Camp Fannin Veterans Reunite, Share Stories - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/2/04 - Tyler

Camp Fannin Veterans Reunite, Share Stories

"And I said, 'Have you looked at the obituary column this morning?' And he said, no. I said, 'Well, my name's in there.'"

Sharing war stories to make each other laugh. They come from as far away as Washington and Michigan and as close by as Arkansas, Dallas, and even East Texas. But all of them passed through the same place before heading off to World War II: Camp Fannin.

"I didn't know any of these people, but it don't make no difference whether you know them or not," Tommy Slaughter, a WWII veteran, said. "You're all veterans. And whether he was in the infantry or whatever he was in, you're all just like brothers."

Brothers who are here to listen to the painful stories as well, like the story of former P.O.W. Dewey Baker, who fought with the 78th Infantry Division in 1944. He was captured in France by Hitler's elite troops during the Battle of the Bulge, along with 56 other soldiers.

"It was torture, working, starvation, beatings, interrogations, you name it," Baker said. "Some of our boys tried escaping, but most of them were killed."

Baker says his faith in God kept him alive for the six months he was held prisoner.

"I helped bury some of the boys that died of starvation," Baker said. "Some people just gave up after a certain length of time, thought they would never get out. So they quit eating, and once they quit eating, after a few days, we buried them."

Memories Baker is keeping alive, just as his fellow veterans are doing, through story-telling.

"I never gave up. I never gave up," Baker said.

Tomorrow, the Camp Fannin veterans will visit the old camp grounds just outside Tyler. Members will continue discussing their work to establish a permanent memorial at the site.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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