Good Ole’ Uncle Vic July 2012
July 11, 2012 By: Victor Brick
Lynne and I had the opportunity to go to Normandy, France last month for the celebration of the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion landings, June 6, 1944. Among other things we saw Bloody Omaha Beach, the American Military Museum, the Paratrooper Museum, several of the towns where Easy Company of the Band of Brothers fought, including Caredan and St. Marie du Mont, the site of the start of the Odyssey of Jumpin’ Joe Beyrle.
Who is Jumpin’ Joe Beryle? Jumpin Joe Beyrle was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, the same division as Easy Company from the Band of Brothers. During D-Day, Jumpin’ Joe had to jump out of his plane at a very low altitude. His parachute got hung up on a church steeple in St. Marie du Mont. (He is not the guy in the movie, The Longest Day. That was John Steele of the 82nd Airborne Division and that church was in Sainte-Mère-Église. Yes, we saw that church, too!).
Beryle cut himself down only to be captured. He escaped, only to be captured again. This time they took his dog tags and uniform to discourage him trying to escape again and put him on a train to a POW camp in Poland. In Poland he escaped, was recaptured, escaped and finally ended up hooking up with a Russian tank outfit advancing on Berlin. He knew only two words of Russian, “Comrade” and “Americana”. During the Battle of Berlin he was wounded and sent to a hospital. While in the hospital the staff there realized he was an American and arrested him as a spy. He tried to tell them he was an American soldier named Joe Beyrle and asked to be taken to the American Embassy. The Embassy said there had, indeed, been an American soldier named Joe Beyrle, but that he had been killed in Normandy and they had found his dog tags to prove it! Fortunately, they took his finger prints to find out who he really was and, six weeks later, found out he was, in fact, Joe Beyrle.
The Russians released him, but by now the war had ended and he was on the other side of the Iron Curtain. He had to take the long way home through Turkey, Israel and Italy to Muskegon, Michigan and arrived two weeks after they had held his funeral in his home church!
The story does have a happy ending. Two years later Joe got married in that same church! And, although, forgotten in the United States even though he is the ONLY American soldier to have fought for both the Americans and the Russians in World War II, he is a hero in Russia. In 2010 they dedicated an exhibit to Joe Beyrle in Moscow. Although Joe had died in 2004, the exhibit was dedicated by the American Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle! That’s right, Joe’s son! As Casey Stengel was famous for saying, “You can look it up!”
So what can we learn from Joe Beyrle? Persistance. Persistance, and attitude. This guy escaped four times. Four times! And, the last time he escaped, since he couldn’t find any American outfits to join up with, he joined up with the Russians. The Russians! He wasn’t about to be a victim. He chose his own destiny.
What about you? When you face adversity, do you let things happen or do you make things happen? Are you a victim or are you Joe Beyrle?
The choice is yours.
Thought for the Day: There are three types of people. Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder, “What just happened?”