On September 17, 1943, the British military transport ship Samaria arrived in Liverpool harbor. The 3 th battalion of the 506 th parachute regiment of the 101 US airborne division was on board. Together with other paratroopers on the British coast, set foot and technician sergeant 4-th class Joseph Byerly, who only a month ago turned 20 years. Then no one could have known that from that moment the cycle of events commenced in his fate, comparable to the deadly whirlwind. This whirlwind will throw Beyrle into the enemy’s rear, force him to go through the humiliation of captivity, make three escapes, go to the Gestapo’s paws, look more than once in the eyes of death, see first-hand the great generals, and finally become the only American who fought in the Red Army on the Eastern front. Of course, he was accompanied by an incredible, even fantastic success, but she would be blind if young Joseph did not show a high degree of courage, resourcefulness, perseverance, courage and loyalty to his military duty, his “landing” character ...
Joseph Beyrle was born 25 on August 1923, in the town of Maxigon on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, in the large William and Elizabeth Beyrle family. They were descendants of immigrants from Bavaria (Bayren in German), which is reflected in the spelling of their names. Even when Jesef attended St. Joseph’s school, he became interested in athletics — he ran a mile in less than 5 minutes. After graduation, he was offered to become a fellow at the University of Notre Dame, but he went into the army, trying to get to the war, which had already been raging on another continent, especially since his two older brothers, John and Bill, had already made a similar choice .
In the middle of 1942, in the United States, on the initiative of Generals J. Marshall and O. Bradley, an experiment began to create a new kind of military. The 82 Infantry Division, formed at Camp Kleborn (pc. Louisiana), was divided into two, and two airborne divisions were formed at its base in Fort Bragg, the 82 and 101. Already existing parachute regiments were attached to each division, while infantry regiments were converted into glider regiments.
Under the command of Colonel Robert Sink in the camp Toccoa (pc. Georgia) was formed 506 th Parachute Regiment, the first to receive basic and parachute training. The regiment consisted of 1800 fighters, assembled into three battalions of three companies, each of which consisted of 132 soldiers of military service and eight officers and was divided into three platoons and headquarters. The platoon, in turn, was divided into three rifle squads of 12 people and one mortar squad of 6 people. The mortar squad armed with a 60-mm mortar, and the rifle squad had a 30 caliber machine gun.
The personnel of the 506 regiment was recruited mainly from civilians who volunteered to become parachutists, they received an extra salary for jumping. One of them was the young volunteer Joseph Beyrle. A few weeks of intensive physical training in the Toccoa camp were supposed to prepare volunteers for further training in the jump school. An incredibly tough obstacle course and a march shot with a full display on Mount Kürrahi and back were developed here. This mountain became the emblem of the 506 regiment, its motto and symbol. During this time, Beyrle learned radio mode and took part in testing portable radio stations in the jungles of Panama. His enthusiasm for athletics greatly helped him, and 1 / 3 of all volunteers was expelled from the landing precisely because of poor physical fitness. In November, 1942, part of the battalions was sent to the Fort Benning parachute school, with the 2 / 3 regiment sent on foot marches. After receiving the qualifications of paratroopers, the 506 th regiment joined the Screaming Eagles 101 parachute division (which means “screaming eagles”), Fort Bragg, and in September the regiment was sent to the UK on board the Samaria transport . The divisions housed in the Liverpool area, where parachute repair and maintenance workshops were opened, and training began in the vicinity of the village of Chilton Foliat. At the end of 1943 and before the start of 1944, there was a constant replenishment of 506 and other regiments with personnel to reinforce them before landing in Normandy. It was then that Joseph personally saw General D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal B. Montgomery, who had come to the division to check out the parachutists, who were to be the first to land.
By this point, Byerly had more than 60 jumps on his account and was considered an experienced skydiver. This, as well as a good knowledge of German, drew the attention of the Special Operations Directorate to a young paratrooper. In April-May 1944, he was twice abandoned on the territory of occupied France to deliver gold to the Resistance members, and both times successfully returned. In May, Byerly joined the 6.928 of the 101 division's 10th group of fighters who were the first C-432 aircraft to have landed on D-day in Normandy on 47. And although the division did not yet have combat experience, the paratroopers believed in success thanks to their hard year-long training in the States and eight months in England.
In the afternoon of June 5, the Allied airborne troops began to prepare for the landing and further hostilities. They laid and customized equipment, wrote the last letters to their relatives, put a camouflage paint on their faces. Many paratroopers, in order to frighten the enemy, made themselves a Mohawk haircut. For Joseph, the words of Colonel R. Sink, commander of the 506 regiment, were uttered in his memory, said in Douglas: “Today is a great night. Tomorrow, bells will ring in our whole country and in the Allied countries, announcing that you have come, that the landing of the liberation has begun ... The confidence of your high command is with you. Fear will soon become a reality for the Germans. Inspired by the righteousness of our cause and the strength of our power, we will destroy the enemy wherever we find him. May God be with each of you, our soldiers! With our works we will justify His faith in us. ”
Meet the Fate
Joseph Baerly, along with other thousands of American 6 and thousands of thousands of British British paratroopers 1944, jumped on the night of 13 June 7 of the year. The third battalion of the 506 regiment was assigned a special mission: after taking off from the airfield of Exiter and disembarking in the landing zone “D” near Karentan, seize two bridges across the Dover River. The commander of the 3 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Walverton and his deputy, Major George Grant, were killed during the landing. Only 120 from 680 people who took part in the landing, were able to perform their task.
But Joseph Beyrle was not among the first ones ... Jumping from C-47 just a few seconds before the rest with the regimental call “K th-th-rr-a!”, He soon realized that he was separated from them by several kilometers. Joseph landed on the roof of the church in the town of Saint-Com-du-Mont and, moving to the gathering place and having previously got rid of excess equipment, found himself all alone. He only stumbled upon the dead.
Each paratrooper was to carry with him an M-1 rifle, 160 ammunition, two fragmentation hand grenades, a kilogram of plastic explosives, a Mark-IV anti-tank mine weighing about 4,5 kg. Most of the soldiers were armed with pistols, knives and bayonets. The paratroopers were supplied with field rations for three days and cigarettes - two blocks each. Everyone was given first-aid kits with bandages, sulfa drugs and two morphine tube syringes. The paratroopers of the 101 division received a cricket toy for children, which had to be used instead of a call sign and password - they had to respond with two clicks. Joseph, being the radio operator of Captain McKnight and a demolition man, had to jump with a walkie-talkie and explosives, plus he improved his arsenal with a Thompson machine gun and a Colt 45 caliber.
Time after time Joseph listened to the radio, but all was in vain: only the crash of radio interference, and he, breaking the radio, buried it. American paratroopers instructed: if they do not have any other cases, they can do the destruction of communication lines. He remembered that he saw on the scheme on the outskirts of the town a small German relay station. Stealthily stealing up, he managed to undermine the generator and dynamo. At dawn, the first time he stumbled upon the Germans, he threw grenades at them and, jumping over the hedge, rushed east to search for his own, often checking the compass. Almost 20 hours Joseph tried to connect with his - hungry, tired, but ready for battle. Already closer to twilight, moving almost to the touch, crawling from one hedge to another, he saw a passage in the field and rushed towards him. Hearing a rustle, Joseph responded twice with a mechanical cricket signal, which meant: “his own”, but in response he heard a sharp one: “Hyundai hoh!”, And after a few seconds, strong male bodies piled on him.
The camouflaged machine-gun nest with nine German paratroopers belonged to the 6-th parachute regiment (FJR6) under the command of Oberst Friedrich-August von Heydte. Joseph was lucky that he fell into the hands of his "colleagues", he was mistaken for an officer, searched and disarmed.
I must say that he was in captivity because of the miscalculation of his command. Yes, yes, because the idea of using mechanical “crickets” meant using them only at the beginning of the landing, that is, in complete darkness. At the same time, the headquarters completely missed the fact that in daylight crickets make no sounds, and the mechanical signal given in the daytime can give out the location of the paratrooper. The Germans quickly realized what was happening, and, as Joseph himself had guessed later, he was not their first prisoner ...
Without warring the day, Byerly was captured. While he was being led to a prisoner of war, he firmly decided to refuse to cooperate with the enemy and to demonstrate to everyone that he was a real soldier. Joseph did not lose heart and ran the same day after the shelling, in spite of the “shameful” wound to the buttock.
But the next day he was again taken prisoner, his personal badge was taken away and sent to the assembly point between the cities of Saint-Lo and Alenson. Here the group of the first American prisoners was visited by the commander of the German Army Group B, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Although the visit lasted only ten minutes, Joseph remembered the tenacious look from below up to the undersized Field Marshal. Further, the American paratrooper was expected by the center for interrogation of prisoners of war, located in the castle east of Falez. For life, Bierley’s head left a mark on the butt of a German rifle as a reminder of that interrogation week. Not wanting to accidentally let slip, he pretended to be insane, until in the end they were behind him, thoroughly beating in the end. About a month before the liberation of Paris, Joseph was “lucky” to walk along its streets as part of a column of prisoners hooting French collaborators, where he even managed to get into the frames of a propaganda German film. From the Paris station, all prisoners of war in livestock cars were sent to Germany. On the way, the Allied bombed the train more than once aviationbut Joseph was lucky again ...
This derivative of the German word kriegsgefangener, which, in fact, means a prisoner of war, called themselves 30 thousands of Americans who were trapped in German captivity at that time. Officially, the stay in captivity began with the delivery to the camp, where the prisoner was registered, photographed, vaccinated and given a badge with a personal number, the latter gave the right to send a postcard home through the Red Cross. All personal data of the prisoner of war was then sent to the Wehrmacht's reference service on military casualties and prisoners of war. Officers of the relevant departments filled three special registration cards for each prisoner of war: one remained in the inquiry service, the other was sent back to the prisoner's home or to the country he served in the army, and the third was sent to the International Red Cross in Geneva. Each prisoner of war received a special sign - KG, which was sewn to the uniform on the back and to the left leg under the knee. Prisoners were differentiated according to the types of troops, military ranks, nationality and religion. Then they were sent on foot or in wagons to a stationary camp - Stalag in accordance with the rank and type of troops. The first such one for Joseph was Stalag XII A in the suburb of Limburg, then IV D at Annaburg, IV B in Mülberg and, finally, III C near Kustrin. Joseph told his son about his mood in a photograph taken in Stalag XII A after the war when he asked what his father thought about when he was photographed: "Will I have time to kill the photographer when he gets distracted."
Nevertheless, Joseph learned to survive in the camp according to the recipes of the Rangers captured under Dieppe in August 1942: “leave a little food in reserve each time, may not stay tomorrow,” “no matter how tired, train,” “think, what and to whom you say. "
According to the 1907 Hague Convention, the prisoners ’power supply was to meet the standards of the reserve troops of the country that captured the prisoners. “Krigi” received from the Germans every day about 230 g of bread, 0,5 kg of boiled potatoes, 15 g of margarine, 20 g of horse meat, 20 g of marmalade or jam, 2 coffee ersatz mugs - in the morning and evening. By agreement between Germany and the Red Cross, each prisoner of war was to receive a weekly food parcel. And although this agreement was violated, the packages were delivered at least twice a month. The usual contents of the American Red Cross package that prisoners of war from 1943 received were: for a jar of beef and pork stew, liver pate, a can of salmon, a pack of coffee or cocoa, a package of cheese, raisins or prunes, orange concentrate, milk powder, margarine, sugar, chocolate, biscuit, a few pieces of soap and 2 cigarette packs. In general, the parcel relied well. Such a legal supply of products led to power in the camp of "tough dealers", those who most profitably turned the exchange of products, cigarettes or won them in gambling. Many of the losers, who could not pay the debt, performed services for these dealers, who were called “Batmans” in the camp slang. Stalag IV B had its own escape technology, dubbed the Basel Express. To do this, it was necessary to save, win, steal 60 cigarette packs (which was almost impossible in camp conditions) and bring them to the escape committee. Here the future fugitive began to learn German. Through bribed German guards, he received auswais, a ticket and a pass to the Swiss border, a basket of food and civilian clothes. And the Germans received a cigarette advance for a ticket, and the rest was received only after the fugitive reached Switzerland and in the camp received a postcard from him.
As you can see, the Western prisoners did not die of hunger, unlike the Soviet. Deprived by the will of Stalin of the Red Cross parcels, our prisoners were on half-starved rations and were subjected to bullying of guards. To the credit of Western prisoners of war, it should be said that at the first opportunity they tried to share the rations and contents of the parcels, trying in any way to help their starving comrades in arms. Lieutenant General? M. F. Lukin, who had been in German captivity for more than three years, wrote that in all the camps he had been in since October 1941, “prisoners of other states, knowing that we had a“ death ration ”, secretly handed us food, times even a smoke. " Byerly also participated in this.
Arriving at 17 on September 1944 of the year in Stalag III C, located in eastern Germany, Beyrle learned from Soviet prisoners of war that the Red Army was already fighting in Poland, and realized that if they had to flee, they had to flee to the east. Here in Stalag he found himself “accomplices” of Brewer and Quinn. Joseph was lucky again - he won the dice 60 (!) Packs of cigarettes. They bribed a German guard who, on one October night, pretended not to notice how the fugitives cut the wire and hid in the woods. Joseph and his comrades managed to get into a train carriage with grain for horses. The train went east. For several days they traveled - the car was attached to one or the other. But finally the train stopped. It was a depot on the southern outskirts of Berlin. It is impossible to imagine, but three American paratroopers in military uniform found themselves in the capital of Nazi Germany. The giant depot, destroyed by the bombing, was deserted, and the fugitives hid unnoticed in the sewer system hatch. A few days later, in search of water, they stumbled upon an elderly railway worker, who treated them to sausage and beer and, covered with a tarpaulin, on a cart, transported to a basement, where safely ... surrendered to the Gestapo.
Joseph was beaten with fists, boots, clubs, whips, knocking out a confession that he was a spy dropped over Berlin from the American “flying fortress”. This would allow the Gestapo to shoot him on the basis of the "commando order." He stubbornly did not want to believe, because in the camp their comrades in roll calls still shouted their names, hiding the fact of escape, and apparently the commandant was in no hurry to report a successful escape to the top. Even the prisoners of war camp tokens did not help ...
The rescue from the paws of the Gestapo unexpectedly came in the face of an unknown Wehrmacht lieutenant colonel with two submachine gunners. The fact is that by October 1944, when the defeat of Germany was only a matter of time, it was reasonable to raise the question of the responsibility of the Germans for the war crimes committed after the war. Allies scattered millions of leaflets that guaranteed the post-war search and trial of war criminals, including those who committed their crimes against Allied prisoners of war. Therefore, the Wehrmacht stood up for the three American paratroopers, sending them back to Stalag III C, where they received only 15 days for the punishment cell.
But Byerly, Brewer and Quinn did not leave the thought of escape. This time they decided to use the farm van, which every Friday and Tuesday brought to the camp three huge barrels of beets, turnips and zucchini. On one of the Tuesdays of Tuesday, the rest of the inmates organized a fight to divert the guards. At this time, the fugitives quietly took places in empty barrels on the cart and found themselves outside the camp. But moving under the slope, the van flew onto a stone and ... the barrels overturned, broke, the guards at the watchtowers opened fire on the fugitives. Brewer and Quinn were mortally wounded, and Byerly, winding like a hare, reached the forest and ran a few kilometers along the course of the stream in order to shoot down the sheepdogs from their tracks.
He made his way to the east for about a week, bypassing German villages and farms, until he heard the thunder of artillery cannonade - January 12, the Vistula-Oder operation of the Soviet troops began on January 1945.
Go to ... West!
The Warsaw-Poznan offensive operation of the 1st Belorussian Front under the command of G.K. Zhukov, one of the largest front-line operations carried out during the war, became part of the strategic Vistula-Oder operation. The operation was swift. For 20 days, Soviet troops, in the forefront of which the 1st Guards tank army, advanced to a depth of 500 km, liberating in its strip the entire western part of Poland. 35 enemy divisions were completely defeated, another 25 lost from 50 to 70% of the personnel, about 150 thousand people were captured. Having begun a breakthrough in several sections and moving a distance of 20 to 30 km per day, by February 3, Soviet troops reached the distant approaches to Berlin on the river. Oder and captured the bridgeheads on its western shore in the areas of Breslau and Kustrin. Just in this area our fugitive made his way eastward ...
Seeing the first Soviet soldiers with weapons in their hands, Joseph came out to them with raised arms, holding the last pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes over his head and repeating the phrase he had learned in the camp: “Ja Amerikansky tovarishch, Amerikansky tovarishch!”. Joseph, who was an alien creature for the Red Army, came just to see. A huge amount of vodka and alcohol was poured into the poor American to commemorate the military community of the allied nations.
Byerly was lucky again! He got into the combat group of the first tank battalion of the 1 Guards Tank Brigade, commanded by the only (!) Woman tanker and the only woman deputy commander of the 1 tank battalion of the Guards tank army of the Guard, captain Alexander Samusenko (killed in March 1945 of the year).
By a surprising coincidence, the battalion was armed with American Sherman tanks, and Joseph began to request that he be temporarily left to serve in this tank brigade, reasonably believing that the war was about to end and the Allied forces would unite, so there is no reason to go in a circle. America Apparently, the young paratrooper liked the captain of the guard, and she left him as a machine gunner on his Sherman, ordering him to give him a hat with earflaps and an automatic PCA. As part of the Soviet tank brigade, serving on an American tank, wearing a Soviet uniform and being an American citizen, he became a kind of talisman for tank guard guards, who tried their best to protect him. But the paratrooper did not suit the role of a souvenir in the combat unit, and he won the respect of his new fellow soldiers, having adjusted all American walkie-talkies in the battalion, and sometimes acted as a demolition man in clearing the debris on the roads. Soviet soldiers called him Yo - short for Joseph.
Byerly, having won about a month in the Guards battalion, left very interesting memories of the Red Army 1945 model of the year, its tactics, weapons, morals, customs, fighting spirit.
At the end of January 1945, the battalion’s tanks, in which Joseph was now serving, released the very Stalag III C, from which he fled. How his former comrades in captivity were amazed when they saw Joseph as part of the liberators in Soviet military uniforms. But after a few days during the Germans ’bombing of the battalion’s position, he was seriously wounded in the groin by fragments of a bomb dropped by Ju-87, and sent to a hospital in Landsberg. One February day, the hospital was visited by Marshal Zhukov, who intended to thank the wounded soldiers. He was reported about an unusual patient, and the marshal wanted to see Joseph. According to the memoirs of Byerly, Zhukov asked him: “What wind brought you, son, from Normandy to Poland?”, And then, after listening to him history, added: "The Allies will end the war shoulder to shoulder, and if Hitler thinks otherwise, he would have to see this young American who made the bold choice to fight with us." Byerly asked the marshal to help send him to his homeland, as well as to confirm his identity, as he did not have valid documents.
He was issued an official letter signed by Zhukov, which "opened any command post, put it into any truck going to the front or from the front." Changing lorries, studebakers, and teplushki in the sanitary trains, going to the territory of the USSR, he reached Moscow, where he immediately went to the American embassy and where he was again awaited by another turn of fate ...
Hero of two nations
It is necessary to make a small digression and tell what happened to the family of Joseph in his homeland in Maksigon. Already 7 July 1944, his family received a telegram from the military ministry that their son was in captivity. This was reported by the paratroopers who saw Byerly in captivity, and then managed to escape. In September, in Normandy, a disfigured body was discovered, next to which, for some reason, an Army badge “G-Ai” Beyrle was found, taken away from him by the Germans after the first escape. Based on this, a notice was sent to the family about the death of Joseph and awarding him posthumously with the Purple Heart medal. One can imagine the grief of the whole family, who ordered the funeral mass for the son of 17 September 1944 of the year. And already October 23 from the International Red Cross reported that Joseph Beyrle was officially held captive by the Germans. And the family happily returned the medal and 861 dollar six-month allowance to the Ministry of War.
Arriving at the US embassy in March 1945, Joseph found out that he was considered dead and, moreover, a German spy who uses his data is suspected of him. And before his identity was confirmed by fingerprints, Beyrle was kept under the protection of marines in the Moscow Metropol hotel. 21 March 1945 issued an official order awarding Joseph Beyrle with the Purple Heart Order and the Bronze Oak Leaf. The hero returned to Michigan by sea through Odessa on April 21, 1945, and two weeks later celebrated his victory in Chicago. The next year he married, the wedding took place in the very church where the requiem was served. 9 December 1953 was reported to award Joseph Beyrle with the Bronze Star medal for outstanding ground service during the Normandy campaign.
In 1994, for his unique service during the war, Beyrle was awarded commemorative medals at a ceremony in honor of the 50 anniversary of the opening of the Second Front. The event was held at the White House in Washington. The awards were presented by US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The first Russian president awarded Joseph the Order of Glory of the second degree, the Order of the Red Star and the Order of the Patriotic War of the second degree, a medal to the 100 anniversary of Marshal Zhukov.
A soldier of amazing fate, the only American who fought in the Red Army, who retained his sympathy for our country forever, did not become December 12 2004 of the year. The following year, in April, he was buried with military honors at the Arlington Military Cemetery. His son, John Beyrle, who was born in 1954, was 2008 – 2011 in the US ambassador to Russia. He is very proud that his father is called the "hero of two nations." Although Joseph Beyrle himself, according to his son, always said, “that the true heroes are those who never returned from the war ...”