Friday, October 18, 2002

Obituary: Justin Thompson, WWII vet


Spent 27 months in various POW camps

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HARRISON - World War II veteran and one-time prisoner of war Justin R. Thompson died Monday of congestive heart and kidney failure at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Harrison resident was 78.

He was born in 1924 to Juston and Olive Charles Thompson in Terre Haute, Ind.

When he was 16, Mr. Thompson lied about his age so he could join the Army. He became a tank driver.

The Army later found out he was underage but it was too late. After being shipped to Ireland and England, Mr. Thompson was sent to North Africa.. There he participated in the Battle of Kasserine Pass in 1943 against German Gen. Erwin Rommeland his Afrika Korps. The Allied forces lost the initial battle and thousands were captured, including Mr. Thompson.

He spent a total of 27 months in a number of German prisoner of war camps. First, he was sent to Capri, Italy where it was his job to go out at night and help clean up Naples after the Americans bombed it during the day.

He was next sent to a camp in Austria and then to a camp near Berlin for 20 months. According to a fellow POW and friend, Loyal Brown, the camp was in Furstenburg near Poland. He said the POWs were then marched to Stalag 3A in Luckenwald, Germany. It was the coldest winter in 100 years, he said.

The Russians liberated the POWs in 1945; however, Mr. Brown said they were taken behind Russian lines to yet another camp and were guarded with weapons.

Finally, Mr. Thompson was sent to Marseille, France and returned to the United States in 1945. He was honorably discharged in October of 1945 and married his sweetheart, Helen Taggart of Southgate, Ky. that same month.

Mr. Thompson worked for the Cincinnati Correctional Institute from 1951-'58. He joined the Hamilton County Sheriff's department, where he served from 1968-'80. He retired in 1980.

Mr. Thompson spent his retirement years with his family. Because his father left when he was a baby and his mother died early, his only family was his wife and two daughters.

"We were a strong family," said his daughter, Sharon Speigle of Harrison. "He was a top-notch dad and we were daddy's little girls."

In 1990, Mrs. Speigle began genealogical research and found a number of relatives for her dad with whom he could visit and correspond.

His only grandson, Scott Speigle, remembered being taken on numerous camping and fishing trips by his grandparents.

"I was like a son - he was a great person and loved his family," said Mr. Speigle. "He was the best grandpa anyone could ask for."

Mr. Thompson was a member of the VFW Gailey Post 7340 in North College Hill; the IOK Chapter American Ex-prisoners of War, past president of FOP Lodge 84 and a member of the Ohio Buckeye Sheriffs Association.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Helen; another daughter, Deborah Rothweiler of Harrison; six grandchildren and five great-grandchildrenA Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10:30 a.m. todayat St. John the Baptist Church, Harrison. It will be followed by military graveside rites at Arlington Memorial Gardens, 2145 Compton Road, Springfield Township.

Memorials: National Kidney Foundation, 30 East 33rd St., Suite 1100, New York, N.Y. 10016.

E-mail kandrew@enquirer.com




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