Oscar Ruebens and John Withers—Escape Reports

At left, Oscar with wife Virginia E. Howell; at right, Oscar in 1940

Sergeants Oscar Ruebens and John Withers served in the same unit of the U.S. Army’s First Division in North Africa. In December 1942, they were captured together at Long Stop Hill. Both men were sent to P.G. 98 on Sicily and then transferred to P.G 59 Servigliano.

The friends left Camp 59 together during the mass breakout on September 14, 1943, and they made their way to the Allied lines in less than two months.

I first posted about Oscar on this site in February of last year, “Oscar Ruebens—Snapshots from the Past.”

I have since been in touch with Oscar’s youngest daughter, Laura Turner, who kindly sent me snapshots, news clippings, and documents. I will share some of these in separate posts.

For this post, I am sharing Oscar and John’s repatriation reports.

Mentioned briefly in Oscar’s report is John Turner. I believe this is John Leon Turner (“John Leon Turner, Royal Canadian Air Force“).

The POW repatriation reports were prepared during WW2 by MIS-X Section, POW Branch of the U.S. War Department.

The reports are courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Oscar C. Ruebens

EX-Report No. 65
16 Dec 43

Sgt. Oscar C. Ruebens, 12016749, Co. C, 18th Inf., 1st Div.
From – Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – [not recorded]
Date of capture – 23 Dec 42
Reported P/W – 9 Jan 43
Escape – 14 Sep 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 11 Nov 43
At – South of Atessa, 78th Div.
Previous in interrogation – Br. I.O. Hq.; Am. I.O. at Bari; Am. I.O. at 23rd; Repl Bn., Algiers
Arrived in USA – 8 Dec 43, Newport News, Va.
Home address – R.D. #1, Shortsville, N. Y.
Age – 23
Length of service – 3 yrs., 2 mo.

Continue reading

Monte San Martino Trust Celebrates 30 Years

Keith Killby in June 2012

The Monte San Martino Trust has celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.

Founded by Keith Killby in 1989, the Trust has provided hundreds of young Italians with English language study bursaries in England.

The educational bursaries are in recognition of the bravery and generosity of Italian families who assisted escaped Allied prisoners of war during the Second World War.

The Trust also keeps the escape stories alive through annual Freedom Trail Walks, a newsletter, and an online archive of stories. Most importantly, the organization serves as a rich British-Italian cultural bond.

At their annual Fontanellato Luncheon last month, the Trust celebrated its three-decade history with the release of a Monte San Martino Trust Thirtieth Anniversary Video, which is now accessible on YouTube.

The inspiring film features brief interviews with former POWs, Italians who provided them with protection, and students who have benefitted from the Trust’s educational bursaries.

The film was created by director Zak Jarvis, a Trust supporter and the great-grandson of Ernest Day, who was a prisoner of war Gavi.

Trust founder Keith Killby remained active in the Trust until his death last year at the age of 102.

For more information, visit the Monte San Martino Trust website.

Ronald McCurdy—Escaped to Switzerland

This photo of British gunner Ronald McCurdy (left) and a fellow prisoner, who we believe is his friend Percy, was sent in a letter from P.G. 59 to Ronald's parents.

An address on the back of the photo bears the numbers 14/48.

Occasionally, the return address on a postcard from P.G. 59 will include a hut number. In this case, I believe the numbers 14/48 refer to Hut 14, Section 48.

Another example of referring to huts and sections—and even bed numbers—is in “Douglas Allum’s Camp 59 Prisoner List.”

Ronald’s daughter, Rona Crane, explains, “My Father was born and brought up in North Wales. Chester is not far over the Wales/England border.

“My Grandparents moved to Chester just before the war due, I think, to my Grandfather’s work. They returned to North Wales after the war.

“I now live in South West Wales due to my Husband being originally from the area.”

Rona shared what she knows about Ronald’s POW experience:

“My Father escaped and got to Switzerland, where he was housed in a hotel and then sent home.

“When he escaped he went with a few others, but they were tracked by the Germans with dogs. He and his friend got away by getting into a river, and the others got split up and I think were either captured or shot.

Continue reading

Following the Trail of Bernard Evans

Bernard Evens beside an ambulance he drove in North Africa

In the Alphabetical List of POWs in Italy published by the British during WW2, Lance Corporal C. Bernard Evans, T/115699, Royal Army Service Corps, is listed as having been interned in P.G. 53 Sforzacosta.

However a single card sent home from P.G. 59 is evidence he was also interned in Servigliano. A drawing on the card is dated 26 November 1942.

“We don’t have any letters that my grandad wrote home—just the postcard,” Bernard’s granddaughter Clare Mason, of Staffordshire, England, wrote to me.

Continue reading

Capture and Escape of Carl Valentine

The following POW repatriation report was prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

The report is courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine

EX Report No. 55
10 December 43

Escape by Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine, 14052008, AC, 376th Bomb Group, 514th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 16 July 43
Date of capture – 16 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escape – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 20 October 43 at Marrone
Previous in interrogation- British I.O. Casacalenda; Am. I.O. 12th Air Force Headquarters, Tunis
Arrived in USA – 14 November 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 720 Dehli Street, Bossier City, Louisiana
Age – 21
Length of service – 2 years, 9 months

EX Report

Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine – Radio Operator, B-24

On 16 July 1943, Sergeant Valentine left his base at Benghazi as radio operator of a B-24 of the 376th Bomb Group, 514th Bomb Squadron. The mission was bombing an airfield near Bari. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – 1st Lieutenant Samuel D. Rose – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany

Co-pilot – 2nd Lieutenant Ralph O. Grace – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany

Navigator – 2nd Lieutenant Millard John Kesler – P/W Stalag Luft 3

Bombardier – 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Madgley – believed to be a P/W

Engineer – Technical Sergeant William S. Nelson – P/W Italy, unstated

Assistant Engineer – staff sergeant Joseph E. Maleski – escaped but recaptured

Right Waist Gunner – Captain Nicholas Cladakis – believed KIA

Left Waist Gunner – Technical Sergeant Clarence H. Guyder – P/W Italy, unstated

Turret Gunner – Technical Sergeant Jackson M. Hughins – P/W Stalag 8B

As the plane was 20 minutes off the target, flying at 22,000 feet, and, with one engine not functioning, it was attacked by ME-109’s. The bomb run was made and the aircraft was hit heavily by ack-ack and was being followed by pursuit ships which knocked the other engine out and set the wing on fire. One of the pursuit ships also hit the left stabilizer. The signal was given for the crew to bail out. Sergeant Valentine’s foot was caught in the tail turret and Lieutenant Rose, who had set the controls to keep the ship from spinning, assisted him in bailing out.

Continue reading

Four American Airmen Cross the Lines

The following POW repatriation reports were prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

They are courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Staff Sergeants Everett C. Shelby, Jr.
and Anthony T. Fryt

EX Report No. 51
9 December 43

Escape by Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr., 6954930, AC, 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 17 July 43
Date of capture – 18 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escaped – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 6 November 43 at Villa Santa Maria
Previous interrogation – British 8th Army at lines – 12th Air Force
Arrived in USA – 7 December 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 511 Hobson Street, Weatherford, Texas
Age – 24
Length of service – 3 years, 11 months

Ex Report

Staff Sergeant Anthony T. Fryt – Engineer and Gunner, B-26
Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – Tail Gunner, B-26

Sergeant Fryt was engineer and gunner of a B-26 of the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron based at Djeida, south of Tunis. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – Flight Officer J. L. Weaver – returned to USA
Co-pilot – Flight Sergeant Theodore A. Helterbrand – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany
Bombardier – Staff Sergeant Joseph Teresi – returned to USA
Radio Operator – Staff Sergeant John C. Cannon – P/W Italian camp, unstated
Tail Gunner – Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – returned to USA

On 17 July 1943, the plane left its base to bomb a target in Naples. The target run was made and the plane was hit by flak from anti-aircraft batteries. The left engine was hit and was feathered but the plane began to drop in spite of the fact that the crew threw out everything they possibly could. They continued on for about 45 minutes and were forced to come down in the Tyrrhenian Sea some miles off Naples. They got out the life rafts and climbed on board just before the plane sank. Sergeant Fryt was suffering from cuts and bruises and had a wrenched knee.

Continue reading

Sergeant Theodore A. Sanning

Over the past several months, I have been in touch with Andy Beckerson. In his initial email, he wrote, “I am researching Theodore Sanning, now dead, who is my wife’s father. My wife is named Theodora, but everybody calls her Teddi, after her father.”

Andy and Teddi live in Taunton, Somerset, in the UK, but they have grandchildren and other family members in the U.S.—in Illinois, and in Jefferson City and Kansas City, Missouri.

Andy explained early attempts to trace Theodore through military records “met with the standard response regarding the great fire at the St. Louis Army Records Office in 1973.”

“The attached photograph is of Theodore, his wife, and first-born daughter,” Andy wrote. “We estimate the date of this to be around March–May 1944. The little girl was born three days before Theodore’s capture on December 6, 1942.”
 
Following the war, Theodore worked in manufacturing in Winsfield and Kansas City, Missouri. He died on November 16, 1981, and is buried in Marys Home, Missouri.
 
Theodore is survived by three daughters, one son, six grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
 

This picture of Theodore and Evelyn, both in uniform, was taken on their wedding day.

Theodore Adolph Sanning was born March 24, 1919. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 6, 1940, shortly before the draft commenced. He signed up at Jefferson Barracks at Lemay, Missouri. Basic training was also conducted at Jefferson Barracks.

On Theodore’s enlistment record in the National Archives, his education is listed as “grammar school”; civilian occupation—“semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor”; marital status—“single without dependents.” His Italian POW card indicates he was a farmer.

Continue reading