Hometown Hero: Don Ebsch

By Terry Kovarik | terry.kovarik@wearegreenbay.com

Published 04/25 2014 07:55PM

Updated 04/25 2014 08:00PM

GREEN BAY(WFRV) When Don Ebsch received his high school diploma in Menominee, Michigan in 1942, he knew a draft notice wasn't too far behind.

"I knew my brother and he'd been in two-years already. Then pretty much all of my friends were gone," he said.

After basic training, Ebsch became an Army radio operator. He was assigned to "C" Company with the 104th Infantry. In November 1944, they became separated from the three other companies on a mission to take Cologne, Germany and came under heavy fire.

"With all the tank fire from the Germans and the artillery from the Germans, we couldn't stand that anymore," Ebsch recalled.

The fight lasted just over 12-hours. Ebsch tried to radio for help but "C" Company was overwhelmed. Then the order came from his captain.

"He said--"Smash that up Don or Ebsch, my 300 radio because we were quitting," Ebsch said.

Upon surrendering, Ebsch and "C" Company were taken to Bonn, stalags in Limberg and Mullberg before ending up at a work camp in Kamnitz, Czechoslovakia. Prisoners worked in mining operations that the Germans hoped would help rearm their forces.

"We were blowing those mountains to get them underground. But they were too late. They were building factories under there. Repair factories," Ebsch said.

Ebsch contracted diphtheria, which he says may have saved his life.

"I was sent to a civilian hospital there. They treated me good. The food was fine," said Ebsch

Especially compared to the flour/sawdust bread and thin soup, made with horse bones and no meat fed to prisoners of war.
Eight months later World War Two ended. Ebsch and other prisoners were marched to a nearby town and freed. They made their way to Prague, were picked up by Russian forces and returned home.
But Don Ebsch's hope, nearly 70-years later, is that people understand the extent that the Nazis depended on prison labor.

"It wasn't just Auschwitz and Berghausen. There were thousands of these," he said.

Local 5's Terry Kovarik has the story.

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