Ranger Edgar A. Ferrier
Army Serial Number:
I’m hoping this brief report of experiences in my life will help anyone who reads this letter to better understand the horrors past and present of being an American ex-prisoner of war.
I served with the US Army’s Darby’s Rangers. I was captured outside of Rome (Cisterna), in January 1944 and held as a prisoner for almost 16 months. When we were captured, most of my outfit was killed. Death was everywhere. Those of us left were marched at gunpoint to an old factory building that was bombed almost instantly by our own forces. We were later taken to the streets of Rome where they marched us for the citizens to throw hot water on us. We thought they would tear us apart.
Eventually, we were taken to box cars. We were crowded in so tight, there was standing room only. There were no toilet facilities and the cars reeked. We would have to take turns resting. The box cars were strafed by friendly fire. We thought the box cars would be our graves. We arrived at Stalag 7A. The living conditions were terrible….there was dysentery, lice, very little food and very cold. Six men shared one loaf of black bread. I began losing weight. I went from 160/165 down to about 105 pounds when we were liberated. My legs and feet were swollen to the point I was afraid to take off my boots, fearing I could not get them back on again. The weather was very cold and our hands and feet were always so cold.
I was put on a work farm in Poland where they trained SS troops. I escaped from the farm for about two weeks but was recaptured by a Polish guy whose gun was bigger than he was. He turned me in. I was put in chains and taken to Stalag 2B and put in solitary confinement for over a week. I was given black bread and water. I had snuck a cigarette into the cell and the guard caught me smoking. He took my only blanket and punched out the window, so I would be even colder.
They took me out of solitary and I rejoined the rest of the prisoners. We were all suffering from hunger, the cold, dysentery and constantly being threatened by the camp commander and some of the guards. The camp commander would put a German Lugar to our heads, not to mention the rifle butts to ours backs and everywhere else if we didn’t move fast enough to suit them. These aches and pains in the back, arm, knees, are constant reminders of the brutality of fellow human beings in prison camp.
In January 1945 we left 2B on a forced march across Germany that lasted about 2 ½ to 3 months. There was very little food and no place to sleep except the cold ground. We were always cold and wet, and so weak. Guys would be along the roadside collapsed too weak to move. After we passed by they would disappear. We never found out what happened to them. We only knew that we couldn’t help or save them; we had to leave them behind to die alone.
We finally came to a Russian camp. We were told to march to a quarry. The guards were all above us with ‘potato mashers’ (grenades). We thought this was it. The guards suddenly disappeared and an American tank crashed through the wire. We had survived the nightmare.
We learned to be soldiers but there was no training on how to be a prisoner-of-war. We learned on our own how to survive the beatings, the hunger, the guilt, the brutality from our fell man. I survived but the memory is as if it happened yesterday. I couldn’t save the others. You don’t forget these things, ever. I am fortunate to have friends who were POWs. Only ‘They’ understand because they too live with the same memories. They haven’t forgotten --- how could they?
Edgar A. Ferrier
Posted by Rit Banulski (family friend) with permission from Ranger Ferrier