Former Prisoners of War are honored for their service at the Air Force Academy Friday night.
Nearly 70 years after their release, they’ve spent the last two days touring the academy in Colorado Springs.
One of them admits, he has all the history he needs.
“I didn’t really look” said former POW Edward DeMent. “My head is as full of that as it needs to be.”
DeMent was taken prisoner in 1944 after a plane crash.
He was with the French Underground forces trying to reach England. It almost worked, but he was soon captured.
“I was in four French homes, they were trying to get me to Paris,” he said. “That’s the Underground, that’s how they got you to Paris. Then a car would take you to get you to England.”
These POWs are touring the Air Force Academy ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape.
POWs still clearly remember their time in captivity.
“They asked me if I was English, where my pistol was, but I didn’t carry one,” said Donald Scherarer, former POW. “They offered me a cigarette. Then they blindfolded me, carried me down the side of the mountain because I couldn’t walk.”
Schearer was flying out of Italy in 1944 and was shot down. The plane still made it over the Adriatic Sea after the hit. The crew bailed but the gunner and pilot still brought the plane down. He thought they had died, and considered himself lucky.
“Two German soldiers and four young boys captured me after six hours. They saved my life. I would’ve bled to death. A lot of people ask me ‘Why didn’t they shoot you?’ Because they were Christian soldiers, not Nazis,” he said.
Scherarer was taken to Stagluft III, southeast of Berlin.
They say their captivity could have been a lot worse. The camp had a substantial library with school facilities where the prisoners could earn degrees in languages, engineering or law.
Records of that facility are kept at the U.S. Air Force Academy giving the POWs a chance to reflect.
“They did such a nice job with this, wish I could stay a couple of days to look through this,” Schearer said.
The veterans said they kept a strong bond after they were liberated.
Scherarer says that pilot, who he thought had died in the crash, called him on his wedding day.