HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — When he returned to Germany where he fought during World War II, former U.S. Army anti-tank gunner Jack Myers couldn’t help but think of a member of his five-man tank destroyer crew who was killed in combat near Nessen, Germany.
“One mortar shell fell six feet in front of him and with all that power, the shrapnel went through his helmet and came out the other side,” said Myers, a former Corporal . He rushed to Private Albert Haskey’s side, but couldn’t save him.
“Haskey hopped out of our tank destroyer and started cutting limbs off a tree so that I could traverse my gun in the event of a German counter-attack in the village we had just taken,” said Myers. The mortar round hit right in front of Haskey.
For more than 50 years, Myers — who is now 98 — couldn’t talk about what happened that day. “It was too painful,” said the aging warrior, who almost met the same fate as his driver.
During WDVM’s interview at his home in Hagerstown after he returned from an all-expenses paid trip to Germany by the Best Defense Foundation, Myers showed us the piece of shrapnel that hit him in the helmet.
During the return trip to Germany, Myers and five other WWII veterans were taken to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp near Berlin.
The sight of barbed wire and guard towers reminded Myers of Dachau, a concentration camp his unit helped liberate.
“For me, the worst thing was the people who were starving — and when I say skin and bones, I mean every word of it. Just skeletons,” said Myers as he looked at some pictures taken of survivors at Dachau.
Myers says some American soldiers saw caused them to execute Nazi guards who tried to surrender at Dachau.
Jack Myers admits he had the urge to kill a German sniper, but couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.
“He was up in a church steeple, but refused to come down until he ran out of ammo,” said Myers. “When he came down, I was angry and cold and felt like blowing him away. Some guys did, but I couldn’t.”
Myers said he brought the soldier’s helmet home as a souvenir.
The highlight of the return trip to Germany came when Myers, who is known in Hagerstown for his singing ability, led his fellow veterans in singing “God Bless America” atop the rebuilt Reichstag in Berlin, the former heart and soul of the Third Reich during World War Two.
Sadly, First Lieutenant Robert Naum, a B-17 navigator in the left front row, passed away less than six weeks after he returned home from Germany.