Monday, April 7, 2014
Former World War II prisoner of war Reggie Salisbury was honored by Moncks Corner Mayor Bill Peagler in observance of National Former POW Recognition Day on Wednesday, April 9.
Salisbury was just 19 years old when he parachuted behind enemy lines as part of an advance scout team prior to the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy. He was captured on Aug. 12, 1944, in France and forced to walk to Belgium and on into Germany to a POW camp.
Today, nearly 70 years later, Salisbury recounted his capture and the following 10 months spent as a prisoner of war.
“The Germans told us they didn’t want to mess with us,” he said. “They didn’t want to have to deal with us. If we escaped they said they would kill us all.”
By presidential proclamation April 9 is designated by Congress as the observance of National Former POW Recognition Day paying homage to the day during World War II when the largest number of U.S. soldiers were taken prisoner.
On April 9, 1942 United States forces surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula, beginning the Bataan Death March. Salisbury was freed in May of 1945 after the end of the war in Europe.
“This isn’t just a day to remember those who were prisoners of war during past wars,” said his wife, Anne. “This is also a day to fight for current prisoners of war currently in Afghanistan. I urge all of you to contact your congressman to get these prisoners of war set free.”
A decorated veteran, Salisbury was companion to a Native American code talker. “The Germans could never break the code talkers’ code and Reggie never once divulged his code talker to the enemy,” his wife said.
In describing the enormity of the Normandy invasion, Reggie Salisbury once said, “If you took a thousand matches and threw them in a bath tub that would somewhat show you what it looked like that day when all those boats landed.”
He said there are three movies that come close to telling what the war was really like: “Saving Private Ryan,” “Schindler’s List” and “Wind Talkers.”
Salisbury, who is the father of Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury, will be honored with a mayoral proclamation during Moncks Corner Town Council’s Tuesday, April 22 meeting.