Honor Those Who Paid The Ultimate Sacrifice This Memorial Day – Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Join us with WW2 Veteran Vic Klopfenstein to hear his incredible story!

Air Date:  05/25/2020

Guest: Veteran Vic Klopfenstein

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

 

Rick:

You find your way to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live and normally we’re talking about the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective. But today, we want to honor those who sacrifice for our freedom. It’s Memorial Day and we are thrilled to have a very special interview for you later in the program.

If you’re a longtime listener to WallBuilders Live, you know that we often have veterans on the program to tell their stories and to remind all of us as Americans that freedom is not free, there’s a very heavy price that is paid for that and that we should render honor to whom honor is due. You know, the Bible tells us there’s no greater love than that you lay down your life for your friends. And so those that have done that for us, that have made it possible for us to be free, we want to honor them today. And we want to encourage you to do the same and to share those stories with your friends and family, especially if you have kids at home still, make sure that you’re teaching them on a regular basis, the value of freedom and the price that’s been paid.

We’ve compiled a lot of these interviews that we have over the years. Not all of them, but you can get most of them at our website in the archives, even if you just go to wallbuilderslive.com and look for some of those veteran interviews. There’s also a CD available and a download mp3 of some of the best of the best of those interviews from all branches of the military. It’s just so neat to be able to hear their stories and know what they went through. And so often, it’s just that matter of fact, you know, we just did what we were asked to do.

Alright, fellas, we’ve got a special veteran interview for today because of it being Memorial Day. But let’s start with just kind of the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day so we get this straight in our heads.

David:

Well, first Memorial Day, you don’t celebrate Memorial Day, you commemorate Memorial Day because Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day. And that Memorial Day, you honor those who lost their life serving for the country. Veterans Day, you honor all those who served for their country in the military, but Memorial Day specifically targeted and focused on remembering those who gave their lives.

Tim:

Yeah. So, Veterans Day, we celebrate the veterans who are still here, who are among us. We appreciate them. We thank them and not that we aren’t thankful and grateful for people on Memorial Day, because certainly, if we see a veteran on Memorial Day, we still want to thank them, because so many of these veterans would have lost friends and many of them, especially some of those that were an active in combat and right, they went through a lot and dealt with a lot and so Memorial Day is very serious, and some are somber for them. And we’ve talked to some people on Memorial Day, some military, retired vets who have said, look, I don’t mind if people want to celebrate, they can celebrate because of the sacrifice my friends made and so, this is how they want to honor their life, that’s fine. But generally, we just want to recognize that this is not a celebratory thing necessarily, because we’re recognizing the lives that were laid down for us to be free.

David:

Yeah, we have an interview today with a World War Two veteran who almost lost his life, some of his brethren did lose their lives. It’s quite an amazing story. Is Vic [inaudible 02:59] who came from a very small rural town, but became part of a world war two bombing crew when they got shot down over Germany. Quite an amazing story.

Rick:

Stay with us, folks. We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.

BREAK

Hey, friends, it is not too late to join us for the crash course in history and government for all those folks that are schooling from home. Now, that could mean a lot of things. Schooling from home could mean that you’ve been homeschooling your kids from the beginning or it could mean you’ve been thrust into homeschooling as a result of the COVID crackdowns or it could mean you don’t even have kids at home, but you’re still schooling because we all are still learning every day, right? So really, this program is available for anyone and it’s not too late to join us. Even though we started on May 4th, we’re doing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon throughout May and you can join at any time and when you join, you will be able to get the recordings of any of the afternoons that you missed.

Remember, this is a live opportunity to learn about history and government to bring those things to life. And we’re going to have special guests every afternoon, people that have been in our “Chasing American Legends” program, people from, I mean, Dr. Alveda King, David Barton, Tim Barton, Brad Stein, all kinds of great folks are going to be joining us, you need to be there as well. Go to patriotacademy.com to sign up today. Patriotacademy.com, it’s not too late and you’ll get recordings of any live afternoons that you missed. Get the crash course in history and government at patriotacademy.com.

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live, thanks for staying with us today. We are thrilled to have with us Mr. Vic [inaudible 04:33] and he’s a World War Two veteran, he’s taken some time with us to tell us about his experience in the army, also as a POW and just a phenomenal story. But first thing I’d like to say [inaudible 04:43] thank you, thank you for your service and thanks for spending some time with us today.

Vic:

Thanks for thinking of it.

Rick:

Now, I’m told that you were in Miami Beach when you, is that where you were from?

Vic:

I grew up in Ohio, Northwest Ohio and took my basic down at Miami Beach in one of the hotels. I was only there for about six weeks and then sent to a gunnery school. And…

Rick:

How old were you when you first joined up?

Vic:

I was 18.

Rick:

And you wanted to go to flight school, it sounds like?

Vic:

Well, big ideas, young kids, you know, out of a little town and we wanted to be fighter pilots, I guess or something. There were two of us. We were farm boys, but we ended up on a bomber. I was a tail gunner.

Rick:

What year was this? What part of the world were we in when you?

Vic:

This was 43. I graduated in 42. And the invasion was going on when we were flying at that time. We went to Italy first and that’s where we flew out for our missions.

Rick:

How many missions did you fly before you were actually captured?

Vic:

We were on our 13th mission and it was Friday the 13th when we went down.

Rick:

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Your 13th mission was on Friday the 13th?

Vic:

This was October, Friday the 13th yeah, we’re bombing Vienna, Austria.

Rick:

Austria, okay. And so, when you go down, I mean, it was in a crash, did you land or were you out when it went down?

Vic:

No, the flames were going back past the tail after that explosion and so, I was trying to get out of that turret, I was thinking it was about time to get out, so but I had two big flying boots on and turret back there was real small and my feet got faster than that. And you’re in a hurry, you know, and I fell out backwards and the engineer was a big Polish boy and he got back, he thought maybe I’d been hit, but he grabbed me and pulled me out.

Rick:

And this is why you’re still in the air?

Vic:

Oh, yes, about 22,000 feet.

Rick:

Oh, wow. I got a sidetrack just for a second here. So that small turret, how tall are you?

Vic:

I would just write about 5’11”.

Rick:

So, you had to almost fold yourself into your turret every time?

Vic:

Yes. It was a pretty tight place.

Rick:

Wow. Okay, so he drags you out of there. Do you know at that point, I mean, there’s flames in the plane, you know you guys are going down?

Vic:

Yes. Several of them already jumped at that time and I had to put my parachute on, there wasn’t room in the turret back there to wear your parachute. So, I got my parachute on and got my flying boot back on. And…

Rick:

I’m picturing being in that plane and you’ve got to jump out of this plane. And since I’ve never done that, I can only imagine you got things going through your head about how do I keep from hitting pieces of the plane and getting caught up in the engine. I mean, what’s going through your head as you know you got to jump?

Vic:

Well, you didn’t think too much other than trying to get that parachute on and was a trap door in the bottom of the plane where we were gathered around to jump through and I would say it was about maybe two by three feet in diameter is such a matter. And the ball turret, boy, I was real small; that ball turret was smaller than mine and he was hesitating to jump. And he was standing there and this big engineer boy just picking him up and threw him out.

Rick:

Oh wow.

Vic:

You have to come out. There were two way gunners there. They had already jumped. The radio man had jumped. By that time, I’d gotten my shoot on and I jumped.

Rick:

Wow. Okay, so you’ve jumped, the big guy still in the plane, probably going to jump after you. I guess you…

Vic:

Yeah, I never talked to him afterwards. But apparently, he did. Because our mothers all kept in touch with each other. And by that, I knew that everybody had gotten out.

Rick:

Wow. Wow. Okay, take me back to… you’ve jumped out of the plane, do you remember what that was like once you’re in the air?

Vic:

Oh, well, we never jumped before I never knew anything. And the parachute was a chest type parachute. You’ve clipped it on, it was big rings that was harnessing, for that parachute hung out right in front of you. It had a red handle on, you pull that red handle and then a spring would spring out a small parachute and jerk, the big one open. I had no idea. I never paid any attention when we were instructed on that, I guess. But when I pulled that red handle, it came off in my hand and I thought, oh, boy, what have I done? I didn’t realize it when you jerk that out, it wasn’t part of the shoot anymore.

Rick:

So, it was doing its job, but you didn’t know that?

Vic:

Yes, I didn’t know that until about that time everything opened up and come to a screeching halt in the…

Rick:

Oh, wow. So, at that point when the shoot, when you’re actually slowed down and you can see what’s going on around you…

Vic:

Yeah, we just slowed down. Then and when the guys flying in around Berlin or the bigger cities in Germany, if they were hanging in a parachute coming down and there were people down on the ground that would just bombed, so guys were out there shooting those guys hanging in the parachute. But they were friendly, the Austrians had been taken over during World War Two by the Germans, but they were real friendly to me.

Rick:

In that area, at that point, I mean, how did you know as you landed in an occupied area where you had German troops or if you were landing in a farm, you know, with friendlies, I mean, I guess as you’re coming down, you’re just trying to figure out where you are and what the situation is?

Vic:

Yeah, there were Germans around, but it was over the Danube and I could see the Danube River and all in your head where, always told you about trying to get back into friendly territory, you know. And I saw that Danube and I thought if I got down close enough to that, I could follow that Danube into Switzerland. Well, that was just fantasy on my part. But anyway, when I landed, I landed in a plowed field and it was frozen and it was real rough. And I broke the bones in my left foot and ankle.

Rick:

Oh, wow. So, you landed and now you can’t run?

Vic:

No, I couldn’t walk anyway. I didn’t think so anyway. But later on, I found out I walked whether I wanted to or not. But anyways, a farmer and his two boys, they got within probably 100 yards from me and they were yelling at me. All I could understand was pistol. And they were wondering whether I had a gun and I just showed him my hands, that didn’t have. So, the two boys and their dad came up, by most thing and all they couldn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them, but I could show them my foot that I couldn’t walk. He sent the two boys up to get a bicycle. And they will be on up to their dad horse in wagon. When we got out to the little road and I crawled up in this wagon and they took me on and to the town. That’s the way a lot of the Germans towns were, you know. There were small challenges, and then the farms were out. Once I got in there, by that time, then the Germans, I don’t know who they were or what, but they were part of the German army anyway.

Rick:

Did it seem like the farmer, I mean, were they trying to turn you in or were they trying to get your away from the Germans?

Vic:

Well, they had no choice.

Rick:

Yeah, yeah.

Vic:

As I was going in, there were people out in the fields working and they were holding up their hands with a V sign for victory, so I knew that I was in friendly territory. They had been taken over by the Germans.

Rick:

Yeah. So those farmers that were holding onto V sign, I mean, they let you know they were with you?

Vic:

Yeah, I know that everything was… going not to be anybody shot. I think there might have been three of us. By that time, none of this German came and know we were held in town. I believe they brought us some food, a little food that evening. I think, they took us into the railroad station then.

Rick:

Yeah. And so at some point, the Germans, you know, when they caught up with you guys and there was at least three of you that they then took to what, a POW camp, I guess?

Vic:

Well, that’s it. And I got separated from all the rest, mainly because of this foot. I didn’t do a whole lot of walking, but I walked some until, I think they got me to one of their aid stations or something. And they looked at the foot and they wrapped it with, I don’t remember what it was, but it was wrapped. And I had that flying boot on then for about two months, the whole foot and everything all turned black. But I survived that.

Rick:

Did that heal after the war?

Vic:

Yes. It eventually healed by itself, I guess so. Always had some problems with it.

Rick:

When they took you to the prison camp, I understand, that was actually, they took you into northern Poland?

Vic:

Yes, we’re further up along the Baltic Sea, close to Russia that it was a four airman. That was why it was there. It was divided into four divisions, this camp was. There were guard towers in over each division and…

Rick:

So, there were quite a few prisoners there then?

Vic:

Yes, there were a lot of prisoners. In fact, I think the whole total was close to 8,000.

Rick:

Oh, wow! Okay, and that was probably a mix of Americans and others?

Vic:

Yeah, there was some British in one section, but it was practically all airman and most of them are POW, is like I was. They’ve been gunners on a bomber. So…

Rick:

And I mean that’s wintertime in Poland, I’m assuming this is cold, this is out there?

Vic:

Yes. That was one of the bad things for me, because they had beds for 16 men in each room and by the time I got there, it was all filled up, so I slept on the floor. Had one little thin blanket and it eventually got down you know, to about zero and so, it wasn’t very felt. And that but eventually, they hauled in a load of sawdust and I think these bags that they gave us were body bags that they put dead people in, but we put sawdust in and so then I got off the wooden floor. So…

Rick:

That was your mattress?

Vic:

That was the mattress.

Rick:

Wow. Now it wasn’t, you know, no hot showers in this camp, I’m assuming?

Vic:

I know, I never had a shower. I guess, get some cold water and trying to wash up, but you know, try to get the stink off a little bit. That room used to get pretty strong.

Rick:

Oh wow. That’s 6 or 7 months you’re there?

Vic:

Yeah.

Rick:

No showers. No…

Vic:

I was there about 5 months, I guess.

Rick:

I read one story that said there was one particular guard that took a particular interest in being pretty cruel to you?

Vic:

Yes. And why he hit me side of the head, at the time, I didn’t know. But it might have been, because of the name sounded Jewish or such a matter, I don’t know. He had done that to a number of guys, he was trying to break through eardrum. He hit you with the palm of his hand, cupped you know and as hard as he could swing, but I don’t think that he did any damage. I don’t hear it now, but it’s only…

Rick:

But you had 75 years of good hearing after that?

Vic:

Yeah, we…

Rick:

Yeah. Well, now, I understand you found one of your friends from back home.

Vic:

We were from a little town, there were only 20. Some of them graduated in our senior class. So, this boy’s name was Richard Overland, I know he was shut down. One of the fellows in our room had access to go out to see if there was any male had come in for anybody. And he came back and he said, there’s a Richard, but they’ve got it spelled capital O, capital, Berlin. So, but you know, I said, well, that would have to be him. And he said, he’s in the compound right next to us, but he said, you know, you can’t yell across the fence. That’s absolutely forbidden. Well, I eventually saw a couple of boys walking over on the other side of the fence and I asked him, if they would go in and find this Richard Overland? Eventually, he came out and he said, what are you doing here? And I said, I could take care of you.

So anyway, we yield back and fourth, I suppose two or three times until I finally got caught and I got run out with, had a pistol in my back… if you’re going to shoot, you have to shoot me in the back. But he let me go for some reason or I guess he was feeling good that day or something. But usually, you got thrown in the hole for a week if you’ve done something wrong, but he let me go and I just finished that story with that fella. We came back. He ended up his postmaster in our little town and I was a real courier.

Rick:

No kidding. That’s amazing that you all ended up in the same camp and that you were able to connect.

Vic:

Yeah.

Rick:

So, you were still there, then another month or two, but they began to move?

Vic:

We went down to Nuremberg. From Nuremberg, we will walk all the way down to a little town of Musberg and that’s where they were bringing prisoners in there from all over Germany and…

Rick:

That was Stolic 7?

Vic:

Yes.

Rick:

Now I understand it was Patton’s Army that came through and liberated the campaign you were in?

Vic:

I think it was the third Army in the seventh division.

Rick:

You know, and I’ve read and of course, even seen shows when a lot of those POW camps were liberated, I mean, there was nothing. The army had to keep moving and that yeah, here’s thousands of you. What did you do after that?

Vic:

They barely had enough to eat themselves.

Rick:

But do you remember how long after you had been freed from the camp before you were actually brought back to the States?

Vic:

We’re liberated on, I think the 28th – 29th of April and the war ended in the 7th of May, I think it was. But by that time, when the war ended, they were hauling us out on a truck, taking us to an airport and then DC threes were coming and they’re hauling us out back to Aloha, France, they’re on the coast. We were about a week there before we finally got out on the trunk.

Rick:

But I heard that once you got on the ship, even though the war was over, you guys had to avoid submarines that didn’t know the war was over because you were coming back right at the end of the war?

Vic:

Yeah, we were in a convoy. Oh, the first, maybe two weeks, not going very fast, you know. I think they said that we were about 500 mile off the coast and in a heavy fog and as about that time that they said, there was no problem with submarines anymore. So, they were turning everybody loose, you’re all on your own. Well, in that fog, we hit a, I think it was an aircraft carrier, I’m not sure what the big ship was that we hit, but it put a big gash in the front of our boat.

Rick:

Oh, wow. And you didn’t go down the waterline?

Vic:

No, it was up above the waterline.

Rick:

Oh, wow. You came home and went back to the same hometown though, right, did you live in the same hometown the rest of your life?

Vic:

Yes. In that little town, never left. The little town is only about less than 2000 people.

Rick:

And you’ve been there your whole life?

Vic:

I’ve always lived around there. Yeah.

Rick:

How old are you today?

Vic:

95.

Rick:

  1. So, you were 18 when you went in, you had about two years in I guess and roughly 6-7 months of that as a POW?

Vic:

Yeah, you got it about right. Yeah.

Rick:

Well, man, what a story. What a story. We are so thankful that you were willing to come on the program and spend some time with us. And we’re just appreciative of not only your service back then, but the fact that you’ve been a contributing citizen all these years and that you would even today spend time with us to help us remember the price of our freedom.

Vic:

Well, thanks for saying that. But a lot of my… had it a lot worse than I did, that’s for sure. So…

Rick:

Well, you paid a heavy price so that we could be free today and we’re glad you made it home…

Vic:

Yeah, well, I appreciate your calling and all and we just take one day at a time now.

Rick:

You got it. You got it. Well, God bless you. Thank you very much.

Vic:

Okay, thank you.

Rick:

That was World War Two veteran, Vic [inaudible 20:51] and what a great story, so thankful for his time today to share with us. We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.

BREAK

Hey friends, if you’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories. Here on WallBuilders Live, once in a while we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those front lines, that have made incredible sacrifices, have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people.

One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War Two veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on wall builders live from folks that were in the band of brothers to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived being Indianapolis to so many other great stories you’ve heard on WallBuilders Live. You have friends and family that also serve. If you have World War Two veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please email us at radio@wallbuilders.com. radio@wallbuilders.com. Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live.

Rick:

We’re back here on WallBuilders Live, back with David and Tim Barton. And guys, you know, you said at the beginning, the importance of this being a day that we remember. And Vic being on with us, someone from World War Two, it’s a great time to remember all of those wars of not only this century, but through America’s history. And I think well, it’s over a million, right, like 1.2 million that paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

David:

Yeah, it is 1.2 million. And, you know, just hearing this story, he looked into death a bunch of times. I mean, he survived but having been shot down in a plane and having been stuck in your gun turret and having to have a guy pull you out of your gun turret and then you’re going to parachute out of a plane and you’ve never had a parachute on in your life before. And so you get the parachute own and then you jump out of the plane and you pull the ripcord and it comes off in your hand and you think, oh my gosh, the parachute is broken, I’m going to plummet to my death. I mean, everything about what he went through, I don’t know how you can come closer to death than what he did, because he looked into the eyes of death several times, he obviously survived. But man, even his experiences after he landed, quite amazing.

Tim:

And guys not to understate anything about our freedom here in America, certainly recognizing that that people, right like so many of these heroes from World War Two and we can come forward through all the wars that have gone on over the last many decades. But one of the things now that is also reality, looking at Memorial Day and the loss of life, specifically military members who have lost their life is in the midst of this Coronavirus, there’s also estimates of how much the suicide rate has increased among either retired or current active duty military. And so, one thing that would be worth right everybody listening to right now to know is that if you know someone in the military, first of all, make sure that we are appreciating them, we’re supporting them, we’re praying for them. But we don’t want to see any more lives that are lost, especially not in these wartime scenarios, people are back home and they’re just struggling going through things.

And that’s where we have a lot of great friends like Chad Robichaux with Mighty Oaks Warriors, Dave Roever, several guys that we’ve had on the radio program over the last couple of weeks, the last couple of years, that do a lot to help veterans and to help active duty military, to make sure that we don’t have more loss of life than necessary for the freedoms that we celebrate enjoy in American. Certainly, any suicide is something we want to avoid as much as possible.

So, on Memorial Day, we want to make sure that, first of all, to all our listeners, if you are military, active duty retired, we are so grateful for you, for your sacrifice. We’re praying for you today. For many of you that have lost friends and teammates along the way, we are praying that God gives you peace and comfort in the midst of this. I have family cousins, brothers in the military and all of them have been in situations where they’ve known and they’ve lost people and so we kind of have some connection where we understand a little bit about what’s going on.

But we really appreciate all of our military personnel when at WallBuilder, we talked about how unique America is and how much we enjoy America and the freedoms of America, we recognize so much of what we enjoy is because we have such a great military, and so many people who have laid down their lives for our freedom. So, on Memorial Day, we say thank you to all of our military.

Rick:

And we encourage you to do the exact same thing there at home, make sure you’re teaching these things to your kiddos and you just take an opportunity to pause today, to honor those who came before us and who sacrificed so much that we could be free and you know, to take the advice also of Abraham Lincoln. I mean, he said that it’s from these honor dead that we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. I mean, that’s how we honor them best, is by actually living out that freedom. And we challenge you to do that. To take a pause right now on Memorial Day to realize these freedoms are precious, they need to be preserved and that we preserve them by living them out, having that increased devotion is so important and we challenge you to do that as well.

As I mentioned at the beginning of program, we’ve actually got a CD on the website at wallbuilders.com that has a compilation of some of these veteran interviews from over the years. And what we did was we just, you know, went through, there’s so many more than then we could fit on a CD. But we went through and got some of the best of the best and made sure that we got all the branches covered there as well. And it’s called Warrior Heroes: By Land, By Air, By Sea. That’s available right now at wallbuilders.com. I encourage you to get that and share some of those stories and get your family to listen to those and let’s honor those who came before us.

Thanks so much for joining us today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.