It has been been 72 years which seems like a long time if you are young, it is only a blink if you look through a greater lense.
LAGARUI DE PRIZONIERI NO 13
40 ROUMANIAN RED CROSS
Prisoner of war post.
April 5, 1944 – Wednesday
Was shot down between 1518 and 1538, was captured immediately, was kept at a small town west of Bucharest till around six when we were taken into Bucharest, was interviewed by a General and placed in a small cell ’bout one in the morning.
My father, Jess Coppedge was a simple man from Plains Montana who knew how to live off of the land and make everything count. He was transformed by necessity into a B17 pilot when a great and furious war raged throughout the globe
I visit this account over and over again because to me it is a beautiful thing. The war is not beautiful but the picture of this group of men in bombed buildings waiting for either their death or their rescue grabbed onto their faith and gathered together. These are a couple of passage from his journal that speak for themselves. Yes I am an optimistic romantic but this is a story of hope and salvation that breathes life into me on this Easter day in 2015.
April 6, 1944
After spending the night in a cell that was not large enough for all four of us to lay down in at a time we were taken to a garage where several other Americans were. About 1500 we were fed for the first time and we were sure were hungry. About midnight we were taken to an army garrison, and got to bed about two. It was the first time I had been to sleep.
April 7, 1944 Friday
The beds are poor a straw mattress, a rag for a sheet and one blanket. It’s cold and we slept with all our clothes on. The food is poor mostly bread and soup, we only eat twice a day. The water mains are out and they just bring us enough water to drink.
April 9, 1944 Sunday
I had m New Testament with me and spend most of the time reading it. The food is poor and we don’t get much of it. Most of us have been able to wash our face and hands.
April 10, 1944 Monday
I was interrogated today. I was the first one they took. Was taken to another room till night then they put us all together again.
April 11 1944 Tuesday
They moved us into a larger room where we can move around a little but it is a lot colder and damp.
April 12 1944 –Wednesday
They started bringing us tea and a slice of bread for breakfast. The rest of the food is still bad. I had a sheep’s eye in my soup at noon.
April 15, 1944 – Saturday
The boys were over and dropped us some eggs, they all fell north of us but I still don’t like it here in town.
April 26, 1944 Wednesday
The King of Romania was here to see us today and promised to see if he could get us moved. We get to send quite a bit of time outside each day and the time goes by faster.
April 28, 1944 Friday
Spent all day carving out a chess set and it turned out all right………………
June 4, 1944 Sunday
Had evening Protestant services for the first time here. There was about 30 boys there and there seems to be plenty interested. Am not much of a preacher.
June 7, 1944 Wednesday
The invasion started yesterday, everything else is about the same but we all feel better, maybe we will get out of here before too long.
June 8, 1944 Thursday
All quiet and no news.
June 10, 1944, Saturday
Had an alert this morning laid around the rest of the day. Everything is the same.
June 11, 1944 Sunday
Had another alert t this morning at 0800, played bridge most all day. Held Protestant services.
June 18, 1944 Sunday
Had church services again today, had over a hundred there and it was really O.K.
June 21, 1944 Wednesday
The boys put on a show here last night. “ Prison Odditties”. It was very good for what we have to do with.
June 22, 1944 Thursday
One year ago today this is a hell of a place to be today. Know I will be home next year. Have been thinking a lot today and am restless and nervous. Got 2 shots this morning to test for diphtheria and small pox.
June 23, 1944 Friday
Had an alert this morning for a couple hours. They hit close
June 25, 1944 Sunday
Had church services again, over 170. Had nice services, still need more songs.
June 28, 1944 Wednesday
1st alarm 0915 2nd 0935 1st bombs 1000 last 1030 RRY and some close, everyone is nervous and quiet. Held first Bible class.
June 29, 1944 Thursday
1st alarm 0145 2nd 0200 all clear 0245
All quiet, had second Bible class
June 30,m 1944 Friday
Nothing doing today. Spent most all day reading the Bible, haven’t heard any news.
July 2, 1944 Sunday
Am sure nervous and restless this morning, hope something breaks for the better soon. Had services at 1700 no news.
July 4, 1944 Tuesday
1st alarm 0938 2 d 0950 all clear 1120
Still feeling bum but thin k I will be feeling better tomorrow, laid in bed all day.
July 5, 1944 Wednesday
Haven’t been able to sleep for a couple days. Got a bad stomach and my legs ache. No news or anything going on.
July 6, 1944 Thursday
Feeling better this morning heard some good news and the moral is good today. Had Bible class after supper. One of the new boys as studied to be a minister and is going to help us with our services.
July 9, 1944 Sunday
1st alarm 0905 2nd 0929 all clear 1105. Had church services at 1115. Had the largest crowed yet and the best services. Lt Rittenhouse had the services and I think we will have him in charge most of the time.
There in the POW camp the men gathered and sang and prayed and held themselves together as best they could. Hitler and his supporters were systematically destroying those identified as Jews, stealing away their humanity taunting the God they believed in – and in their own way proving that evil exists.. Although they were a primary focus- the list of the persecuted included anyone who got in the way-who didn’t fit into the mold created to support a terrible regime.
My dad’s new friend, Lt Rittenhouse joined him and together these American men sustained themselves with memories of home, pleas to God, and hymn’s handwritten on pieces of paper that they sang together on Sunday’s when there was a lull in the bombing .
Hitler and his regime had burned the Bibles in Romania and three Romanian women who spoke English and cared for Lt. Rittenhouse in a small put-together hospital while his broken leg mended. They waited to ask him if they could take the Bible that Lt. Rittenhouse had with him. They told him that they had not had one in 5 years because Hitler had ordered their’s burned.
Whether you are a believer or not, protestant or catholic, or of another faith or spiritual tradition. I hope you will appreciate the privilege of making that decision to believe in what seems right to you. That is a great part of the meaning of the battle, pain and suffering described here.e
If you are a Christian, I hope you will honor this Easter day by loving others and letting your heart be broken as Christ’s heart was broken for the world.
If you are very young-what a story, yes it is true and the Princess and King of Romania really did visit this group of prisoners and yes I still have the chess set and the POW song book hand written from memory.
August 22, 1944 Tuesday
Oatmeal for breakfast. Well it was supposed to be oatmeal. Am thinking the next two meals were not so hot. I ‘m hungry. The princess was here and gave a talk. We received our first Red Cross packages.
August 23, 1944 Wednesday
Peace 1053 pm
Lots of things are happening, don’t think the Germans will take over the city. There is a Romanian Col. coming over to talk to us at 2300. We are waiting for him in the auditorium. He said they were our Allies and would do everything possible to keep the Germans from taking us over.
August 24, 1944 Thursday
Alarm at 10:15. 1st bombs 10:35. Germans this time. Continuous bombings all day. Every one of us on edge. One enlisted man was killed. Every one is jumpy, some have taken off but most are coming back. Spent most all day in the air raid shelter. Not many planes but they come often. Its rough here. There is Germans around town, straffing and sniping from armored cars and buildings. Looks like the town is about surrounded and this might go on for several days.
The Germans have poisoned the water. We are full but can’t get out of town. A few of us are armed. I have a good 45 and plenty of ammo.
August 25, 1944 Friday
The bombers were around. All night, mostly dive bombers and fighters. The ISPs were over at 700 and hit a couple blocks away. Still no news, we need air support bad every few minutes. A 109 somes over and divesbombs. We have a couple barrels of water and plenty of canned meat from Red Cross packages.* Bombings continued all day some of the boys are in bad shape. Moved the enlisted men out of town. Their building was hit and burnt. Things don’t look too good.
August 26, 1944 Saturday
Had a quiet night and a good night’s sleep, things are looking better. They didn’t come over at all last night only 3 fighters this morning so far. 0630
We are going to move out of town today. They have German’s pretty well cleaned up on the south side of town. No news. Had a headache last night but feel better now.
Col G and M. Y. left last night sure hope they get through. Can still hear gunfire 0900. 1130 just saw the last of the 15th and boy did they look good. Think they dropped frogs(slang for bombs) on the Germans on the North side of town. Probably the airfield. Sure boosted moral.
All quiet and we are moving out of town. Some of the boys have been shaken pretty bad and are in bad shape. I am a little weak from lack of food and sleep but am plenty well off in comparison. 1800 moved out of town during an air raid.
August 27, 1944 Sunday
Had good nights sleep and everything looks good. We are well scattered out and have plenty of —trenches. Spent the day walking around the fields and boy it feels good to be free. Things are looking good and hope to be out of the country in a few days.
August 28, 1944 Monday
All quiet, we are getting organized, have 2 meals a day, having trouble getting food. We are out of town and have our own camp and grounds. There is 3 of us in a room and fairly well fixed. Sure is good to be free.
August 29, 1944 Tuesday
Information at 0800. The news is good. Expect the Russians here tomorrow. Breakfast at 1000 someone sent a bunch of flowers out and we had some on each table. What a change.