"There were many that came and gone and did not get their medals, we just thank God that he got his, so sorry that it’s taken this long..."
68-years after being liberated from a prisoner of war camp in Germany, a Creek County World War Two veteran is finally being honored.
Bill Caldwell was a B-17 pilot during the Second World War when his plane was shot down and he was taken prisoner. On Saturday, Sept. 14 he was awarded a medal at the Disabled American Veteran’s building in Sapulpa for being a prisoner of war.
Members of the DAV told Caldwell’s story to a gathering of veterans, including other WWII POWs and veterans.
According to Caldwell, his crew was on a bombing raid when they were separated from the body of planes.
“Two German jets came up through the vapor trail and shot our plane and the plane next to me,” Caldwell said. “We got one of them, but they got two of us.”
Caldwell and his crew were shot down near a city that was 40 miles north of Dresden.
"A lot of things flashed in front of you. We knew we were in big trouble,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell was the last to grab a parachute, which are sized by weight.
“It was an ill-fitting parachute, but we'd been without oxygen and communications so we were just about as groggy as you could get,” Caldwell said. “I'm just floating through the air unconscious and I hear this explosion and I look up and "hey, that’s our airplane!" So I pull the ripcord and from then on I was down low enough I guess that I didn't need oxygen, so I just enjoyed the flight down.”
Caldwell landed in a field and thought he could make a friend with the plowman. It turned out that the plowman was a Polish prisoner and couldn’t speak English. The farmer took Caldwell by pitchfork to where the other prisoners were.
Caldwell was imprisoned in Stalag 7a and was liberated by General Patton himself on May 29, 1945.
Prior to the camps liberation, the prisoners of war traveled across Germany.
“Main thing we suffered was lack of food,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell and the other prisoners would ask for food in the villages that they walked through during their detention. The people that gave them food would ask them to sign a note so when they were taken over, they had evidence of being sympathetic to the Americans.
“It was quite an experience,” Caldwell said. “It was an experience that you learned that those people are just like us. They didn't want that war."
The POWs were camped in a city near Moosburg when Patton and his army liberated the camp.
“So sure enough around 1 p.m., here comes General Patton…and he didn't salute or wave or speak to anybody as he came in,” Caldwell said. “[Patton] stayed about 30 minutes and left. But we got a good look. It was kinda of an experience."
When asked about the ceremony and the honor, Caldwell seemed humbled.
"I don't know that I did this much,” Caldwell said. “Anyway it was a very nice honor and I very much appreciate it."
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