Roger E. Hughes, leader of the 94th Bomb Group of the eighth Air Force from 1942-1945, spoke about his time as a soldier and as a POW to Mrs. Lopez's US History classes Monday. This reporter was lucky enough to sit in on the class and meet a member of the Greatest Generation. From Hughes, the people in the room learned things a history book could never teach us.
The class was very different from the ones in which Jon Pebley spoke. Unfortunately, Hughes suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. His son did most of the talking, with the father correcting some mistakes and adding some information here and there.
Nevertheless, we got a first hand account of what it was like to be in the military during that war. Before the Air Force was created, Mr. Hughes served in the Army Air Corps. This was back when they had the draft, so Hughes was, as he puts it, "invited" to serve.
His basic training started in late November of 1942, and by October 8, 1943, he was serving overseas. His missions took him to Norway, France, and Germany. It was during a mission in Brunswick, Germany, when his plane was shot down, and he was taken, along with some other Allied troops, prisoner.
"For you gentlemen, the war is over," they were told.
Hughes was taken to a camp named Stalag XVIIB. Here, he slept in a triple-decker bunk and survived off of a Red Cross food parcel. The three meals a day provided by the camp were simple, small ones: corned beef and spuds, barley and raisins, pea soup, jerry soup, salmon and spuds. The other half of the time, the prisoners were given hot water for a meal, with which they could make coffee. And this is what Hughes called, in his wartime log provided by the YMCA, "the new improved menu"!
Thanks to the US Army, the prisoners were freed, and became American soldiers once more. Soon enough, Hughes was back in his hometown of Charlestown, where he married his sweetheart and started a family. He will never forget his terrifying experience nor his heroic deeds.
Click here for more on Mr. Hughes.