POW recalls Battle of the Bulge - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

POW recalls Battle of the Bulge

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SUMTER COUNTY, GA -

Friday was National POW-MIA recognition day, a day to honor troops who sacrificed so much for our country.

A World War Two veteran shares his terrifying experience as a prisoner.

The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest battle during World War II, more than 19,000 Americans were killed and more than 25,000 were captured or are still missing.

One of those men captured by the Germans was John Gatens.

In a matter of months, World War 11 Veteran John Gatens experienced both the best and the worst days of his life.

"For two weeks, I thought I'm never going to go home, but when they kept me for two weeks I thought maybe I'm going to make it and thank God I'm here today to say I did make it," said World War 11 Veteran John Gatens.

He still recalls every vivid detail of the horror he experienced during the Battle of the Bulge the bloodiest battle during World War II.  He was stationed at Parkers Crossing when Germans took over.

"There was a German tank pointed right at the door and he hollered in are you coming out or do we fire. and there are no heroes when you got a German tank with a cannon pointing at you," said Gatens.

That moment marked the end of his combat experience and the beginning of his experience as a prisoner.

"I was taken away and became a prisoner for fourth months," said Gatens.

He recalls the misery of walking more than 400 miles in frigid temperatures with little clothing.

"They took away our overcoats, our gloves and we all had a warm winter hat and they took that away," said Gatens.

And he remembers starving as well

"In four months I never took off my clothes never bathed never brushed my teeth and we lived like that for four months," said Gatens.

He says one of the scariest moments was when US fighter planes almost killed their own

"All of a sudden they would come up over a hill, the machine guns would be wide open," said Gatens.

But says waving something American quickly changed their paths.

"To them when they spotted a bunch of soldiers walking down the road in Germany, they automatically believed it was German soldiers," said Gatens.

He started his journey on the Belgium border and ended in Brennen Germany.

"That's where I was liberated by the welsh guards and it was the greatest day of my life," said Gatens.

He walked into combat a carefree 19-year old but walked out as a proud and strong American man.

Gatens lives in New Jersey, but he's in Americus with other POW's so if you see any make sure you say thank you because most of us will ever understand what they endured for our country.

 

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