To a little girl, he was a surreal sight – that airman shot out of the sky and secured behind bars in a ramshackle basement jail in the Daxberg, Germany, town hall.
It was May 1944. She peered wide-eyed through the barred windows at the prisoner – twenty-something U.S. Army Air Corps Sgt. Arthur H. Mills Sr. She would never forget him.
Mills survived his odyssey of incarceration in Germany as a prisoner of war, liberated by the Russians April 24, 1945. In 2005, the Erie man, now 91, made a pilgrimage with his son, Arthur H. Mills Jr., assistant professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst University, back to the German village where he was captured.
The little girl who found him so curious all those years ago, now in her seventies, approached him.
“I remember you,” she said.
It was a moment, like many, that Mills would share with Mercyhurst intelligence studies students when he spoke to their American Military History class Thursday, Feb. 14, about his year as a POW in Germany and his father-son pilgrimage back to the scene 60 years later.
Mills Jr. said his father was one of a crew of 10 on the B-17 bomber shot from the sky – all of whom survived. He believes that only his father and two others are still living.
After capture, Mills said his father was taken from the village to a German POW camp. When the two of them revisited Germany, they found the exact spot where the elder Mills’ plane was shot down and actually recovered a few pieces of it that were buried in the ground. They met many people – some of whom were just children at the time – and exchanged stories of that fateful day in which the war had come to their backyard.
“Dad often talks about his experiences, which is good,” Mills Jr. said. “He’s almost 92 and there aren’t too many of these guys left, so what he has to say is a matter of living history. I am very proud of my dad.”