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Robert Colley
War: World War II (1943-1945)
Unit: Army Infantry - 36th Armnored
Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
Birth Year: July 28, 1925


Robert was born in Petoskey, Michigan. He was drafted in November of 1943, and went to Camp Blanding, just outside Jacksonville Florida, to do his basic training. After completing basic training he was granted 2 weeks leave. His next stop was just outside Boston to another camp. From there he was shipped to England to replace troops who had participated in D-Day.

He landed 9 days after D-Day, and was assigned to an armored division. While in Normandy, they were fighting in hedge rows, which were hedges used to help hold the soil. It was a natural feature. They couldnít make much headway because of them, and after about six weeks of fighting they finally broke out of the hedgerows and made their way to Paris. Robert helped liberate Paris four months after his unit landed on European soil.

He was captured in Aachen, Germany when his unit was under the command of a new colonel. They fought their way into a valley, and when they got down there a German tank was pointed down at them. Out of 139 men, 39 were captured, the rest were wounded or killed during the battle. Robert was taken to Camp 7A, and then transferred to Camp 12A. Eventually he was brought into East Germany where they were treated fairly well, although they never really got enough to eat. Most of his captors were soldiers who had been wounded on the western front, so now they served as guards.

While at the camp if they worked on a nearby farm they were given more to eat, as a reward for working, by the farm owner. Robert worked on a sugar beet farm at one point, harvesting sugar beets. During the winter of that year, he worked on the railroads pounding stones underneath the ties to level the track. He could tell that the war was getting more intense and the Russians were making headway. From their location they could see the supply trains, people, and survivors from the Eastern Front increasing in number every day. There were many wounded coming from that front. His time as a POW lasted for 8 months.

Not long after, a few months, they heard tanks and artillery getting more pronounced. The next morning the Russians were outside their camp sitting on their tanks. They were liberated. Many Germans fled their farms as a result of the Russian advance, so he and his fellow POWs took a tractor and headed for the western front. It took about a week to reach it.

They got to a river and Russian soldiers helped them cross to get to the American side. There they were directed to a camp to sign in and give their serial number. They were then taken to Belgium and put on a boat back to the States. They were given a 60 day leave. Robert went down to Miami, and spent about a month there. He was then sent to New York. He stayed for about three months in a camp, until an order came down to discharge any POWs. He was discharged.

He attended the University of Michigan under the GI bill. He graduated from U of M in 1949. He specialized in physical education and later he went on to become a stock trader in Ann Arbor. He married in 1950 and retired in 2002. He has two daughters.