Veterans

September 27, 2013

Until they all come home: POWs remember their captivity

From left, Carroll Knutson, Gene Ramos, Jack Leaming, former prisoners of war, and Col. Pete Ford, 57th Adversary Tactics Group commander and guest speaker, render a salute during the National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day ceremony Sept. 20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. POW/MIA observance is traditionally observed on the third Friday of September each year.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The Warsaw Uprising. The Battle of Chosin Reservoir. The Chinese Spring Offensive. These were some of the battles that veterans who attended the National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day here fought and lived to pass on their story.

The base held a ceremony at Freedom Park to remember and pay tribute to those who were repatriated after their capture and those still missing Sept. 20. Veterans from World War II, the Korea War, and the Vietnam War attended along with their family members.

“We just want to make sure that everyone understands how thankful we are for the sacrifices that they’ve given us, and their families have given us,” said Capt. Megan Kell, 561st Joint Tactics Squadron chief of information operations integration and event coordinator. “We can’t make up for it, but we can at least show our patriotism, our thankfulness and celebrate their bravery.”

George W. Kielak was 15 years old when he took part in the Warsaw Uprising as part of the Polish underground. The uprising was a major battle that lasted 63 days in an attempt to wrestle Warsaw back from the Nazis. After his unit ran out of medical supplies, food and ammunition, they surrendered to the Nazis Oct. 2, 1944.

“We were taking it a day at a time,” Kielak said. “I was always hungry, looking for food. But being young, I somehow survived.”

One of the memories that stands out from his time in the German prisoner camp was the living conditions in the barracks.

“I was wounded so I stayed in the camp,” Kielak said. “I remember bedbugs in our barracks where we slept. They were more of a menace than the Germans. This was the worst.”

Members from the Las Vegas 7-11 Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War stand for recognition during the National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Remembrance ceremony Sept. 20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. On this day, many Americans take time to remember those who were prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.

Kielak, being the youngest, slept on top of a three level bunk bed.

“During the night, [the bedbugs] start dropping like rain on you,” he said.

He was liberated by the British April 17, 1945, and while living in the British zone of occupation, he joined the British army. In the 1950s, he immigrated to the United States and joined the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of sergeant major.

Eugene Ramos, of Las Vegas Chapter 7-11 of the American Ex-Prisoners of War post commander, was a machine gunner in the 3rd Infantry Division during the Korean War. In 1950, at age 17, he found himself in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, one of the defining battles of the war.

“I landed in Wonsan [now in North Korea] in the last part of October,” Ramos said. “The 3rd Infantry was on its way to relieve the 1st Marine and 7th Infantry because McArthur said those two divisions would be home for Christmas. The 3rd Infantry was going up there to relieve those two off the line, but we never made it. We got as far as the Chosin Reservoir, and the Chinese came across. I think they sent seven or eight divisions at us. We fought our way out of there.”

After evacuating by sea at Hungnam in North Korea, they landed in Busan, South Korea and marched for four months to Seoul. They settled down at what is known as the Kansas line on the 38th Parallel. By this time it was April 1951.

“The general said we’ve got to hold this at all cost,” Ramos said. “But I wasn’t worried too much because I was going on rest and relaxation the next morning … never made it.”

The Chinese attacked the next morning in what was later called the Chinese Spring Offensive. He was captured along with 50 others and held until August 1953 after the armistice was signed.

Ramos and the other prisoners marched to the Korean and Chinese border to a prisoner camp consisting of huts and were then separated into companies. He was made to collect wood in the surrounding hills and attend lectures aimed at brainwashing. Prisoners were killed if they were seen in groups talking, for fear of escape attempts.

From his imprisonment, Ramos learned that relying on others was what got them through their captivity.

“You have to have confidence in your friends,” Ramos said. “You have to depend on each other to take care of each other because by yourself you’ll never make it. You have to have someone else there with you to give you support because I’ve seen guys who just gave up. They just died.”

After two years, Ramos was traded for Chinese prisoners on what was called Freedom Bridge, but not everyone made it back.

“There are still some guys there,” he said.

The Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office website states more that 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
140717-F-JB386-793

99th FSS in overdrive during Red Flag

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta Ika Senior Airman Darren Tomas, 99th Force Support Squadron food services journeyman, chops lettuce at the flight line kitchen Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 17. The 99th FSS kitchen ...
 
 

Air Force announces changes to headquarters organization

WASHINGTON — Air Force leaders announced changes to headquarters staff manning and organization July 14. The Air Force will create efficiencies by deactivating and realigning organizations at Headquarters Air Force, Major Commands, Numbered Air Forces and Field Operating Agencies, resulting in savings of $1.6 billion across the Air Force in the next five years. “I...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

I am second: USAFWC command chief bids farewell after 30 years

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika Chief Master Sgt. Robert A. Ellis, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center command chief, poses for a photo outside of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center headquarters building at Nellis Air ...
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Valenca

Nellis to add another large solar plant

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Valenca The solar field, comprised of more than 72,000 panels, was completed after 26 weeks of construction and three years of planning. The array is expected to produce more than 25 p...
 
 
creech5

Combat challenge 2014

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen Master Sgt. Kiosha Mitchell, 432nd Wing Commander’s Executive Administrations superintendent, left, and Capt. Bishane, 432nd Wing commander’s action group chief, fl...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachael Loftis

Sports bring esprit de corps to Nellis community

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachael Loftis Intramural sports are a good way to take control of one’s fitness. Participating in intramural sports offers active duty, dependents and retirees the opportunity to comp...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin