I am submitting this
for many reasons. One is because I think it is an incredibly amazing
story. Another reason is because I am so very proud of what my Dad
did, and lastly it’s a part of the Banks history and heritage. I
want my kids and grandkids to know, understand and remember.
Dad had spent time in Ireland and England. He said he was not told
the nature of the assignment (June 6, 1944) but he knew and the
others knew it was something big. Little did he know he would be
jumping on a very historic day. I know little of the details of the
day of the jump, how he felt or what he was thinking. He did say
many of the men were throwing up in the anticipation of what they
were about to do. After he jumped he ran for eighteen hours. In the
end he was captured by the Germans. He said the first thing they did
was take the fudge my Grandmother (Helen Banks) had sent him. All
the places he was forced to go are listed on this site. He never
mentioned how he got from prison camp to prison camp, whether on
foot or cattle cars. The Red Cross was allowed to bring food in. He
even had turkey for Thanksgiving. Even with the Red Cross package,
he said he was always hungry and spoke of the winter when they
almost froze to death. At one point he volunteered to work in the
prison hospital so he could steal food. He also said when he had to
carry a German soldier on a cot he made sure he was bounced around
quite a bit. As the end of the war was approaching and the Germans
knew the outcome, their treatment got harsher.
The Russians liberated his camp. To survive that ordeal was
something in itself. Americans were killed. They had to hide in a
basement. The Russians were brutal in the way they killed the
Germans. They had discovered alcohol and were drinking a lot and Dad
was afraid they would start killing Americans just for sport. The
American and Russian soldiers stole items from the dead German
soldiers. My Dad stole a watch. When he was finally liberated my 6
foot Dad weighed only 90 lbs. He had lice, dysentery and was near
After they were liberated the soldiers had to walk to their freedom.
Dad was very sick. He said he had to tell himself, “keep putting
one foot in front of the other.” When he could go no further he told
the others to leave him behind because he was not going to make it.
A Russian woman nursed him back to his health. He joined up with
other Americans as he continued his journey to get home. There were
about 12 men traveling together. One of the men traveling with my
Dad could speak several languages so he was very helpful to them as
they made their way to Italy. As he journeyed he traded his boots
for bread and stole chickens from farmers.
When he got to a boat in Italy they were not going to let him on the
ship because his name was not on the roster of men returning. He
lied about his name and got on. After they found out he had just
spent 9 months in a German prison camp they treated him very good.
He arrived in the states April 9, 1945. “I was glad to be home, but
even more glad just to be alive.”
Penny J. Banks Lane