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American Heroes: Local veterans exemplified duty in their generations

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., -- Homer Thompson went to enlist in the Army Air Corps during World War II at the age of 19, but found himself in the infantry instead. Mr. Thompson joined before D-Day in 1944. The war effort needed more foot soldiers at the time.

"All of my friends were going in and I felt the need to protect my country and do my part and try to help the world. Boot camp was very intense and lasted for 17 weeks," said Mr. Thompson.

After boot camp he became a part of the 84th Infantry, Rail Splitter Division. On the way to his deployment, the unit first arrived in Scotland and moved down through England and processed for the invasion of Normandy. Everything was on a very strict schedule but there were many unknowns and lots of confusion. Mr. Thompson's division was the reinforcement division to follow through after the initial D-Day punch. They offloaded from ships and were put onto the beach shortly after the initial attack.

"The first hours I experienced were those of horror, disbelief, shock and fear. You lived hand-to-mouth, day-to-day and hour-to-hour. You depended solely on your friends." The division's job was to help break the Siegfried line. When the Battle of the Bulge broke out they endured the bitter winter fight and then participated in the spring push into Germany.

He and 11 others became prisoners of war in the last days of the final push into Germany.

"We dropped our guard and were overtaken by a battalion of German S.S. in a counterattack. The 11 of us were taken and held captive for six weeks. We were released at the same time. After being released at the end of the war, we served occupation duty for about six months," said Mr. Thompson.

While they were in prison, the group heard rumors that President Roosevelt had died and Mr. Thompson said that was a sad moment for all of them.

"He was the guiding light of American participation and all of the allied effort to stop Hitler's advance."

His family had only known he was a POW through the local newspapers.

"It was mighty wonderful coming back to the states after the two years. They had started making cars again and ours was just about running on rims I was tickled to see they were making cars again. We finally got a new one about a year after the war. During the war they stopped making vehicles unless it was for the military effort," said Mr. Thompson. After the war he was lucky enough to be chosen for a creative college education in France for eight months beginning in the winter of 1945. When he got home he went back to college for one year.

Mr. Thompson retired from truck driving in 1989 and spends his time gardening and fishing. He is also an active participant in several veteran organizations.

"We should always be alert and not fearful of having to defend yourself and your country. Be expected to serve your nation if needed," said Mr Thompson.