as guerrillas when the Nazi's occupied their country. They had fought throughout the war against overpowering odds and had never given up. I could not turn my back and walk away when my country was still at war and [17] I was a soldier. One man in particular became our friend, Danilo Rasic. He was a sergeant major. How they loved their king and we Americans. At the end of the war these men could not return to their country in fear of death at the hands of the communist government. Thousands of them stayed in displaced persons camps until a country in the free world would accept them. Thousands from labor camps and stalags were sent to America. Once more they could start their lives again as free men. Little did I know then that many years later, Danilo, Clint and myself would meet again, this time in America.

     The Russians finally liberated Stalag IIIA and my 29 months of starvation and pure hell were coming to an end. I could not forgive the Germans for the treatment we had received. All those months and years in prison had left a dark mark upon me. I had witnessed so much murder of countless innocent victims and cruelty inflicted upoin the sick and wounded. I had seen the horror of the gas chambers, and the rows of prison tags hanging on wooden pegs. signs of how many had been murdered in the room in which I had once showered. History has documented how they would herd entire families into these shower rooms on the pretense that the people were to receive warn showers. Instead, the diabolical Germans would dump a can of "Zyclon B" gas into a fixture in the ceiling which would enter the room and once inhaled, cause a miserable choking death &emdash; the "master race' s" method of wholesale slaughter. And above all this cruelty and horror, I continuously saw the sadistic smirks on the faces of the German guards. It gave me all the reason and more to want to settle the score with them. As the Russian troops drew closer the battle sounds became louder and louder, one evening finally reaching the camp and blistering the guard towers with machine gun fire. We [18] saw guards desert their posts and run. The morning after, with the camp void of Germans I was able to enter the Russian compound. In the compound those who were physically able were preparing to join their comrades in the battle for Berlin. The invading Russian army had supplied numerous weapons of German and Russian make to the prisoner's, apparently confiscated during their advance. After spending a few hours in the Russian compound I returned to my barracks. The next morning I approached the Russian tanks at the main gate where I received food and hand shakes from the Russian soldiers. It was there that I met a Russian prisoner named Mishka, who spoke German, as did I, which enabled us to communicate. I volunteered to join them in the fight against the Germans. They supplied me with captured enemy equipment, I picked out a German sniper rifle and scope and he picked out a Russian model. He offered to take me with him to meet several of his friends and we walked about two kilometers from Luckenwalde then along the railroad tracks leading away from the town. A few kilometers later we came upon a farm house occupied by Russian soldiers. It was a Command Post with a field radio. Nearby was a light tank. We set up a firing position located at the edge of an opening separating two wooded lots. The enemy were using this opening to cross from the one wooded area to the other. Mishka and I dug in a few yards apart in fox holes, well concealed, along with other Russian riflemen nearby on the other side of the open field. Several times we caught enemy troops in a crossfire as they attempted to get from one wooded area to the other. We later found several dead Germans who wore the SS insignia. Nearby we also found several dead Jewish prisoners who wore black and white uniforms murdered by the SS.

     It was in the afternoon about five days late when the firing ceased. On our way back to the farm house command post a small [19]convoy of Russian trucks approached us and stopped. A Russian officer came walked to me, looked me over and spoke. I could not understand Russian, so I answered in German, hoping that he would understand. He did. Noticing my German weapon and beat up clothing he asked who I was and what I was doing there. I told him that I was liberated by the Russians and had joined in the fight against the SS troops in the area. He saluted me and asked if there was a hospital in the area. Having passed through the town on the way here I was able to draw a sketch in the dirt of the road and told him where to go in Luckenwalde to find the hospital. I walked to the back of the truck and saw that it was loaded with badly wounded Russian soldiers. The truck behind this one was of similar condition, with many of the wounded covered with blood. He explained that they had been fighting on the outskirts of Berlin. They soon departed for the hospital.

     After meeting two other American POWs who had joined the Russians, I decided that my fighting days should come to an end. The "killing fields" had gotten to me. I left the Russian occupied farmhouse early one morning, minus much of my equipment, and headed back towards Stalag LILA. As I approached the Stalag, I noticed that it seemed deserted. There were a few Americans standing around a huge fire just beginning to barbecue a cow when someone mentioned having seen a convoy of American trucks in the area. The entire group of us took off immediately in search of those trucks, and a few kilometers later there they were, parked and waiting. The big white star on the doors of those trucks were the most wonderful thing to see.

     I was a free man again. I cannot adequately describe how I felt at that moment. Freedom! What a beautiful thing to have. We [20 loaded up onto those two and a half ton beauties and headed for a captured German airbase. The officer in charge of our ragged detail was a Captain who would see to it that we were once again treated as human beings. Waiting for us were Army air transports ready to fly us to France. After landing, we were transported by truck to Camp Lucky Strike and given our first wholesome food for many, many long months. Our shrunken stomachs had difficulty digesting the food after such a long period without real nurishment, but after a few days of ingesting vitamin pills and nominal food we soon were back in the chow line again. After a month or so we were given three day passes to Paris and upon returning to Lucky Strike, we were organized for the trip back to the good old USA.

     I returned to the wonderful state of Massachusetts and was reunited with my future wife, Mary. It was good to be home. I had become engaged before I left for overseas and my sweetheart had waited three long years for me to return. She never gave up hope that I was lost.

     A week later Mary and I took a train to Utica, New York to meet my parents. Their hair had turned white, much of which I attributed to the stress related to my ordeal. They hadn't known I was a POW until three months after my capture. They told us how they had received two telegrams from the government during my time in Africa, notifying them first that I had been listed as MIA, and then in the second telegram that I was presumed dead. The ordeal of not knowing for sure was hard for them to cope with.

     I was given a 75 day furlough and on the 14th of July 1945, we were married. After the furlough I reported back to Fort Devens for assignment. I was told to report to Lake Placid, New York for [21] two weeks of rehabilitation and Mary was able to come with me. From there I was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, again accompanied by my wife, and received my discharge.

     Looking back over those past five years I recognize that three of the seven friends that enlisted with me from New Berlin lost their lives. Hugh Mickle died in Tunisia at the savage battle at Long Stop, on Christmas Day, 1942. Gordon Waffle was seriously wounded following the invasion of Sicily and died aboard a hospital ship. David Brown was killed in France at the battle of St. Lo. Ralph Waffle, Gordan's brother, was wounded at the battle of Long Stop, returning to combat and later taken prisoner in France. He was liberated by the allies at the end of the war and returned home with an honorable and much deserved discharge. Claude Webster was seriously wounded following the invasion of Omaha beach and consequently lost a leg. He was given a medical discharge soon after and also returned home. Rupert Mickle, Hugh's brother, after the war also returned home with an honorable discharge and later moved to Texas. John Bagnall remained in the Army for 20 years and retired.

     This then, is the story as I lived it so long ago. I have not forgotten those terrible days and I am still plagued by many of those memories today. After seeing freedom taken' from so many, including myself, I can only say, "Thank God I survived this nightmare, and thank God victory was ours". I'm proud to have served in the First Division, 18th Infantry, as a rifleman. [22]


-----Arthur F. Gage


Arthur Gage: A profile in courage

The Gazette, Thursday, Nov. 7, 1996


By Jill Fahy


     Arthur Gage, a native of New Berlin; recently passed an important milestone in his life. At age 74, he became a master in Tae Kwon Do, a status obtained by earning a fifth-degree black belt in the martial art. This achievement in and of itself is significant, but more importantly, his entire life has proved an achievement in perseverance and courage.

     Gage was born in New Berlin, the first of ten children, and grew up attending the local schools, excelling in baseball and track. His younger brother Al recalls Gage's, love- of the outdoors. "He loved tb hunt, fish and trap - a real outdoorsman.

     At 18, Gage patriotically enlisted in the Army's First Infantry Division with friends Hugh and Rupert Mickle, Gordon, and Ralph Waffle, David

     Brown, Ernest Webster and John Bagnall, most of whom were eventually killed in combat.

     In 1943, Gage was captured by the Germans in North Africa and, for two and a half years, was starved and brutalized until the Russians liberated Berlin.

     Weighing less than 100 pounds, Gage was sent to a P.O.W. center in Lake Placid for rehabilitation and debriefing.

     Unfortunately, beyond immediate physical rehabilitation, the Army was ill-equipped in dealing with the emotional as well as long-term medical recovery of the soldier. For years, Gage was to suffer, chronically, the psychological and physical effects of a two and a half year imprisonment.

     At age 50, after miraculously surviving two heart attacks, Gage turned to Tae Kwon Do as a catharsis for the emotional and physical trauma suffered during World War II.

     Gage had long been interested in the martial arts and learnd Karate as part of his combat training. But as he explained in a recent interview,

     "The martial arts is not just about self-defense, but mental discipline, patriotism, humility and respect."

     Gage's initial training in Tae Kwon Do and a resulting first-degree black belt was received through the tutelage of certified Korean Masters. "His (Korean certified) black belt is a rare commodity," said brother Al.

     Gage says his mastery of Tae Kwon Do has been a life-long goal, but with this achieved, he continues to share his sense of dedication and persever ance with others, as a teacher of the martial arts in Leominster, Mass. He became an instructor in 1984 and has served as mentor to at least 12 black belt recipients. "To me the greatest goal is to see these people stick with it, get their black belt and follow through," he said.

     Arthur Gage is a veteran, a fifth-degree black belt and a dedicated teacher and family man. His has been a story of strength and fortitude in the face of adversity and, at 74, he serves as an example to us all.

Note: In the story the numbers identified as such [19] are the page numbers assigned to the original story transcription received by us at World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.


Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...

1st Division in America's Wars

The Big Red One

Society of the 1st Infantry Division

1st Infantry Division

U.S. Army Infantry Divisions

U.S. Army in WWII

National World War II Memorial

World War II Causality Search


The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of Mr. Arthur F. Gage and for his good friend, C. Bazzano, LCDR, USCG for their offer of sharing this incredible story with us. Our sincerest THANKS is extended to both gentlemen


Original Story submitted on 16 April 2004.
Story added to website on 19 April 2004.
Page modified on 13 July 2004.


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