Patton's Ill-Fated Raid is Harry Thompson's story of survival as non-famous, ordinary citizen, non-commissioned military drafted before Pearl Harbor into regimented life where danger seemed to be everywhere:
Boot camp, maneuvers where it was not unusual for someone to be killed, transportation across an ocean to face enemies on unfamiliar terrain, capture on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, imprisonment in German POW camps, a forced walk across 241 miles of European soil, bombing, and of waiting, praying and believing he would survive.
"Liberated" by Patton's Raid only to be "recaptured" by the Germans in a raid some call "Patton's greatest mistake", Thompson's memoir actually covers his entire WW II service, including his later POW experiences.
Reviewed in Small Press Review May-June 2003: "...Told in an easy down home style. .. more than a record of the hardship and brutality, it gives the feeling of what it was like to be there. You get to know the other guys and the grim routines they shared. .. Thompson corrects some inaccuracies in the official histories about The Battle of the Bulge."
- Review by Harry Smith for Small Press Review.
"PATTON'S ILL-FATED RAID
A Gripping Story
of POW Survival
By Harry A. Thompson, WW II POW”
is the heading on a review in the fall 2006 issue of the newspaper of the American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation written by the editor, Norm Bussel.
“What makes Harry Thompson’s memoir abut his World War II experiences as a POW in German, stand out from other, many other, accounts of this genre is his great attention to detail.
"Thompson candidly describes how quickly a captor’s abuse and maltreatment can lead to physical deterioration and emotional fragility. His unpretentious prose leads you right to the edge of the abominable snake pit of captivity and lets you to peer into the agonized existence of a POW.
“Thompson’s vivid chronological reporting takes the reader from his training in the States, to his capture on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge to his confinement in Oflag XIIIB in Hammelburg where Gen. Patton’s son-in-law, Lt. Col. John Waters was a POW; to Gen. Patton’s ill-fated raid on Hammelburg where a task force of the 4th Armored Division was ambushed and overwhelmed by the Germans, losing all but a handful of men. (sic)
“Americans are strangers to starvation. Most of us will never know what it means to go hungry for days on end. In our land of abundance, we may not eat steak every night, but the majority can routinely enjoy nourishing meals.
"One of the most degrading dehumanizing punishments that can be inflicted on a person is the denial of food and Germans used this tactic to their advantage. Not only did they deny POW’s even the barest amount of calories necessary to sustain life, they constantly stole the Red Cross parcels shipped to the POW’s by the United States government. If each POW had received one of these parcels each week, as intended, he could have survived well. As it was, on the rare occasions when the parcels were distributed, the POW’s received so few that each parcel had to be shared with several of their fellows.
“After Patton’s hapless attempt to liberate Oflag XIIIB, Thompson’s group was forced to march for 241 miles, deep into German territory, as their guards struggled to keep them away from advancing American troops – and freedom.
“Although the march was a grueling ordeal for the debilitated American POW’s, they were in a better position to steal food along the way. Purloined raw potatoes and cabbage became a mainstay of the diet. During the march, the German guards shot several POW’s for stealing food, but starvation overcame the fear of being shot and POW’s continued to ‘requisition’ food at every opportunity.