Leland Turley, 91, of Tulsa
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2012
It’s been 67 years since World War II ended
and the Greatest Generation returned
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lost 65 pounds in nearly four months as a prisoner of war, and is still suffering from that trauma.
About a week after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Leland Turley married his high school sweetheart, and they started their life on a farm near Nowata. But they would barely have time together before his number came up.
"Well, in March of '42 I got a letter from Roosevelt that said 'Greetings!' " Turley said.
It was his draft letter. At 21, he was headed to war.
After serving as a military police officer for two years, he was shipped to the front lines in Belgium with the 106th Infantry.
"We were there about two weeks before the Battle of the Bulge really started," Turley said. "The day they moved us up to the front lines, that's the day they hit us. They captured me on the 18th of December, 1944."
But thoughts of his new daughter and young wife back home kept him going through the hunger and cold and pain.
The day after he was captured, he was marched 40 miles to a prison camp.
"One day," Turley said, "we got up at 5 o'clock in the morning and we walked all day long up till 1 o'clock the next morning."
He was moved to a cement block factory, where he worked various jobs with other prisoners, often sleeping on the ground in the open. Marching through some of the small towns in the German countryside, Turley said, he saw some of the horrors of war. Those memories have stayed with him.
"Oh, you talk about a stinking mess," Turley said. "Body fumes. That town was a mess."
Toward the start of spring, the Russian forces were closing in from the east, so the prisoners were marched west, back to the American front. On April 26, 1945, he was liberated. He was taken back to France and had the first shower he'd had since he was captured.
But the time as a prisoner had taken its toll.
"When I was captured, I weighed right at 200 pounds," Turley said. "When I was liberated four months and eight days later when the government got around to weighing me I weighed 135 pounds. I've had troubles ever since. My nerves are shot, my stomach is all tore up. I'm still suffering from it, even to this day."