The Beginning of the Beginning
Upon receiving his papers, he reported to Local Board No.2 of Grant County for induction into the armed services at 7:00 A.M. on December 10th 1943. He was assigned to the U.S. Army and trained as a private in combat engineering and as a heavy gunner. Shortly after his training he was sent to France with a replacement company arriving after the D-day. He was assigned to Company D, of the 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, Third Army, commanded by Lieutenant General George Patton Jr. The allied forces were opposed by Field Marshal Rommel and General Von Kluge. (www.wikkipedia.com)
Writing in November 22 to his wife Carmen, “All well and safe loving greetings and congratulations fondest love darling." This was very reassuring to his wife having just had a baby to hear that her husband was safe was a great sense of relief. But things would go down hill from there.
Freedom Isn't Free
Patton’s Third Army having overrun Brittany, swept east across France through Tours and Orleans. Along the way his company was among those sent into the Ardennes Forest to clean out the Germans. After a heavy artillery barrage, his company moved in. The Germans, who were apparently not there, and were expecting an attack, directed an artillery barrage on the company and then counterattacked. The soldiers who survived the barrage were surrounded and killed. A few were captured. (www.wikipedia.com) (letters from Albert) The War Department reported Albert Velasquez as Missing In Action (mia) on November 28, 1944.
The Inital Capture
According to family records, November 28 1944 played out like this. Enemy tanks and infantry were reported heading west form Pfarebersweiler at and estimated strength of 200 SS of the 3755 dug in around the forest supported by heavy artillery, this was in addition to those send heading west. It was reported the morale was very low, with some enemy deserters who refused to fight and left the village of Guenviller (?), all retreating to Saarbrucken. One battalion of SS troops was also reported in this area. There was a bridge reported there that was 24 feet wide and 15 feet high was intact. A patrol had spotted an additional undermined number of tanks in Pfarebersweiler. The 1st battalion, D Company was part of this group, had advanced toe the high ground south of Farbersviller receiving heavy artillery, mortor fire, and heavy enemy small army fire. Later towards night-fall a counterattack commenced. This is when Albert was captured.
POW... Life Behind Bars
He was a prisoner in three different camps; Stalag 12a from December 3, 1944 to December. 20 1944; Stalag 4b, December 23,1944 to January 2, 1945; and work camp (bon-kommit form) January 3, 1945 to May 12, 1945. While a POW he worked with other prisoners in a labor camp excavating an underground facility by wheel barrel so the facility could be used as an underground airplane parts factory. Their quarters were cramped, housing 200 men in a single barracks with locked doors and no windows. They had inferior clothing, little food and medicine and were given very little coal to warm there barracks during the bitter winter. He was forced to walk about seven miles each way to the work site. Including passing through German towns and villages where the prisoners were subject to the scorn and abuse of the local population. Once a week all the prisoners were brought out of their barracks, lined up and told they were going to be shot. (app. For POW compensation)
The Beginning of The End
The German field armies continued to fight fiercely against the Russians, but on the western front they surrendered to generals Montgomery and Eisenhower on may 5th, 1945. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill formally announced the surrender on May 8th 1945.(www.wikipedia.com)
The Delicious Taste of Freedom
There is no record to tell how Albert was returned to allied control. But he did say that near the time of the German surrender the prison guards deserted there post and he just walked away from the camp and back to friendly forces. His records state he arrived at friendly forces on May 26, 1945 about 40 pounds underweight. When he returned to the United States, he was sent to Fort Adir, Oregon and worked as a cook to be near food. He also worked in the machine shop, which helped him learn about the tool and die making trade. Before receiving his honorable discharge on October 31, 1945, he was promoted to Private First Class, awarded the coveted Combat Infantry Badge, the Good Conduct Medal and two overseas bars he also receive European African Middle Eastern Campaign medal, American campaign medal, the POW medal, and 60 years later the Bronze Star.
The Fall of a HeroAlbert Velasquez died on October 4th 1978 of natural causes in Marion General Hospital(Chronicle Tribune). He died an American citizen and hero and is now buried in The Gardens Of Memory, just outside of Marion. He was survived by his wife his five daughters and his five sons. He was a great man and one of Marion’s many unknown heroes.
This paper was written by Anthony Russell and submitted for Mr. Munn's ACP US History Class at Marion High School in June 2007.