American POWs of World War II: Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories

By Tom Bird | Go to book overview

Victor Mapes

In terms of pure drama, Victor Mapes' incarceration ranks with John Kennedy's and Papillon's. As a result of his continuous attempts to escape, he survived the experience with a minimum of emotional scars, considering the severity of his imprisonment. In fact, he admits to having learned some valuable and useful lessons from his imprisonment. " I know that I found out one thing for sure," he said. "I found out that hatred destroys. It can warp you and destroys you. Over there, I just tried to stay clear of it."

I was born in a little place called St. Cloud, which is near Disney World in central Florida. It is mostly a resort area now. We made our living largely by agriculture. My daddy was a dairyman and I loved the soil and everything that grows, and I was very active in the Boy Scouts. I was an Eagle Scout, and over a period of years, an assistant scout master.

I started working after I graduated from high school in 1938. It was Depression time yet, and I tried to get enough money to go to college. But war came fall of 1939. Hitler was on the rampage in Poland.

I was with a ROTC unit at college in Florida, and I got thinking and I said, "Oh, heck." And I went to see my girlfriend in Indiana during my college break and tell her I was thinking about joining the service, which I eventually did on the 8th of November, 1939, by enlisting in the Army Air Corps, Fort Ben, Harrison, Indiana.

From there we were shipped by train, and in pretty good style, to Fort Slocam, N.Y. Then we took our shots and in the winter we were shipped out of Brooklyn Army Base by Army transport, "Chateau Terrie," through

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