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Wednesday, September 3, 2014
A POW comes to East Meadow
(Page 2 of 3)
Shane Molinari/Herald
Bernard Rader, 89, with his wife, June, in the East Meadow Public Library as he retold his story of being a prisoner of war during World War II.

Members of his patrol later learned that they had been up against three German companies and were outnumbered 12 to one. After they surrendered, they were shipped to Île de Groix — an island just off the coast of Lorient — to be imprisoned. The Americans spent more than a month in two large, flea-infested rooms with no toilet facilities and little food. Rader spent most of his imprisonment in a hospital, where German medics tended to his wounds.

After 10 days of captivity, one of the POWs scribbled a plea for help and managed to send it to the American Red Cross. Hodges eventually got hold of the letter, and wrote to the Germans, asking if he could deliver supplies, which they agreed to.

Hodges ultimately made 13 trips to Brittany, risking his life to bring food and supplies to the prisoners, and finally asked the German commanders if they could negotiate an exchange. According to Rader, since the war was nearing its end, the Germans were willing to exchange Allied prisoners for their own, and agreed.

On Nov. 16, 1944, Rader’s company, along with nearly 100 other prisoners also held on the west coast of France, were ferried back to an American base. He was no longer a POW.

Rader showed a documentary called “For One English Officer” to help tell his story. Filmed in 2001 in Birmingham, Ala., the documentary told the story of the 149 Alled POWs whom Hodges liberated. Twelve of the former prisoners — including Rader — and Hodges were used as sources for the film, which included authentic footage from the war.

Audience members said they were amazed by Rader’s story. One of them, who had studied World War II for years, said, “This is the first time I’m even hearing about this. I’m hearing a total different part of history that I’ve never even known.”

“When I saw it in the library paper, I said, ‘I have to go and hear what he has to say,’” said Gloria Leventhal, whose husband, Harold, is a World War II veteran. “I think it’s very important for the young people to know what went on at that time. It’s history.”

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