BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- It`s been more than 70 years since World War II ended. According to Veterans' Affairs, more than 130,000 Americans were held prisoner. 93,000 were held in the European theater alone. One of those captured in Italy is Hoosier veteran Ray Sells.
Sells had just graduated from high school and entered the U.S. Army. Sells, an army corporal with the 141st Regiment, arrived in Italy with the 36th Infantry Division. Shortly after landing, the 141st sustained heavy losses during a battle. Hundreds of Americans were captured, including Sells.
"It was at Rapido River crossing in southern Italy this group of us made it across there. All of a sudden we were surrounded by these German soldiers," said Sells.
He and his fellow soldiers were loaded into boxcars and sent to a stalag, a prisoner of war camp. "That`s when they transported us up from southern Italy up into Poland," Sells explained.
Sells opened up to us about his time as a prisoner of war at his home at American Senior Communities Brownsburg Meadows Assisted Living Facility.
"They weren`t too harsh on us. I definitely had it better than those in the South Pacific. We got some fair treatment. We were not mistreated,” said Sells.
As for what he did as a prisoner of war for nearly a year and a half, Sell cut wood. "In all kind of weather that was the worst part about it- the winter time," said Sells.
His captivity isn`t something Sells talked about much, but his family is proud of his service.
"He never really spoke to me or my family about his experience until the early 90s so it was kind of a secret for about 45 years. It`s something that the more you learn about, the more your hair stands up on your arm about the experience and it makes you very proud of him," said son Michael Sells.
Ray Sells spent 448 days as a prisoner of war before his camp was liberated in April, 1945. Sells was awarded the Bronze Star. After the war, Sells spent more than 40 years working for the Indiana Department of Transportation.