By Jennifer Martin - email
"All during my 33 months as a prisoner of war of the Germans, death was a thing which could have happened because in the case that the Germans got pushed, they could have killed the POWs just to get rid of us. We were an impediment to them."
But Thomas Holt and his band of brothers refused to let fear and malnourishment break their spirit. After 2 1/2 years as a prisoner of war, he saw his chance to escape and took it.
"The Russians overran our camp. All of a sudden, we looked out the door and heard Russian tanks and infantry people. In the confusion, 5 buddies and I decided this is the time to go. And so we made our way out of camp, total confusion, Russians had taken over just about everything.
We ran in, on our escape, we found a house that had been taken over by the Germans and here was several thousands of our Red Cross parcels they had been stealing. The Red Cross parcel contained some powdered milk, a tin of beef, a tin of fish, some medical things, cigarettes. We made ourselves a sleigh and took as many parcels as we could and that's what saw us through the next four months.
From that point, we walked 250 miles to Warsaw. Wound up in Warsaw, Poland for a couple of days and then for the next 3 or 4 months, walked 600 miles to Odessa on the Black Sea port. The very rough training I had been through, I think, was the thing which brought me through."
The men finally got on a British ship in Odessa headed to Egypt. Then on a ship, headed home.
"When I got back to the United States we were all in the hospital. I was in the hospital about a year and a half. Had to learn to eat all over again. There we were fed baby food, Gerber baby food 6 times a day. That's what I lived on for practically a year."
He slowly recovered.
"My work with the army was not over yet."
World War Two was over, but Korea was underway. Holt headed back overseas.
"By that time, I was regaining strength. I could eat a lot of the things the army cooked where I was based. I was with the Korean Military Advisory Group. And from there they sent me to be the Intelligence Advisor for them."
After 2 1/2 years, he finally got to go home. He had to spend more time in the hospital.
"Wound up for the rest of my duty right near my home in North Carolina. From Wake Forest University in Winston Salem. The army appointed me the chief professor of military science and tactics. "
He held that post for 4 years. And after 28 years in the military, he retired. After he left the military, Holt moved to Mississippi. He taught 3 years at Millsaps. Then another 10 at Pelahatchie high school.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY IDEA CONTACT WLBT/WDBD AT (601) 960-4426 OR EMAIL US AT News@WLBT.COM.
715 South Jefferson Street
Jackson, MS 39201