William Hall is pictured here, second from the right, with service buddies. The photo was probably taken after his return from overseas (as he seems to be wearing corporal’s stripes). It have been taken at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
The following report on ex-POW William Hall’s camp experience is from a Canandaigua-area (New York) newspaper—probably The Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) as it is referred to in the article, circa August 1944.
Canandaiguan Visits Home After Nazi
Canandaigua [New York]—“If it hadn’t been for the Red Cross food parcels none of us would have lived.”
Thus Pfc. William Hall sums up his nine months’ experience in Axis prison camps in almost the same words used by First Sgt. Earl W. Huddleston, Montgomery, W. Va., in the dramatic story of his escape from Camp 59, Italy, in the July and August issues of Cosmopolitan.
But while the West Virginian, apparently with the approval of public relations officers of the War Department details his capture, imprisonment and fight for freedom, the 28-year-old Canandaiguan, back home after two sensational escapes, had little to tell yesterday of his experiences.
“Huddleston tells it better than I could even if I were allowed to say anything,” he commented. This was the first intimation, which he later confirmed, that he was one of the same group of Americans captured by Germans in Tunisia in December, 1942, of which Huddleston gives such a graphic description in the two-part Cosmopolitan entitled “He Lived Through Hell.”
But where Huddleston apparently was successful in his first escape try, Hall and Ralph E. Hoag Jr., another Canandaigua member of the same company, were not so lucky.
So far as is known, Hoag is still confined to a German prison camp near Berlin but Hall (when or how he will not say) made his second attempt at freedom, this time successfully and just two years to the day and hour he left American shores for overseas on Aug. 2, 1942, he arrived back in the United States at the same port.
He is now spending a 21-day furlough here with his father, John Hall, 63 Chapin St., and his mother, Mrs. Ezra Deuel, Granger Street.
Hall admitted yesterday he had been dodging a Democrat and Chronicle reporter for several days, knowing he would be asked a lot of questions he couldn’t answer.
“I suppose you were cautioned not to say anything,” queried the reporter when Hall was finally cornered.
“Cautioned nothing. I was told,” he answered significantly.
With young Hoag (and by inference Sergeant Huddleston also) Hall was captured on Dec. 23, 1942. During the next 18½ months Hall spent nine in prison camps and 9¼ months behind enemy lines trying to contact American forces.
“Not even the thrill of getting back on U.S. soil could match the feeling I had when I finally reached the American lines,” he said. “It was worse behind the lines trying to keep alive than it ever was in the front lines of the fighting,” he declared.
Hall said he had many narrow escapes from being recaptured. He had a disguise through which his father couldn’t have penetrated, he said. Most of the time he traveled alone. But apparently he got plenty to eat because he regained all of the 40 pounds he lost during his first 26 days of imprisonment. Two bouts of flu with little medical attention while he was still in prison as well as the lack of food until the Red Cross came to the rescue, accounted for his loss of weight, he said.
Praises Red Cross
“But the Red Cross really is on the job over there. If it hadn’t been for their food parcels none of the American or British prisoners could live through it. Besides food they brought us books and cigarets, helped us make contact with our relatives back here and gave us a chance for study,” he said.
Asked what he had studied during his imprisonment Hall grimly replied:
“I spent most of my time studying how to escape.”
Hall has been in the Army nearly four years. He enlisted on Dec. 18, 1940, and spent most of the next two years in training camps here. What he is to do after his home furlough he does not know, but if it is to be back on the fighting front he hopes it will be with his old outfit, the First Division.
“They are always there where something is doing,” he commented. He has no desire to be sent to the Pacific War Zone unless the First goes there too.