For this Memorial Day, here is a glad report of one captured American soldier’s return home. The solder is Sergeant John F. Kirkpatrick Jr. of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
The news article is one of several items about Jack Kirkpatrick saved by his daughter, Colleen Nisewonger. She had been to this site a number of months ago looking for information about her father and found that his address was one of 55 addresses of servicemen recorded on Luther Shield’s deck of American Red Cross Aviator playing cards. The post is “Dual Purpose Deck of Cards.”
Colleen wrote that in the deck of cards, “much to my surprise, was my fathers name and old address, in his own handwriting. He was Jack Kirkpatrick on the 7 of hearts.”
Here is the article:
‘Back from Hell,’ Says Kirkpatrick After Escape from Nazis
The Democrat (Johnstown, Pennsylvania), July 1944
Parents who are floundering in despair because of soldier-sons unheard from or reported missing or captured can snatch a glimmer of’ hope from the story of Sgt. John F. Kirkpatrick Jr., who has arrived home.
“Back from the dead” is the way The Democrat previously described the fighting man’s reappearance after he was captured by the Germans and later all communication with him was cut off for 11 months or until early last month.
“Back from hell” would be a more appropriate phraseology, the soldier intimated as he relaxed at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kirkpatrick of 322 Lincoln St.
But, to start at the beginning, Sgt. Kirkpatrick went overseas in Oct., 1942, and subsequently served with an amphibian outfit in North Africa where he was captured by the enemy the following Mar. 18.
He was transferred to a German prison camp, it later was learned, and there he assumed the routine role of captive, to all appearances.
Through the International Red Cross, Sgt. Kirkpatrick exchanged letters with his parents here from early in the spring until August of last year when, without any forewarning, the letters stopped coming.
Try as they might, relatives here could ascertain nothing whatsoever as to the sergeant’s whereabouts and welfare or whether he was dead or alive.
Eleven months passed—months when all but the mother slowly abandoned hope of seeing the 23-year-old youth again. Even Mrs. Kirkpatrick admitted that as time rolled by her optimism was etched in despair.
Last July 6 the Kirkpatricks received a telegraphic message from the adjutant general in which it was stated:
“Am pleased to inform you that your son, Sgt. John F. Kirkpatrick Jr ., returned to duty July 21.”
That was it—the pall of futile hope finally was lifted and a mother’s intuition rewarded.
Joy in the household here reached its zenith when the soldier walked into his home again, on furlough for 21 days after which he will report for reassignment.
Where had he been and what had he been doing during the 11 months that he was out of touch with this side of the world?
That is no secret, Sgt. Kirkpatrick related.
He told of escaping from the Germans and rejoining the American forces.
“You know when I wrote last and when I showed up again—figure it out for yourself,” he said.
Of his experiences from the time he evaded the Nazis until his reappearance with the Allied troops, Sgt. Kirkpatrick did tell that he felt he was living on borrowed time and that the acquiring of food posed the major problem.
“We were lucky,” he repeated over and over again.
He said his lips were sealed further, lest he let slip something that might hurt his buddies left behind in the prison camp or injure their chances of escape.
“You can say for me that it was no bed of roses and things were pretty rugged—isn’t that enough?” he queried.
Now that he is safely home and outwardly no worse for his experiences, Sgt. Kirkpatrick outlined his schedule for the next few weeks as including eating, sleeping in a bed, looking up old friends and then “starting all over again with the same thing.”
Sgt. Kirkpatrick left Johnstown Catholic High School in his senior year to enlist in the Army in Sept., 1940.
He is on the roster of Maj.-Gen. Charles T Menoher Post 155, Veterans of Foreign Wars, having been accepted into membership by proxy while serving out of the states.
His father is employed in the City Pharmacy.