Sunday, December 4, 2011

Newspaper Story Reunites POWs

Oceanside prisoners of war meet again at VFW 52 years after World War II.

By Joseph Kellard
They both crossed the sea to fight in history's most destructive war, saw action in a major battle, were wounded and taken captive by Nazis and lay bedridden in German hospitals before they met in a prison camp. Ed Hynes and Nat Glanz have lived in Oceanside during the same 52 post-World War II years, and belonged to the same veterans organization, yet these former prisoners of war just discovered all these facts last week — thanks to the Herald.

A chaplain at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Oceanside, Hynes read the article in the Herald's Dec. 4 issue on Glanz, who recently submitted a documentary about his POW experiences to the Library of Congress. As Hynes read the article, certain words jumped out at him, and he pieced them together.

"I really got interested in the story when he mentioned Ludwigsburg," Hynes, 80, said about the German town where Glanz was hospitalized and later imprisoned. "That was where I was put into a camp. Then, when I read he was Jewish and shot in the right leg, I remembered that was probably the fellow I was talking to when I was there. It had to be him."

Fifty-eight years later, Hynes remembered how he and Glanz met and talked once for all of 10 minutes. Following these recollections, he walked his fingers through an Oceanside phone book. At first, Glanz, 82, thought Hynes' call was a gag. But over two phone conversations they spoke for hours, and decided to reunite last Thursday at the Oceanside VFW.

As "Little Drummer Boy" and other Christmas songs played in the VFW's lounge, the former campmates embraced and exchanged photos and other memorabilia from their military days. Hynes laid out a thermal shirt ridden with holes from the shrapnel that left him hospitalized, and he handed Glanz medals, just as he did at the camp, with the hope that they would help his fellow American get out alive.

"I knew he was Jewish, and when I, a Christian, went before the Germans to be interrogated, I was somewhat scared, too, not knowing what they would do," Hynes recalled. "I told him that being Jewish, the odds are against you. So in my own way I tried to help the guy, and giving him the medals was all I could think of."

Between the two men, Hynes had the better memory of their meeting. "One thing I remember about him," he said about Glanz, "was that he was extremely calm. He wasn't complaining."

Both men took up arms in the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, Glanz with the 291st Regiment and Hynes under George Patton's 3rd Army. After the battle, as Hynes' outfit traveled through France, he and four other soldiers were sent to an outpost in Saarlautern to scout Nazis near the Zeigfried Line. Within a week, German troops attacked an abandoned factory where the small unit had hidden. While treating a fellow wounded soldier, Hynes was hit near the lower spine with hand-grenade shrapnel.

From the Bulge, Glanz's regiment traveled to Colmar, France, where he was shot by a German machine-gunner and repeatedly interrogated and beaten.

Following their capture by the Nazis, both men convalesced in German hospitals. While Hynes was put in separate rooms with Allied soldiers, Glanz spent time in two hospitals filled with Germans and did his best to hide his identity as both an American and a Jew.

During their reunion, Hynes and Glanz recalled the conditions at the prison camp where they ended up together, including the "food" they were fed, such as bread made with sawdust and soup with garbanzo beans as hard as pebbles.

"I think those beans and sawdust had their place, because they filled your stomach a bit and you didn't have this gnawing feeling all the time," Glanz recalled as Hynes nodded.

They discussed the guards' treatment of prisoners, which involved shooting men for no apparent reason, and traded memories of war-torn Europe after their liberation, particularly the homeless, desperate and starving civilians they encountered but were powerless to help. Both men were still at the camp when French soldiers liberated them. Hynes had been imprisoned for three weeks, and Glanz for over three months.

Both men moved to Oceanside in the early 1950s, Glanz from Brooklyn and Hynes from Rockaway Beach. Hynes worked then at the A&P supermarket (now the vacant Edward's on Long Beach Road), where Glanz and his wife, Muriel, shopped regularly. In the mid-1980s, both men joined the Nassau-Suffolk chapter of Prisoners of War. Glanz didn't attend meetings, but Hynes made the trips to Northport, though he stopped going and joined the local VFW in the early 1990s. That's when Glanz started trekking to the north shore to attend the POWs meetings.

"[Prisoners of War] really should have listed all the camps that our members were in," said Glanz, now a vice-commander of POW. "A number of men know they were in the same camp, but if we had listed their camps, this reunion could have happened 10 years ago. But how we did come to meet is just a fantastic story."

Glanz will invite Hynes to the YJCC in Oceanside, where the area Jewish War Veterans meet, to present him with a chai pendant, a Jewish symbol for good luck, and they both plan to stay in touch.

"I spoke to my daughter yesterday," Hynes said, explaining that he'd told her about the way in which he learned about Glanz, "and she said, 'Dad, it sounds like something that the good Lord did.' I called it a one-in-a-million shot, but she said it was more than that."

* This story originally appeared in the Oceanside-Island Park Herald on December 18, 2003.

Returning the favor
Glanz gives Hynes Jewish symbol of life

By Joseph Kellard

After nearly six decades, Nat Glanz returned the gesture.

When Glanz and Ed Hynes met and spoke briefly while imprisoned in a Nazi camp in 1945, Hynes handed him two Catholic miraculous medals, hoping they would help his fellow American get out alive. Last week, at the Jewish Community Center in Oceanside, Glanz presented Hynes with a chai, a Jewish symbol for life, a month after the POWs reunited since their first meeting 58 years before.

"May it bring you good luck and happiness," Glanz told Hynes when he handed him the chai, "and thank you for being such a mensch."

Their reunion was sparked by a story in the Herald after he showed the Jewish War Veterans in Oceanside a documentary on his war experiences that was recently archived in the Library of Congress. Hynes read the story and recognized certain details about Glanz that he recalled from their 10-minute meeting at the Ludwigsberg prison camp. After living in Oceanside for 52 years, both men finally reunited last month at the Veterans of Foreign War in Oceanside, where Hynes gave Glanz two more miraculous medals.

Prior to his presenting the chai at the ceremony last Sunday, Glanz recalled for all in attendance — including the JWV, several members of Hynes's family, Legislator Denise Ford, and Hempstead Councilman Anthony Santino — the circumstances leading up to their meeting in the camp. When they first met, there were rumors in the camp that allied troops were nearby, and Glanz was concerned the guards would do something drastic before they left the camp, especially to him because of his Jewish faith.

"Ed gave me two miraculous Catholic medals to help me through this dire situation," Glanz recalled.

On receiving his chai, Hynes thanked Glanz and vowed, "I will wear it with pride."

Hynes said he remembered his fellow American's wounded thigh that was riddled with German machine gun bullets, and recalled that Glanz said he hoped they wouldn't amputate his leg because he was a Jew.

"Being a prisoner myself, if they mistreated me or not, I was a soldier and I was prepared," Hynes said. "But I wouldn't want to be a prisoner in a German prison camp and be Jewish. I tried to think of something to help him, and I suggested the religious medal. I hope it worked. God bless."

A daughter of a World War II veteran herself, Ford told the audience, "I think this story of two men helping one another in trying times just brings out the importance of what brotherhood is."

Both the JWV and Santino presented both POWs with citations and plaques recognizing their heroic actions in war.

"This is an inspiring story that needs to be told again and again," Santino said, "because once we forget the sacrifices that were made for us, by our veterans, in order to keep us free, we will no longer be a great society."

* This story originally appeard in the Oceanside-Island Park Herald in January 2004.