Local World War II veteran and former editor at The Lennox Independent, Verlyn Hofer, stopped in the other day to let us know he met a fellow WWII veteran here in Lennox. Charles Dawes, now residing at the Lennox Good Samaritan Center, served in the 103rd Infantry with the 7th Army. He was captured by the German army while serving in France, and was sent to Stalag 7A near Moosburg, Germany six days after his 19th birthday and held as a prisoner of war for five months.
Dawes and the other 76,248 prisoners of war were liberated on April 29, 1945 by Combat Command A of the 14th Armored Division. Interestingly, this was Hofer’s unit. Hofer was not with them at the time of the liberation due to an wartime injury that sent him to the hospital.
Hofer added that the Commander of his unit met with a German representative at Moosburg who wanted the Americans to agree to let them further escape into Germany, the American commander wouldn’t agree and what followed was a short battle between the Americans and retreating German soldiers for control of bridges across the Amper and Isar rivers.
These two WWII veterans crossing paths created a time to reminisce and share stories of a time long ago, but not soon forgotten.
Dawes, formerly of Mitchell, recalled his first days in the military. He grew up in Springfield and graduated from high school in 1942, he attended Southern State Teacher’s College in Springfield. He was drafted on March 29, 1944.
He said that his draft count in his County was six, “They had five spotted, and I was number six.”
He left school and attended basic training at Camp Wolters in Texas, and on Oct. 20, 1944 headed for Germany. Dawes did his combat training in Marseille, France, where Hofer also landed in France.
Dawes recalled that the infantry soldiers did extra training. He said, “Fox hole digging wasn’t an easy thing.”
The night he was captured wasn’t too long after he arrived. In the early morning hours of Nov. 29, 1944 he and his fellow soldiers, along with a Medic Unit, had taken shelter in an abandoned farmhouse and barn.
Dawes said, “While we were in the basement around 2:30 in the morning we heard, knock, knock, knock.”
That was shortly followed by the words “Nein kommen, grenade.”
Translated, it means, “No come, grenade.”
So the American soldiers filed out of the farmhouse with German soldiers on either side, Dawes recalled.
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