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  Texas : Features : World War II

German Prisoners of War in Texas
The Reluctant Warrior
Former German POW Finds Peace in Texas

by Heino R. Erichsen
As told to Jean Nelson-Erichsen
Eakin Press, 2001

Reviewed by John Troesser


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The coverage of the German POW camps in The Reluctant Warrior was how we found the book - and there are enough certainly enough details to satisfy the WWII researcher. That is why we are including this review here in our World War II Chronicles. The story of Heino's very important work with children around the world is an added bonus. - Editor


Mr. Erichsen has an incredible memory. It would be hard to find a more detailed account of the everyday life of the German enlisted soldier during WWII.

We're given a tour of Mr. Heino R. Erichsen's hometown, his training and his first assignment which ironically is "occupying" his Mother's homeland (Denmark).


How do you say 'hurry up and wait" in German?

After passing the required tests for the elite Afrika Korps, we're given the details of his training and transportation of the unit to North Africa.

Any veteran of any army will recognize familiar territory here. Heino R. Erichsen 's unit was unaware of the big picture and by the time the Allied drive came - it was over before they knew what was happening.

Heino and the surviving members of his unit walked back to the port where they waited to be formally captured. While waiting - they discovered that the rear-echelon German troops had had the choicest of rations - while they had been eating "iron-rations". That's another fact that is no surprise to veterans.

Heino could speak English from his schooldays and it paid off in many ways. He was able to converse with American guards and also the civilian workers who worked at the several POW Camps where he was a "guest" of the government. He had his expensive watch ( a gift from his parents) 'liberated" by an English guard - but his narrative is that of a mature man looking back without rancor.

While the prisoners were treated well - there was discord within the ranks due to die-hard Nazis who intimidated the regular soldiers who just wanted to sit the war out and correspond with their families. Due to this sort of trouble - Heino transferred from Hearne to Mexia - another Texas base not connected to a military post. He then moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky for the duration of the war.

Repatriation didn't come at once for the prisoners and Heino spent two more years working on Scottish farms before finally returning to the shambles of his heavily bombed hometown.

He arrived home to a crippled Germany with little opportunity. He immigrated to the U. S. and every twist and turn is described in fascinating detail. He eventually finds himself back and Texas - in Huntsville .

But while the book up until this point has been a good historical read - the really important story is just getting started.

Heino and his wife adopt a few children and then a few more. They start working with an international adoption agency and Heino find themselves running a children's home in Belize - travelling to Guatemala and Columbia and even Vietnam.

Today Heino and His wife Jean run Los Ninos International Adoption Center in Huntsille, Texas.

Heino's odyssey through the second half of the 20th Century and his observations of human nature are entertaining, informative, uplifting and not without humor.

More World War II Chronicles
World War I Chronicles
More Book Reviews


John Troesser
May 2002

 
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