The Official Newsletter of the
Shenandoah Valley Chapter #313
Korean War Veterans Association
Volume 11, Issue 02
Paul E. Bombardier, Editor
November Guest Speaker Carmel Whetzel
One of the highlights of the November meeting was guest Carmel Whetzel, a WW2 veteran and former POW who lives in Winchester.
He was drafted into the Army’s 26th Division, M Company, 3rd Battalion, 104th Infantry Regiment, and sent to Cherbourg, France, on Sept. 7, 1944. The D-Day invasion had occurred three months earlier, and American troops pushing through France needed a constant stream of fuel, supplies and munitions. Whetzel became a driver with a truck convoy known as the Red Ball Express. After several weeks, Co. M was transferred to the front line of the fighting, and Whetzel switched to driving a Jeep.
On Nov. 2, 1944, elements of the 3rd Battalion were surrounded by German tanks and troops in the French town of Rodalbe.“ The ones that didn’t get captured got killed,” Whetzel said. Whetzel and two other drivers hid for three days beneath a pile of straw inside a barn. At one point, German soldiers slept on the straw on top of them. After hearing the sound of American guns being fired, the three hungry drivers emerged from the straw only to find that Germans had been playing with captured guns. Whetzel and the two others were shipped off to Stalag 12-A near Limburg, Germany. German guards at the prison took their uniforms and exchanged them for rags. Whetzel later learned that his uniform was worn by a German infiltrator during the Battle of the Bulge. On March 26, 1945, Whetzel was part of a work detail at a German air base when he and his two bunkmates, Harvey “Ikie” Boulerice & Roy Miller,
crawled through a frozen latrine, cut a fence and escaped. “We were gone about 15 days and were recaptured,” he said. As punishment, Whetzel’s already minimal diet was reduced to bread and water for three weeks, and he was held with other prisoners in a room so small, they couldn’t all sit down at the same time. On May 2, 1945, the German guards ordered the prisoners into the forest, then abandoned them. The confused prisoners eventually wandered back to Stalag 12-A, where Russian troops found and liberated them two days later. For most of his life, Whetzel remained silent about his wartime experiences. He drove a truck for Amoco, became active in the Teamsters union and built houses for a living. “I’ve had some things against me, and I’ve had some things for the better,” Whetzel said. It wasn’t until 1999 or so that he said he felt comfortable talking about his time as a prisoner of war. He found a lot of support from civic organizations such as the Masons and Shriners, and was celebrated as a hero by Rolling Thunder and The Ride Home, two national organizations for motorcycle enthusiasts that honor veterans, former prisoners of war and soldiers reported missing in action.
Carmel Whetzel speaks to the members at the Chapter meeting.
(ED. Note: Article printed for benefit of members unable to attend the meeting.)