Former POWs remember WWII - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Former POWs remember WWII

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December 6, 2004

Albany- Sixty-three years ago today, Japan was planning a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The December 7th attack killed thousands of Americans and pushed America into World War Two.

We talked with some Vets who remember World War II vividly. Though none was in Hawaii, all experience the horrors of war.

The first Monday of each month is meeting day for the Southwest Georgia chapter of American Ex-POWS. The veterans and their wives talk about upcoming events, veterans benefits, and share stories of war.

"I was on my 23rd mission when I was shot down," said Charles McGhee. Charles McGhee was flying B-17's when he was shot down and captured in Hungary. "They didn't have us work. Which was good in some ways, but it was boring, and you couldn't get out."

Even though the condition weren't too bad, McGhee said men tried to escapee until fifty were gunned down. "After that we didn't try many escapes."

"But, I knew our good people and the Lord would take care of us," said McGhee.

McGhee's family knew only that he was missing in action. Until, eight months after he was captured when he was finally freed and came home.

Across the continent and ocean, on the Philippine Islands, L. A. Oakes was also a prisoner of war. "When Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, they sank all the ships in the South Pacific. We couldn't get any help in or out," he recalled.

His unit finally surrendered and was forced to march one hundred miles to Camp O'Donnell-- the Battaan Death March. Many men died of hunger and exhaustion, and summary executions, but Oakes stayed optimistic. "I thought 'the Japs have jumped on the wrong country now.' I had no doubt that the Americans would come after me, if I could just hold out to that time came."

That time came three long years later. Nearly starved and worked to death, Oakes was saved. "The Japs told us to get ready to go. They said you will march out of here, get on a train, and we'll turn you over to the Americans. That's the way I got rescued."

Now, the group of POW's reflects on a day that changed history, December 7, 1941. But like America, the veterans survived the war and are stronger because of the fight.

More than 2,400 men, women, and children at the Naval Station in Pearl Harbor died during the attack.

posted at 5:15PM by dave.miller@walb.com