Veterans share World War II stories at VA’s Black History Month event
It’s been nearly 70 years since Lt. Col. Cleveland Glover Sr. was captured by German forces in World War II and taken to a prisoner of war camp in Moosburg, Germany.
But memories of the treatment he endured are still fresh.
Sharing some of his wartime experiences at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Black History Month program and National Salute to Veteran Patients on Friday, Glover’s tears stopped him short.
“I don’t like to go into a lot of it,” he said.
Glover, 91, a Hardeeville resident, grew up in Savannah and entered active duty with the Army in 1942. He was assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division, one of the Army’s three segregated divisions for black soldiers.
He spent seven months in the Stalag VII POW camp before he was released at the war’s end in 1945.
“When the Americans came in ... and knocked that fence down and captured them Germans and got us, we jumped all over. We were glad we were released. We were in prison behind bars with a dog so high like that — he was guarding us. If you got too close to the fence, he’d put you back.”
Gail Lesesne, Diversity African American Programs coordinator at the VA Medical Center in Charleston, said Glover remained silent about those seven months as a POW for years.
“He’s still haunted by those things,” Lesesne said. “He’s still dealing with the ghosts of the past, even though he survived. He can now speak bravely.”
Pvt. John Dilligard Sr., 91, a Mount Pleasant native and World War II veteran, shared some of his stories during the program, too, including one about driving trucks full of ammunition, bombs and gasoline over the Himalayan mountain range.
Dilligard, who served the Army and the Air Force in India and Burma, also explained why troops were ordered to leave behind their harmonicas on the ship that delivered them from the United States.
“Music will draw (the cobras) near,” Dilligard said. “You’ve got cobra snakes about the size of this part of my leg. You could hear them dropping out of the trees at night. And they won’t bother you if you’re laying still, they’ll just crawl right over you. But no music.”
Both veterans shared different stories, but their lives have been similar in so many ways, Lesesne said.
“If I was 91, I don’t think I would remember,” she said. “One was a prisoner of war and one was not, but their lives are so parallel as far as their services were concerned.”