Samuel Eugene Lawrence, Jr., Papers, 1944-1945
| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
[Examples of art work and other items from this collection published
on page seven of the Spring 2007 issue of Caroliniana Columns.]
Manuscript volume and forty-six items, 1944-1945 and undated, of Samuel Eugene Lawrence, Jr. (1914-2004) impart something of the World War II experiences of this longtime resident of Columbia, South Carolina, and airman who was shot down over North Africa in 1942 and held in Germany as a prisoner of war for two and a half years. An alumnus of Louisiana State University (Class of 1938) with a degree in civil engineering, Lawrence graduated from the Army Air Corps at Kelly Field, Texas, in 1939 as a fighter pilot. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
His official photographic identification card identifies Major Lawrence as POW number 101 held at Oflag XXI-B, a prison camp for officers located near Schoken, Poland. Elsewhere in the collection there is evidence that he was confined also at Luftwaffenlager III in Silesia, the Nazi encampment for captured British and American air force personnel known as Sagan that was immortalized in Paul Brickhill’s 1950 book, The Great Escape, and the 1963 film adaptation. Most compellingly, a cartoon pencil portrait of Lawrence drawn by T.E.C. Kunda, Lang¬wasser, Germany, identifies the subject as “‘Sam of Sagan’ The Old Kriegie.”
Lawrence’s POW logbook, recorded in a volume entitled A Wartime Log: A Remembrance From Home Through the Canadian Y.M.C.A. that was issued in 1943 through the auspices of the War Prisoners’ Aid of the Y.M.C.A., Geneva, Switzerland, appears to have been compiled both during the time of Lawrence’s imprisonment at Sagan and while at Stalag or Stammlager XIII-D near Nuremberg. As the advancing Russian army neared Sagan in January of 1945, prisoners were forcibly marched to Spremberg, where they were placed in boxcars and transported by freight train to Nuremberg and other camps. Included in the volume are “Complaints Respecting the Conditions of Cap[t]ivity” addressed to the “Commandant of Stammlager Luft XIII D” on 28 February 1945 by Col. Darr H. Alkire as senior Allied POW officer. The complaints address such issues as food and clothing, lack of heat, shortage of bedding, inadequate bathing and washing facilities, vermin, shortage of medical supplies, poor lighting, mail and personal parcels, religious activities, and entertainment and recreation.
In early April 1945, American POWs at Stalag XIII-D were told that they would have to evacuate and march to Stalag VII-A at Moosburg. The Germans accepted the American plan to organize the evacuation and to march no more than twenty kilometers per day. Along the way many POWs began to drop out of the march and guards made no serious attempt to stop the disintegration.
Ultimately the POWs were liberated by members of General Patton’s 14th Armored Division on 19 April 1945. Among Sam Lawrence’s mementoes from the march to Moosburg is a round metal token embossed on one side “STALAG VII A” and on the reverse “6067,” perhaps his identification number at Moosburg.
Among the many fascinating things recorded in Lawrence’s wartime log are his list of “Books I’d Like to have for my Library” and a “record of a four way cooperative by persons in four sections of the country to procure best foods.” The food co-op was set up by Sam Lawrence in association with Robert L. Shoup, of Port Arthur, Texas, Allen A. Perryman, of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Arthur M. Larson, of Black River Falls, Wisconsin and was intended “to have choice fruits, vegetables, meats & fowl of all kinds kept in a deep freeze unit all year round.” “This,” Lawrence wrote, “is in accordance with my policy of never having to go hungry again.”
The volume also contains the names and, in some instances, the addresses of fellow detainees, including those housed in Rooms 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. There are also names of participants in a “rotating pool made up of twenty five individuals, each betting one hundred dollars, to continue until cessation of hostilities of war between Allied powers & Germany.” The winner was to be determined “by the person holding the date of the effective signing of the armistice.”
In addition to the “‘Sam of Sagan’” portrait, the logbook features other cartoon drawings executed in color pencil, among them several signed by noted artist Stan Rames, a lieutenant with the 361st Fighter Group who later went on to work professionally as an artist for NBC and, later, WDSU-TV, New Orleans, as well as a professor of art at Tulane University. There are also drawings signed by J.B. Boyle and David Ker. Each drawing in the volume caricatures some aspect of POW life.
A single letter from Sam, bearing date 27 March 44 and posted to Vitz and Margie Hansen, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, relates the following tongue in cheek anecdote—“We got some recently arrived members of Uncle Sam’s disarmed forces in the other day. I knew several. Two were invited into luncheon by some old Kreigies (short for Kriegs¬gefangen). An ap[p]arently lifeless body was covered by a sheet. Several times the occupants of the room raised the sheet & sprinkled body liberally with salt. Upon being asked the visitors claimed they didn’t smell anything. Then they were told that one of their room mates had died four days previously & they were hiding the body in order to draw the corpse’s food parcel. The visitors were sworn to secrecy but they didn’t seem to have any appetite.”
A series of thirty-five snapshots shows scenes at the Sagan, Nurem¬berg, and Moosburg prisoner-of-war camps, on the forced marches—first from Sagan to Nuremberg, and then from Nuremberg to Moosburg—and following liberation. The photographs are marked copyright of H.E. Kious and each is carefully labeled.