Former Pows Join Comrades In National Organization

May 26, 1991|By Patrick L. Hickerson | Patrick L. Hickerson,Staff writer

Approximately 45 years ago Army Pfc. Philip Hannon and Army Air Corps Sgt. Daniel Mausexperienced World War II from different perspectives: one from the ground as a combat engineer and the other looking out the tail of a B-24 "Liberator."

But both would close out the remaining years of the war in the European Theater the same way: as prisoners of war.

Today, Hannon and Maus, both retired 67-year-old Ellicott City residents, are membersof the American Ex-Prisoners of War, (AX-POW), a national organization that boasts more than 30,000 members, including 414 active membersin Maryland. Membership is open to former military prisoners of war,former civilian internees and their families.

FOR THE RECORD - Two former POWs, Philip Hannon (left) and Daniel Maus, both of Ellicott City, were incorrectly identified in a photograph published May 26 in The Howard County Sun. We regret the error.

Both Hannon and Maus have expressed fraternal reasons for joining AX-POW, such as locating elusive comrades before time takes its toll. According to Maus, more than 100 ex-POWs of Stalag Luft 4 -- which had a prison populationof more than 16,000 Allied POWs -- died in 1990.

Eleanor G. Huson, adjutant/treasurer for Maryland's AX-POW department, says that informing members of veteran's medical benefits, lobbying for pertinent federal legislation are other reasons for former POWs to join AX-POW.

The organization is currently lobbying for legislation that would allow all POWs before 1962 to receive Purple Hearts. All post-1962 POWs automatically receive the award. Locally, AX-POW has chapters in Parkville, Bethesda and Glen Burnie. Huson estimates that of the 12 former POWs living in Howard County, six are active members in AX-POW.

She speculated that the distant location of chapters and ignoranceof the group would be two reasons that more have not joined.

"Howard County really needs a chapter of its own. It would be ideal for people who live in Ellicott City or other parts of Howard County. Mostpeople in Ellicott City think Parkville is a long distance to go," Huson said.

The minimum number of members to form a new charter in AX-POW is 10 members, including spouses. Though members, Hannon and Maus are not actively involved in any particular chapter.

The narratives of POWs are rich in detail and unique in experience. The stories of Hannon and Maus contain the wide spectrum of human emotions and actions condensed into a few months.

Hannon was captured on December 19, 1944 -- nine days after he was deployed in Europe -- during the Battle of the Bulge, Germany's last offensive in the war.

When the six-week battle ended, two-thirds of his division was killed, wounded or captured. He spent the war's final months in a POW camp near Bad Orb, approximately 30 miles west of Frankfurt.

"That was the worst three months to be a prisoner," said Hannon. "Germany was fallingapart. Its first consideration wasn't taking care of prisoners properly."

Hannon's most frightening experience occurred before he reached the prison camp. He was in a train packed with POWs bound for German camps.

On Christmas Eve, while the train had stopped in a Limburg rail yard, Allied bombers raided the yard.

Ironically, a friend of Hannon's vacationed in that same region 45 years after World WarII and read an article in a local newspaper marking that rail yard bombing.

Maus' story as a POW began when his B-24 was shot down during the costly bombing raid at the German oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania, in August 1943. Only 33 of the 178 planes dispatched were fit to fly after the mission.

After four days of freedom, Maus was taken prisoner. But before he was sent to prison camps in Germany, he was interrogated for three weeks in Bucharest.

"They put me in a jail because they wanted me to give out information about my plane. And they wanted to know about about radar, and I didn't know about radar.

"So they put me down in a basement. And I had to step in manure, and I couldn't stand up, so I had to stand on my knees. I was in there for six days with no food, no water, no nothing. They wanted me to give them information on my airplane, and I didn't know the information. I would have given it to them if I knew it."

After his interrogation, he was sent to two prisons, Stalag Luft 1 that was north ofBerlin and Stalag Luft 4 in White Prussia, where he stayed until liberation by the Soviet Union Army.

"When I went in, I weighed 180 pounds. When I came out, I weighed 90," said Maus.

Nourishment was the only topic in the barracks. "All we did was talk about food," Maus said. "We never discussed girls or told stories."

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