The following is a series of poems written by Joseph P. Bruckler, WWII B-24 gunner and POW in Stalag 17B. Introduction by Steve Batty.
Yesterday, November 27, 1999 I talked with Joseph P. Bruckler at his home in McCook about his time as a POW during World War II. Joe really didn’t want to go into much detail about his one and a half years in Stalag 17b but he did loan me three documents to read and absorb.
I spent the following several hours and most of Sunday morning reading the documents and I have taken the following poems from his personal copy of “A Wartime Log” that the YMCA sent him while a prisoner in Austria. I’m not sure Joe actually wrote the poems or that he and several others collaborated on them, then shared them with other prisoners. No matter, Joe has given me his permission to post his writings on this site.
As I spend more time with Joe, I hope to learn more about his being shot down over northern Italy in December of 1943 while a ball turret gunner on a B-24 and his internment in Stalag 17b.
I try to sleep, but all in vain.
I see your face, I hear you name.
Oh! It’s cold tonight, and the wind is high.
All’s snow and ice, and a dark gray sky.
I seem so helpless in this world of stress,
My soul cries out, it must need rest.
If only I could see your face.
From across the table, where you said “Grace”
If only all these dreams come true.
These dreams I dream, when I dream of you.
I think of the days when we went to the races,
The shows, the parties, a thousand places.
Just to see you again, as you were the time,
We went to the park, on one thin dime.
At night I look at the old same moon,
And think of you, on that night in June.
‘Twas then you promised that you’d be true.
And we planned so many things “We two.”
This all seems so long ago,
Time goes on. But Oh! So Slow.
At night my ship of dreams set sail,
When the time does out, and the moon is pale/
The sails are full, and the wind is strong,
I must reach port before the dawn.
With outstretched arms, you wait for me,
Upon that shore far across the sea.
All night long I sail on and on,
But I’m still at sea with the break of dawn.
So for another day, I’m a prisoner of war,
While you wait for me on that far distant shore.
But the day will come when the bells will ring.
When heart will be light and people will sing.
This dark cloud will be blown away.
All the world will rejoice, this happy day.
So-chin-up! And a great big smile,
For we’re coming home in a little while.
No, this time is won’t be a dream.
Oh! Tell me it’s true,
That our torch of love still has its gleam,
And I’ll soon be home with you.
I’m thinking this, of a girl at home.
She’s not young, not old. But “Mine alone.”
Through troubles and heartaches, she would not moan,
She’s worth her weight in precious stone.
How proud she would have been one day in June,
Had I strolled home in khaki full bloom.
I didn’t dream, I’d go so soon.
To foreign lands, and leave her in gloom.
But she’s a soldier, tried and true,
Not like her son, who gets so blue.
When things get tough, unpleasant as knue,
The tables are turned “Mother” I’m proud of you.
It’s a beautiful custom, to set aside,
This day in may to a person so high.
We know this person you and I,
And we’ll be with you “Mother” by and by.
They might take an American
Out of America,
But they can’t take America
Out of an American.
I wished to be a pilot and you long with me,
But if we were all pilots, where would the Air Force be?
It takes guts to be a gunner, to sit our in the tail,
When the FW 190’s are coming and slugs begin to wail.
The pilot’s just a chauffeur, its his job to fly the plain,
But its we who do the fighting, tho we never get the fame.
But, if we must be gunners, then let us make this bet
We’ll be the best damn gunners that have left the station yet.
I shall return when all the troublous years
Despair, at length, of quarreling with me
And whisk my galleon impatiently
Homeward from hell and well resisted fears
Death’s envious ‘Reath my echo in my ears
Across the long trail of a spiteful sea
But I shall challenge “Reaper I am Free!”
As the long shore of home abruptly nears.
My Prison Bed
My prison bed is three beds high
It’s also tow beds wide
I sleep up in the middle
With another by my side.
Two more sleep above me
Thank God there’s none below
Because to sleep next to the floor
Just adds to a prisoner’s woe.
The beds are full of fleas and bugs
And I almost forgot the lice
I’d rather sleep on a nice clean floor
Covered with any old rugs.
Our springs consist of bed boards
The mattress is of straw
Blankest are made of pulpwood
Against which there should be a law.
Oh! To sleep on a springy bed
With sheets of snowy white
Soft wool blankets to cover me
When I go to bed at night.
People back home who complain
Are crazy in the head
And should be made to spend one night
On my wooden prison bed.