GREENWOOD, Ind. (November 18, 2015) - He landed on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day in World War Two, months later he fought in the Battle of the Bulge where he was captured as a prisoner of war, spending six months in a German concentration camp…
You would think when talking to Ed Effertz of Greenwood, that he was recalling a war that happened a few weeks ago. But at 91, this Hoosier Hero remembers every step he took during World War Two; every step seemingly more volatile than the last.
His story begins on the beaches of Normandy.
“Anybody that says they did not fear that invasion is not telling you the truth because it was very scary,” said Effertz.
At 18, Effertz was an Army platoon Sergeant, in charge of 33 men who stormed the beaches in the initial allied invasion of France on D-Day.
“There might have been 10 or 12 left that survived the initial invasion,” he said.
More than 20 of Effertz men were killed in an instant that day.
Over the course of the next six months, Effertz would be involved in four major battles. One of which earned him two bronze battle stars. It was just before Christmas in 1944, allied troops had made their way to the German border, when the Battle of the Bulge erupted.
“They couldn’t get ammunition to us. There was nothing we could do but wait for ammunition, so we just had to sit there and wait until they tried to get ammunition, well they never got it,” he said.
Effertz and 300 other Americans were captured by Nazi S.S. soldiers. Traditionally S.S. troops were given orders to take no prisoners. Effertz says by a miracle, a German officer approached the S.S. commander and convinced him to transport the Americans to a nearby concentration camp, instead of taking their lives.
“He was speaking in perfect English. Then I finally get to the point where, he was from the United States and I could not believe what I was hearing,” said Effertz.
That German officer was born just a few blocks from Effertz in Chicago. The officer was moved to Germany by his parents when he was in grade school.
“I guess he felt sorry for us, well I know he did and he showed it by trying to be as nice to us as he possibly could,” said Effertz.
Effertz was held a prisoner of war in a concentration camp previously occupied by Jews. Effertz was fed one meal a day and lived in squalor. Miraculously, he held out hope.
“Oh I prayed right to God, to tell him exactly what I want, what the situation was, how I felt, how I trembled,” he said.
Six months later, his prayers were answered. His camp was liberated by American troops.
“When we started we had 33 men. When I was liberated, when we got out of there, I had seven men left. That’s all there was left to come back,” he said.
A true Hoosier hero, more than 70 years later, still trying to come to grips with a nightmare, he now tells as his story of survival.
“There was hope all the time, so we never gave up,” he said.
When he returned to the United States, Effertz never wanted to speak about his experience fighting in the war, until he had grandchildren. When they began to ask questions, he began to tell his story publicly, in speeches. He says that allowed him to let go, and not hold on to the difficult memories.