By Jay Warren
(LOUISVILLE, May 28th, 2004) -- Nearly 194,000 veterans who were POWs in World War II know firsthand what it's like to be denied freedom. Over 116,000 made it back home from the war. Among them, two Kentucky men. Jay Warren has their courageous story.
First Sgt. Acie Milner was captured in France on August 7, 1994. "A whole division of tanks hit us."
Second Lt. Harold Bolin was on a bombing mission over Germany when his B-17 was shot down on August 12, 1943. "The flack was extremely rough and it knocked us out of formation."
Three days later, Bolin was captured by the Germans. "One morning it was raining and I saw a haystack, and I went over and dug into the haystack, and with my luck a German was on the other side."
Acie Milner spent roughly eight months in Stalag 3C, a POW camp an hour east of Berlin. He says there was "no heating, no bedding -- you slept on a board." And he says there was barely enough food to live on. "I weighed about 170 when I was captured, and I got out at 120."
Ask Harold Bolin how long he was a POW, and he'll tell you: exactly 624 days. He and 10,000 other American and British Allies were held in a prison camp in Poland. The camp was later immortalized in the movie The Great Escape, a movie Bolin says was based on fact. "We tried to escape the same way they did."
The prisoners spent their days digging tunnels. "When you built these tunnels, you had to shore them up, because the sand would fall in on you and we took the slats out of our bunks."
Eighty prisoners made it out of the camp through the tunnels. Another 50 were captured and executed. But Bolin says if that was the lowest point of the war, the highest point for him was when General Patton's forces liberated the camp on April 28, 1945.
"The tanks came in and knocked down the front gate, it went down the street in the camp, and before it got halfway down the camp, you couldn't even see the tank, Bolin recalls. "Men were on it -- all you could see was the gun."
Online Reporter: Jay Warren