THE BALLAD OF BODEEN GREEN
Corporal Bodeen Green (1925-2007)
World War II Veteran and POW
Monroe County, MS
Bodeen Green grew up on a farm halfway between the Bigbee and Cason communities in Monroe County. When he was 17 years old, he went to the Army enlistment office in Amory and signed up. Bodeen lied about his age and told them he was already 18. In less than six months, he was on a ship headed to Europe as a part of the 30th Infantry Division. A short time later he was sent across the English Channel to Normandy, France where they landed at Omaha Beach in the second wave of attacks. His division was engaged in combat for a total of 282 days, but Bodeen Green only saw a part of that.
Bodeen Green was a part of a large group of American soldiers cutoff from the main segment of the Army by the Nazis in the summer of 1944. Trapped in a small city in France, his unit was able to hold off the Germans for three days before they ran out of ammunition. Bodeen Green was taken as prisoner of war. It was the beginning of a treacherous 9 month ordeal involving forced marches, rides on cramped boxcars, and finally unloading at one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious prisoner camps, Stalag 7A, just outside Munich.
In Bodeen Green’s nine months as a POW, he saw plenty of horrific acts. He saw men executed and he himself was beaten numerous times. After an American bomber inadvertently hit a bomb shelter in Munich housing women and children, the German guards took out there anger on the prisoners in the camp. Some of the worst beatings took place during that time. Bodeen was forced to do hard labour working on railroads, repairing bomb damage, and other tasks.
The men in Stalag 7A were starved as the camp’s population swelled. It had originally been constructed to hold 10,000 Polish prisoners in 1939. By the time his prison camp was liberated on April 29, 1945, there were nearly 80,000 prisoners living there from every single country that was at war with Germany. The men inside were fed a meager diet of molded bread and soupy brown water. Lice and disease were rampant. At night, the men who did not have a bed slept on tables of the floor. When he was liberated, Bodeen Green weighed barely 95 pounds.
On April 29, 1945, American tanks, trucks, and jeeps arrived in Munich. A tank battalion showed up at the gates of the prison and the German guards surrendered. When the gates were opened the Americans rolled in the applause was deafening. The U.S. soldiers told the POWs they were free to spend the next few days in Munich and “do as they please”. Bodeen Green and several other POWs found a large, fancy hotel and took it over. They spent several nights there sleeping and eating in luxury. But deep down, the only place Bodeen wanted to be was back home on his family’s farm in Monroe County, Mississippi.
After being processed in France, then boarding a ship for New York, Bodeen Green made it back to Amory. Even though his family knew the war in Europe was over, no one knew he was on his way home. On the day he arrived, he found his father plowing a cornfield. Bodeen hid in the bushes out of sight as his father turned to do another row. He walked up from behind and startled his father by saying, “Do you know how to plow?” His father immediately turned and hugged his son, crying joyfully in the fields.
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