World War II vet remembers how he survived German POW camp

Julia LeDoux
September 20, 2019 - 3:50 pm
George Mills

Photo courtesy George Mills

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Former Army Sgt. George Mills knows what it’s like to spend time as a prisoner of war.

Mills, of Decatur, Alabama, joined the Army in 1942 when he was 21, serving with the 109th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division during World War II.

He was the communications sergeant for E Company and landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 20 – June 25, 1944.

“We landed on Omaha Beach and established a beachhead big enough for us to fight,” he said.

 By December. Mills and his company were in the thick of the fight in Germany near Hurtgen Forest.

Mills
Photo courtesy George Mills

“On the night of the 18th, they turned a bazooka loose on the north end of this three-story building we were staying in,” he said. “They took a flame thrower in there. We took inventory and we only had six rounds of ammunition. There is no way you can fight two divisions with six rounds of ammunition.”

That caused the company commander to surrender. Mills and his fellow soldiers were sent to a POW camp near Neubrandenburg where they were interviewed by the Germans, who hoped to get as much information out of them as possible.

Mills said the soldiers were segregated by rank and survived by stealing what food they could, including rutabagas and sugar beets.

Hope kept him alive.

“You didn’t want to die,” he said.  “I knew Americans were going to come and get me.”

During his five months of captivity, Mills lost about 70 pounds and made a pact with a good friend.

“We had an agreement, if anything happened to me he’d tell my mother and daddy what happened and I’d tell his mother and daddy what happened,” he said.

Mills and his friend never had to make good on that vow. On April 12, 1945, the prisoners were hustled to another location.

"They put us in a barn lot. There was about 900 of us when we started out and we were down to about 240 at that time,” Mills said. “The next morning, we heard what we thought was a tank coming, and when we got to where we could see it, it was a half-track and there was a command car with it and when it got to where it could turn, there was that big American flag on it.”

The men were free and with the war in Europe winding down, Mills was soon on his way home, where he would spend the next several decades as a piano salesman. He now spends his time sharing his story with students so they will know what he and the other members of the Greatest Generation survived.

Mills
Photo courtesy George Mills

Mills recently returned from a trip to Europe and visited many of the places where he fought. He even found the foxhole in Hurtgen Forest he dug 75 years ago.

“It’s still there,” he said. “I never thought it would be there.”

For his action during combat Mills received several awards for bravery, including the Purple Heart.

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Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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