Joe, two daughters and a grandson were traveling along with cinematographer Chris Baron to Buchenwald yesterday. While at SeaTac airport, they were met by a TV news crew from KING5, the leading regional TV news channel. KING5’s Glenn Farley did an outstanding job with this story which in brief news format, gives some of the highlights of Joe’s experiences and the meaning behind this incredible trip back to Buchenwald.
When we heard that President Obama was going to visit Buchenwald on June 5, Anne Rasmussen–our intrepid publicist and publication manager–went to work on trying to get the White House’s attention. What an opportunity for the president to acknowledge that 82 Americans have never been recognized as having suffered through the Nazi oppression of Buchenwald–including Joe Moser. Marilyn Walton, whose father was in Stalag Luft III, brought this opportunity to our attention, wrote a letter to the White House and got us in contact with Bernd Schmidt, the head of the U.S. Veterans Friends association in Germany.
Mr. Schmidt did all he could to meet with President Obama and had prepared for him several gifts, including a copy of “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald.” While he was not able to get the meeting he so earnestly desired, his efforts were not in vain at all. We just received this translation of a newspaper story from the Thuringia State Newspaper recording Mr. Schmidt’s efforts and the gifts that are being sent now through the Consulate.
Our very sincere thanks to Mr. Schmidt and to Marilyn Walton–we will press on together to get the recognition these men so richly deserve.
Translation from the German [by Cordula D. Brown]
Thuringian State Newspaper, June 6th, 2009
Keep the memories alive
Bernd Schmidt of the U.S. Veterans Friends, too, was hoping in vain for a meeting
By Christiane Weber
Weimar. [tlz] His hope to meet with the American president in person, was not fulfilled. “I was trying to get accreditation”, said Bernd Schmidt, founder [in 2001] and highly decorated member of the U.S. Veterans Friends in Germany. He had contacted the Consulate General, called the hot line, applied to the Memorial site Buchenwald, and had sent a mail to the White House. In vain. This was even more disappointing because Schmidt – together with American veterans – had prepared a special gift: he intended to present the President with letters and three books by veterans.
Nevertheless, Schmidt was delighted with the President’s visit. Somehow it was “an honor for our work”, said Schmidt. Even without the personal encounter, Schmidt and his friends will continue their work more motivated than ever. The small group of friends with the declared aim to keep alive the memory of the American soldiers who liberated Thuringia in 1945, to document historical facts in the vicinity, to foster friendship and understanding between Germany and the U.S., especially between American veterans and German people. They are in close contact to American veterans and organize trips for them to come and meet them. Among others, a photo exhibit from the Algoet collection with pictures of the KZ liberation was placed in Buchenwald.
One of the letters intended for the President is by Gerald Virgil Myers, member of the 80th Infantry Division who liberated Weimar and arrived in Buchenwald shortly afterwards. He describes the historic events in minute detail. “This place teaches us to stay vigilant always”, emphasized Barack Obama in his speech after his tour of the memorial site Buchenwald. The memory would have to be kept awake. And this is exactly what the Friends of theVeterans are doing. Even more important are books like the ones by the historian Marilyn Jeffers Walton and by Gerald R. Baron which describe the less well know fate of Josef A. Moser and his 81 friends and fellow U.S. pilots who were prisoners of war in Buchenwald. Bernd Schmidt will send the President these books now via Consulate General.
The disappointment did not in any way detract from Bernd Schmidt’s motivation. He is firmly convinced that Obamas visit was of extraordinary help to keep the history alive for the future.
I’ve just posted Chapter 12. The three months that Joe spent in Stalag Luft III were not the most memorable nor important time of his war experiences. While the time in POW camp for many of the POWs was very significant, the challenges of the experience so paled compared to Buchenwald that Joe’s perspective on them is quite different from what I have read from other POWs. Since Joe’s focus and memory on this part of his experience is less than on other areas, I relied to a considerable degree on a book called “Clipped Wings” which was written by POWs from South Camp.
Since there are an increasing number of veterans and veteran families who are visiting this site, and since POW experience, even in SLIII was far more common than in Buchenwald, if visitors to this site have additional info to share, particularly about North Camp, I’d be very interested in hearing from you.
Here finally is chapter 11. It tells of the Luftwaffe rescue of Joe and his fellow fliers from Buchenwald all the way into getting assigned to Block 104 in Stalag Luft III in Sagan–now in Poland. Block 104 just happens to be the most famous POW barracks in all of history I believe–and not just because that is where Joe lived. But rather because seven months before Joe arrived, that same barracks was the starting point for the greatest escape in history–yes the very same barracks from which the tunnel “Harry” was started and through which 76 POWs made their escape. It is just one more of the fascinating little details of Joe Moser’s experiences during the war. Another fascinating little detail is the story of his POW identity card. I feel so privileged to hold a treasure like this in my very hands as I write this story. Not quite a sliver of the cross, but there is a sense of sacredness about it. For it too symbolizes not just Joe’s trials and sufferings, but in some way the suffering, death and horrors experienced by so many in those dark, dark days.
It is such a thrill to me to hear from readers of this site. I know that there are many more who visit here than comment because I see the traffic, but when I get a question like that of Pat McGregor from the UK it is just a great joy. So, any of you doing research about these aspects of WWII, or know of any of those who might be involved, I’d love to hear from you. Frank Moser, Joe’s brother, also recently told me of family members who are reading the chapters here (although Frank says he’s waiting for the whole story to be finished before reading it). If you are visiting occasionally, I’d love to hear from you. Just hit the comment button and say hi if nothing else.
Yesterday Joe received some more local media attention–as well as a nice gift from a local artist. Here’s the story in the Bellingham Herald.
Of course, they didn’t get everything right–like suggesting he was liberated from Buchenwald in April, 1945. But, that is what the book is for, I guess.
This chapter deals with what happened to Joe after he was captured by the Germans. His initial interrogation by a Gestapo officer, his night in the cellar in Marchefroy. When written like this it looks uneventful, but I have tried to capture in this the fear and mental strain that he underwent in these first early hours of his ordeal. I don’t think I can fully capture the forty three years of torture he experienced as a result of these first three hours. It has become very clear to me that much of the pain Joe carried with him all these years had to do with his certainty of the fate of the French people he believed were impacted, first by his crash, and then by their attempts to help him escape.
I am so very grateful, once again to Remco Immerzeel for uncovering fascinating details about what happened during these hours and also the fate of those who tried to help Joe. Suffice it to say here that Joe was incredibly relieved in 1988 when he first found out about some of this. But thanks to Remco, lately he has been finding out even more. And it is quite remarkable. For that, you will have to stay tuned to chapter 4.
Once again, please, if you are visiting this site, please comment on the chapters. If you are going to lurk, at least be active!
For those following this story, you may be interested to get an inside look at the interview process as well as get to know Joe Moser a litle better. Gabriel Rodriguez, an outstanding professional photographer (and my son-in-law) shot some photos during my interview with Joe last night (Wednesday, March 28).
Just click to view:
Video (Joe tells the sad story of what happened to one young French boy while on the train to Buchenwald)
Thank you so much Gabe!
Yesterday (Sunday) I wrote draft one of chapter 2. It tells the story of Joe from the time he bailed out of his P-38 to his capture by the Germans a short time later. I basically wrote this all in one piece in about an hour and a half. Sometimes it just flows and you can’t type fast enough to keep ahead of the story that is being told in your head. Joe has given me the basic facts and from that I try and reconstruct the scene, the actions, the thoughts that go with those facts. Google Earth helps tremendously because I can see what the country was like and the town and get my bearings relating to where his base was, etc.
If you read chapter 2 beforeI have a chance to work it over with Joe, I just need to warn you that some of the details are certain to change. For example, the direction he ran, the specifics of how he was captured, when he was separated from his two young rescuers, etc.
Joe reviewed chapter 1 and said there were only a couple of small details to change. Chapter 2 will require more changes. When I asked Joe what he thought of Chapter 1 characteristically he said, “It was great, I just don’t know who you are writing about.” I said, “What do you mean, it isn’t accurate?” He said, no, it was accurate, and I know that he just means it feels strange for him to be the subject when it is written in more of a narrative form. I think he meant to say that it reads like a book but with him as the hero and that feels strange. So, I took it as a compliment.
OK, I posted draft one of the first chapter. Now, anyone reading this can comment on this chapter by adding your comments to this post.