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Subdeacon Joe

Think You Are "Badazz?"

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Justin MacEwen

US paratrooper Joseph Beyrle served with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Prior to the start of the Normandy invasions, Beyrle jumped twice into occupied France to coordinate, provide arms, and money to several French resistance units. He then jumped into France on D-Day, destroyed a enemy gun emplacement, was captured, escaped, and captured again. He was beaten nearly to death, his uniform and dog tags were taken from him. A German soldier attempted to infiltrate US lines dressed in Beyrle's uniform and was killed. The US War Department believed Beyrle had been killed in combat and notified his parents. His mother refused to believe her son was dead and continued to ignore the calls from the family to accept his death.

Beyrle was taken into captivity at an German controlled POW camp. He attempted to escape and was shot and wounded. He survived on minimum food and medical attention. Beyrle would be held in seven different POW camps and escaped again, this time the Gestapo was ready to shot him, claiming he was a spy. He escaped again and found his way to a Soviet armor brigade which was near the POW camp. Beyrle having knowledge of engines and mechanical background assisted the Soviet tank unit which was equipped with American made M4 Shermans. He served with armor unit commanded by a Soviet female officer and acted as a scout for the Russians against German positions. He was wounded again when German dive bombers attacked the Russian armor column.

He was taken to a Soviet hospital where he met Soviet Marshall Zhukov who was curious on how this American paratrooper ended up in a Soviet hospital. Zhukov was so impressed with Beryle's story he provided safe passage back to the US Embassy in Moscow.

Due to the US War Department believing Beyrle had been killed back in June 1944, the US government kept him under guard for several days until his dental records confirmed he was indeed Beyrle. Beyrle served more combat time with the Soviets than the Americans and received both US and Soviet citations.

Beyrle returned home and married his sweetheart by the same priest who two years earlier had held his funeral when his family believed he was dead.

Here is SGT Joseph Beyrle's Prisoner of War picture after he was captured again by the Germans.



On June 5, 1944, the night before D-Day, he again parachuted behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France, landing on the roof of a church in St. Come-du-Mont. Under fire, he bounced down the steep pitch of the roof into a cemetery and set out on his mission, the demolition of two bridges behind Utah Beach. Three days later, he crawled over a hedgerow and stumbled into a Nazi machine gun nest.

His captors marched Mr. Beyrle and his fellow American POWs toward a prisoner staging area, while Allied planes strafed the scraggly procession. Mr. Beyrle was hit by shrapnel but managed to escape for a few hours before running into another German unit. His dog tags were taken and ended up around the neck of a German soldier who was killed in France while wearing an American uniform. In early September 1944, Mr. Beyrle's parents in Muskegon, Michigan, received the dreaded telegram about their son's "death."

Mr. Beyrle, meanwhile, was being hauled by train from one prison camp to another, where he endured interrogations, frequent beatings and near starvation. He finally managed to escape, after several attempts, in January 1945. He encountered a Russian tank unit led by a tough commander; he knew her only as "the major."

The Russian troops were hungry, desperate and barely under control. He recalled how the Russians seized the elderly German couple who owned the farm where he had been hiding, shot them and fed them to their pigs. A few days later, the troops ate the pigs.

Mr. Beyrle, looking for a way back to U.S. troops, fought alongside the unit for nearly a month, riding as a machine gunner on the back of a Sherman tank. After taking part in the destruction of his old POW camp, he was seriously wounded in an attack by German dive bombers and transported to a field hospital in what is now Poland.

He eventually made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow but was placed under house arrest when he could not convince anyone that he actually was Joe Beyrle. Fingerprints finally established his identity.

On Sept. 14, 1946, he returned to Muskegon and got married in the church where his premature funeral Mass had been held two years earlier.



Amerikansky tovarishch!’ (“American comrade!”)

He met up with and was greeted by Battalion Commander Aleksandra Samusenko, a woman who holds the distinction of being the only female tank commander of World War II.

Aleksandra_Samusenko,_1943 Tank commander Aleksandra Samusenko, 1943

Even though he spoke very little Russian, somehow Beyrle convinced her to let him join up,thus beginning his month-long stint in a Soviet tank battalion, where his demolitions expertise was appreciated.

She gave him a PPSH-41 submachine gun, a few drums of ammunition, and told him what their next objective was:

He was about to liberate the POW camp he had just escaped from, in the middle of January,

Soviet Army

640px-JRBI-med_doc_russ.jpg?resize=640%2 Beyrle’s Russian medical chart detailing his wounds

Beyrle’s new battalion was the one that freed his former camp, Stalag III-C, at the end of January, but in the first week of February, he was wounded during an attack by German Stuka ,dive bombers.

He was evacuated to a Soviet hospital in Landsberg an der Warthe (now Gorzów Wielkopolski in Poland), where he received a visit from Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who, intrigued by the only non-Soviet in the hospital, learned his story through an interpreter, and provided Beyrle with official papers in order to rejoin American forces.

When word came down that there was a U.S. POW in a Red Army uniform, things got kind of crazy.



jumpin joe.jpg


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AND he was the papa of the highly-thought-of John Beyrle, appointed by "W" as Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation!  :)



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People like that are the reason we don't have to speak German today.  

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Got my vote for badazz.  Thank The Lord for him and those like him.

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