Park name honors Ken Garwood

Thanks to Justin Garwood, Ken Garwood’s grandson, the park at the corner of Broadway and Ampersand Avenue has been officially named and blessed by a unanimous vote of the village board under Mayor Jimmy Williams as “Ken Garwood POW Park.”

It must have been a year ago that Justin called me to ask if I knew anything about his grandfather and his connection to the park.

I said to Justin, “well, do I ever.” As an Enterprise reporter and editor I was at more than one village board meeting when village Trustee Garwood would bring up the idea of establishing a park at that location — close to neighborhoods with lots of kids. Finally, Ken’s name will be rightfully posted at the park.

Throughout my 23-year career at the Enterprise I would write stories about WWII veterans; POWs like Mr. Garwood, who I wrote about in the 1960s; I also wrote about POWs Frank Ryan and Joe Drutz and others.

To honor those who served and died at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 I would search for veterans who were stationed there at that time or later.

Along with the Naval Base, another target of the Japanese attack was Schofield Army Barracks, the setting used for the book and movie, “From Here to Eternity.”

I remember writing about what it was like that infamous day from the experiences of Leo LaRose, no relation to Ray LaRose, who lived on Van Buren Street and was stationed at Schofield Barracks during the attack.

Much later, my friend, Destry Lewis, was stationed at Hickam Field, the U.S. Air Force base at Pearl Harbor.

The forced march

Fifteen years ago I happened to write another untold and mostly unknown story about Ken Garwood being part of the three-month long German-forced march of the POWs:

“Tech/Sgt. Kenneth P. Garwood, of 45 Cedar St., Saranac Lake, is a World War II veteran and former prisoner of the Germans, and therein lies an incredible tale.

“Ken went into the 96th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force after joining the service at age 20. He went to basic training at Maxwell Field, Alabama; to radio school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; to gunnery school in Texas and finally to more training at Drew Field, Florida.

“His crew delivered a new B-17 to Ireland for another crew and then went on to their base in England where the B-17 outfit he trained with got their own plane and started bombing runs over Germany.

Shot down on first raid

“On the first raid, in May 1944, Sgt. Garwood’s plane was shot down over the English Channel. He radioed an SOS, they ditched, a British air/sea rescue team responded, and the entire crew was plucked out of the water within 13 minutes.

“Garwood and his crew were not so lucky when one month later, on their fifteenth bombing mission they were shot down over Madenburg, Germany. He later saw the plane explode and the only crew member not accounted for was the engineer, who was the ball turret gunner.”

Garwood said “civilians rounded us up and beat the hell out of us before the soldiers came.” He added, “then they took us to an interrogation camp near Frankfort and later to a POW camp in Northern Germany, Stalag Luft IV.”

The three-month march

“The story of the Bataan Death March by the Japanese in WWII has been well documented but the forced march by the Germans has rarely been told.

“Sgt. Garwood was one of 9,500 prisoners who were part of the German forced march. They matched night and day for three months, Garwood said, eating bread and potatoes, sleeping in barns, while once in a while, getting food at a farm house.

“Now the story is in the U.S. Congressional Record, entered there by Senator John Warner on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March on May 8, 1995. Here are excerpts from the story as presented by Sen. Warner:

“It is appropriate to commemorate our World War II POW’s by describing one incident from that War. This is the story of an 86-day, 488-mile forced march that commenced at a POW camp known as Stalag Luft IV, near Grosstychew, Poland on February 6, 1945 and ended in Halle, Germany on April 26, 1945. The ordeal of 9,500 men, most of whom were U.S. Army Air Force Bomber Command non-commissioned officers, who suffered through incredible hardships on the march, yet survived, stand as an everlasting testimonial to the triumph of the American spirit.

“The 86-day march was by all accounts savage and many did not survive.”

The camp was liberated by the 104th Infantry Division on April 26, 1945.

It went on with more details of how terribly the men suffered.

Ken returned to Saranac Lake at the ripe old age of 23, married his sweetheart, Gwen Sellner in 1946 and settled down to raise a large family. They have six children: John, Joel, Ken Jr., Linda Schalm, Diane Hallaway and Lisa Leonidas, who supplied me with this October 2007 copy of my column.


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