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

By Tom Bird | Go to book overview

Appendix C: Christmas Story

Mario Garbin

The view through the narrow crack in the side of the tiny German boxcar was breathtaking. A soft white blanket of snow had covered the ground during the night and somehow it brought back to me with sharp poignancy the memory of other lovely days in happier circumsatances. Young fir trees poked their heads out of the snow, the upper limbs looking for all the world like shoulders with epaulets of white. They stood at attention, row upon row, stretching as far as the eye could see. The setting was too peaceful to inspire thoughts of things military. Funny, though, the things that run through your mind looking at a scene so familiar and yet so different from the ones at home.

The lines, "Two men stood looking through prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars," kept running through my mind like some of the goofy ditties that were sung as commercials over the radio at home. How long ago was that? It was years and years ago, so long ago that memories oftentimes blurred and assumed unreality. You know what I mean. It's happened to you, too. You think of some tragic thing that happened to you in the past and in thinking of it you wonder if you didn't dream the whole thing and that soon you'll awaken and find a flood of relief surging through your body. And yet it was only four days ago that we were taken in the Ardennes forest just inside Germany. A lifetime of hopelessness and misery and despair crammed into four days.

They had marched us for three days to Gerolstein, where some 1,500 of us were jammed 70 to a car, most of which reeked of horse urine and manure. We had left the town the night before and had traveled approximately six kilometers when we had bumped to a stop and spent the rest of the night there.

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