One of my high school friends was Verna June Coyle.  Her parents bought the grocery store in Grass Valley and she started coming to Moro High School via bus when we were both about fifteen years old.  After she got out of school, she moved to Lebanon, Oregon where she had lived previously.  It was there that she met and married Clark Tucker.

Clark and his brother George were loggers.  They got a logging contract in British Colombia, Canada, and moved to Williams Lake with their families.  Both brothers ended up owning cattle ranches there and never returned to the states.  Verna and I are still friends, and the following is a story she told me in a telephone conversation about the experiences of the two Tucker brothers during World War Two.

The Tuckers lived on a farm in Minnesota.  Theirs was a close, hard working family.  George was older than Clark, and when the war started he enlisted in the Air Force.  He was sent to North Africa where the allied forces were poised to invade Italy.  His plane was shot down over the Mediterranean early in the war.

At that time his family was notified that he was missing in action.  Clark, who could have been deferred because he was a farmer, decided instead to enlist and go looking for his big brother.  Little did he know that George and all the crew of his plane were rescued and taken prisoners by the Germans.  They were sent to a POW camp in Germany.  It was there that George met Joe, a city boy from New Jersey.  The two of them became friends.  They were in the prison camp for two years while Clark marched all over Europe and spent every spare moment looking for his brother.  The Tucker family was eventually notified that George was a prisoner and letters were exchanged.  It was then George learned that he had a young son.

One day George and Joe were out in the prison yard when a long line of German army trucks appeared outside the gate.  George climbed a tree and pulled Joe up after him.  He was afraid that the trucks were to take the prisoners away where they would be shot by a firing squad.  Sure enough, all the prisoners were loaded onto the trucks and driven away—whether to a firing squad or not they never knew.  Then all the German staff members marched out, got into other vehicles and were taken away.  After the camp was emptied, two German soldiers patrolled the grounds with dogs.  They came right under the tree where the two men were hiding.  George was afraid the dogs would look up into the tree and see them, but they didn’t.  These soldiers soon left the grounds also.  As soon as the soldiers left, George and Joe climbed down and walked out the gate.  They did not bother to go back into the barracks and get any of their clothing.  They just got out of there.  

Using skills that he had learned on the farm, such as trapping small animals and scrounging farm produce, George managed to get the two of them across the mountains into Italy, although all of Italy was under Nazi occupation.  About halfway down Italy, Joe came down with Yellow Jaundice.  By this time they were half starved and Joe saw no hope for himself.  He pleaded with George to go on without him, but George refused to do so.  With the help of many friendly Italians, the two men finally got to the end of Italy, across the Mediterranean and to the American lines.  There Joe was put into a hospital.  George was afraid that he too would be hospitalized if he made himself known.   He did not want to spend months in a hospital.  He wanted to see his son!  So he did not let the authorities know of his presence.

On the first day of being back behind American lines, he met a pilot who was flying supplies from a base in Florida.  George talked the pilot into taking him back to Florida.  He stayed in Florida long enough to get a bath and something to eat, and then he started out hitch hiking to Minnesota.  He was skeleton thin and still had on his dirty and ragged clothing, but it was war time and people, especially truck drivers, tended to favor service men, so he was picked up and it wasn’t long before he was holding his wife and son in his arms.  It was only then that he reported his whereabouts to the Air Force.  He was immediately put in an army hospital where he remained for two months until he was completely recovered, and then given a medical discharge.

Meanwhile, Clark was notified of his safe return.  The two brothers were not re-united until the war was over.

When Joe was put in a hospital in North Africa and George hitched his ride back to Florida, the two men lost track of each other.  Many, many years later, when both George and Clark had moved to British Colombia, George got a call from his cousin Mary, who was originally from Minnesota, but now living in Iowa.  She had exciting news.  She had a job that involved extensive traveling.  She had been in New Jersey and had gone into a restaurant for lunch.  Because of her work, she put all her expenses on a credit card.  When she signed for her lunch, the proprietor noticed that her last name was Tucker and that she came from the northern Midwest.  He asked her if she knew a George Tucker from Minnesota.  She said that she had a first cousin named George who had grown up in Minnesota, but now lived in British Colombia.  She soon learned that this was Joe, George’s long lost military buddy with whom he had escaped from the Germans during the war!

Joe had gone back to his home, gotten married, had a family and started this restaurant.  He was now elderly.  He never forgot that George had saved his life.  The two men then started writing and calling each other.  George invited Joe to come to B C for a visit, which Joe agreed to do.  However, he said his wife was ill and he would have to wait until she got better.  He never came, and later letters and calls went unanswered.  George figured that Joe’s wife had died and perhaps Joe also.  Still their reunion, if only by mail and phone had offered closure to a long ago traumatic episode.