On Christmas Eve, 1944, Eugene (Gene) Falgione was on patrol south of the Salm River near Vielsam, Belgium. Gene's patrol was sent on a mission by Lt. George Lamm, commander of the A Co. platoon defending two bridges on the north side of the Salm. Soon German troops poured into the area and prepared to attack the bridges which prevented Gene's patrol from returning to the American lines. Before dawn Christmas morning Gene was a prisoner of war.
Gene's captors took him into a building filled with POWs awaiting interrogation. Some had already been questioned and had been treated roughly by the interrogator. The GI nearest to Gene confided, "I'm really scared. I'm Jewish."
Gene suggested, "Pretend you have converted to Christianity."
"If I knew some Christian prayer, I might."
"Take my rosary, and we will repeat together 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' until your turn," Gene replied.
The Jewish prisoner was a fast learner. He was led away counting his beads and repeating "Hail Mary, Mother of God ..."
The interrogator felt kindly toward the pious prisoner of like faith and Gene's friend successfully disguised his ethnic background.
Upon liberation, Gene and his friend landed in New York together. Wow! What a celebration they shared in Brooklyn. It was Gene's turn to learn some things about Jewish traditions. After the party, Gene found several fifty dollar bills stuffed in his jacket pocket.
"Well, Shalom indeed".
(reprinted from the May 1995, Issue 60, of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association Newsletter)