Accounts- B/275 - Tony Acevedo|
Grade Rate or Rank: Corporal
The following narrative is
based on a diary I wrote while being held captive by German forces during the
Battle of the Bulge.
MOS: Surgical Technician
Decorations, medals, badges, commendations and
campaign ribbons awarded: Bronze Star with 3 service stars and
German clasp, Purple Heart, Victory Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge, Good
Conduct Medal, American Theater, European, African, Middle Eastern
Theater of Operations Ribbon with 3 bronze stars, Prisoner of War
Ribbon, Belgium Merit of Honor Award Campaigns: Ardennes
Campaign, Rhineland Campaign, Central Europe Campaign.
I was a Medic for the 275th Infantry
Regiment of the 70th Infantry Division and assigned to Company B. My story
begins with the events leading to interment in a Nazi German prison camp,
January 6, 1945.
we were heading back towards Phillipsbourg we were told, "We’ve been cut off.
The Germans have the place surrounded". I was still carrying all of my equipment
in my backpack. My buddies yelled back to me to drop everything but my medical
kits. I was scared and reluctant to leave my equipment behind. As we headed down
the slope towards a gully I heard a voice, crying out, "...medic, medic. I’ve
been hit! ". Then as I headed towards the voice I slipped on some branches and
gunfire erupted. A shot struck my back but luckily the equipment on my back
absorbed the impact and saved my life. My helmet fell off, but I was able to
crawl, recover it and put it back on. I was then able to attend the wounded.
Just then, down in the gully we noticed a cave with 4 to 6 Krauts that had been
firing at us. One of our men shouted for mortar fire, killing all but one of
them. Our men, killing the Kraut fired more shots.
was getting dark and soon we received word that we would not be able to go back
to Phillipsbourg, the Germans had taken control of it. So, we headed up the hill
to Falkenberg Heights. Several of our men were wounded and a medic was killed. I
identified the dead medic - A buddy of mine named Murry Pruzan. We were without
food for six days, the only thing in our favor was the snow which we ate.
We were being surrounded. Our
planes were bombing the hill below us to save us from being captured. German
tanks had surrounded us and before we knew it, the Krauts were on top of us.
Shrapnel hit me and a Kraut poked
me with his bayonet because I was too slow to walk. They made me take off my
boots and walk on the snow bare footed. I don’t know how far nor how long I
walked that day, but whatever it was it seemed endless. We were then put into
box cars used for cattle. We were not able to sit or squat for several days and
nights. The train was being strafed due to the "dog fights". Suddenly the train
came to a stop, we got out of the box cars and walked to a place full of German
soldiers. We were ordered to march to the gates of a concentration camp called
Bad Orb-Stalag 9B. The camp consisted of prisoners from different
nationalities, Africans, Spaniards, French, and Arabs to name a few. Hereafter I
was designated as prisoner number 27016.
morning we were rushed out of the barracks and lined up along trenched dugouts.
Behind us, the Krauts stood with their machine guns pointing to our backs. We
had to stand outside all day in the snow. It was cold and some of us were bare
footed. The Germans refused to let us put on our boots and as the day wore on
some were so weak that they collapsed and fell into the trench filled with
excrement. We later learned that the Germans wanted to know who had hatched the
head of a cook with a meat cleaver. Food was so scarce that many were at the
point of starvation and attempts were made to steal food. At the end of the day,
a chaplain was able to convince those involved to step forward. Soon a couple of
guys gave themselves up and immediately were put into confinement. They were not
killed but punished severely. The rest of us were sent back to the barracks and
placed under closer watch.
few days later, in the morning, we heard the sound of barrack door chains
rattle. Three SS troopers walked in with their machine guns pointing in all
directions, behind them a Gestapo Field Marshall walked in wearing a long
leather black coat, tall boots and a monocle over his eye. It was just like in
the movies; he looked all around studying each of us while he smoked a cigarette
with holder at the other end. Finally he motioned towards me pointing with his
finger. The German guards pushed me to follow him. I was the only one singled
out. We entered a room furnished with only two chairs and a table. He sat on one
side and I at the other, then immediately began to interrogate me. He said, "You
medics know what’s going on behind the lines!" I told him I knew nothing and
said all I know is my name, rank and serial number. He just laughed at my
answers and said, "No, no ,no.....you know something!". I repeated I knew
nothing of what was going on, "I’m only a medic". He countered with, "Oh yes you
do! I’ve heard this story many times. You know something. Look, I know all about
you." To my amazement he proceeded to tell me that I was born in San Bernardino,
California and lived in Pasadena, California, with my cousins; that my parents
moved us to Durango, Mexico; knew that my father was a civil engineer and had
been commissioned by the Mexican Government to construct airplane landing strips
for U.S. forces and was also involved in a PT boat project with an associate out
of Texas; and knew of two employees that worked for my father. He added, "Isn’t
that the truth?". I said, "I don’t know. How do you know?". "Look, I’m not
dumb!", he responded and spoke in both English and Spanish, fluently. At this
point I felt pinned but maintained my composure as best I could. He continued,
"You left Mexico when you were 17 to return to the U.S. to study medicine. You
decided to enter the Army. That we know. I also know that your father had his
two employees arrested"
Two friends and myself discovered
that two of my father’s employees were spying for German U-Boats docked in the
Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico. One of my friends had studied Morse code
and had detected the messages while we swam next to a building where the code
was coming from. When my father made the discovery he had them immediately
As the field Marshall continued his
interrogation, he told me he also knew of a Schweader family and a sailor cousin
of theirs who deserted from the Graf Spee German battleship which fought the
battle of Montevideo. He made it to Durango and subsequently sold my father a
rifle. The family was part of a colony of German families living in Mexico.
interrogation went on. I was coerced and tortured with needles inserted in my
fingernails. I felt numb all over. It was very painful. Realizing he wasn’t
getting anywhere with torture, he gave up, then made promises to send me to
medical school in Munich and give better treatment to my buddies and me. He told
me to think about it.
On February 6, 1945, we heard
fighter planes over our barracks. A dogfight ensued. It was a P-47 with a German
fighter. Bullets sprayed all around and some hit a brick wall. Two of our men
were hit and killed. In the course of that event the clock tower was hit and
stopped at exactly 12:00 noon. That afternoon, plans were being made to move us
out and divide us into several groups from camp Bad Orb to other areas. We had
heard that their intent was to segregate American Jews from the other prisoners
and that this new location would be a better place to stay. There would be more
food, better living conditions and more freedom. For some unexplained reason I
was included among them.
Shortly thereafter, we had orders
to stand outside of our barracks. About Three hundred-fifty of us were assigned
to move out to God knows where. The Krauts spat, kicked and swung rifle butts at
us because we wouldn’t move fast enough. We were ordered to get into boxcars and
traveled several days and nights. On February 8, 1945, we arrived at the new
camp. It was called Berga an der Elster.
Berga was considered a mining
center with caves and excavated tunnels for what appeared to be gun emplacements.
We soon realized that it was nothing but a SLAVE labor camp. The worst
was yet to come. Prisoners were being murdered and tortured by the Nazis. Many
of our men died and I tried keeping track of who they were and how they died in
my diary. During this time of confinement, we only ate 100 grams of bread per
week made of saw dust with redwood bark. Just enough to barely stay alive. At
3:00 AM they had me and another buddy go for the "tea run". The tea was nothing
more but dry weeds and shrubs boiled in water. I was told that the soup we ate
was made from cats and rats.
Conditions were so poor that
disease was prevalent and many soldiers were very ill. One of our men was dying
of diphtheria I tried convincing the Germans to let me perform a tracheotomy
operation by boiling and sterilizing my fountain pen. I told them that his life
could be saved. Instead, one of the guards responded by striking a fellow medic
and me on the jaw with the butt of his rifle.
On one occasion I remember a
Commandant named Metz presenting us with a supposedly famous German boxer who
had fought Joe Louis. He was dressed in a SS uniform and told us he was going to
help us, which he lied since we never heard from him again.
On March 20, 1945, a fellow
prisoner named Goldstein was shot and killed for attempting to escape. That day,
when his body was brought in, I was ordered to testify that I witnessed
Goldstein’s escape and to claim he was shot for that reason. Not only had he
been shot in the upper torso, but I also noticed upon closer examination, a shot
to his forehead. The hole had been filled with wax to cover up the SS troops use
of wooden bullets. I managed to acquire some of these bullets, but during my
hospitalization I lost track of them. Others had been shot in the same manner as
Goldstein. This I knew after having also examined them as well.
Since efforts were being made to
escape, we were ordered to remove our clothing before bedding down to prevent
anyone from escaping. While naked I was ordered to take the clothing outside to
a shack. We slept unclothed, two to a bunk and without heat, constantly
threatened by the Germans.
we were able to find broken glass and use it to shave with, but better yet to
help remove the white lice. We were always breathing and eating dust and dirt
from those tunnels. Many of us could not tolerate the torture. On April 3, 1945,
we had learned that American and Russian troops were about 100 km away and were
closing in. The Germans were preparing to evacuate us. On April 6th we started
to march out of the camp. Many of the men were becoming increasingly ill and
suffering from malnutrition. Rumors circulated that we were heading towards the
Bavarian Mountains, Hitler’s Eagles Nest. It turned out to be a death march. Up
ahead of us we saw many political prisoners, women and children. They were being
machined gunned down while trying to escape. Shots were fired from both sides of
the highway in what appeared to be an ambush. It was a massacre. The Krauts also
made use of remote controlled miniature tanks.
Our men started to die one by one.
It happened so fast that I couldn’t keep track of all of them. We continued to
march and took turns pulling and pushing a cart of 10 to 20 injured and sick
soldiers. The night was spent in a barn outside the town of Hof. Ground activity
had now escalated and we knew that our boys were getting closer. The Germans
made us keep marching and I fell back to help the sick.
The march lasted and continued
until April 22, 1945. That day while I waited in a soup line, one our
interpreters cried out that we were to move out immediately! We could hear small
arm fire in the distance. The guards yelled out, "Rouse! Rouse!", but we acted
as though we were too ill to move. I laid down on the ground as a German Captain
pulled out his pistol yelling for everyone to get up and go. By now General
Patton’s tanks had moved in. The guards started running and the officers did the
same. Some of the guards came up to us and gave up their weapons pleading for
mercy. We were finally free! Everyone was excited and breathed a sigh of relief.
We had been liberated! I had lost so much weight that I was down to 85 lbs. but
thankful to God I had made it.
Today April 24, 1945 we had our
first good meal. I was in the hospital and reflected on the men who had not made
it. Of the original 352 prisoners from Berga, only 170 survived.
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275th POW List