Sioux County

Pvt. Marvin DeWitt

 

Pvt. Marvin DeWitt has arrived in France according to word received recently by the Evert DeWitt family. He was in England a short time and hoped to run across his brother, Sgt. Henry DeWitt there, but was evidently moved too soon. Henry is still in England as far as the family knows.

Source: Rock Valley Bee, September 22, 1944

ROCK VALLEY:

Pvt. Marvin DeWitt has arrived in France, according to word received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Evert DeWitt. His brother, Henry, is thought to be still in England.

Source: Sioux County Capital, October 5, 1944

SERVICEMEN

WAR PRISONER

Pvt. Marvin DeWitt is now a prisoner of war according to word received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Evert DeWitt, on Sunday morning. The message read, “Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all at home. Love, Marvin.” It was dated November 24, with the words War Prisoner on the top of the page. Pvt. DeWitt was reported on October 28 to be missing in action since October 7 in Germany. He is with the infantry.

Source: The Sioux County Capital, Orange City, Iowa, Feb. 8, 1945

ROCK VALLEY
Elmer DeWitt left last week for service in the army. Elmer is the third son of Mr. and Mrs. Evert DeWitt to be called for service. His brother Marvin DeWitt is a prioner of war in Germany.

Source: Alton Democrat, April 19, 1945

SERVICEMEN

ROCK VALLEY:

Mr. and Mrs. Evert DeWitt received a telegram April 21 from the War Department stating that “Pvt. Marvin DeWitt was put back under military control on March 26, 1945.” He was reported missing on October 28, 1944. In February his parents received a Christmas greeting from a German prison camp. In March they received a form filled out by Marvin which had been written in October.

Source: Sioux County Capital, May 3, 1945

DE WITT HOME ON LONG LEAVE

Pvt. Marvin DeWitt arrived home a week ago Wednesday on a long furlough after six months in a prison camp in Germany. He was released March 27, and arrived in the United States a week ago Saturday. Marvin went into the service in February, 1944, arrived overseas in August and went to France on Sept. 1. He was captured on October 7.

Marvin is home until July 5, when he will report back to Hot Springs, Ark., at a rehabilitation center.

Life in Prison Told By Marvin DeWitt, Rotary

The Rotary, on the noon of Rock Valley’s V-E Day, had as guests Lt. (j.g.) Schaal, back from South America, and Pvt. Marvin DeWitt, who had been a prisoner of the Germans for almost six months, before liberation last March.

Highlighting the Victory Day meeting, was the talk given by Marvin DeWitt, who held the interest of every member for almost an hour with an intensely vivid description of life in a prison camp. Pvt. DeWitt belonged to the Ninth Infantry regiment, the oldest regiment in the Army. He fought in the battle of Brest, and was also a part of the Siegfried Line. The reason he was captured, Marvin said, was because he was stationed on an outpost, which the Germans could take with relative ease.

With an optimistic grin, and an air of amused tolerance, DeWitt went on to say that the Germans questioned them, but unlike the captured German soldiers, the Americans wouldn’t tell them a thing. In fact, when their captors asked them the number of men in a certain unit, the American would read off his serial number. He said they expected to be shot—they were told to turn their backs, and even heard the guns being loaded, but just in time, the order came through to let them live.

Worked on German Farm.
By his request, he went to work on a German farm, having experience along that line, and there the food was good, but later he was shifted to a regular prison camp. The lice, Pvt. DeWitt said, were very bad. A de-lousing station was hit by the Allied Bombers one night, and then the lice became even worse, and their constant gnawing caused many prison camp deaths. The food, he went on, was also bad. For breakfast prisoners got loaves of black bread, and divided up—six men to a loaf. He described the loaves as being fifty per cent sawdust and very sour. At first you had a little butter to help it down, but that didn’t last very many days.

Dinner and supper were composed of soup. This special soup was made from “cow beets” sliced into very slim strips, and added to hot water. A lot of the prisoners, he said couldn’t keep it down, but he could. Many of the prisoners died from malnutrition, or from diseases caused by it. The average was twenty-one prisoners per week. On question later, he said too that the camp had its own burial services and chaplains, and they buried their own dead. The men detailed to dig graves, performing hard labor, were given an extra bowl of soup by their own ration system. He added that after a while there was a growing list of requests for burial detail, because of this extra food.

Cheerfully, Pvt. DeWitt told the Club about the quartet he helped make up, along with a hillbilly from Kentucky, a Texan and a man from New jersey. This quartet took it upon itself to meet new prisoners and serenade them, thus making them feel a bit better. They also asked the Red Cross for musical instruments, and the latter complied generously, with enough instruments for a regular orchestra. The orchestra was a good one, too, as there were a lot of men with talent in a prison camp of that size.

No. S. S. Troops Guarding.
Pvt. DeWitt said that this prison camp was better than some of the others, because it was guarded by soldiers of the regular German army, and not by the SS troops. In one instance, a German soldier was killed, while helping the prisoners. Wile moving from one camp to another, the prisoners were crowded into box cars so tightly, that only half of them could sit down at a time. During the trip, while they were standing still, they heard the roar of planes, and they could see through the holes they’d made, that they were Allied bombers. About a hundred yards away was a train loaded with ammunition and bombs sent that up in smoke.

The men cooped up in the cars figured they were next—and they were right, but by this time, the planes had run out of bombs, and started strafing the train. Most of the guards had disappeared at the first sign of air attack, but the Chaplains and one guard started opening the cars, and the guard was hit and killed. The released men still couldn’t evade the murderous machine gun fire, but took off their shirts, and spelled out P-O-W for Prisoners of War, and the planes let up, though they and later squadrons, kept watching them. At nightfall they left, and the men returned to their cars.

One of the Club members asked Marvin if he and his comrades had been able to keep their uniforms. He said that they did at first, but later the Germans needed some to fool the American troops, and tricked the prisoners by pretending they were to have a hot shower, and then forcing them to give up their clothes. It didn’t work very long, so they started taking uniforms by force right away. Then the Americans took pieces of glass and slashed everything to shreds as it was taken.

Marvin had it a little better because he had an office job keeping records of prisoners as they came in. He worked in a place where they at least had heat, while the regular barracks had not heat at all. He and the few other office workers would steal about four briquettes each, when they left, and though it didn’t give much heat, the men crowded around the stove and got a little comfort out of it.

Rescue.
Their rescue by the advancing American troops was a sudden thing, according to Pvt. Marvin. Eight or ten units were being evacuated before the invading armies, and they were in a small town that was already being shelled by the invaders. One of the prisoners came around and said he had seen a bulldozer that had a white star on it, and was it obviously American. Everybody decided it had been captured, because they couldn’t believe that the Army was that close. So the man went back for another look. This time he came back to say that the bulldozer had a couple of tanks right behind it. Marvin said the prisoners were so glad to see those tanks, they ran up and kissed them, and the fellows in the tanks were almost as glad to see them, and gave them anything they wanted.

Pvt. DeWitt arrived in the States last month, and is now home on a furlough; his story has a happy ending. The Rotary members got a great deal out of it, and enjoyed every moment of the talk immensely.

Source: Rock Valley Bee, May 11, 1945


NEWS OF OUR MEN and WOMEN IN UNIFORM

ROCK VALLEY.

Pfc. Marvin DeWitt arrived here Monday and is spending a ten-day furlough with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Evert DeWitt. He is stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Source: Sioux Center News, September 13, 1945