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Oral history interview with Leon Hawkersmith

Oral History | Accession Number: 2014.51.49 | RG Number: RG-50.759.0049

Leon Hawkersmith (born circa 1920) discusses his experiences during WWII; being a tail gunner on a B-24 and completing 15 combat missions with the 8th Air Force out of England before he was transferred to Italy and assigned to the 98th Bomb Group, US Army Air Corps when he was shot down; becoming a prisoner of war (POW) of the Germans for a period of over a year towards the later part of the war; being treated roughly when he was first captured; spending about five days in a cattle car without food and only some substitute coffee and no place to lay down; arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, where he received some soup; ending up in the Stalag 17 POW camp; being marched in formation near the Dachau concentration camp, and seeing a group of about 50 or more political prisoners, in striped uniforms, headed towards them; the physical condition of the prisoners, who were all emaciated, just skin and bones, in much worse shape than the American POWs even though Leon had lost 50 pounds during his year in captivity; the political prisoners begging for food, but the American POWs were not able to help them; seeing one of the political prisoners fall to the ground and the German guards tell two other prisoners to pick him up, but they were too weak to do it, so one German guard shot the prisoner as he was begging for his life; how at the time, Leon was really not that shocked by the German’s action as he had seen what the Germans were capable of while he was a POW, but he could only internally ponder how any man can do that to another man; seeing a civilian woman come out of her house and in German yell that Roosevelt was dead, which is how they found out about the President (and it also marks the time of the incident); and his return to the United States and how it took him a year to adjusted to life and get married.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Leon Hawkersmith
Mary Cook
Nita Howton
interview:  1994 June 09
1 sound cassette : analog.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Mary Cook and Nita Howton
Record last modified: 2020-05-27 12:50:12
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