Lawrence Rudmann was the youngest of 11 children. He was born at home in Ironton during 1923; his father was a college graduate who worked as a shipping clerk at the Ironton Engine Company. When the Depression came, he lost his job.
Without grumbling about his misfortune, he bought seven cows and went into the dairy business. They sold milk to anyone who would buy it. Eggs and chickens were always in demand, and they stayed busy supplying them. Rudmann was the youngest who cleaned eggs, carried coal for the fireplace, washed milk bottles and rounded up cows. He started driving when he was 12, delivering milk and still maintained a newspaper delivery route.
The 1937 flood canceled school for two weeks. Being out of school provided some relief from the nuns who taught there. Sister Crawford once slapped him so hard in class for fighting that his ears buzzed the rest of the day.
“I remember five theaters in Ironton,” Rudmann said. “My favorite was the Marlow because of the Westerns. Until the pool opened in Ironton, the best place to swim was Storm Creek. I never remember snow days at school or church, we attended both, rain or snow.”
Some of Rudmann’s younger adventures included taking a round-trip train ride on top of a coal-filled gondola from Ironton to Columbus, making emergency repairs on his bike during a round-trip to Columbus and hitchhiking to Buffalo, New York, to visit relatives.
“Before graduating from high school in 1941, I discovered the most beautiful talented girl at the Tiger Grill in Ironton,” Rudmann said. “We dated for three years before she accepted my proposal.”
In January 1943 the draft notice came for the U.S. Army. A few weeks later, he boarded an N&W troop train as his bride, Margie, and infant daughter waved as he headed for Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
“After boot camp I was headed to Mineral Wells, Texas,” Rudmann said. “I selected parachute school because it paid $50 extra. I was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for jump school, which was tougher than expected. One guy broke his legs because of improper jumping techniques. We had to make five jumps from different altitudes. Margie came down on the first weekend we received liberty.”
Six weeks later, he was aboard another train heading for Alliance, Nebraska, for hand-to-hand combat training and small arms proficiency. After two weeks at home, he was headed for Camp Shanks, New York, an embarkation point for overseas travel.
“The fall of 1943 we were packed into an old British liner heading for Europe,” Rudmann said. “We slept on the bottom deck, which was cramped and without bunks. Table tops and floor space became makeshift beds, and everything stunk. I survived on cookies and ginger ale for three weeks. Sanitation was a problem, the sea was rough, and we lived with constant fear of a submarine attack.”
After arriving in Liverpool, England, they boarded ferry boats for Belfast, Ireland. Eventually, they arrived in Northern Ireland, where their destination was made known to them — Normandy.
“We parachuted 500 feet over the France countryside in pitch black darkness,” Rudmann said. “Our squad leader was shot and killed before landing. I fell through a tree and stuck 15 feet in the air and had to cut myself loose. Most of our group gathered in a village called Ste. Mere Eglise. There was shooting every where on both sides. Water was so scarce I scraped algae off a pond to fill my canteen.”
Less than a week later, Rudmann and seven buddies were pinned down by enemy fire. With no means to retreat, they became prisoners — all currency, food, weapons and identification papers were taken from them. They marched from one German camp to another being interrogated at each location.
“Once I tried to steal a loaf of bread. The guard noticed and struck me in the side of my head with his rifle butt,” Rudmann said. “I did manage to wring a chicken’s neck off and steal some eggs. I would have been shot if caught. Our first regular POW camp was Stalag 12-A near Limburg, Germany, a miserable place surrounded with barbed wire fence.”
Next they were herded into railway box cars and taken to Stalag 7-A near Mooseburg, Germany. Rations were a cup of tea each morning and some unknown soup in the evening. During the day they became labor gangs for local farmers, and dogs patrolled around the fence at night.
After 11 months, they were liberated and flown to Le Havre, France, to a camp for liberated POWs. They were fed, cleaned and clothed. After a return cruise to America, they were discharged at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
“I retired after 42 years in the chemical industry,” Rudmann said. “I picked up the golf habit for a few years and had a hole in one. Enjoyed greenhouse gardening, made five trips back to Europe and revisited that POW camp. It’s still a sad place. Not a day goes by I don’t think about it.”
Margie and Lawrence had five children. Their marriage lasted but 45 years before she passed away. He never found another to replace her.