Herald Reunites POWs

Oceanside prisoners of war meet again at VFW 58 years after WWII

Oceansiders Ed Hynes, left, and Nat Glanz reunited at a VFW lodge for the first time since World War II, when they briefly met in a Nazi prison camp. (Credit: Ira Davis/Herald)

By Joseph Kellard

They both crossed the sea to fight in history's most destructive war, saw action in a major battle, were wounded and taken captive by Nazis and lay bedridden in German hospitals before they met in a prison camp. Ed Hynes and Nat Glanz have lived in Oceanside during the same 52 post-World War II years, and belonged to the same veterans organization, yet these former prisoners of war just discovered all these facts last week — thanks to the Herald.

A chaplain at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Oceanside, Hynes read the article in the Herald's Dec. 4 issue on Glanz, who recently submitted a documentary about his POW experiences to the Library of Congress. As Hynes read the article, certain words jumped out at him, and he pieced them together.

"I really got interested in the story when he mentioned Ludwigsburg," Hynes, 80, said about the German town where Glanz was hospitalized and later imprisoned. "That was where I was put into a camp. Then, when I read he was Jewish and shot in the right leg, I remembered that was probably the fellow I was talking to when I was there. It had to be him."

Fifty-eight years later, Hynes remembered how he and Glanz met and talked once for all of 10 minutes. Following these recollections, he walked his fingers through an Oceanside phone book. At first, Glanz, 82, thought Hynes' call was a gag. But over two phone conversations they spoke for hours, and decided to reunite last Thursday at the Oceanside VFW.

As "Little Drummer Boy" and other Christmas songs played in the VFW's lounge, the former campmates embraced and exchanged photos and other memorabilia from their military days. Hynes laid out a thermal shirt ridden with holes from the shrapnel that left him hospitalized, and he handed Glanz medals, just as he did at the camp, with the hope that they would help his fellow American get out alive.

"I knew he was Jewish, and when I, a Christian, went before the Germans to be interrogated, I was somewhat scared, too, not knowing what they would do," Hynes recalled. "I told him that being Jewish, the odds are against you. So in my own way I tried to help the guy, and giving him the medals was all I could think of."

Between the two men, Hynes had the better memory of their meeting. "One thing I remember about him," he said about Glanz, "was that he was extremely calm. He wasn't complaining."

Both men took up arms in the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, Glanz with the 291st Regiment and Hynes under George Patton's 3rd Army. After the battle, as Hynes' outfit traveled through France, he and four other soldiers were sent to an outpost in Saarlautern to scout Nazis near the Seigfried Line. Within a week, German troops attacked an abandoned factory where the small unit had hidden. While treating a fellow wounded soldier, Hynes was hit near the lower spine with hand-grenade shrapnel.

Nat Glanz, left, was captured by Nazi troops after a German machine-gunner shot him in the thigh in Colmar, France. Edward Hynes, right, spent three weeks imprisoned by Nazis after shrapnel from a German hand grenade tore into his lower back. (Courtesy: Glanz and Hynes)

Nat Glanz, left, was captured by Nazi troops after a German machine-gunner shot him in the thigh in Colmar, France. Edward Hynes, right, spent three weeks imprisoned by Nazis after shrapnel from a German hand grenade tore into his lower back. (Courtesy: Glanz and Hynes)

From the Bulge, Glanz's regiment traveled to Colmar, France, where he was shot by a German machine-gunner and repeatedly interrogated and beaten.

Following their capture by the Nazis, both men convalesced in German hospitals. While Hynes was put in separate rooms with Allied soldiers, Glanz spent time in two hospitals filled with Germans and did his best to hide his identity as both an American and a Jew.

During their reunion, Hynes and Glanz recalled the conditions at the prison camp where they ended up together, including the "food" they were fed, such as bread made with sawdust and soup with garbanzo beans as hard as pebbles.

"I think those beans and sawdust had their place, because they filled your stomach a bit and you didn't have this gnawing feeling all the time," Glanz recalled as Hynes nodded.

They discussed the guards' treatment of prisoners, which involved shooting men for no apparent reason, and traded memories of war-torn Europe after their liberation, particularly the homeless, desperate and starving civilians they encountered but were powerless to help. Both men were still at the camp when French soldiers liberated them. Hynes had been imprisoned for three weeks, and Glanz for over three months.

Both men moved to Oceanside in the early 1950s, Glanz from Brooklyn and Hynes from Rockaway Beach. Hynes worked then at the A&P supermarket (now the vacant Edward's on Long Beach Road), where Glanz and his wife, Muriel, shopped regularly. In the mid-1980s, both men joined the Nassau-Suffolk chapter of Prisoners of War. Glanz didn't attend meetings, but Hynes made the trips to Northport, though he stopped going and joined the local VFW in the early 1990s. That's when Glanz started trekking to the north shore to attend the POWs meetings.

"[Prisoners of War] really should have listed all the camps that our members were in," said Glanz, now a vice-commander of POW. "A number of men know they were in the same camp, but if we had listed their camps, this reunion could have happened 10 years ago. But how we did come to meet is just a fantastic story."

Glanz will invite Hynes to the YJCC in Oceanside, where the area Jewish War Veterans meet, to present him with a chai pendant, a Jewish symbol for good luck, and they both plan to stay in touch.

"I spoke to my daughter yesterday," Hynes said, explaining that he'd told her about the way in which he learned about Glanz, "and she said, 'Dad, it sounds like something that the good Lord did.' I called it a one-in-a-million shot, but she said it was more than that."
 

* This story originally appeared in the Oceanside-Island Park Herald on 2003.