By Jennifer Martin
World War Two had not yet begun when Charles Williams enlisted in the army.
"The first time, I mean, the height of the depression; there wasn't nothing to do. I was right out of school. Some of my classmates talked me in to enlisting with him. I passed and he didn't."
When the war started, Williams was inducted back in. He served in a new division: the 104th Infantry. He was needed there because of his prior military experience.
"We landed in France on the 7th day of November, D-Day plus 90."
From France, it was onto Belgium, then Germany. Williams served as the platoon sergeant. He says the 104th was an assault division. His company was captured November 23, 1944.
"The day I was captured, my company lost 67 men. 19 men was killed. 17 men was wounded. The rest were POW's. I was one of them. There was some hills in front of us. That was our objective. We attacked that thing and we captured it. While we were trying to reorganize, we were overrun by the right flank. They run tanks and infantry on us. Our weapons wouldn't work. They just rolled us up like you'd roll up a window, practically."
It was the dead of winter. The soldiers were freezing and hungry.
"We had no food. We had food if the Germans had food. But they didn't have food either. Said the Air Force was robbing them of theirs so we didn't have any."
He moved from camp to camp, often walking for days at a time or stuffed into tiny boxcars with no food or water.
"They pushed us in that thing at bayonette point. Standing up. No place to sit down. If you were to sit down, you could not get up. We stayed on that boxcar 5 days and 4 nights. We were so weak we couldn't attempt to escape. They marched us up to the east bank of the river told us our friends were on the other side. We had one officer with us. He told us goodbye and here he went. We got work across the creek and the 83rd Infantry sent a boat over and took us over."
In all he spent 155 days as a POW. He only got to write home once.
"We had one postcard. It was supposed to have been sent to our family. I filled that thing out and after I got home in 1945 that card came. (laughs)"
Story idea or news tip? Email us at News@WLBT.COM or call 601-960-4426.
715 South Jefferson Street
Jackson, MS 39201