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Ex-POW recalls German tank ride, receives WWII medals

by Candice Miller on December 10, 2012

U.S. Rep. Miller honors Algonac veteran, 92, on Pearl Harbor Day


Harrison Township — There aren’t many veterans of World War II who can casually mention they once hitched a ride on a Tiger tank “courtesy” of Gen. Erwin Rommel, Germany’s legendary Panzer commander.


But Algonac resident William A. Pollauf can.


It’s one of many stories Pollauf, 92, recalled Friday at the office of U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who honored him on Pearl Harbor Day.


Through a bureaucratic mixup, Pollauf never got the medals he earned in World War II, including one for the 27 months he was a German prisoner of war.


Pollauf’s family beamed as their father/grandfather/great-grandfather received the World War II Victory medal, Eastern/African/Middle Eastern campaign medal, Prisoner of War medal and a World War II honorable service lapel button.


“I am absolutely delighted to present the medals, long overdue, to a man who served our nation so long ago,” Miller said. “You represent all of our veterans who served so honorably.”


The family gave her two pieces of proof: a 1943 news article about his capture in Tunisia and a copy of his POW mug shot.


Pollauf was serving with the Army’s 443 Division, Field Artillery Division B Battery when his unit found itself surrounded by Rommel’s tanks. “We rode out sitting on top of his tanks,” he said. “It was better than walking.”


The Germans transported them to Stalag 7A outside of Moosburg/Munich. Then they transferred them again to Stalag 3B near Furstenberg.


“But the Russians kept getting closer and closer so they moved us to Luchenwalde Stalag 2A,” Pollauf said. “But they didn’t have any trucks or trains available, so we had to walk 100 miles to the camp; it took a week to reach it.”


After the war, Pollauf returned to Michigan and was a carpenter for Chris Craft and Chrysler.


He and his wife, Shirley, were married 61 years and had four children; she died eight years ago. “I come from a family of 11 children. I always thought I was the worst of the bunch, but I guess I turned out OK,” he said.

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