Red Cross Heroes: Military hero
George and Virginia Stauffer met by chance on Nov. 22, 1940. It was a love affair at first sight, and they were married on Valentine’s Day two years later.
George was a right-of-way engineer for Bell Telephone, but he dreamed of going to West Point. Instead, he enlisted in the service right after World War II broke out.
“I went to Alabama in the infantry and then passed an aptitude test, which qualified me to go to officer school,” George explained.
In a letter, instructors noted that George showed unusual abilities as a leader. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and became a bombardier with the 451st Bomb Group, 725th Squadron.
They called their bomber “scrappy.” He flew eight combat missions on his B-24. Then, on May 5, 1944, during a bombing campaign over Romania, George’s plane was shot down by enemy fire and he had to bail out at 30,000 feet.
“They were shooting at me on the way down,” George recalled. “I landed along a creek bank about 30 to 40 feet from them, and they hollered “Americana kaput,” and there was eight of them standing there with machine guns, and I was a prisoner of war.”
George was taken to a prison camp in Bucharest, where survived on cabbage soup. They endured raids, with bombings both day and night.
They played cards with decks they made from soap boxes.
“Those are things that kept you You did things like that to keep from getting upside down,” George said. “Prison camp was no picnic.”
George was a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half months until Romania surrendered. Then, George returned home, and you’d think that would be enough, but at 94 years old, George is still serving his country.
Once a week, George and his daughter, Darcye, volunteer at the Berks County Veterans Affairs office on Cherry Street in downtown Reading.
Most don’t know they’re being greeted by a former POW.
“I always wanted to be somebody or something or accomplish something someplace somewhere,” George explained.
“He’s my hero. He’s my buddy,” Darcye said. “I’ve always said that of my father’s service time, that before a lifetime of accomplishment he had the accomplishment of a lifetime.”
“I want to live to be 100,” George answered. “That’s what I’m shooting for. ”
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