Almost 94,000 Americans were held as prisoners-of-war in Europe during World War II. In this episode of the “My Life, My Story” podcast, you’ll hear the story of Harry Johnson, one who managed to escape.

Johnson’s run from the Reich was reason enough to pick his story to feature in our first season of this podcast. But we also chose it for another reason. During his interview, he did something that often happens when we interview Veterans. In a blink, his life story pivoted in a totally unexpected new direction that took us by surprise. Those pivot points in life are often what make stories like Johnson’s jump off the page.

A quick note about this story: usually we write up our stories from a single interview that lasts about an hour. But sometimes we stitch together stories from different places. In this case, Johnson asked us to flesh out his story using a September 2014 article in the Iron Mountain Daily News and another interview he did that year with WXPR, a public radio station in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Click on those links if you want to learn more about Harry’s life.

Also, that figure mentioned above about the number of American POWs in Europe comes from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which has a wonderful website devoted to the stories of American POWs in Europe from that era. If you’re interested, check it out here.


Seth Jovaag is a writer, editor and producer for the My Life, My Story project.

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