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The Red Cross, ‘literally a lifeline’ for Prisoner of War

Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Daniel R. Soria
“I have great appreciation for the Red Cross and what they did for me and my fellow POWs." - Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Daniel R. Soria

Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Daniel R. Soria and 8,000 of his fellow 101st Airborne soldiers parachuted into Normandy on D-Day in advance of the Allied amphibious assault later that day. Four chaotic days later, the Germans captured Daniel and he spent the next 12 months as a German Prisoner of War.

Red Cross food parcels distributed to the POWs “were literally a lifeline,” says Daniel, who now lives in Newark, California. “I remember the containers of SPAM. The rations provided to us by the Germans were starvation-level as they themselves didn’t have much food. The Red Cross food parcels basically allowed us to survive.”

Red Cross food parcels were provided by the American, British, and Canadian Red Cross societies and distributed to POWs by the International Committee of the Red Cross. American food parcels contained, among other items: K-ration biscuits, a tin of coffee, powdered milk, cheese, soup cubes, a can of SPAM, and cigarettes.

“We were able to trade the cigarettes for other items we couldn’t get in the camps, so they were very useful,” Daniel said.

In May 1945 Russian tanks liberated Daniel’s POW camp. He was offered the opportunity to accompany the liberators to Russia, but he and six others chose to walk west in the hope of reuniting with American forces. When they were lucky enough to do so four days later, Daniel weighed in at 120 pounds, down from the 180 pounds he jumped at 12 months prior. He was back in the States three weeks later.

France recognized Daniel’s bravery and perseverance in 2011 through the award of the Legion of Honor, its highest decoration. Daniel accepted the honor on behalf of “ninety seven of my buddies from the Baker Battery 377th who did not come back…”

Daniel went on to a satisfying post-war career as an airplane engine mechanic, instructor, and manager at Alameda Naval Air Station. He and his wife Nancy have supported the American Red Cross for many years. Says Daniel, “I have great appreciation for the Red Cross and what they did for me and my fellow POWs.”