James Kirk, Army Air Corps (Ret.) is a U.S. Air Force and World War II veteran assigned to the 2d Bomb Group in Foggia, Italy, where his B-17 Flying Fortress aircrew flew missions over oil fields in Romania. On their 29th mission, they were shot down over Hungary. The crew bailed out and captured by Hungarians. Imprisioned in a Budapest state prison, the crew moved to a German POW camp. On Feb. 1, 1945, POWs left the prison to participate in “The March.” This forced trek through Germany towards the east lasted nearly three months. The Germans forced the group of POWs to march about 30 miles per day, zigzagging between the American and Russian armies. They marched all through southern Germany, enduring not only one of Germany’s most brutal winters, but dysentery, lice and starvation. Kirk’s group was “liberated” by the Russians, who held them for another month. “A whole bunch of us just decided that was enough, so we jumped out of a window and walked west,” Mr. Kirk said.
Making their way to the U.S. Army, they eventually arrived at Camp Lucky Strike, one of several tent camps built on the French coast near Le Havre, France. Mr. Kirk weighed 96 pounds when he arrived.