AW “Sandy” Sornberger
Editor’s Note: The following is a letter from AW “Sandy” Sornberger, originally from Victoria, to his mother Maude Sornberger on Christmas Day 1944. Sandy Sornberger was serving as a co-pilot in the 381st Bomber Group, 8th Air Strength during World War II when his plane was shot down by enemy fire over Berlin in May 1944. With badly burned face and hands, Sorenberger spent several weeks in a German hospital. He was held as a prisoner of war (called “Kriegie”) in Barth, Germany, and wrote this letter dated December 25, 1944 – a month before his release from the camp.
Christmas in Kriegie
December 25, 1944
No home, no mother, wife or children. Only sixteen men were crammed into a room in a German prison camp. The camp is about as far north as you can get into Germany. “Barth on the Baltic”, romantically evoked by the other roommates … quite unlike romantic. It’s about as dark and desolate a place as you can imagine. The sun is up at this time of year every five hours and is usually rarely visible due to the perpetual clouds. A consolation, we are quite close to the North Pole so Santa doesn’t have too much to do. Our Father Christmas came from the “States” in the form of the Red Cross. God bless them. All the gifts we received came from one source. I’m certainly not complaining, but it’s strange that the Red Cross is doing so much without any other help.
Christmas Day was one of our few clear, clear, cold days. We have grown up so we don’t care too much about the cold now. Being warm is considered another privilege reserved until we get home. The “Jerries” don’t give us enough charcoal to run the stove. It is doubtful that there is enough coal in Germany to keep this place half-warm.
AW “Sandy” Sornberger:God was with me all along
On Christmas Eve, we had divided our candies, nuts, etc. It’s surprising how much adult men can return to childhood when the occasion calls for it. We had thirteen packages for sixteen men, which meant a lot of sharing. After excessive cutting of cards, etc. everything was settled. Each pack contained a deck of cards, a miniature game, in addition to stuff … turkey, plum pudding, cherries, etc. Thanks to the cards, we can have two hands of bridge without using the cards with about 10,000 hours on them.
On Christmas morning, a breakfast madness, four toasts instead of three which are the normal ration, with coffee of course. A light lunch, because the big meal had to be a candlelit dinner. Homemade candles, pieces of wick belts, oleo wax in an empty cheese box. Of course, the candle holders were made of cardboard covered with green and red paper. The table was decorated with Wade’s homemade Christmas tree in the center of the candles and “Jerrie” toilet paper napkins and of course our bowls. No license plates in Kriegie Land. That night we really splurged having a full set of silverware. Usually we use a community teaspoon, butter knife, etc., but that day we had one for each person. Of course, this involved borrowing from other rooms, as many of ours had been broken while being used for food.
Obituary:AW “Sandy” Sornberger: September 23, 1921 – July 19, 2016
One of the guys with an artistic touch had made individual place cards. These had our names plus a personal characteristic which was expressed in a drawing or a few words … very clever. Mine consisted of three words: Food, Food, Food. At mealtime we unscrewed the light bulb and lit our candles and after Mayfield had done grace, “we started.” What a meal. I doubt any of them will ever be this pleasant. Turkey, mashed potatoes, sauce, hot cocoa, cherries, plum pudding and two slices of this ever-present bread. That doesn’t sound like much to anyone who hasn’t been a Kriegie, but for us, it was a feast of luxury. The quantity compensated by the variety. We all narrowly escaped a bout of indigestion.
After the meal, Johnson, our baker, presented Mayfield, cook and chef, with a gift that Johnnie and Wade had made. A purple passion paper orchid and a medal, Royal Order of the Violet Well, for work and tolerance of the piece which is truly something. The medal did not need to be explained, because anyone with an idea of ââlife in the military can view it without any problem. What a medal and with ten bars Ha! Ha! Mayfield almost passed out at his gift and we all had a good laugh. The rest of the evening was spent in the usual way, bridge, reading horror stories, etc.
So Christmas 1944 ends. Let there never be one like this.
After his release from the prison camp on January 24, 1945, AW âSandyâ Sornberger returned home, married Beverly A. Naslund in 1950, and they eventually had five children. It was employed as the United States Postal Carrier for 40 years. He died on July 19, 2016.