Gilbert Woehl remembers what happened on Oct. 29, 1944. He was in Holland, just outside the German boundary, when Nazis captured him and his Army troop and put them in boxcars to Deusseldorff, Germany.
“(Nazis) were waiting for the American to bomb Ukraine to get rid of us,” said Woehl, a Lodi resident, who reflected on his World War II experiences after Sunday’s Veterans Day observance at the American Legion Hall.
“The Germans beat us up,” said Woehl, 90.
Not only that, Woehl received so little food that he lost 77 pounds by May 1945. After being rescued by the Russians a month earlier, he was taken to an American hospital in Paris, where he weighed 97 pounds.
“They wouldn’t let me go home until I weighed 110,” Woehl said. “The food they fed me you wouldn’t give to a pig.”
Finally, Woehl was released from the hospital on his birthday, June 21, 1945. It took two weeks for a ship to transport him to New York, and it took him another week to take him from New York to Lodi.
Woehl is one of two surviving POWs living in the Lodi area. He was introduced to the crowd and received warm applause by those who came for the Veterans Day advance.
“I always felt sorry for him for what he went through,” said Verla Woehl, who married her husband 66 years ago.
Woehl moved to Lodi with his family and is a Lodi High graduate. He enlisted in the Navy, but the Army wouldn’t let him, he says. The Army found Woehl to be too valuable because he’s German and speaks the language.
After returning to Lodi in the summer of 1945, Woehl worked three to four years at a meat market. Then he worked at Pacific Coast Producers cannery, retiring as an inspector in 1984.
Woehl says the secret to being married 66 years is quite simple — “love and respect.”
The Woehls have two children, Gary Woehl of Lodi and Brenda Patton of Stockton. They have one grandchild.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.