Date of Interview
Vernon Kruse was born 5 December 1923 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, one of four children. He grew up in St. Louis Park and graduated from high school there in 1943. One month later, in July 1943, Vern was drafted into the US Army. He completed Basic Training and was schooled as a radio operator, then assigned to 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 4th Armored Infantry Division. Vern arrived in Europe following the June 1944 D-Day invasion of France. On 30 August 1944, during an engagement in eastern France, Vern was captured by German forces. After time in transit and some days at XII-A Limburg, Vern was sent to III-C Kustrin, some fifty miles east of Berlin, arriving 30 September 1944. On 31 January 1945, advancing Soviet forces liberated III-C during a fight for the town. Prisoners of many nationalities were freed. But a German counterattack retook the town, and the camp; while many POWs were recaptured, others now were on their own. With no chance to reach US lines (several hundred miles to the west), liberated US POWs had no choice but to hike on their own through liberated Poland and the Soviet Union to the Black Sea port city of Odessa, more than one thousand miles distance, where an Allied office had been established to deal with cases like this. Vern tells the story of his unique five-week journey to Odessa in great detail: the challenges, the people. He arrived there on 8 March 1945, and then was transported by ship to Naples, Italy, and then the United States, arriving in Boston in mid-April 1945. Vern was discharged from service in November 1945. Again a civilian, he got married in 1949 (wife Helen) and helped to raise five children. Vern spent his working career in radio and electronics repair, thirty-five years for Sears Roebuck and Company. He was active many years in the American Ex-POWs organization.
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Saylor, Thomas, "Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941-1946 - Vern Kruse" (2005). Oral History Project: World War II Years, 1941-1946. 37.