A POW Story:
Reflections of Clive B. Berard
World War II

  

Please Note:  It rare that prisoners of war want to recount their stories.  It is even rarer still for them bring those memories to life on pen and paper, documenting such horrific events.  In the story below of Clive Berard, his experiences are retold here from his own writing, with his permission.   Betty Tabor, Mayfield Historian, graciously asked Mr. Berard's permission and allowed us to retell his extraordinary memories here online.  


My name is Clive B. Berard and this is a little history about myself and my time of service.  I was born in Winchenton, Mass., February 14, 1924.  Our family moved to Gloversville, N. Y. in 1932, then on to Jackson Summit in 1937.

I went to Jackson Summit School, then to Mayfield Central.  I left school in 1942 to join the army.

After basic training I was assigned to the 36th Division, which was based at Camp Edwards, Mass.  On April 1st, 1943 we left Staten Island, N. Y., for North Africa.  We landed in North Africa 13th of April, and all fighting had ceased, so we spent the next five months there, training for our invasion of Italy.

During the first couple of days of Sept. of 1943, we were loaded on to ships and we sailed to Italy.

On Sept. 9, 1943, Italy surrendered and the Italian army was no more.  We thought we would have an easy time (not so), but on Sept. 10th, my gun crew and I were in the second wave to hit the beaches at Salerno.  The in-coming fire was very heavy.

As soon as we could get off the beach, we were sent to a pre-arranged area.  I was a gunner on an antitank gun.  We barely had time to get the guns set-up when all hell broke loose.  Mortar fire was coming in.  German tanks were advancing in our direction.  I fired at a lead tank, I fired 3 or 4 pounds of A. P. ammunition that is armor piercing, but the shells just bounced off the tank.  During this time, several German tanks had exploded, fired upon by heavy American artillary that had been set-up that drove the German tanks and their Infantry back.  They gave up on their counter-attack, but we continued to get heavy fire from the German artillary that was entrenched in the surrounding mountains of Salerno Bay.  Our navy opened up with their big guns and knocked out the German artillary.

We had one casualty in our gun crew, a Corporal Ryan, who was killed by machine gun fire.  I was then moved up to Gun Corporal and Gunner.

We fought on for another 4 days.  On Sept. 13th, the 45th Division went through our lines and attacked the German troops.  Late that afternoon, the 45th Division withdrew their position as the German tanks and Infantry were pushing in hard.  We had dug-in in a defensive position waiting for the oncoming attack.  Their 16 and 26 SS Panser Division hit us hard - tanks, mortar fire and whatever they had - all our guns were knocked out.  So we moved back to a shallow ravine that a had a lot of trees.  The Germans had positioned several tanks 50 to 75 yards facing the ravine,  They fired artillary shells at us - the firing burst and splintered the trees that wounded and killed many of our soldiers.  After this heavy barrage of artillary fire, the Germans asked us to surrender  - "HANS HO COMRADES".

That was the last of our freedom for 22 months.

The German troops soon rounded us up, placed us in an open area and posted guards around us for the night.  We had lost about 30-40 men from H. Q. Company.

The next morning they started to march us away from the front.  We had no food that day.  The next day, they allowed us to go into a vineyard and fig grove and eat whatever grapes and fruit we could find.

We continued marching several more days up the Italian boot.  Then we were put on R. R. boxcars and shipped to Germany.  These boxcars were small, they would hold 8 horses or 40 men.  There were no sanitary facilities.  A bucket was passed around when needed; when it was full it was emptied out a window.  I had no idea how many of us were in the boxcar.  We were crowded in and we had to take turns standing or sitting.  It took several days to reach Germany, to our first P. O. W. camp Stalag 7A.  Once there, [we]  were given showers and deloused.  Our clothing was taken from us and we were given German uniforms.

Our first meal in P. O. W. camp consisted of a watery-barley soup and black bread.  It tasted terrible.  It took a long time [to] get used to prison food.

From Stalag 7A - eighteen men and myself were shipped to Stalag 2B.  We were picked to work on a farm.  This took us by R. R. boxcar again to East Prussia, where we stayed for the next 21 months.

Work on the farm was very hard.  We raised potatoes, sugar beets, wheat, oats and barley.  There were also cows on the farm that needed tending.  In the Fall crops were harvested, thrashing to do and wood to cut and barns to clean.  In the Spring it started all over again.

We were housed in the horse barns.  In the second year of our captivity six of us decided to make a break for it.  When the guard went for supper that night, we gathered up what few possessions we had, kicked a hole in the fence, through a big barn out the back door.

Some young kids swimming in a pond spotted us and went for the guards.

We took off running as we had a good head start and made it to the woods.  We were found and captured after several days and placed in a civilian jail, without food or water.  We had to await the guards we had escaped from.

On our return trip back to the farm, we were beaten by the guards, each one of us.  I was last to receive my punishment.  This was in the little town we had escaped from and many of their civilians witnessed the beatings.  Then returned to our barracks, given black bread and coffee.  Our first food in two days.

We were sent right back to work.  There was no rest, for many weeks, seven days a week for months.

In December 1944 the Russian Army was advancing and we were evacuated from the farm where we were living.

From that time on till the end of the war, we were constantly on the move, sometimes working on farms or just having to stay in barns.  It was extremely cold and we were all suffering from some form of frost bite and the lack of food.

Several weeks before the end of the war, a few of us took off from our guard.  At this time the guards were no longer much interested in us.  They were looking for a way out themselves, from the Russians.

We were finally liberated by Russian troops.  For several days we stayed around.  It was then we witnessed the Russians killing German civilians and the raping of the women.  In fear for our own safety, we took to the wood s and avoided the Russian troops as much as possible.  We walked for about another day till we met up with Canadian troops and liberation.

After many months of hard labor, hunger, cold and terrible foods, we were finally free.

We were sent by plane to Laharve, France - finally shipped from there back to the U. S. A.
   


Note:  Mr. Berard was liberated by Russians  May, 1945 and was discharged Oct. 1945.  He currently lives in Florida.  His wife passed away in 2000.


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Copyright 2001, Jeanette Shiel
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:25 PDT