Saturday, May 24, 2003

Prison camp survivor to lead parade in Ky.

By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Byron Nelson, 79, of Alexandria, who was captured by Germans in World War II and spent three months as a POW, will be grand marshal of the Alexandria Memorial Day parade
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
ALEXANDRIA - For three months he was prisoner of war, forced to march several days and nights at a time to six different stockades in Nazi Germany, knowing he would be killed if he lagged behind.

That's what life was like for Byron Nelson, 79, of Alexandria during the brutal winter of 1945. Some of the marches covered distances up to 100 miles.

Nelson, a WWII rifle scout for the Army, will be the grand marshal of the 43rd Alexandria Memorial Day Parade on Sunday. Nelson, who grew up in California, Ky., recalls his captivity as a 24-hour struggle to stay alive.

"We had to hold each other up to march," he said. He was one of 191 soldiers taken prisoner from his battalion. "We had fellows that you held up and carried. If a person dropped, he would be shot, bayoneted or dumped in a snowdrift."

Nelson said he served with E company in the 314th Infantry Regiment of the 79th "Cross of Lorraine" Division. He participated in five campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Alsace-Lorraine, Rhineland and Central Europe.

He entered the fighting in France through Utah Beach in June 1944. He was wounded in action twice, and still has shrapnel in his body.

"You have a responsibility not only to yourself, but your country and every individual you come in contact with," Nelson said. "You have to think about their interest and well being."

After his prison camp was liberated in March, Nelson returned to the final stages of the war.


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