Dickinson County

T-Sgt. Ernest K. Harker

 

 

 

Tech. Sgt. Ernest Harker Prisoner Of Germans

PARENTS RECEIVE GOVT. WIRE AND LATER
LETTER FROM SON MONDAY

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Harker of Okoboji were relieved of a great deal of anxiety over the welfare of their son, Technical Sergeant Ernest Harker, Sunday evening when a wire came from the government stating that the youth is a prisoner of war of the German government. Harker had been listed as missing in action in the European area since May 17, the parents having received that word from the government May 26.

Monday morning a letter from the youth himself arrived written in a German prison camp. In the letter he told of his plane being shot down and how he parachuted without injury, landing in water, from where he was picked up soon.

Source of the information for the word of Harker’s having been taken prisoner was the International Red Cross, which reported to the government that the youth is a prisoner of war of the German government.

The fact that Harked landed in water and was picked up soon after that [illegible] not doubt took part in the daylight raid reported by Associated Press Tuesday, May 18, when American bombers smashed at French ports and docks on Monday. Fourteen American bombers, four heavy ships and 10 medium bombers, were lost in the daylight raids, which pounded most heavily at Lorient harbor installations, the U-boat base at nearby Keroman and the docks at Bordeaux.

The friends of “Ernie” and of his parents will be interested in the letter received from the youth Monday, who seemed in very good spirits at the time of writing.

Dear Mom and Pop and All:

Well folks, just a line to let you know I’m O. K. My ship was shot down, but I bailed out and didn’t receive any injuries. I lit in the water so I got rather wet, but was picked up soon so I didn’t even catch cold. To contact me you will have to see the Red Cross. You are allowed to send packages that don’t weigh over ten pounds. I would like to have some soap, tooth brush, razor, wool underclothes and anything else you are allowed to send.

I suppose lots of the folks will want to know what happened to me so just tell them I am a prisoner of war. Most of the crew is safe and O. K. and we all consider ourselves very lucky. I guess I won’t say any more, it is almost time to eat.

Tell everyone hello and both of you keep your chins up. My allotment will still come through O. K.

Love,
Ernie.

Source: The Spirit Lake Beacon, Spirit Lake, Iowa, Thursday, June 24, 1943, Page 1

LISTS IOWANS HELD PRISONERS OF WAR

Washington, D. C. –(AP)—The War Department disclosed Saturday the names of five Iowans held prisoners of war. They were:

Interned by Germany—Tech. Sgt. Ernest K. Harker, Okoboji; Staff Sgt. Winston E. Lowe, Cedar Rapids; and Staff Sgt. David L. Rees, Scranton.

Interned by Japan—Pfc. Roy W. Newman, Webster City, and Pfc. Glen E. Teel, Columbus Junction.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, July 11, 1943

Harkers Get Letter From Prisoner Camp In Germany

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Harker have received another letter from their son Ernie from a prison camp in Germany. The letter was written last January 17th and was just received on Saturday, being nearly five months enroute. It is thought the parcel mentioned in his letter was sent last August. The Harker’s have sent him five parcels but only two have been received up to this writing.

The Harkers have also received their son’s personal effects, except for uniforms, left in his barracks in England. These personal effects were shipped to Kansas City by the government and re-shipped from there.

Jan. 17, 1944
Dear Mom and Pop,
I received the second parcel and was very happy about it.  The socks, underwear, and pajamas were swell. They really are the thing to wear here. I received a lot of nice letters from different people and I am awfully glad to get them. Getting mail from home is the happiest event here.  The other day I received seven letters among them was one from Sis and a snap of you and Gary. I’m sorry I can’t answer all the letters I’ve gotten but that just isn’t possible. Time has gone awfully fast since I’ve been a prisoner and it doesn’t seem like eight months have gone by. Perhaps before long we’ll all be together again. I would like to get a letter from C. M. and Elmer. I can’t write them because I didn’t know their address. I think of you often. So now I guess I’ll close.
Love, Ernie. (T/Sgt. E. K. Harker, Germany)

Source: The Spirit Lake Beacon, June 15, 1944

MR. AND MRS. HARKER GET WORD OF SON THRU RETURNED PRISONER

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Harker have had word of their son, Tech. Sgt. Ernest K. Harker, a German prisoner of war, through a Cedar Rapids man, Winston E. Lowe, who has just returned to the States. St. Sgt. Lowe is being cared for at the Halloran General Hospital at Staten Island, New York, after being returned to this country after internment in Germany. Sgt. Lowe’s letter dated February 27 read in part as follows: “I have just returned to this country from internment in Germany and would like to let you know that, to the best of my knowledge at the time of my leaving which was less than six weeks ago, your son was in good health and anxious to return home as soon as the war with Germany is over.

Through the results of the American Red Cross, and I do mean the American Red Cross, living conditions were not too bad, but mail and parcels are greatly appreciated. The personal parcel situation is a matter of luck. In some cases they get through in other cases they seem to be held up some place. However, in most cases, eventually parcels will catch up with the prisoner of war.

I knew your son very well thru many months of living with him under trying conditions, but I can say with some degree of accuracy that he is definitely all right and trying to occupy his time with many little hobbies.”

Another letter that has been received by the Harkers recently came from E. A. Bradunas, Major in the Air Corps, and chief of the notification branch of the Personal Affairs Division. In his letter he enclosed a list of those who were in the bomber with Harker at the time he was reported missing in May 1943. In his letter he stated that information has been received that indicates that Sgt. Harker was the engineer aboard a B-17 bomber which departed on a mission to Lorient, France, on May 17, 1943.

Source: Spirit Lake Beacon, March 15, 1945

THREE OKOBOJI VETERANS RETURN HOME

Okoboji residents celebrated an impromptu Old Home Week recently when numerous service men arrived home, some of them from German prisoner of war camps. Others are expected to arrive home soon. Three youths arrived from the west coast on Friday and T-Sgt. Ernest K. Harker arrived that day from two years in a prison camp. On Tuesday S-Sgt. Scott Menefee arrived home after a year’s absence, five months of it in a German prison camp. Jack Gipner’s arrival from England where he was with the air force, is expected daily. First home was Mervin Thompson, who had been a prisoner since the African fighting. Also among the first home was Lt. William Metz, a Sioux City youth, whose parents live near The Inn each season.

Source: The Milford Mail, Milford, Iowa, Thursday, June 28, 1945, Pages 1 & 8

HARKER SHOT DOWN OVER BISCAY BAY,
TELLS HIS STORY

T-Sgt. Ernest K. Harker came home to Okoboji Friday. His arrival was material for a neighborhood rejoicing. He is known only as “Ernie” in the lake region because he has been reared in this area, went to Arnold’s Park school, played basketball on a winning team, was a caddy at a lakes golf course and was widely known.

Ernie came home from a prisoner of war camp in Germany, to find the old home town just about the same, and the warmest welcome he ever had anywhere. He arrived Friday, by way of Jefferson Barracks, Mo., and the home of his brother, Garfield, in Maquoketa. The last leg of the journey was made by car through Iowa at its loveliest and that was all right with Ernie.  He could feast his eyes on home country before he actually arrived on the home doorstep.

The Okoboji youth was an engineer and top turret gunner on a bomber based in England. He had completed 18 missions and was on his 19th over the continent May 17, 1943, when his bomber was shot down. He had been a prisoner of the Germans since that time until the end of the war.

The target for the day was in France. Their ship was shot down by enemy fighters and landed in the Bay of Biscay. Before the ship hit the water, it had caught fire and the crew bailed out. They also landed in the Bay of Biscay.

A small fishing boat saw them fall and he was picked up and taken ashore in France, subsequently to an interrogation center and on to the camp 7A in Mooseberg, Germany. He stayed there until October, and was moved to Krems, Austria. That was a camp in which all the men were airmen of equal rank.

The story of his capture and life in camp, of course, became known to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Harker of Okoboji, only when he arrived home.

To continue – they were kept in the camp in Austria until April 8, 1945, and were then ordered to start marching. They were on the road three weeks, here and there, and finally set up camp in a forest approximately 50 miles from Brechtesgarden, Hitler’s so-called hide out. By comparing notes, it appears that he was with a part of the airmen that were concentrated in that area to be used as hostages in the last stand fight that the Germans were believed preparing for. The news story late in April told of a concentration of prisoner airmen in that area, to be used for hostages.

However it was, they didn’t know where they were going, not even the German officers. The orders were change a time of two as they went along. The men weren’t happy abut it, because they felt they were going toward the American lines. They had accurate news and knew what was going on and approximately where.

May 2 was liberation day for young Harker. He recounts it as one of the funny episodes [Page 8] along the way from May 17, 1943, to June 22, 1945. The German commander of the camp tried to give up his command to some of the American prisoners and nobody wanted the job, principally because they did not know what it was all about.

He tried for about a day to give his command over to somebody and there were no takers. Harker now thinks it was probably announced in America that the Germans had offered to leave all prisoners where they were located.

The morning of May 2, an American captain came along and he obliged the German commander by taking over for him. But that left the German in a bad spot. He became the prisoner, whereas he was probably trying to save his own hide all the day before. The American captain took over but it was a little “screwy,” because the German guards stayed at their posts all that night although the Americans were free to come and go as they pleased and there was a whole new set of rules.

Harker reached the States on June 11 and was sent to Jefferson Barracks [Missouri] for his release on furlough. From there he went to Maquoketa and with his brother, Garfield, and family, arrived in Okoboji Friday to find the remainder of the family waiting his arrival.

He has 60 days’ leave and will report back to Miami in mid-August. What happens then, he doesn’t know. Anyway, he’s through traveling. He said when they were liberated, the fellows said, “Gee, we’re free, but it’s only 4,000 miles home and an ocean between here and there.”

They knew the happenings of the war accurately enough to know that freedom was coming in a matter of months, probably by last fall. He feels they were fortunate to have been in Austria, where the people were really sympathetic. As prisoners they had their own camp management and their biggest worry was food. They didn’t have to work.

Food was the principle worry in the German prison camp. They kept alive on Red Cross parcels and he has the highest possible praise for Red Cross workers and Y. M. C. A. services. They all knew their mail wasn’t going out of camp at times, and their letters from home weren’t getting to them, although they kept sending letters at every opportunity.

The camp in the forest, where he was last located, was not good. It was damp and cold there, although there was no snow. There was not enough sunshine and they were living in tents. They remained in the camp, however, until they could be transported to France for the start of their journey home.

One of the first things Harker did when he got home was to go up the road “apiece” to a lakes golf course and have a game of golf with his father and brothers. They all worked at this country club. Elmer, now of Sioux City, and Garfield, now a conservation officer at Maquoketa, both worked there and Garfield was pro for some years. Their father was employed considerably around the course in handy man capacity. Ernie was a caddy.

His last game of golf had been played in England, May 16, 1943, but it wasn’t too good, he recalls, because he hadn’t played then for some time as he had been too busy training and on missions. He didn’t say what his score was in the family foursome, about which he had written from prison camp in Germany.

Source: The Milford Mail, Milford, Iowa, Thursday, June 28, 1945, Pages 1 & 8