Topic: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies  (Read 2932 times)

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Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2004, 11:28:06 am »
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/05/07/003.html

U.S. Soldier Ended Up in Soviet Army

By Carl Schreck
Staff Writer

Natalya Nechayeva / For MT

Of the million World War II veterans who will celebrate Victory Day on Sunday, few, if any, can say that they fought for both the U.S. and Soviet armies.

Joseph Beyrle is an exception.

Beyrle, the 80-year-old father of John Beyrle, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, will be on hand Sunday for the Victory Day parade on Red Square, a stone's throw from the monument to a man who helped bring him back to life -- legendary World War II Marshal Georgy Zhukov.

Beyrle's long, unusual trip from Normandy, France, to Nazi prisoner-of-war camps and then to a Soviet tank battalion and finally Moscow began in Muskegon, Michigan. After graduating from high school in 1942, Beyrle won a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame but decided to enlist in the army instead.

"It was peer pressure more than anything," Beyrle said recently at his son's apartment on the U.S. Embassy compound in central Moscow. "Everybody was going into the service. I was 18, 19 years old, and I was of draft age. By enlisting I got my choice; I got to go into the parachute troops. Otherwise I don't know where I would have ended up."

Beyrle ended up in the 506th Parachute Infantry, and after a year of training in radio communications and demolition, his unit flew to Liverpool, England, to begin preparing for an Allied invasion from the west.

After training in England for nine months, Beyrle completed two missions into France in April and May 1944, delivering gold to French resistance fighters.

Then came June 6: D-Day.

When Beyrle's infantry reached the French coast near Normandy that day, they came under enemy fire and eventually jumped from the frighteningly low altitude of 120 meters, Beyrle recalled.

After Beyrle landed, he lost contact with the other paratroopers. He managed to blow up a power station and carry out other acts of sabotage before being captured by Nazi soldiers a few days later.

Over the next seven months, Beyrle was held in seven different Nazi prisons, escaping twice only to be recaptured.

"The plan was to go east and link up with the Soviets, because we could hear their guns," Beyrle said. "They were quite a distance away, but we could hear them, so we figured that would be our best bet."

On the second escape attempt, Beyrle and two other prisoners were turned over to the Gestapo by a German who had promised to help them.

"They beat the hell out of us," Beyrle said. "They hung me up backwards and pulled my arms out of the sockets. They were going to kill us, I'm sure."

The three men were saved by the German military, which had official custody of prisoners of war. Military officials demanded that the men be turned over, as the Gestapo, a civilian police force, had no jurisdiction.

Beyrle was taken to the Stalag 3-C POW camp in Alt Drewitz, where he finally made a successful escape attempt in early January 1945. Two fellow escapees were killed as they fled. "I started heading east," Beyrle said. "I could tell they [the Soviets] were getting closer."

Beyrle hid in a hayloft near a farmhouse for a few days until around Jan. 15, when a Soviet tank brigade came by.

"I went down with my hands up and said, 'Amerikansky tovarishch, Amerikansky tovarishch,'" Beyrle recalled, using two of the few Russian words he knew: American comrade.

Beyrle managed to convince the brigade's wary commanders to let him fight alongside them on their march to Berlin, and thus began his one-month stint in the Soviet tank battalion.

Gaining the trust of his new comrades was difficult at first, Beyrle said.

"The commissar was always suspicious of me," Beyrle said. "And then one day we had to stop when the Germans had cut trees down and blocked our way."

Beyrle rigged some explosives to the fallen trees and invited the commissar to detonate them with the plunger, which he did, clearing the way for the Soviet tanks. "From that time on they accepted me," Beyrle said.

Beyrle's new battalion freed his former camp, Stalag 3-C, toward the end of January, and in the first week of February, he was blown off a tank and wounded after an attack by German Stuka dive bombers. He was evacuated to a Soviet hospital in Landsberg, now in Poland, where he received a visit from one of the Soviet Union's most famous generals, Zhukov.

"While I was there Marshal Zhukov came to the hospital to talk to the wounded, and I was the only non-Russian in the hospital," Beyrle said. "He came to my bed with an interpreter and wanted to know where I was from and how I got there.

"I told him about jumping at Normandy, and the last thing he asked me was if there was anything he could do."

Beyrle told Zhukov that he had no ID papers proving he was an American.

"He didn't say anything, but the next morning the interpreter came back with an envelope with a letter in it, all in Russian, five stars up on top," Beyrle said. "I asked, 'What does it say?' He said: 'You don't have to know what it says, it will be like a passport. It will get you anyplace you'd like to go.'"

Beyrle left the hospital and, with the Zhukov letter in hand, joined a Soviet military convoy heading back east. Two weeks later he walked into the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which at that time was in the National Hotel.

He soon found out, however, that he was dead. "I was woken up and told, 'Sergeant, we just got word back from the Pentagon that you were killed in action on June 10, 1944, in France. Until we can clear that up, we'll have to move you out of the embassy. We're not allowed to keep foreign nationals here.'"

Beyrle was sent to live at the Metropol hotel for about a week, where he became increasingly frustrated with his predicament. He finally suggested a simple solution to a U.S. Embassy official: take fingerprints.

"Why didn't I think of that?" Beyrle remembered the official exclaiming.

Beyrle's fingerprints were sent to the Pentagon, and word came back three days later confirming what he already knew: that he, in fact, had not been killed in action.

Officially alive and with tours of duties in armies that would prepare to destroy one another for the next half century, Beyrle returned to Michigan on April 21, 1945. He celebrated V-Day two weeks later at home in Muskegon.

 

J. Carney

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2004, 12:29:06 pm »
Yeah, and the good news is for his 81st birthday, he will finallyrecieve backpay for all the time he spent 'dead' during the war.

The Army just finished the paperwork last week.

Scott Allen Abfalter

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2004, 01:38:39 pm »

Anyone look at the POW picture of this guy halfway down the story?

He looked like he was more than willing to fight and give his captors some payback!

 

TB613

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2004, 04:13:53 pm »
Quote:


Anyone look at the POW picture of this guy halfway down the story?

He looked like he was more than willing to fight and give his captors some payback!

 




That is definitely not a picture of a defeated man.  

IndyShark

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2004, 09:34:49 pm »
If you are interested, he wrote a very good book about the experience. I have it and it's called "The Simple Sounds of Freedom".


 

Sirgod

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2004, 09:54:50 pm »
I'll have to grab that book then. and Yep, that guy looked like he Could chew Nails.

Stephen

TB613

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2004, 09:55:05 pm »
Thanks, I think I will look it up.  

TB613

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2004, 09:58:17 pm »
Quote:

I'll have to grab that book then. and Yep, that guy looked like he Could chew Nails.

Stephen  




Chew nails, heck he looks like he could have chewed iron ore and then spit nails.  

Hilton

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2004, 11:51:16 pm »
Outstanding! A great warrior indeed! This guy deserves some kind of recognition!

Hilton  

IndyShark

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Re: Cool WW2 story: This guy fought in both US and Soviet armies
« Reply #29 on: May 08, 2004, 10:57:51 am »
SirGod, if you like WWII books, please let me know. Simple Sounds is a good book, but I can recommend several that are even better. Perhaps we should start a good history book thread! LOL