Ross Nave Photography

Saved by the Russian Army

My Grandfather, Theodore Nave, served with the United States Army during WWII. He was captured and held prisoner by the Nazi's during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. After several grueling months in the prison camp, Stalag IV-B, he was rescued by the Russian Imperial Army. Here is his story
My Grandpa Nave's tank Battalion.

Battle of the Bulge

My account of the Battle of the Bulge starts about the 13th of December 1944, when I was a replacement with the 707th Tank Battalion. I was attached at that time to the 28th Infantry Division; we were located in the southern part of Luxembourg.I was with Headquarters Company and was assistant to supply sergeant Smith. 

About the 20th of December, while in the city of Luxemburg, the company was informed that they were to hold the country village. A patrol was sent to seek information as to the whereabouts of the enemy. 

After some time, it was decided that it was impossible to hold village, so all arrangements for evacuation were made and carried out. All gasoline stored for future use was poured on the ground from their containers. 

Moving by truck and with other vehicles such as tanks and jeeps in convoy, we proceeded to location just outside another village, name which I can not recall, and established front to hold off enemy. Tanks were lined up in firing position on plateau and men with bazookas were placed on points to destroy or knock out any enemy tanks that tried to travel toward our point. Radio communications were placed in a small house on the roadside. 

There was no conflict with the enemy during the evening or night and word in the morning was that the third Armored Division was ordered to our location to give aid in holding position. What we did not know at the time was those rumors were spread to boost our morale. This information I gathered after the war. I believe we were known as the expendables. The 28th division pulled out during the night for points unknown to me. The balance of the 707th tank battalion was left to hold position. 

We moved to another location just to the outskirts of the village and were ordered to hold position until the others arrived. We fired mortars into the valley to hold off troops of enemies to slow any advancement. 

About two hours later, we received orders to evacuate area in any possible way.  Being impossible to take tanks and vehicles through the enemy lines, which by this time had surrounded us, we poured sugar into gas tanks and took only necessary equipment for survival and started by walking to reach the American lines. Someone suggested setting fire to our vehicles, but after considerable discussion, it was decided that setting fire to anything would most certainly hamper our chances of escape, as the enemy would be able to locate our position immediately. 

We walked for several miles, first over the road, and then proceeded through the fields, as the enemy spotted us while we were marching back. 

After walking through the night, the officers in our company decided to rest during the day, so our chances would be better in escaping. 
We camped in an open spot in the forest and when it was dawn, a reconnaissance group was deployed to check possible routes for travel. To our surprise, a German bivouac area was no more than a thousand feet from our area. We had to lay pretty low for the remainder of the day for fear the remainder of our company, which was no more than a couple of dozen, would not be discovered or captured. So, without food or water, and tired, for this was bout the third night with very little or no sleep, we rested as much as possible. 

The patrol returned to inform us the only possible route for escape was to cross a main road, which was clearly visible to the Germans, and then into the forest on the other side. From there to the American lines. 

The Major, in charge of our small group, decided to start at about 1700 hours, so we could regroup in the forest. One by one, we crossed the road without being discovered by the enemy. 

That night while walking, we heard noises and discovered civilians. They told us through the interpreter, they were also trying to escape. The officers of our company decided to let the civilians join the group. 

About a half-mile later, with only a flashlight of our leader to light the way, marching with one arm on the shoulder of the man in front of us, so we could determine when to turn, word was received from the rear that we had lost part of the group. 

We walked back to locate the lost group, but to no avail. The men were missing. We waited for a time and called, but no reply. We had picked up about three of these civilians and they were put in different parts of the line. It was noticed that after the second such episode, the men behind one such civilian, along with the civilian had disappeared. 

One of these civilians tried to get in line in front of me, but after this, I decided on my own not to trust anyone, so I pushed him behind me and we proceeded. 

I was about the sixth in line when we came to a fork in the trail. After turning on the trail picked by the leaders, I noticed the arm was no longer on my shoulder. At times there were obstructions that we would have to side step or jump over, where a person would have to release his hold and then try to catch up. We walked back to the fork in the road to relocate the lost group, but again, they had disappeared into the night and could not be located. 

At this time, we finally realized that the so called civilians were the enemy, placed in the forest, to lead any group trying to infiltrate or escape to the German garrison, located near by. 

With about six of us left, we soon came to a road and according to the compass and landmarks, decided we were very close to Bastogne. Soon another civilian was discovered on the road. He informed us that we were approximately three miles from Bastogne and that we had successfully escaped the Germans.

A vehicle was approaching, so we went into the ditches to investigate and find out if it was friend or foe. When the vehicle approached, this so called “civilian” jumped in front of the vehicle and informed the occupants of the Americans in the ditch. Gun fire resulted and we managed to capture the vehicle. The occupants managed to escape, but we had transportation for our escape. 

We piled into the vehicle and after some difficulty in starting it, we were traveling down the road. About a mile later, we were stopped by a group of German soldiers who asked what the firing was all about. Upon learning that we were Americans, we were ordered from the vehicle, because we were outnumbered and could not possibly win this battle, we surrendered. 

We were then lined up against a building and searched. After finding more ammunition in my pockets, which I did not turn over to them immediately at the time of surrender, the soldier searching me threatened to shoot me on the spot. I had noticed they did this to several others who they had caught before us. At this time all I could think of was what my folks would think when they heard of my capture, and the thought of death never entered my weary mind. They stripped us of watches and had taken mine, but since it had stopped running, I convinced the soldier it was worthless. This proved to later give me something to barter when we reached our prison camp. 

We were ordered into a barn and discovered it was filled with other captured Americans. The officers were taken to another section of the building and were interrogated. Being very tired and weary, I laid on the floor and fell asleep immediately. 

The next morning we were ordered from the barn, receiving an apple and a small portion of bread for our ration, we were to put on a forced march towards the center of Germany.

Now we noticed all the gun emplacements scattered around the immediate area, which verified our premonition of German soldiers dressed as civilians to aid in our capture and in the cause of the preparedness of the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. 

The first day during daylight, but the balance of our march was at night to evade the Allied Air Force, which was able to strafe and bomb when weather conditions permitted.

Any stranglers in the column of prisoners, which accounted to a long column by this time, were shot by the German guards, so they would not hinder the march. At one time they tried to get us to push an American tank out of the ditch, but could not force many to try and decided to give this up as a bad idea. Several other incidents happened during the march and during the first days of capture going through Luxembourg and when we arrived at Bitburg, Germany, the residents of the city were very hostile and bitter towards the troops and especially to any Air Force personnel, as the town was bombed the previous night and great destruction was evident. 

We arrived on Christmas Eve and were placed in a small prison camp. The next morning, several of us were ordered to remove debris from the streets, which was scattered by the bombings the previous day. But this was short lived, because the American Air Force was again bombing and the headquarters of the German Garrisons were located in this city. We threw ourselves in the middle of the street during the first raid and one German guard took my helmet to protect himself. After the first raid, we ran for shelter, some towards the hospital and others to a bomb raid shelter. The ones who sought shelter in the hospital were killed, as these were hit by bombs. 

We all know that hospitals were to be protected from such bombings, but it was quite evident that during this push, all means of transportation and deception were being used by the Germans and we saw a great many troops being transported by vehicles carrying the large white cross, which by agreement, was to be left untouched by the enemy. This hospital carried the staff of the German headquarters. 

That afternoon, about for of us were instructed to help a German dentist find his equipment, which was covered during the air raid. He gave us each a loaf of bread and were warned not to take anything we found, but to turn same over to him immediately. 

Well, I had been without cigarettes for quite a spell, so every time I found some of these and when his back was turned, I would put them in my pocked. After some time, he noticed that my pockets were bulging and he threatened to shoot me. Some intervened and told him this was merely the bread to the side and get back to work and no more fooling around. I did as told, but still managed to find room in some pockets for more cigarettes. They weren’t very good, but better than nothing. 

Stalag IV-B

Stalag IV-B
We marched towards and across the Rhine and from there were packed into box-cars for the balance of the trip to Stalag IV-B where we would spend the balance of the war until liberated by the Russians. While in the box car, there were numerous occasions of being left in railroad yards during strafing by Allied troops. About seventy five percent were infected by dysentery and were given no sympathy nor help from the Germans.

In April, we were liberated and taken to a Russian garrison, where we spent another month in Russian hands.
-Theodore Nave