Looking for POW Stories for Rennes Military Hospital a.k.a Stalag 221

sirjahn
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Joined: 11 Feb 2011, 20:41

11 Feb 2011, 20:41 #1

I am trying to track down information on and stories from the Rennes Military Hospital (Frontstalag 221, Stalag 221, Stalag 221 W).  My understanding is that a large number of the severely wounded paratroopers from 101st, 82nd, and 6th AB were taken there for treatment and the the medical staff was captured Allied doctors.  My Father was one such trooper and I am looking for anyone with more stories about the place.
Dale
LTC USA Retired
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TCUNC76
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Joined: 27 Nov 2007, 02:29

12 Feb 2011, 15:23 #2

Sir:



Seems to me in some of our Trigger Time events ...someone brought up the name of medic Johnnie Gibson, he has passed in the last few years but told his story about him helping the German medics & doctors in the hospital. Maybe others can add more here.



TC
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sirjahn
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Joined: 11 Feb 2011, 20:41

12 Feb 2011, 15:46 #3

Yes any stories from Johnnie Gibson of his time at Rennes would be greatly appreciated. I am going to Rennes in June and would like to know as much as I can beforehand.
Dale
LTC USA Retired
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KlondikeFox
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Joined: 03 Mar 2008, 14:33

12 Feb 2011, 19:33 #4

I went there with Pathfinder vet Bob Sechrist (501) in 2004.  This stalag was
situated in a girls' school, the Jean Mace school, which is still standing.
A worker at the US embassy on Rennes in 2004 took us to another school first, but Bob said it was the wrong
place.  I remembered that French historian Henri Levaufre of Periers had told me the name
Jean Mace-we went there and it is the correct location. 
Across the narrow street from that school was Gestapo HQ.  In the backyard, which is now a
playground, the Germans had airraid shelters dug underground. The stairways, rooms
etc inside are quite modern and even stand-up to today's standards. 221 was
primarily used for seriously-wounded American and Brit AIRBORNE PWs, but there were also
some from regular infantry divisions in there.  The room used as a cafeteria (on the
2nd floor if I remember right), was filled with cots, with wounded soldiers lying on them, in 44.
Sechrist pointed-out the spot where his cot had been.  Allied fighter-bombers were hitting
the buildings across the rather narrow street at the beginning of August, 1944 at which time
some of the guards bugged-out and some of the prisoners escaped and were taken-in by
French families in other parts of the city.  A few days later, Patton's 8th Infantry Division and 4th
AD arrived and liberated the town. Public reprisals on collaborators were held in front of the
city hall (hotel de ville) and there is a photo of that location in one of my books ('Vanguard'?)
A description of the bloody reprisals can be found in my 'Avenging Eagles' book.
Johnny Gibson died recently but he had few stories about 221, because he arrived there less than
a week before Patton's forces did. He did not know Bob Sechrist but I got them together about
seven years ago. Gibson was captured above Carentan on D-day, but was kept with German combat
units, as they retreated south and when they reached the vicinity of Mortain (shortly before the famous
Luttich counteroffensive there), John was finally assigned to the prison/hospital at Rennes, in late July.
Prior to that, he was ordered to give first aid to wounded Germans as the German Seventh Army
staged their Ruckmarsch toward Brittainny.
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sirjahn
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Joined: 11 Feb 2011, 20:41

12 Feb 2011, 21:40 #5

Great information there.  I have an old city map of Rennes which identifies the Girl's school location and a postcard from around 1920 which identifies it as St. Vincent's College at that time.  I have my Father's German medical treatment papers which has him in bed 22 B.  I don't what relation that is to Bob's location but there it is.  Accounts say that Allied doctors treated the POWs and the first entries on my Father's papers are in English and the rest in French.
My Father had a story about a Garden/Orchard that in the 1932 city map is an adjunct to the school on the east side.  He dug through a wall in the Hospital and got into the garden where he stuffed himself on unripe pears and got shot at for his adventure.  He also caught and ate rats because the Germans gave them hardly any food.  Do you recall what is in the building now?  Offices or apartments?
One story he had which I find hard to believe was a visit by a German Pilot (possibly Josef Priller) to a pilot in the Hospital describing his attack on the D-Day beaches or shooting down the pilot.  I recall him showing me a picture when I was 8 or 9 of a German pilot in uniform standing next to a bed with a person propped up looking at him.  The German was doing the classic two arms out 'here is me and my wingman banking' pose.  There were several others in the background in various uniforms and hospital gowns.  My Father said he was next to the photographer when the picture was taken.  I haven't been able to find the photo again.
My Father escaped during the 4th ADs bombardment of Rennes when the guards retreated to their bunkers.  He said he and several guys killed a guard and escaped into the city where members of the Resistance found and hid them.  Apparently he saw those reprisals but only said he saw 'man's inhumanity to man' and would say no more.  I would buy your book if I could find it.
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Dale
LTC USA Retired
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TCUNC76
Registered User
Joined: 27 Nov 2007, 02:29

13 Feb 2011, 01:50 #7

Col:



That's a very interesting background that I take it is your father is standing in front of....looks to me like P-40's. He looks like his wearing jump boots ? Was your father in 101st, 82nd or a fighter pilot ? Welcome by the way to the forum....much thanks for yours and you fathers service ! I have somewhere in my collection a dvd about 101st ...with several troopers talking about their experience...I'll see if Mr Gibson was on it.........seems to me he was.



Thanks TC
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sirjahn
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Joined: 11 Feb 2011, 20:41

13 Feb 2011, 02:17 #8

The picture is of my Father taken probably at Ft. Benning in 1943.  That is just a background for the photographer.  He was with Headquarters Company 3/508th part of the 82nd AB.  He jumped on D-Day and seems to have been one of the few sticks that actually landed in the DZ.  Unfortunately the DZ was also the center of the Headquarters of the 91st Luftlande Division commanded by General Falley.  My Father told me a story of landing near tanks and shooting at the personnel trying to get into them.  I am trying to verify the locations of the 100th Panzer Erstaz Abteilung platoons.to verify my Father's story.  He was wounded  in the left  shoulder  and  wrist.  The bullets in the chest/shoulder should have killed him but he had crisscrossed bandoleers of MG ammo and they deflected the bullets so they 'only'  tore open  his  shoulder.
He survived 3 separate attacks by Allied aircraft and was the sole survivor twice when the vehicle he was in was destroyed.  I have found the probable location of one of those attacks north of Hayes du Puits.  I am trying to write up his story in a 'you were there' sort of way.
Mr. Bando I will go to your site and order the book.
Dale
LTC USA Retired
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TCUNC76
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Joined: 27 Nov 2007, 02:29

13 Feb 2011, 04:19 #9

  Col:
        I bet your father knew or served with a former 82nd Ab 508th HQ Company man I knew for years here in South Carolina.  Lt Colonel Brannen , who's story I have shared many times with members here on the forum. I am a televsion news photojournalist by profession and have produced several stories about the role a young Lt Brannen played on D-Day in his run in with German General Wihlem Falley of the 91st Division. I have been to the scene of this story many times over the years in my travels in Normandy. After Lt Brannen's four day ordeal in Normamdy he wrote one of the most moving stories of his time in Normandy . I will provide you a link if you have not already read it . Sadly the Colonel passed away in 1999, but I use to visit with him many times in his home . It in all the thirty plus years of being in the television news business ...its my all time favorite story. Many here on the forum have been with me to the location of the old LAGOUCHE FARM HOUSE where the fire fight took place on the day now approaching 67 years this June. About two years ago the lady of the farm house who was about 24 years old when Lt Brannen and his men came to the house lookign for directions... has since moved out . Our webmaster wrote a great article about the story a few years back. Its my all time number one D-Day story from all my travels ! Lt Col was just such a fine man and now rest at Arlington Nat ..a. place he richly deserves ! He loved the 82nd for sure ! Feel free if you want to contact me off forum ..be glad to talk to you on my dime about him and my D-Day travles !
                              Tom Colones
                               [url=mailto:[email protected]][email protected][/url]
 A young Lt Brannen in England before the jump !
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This was taken back in the early 90's at The LAGOUCHE FARM HOUSE in Normandy with the lady of the house & a local friend !

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Her house at it was on that night in June of 1944 & the road that Gen Falley took when he ran into paratroopers of the 3rd/ 508th PIR !
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  Madame LAGOUCHE points to the place on the door where on of the young paratrooopers tired to break the lock on the door before she and he husband came down to greet them....sure they were scared to death to look out there upper window and see these men standing down on the ground wanting them to come down.
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Capt Brannen had this painting done of himself in Paris during the war !
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TCUNC76
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Joined: 27 Nov 2007, 02:29

13 Feb 2011, 04:24 #10

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   This photo was taken after Normandy ............

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   Some of his egg salad ...hard earned for sure !!
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 Post War photo !
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   He was part of Gen Eisenhower's In Germany after the war.......... man look how sharpe these 508th 3rd Battalion Men look ....... a tough lot I am sure !
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