Local World War II veteran recalls how his unit helped a Polish boy get to America

BALLARD COUNTY, KY — World War II Veteran Bernard Anselm stormed the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago during Operation Overload.

His mission wasn’t just about death though. His unit, the 8th Infantry Division, was also tasked with liberating concentration camps in Germany.

Anselm recalls how his unit found a boy at one of those concentration camps, and how they helped him get to America and find freedom.

“We had liberated a couple of those concentration camps along the Polish boarder,” Anselm recalls. “One of them had a little boy in it that come out, and he got to talking to us.”

“Of course he was hungry, and ragged, and dirty and everything else, but we give him something to eat. Eventually one of those guys said ‘Why don’t you just stay with us?’ and he did,” the veteran recalls.

When the war was over and the unit was getting ready to go back to the U.S., the boy was still with them. The men had to decide what they would do about the child.

“And one of the guys said ‘well, let’s just put him in a duffel bag and take him with us,” Anselm says. “We did.”

“We left the harbor and kind of kept him hid and everything, and we was out maybe 100 miles from shore, and captain had to find out that he was on the ship.” Anselm says. “(The captain) turned around and said ‘Who did that?’ Everybody said ‘I did.’ — all of us GIs.”

The ship continued on to America.

“We made it through Boston, and of course they had to take him to Ellis Island, you know. That’s where all the immigrants go and everything. I got pulled out of my outfit to take some prisoners to Fort Lenard, Missouri, and I lost track and didn’t know what happened to the little fella,” Anselm says.

It wasn’t until much later that Anselm found out what happened to the child.

“My daughter got to questioning me about that,” Anselm says, and began to look for answers herself. “She got on the internet or something and kept searching, and come onto an article in a paper out in Oklahoma, and there he was.”

It turns out, he did a lot with the chance he got when the Americans took him with them.

“One of the guys in our outfit adopted him, took him to Oklahoma. Ge went to school there, went to college and he became a teacher. And he taught for 30 some odd years in Oklahoma, and he was named the Teacher of the Year once.”

“He was a spunky little fellow,” Anselm says. “Always wanting to help.”