Memories of War Never Forgotten: The Story of WWII US Navy Hospital Corpsman Jack Miller Fletcher


Map indicating the Mariana Islands, Guam, and Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean.


Jack Miller Fletcher was born September 21, 1925, in Spur, Texas (240 miles west of Dallas, Texas).  After the December 7, 1941, surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Jack went to Dallas to join the United States (US) military.  After the train with new recruits left Dallas with a destination of California for military training, Jack’s father stopped the train at Sweetwater, Texas (212 miles west of Dallas), told the military authorities that Jack was underage to enlist, and took him home.  Later in 1942 after Jack turned 17 years old, his father signed the paperwork permitting him to enlist.  Jack left high school a semester before graduating and joined the US Navy.  [Jack had three older brothers who also served in WWII].

[While in California training, Jack learned a young lady he dated in Texas was in Los Angeles.  Her name was Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell.  They spent a night dancing the jitterbug to the Les Brown Band of Renown Orchestra at the Los Angeles Hollywood Palladium.  Gypsie would change her name to Phyllis Coates and became the first Lois Lane in the television series Adventures of Superman.]

Jack trained as a US Navy hospital corpsman and was assigned to the US 3rd Marine Division.

Second Battle of Guam (July 21 – August 10, 1944).  The island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean Mariana Islands had been a US possession since 1898.  The Japanese captured the island in the First Battle of Guam (December 8 – 10, 1941).

Jack landed on Guam several days after the initial US assault on July 21, 1944.  

While on Guam Jack tells the story of a local family who asked his help to deliver a baby.  He hadn’t received training in that area, and all he knew was what he had seen in American movies when an actor would say  “tear up the sheets and boil some water.”  The family followed Jack’s instructions.  Jack was organizing his torn sheets and boiling water when a family member delivered the baby.  The sheets that were torn up were never needed, and Jack learned that they were the family’s best ones that had been buried with other valuables in December 1941 so the Japanese could not confiscate them.

After the US capture of Guam, the island was used for training exercises in preparation for the Battle of Iwo Jima.

In Jack’s 2013 oral history interview with the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, he tells a story of the unimaginable bravery and courage of a fellow hospital corpsman who died in a training accident on Guam on December 3, 1944.  The hospital corpsman’s name was David L. Demarest.  He was 20 years old.  During the training exercise the shell of an anti-tank 105mm gun fell short and landed in the midst of the marines.  David Demarest’s jaw was blown off in the explosion.  In an attempt to prevent himself from swallowing his tongue after the injury,  David took a safety pin and put it through his tongue and then pinned his tongue to his cheek.  In spite of his serious injury he continued to treat the wounded and the dying until he too died.  Jack said 30 – 40 marines were killed or wounded in the exercise.

Battle of Iwo Jima (February 19 – March 26, 1945).  Jack was assigned as a hospital corpsman on a US Navy attack transport ship (APA 89) named the United States Ship (USS) Frederick Funston.  APA 89 had transported troops from Guam to Iwo Jima for the battle.  Her troops were initially held in reserve and landed on Iwo Jima February 27, 1945.


USS Frederick Funston


Jack spoke of two medical treatments that became available to treat casualties on Iwo Jima; the availability of penicillin and whole blood saved many lives.

He also tells of the unique medical challenge of open wounds that became contaminated with the island’s volcanic ash.  Jack says it could turn a wound gangrenous in 24 hours.  That resulted in many amputations.

Battalion aid stations on the beach became targets for the Japanese.  It was decided to move American medics and casualties as quickly as possible out to ships for treatment.  Jack still gets emotional when he speaks of being surrounded by dying and wounded men as he worked to save lives.

In Jack’s 2013 interview he shared the tragic story of a marine he treated on the USS Frederick Funston.  His name was Sergeant (Sgt) Charles C. Anderson, Jr., who was assigned to the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.  His two legs and arms were blown off when a mortar landed between his legs on Yellow Beach.  The young marine remained conscious during part of his medical treatment, and Jack said Charles would make jokes wondering if he could get dates after the war.  The medics were able to keep him alive for 16 hours before he died of his wounds.

The death of Sgt Charles C. Anderson, Jr., was an especially sad one.  In one of WWII’s dramatic ironies, the captain of the USS Frederick Funston was Charles C. Anderson, Sr.  A father signed his own son’s death certificate.

On March 8, 1945, the USS Frederick Funston left Iwo Jima waters to transport the casualties they had on board to Guam for further treatment.

Jack was on Guam when he heard US President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945.  He said he and many of the men “cried like babies” when they heard the news.  

Training had already begun on Guam for the planned Invasion of Japan scheduled for November 1945 when he heard WWII had ended.  Their objective would have been to land on Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island.

After WWII ended it became a priority to transport American military personnel back to the US.  The plan called Operation Magic Carpet (October 1945 – September 1946) returned eight million Americans from the Pacific, European, and Asian Theaters.  Jack was assigned to the operation and made three Pacific crossings with US repatriated military personnel.

Jack was discharged from the US Navy in November 1946.  His three brothers survived WWII and returned home, but his younger 17 year old sister, Joyce Ann, had been killed in an automobile accident in Texas during the war.

Jack spoke of having nightmares for several years after WWII ended.

After WWII Jack used the GI Bill to attend Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.  He graduated in 1949 with a Degree in Agriculture.



In 2012 Jack was invited back to Spur, Texas, to receive his high school diploma.  After seventy years he officially graduated from high school.


Jack Fletcher receives his Spur High School Diploma. May 29, 2012, Spur High School graduation photo courtesy of Spur Independent School District.


During WWII Jack learned about Australia when he traded beer rations with Australian soldiers.  He would later move to Australia and began a business that changed the field of agriculture in Western Australia. The Australian government awarded him the Order of Australia Medal for his work.  For more information on Jack’s legendary career in the agriculture industry see and

Jack Miller Fletcher’s full interview can be found in the digital archives of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.  He was interviewed by museum oral historian Floyd Cox.  The link is

Thank you to WWII historian and researcher Sue Moyer.

Brought Down in Flames: The Story of WWII B-17 Pilot Clayton A. Nattier


On August 30, 1943, Clayton A. Nattier was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps. He was 20 years old.


Clayton A. Nattier B-17 Flying Fortress crew, Sioux City Army Air Base, Iowa, 1944. Kneeling left to right: Sergeant Ernest Lussier (Waist Gunner)*, Sergeant Max Kimmel (Waist Gunner), Sergeant Cecil Richardson (Ball Turret Gunner), Sergeant Richard Edwards (Tail Gunner). Standing left to right: Sergeant Eugene Blaskoski (Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner)**, 2nd Lieutenant Bernard Weinstein (Navigator), 2nd Lieutenant Clayton Nattier (Pilot), 2nd Lieutenant Gerald Johnson (Co-Pilot), 2nd Lieutenant William Gregory (Bombardier), Staff Sergeant Edwin Block (Radio Operator). *Sergeant Lussier completed his combat tour flying with another crew when crew size was changed from 10 to 9 members. **Sergeant Blaskoski was injured in England and replaced by Sergeant Gerald Bump.  



The Clayton A. Nattier B-17 Flying Fortress crew arrived in England in July 1944.  They were assigned to the 306th Bombardment Group (BG), 369th Bomb Squadron, based at Thurleigh.

September 13, 1944

The 306th BG target for the day was Merseburg, Germany. The IG Farben Leuna works, the second largest synthetic oil refinery in Germany, was located there. It was also the most heavily defended industrial target in Europe protected by the Luftwaffe 14th Flak Division. Composition of the division in October 1944 totaled 62,550 persons.


Duration Plus (a B-17 borrowed from the 306th BG, 367th Bomb Squadron, that day) replaced the Nattier crew B-17 when it experienced hydraulic brake problems as it taxied for take off from Thurleigh. After shrapnel hit the plane near the bombing target over Germany fire burst into the cockpit on the co-pilot’s side.


The Nattier B-17 Heavenly Body was taxiing for take off when the plane developed hydraulic brake failure. The B-17 Duration Plus assigned to the 306th BG, 367th Bomb Squadron, replaced it. By the time the Nattier crew took off that day their first challenge was to catch up to the already airborne formation of 306th BG B-17s enroute to Merseburg. 

Approximately 30 minutes from Merseburg trouble developed in one of the four Duration Plus engines. Co-pilot Lieutenant (Lt) Gerald Johnson tried to correct the problem, but the engine eventually had to be shut down. 

In B-17 flying formation at 29,500 feet and entering the target zone, a second Duration Plus engine started to run rough. 

Then at the Initial Point (IP) where the bombers began the bomb run on the target, the B-17 was hit by shrapnel that penetrated the upper right aluminum shell of the aircraft nose. A fire was spontaneously ignited as the oxygen and oil lines were severed. Flames burst into the cockpit next to the co-pilot.  Lt Nattier gave the order to bail out.

Lt Nattier knew the fire was uncontrollable. He stated, “You know you’re going down, and all you can do is to try to give the crew enough time to bail out.”

Lt Johnson left the cockpit and proceeded to the front nose escape hatch to join navigator Lt Bernard Weinstein and bombardier Lt William Gregory according to bail out procedure.

Lt Nattier maneuvered Duration Plus out of the flying formation and put the plane into a steep dive from 29,500 feet. At a lower altitude oxygen was more readily available to the crew, and the chance of a successful bail out was improved. Then he too left the cockpit and moved toward the front escape hatch.

Clayton did not expect to have to return to the cockpit again before he too could bail out.

As Lt Nattier approached the front escape hatch he saw that the co-pilot, navigator, and bombardier had not left the aircraft. Above the noise he motioned them “Out,” but Lt Weinstein mouthed “No.” Clayton did not know what the problem was but knew he had to go back to the cockpit to change the angle of the B-17 dive to allow more time for them to bail out.

Clayton assumed the ball turret gunner, waist gunner, tail gunner, and radio operator had already bailed out through a rear escape hatch.  [They had.]  The top turret gunner Sergeant (Sgt) Gerald Bump was still on the B-17 and had made valiant attempts to put out the fire.

When Clayton got to the cockpit it was almost engulfed in flames. The instrument panel was melting. He had to reach through the flames to adjust the controls to decrease the B-17 dive angle.  His face, neck, and both hands were badly burned.

The route to the front escape hatch was now blocked with fire and smoke. Lt Nattier’s and Sgt Bump’s only escape route was to jump through the bomb bay.  The bombs had not been dropped that day.  Clayton jumped after Sgt Bump, but his parachute strap caught on the arming propeller of one of the bombs.  He pulled it loose and fell out of the aircraft.  By then he was semiconscious.

Clayton later estimated that from the time the shrapnel hit the B-17 until he bailed out was approximately five minutes.

An American P-51 Mustang fighter plane in the area piloted by Lt William McKee, III,  followed the B-17 until it crashed and exploded. The co-pilot, navigator, and bombardier had not bailed out and were killed in action.

Lt Nattier and Sgt Bump landed in a field near Halle, Germany.  Sgt Bump injured his ankle.  Lt Nattier was seriously burned and semiconscious. Cadets from a local Luftwaffe Flight School found them and transported the two airmen to the Halle jail where a medic from the school treated them.

Clayton does remember temporarily regaining consciousness a couple of times on the way to the Halle jail.  He opened his eyes once and found himself looking into the eyes of a donkey.  It seems he was thrown over the back of the animal, transferred to a small automobile (in later life he realized the car had been an early model Volkswagen), and then taken to the jail.

September 14, 1944.

Lt Nattier and Sgt Bump began their journey from Halle to a prisoner of war (POW) camp.

Lt Nattier was first taken to a Dulug Luft near Frankfurt, Germany, where he was interrogated. [A Dulag Luft was a transit and interrogation center for newly captured Allied airmen. After interrogation the prisoners were sent to permanent POW camps.] When being transported from Frankfurt to his permanent camp, he saw his five surviving crew members at the Frankfurt train station. They were sent to Stalag Luft 4* at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland).

September 26, 1944.

Clayton arrived at Stalag Luft 1 (SL1) near Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany, on the Baltic Sea. His bandages had not been changed since September 13, but miraculously he had not developed an infection at the burn sites. He spent his first three weeks in the camp hospital.

Lt Nattier became SL1 POW 5577.  His camp mailing address was Clayton Nattier, North Compound 2, Kriegsgefangene Baracke 202, Room 6, Stalag Luft #1, Barth, Germany.  Each room held 18 prisoners with bunk beds stacked three high.  A small wood burning stove provided them limited heat and a place to cook their meals. Food provided by the Germans was supplemented with Red Cross packages.  

Delivery of Red Cross packages to SL1 stopped from December 26, 1944 – March 28, 1945.  Packages were known to be in Sweden and on the docks in Germany but were not delivered.  Clayton describes a three month period without the supplemental food supply as one of near starvation the POWs endured.

December 1944.

Colonel (Col) Hubert “Hub” Zemke became POW 6559 at SL1.  He was captured after his P-51 Mustang experienced a structural failure over Germany. His rank made him Senior Allied Officer at the camp.  He was 30 years old.

Col Zemke was the son of German immigrants and spoke fluent German. The Col had delivered American P-40 Warhawk fighter aircraft to Russia as part of the United States (US) Lend-Lease Act, and he taught the Russians how to fly and maintain the aircraft. His language skills and experience with the Russian military would prove extremely useful. 

Clayton still speaks highly of Col Zemke and his leadership ability which greatly improved POW conditions.

May 1, 1945.

The Russians liberated SL1. There were nearly 9,000 POWs in the camp at that time.  The Russians planned to transport the POWs to Odessa, Russia, on the Black Sea.  

Col Zemke along with other Allied leaders had a different plan.

May 12, 1945.

The plan called Operation Revival (May 12 – May 14, 1945) was to fly SL1 POWs out of hostile-held territory and back behind Allied lines. B-17s from the US 91st BG based at Bassingbourn, England, flew into what was a German military airfield near Barth. American POWs were then flown to Camp Lucky Strike (one of the US camps in France for repatriated servicemen) near LeHavre.  British POWs and those POWs sick or injured were flown to England.



Nine days after SL1 was liberated by the Russians, Clayton wrote a letter to his parents.

May 10, 1945

Dear folks,

These past few days have been quite eventful to say the least. The “rotten Huns” left us on the thirtieth of April, and the Russians came in the following day. Although we can’t go just anywhere in Germany we are free outside these barbed wire fences, a wonderful feeling.

I’d like to tell you that I’ll be home in a few days but that probably wouldn’t be true. I can’t begin to tell you how anxious I am to get home, and it won’t be long I know –- a very conservative estimate would be the first of July and barely possible by July tenth. Got three letters here – one from Mother, Dad, and Jean.

Boy what a privilege it is to write a letter in ink that won’t be censored by some German.

Russians have been bringing in cattle and hogs to butcher. Yesterday we cooked our first fresh meat since England.

I’m in as good health as I ever was and feel swell – I just want to get home. Drop Jean a note and tell her I’ll see her soon.

Strawberry season should be in full swing when I get home – I can see your strawberry shortcake now Mother.

Lots of love,


[Many servicemen throughout WWII did not want their families to worry about them. Their letters home did not always describe what they were seeing and experiencing and feeling. Clayton’s letter is an example of one of those letters.]   

Clayton would eventually sail from LeHavre on a Liberty ship back to the US.  He would return home to Concordia, Kansas, and propose to “a pretty special girl” named Jean Mails (mentioned in his letter).  Jean and Clayton got married two weeks after his return.  

Then as Clayton says he got started with the rest of his life.





*In January and February 1945, as the Soviet Army was advancing west, the Germans began marching POWs further into Germany from Stalag Luft 4 (SL4) and other Allied POW camps. The march for the SL4 POWs spanned over 80 days and an estimated 600 miles (965 kilometers). They first were marched west. Then they were marched east when Allied artillery fire could be heard to the west. On May 2, 1945, the SL4 POWs were liberated by a British unit. 

Clayton’s five surviving crew members — Gerald Bump, Edwin Block, Max Kimmel, Cecil Richardson, and Richard Edwards — returned to the US after SL4 was liberated.  They all kept in touch after the war.

A special thank you to Clayton Nattier for sharing his wartime experiences with me and answering my many questions.

Clayton’s son-in-law, Thom Mindala, wrote a book Flying the B-17 Flying Fortress which details Clayton’s wartime experiences.  

The story and photographs are posted with Clayton’s and his family’s permission.

Thank you to WWII 306th BG Historical Association Historian Cliff Deets who is an invaluable resource for BG history. Information about the WWII 306th BG can be found at


The G.I. Bill of Rights: A New Chapter for Those Who Came Home from WWII

The University of Cincinnati 1946 yearbook. Text bottom right reads, “The war with its hard fought battles and lonely hours is over. Those who left McMicken’s halls to help fight those battles and to share those lonely hours have come back—not only to take up where they left off, but to carry out the dreams and plans they made while they were gone.” “McMicken” refers to McMicken Hall on the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, campus and was a nickname for students used in the 1940s.


The Dedication in the 1946 yearbook was as follows:  “As McMicken’s sons come back from the far-flung battle-fronts … North Africa … Anzio Beachhead … Normandy … the Bulge … Bataan … Coral Sea … Guadalcanal … New Guinea … Iwo Jima … Guam … they remember their classmates who will never again return to classes, to parties, and to the way of life they knew and loved. We will not and must not forget them and what they have done for us.”


Members of the University of Cincinnati Veterans Association in 1946.  Row 1 — Kemeny, J.; Rodgers, J.; Niedenthal, R.; Kelly, R.; Ritter, B.; Armandroff, T.  Row 2 — Hannon, J.; Faunteleroy, T.; Cleary, R.; Gordon, R.; Hill, R.; two unidentified members.  Row 3 — Vance, E.; Williams, H.; Murphy, J.; Williams, T.; Bentley, E.; Feltrup, A.  Robert Kelly was president of the organization. The purpose of the Veterans Association was to promote fellowship among veterans as they entered college life.  


Before WWII ended the United States (US) Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 which provided a range of benefits for returning veterans.  The legislation is more commonly known still today as the G.I. Bill of Rights.  

The educational benefits in the G.I. Bill included tuition and living expenses for veterans returning to school.  The University of Cincinnati was one of many universities, colleges, trade schools, and training programs that welcomed WWII veterans wanting to continue their post-war education. G.I. Bill enrollments at the University of Cincinnati began in the fall of 1945.  At its peak there were 8,000 veterans enrolled there. In 1949 two-thirds of the university graduates were WWII veterans.

The G.I. Bill was a defining document in 20th century US history.  The positive effects on the US economy that started with the passing of the G.I. Bill are still evident today.



The genesis of this story began when I found the 1946 University of Cincinnati yearbook in a used bookstore in San Antonio, Texas.  The tone and sentiment in the yearbook reflects the 1940s US society and the educational institutions that welcomed WWII veterans back from a long war and sought to help them readapt to civilian life.  

Thank you to University of Cincinnati Archivist Kevin Grace for his help in researching this story.

Photographs in the story are courtesy of the University of Cincinnati Archives.

A Smoking Snake: The Brazilian Expeditionary Force in WWII


The Smoking Snake shoulder patch of a Brazilian Expeditionary Force soldier in WWII.


Brazil was the only Latin American country to send ground troops overseas to fight in WWII.


In 1941 after the December 7th Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United States (US) Navy was granted access to Brazilian ports in its anti-submarine campaign in the Battle of the Atlantic against the Axis.  In early 1942 Brazil granted permission to the US to establish air bases and military installations on Brazilian territory.   The South American bases were essential as staging and stopover points for aircraft and ships with destinations in Africa, the Mediterranean, and beyond.  Recife and Natal, Brazil, were particularly important bases during WWII.

The President of Brazil Getúllo Dornelles Vargas declared war on Germany and Italy on August 22, 1942, after 36 of its merchant ships were sunk in the Atlantic Ocean by German and Italian submarines.

The  Brazilian Expeditionary Force (BEF) was formed in early 1943 and had Army and Air Force branches. The BEF included about 25,700 men and women.

The Brazilian Navy was not directly part of the BEF.  The Brazilian Navy and the Allies defended air and sea transport lanes, protected convoys between South America and the Strait of Gibraltar, and made it difficult for German and Italian submarines to operate in the Central and South Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. 

The first group of BEF troops sailed from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Naples, Italy, in 1944.  Their mission was to fight alongside other Allied armies in the Mediterranean Theater.

The BEF Army branch was attached to the Allied 15th Army Group composed of British and US field armies in Italy.  The BEF had a notable role in numerous battles in Italy including the Battle of Monte Castello, the Battle of Montese, and the Battle of Collecchio. They captured over 20,000 Axis soldiers.

The BEF air branch was attached to the 305th Fighter Group of the US Army Air Force, 62nd Fighter Wing, 12th Air Force flying in the Mediterranean Theater. The Brazilians flew Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter planes from their base in Tarquinia, Italy.  Their callsign was Jambock. They flew 445 missions and destroyed military targets including 1,304 motor vehicles, 13 railway wagons, 8 armored cars, 25 railway and highway bridges, and 31 fuel tanks and munitions depots.


Brazilian P-47 Thunderbolt pilots wearing their distinctive white caps. Kneeling left to right: 2nd Lieutenant Paulo Costa, Captain M. Joel. Standing left to right: 1st Lieutenant A.D.S. Eustógio, Lieutenant Colonel Nero Moura, 1st Lieutenant I. Motta-Paes, 1st Lieutenant R.B. Lima-Moreira, 1st Lieutenant L.F.M.F. Perdigão.


When WWII ended, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force had lost nearly 1,000 men killed in action.

The Brazilian Military Cemetery of Pistoia, Italy, was established on August 4, 1945.  The cemetery closed in 1960. The soldiers’ remains were returned to Brazil and re-interred at the Monument of the Dead of World War II in Rio de Janeiro.  

The body of an unidentified Brazilian soldier was later discovered still buried in the Pistoia cemetery.  The Brazilian government elected to leave the remains of the soldier there.  In 1967 the Brazilian Monument and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of World War II was inaugurated at Pistoia.  



WWII Allies remembered. 

An exhibit in the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, to commemorate the Brazilian Air Force in WWII.


For additional information about the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in WWII visit  Also at the web page is the story explaining how the BEF got the nickname Smoking Snakes.


In Memory Of … WWII Nun Sister Emeldine

Sister Emeldine in Holland in March 1946.


This story is in recognition of Dutch citizens who helped the Allies in WWII.


The United States (US) Army 24th Evacuation Hospital landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 12, 1944, six days after D-Day.  The unit followed Allied military operations through France, Belgium, and then to Holland in support of Operation Market Garden in September of 1944.  

From October 28 to December 2, 1944, the 24th Evacuation Hospital occupied the Saint Maarten Kliniek (Clinic) in Nijmegen, Holland.  This was their first hospital set up in an already existing building.  Prior to that the unit worked in a tent hospital setting.  The Kliniek had been used by the Germans when they occupied Holland.  

The Saint Maarten Kliniek is where this story takes place.


Top photograph of the front of Saint Maarten Kliniek in 1944.  Bottom photograph shows the back of the building damaged after nearby military operations.


In a 2011 oral history interview 24th Evacuation Hospital nurse Lieutenant Josephine Pescatore Reaves tells of meeting Sister Emeldine and other nuns who cared for patients at the Kliniek.  


Photograph of Sister Emeldine and Lieutenant Josephine Pescatore Reaves taken at the back of the war damaged Saint Maarten Kliniek in 1944. 


Josephine shared a story in her interview about a US Army 101st Airborne Division soldier who was dying.  His name was John Kublinski.  She, Sister Emeldine, and a Catholic priest endangered their lives to grant John’s last request.




If the families of those lost in WWII had known that their loved ones did not die alone but were in the hands of caring people, it may have offered them some solace in their grief.

John Kublinski and Nick Patino were buried in US Temporary Cemetery 4655 at Molenhoek, Holland.  Their bodies were repatriated to the US after WWII ended.


Unfortunately I could not find further information about Sister Emeldine.  She did survive WWII as is attested by the 1946 photograph of her above.

Efforts have been unsuccessful in trying to locate the three sons of John Kublinski to share this remembrance of their father.

On November 19, 1944, a German shell hit the hospital.  US Army physician Guy A. Myers and nurse First Lieutenant Katherine L. Foster were seriously wounded.

The photographs in this story are used with the permission of Josephine Pescatore Reaves.  The oral history video is used with the permission of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. 

A valuable website with extensive information on many of the US medical support units in WWII is WW2 US Medical Research Centre

There are three other stories on this website about the US Army 24th Evacuation Hospital.  The stories are WWII Camp Shanks, New York: And a Visit by Archbishop Spellman,  An Afternoon in Paris after Liberation: And a Letter from a Parisian Lady,  and The Medics: Those Who Took Care of the Wounded and the Dying in WWII .


The Resistance, Escape from Buchenwald, Allied Flyers Escape Line, 101st Airborne Interpreter: The WWII Story of Dutchman Jack van der Geest

Jack van der Geest, 1951, United States (US) Air Force B-36 Peacemaker strategic bomber Radar Operator. He served his adopted country after WWII and became a US citizen.


Jacobus (Jack) van der Geest was born in The Hague, The Netherlands,  September 17, 1923.  Before WWII ended Jack worked with the Dutch and French Resistance, escaped from Buchenwald concentration camp, helped Allied flyers escape to Switzerland, and was an interpreter for the United States (US) Army 101st Airborne Division.  

Jack spoke seven languages he learned in school and from friends.  He spoke Dutch, English, German, French, Flemish, Javanese, and Malayan.  This ability proved to be invaluable to him during WWII and after.

[The Netherlands proclaimed neutrality when WWII began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  In spite of this, Germany invaded the country on May 10, 1940.  After overwhelming the Dutch Army and the bombing of Rotterdam, The Netherlands surrendered to Germany on May 15, 1940.  Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government escaped to the United Kingdom before the surrender and established a government-in-exile.]

In Jack’s autobiography Was God on Vacation? he tells of being awakened on May 10, 1940, at 4 o’clock in the morning to the sound of explosions somewhere in The Hague.  He, his parents and sister, and a friend staying with them that night ran from their apartment at Soestdijksekade 43 and gathered in the street with other residents of the neighborhood to see what was happening.  Jack said leaflets were dropping from airplanes.  The leaflets message, in Dutch on one side and German on the other side, was “We the German people came to liberate you.”

[In 1938 The Netherlands passed a law requiring firearms owners to register their guns.  The Germans used the registration list to go to homes and businesses collecting the weapons of Dutch citizens.  Some weapons escaped detection and became useful in the Dutch Resistance.]

The Dutch Resistance had many small, decentralized units that planned independent actions against the Germans.  Jack’s father became an area commander of such a unit in 1941.  Jack was a member.

In September 1942 the Gestapo went to the van der Geest apartment and arrested  Jack, his father, and his mother.  A Dutch woman collaborating with the Germans betrayed them. 

Jack and his father and mother were taken to a prison near The Hague in Scheveningen which in WWII was nicknamed “The Orange Hotel.”  They were interrogated separately.  Jack worried about his parents and did not find out until after WWII what happened to them.  Among his worries he didn’t know what happened to their old fox terrier, Jony, left in their apartment after the family was arrested.

After interrogation Jack was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.  Travelling in a standing room only cattle car with other prisoners, Jack arrived at Buchenwald the end of September 1943.  Some prisoners died during the journey.  At the camp the prisoners had their heads shaved, were disinfected, and given striped uniforms to wear.  Jack’s prisoner number on his jacket was 512601.  Beneath it was a red triangle identifying him as a political prisoner.  Assigned to work in several different areas of the camp, his last assignment in Block 46 was the most horrifying.  It was where they did human experimentation on camp inmates.  Some of what Jack saw he could never discuss even toward the end of his life.

After nearly six months in Buchenwald Jack didn’t know how much longer he could live and planned an escape.  His plan would take extreme focus and patience on his part.  He knew the crematorium was out of fuel and used this knowledge to his advantage.

Every morning there was a prisoner roll call in the camp at 5 o’clock.  In March 1944, one morning Jack “played dead.”  A guard wrote down his prisoner number, and his seemingly lifeless body was dragged to an area where the dead were stacked for disposal.  He laid among the corpses until early that evening when there was only one guard near the pile of bodies.  With his remaining strength Jack jumped up and overpowered that guard.  He removed his German uniform and with multiple layers of clothing that he removed from the corpses to fill out his skeletal frame under the uniform, he started to walk toward the entrance gate of the camp.  It was now dark, and a German truck driver saw him walking.  The driver offered him a ride to Weimar.  Jack jumped in the back of the truck and then jumped out the first time the truck slowed down after it was driven out of the concentration camp.

Near Weimar a German farm couple let Jack stay at their home that first night after escaping.  He was still in a German uniform and was never sure they knew who he really was.  Jack spent the night in their son’s bedroom and saw a picture of him in his German Army uniform.  The next day the farm couple gave him their son’s bicycle to continue his journey.  

Feigning a limp to look like a soldier wounded in the war when he was seen in public, Jack found a railroad station in Erfurt, Germany, and decided to get in a boxcar of a train headed west to France.  Shedding the German uniform along the way, he dressed in some civilian clothes he took from the farmhouse.  He changed trains three times and eventually arrived in Neufchateau, France.  Jack decided to get off the train at that point.


In Neufchateau Jack decided to take a risk and find a dentist.  A guard in Buchenwald had knocked out his two front teeth.  His gums were swollen and infected.  A dentist Dr. Marvell treated his infection and later put in two false teeth.  After cautious and wary conversation Jack told the dentist he had escaped from Buchenwald.  Dr. Marvell revealed he was a member of a French Resistance group called the Maquis and asked Jack if he would like to join the Resistance.  Jack said yes, and the dentist arranged transportation for him to Paris, France.

In Paris Jack’s Resistance group would steal important information from the Germans to pass along to the Allies and would break into government buildings to get identification and food ration cards to give to Jews and dissenters in hiding.  They also helped downed Allied flyers escape from France.

A Paris Resistance member Guillaume who ran a Allied flyers escape line asked Jack to go with him on a mission to guide flyers from Paris to Neuchatel, Switzerland.  Guillaume thought Jack’s escape and evasion experience and ability to speak multiple languages would be extremely useful.  On Jack’s first mission he and Guillaume met three flyers (two British and one American) at Versailles outside Paris.

The phase of the moon was important in planning these missions as travel was mainly by night and paralleled main roads to avoid German vehicles.  They walked approximately 248 miles (399 kilometers) to Switzerland, and the trip could take 10-12 days one way.  French farmers and Resistance members living along the route would provide shelter and food for the group.


Jack led the next mission on his own.  On his sixth mission an American flyer told him being multilingual would be of great use in the upcoming Allied invasion of Europe.  Jack knew that there were other Allied flyers escape lines, and he felt that his luck may be running out.  He sent word back to Paris that he was going to England from Switzerland.  He and the escaping Allied flyers left one night from an airstrip near Zurich, Switzerland, in what looked to Jack like a Douglas DC 3.  There were British and American Embassy personnel on the flight also.  Switzerland declared neutrality in WWII, but Jack found out then that in wartime certain rules do not always apply.

It was March 1944, and Jack was 20 years old.

In England Jack was chosen as an interpreter for the US Army 101st Airborne Division.  He trained as a paratrooper and parachuted into Normandy with them as part of Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.  Jack acted as an interrogator and interpreter.

Jack stepped foot on Dutch soil again in Masstricht, The Netherlands. 


In Bastogne Jack had an opportunity to return the kindness of the German farm couple who had fed and sheltered him after his escape from Buchenwald.  A captured young German soldier he was interrogating described a farm near Weimer, Germany, where he lived with his parents before WWII began.  To the surprise of the soldier Jack provided him a description of his parents.  He told the soldier he had fine parents and said nothing else.  In Jack’s interrogation report he stated that he knew the soldier’s parents, that they helped him when he escaped from Buchenwald, and asked that nothing happen to their son.

The end of 1944 brought a message that the Dutch government ordered her countrymen in foreign service to report to England.  After reaching London Jack was given two choices: join the Dutch Army and train in England or become a Royal Netherlands Marine and train in the US.  His time spent with Americans and wish to go to the US made the choice an easy one for him.

The end of January 1945 Jack and other Dutch marines left Liverpool, England, on the Queen Elizabeth sailing to New York City, New York.  The Queen Elizabeth on that voyage served as a hospital ship.  The Dutch marines helped care for the wounded servicemen returning to the US.  In New York Harbor Jack used a sheet as a sling to carry a soldier who had lost both legs up to the main deck of the ship.  The soldier wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.  Someone started to sing The Star Spangled Banner.  Others joined in.

Jack trained at US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, South Carolina, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.  He was in Washington, DC, when he heard the war in Europe had ended on May 8, 1945.

During his time in the US Jack asked the Red Cross for help in locating his parents.  But he could get no news of his parents and sister.

On December 8, 1945, the Dutch marines left Virginia by ship with a destination of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Military assignments while based there included rescuing 50 Dutch marines captured in Indonesia during WWII that were being held in a Japanese prison near Peking (Beijing), China, and clearing Japanese soldiers out of the jungle of Java, Indonesia, who did not know WWII ended. 

In July 1946 Jack was discharged from the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps.  He found a job with a shipping and transport company located in Sydney, Australia.  He still had no word about his family.

After two and a half years Jack found himself back in Java on a business trip.  A letter from his mother was waiting for him at the post office.  She and Jack’s sister had survived the war and were in The Hague.  [Jack learned from his mother after WWII ended that his father was sent from “The Orange Hotel” to Dachau concentration camp about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northwest of Munich, Germany, where he died on February 19, 1943.  His mother was sent to the German concentration camp Ravensbruck 56 miles (90 kilometers) north of Berlin, Germany.  She was released about three and a half months later and returned to The Hague.  Records found in 2009 indicate Jack’s father died in Camp Vught which was a transit and concentration camp in The Netherlands in WWII.] 

Jack wanted to become an American citizen.  There was a six year waiting list to emigrate to the US from The Netherlands.  In Australia, where he had been living and working, there was a four and a half year waiting list.  Indonesia only required a person to speak Malaysian and live there for 30 days.  Easily fulfilling the two requirements Jack sailed to the US and en route stopped in The Netherlands for three months to visit his mother and sister.

He arrived in the US in November 1949 at 26 years of age.

While registering as an alien at a post office in Baltimore, Maryland, Jack saw a notice that one could become a US citizen after serving three years in the US military.  On March 2, 1950, Jack joined the US Air Force, became a Radar Operator on a B-36 Peacemaker strategic bomber, and was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.  May 5, 1953, after serving three years in the military, Jack became a citizen of the US.

Jack died March 3, 2009, in Rapid City, South Dakota.  He was 85 years old.

Jack’s love for his adopted country is expressed in the last sentence of his autobiography Was God on Vacation? when he states “Next time you pledge allegiance to our flag, I hope you get the same thrill down your spine that I do.” 



A  friend of Jack’s once visited the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Museum where he found the Death Certificate of a prisoner named Jacobus van der Geest.  Jack was one of only eight people to escape from Buchenwald.

Buchenwald Concentration Camp Death Certificate.



Jack published his book Was God on Vacation? (with Carol Ordemann) in 1995.  Thank you to his son Van van der Geest for his help in the research for this story.  The story, photographs, and maps are published with his permission.

On April 29, 1998, the USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education did an interview with Jack.  He was named a Rescuer and Aid Provider by the Foundation for helping  Jews during the Holocaust.  The link to the interview (Part 1 and Part 2) is  

Jony, the family fox terrier, was rescued from their apartment three days after the family was arrested.