Basic Training

ASTP

Camp Maxey

England

Traveling into Germany by Foxholes

Belgian Border

Ardennes Forest Front Lines

Battle of the Bulge POW

POW and Interrogation

Wounded POWs and Germans

Traveling Germany as a POW

Bicycling POWs

Returning Home

War Reflections

Post-War Life and Relfections

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Byron Othello Wilkins, who goes by B.O. Wilkins, was named after his father. He grew up in northeast Arkansas in Luxora, which was south of Blytheville and north of Memphis. Wilkins participated in school. He wanted to study chemical engineering but only two schools in the south were accredited. He decided to go to LSU over Georgia Tech and started in Baton Rouge in 1941. Military training was required for the first two years at LSU. On 7 December 1941 Wilkins was living in the stadium with the other men. The radio announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and the men gathered and began to march towards the Commandants house but he was out of town. They marched to the Presidents house at the General Hodges House and asked the President what they should do. He responded that the men should go back to class and get straight As. In November of 1942 the Enlisted Reserve Corps opened and 130 joined up. They thought they would be able to stay in school and finish their degrees. Around Easter, the men were sent to Camp Beauregard and then to Camp Maxey, Texas for basic training. The 102nd Ozark Division [Annotators Note: 102nd Infantry Division] was the main unit. Wilkins and the men were in what they called the Jap Trap, which were tiny plywood barracks. They stayed for the summer for basic training after which 120 were assigned to return to LSU for engineering. Ten out of that group were sent to Oklahoma A and M for advanced engineering and that got the men through the basic training. Wilkins had a provisional regiment that consisted of men from the Enlisted Reserve Corps from five states including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. College kids formed the provisional regiment and they knew a lot of infantry training from ROTC. The excessive heat would make the men sick. They took physical training and someone got lost at one point. The men went into the town of Paris, Texas to search for the missing man but Wilkins does not remember if they ever found him. Some men participated in a band and orchestra and they were flown to Bonham, Texas to participate to a preflight base to play for a dance. Wilkins envied their sleeping arrangements. Wilkins did not have sheets or good bunks or good food. The people in town were nice to Wilkins and the men in the local town. The girls were home during the summertime so they had a lot of dances. Wilkins became company commander of Company G which was predominately LSU boys. They were assigned to the ASTP and were excited when they learned they were going back to college.

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Byron Othello Wilkins was in a provisional regiment that did not have enough guns to go around. They were issued 1917 Enfields but they were not like an M1. It was not until Wilkins got to the 99th Division where they fired more weapons. Wilkins enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps in November of 1942 and in April of 1943 the men were told to come back with nothing but their clothes because they were going to begin training. It took about a month to call the boys up and Wilkins ran out of clothes and had to borrow clothes from the fraternity boys. Wilkins went home to Arkansas and finally got a wire saying they were ready for the men. On 14 May they went to Camp Beauregard and were inducted. The junior class before them knew they were going to OCS and were disrespectful but Wilkins class knew they were not going to OCS but they had the punishment taken out on them. They were marched in the same clothes for 14 days. In early September they departed to their colleges. Wilkins got to Oklahoma A and M which is now Oklahoma State University with a college town of about 10000 people. Wilkins shared a dormitory room with John McCreedis from Massachusetts, Pedro Wicker from Texas, and Bill Stoddard from Iowa. Wilkins knew a young woman who was a freshman and found her at the registrar’s office. One of his fraternity brothers married one of the sorority girls and they all became good friends. They also had an orchestra and band at the school. Wilkins became the Cadet Captain of Company C during the second to last quarter. Wilkins had an upper respiratory infection and could not command his men for review. He went home for a weekend after the last quarter and when he returned he was told they were going back to Camp Maxey. The ASTP was over. At the end of schooling the men had a week to pack their belongings and say goodbye.

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Byron Othello Wilkins arrived back at Camp Maxey in Texas and saw a group of LSU men at the camp with a band to play the LSU Tiger Rag but no one performed for the Oklahoma A and M men. There were 19 LSU boys in Company K of the 393rd Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division where Wilkins was assigned. They were first separated but after a month they realized the men knew enough about basic training. Wilkins’s First Sergeant could not say his last name effectively and was not a very smart man. Wilkins was put on KP for punishment. Wilkins was in an orchestra and taken out of whatever the company was doing for rehearsal. He outwitted the sergeant to get out of KP. The same sergeant gave him a song whistle to carry around and Wilkins had it until they lost their duffle bags. Wilkins was on furlough in late August 1944 when they began packing to go overseas. The captain thought the orchestra was important for morale and suggested that the men bring their instruments overseas. The instruments were sent over in crates and the men were never able to open them. Years later, Wilkins learned that the building the instruments were in exploded during the Battle of the Bulge and they were all lost. Wilkins filed a government claim so they gave him money for a new trumpet. They were sent to Camp Myles Standish which was south of Boston. The men got their shots and prepared for going overseas. The men enjoyed Boston. Wilkins’s roommate from Oklahoma A and M decided to show him the town. They went back to Camp Myles Standish and put everybody in the division in a large amphitheatre and the guys took their prophylactics and blew them up like balloons and were batting them around the auditorium.

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Byron Othello Wilkins was taught what to do if he became a POW but no one figured they would become POWs. They boarded ship with their duffle bags and at the dock to the SS Argentina and the 99th Division band was playing the Tiger Rag for the LSU men. The trip lasted a couple of weeks with 54 ships in the convoy and there was only one submarine scare. Wilkins’s ship went to Southampton and other ships went up to Liverpool. They went to Camp D6 in Dorset England. The previous occupants were the 1st Division who had gone in on D Day. They had to march five miles every day and it would always rain. The men got to go into town and were inspected to make sure they looked nice before they went into London. Wilkins and his bunkmate Rod went to London and went to visit the pen pal Wilkins had had since the 6th grade. They got on the train and went to visit his family but Edwin, who was the pen pal, had been on a bombing raid and got shot down and was assumed dead because they had not heard from him in over a year. The family did not have much to offer but brought out their best tea and sugar and toast and jam and Wilkins had afternoon tea with the family. A year after the war ended, Edwin’s older sister wrote a letter to Wilkins saying how much the family appreciated the visit. Wilkins heard a rumor that his Division would be able to stay in England and patrol the beaches but they were loaded onto a Landing Ship Tank or LST to go across the English Channel and they landed at La Havre. As they got off the LST, the men grabbed duffle bags and struggled to get off the LST to find his own bag. Wilkins had grabbed an LSU football player’s bag who had loaded his bag full of food. They set up camp at Rouen. They set pup tents up in an apple orchard where cattle had grazed. Wilkins went to light one of his new Antonio and Cleopatra cigars but it tasted different. He later discovered the box had opened along with a can of foot powder and that got on all of the cigars.

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Byron Othello Wilkins packed everything up and moved with the men to Aubel [Annotators Note: Aubel, Belgium]. The 2nd Platoon of Company K was in a house owned by Msr and Mdm Aubon and their four children. Wilkins took French in high school and could communicate and acted as squad interpreter. The company interpreter was from Abbeville, Louisiana. Wilkins slept in the barn which was attached to the house. The soldiers did not wear their shoes in the house. They were provided with wooden shoes similar to clogs to wear inside. The last night they stayed there the supply truck came by to drop off overshoes but they only provided half of shoes required. They needed to go to the front and had to walk through puddles and mud. The over shoes were similar to galoshes. The temperature had dropped causing their feet to freeze. Men who did not have over shoes had wet feet that swelled and got trench foot. Some had toes amputated. All of those men were taken out of the line. Wilkins did not have wet feet but went to the medic because his feet were dry and frozen. Wilkins was told to look away and the doctor stuck the lit end of his cigar into Wilkins foot. Wilkins did not feel anything and was asked what kind of alcohol he preferred. Wilkins got a shot of alcohol and was told to go back with the rest of the men. It affected his marching throughout the war. The first night in the front lines Company K, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Division replaced Company K, 39th Infantry, 9th Division. They replaced men on a hill. They had to hide in their foxholes during the daytime and awake to listen for movement at night. The 99th Division was spread out over 22 miles so there was not a continuous line of soldiers in foxholes. The men would be spread out with two or three men in one foxhole with a machine gun. Wilkins was taken by surprise when his lieutenant came to check on them. Herman Dickman told the men not to use the Lieutenant title. Wilkins did not see him the rest of the time and later found out he was sick.

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Byron Othello Wilkins was given an automatic rifle after they cleared the foxholes on the hill. All the men had M1 rifles except for the automatic rifleman and the Lieutenant who had a carbine. Once Company K left the lines, Company L received heavy mortar fire. One side of the hill held an outpost while the other hill held German soldiers behind their dragon’s teeth and tank traps which were scattered. The men were fed well because they thought this patrol might be their last. They gathered one man and dragged him back down the hill but the rest were left. The bottom of the hill held high water. The colonel told the boys they would get dry clothes and a hot meal but when they returned the colonel was nowhere to be found so Wilkins and the men had to take care of themselves. They were back in reserve and around 3 December some of the men were allowed to go into the town of Krinkelt to relax, eat a warm meal, and see a film. Wilkins and the men had protective gear on with a headpiece that only showed the front of their face. The men made gas lamps in the foxholes that created a lot of soot so the front of each face was black. Once the men arrived at Krinkelt they took their gear off to shower and clean up. The men were in a movie while the Germans sent over a buzz bomb which was shot down by one of the artillery men but exploded over the theater and burst some of the windows. The movie might have been a Marlene Dietrich film. She was supposed to entertain the men before the Battle of the Bulge but had to be sent away once the fighting began. Wilkins was made a Sergeant and was the youngest Sergeant they had so he was in the outpost. Wilkins and one of his men had a telephone in case of a sudden alert. They heard shooting and found out it was Seifner [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] in the 3rd Platoon. They sent up a flare but no one saw anything.

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Byron Othello Wilkins was put on the front line again with his company. The sleeping holes were dug into the walls near the tree line by a highway that ran between Belgium and Germany. Logs were on top of the holes so the snow would not fall in. Macaulay [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] kept Lucky Strike cigarettes near his bunk and would recite the slogan whenever he lit one every morning. Wilkins kept pipe tobacco near his sleeping hole. PX rations brought him Blue Boar tobacco. Three men divided the different tobacco amongst themselves. The day before the Battle of the Bulge, half the squad was with Wilkins while the other half was near the highway. Wilkins saw that the snow near the tree line was full of bullet holes. One of the German soldiers would bring a machine gun every night around 5:00pm and would spray the area with bullets about three feet up. Wilkins suggested sending a rifle grenade the next day. Wilkins asked Lieutenant Corazon [Annotators note: unsure of spelling] about why he was focusing fire on the local town about two miles away. Wilkins asked Corazon about the incident years later but he did not remember it. Wilkins went back to his foxhole and practiced shooting. While Wilkins was eating, a German shell landed about six feet away but did not go off. It came in so suddenly that no one heard anything. If it had gone off it would have wiped out everyone in line and everyone serving food to the soldiers. One man was lucky and leaned over to pick up something he dropped in the snow and the shell went right over his head. That night, a German Messerschmitt 262 fighter plane was flying overhead. Macaulay had the early watch and woke Wilkins up and they saw the entire front across the highway was lit with floodlights. The sky was overcast and the weather was constantly dreary. As a part of Thanksgiving dinner the men had a mess kit of Turkey and potatoes and peas all piled together. The men ate Thanksgiving dinner in the rain. They learned that the Germans were using searchlights before the Battle of the Bulge to determine their locations.

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Byron Othello Wilkins experienced the artillery barrage around 5:30 in the morning [Annotators Note: on the morning of 16 December 1944]. None of the artillery landed in his ravine. The tree coverings protected the foxholes and Wilkins does not remember any men getting hurt. Macaulay [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] thought he was hit but a piece of shrapnel hit his bill fold and did not cause any damage. When the shelling stopped Wilkins heard rifle fire. He left his foxhole with his rifle and went to investigate the firing. Wilkins saw men coming out of the line of trees with Panzerfausts which could penetrate a tank. Wilkins believes the men saw the logs above the foxholes and thought there was a fort there that they could implode. Wilkins fired his rife to disperse the Germans. He moved forward toward the rife fire and someone yelled out to surrender in German. Wilkins could not see anyone so there was no need to surrender. 200 yards forward were rifle and machine gun squads that were filing out with their hands on their helmets to surrender. Wilkins did not learn until after the war which platoons were around the area. Wilkins asked for a white handkerchief but nobody had one so he waved his brown checkered handkerchief. One of the Germans was yelling and pointing until Wilkins realized he had grenades strapped to his jacket. He slowly took them off. Wilkins asked if he could retrieve his overcoat and the German agreed so Wilkins went back to his foxhole to gather his and Mac’s coats. One of the medics needed Wilkins help because a wounded German soldier needed morphine but his sergeant would not allow it until they asked the German lieutenant. He was sitting and eating the sugared dates someone’s mother had sent them from Los Angeles as a Christmas present. The German lieutenant agreed. Wilkins was relieved of his pipe tobacco and watch when they arrived at their first interrogation point. The Americans had to carry the wounded German back past the Siegfried Line. A German told Wilkins that he had it made as a POW because he did not have to deal with anymore war. Wilkins thought he would be enjoying nice barracks and warm food but later found out that was not the case. Wilkins was told to carry ammunition to the front and was accompanied by a German soldier. He saw new POWs which included his captain and other members of Company K.

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Byron Othello Wilkins made sergeant on 3 December [Annotators Note: 3 December 1944] and met the new captain around that time whose name was Stephen Plume [Annotators note. unsure of spelling]. The captain made the men police the area before the Battle of the Bulge. Plume only worried about the bugs that would come if the soldiers left trash around their foxholes. Wilkins had to run ammunition to the front lines of the Germans as a POW. The Allied soldiers thought they were Germans and opened fire. The artillery landed in the trees and a man near Wilkins was hit near his stomach. His hand was barely connected and gushing blood. Wilkins set him down and noticed the shell had severed his belt so Wilkins used it as a tourniquet. Wilkins told the Germans that he was going back to get first aid and they left the boxes of ammunition. Wilkins did not see him again after he brought the man to a German medic. Some POWs had to haul the wounded Germans back to camp. That night Wilkins heard someone crying out in pain. One man from 1st Platoon had his nose shot off. The man got some morphine to quiet him. The man’s name was Spencer and Wilkins believes he died because they never heard from him again. The POWs were being moved and Wilkins saw a German crawl out of the trees with both feet shot off but other German soldiers did not help him. They came upon armed panzer troops who were waiting for a break for the tanks to advance on the highways. The Germans would hang out of the half tracks and beat the men on the head and call them Tommys. Wilkins told the Germans they were American and that the Tommys were British and the Germans stopped beating them on the head. They marched back through the countryside and came across a small forest with panzer tanks. Wilkins saw P47 Thunderbolts flying overhead looking for tanks to shoot. The Germans fired machine guns over the POW’s heads to make sure they did not get out of line. All of this occurred around 17 December. All over the countryside there were dead animals and dead soldiers on the sides of the roads. Wilkins and other POWs were marching into Flamersheim and put in a leather factory where they spent a couple of nights waiting to be interrogated. Wilkins went in and gave the German interrogator his name, rank, and serial number. Wilkins was asked why some of the men said their prior profession was a student. Wilkins explained that the men were students before they joined the military. That is all Wilkins told the Germans. Travis Mathis was next to be interrogated. Mathis was also a sergeant in Company K. That was the last time Wilkins saw him until after the war. Most of the sergeants were lost to frostbite.

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Byron Othello Wilkins and other POWs worked in a nearby town called Euskirchen. They unloaded boxcars and one man found some cheese. The men each had a handful and ate it. The next man found some chocolate looking bars which turned out to be mostly paraffin wax. Some of the American B26 bombers flew around to bomb the rail yards. The German guards moved the American POWs to a station but a bomb hit a station nearby which knocked all of the windows out so the men were moved again. They went back to Flamersheim then from there they marched to the Rhine River near a mountain near Bonn. They arrived on Christmas Eve and were placed on concrete floors at Camp G6. It was a transfer Stalag that separated the men into groups of commissioned officers and non commissioned officers and privates. Wilkins had one pipe of tobacco left so he shared the pipe with the other men while they sang Christmas carols. On Christmas Day the Germans gave the POWs a bowl of soup and Wilkins was lucky because he had a chunk of meat in his soup. The day was sunny and a thousand B17s flew over their heads. Wilkins noticed small vapor trails which meant P51 fighter planes were escorting the B17s. The Germans sent up a Messerschmitt Me109 which was one of the German fighter planes to fly around the local town to convince people they still had an air force. One of the P51s followed the Messerschmitt and shot it down over the mountain on Christmas Day. The next day the men were taken down to Dusseldorf where they were loaded into boxcars. They were packed in so tight they could only stand. They were in the boxcars for four days and only had one stop for a bowl of soup. The men were relieving themselves in some helmets that were left. Some of the men contracted dysentery on the way to the Stalag. They arrived at Stalag 4B but there was no room for the soldiers. Over 20000 Americans were taken prisoner in Battle of the Bulge. Wilkins had to share a bunk with another man. Wilkins was made section leader so he would hand the food out and divide it among the six men in his section. In the morning the men got coffee and at noon they had tea and a bowl of soup and sometimes a chunk of black bread. Sometimes they would save the bread for the evening. The POWs were only eating about 700 calories a day. Wilkins stayed for two weeks then the Germans decided they were going to send the Americans to Görlitz to an American non coms camp near the east side of Germany. Wilkins was put into new barracks after the two day march. The men who had stayed in the camp before had taken the wooden bunk planks and burned them for warmth so the new prisoners only had one or two boards to sleep on. They stayed there for two weeks. First they slept on wooden planks and then wires. The Russians were threatening to invade so the Germans moved about 30000 men out of the camp. Wilkins and his group were the only Americans at this American non com camp. The other men were various Europeans. They were marched west and slept in a barn the first night then made it Bautzen and spent that night in a barn on damp sawdust. The group moved out and Wilkins told them he was hit by a truck. Wilkins only had his pack swiped but he was not really hurt. The Germans put him in an infirmary where he met some Belgian POWs who had been prisoners since 1940. They took Wilkins in because he could speak some French and he lived above the infirmary. They nicknamed him Bobby. Wilkins ate dinner with the men. One man worked at the grocery store and some worked at the shoe store and another at the hardware store. They lived well and Wilkins corresponded with them for about 20 years until he could not speak French anymore.

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Byron Othello Wilkins left the infirmary and was placed on a farm where there were a lot of British and various other prisoners who had been POWs since North Africa in 1943. There were two Americans, including Wilkins, who stayed with the British and were placed in a group called Grossevich [Annotators note. unsure of spelling]. Wilkins was with this group until the end of the war. Since some of the prisoners had been in camp for such a long time, they had items from home. The New Zealanders brought sheep sheers and Wilkins had his hair cut. One man had his trumpet at the top of the barn and Wilkins first heard the song Lili Marlene. The British had a secret crystal radio they used to listen to the BBC and the news but the Germans found it and confiscated the radio. The Germans moved the prisoners to Runberg in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. They stayed for about one week and the Germans gave the British their radio to listen to Churchill’s speech on 8 May for the end of the war. Each man had four rations of potatoes and cooked the food on homemade stoves before they moved out. The SS brought cattle the Germans were trying to hide from the Russians and some British men bought a cow. The Germans killed it and the men began to cut pieces of steak for themselves. The Germans moved the men out suddenly one night and around midnight Wilkins looked behind him and the town was on fire because the Russians were so close. While the men were cooking their potatoes the Russian air force and Germans were in a fire fight. The men were hauled back into the barn for a while before they left but a Russian shells never destroyed the barn they stayed in while they still occupied the town. They marched all night and finally made it to the Elbe River. Around noon the prisoners told the Germans they would not march any farther. The German guards left so three British and two Americans, including Wilkins, went into the town and confiscated some canned foods for the men. They found a wagon and on the way back to the Elbe River they met a German with a flatbed wagon. The Czechs were not letting any Germans across the river into their country so the prisoners piled on the wagon and maneuvered the wagon across the river. The German man made it across safely and later that night the men built a fire beside the Elbe River and put a drum tin across the top to make pancakes with the flour and water and syrup they found in the town. A group of Russian artillery men came by. The men were drunk and invited the POWs over. They filled their tin cups with what Wilkins thought was water but it turned out to be very strong vodka. Wilkins and the other men had not eaten much food and he was down to an unhealthy weight by this time. His mouth burned from the vodka he never felt any harmful effects. A Russian Officer told the men to take bicycles from the Germans and if they refused the prisoners should threaten the Germans by saying a Russian officer was shooting all of the Germans who did not give their bicycles to Americans. The Russian Officer did not realize the men were not all American. The men got the bicycles and rode up to Dresden and spent a night at a gasthaus where the owner had been a POW during World War 1 and could speak English. The owner also had two daughters who very beautiful. The Russians bothered both the father and daughters. The owner invited them to stay as long as they liked because as long as the Americans stayed the Russians would not bother his daughters. The men had to leave but made it up to Dresden. They rode through town where there were only small metal frameworks of rail yards from the February bombings of Dresden. The next day Wilkins stayed with more people and they fed the men. The next day the men marched west and met a woman who said her husband had been taken by the Russians. She asked them when he would return but they had no idea. They told the people as soon as the Americans came through everything would be better but Wilkins did not know at the time that the Americans were not coming through that area and would not even get to Berlin completely.

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Byron Othello Wilkins stopped at a gasthaus while traveling on a bicycle with other ex POWs. Wilkins saw an American signal truck from the 76th Division. The American men told Wilkins there was a convoy going into Germany and picking up POWs. Eisenhower had leaflets dropped telling the prisoners to stay where they were because the Americans were coming to pick them up and send them home. Wilkins and his group had bicycles so they were moving throughout the country. They had a 10 in 1 ration that was missing the candy bar so Wilkins took the food which was able to be cooked and made the rations for the men. They began with the sweet candy bar items and then split the rations between five men. Wilkins saw an armored car and a jeep with an American flag. Wilkins saluted and identified himself and his group piled in and they were driven down to Erfurt and went into a Luftwaffe facility where they found a huge amount of rabbit fur jacket liners. Wilkins brought one home and his mother made a coat for his sister. The men were separated between the American and British and French. A British boy had picked up a Walther Pistol and gave it to Wilkins because he could not take it back to England. The gun did not have a clip but the British man sent Wilkins a clip from England years after the war. Wilkins and his group were put on a C47 and flown to Riems then put into trucks and taken to Camp Lucky Strike on the coast of France where there were about 30000 POWs. Wilkins got a haircut and PX ration and candy bar and cigars. Wilkins went through the food lines three times for breakfast, lunch, and supper. The Red Cross had sandwiches and hot chocolate. Wilkins gained 62 pounds while he stayed at the camp. Eisenhower flew in and spoke to the men and told them about the Pacific Theater. He told the men they need supplies in the Pacific. They could wait until nicer ships would arrive and could return home in luxury or they could pile on one ship and go home right away. Wilkins and the other men decided to go home right away. They got on the Admiral Mayo which was over packed. The men were supposed to sleep two nights in the bunk and one on deck. The men on deck liked it so much because it was cooler so the men in bunks slept in the bunks the entire trip. There was entertainment on board every afternoon with a small orchestra. Victor Meteur [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] was the head of the mess and he told jokes. Wilkins was able to send a letter home saying he had been a POW but all they had received was a postcard Wilkins had written on New Year’s Day and his family did not get it until April [Annotators Note: April 1945]. All they knew was that he was missing in action. Wilkins went home with the Louisiana group because his parents were supposed to move from Arkansas. When they got back to Boston and piled on trains they went to Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg and got new uniforms. Wilkins hitchhiked to Memphis because he found out his parents were still in Arkansas. Wilkins had two months furlough as a POW. They were told to reassemble at Miami Beach for rehabilitation and spent a week at a hotel and enjoyed their relaxing time. A group was assigned to go to the West Coast to receive men from the Pacific. They stayed there from September until Thanksgiving. Wilkins saw a military football game while in San Francisco. He was discharged in Sacramento and given money for fares to return home. He visited his grandparents in Arkansas then took a bus home and visited his sister at college. He finally went to Baton Rouge where his family lived. Wilkins met with some of the fraternity brothers and attended dances at the gym armory at school. While Wilkins was on the Siegfried Line before he was taken prisoner, he wrote a letter to a girl he knew from the Opera Corps who had become the Darling of LSU, congratulating her. Wilkins saw her at the dance and went to talk to her and she was shocked and thought he was dead because the school newspaper had printed a list of men who were missing in action. Men reregistered for the Spring Semester in February and the line was extremely long and full of men from the 99th Division.

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Byron Othello Wilkins helped form a club with Corps Commander Troy Middleton who was University Controller. The club was formed with men from the 99th Division and was called The Stockholders but had nothing to do with stocks. They would make an announcement every Friday afternoon that the Stockholders would meet at the same place at the same time which meant they would go down to a bar in Baton Rouge and have a small party. They finally got accredited from the University to keep track of everyone in the club. They had a banquet and had General Hodges talk to them and he reminded the men of the cold weather in Europe. In 1983 Wilkins found out the division still had an association that met every once in a while. He attended his first reunion in 1987. Company K had one of the best attending reunions. Wilkins and his wife went back to Europe in 1994 and visited with one of the historians whose father was British and mother was Belgian. Wilkins also met the Diggers who were four young Belgians who roamed the Battle of the Bulge site and found artifacts and bodies who were reported missing since 1944. The bodies were identified and sent home to their families. The 99th had several tours of the battlefield and celebrated the 60th anniversary of VE Day in 2005. The group went to Remagen on the bridge where the 99th was the first full division to cross the bridge before it was bombed. While Wilkins was a POW he stayed in the barn with British soldiers. He was not able to work in the surrounding area but the British men were able to work the land and bought food and goods. A British man asked Wilkins if he had any gold because they could trade it for food. Wilkins got rid of his fountain pen tip and the soldier came back with a loaf of German bread. Wilkins also had his gold class ring so he gave it to the soldier and he brought back six big loaves of bread and a coffee can full of lard which made for a good spread. Wilkins had to leave some behind because the war ended and somebody stole some but he was unable to finish all of the food and that is what good came out of keeping his class ring. During the Battle of the Bulge the 3rd Battalion stayed in the same area of the front. Company L was on Wilkins’s left facing Rat Hill [Annotators note. unsure of spelling]. Company K and Company I were in between and in the back and Wilkins were on the right flank. The 1st Battalion and Company B were on Wilkins’s right. Company K was one and a fourth miles in front of where Wilkins was and around where the 3rd Platoon was stationed. [Annotators note. Interviewers asked about Available Jones nickname]. Wilkins remembers a comic with the character named Available Jones from Lil Abner and just called one man that name. Wilkins was trained in foxholes with a little guy from Detroit who did not know anything about being outdoors. Wilkins believed that being an Eagle Scout helped his training. The new recruits would have to go on Grumble Hikes and the men could not complain about anything to teach the men not to grumble about anything. They were put in a mindset to make anything that was bad into a positive thought. Wilkins became a Scout Master for the Lions Club and trained some of the men. He thought it was important to keep track of all of the things going on in scouting and the innovations and technology expanded merit badges. Eagle Scouts should take every opportunity to learn something new. [Annotators note. Interviewer asks about knowledge of other battalions during the Battle of the Bulge and Wilkins shakes his head in the negative]. Wilkins did not have contact with other divisions during the Battle of the Bulge. One man knew about a field artillery unit somewhere in the area and some of the Arkansas boys heard about it and would spend time with old friends. Wilkins’s cousin who was two years younger than him, was with a field artillery battalion south of where Wilkins was, in Patton’s Army in the 515th Field Artillery.

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Byron Othello Wilkins saw men with different patches representing different divisions when he was captured. [Annotators note. Video stops mid sentence then continues into another unrelated sentence]. At Stalag 4B, a 2nd Division cook named Talerico [Annotators Note: unsure of name spelling] became friends with Wilkins. They spent most of their time talking about food and Wilkins used candy wrappers to write recipes of meals he would eat when he got home. Talerico gave Wilkins recipes that were originally for about 200 guys. Wilkins does not know what happened to Talerico because they became separated. Krinkelt and Rocherath were joined and known as the Twin Cities. The one church rose above the town and was used as a look out point. Battles were fought in that area during the first two nights of the Battle of the Bulge. Movies were shown in the Dead Horse Theater and men slept in bunks set up in the area. The theater was named such because a horse was killed by a buzz bomb in the building and the building was located in the middle of town. Across from the rebuilt church is a small triangular shaped park that was given to the 99th Division and a monument was placed there describing the battle on one side and listed the units associated on the other. Two years ago the 2nd Division got permission to place their monument there so now there are two monuments in that park. Every year on 16 December bouquets of flowers are placed around the monuments. These units were attacking the Siegfried Line before the Battle of the Bulge and were pushed back and mixed up. Wilkins was given a 10 percent disability for his frozen feet for about three years. Then he went to Port Arthur and worked in a refinery. He was asked if he wanted to go to a refinery up north but did not think he would last because his feet were constantly cold. His feet did not inhibit him from doing any work so they rescinded his 10 percent disability. However if he went to the Veterans Hospital to have a physical Wilkins could get disability because he was a POW. Wilkins had to have a couple of teeth removed and had some malnutrition as well. He saw an enormous amount of panzers which were supposed to go through the American lines but they were strung out and ran out of fuel. Wilkins was captured where two entire German regiments surrounded the line. Wilkins surrendered and when he looked back he saw hundreds and hundreds of Germans. The only way the Germans won was by outnumbering the Americans. The men who are in the military have dedicated their lives to protecting their nation and should have first choice.
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