This Memorial Day…we hear from veteran Glenn Johnson.
Johnson served as a paratrooper in World War II in the 101st Airborne Division. He was injured after parachuting into German territory just prior to the Normandy invasion in 1944. There he was captured and imprisoned for five months.
Johnson describes how he and two others escaped one day while on a work detail near the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia.
“It started snowing very heavily. I told George, I said George, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m gonna take off. I can’t stand this anymore. So I started walking away, and pretty soon hear them other two guys were right behind me. So we were on the loose there – we walked through Poland and Czechoslovakia for five months.”
Johnson says they traveled by night and slept in barns during the day. Food was scarce, and Johnson says by the end of the ordeal he had lost almost half his body weight.
“Nothing to eat. We had to steal and forage for most of our food. Rutabagas – we ate a lot of rutabagas. I can’t stand the sight of them now, but they kept us alive.”
Finally they met two British paratroopers who knew where the Allied lines were, and they eventually made it to safety.
Johnson says he never thought he’d see his eighteenth birthday….he’s now 90 years old. Johnson will be the speaker today at Rhinelander’s Memorial Day event.
We’ll hear more from Johnson as part of our ongoing series The Other Side of Ninety…next week.