Vet who became POW, escaped from Germans dies at 85 in GJ home
A funeral will take place Tuesday for a Grand Junction man who was captured by Germans in World War II, escaped and was recaptured.
Sam Salazar was 85. He died Wednesday.
Salazar recounted in the book “Hold at All Cost” his experience of being captured and enduring a forced march and near starvation in Stalag IV-B.
“He never said much” about his experience during the war, said his son, Robert.
In the book, though, Salazar recalled his clothes being taken by the German soldiers who captured him, and he said he and other Americans were the targets of rocks and sticks from townspeople as they were force-marched to a German town called Gerolstein.
As many as 60 prisoners were packed into boxcars for an uncomfortable and jerky ride toward the prisoner camp.
About six hours in, the train derailed, twisting the boxcars on their sides. He and other prisoners kicked the sides of the car out.
“I was the first one out, and I had a good look around to see if there were any German guards,” Salazar recalled. “There were quite a few prisoners injured, and some were dead.”
He and two other prisoners saw an opportunity to escape into the countryside during the German winter, and they remained free for about 10 days before being recaptured when they mistakenly approached a German training camp with boys who appeared to be 10 to 16 years old, but they were armed with rifles, he said.
“So, we were recaptured by these kids, and from then on we had two guards to a prisoner.”
Camp guards “treated us pretty rough and gave us a shot with a syringe a couple of times in the chest,” apparently to weaken them so they couldn’t escape again, he wrote.
He was taken to Stalag IV-B, Mulhberg, where he was forced to work on railroads and “in a factory where I think the Germans were building the atomic bomb,” Salazar wrote.
On March 28, 1945, the prisoners were given rye bread, and some German soldiers were seen leaving with suitcases, even as the prisoners starved.
“Again today our heels clicked together, and salutes were given to two more men who have given all for their country,” he said.
On April 2, the camp officially was liberated as Allied tanks arrived at the gate, greeted by wild cheering, Salazar wrote.
He remained in the camp until April 10, when the prisoners were taken out.
“Farewell, Stalag IV-B,” Salazar wrote, “may the memories of you instill in us ideals of a nobler, richer life ... Adios Germany, may the end of this war bring about a peace that shall never again be disturbed by you or any other aggressive nation.”
Salazar weighed in at 90 pounds after his medical checkup, and the soldiers there named him “WAC,” the acronym for Womens Army Corps, “because of my long curly hair,” he wrote.
Salazar was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
He also volunteered more than 10,000 hours at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
On return to the United States, he married Ina, with whom he had attended school in New Mexico, on Aug. 9, 1945, the day of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, which forced the end of the war. They were married 67 years.
The couple had two sons, Robert and Stephen, a daughter, Vangie Millard, 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Burial with military honors will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Western Slope Veterans Cemetery.