My Grandfather, James Richard Williams, Jr. was born in 1922 to
a prominent family in a small town called Eufaula, Alabama. He enlisted in the
Air Force in 1942 and initially became a gunnery instructor at Drew Field in
Tampa, Florida. There, he was chosen to be a part of a special B-17 crew. This
plane had a very secret invention installed in it. This invention was called
radar. My Grandfather was sent to Langley Air Force Base for FBI clearance, flew
secretly to Ireland and eventually landed in an Air Force Base in Nuthampstead,
England as part of the 8th Air Force. There he flew 29 out of 30 required
missions. The target of his next to last mission before being allowed to return
home, was Misburg, Germany where Hitlerís oil refinery was located. This
mission was critical and a high priority. The mission was successful, but just
after bombs away, they were hit and the plane caught on fire. The crew jumped
out and landed close to each other. After a few minutes, they were surrounded by
German civilians who hit, kicked, spit and cursed at them. He marched all night
to Frankfurt where he became a POW.
In all sense of the word, my Grandfather really was a prisoner.
His life as a POW was tough. It was winter, so the weather was cold, but he
didnít have enough clothes or blankets to keep him warm. He was held in
solitary confinement for 30 days where he
was interrogated by Hitlerís best men at least twice a day. It
was just his luck to arrive at the camp at the beginning of the starvation
period when each person received only 800 calories a day. The men were so weak,
they couldnít even get out of bed, yet every morning they were called for roll
call where they would stand at attention for hours in the snow. From this, my
Grandfather got frostbite on his toes. He also had a German rifle butt shoved
into his back, which caused him pain for the rest of his life. But, thatís not
the only thing that stayed with him. The tolls of a POWís life last for a
lifetime. Due to starvation, my Grandfatherís stomach was always a problem.
For the rest of his life, he never got a decent nightís sleep because he would
wake up with stomach pains. Also, when my mom was a little girl, she would be
sent to wake my Grandfather up from a nap. But, she was not allowed to touch him
or yell his name. She had to very quietly say his name at the bedroom door,
because if startled awake, he would come up fighting.
As you can tell, the misery and turmoil my Grandfather
experienced in Germany affected his life forever. But my Grandfather was not the
only person who had to live with these kinds of memories. There are thousands
upon thousands of Americans who are still suffering from their own personal POW
nightmares. These men live everyday without the respect that they deserve. They
were interrogated about secret missions and weapons and were sent to solitary
confinement just like my Grandfather. I believe Americans everywhere should take
care to remember those who secured our freedom by temporarily losing theirs.
Learning about my Grandfatherís history has given me a deeper respect for all
POWís. I wish that I had gotten the chance to talk to my Grandfather and hear
about his experience first hand, but he died before I was even born. I hope your
Grandfather is still alive, maybe he has a history that you can be proud about,
the same way I cherish my Grandfatherís memory.